AE Current Events

Per CAPP-15, the squadron AEO, "conducts weekly updates of AE current events."

These current events will be updated prior to each MAWG Wing Staff meeting (normally held first Wednesday of the month).  Please feel free to use them at your own units, and forward any interesting current events you might have to
me to include here.

The following are current events for the June 2018 staff meeting:

1.  Wall-E and Eva to fly to Mars:  NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which was launched to Mars on 5 May, is taking along two “cubesats” (tiny satellites).  Although their official names are “Mars Cube One,” NASA scientists have nicknamed them Wall-E and Eva (after the 2008 Pixar movie named Wall-E).  They will send back data about the InSight probe as the latter lands on Mars.  NASA says that these cubesats are a test of how well they can survive interplanetary travel.

2.  Helicopter to fly on Mars in 2021:  Yet Another Rover will be launched in 2020 (cleverly named, “Mars 2020 Rover”) that will also contain a helicopter.  NASA wants to demonstrate feasibility of heavier-than-air flight on Mars.  Note that the Martian atmosphere is as thin as on Earth at 100,000’, and the highest a helicopter has ever flown on Earth is 40,000’; its rotors will spin about 10 times as fast as a conventional helicopter to compensate for the thin atmosphere.

3.  “Planet 9,” or just a bunch of little planetoids?  Recently, scientists had postulated there might be a large (10 times as massive as Earth) planet that was 20 times as far from the Sun as Neptune (see the March AE current events).  This was based on how dwarf planets have perturbations in their orbits.  Now, some astronomers believe the orbital irregularities may be due to many Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs).

4.  Mars Curiosity Rover’s drilling again:  For over a year, Curiosity’s drill has been non-functioning.  Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab created a work-around called, “feed extended drilling,” but the problem was that there was no way for the sample to be placed into the rover so it could be analyzed.  So JPL created a way for rock powder to “trickle” into the rover.  Something has happened, since NASA says that Curiosity found something on Mars (stay tuned on Thursday 7 June!).

5.  Song of Telstar:  Sports company Adidas has designed this year’s FIFA World Cup soccer ball, calling it, “Telstar 18” in a nod to the first active communications satellite Telstar.  NASA launched Telstar in 1962; although it is no longer functioning, it is still in orbit 56 years later!

6.  Latest SpaceX booster flies successfully:  SpaceX launched a communications satellite for Bangladesh, using its “block 5” Falcon booster for the first time.  The block 5 boosters may be able to be reused up to 10 times with a mere inspection between flights, and up to 100 times with refurbishment.  The new configuration is almost, but not quite the final version that will eventually take astronauts to the International Space Station.

7.  Asteroid nearly hits Botswana, Africa:  A 6’-wide asteroid that NASA discovered only a few hours earlier struck the Earth in Botswana.  NASA was able to determine that it would likely land in a sparsely-populated region of southern Africa.  Still, it was traveling about 38,000 mph through the atmosphere, and created a fireball that was captured on video (so it disintegrated before it struck the ground).

8.  Dunes on Pluto:  Scientists studying data from NASA’s New Horizons mission (which flew past Pluto three years ago) found evidence of dunes.  But this is not someplace you want to vacation:  rather than sand dunes, they’re frozen grains of methane.  This surprised the scientists, as the Plutonian atmosphere had been considered too thin to cause the blowing wind necessary to form the dunes.

Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman,
Jun 6, 2018, 2:24 PM