Russia, China to sign cooperation deal on Moon exploration

Russia and China will sign a space cooperation program for 2018-2022 in autumn to jointly explore the Moon and conduct the Earth’s remote probing, Glavkosmos space launch operator told TASS on Thursday.

"Work is nearing completion with the direct role of Glavkosmos to draw up a program of Russian-Chinese space cooperation for 2018-2022, which should be signed in the autumn of 2017," the company said.

lavkosmos is the coordinator and the contractor for a portion of the works in this program.

As Glavkosmos explained, cooperation with Chinese partners envisages the following areas: the exploration of the Moon and outer space, space vehicles and ground infrastructure, hardware components and materials, the Earth’s remote sensing data.

Glavkosmos is also working with Chinese commercial partners on the issue of holding experiments aboard the International Space Station and providing the data of the Earth’s remote sensing from Russian satellites, the company said.

Apart from China, Glavkosmos is also considering the possibilities of space cooperation with India, Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Chile, Peru and Armenia and their involvement in Russian projects, the company said in its annual report.

Specifically, Glavkosmos is holding preparations in Brazil for a tender for the delivery of space images to that country.

It was reported earlier that China was interested in buying the world’s most powerful Russian-made RD rocket engines produced by Energomash while Russian Space Systems showed interest in Chinese electronic components.

Russia and China are also working on making their GLONASS and BeiDou navigation satellite systems mutually complement each other and on installing adjusting ground-based stations on the territory of each other.

Besides, Russia and China are working within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) format to create a unified system of the Earth’s remote sensing.
International cooperation

As Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin said, Russia needs to look more actively for international partners to develop space projects.

"Building international partnership is, perhaps, the main strategic task for the entire Russian cosmonautics today. This is because the technological revolution, first of all, in micro-electronics, has made it possible from the viewpoint of investments the creation of space systems consisting of dozens and even hundreds of Earth remote sensing or communications satellites whose commercial success requires work on the markets, and also considering that the next stage of piloted flights is related to movement outside the bounds of the near-Earth space, which will require a sharp increase in expenditures on outer space," he told TASS.

According to the expert, broad and versatile international cooperation in the current situation is seen as a solution for Russian cosmonauts as it will help unite participants’ technological competences and their markets, share risks and expenses.

"Moreover, the international status of a project is practical and insurmountable protection from the Finance Ministry’s regular attempts to sequester space programs," the expert said.

In his opinion, considering the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, new potential partners should include, in the first place, BRICS countries and also, possibly, Indonesia, the UAE, Vietnam, Iran and others.

"In this context, the agreements for the period until 2022 between Russia and China, which has both the competences and the resources and the vast internal market, are a move in the right direction but, considering the scope and the severity of the problems and tasks faced by our space industry, a move that displays little initiative, is too cautious, insufficiently large in scope and extremely slow," the expert said.
Glavkosmos

The space launch operator Glavkosmos was established in 1985 in the USSR Ministry of General Machine-Building. The company engaged in the space rocket industry’s foreign economic activity, organized and held researches and participated in the work to convert defense enterprises to civil output.

Today Glavkosmos participates in the implementation of contracts for the launch of Soyuz rockets from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, organizes foreigners’ flights to the International Space Station and cooperates with India and China in the space sphere.

The Russian government wholly owns Glavkosmos.

It was reported earlier that Glavkosmos got the status of an authorized operator of Soyuz-2 carrier rocket commercial launches from Russian cosmodromes.

Apart from this, Glavkosmos has received the exclusive rights to distribute images received from Russia’s Kanopus-V and Resurs-P Earth’s remote sensing satellites on foreign markets.

In 2017-2018, Glavkosmos plans to act as the operator of the launches of over 100 commercial micro-satellites as an additional load while orbiting three satellites under Russia’s federal program. Of this number, 72 satellites were launched from the Baikonur spaceport on July 14. Another 40 satellites are planned to be launched from the Vostochny space center in the Russian Far East at the end of the year.

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos announced in May that Glavkosmos and Kosmotras had set up a joint operator for the launch of spacecraft by Soyuz-2 and Dnepr carrier rockets from the Russian spaceports. The new operator was named Glavkosmos Launch Services (GK Launch Services). Glavkosmos holds 75% and Kosmotras 25% in the new operator.

Moon has a water-rich interior

A new study of satellite data finds that numerous volcanic deposits distributed across the surface of the Moon contain unusually high amounts of trapped water compared with surrounding terrains. The finding of water in these ancient deposits, which are believed to consist of glass beads formed by the explosive eruption of magma coming from the deep lunar interior, bolsters the idea that the lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich.

Scientists had assumed for years that the interior of the Moon had been largely depleted of water and other volatile compounds. That began to change in 2008, when a research team including Brown University geologist Alberto Saal detected trace amounts of water in some of the volcanic glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to the Moon. In 2011, further study of tiny crystalline formations within those beads revealed that they actually contain similar amounts of water as some basalts on Earth. That suggests that the Moon's mantle -- parts of it, at least -- contain as much water as Earth's.

"The key question is whether those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead represent unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich regions within an otherwise 'dry' mantle," said Ralph Milliken, lead author of the new research and an associate professor in Brown's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. "By looking at the orbital data, we can examine the large pyroclastic deposits on the Moon that were never sampled by the Apollo or Luna missions. The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the Moon is wet."

The research, which Milliken co-authored with Shuai Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii and a recent Brown Ph.D. graduate, is published in Nature Geoscience.

Detecting the water content of lunar volcanic deposits using orbital instruments is no easy task. Scientists use orbital spectrometers to measure the light that bounces off a planetary surface. By looking at which wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected by the surface, scientists can get an idea of which minerals and other compounds are present.

The problem is that the lunar surface heats up over the course of a day, especially at the latitudes where these pyroclastic deposits are located. That means that in addition to the light reflected from the surface, the spectrometer also ends up measuring heat.

"That thermally emitted radiation happens at the same wavelengths that we need to use to look for water," Milliken said. "So in order to say with any confidence that water is present, we first need to account for and remove the thermally emitted component."

To do that, Li and Milliken used laboratory-based measurements of samples returned from the Apollo missions, combined with a detailed temperature profile of the areas of interest on the Moon's surface. Using the new thermal correction, the researchers looked at data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an imaging spectrometer that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter.

The researchers found evidence of water in nearly all of the large pyroclastic deposits that had been previously mapped across the Moon's surface, including deposits near the Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites where the water-bearing glass bead samples were collected.

"The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing," Milliken said. "They're spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn't a one-off. Lunar pyroclastics seem to be universally water-rich, which suggests the same may be true of the mantle."

The idea that the interior of the Moon is water-rich raises interesting questions about the Moon's formation. Scientists think the Moon formed from debris left behind after an object about the size of Mars slammed into the Earth very early in solar system history. One of the reasons scientists had assumed the Moon's interior should be dry is that it seems unlikely that any of the hydrogen needed to form water could have survived the heat of that impact.

"The growing evidence for water inside the Moon suggest that water did somehow survive, or that it was brought in shortly after the impact by asteroids or comets before the Moon had completely solidified," Li said. "The exact origin of water in the lunar interior is still a big question."

In addition to shedding light on the water story in the early solar system, the research could also have implications for future lunar exploration. The volcanic beads don't contain a lot of water -- about .05 percent by weight, the researchers say -- but the deposits are large, and the water could potentially be extracted.

"Other studies have suggested the presence of water ice in shadowed regions at the lunar poles, but the pyroclastic deposits are at locations that may be easier to access," Li said. "Anything that helps save future lunar explorers from having to bring lots of water from home is a big step forward, and our results suggest a new alternative."

The research was funded by the NASA Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research Program (NNX12AO63G).


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Full Moon, Comet Starring in Night Sky Show This Weekend

A full moon and comet share double billing in a special night sky show this weekend.

A lunar eclipse starts everything off Friday night. The moon will pass into Earth's outer shadow, or penumbra. The moon won't be blacked out like in a full eclipse. Only part of the moon will be shaded, but it should be easily visible from much of the world.

Comet 45P, meanwhile, will zoom past Earth early Saturday morning. It will be an extremely close encounter as these things go, passing within 7.7 million miles (12.4 million kilometers) of Earth. Its relative speed: 14.2 miles per second, or a breakneck 51,120 mph.

The comet, glowing green, will be visible in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars and telescopes will help in the search.

Stargazers have been tracking Comet 45P for the past couple of months. The ice ball — an estimated mile across — comes around every five years. It's officially known as Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, named after the Japanese, Czech and Slovak astronomers who discovered it in 1948. The letter P stands for periodic, meaning it's a recurring visitor to the inner solar system.

The Slooh network of observatories will provide a live broadcast from the Canary Islands for both big events.

The eclipse will last more than four hours, beginning at 5:32 p.m. EST. The action will unfold early Saturday in Europe, Africa and western Asia.

New Method Helps Discover Two Young Lunar Craters

Kathleen Mandt, a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, grew up when NASA’s Space Shuttle Program was active. As an adolescent, she watched on as astronauts launched into the sky and conducted experiments and research in the void. 

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