July 20, 2022

NASA’s Curiosity Rover goes into Emergency Safe Mode on Mars

SpaceTime Series 25 Episode 80
*NASA’s Curiosity rover goes into emergency safe mode on Mars
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover have suddenly gone into emergency safe mode on the red planet following unusual temperature spikes were detected by a key...


SpaceTime Series 25 Episode 80
*NASA’s Curiosity rover goes into emergency safe mode on Mars
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover have suddenly gone into emergency safe mode on the red planet following unusual temperature spikes were detected by a key instrument control unit.
*Claims the Earth’s mantle had two different compositions
A new study claims the Earth’s mantle had very different composition early in the planet’s history with the lower mantle nearest the outer core far drier than the upper mantle closer to the crust.
*China slams NASA’s claims about Beijing militarizing the Moon
Beijing has slammed claims by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson that China is trying to gain the ultimate high ground by militarizing the Moon.
*China’s military buildup in space continues
China has launched another Gaofen high resolution spy satellite.
*Virgin Orbit launches seven Space Force Satellites
Virgin Orbit has successfully launched seven United States Space Force satellites aboard a LauncherOne carrier rocket drop launched from a specially modified Boeing 747 airliner named Cosmic Girl.
*The Science Report
The growing threat posed by the Monkey Pox virus.
Palaeontologists discover what may be the oldest known vertebrates.
Scientists develop an artificial intelligence system named PLATO,
Alex on Tech Major security upgrade on IOS-16
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The Astronomy, Space, Technology & Science News Podcast.

Transcript

Stuart: This is Spacetime Series 25, episode 80 for broadcast on the 20th July 2022. Coming up on Spacetime NASA's Curiosity rover goes into emergency safe mode on Mars, claims the Earth earth's mantle has two different compositions. And China slams NASA's claims that Beijing is militarizing the moon. All that and more coming up on Space Time.

VO Guy: Welcome to space time with Stuart Gary.

Stuart: NASA's. Mars Curiosity rover has suddenly gone into emergency safe mode on um, the Red Planet, after unusually high temperature spikes were detected in a key instrument control unit. Although Curiosity exited safe mode and was returned to normal operations two days later, mission managers are still analyzing the issue to try and determine the exact problem. For now, they suspect safe mode was triggered after a temperature sensor provided inaccurate measurement. There's no sign that it will significantly affect the operations of the rover, since backup temperature measurements can ensure that electronics inside the rover don't get overheated. The six wheel car size rover has been exploring the Red Planet scale crater ever since it touched down there ten years ago. And it would appear the rover is starting to show its age. Its primary mission was to determine if Mars was ever capable of providing a habitable environment for life. And it quickly confirmed that Gal Crater was once a warm, wet world with flowing water and one capable of sustaining life if it ever existed. On um, mars emissions. Also studying the Martian geology and climate, it's now gone on to try and understand how Mars has transitioned into the freeze dried desert it is today. For the past year, Curiosity has been traveling through a transition zone. While the science team targeted the clay rich region and the sulfate laden one for evidence each can offer about the Red Planet's watery past, the transition zone, uh, is proven to be scientifically fascinating as well. In fact, this transition may provide the record of the major shift in Mars climate billions of years ago that scientists are just beginning to understand. You see, the clay minerals formed when lakes and streams once rippled across Gale Crater, depositing sediment at what is now the base of Mount Sharp, five kilometres tall mountain at the center of Gal Crater, whose foothills, Curiosity, has been ascending since 2014. Higher on the mountain in the transition zone uh, curiosity's observations showed that the streams dried into trickles and sand dunes formed above the lake sediments. Curiosity's project scientist Ashwyn Vasavada, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says the data shows there are no longer any of the lake deposits that were seen for years lauren Mount Sharp. Instead, this evidence of drier climates like dry dunes that occasionally had streams running around them, um, which gut admits a big change from the lakes that persisted for millions of years before. And as the river climbs higher through the transition zone, uh, it's detecting less and less clay and more and more sulfate. Curiosity will soon be drawing the very last rock sampler will take in this zone, uh, providing a more detailed glimpse of the changing mineral composition of these rocks. Unique geological features also stand out in this zone. The hills in this area likely began in a dry environment of large windswept. Sand dunes hardening into rock over time. In dispersed in the remains of these dunes are other sediments carried by water. These sediments now appear as erosion resistant stacks of flaky layers. Making the story even richer and more complicated is the knowledge that there were multiple periods in which groundwater ebbed and flowed over time. And that's left a jumble of puzzle pieces for Curiosity's mission managers to assemble into an accurate timeline. Um, although Curiosity has exited safe mode, has now returned to normal operations. Mission managers are, um, monitoring the rover closely. They've already found that its alloy wheels are showing signs of wear and tear. After engineering teams commanded Curiosity to take new images of the wheels, something it's been doing every kilometer or so of travel distance just to check out their overall health. They found that the left middle wheel had damaged one of its grouses, these zigzag like treads along Curiosity's wheels. Now, this particular wheel already had four broken browsers. The previously damaged browsers attracted attention recently because some of the metal skin between them appears to have fallen out of the wheel in recent months, leaving a gap. Mission managers have now decided to increase the wheel imaging to every 500 meters. That's every half a kilometer of travel distance. Previous testing has already shown that Curiosity could drive safely on its wheel rooms without any tread. That is, if it ever reached a point where a single wheel had broken the majority of its grouses. And the Martian environment isn't just playing havoc with the issue of Curiosity. Dust and grit are proving to be a problem with equipment all over Mars, with winds blowing grains of sand and dirt into delicate equipment, and no people there to brush it out. And as this report from NASA TV explains, the view from orbit tells the story.

Guest: We're here at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Space Flight Operations Facility, also known as the Dark Room. This is where engineers send commands and receive data from JPL missions, including NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Now, detailed images from the orbiter are helping scientists better understand Martian winds. Leslie Tampery is MRO's. Deputy Project Scientist. Leslie, what are we seeing in these images?

Guest: So, what you can see here are dark patches on the surface of the ice near the south polar region. And they're created by gas jets that come from under that ice, up through cracks, and deliver that dust out onto the ice. And the wind will carry that dust and lay it on the surface, forming these sand. And what we can do with this information is we can look at the directions and the sizes, and we can try to understand what the wind field is doing.

Guest: And I understand that volunteers played a large role in this research.

Guest: Yes, they did. We have taken about 75,000 images over all of Mars with our MRO. High rise camera. We used citizen scientists, 80,000 volunteers, to map these fans and map their directions and sizes.

Guest: Why is it important to study wind direction on Mars?

Guest: Some of our landers and rovers have had wind measurements, but only in a few locations at a few different times. But winds are very important for understanding today's climate on Mars, but also for trying to understand how the climate was different in the past. We also have huge dust storms that occur on Mars sometimes, but we don't understand why some storms become global and some don't. So we're trying to understand the windfield to try to put all these pieces together to understand Mars better.

Guest: And how does that information help protect NASA's spacecraft?

Guest: Right. It's very important for not only spacecraft, but probably future human exploration as well, because thus it can be dangerous to hardware. For example, on the, uh, Perseverance railroad, we are fortunate enough to have a wind sensor, and we're measuring dust devils. A couple of these dust devils and wind events were so large, they picked up not only dust, but bigger particles, sand sized particles. And in fact, some of the wind sensors were damaged on the Perseverance rover. In other locations, we see hardly any dust devils. For example, the inside lander has solar panels. The solar panels are completely covered with dust, and so the power is waning. And we'd really like to see some dust devils coming by so that they could clean up those solar panels and provide insight with some more power. So learning about the winds and the different environments and how they change across Mars will really help us plan not only for the conditions for today's spacecraft there, but also plan better for the future. Winds on Mars can both help and hurt spacecraft. So we're getting really creative in how to study winds on the surface of Mars over a large region.

Guest: Thank you, Leslie.

Stuart: This spacetime still to come claims the Earth's mantle is two different compositions, or at least it did at the start. And China slams NASA over claims about Beijing. Militarizing the moon. All that and more still to come on space time. A new study claims the Earth's mantle had a very different composition early in the planet's history, with the lower mantle nearest the outer core far drier than the upper mantle nearest the crust. The findings reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenged a once widely heard assumption that Earth's mantle was uniform from the start. The Earth's mantle is the thick layer of silicate rock between the Earth's crust and its molten outer core. It makes up about 84% of the planet's entire volume. The mantle is predominantly solid, but on geologic timescales, it behaves more like a viscous fluid, as difficult to stir and makes as a pot of caramel. The new study suggests that the deep part of the ancient mantle that closest to the Earth's molten outer core started out substantially drier than the part of the mantle closest to the young planet's surface. By analyzing nobul gas isotope data, the authors have determined that the ancient blue mantle, that's the deepest part had a water concentration that was a factor of four to 250 times lower when compared with the water concentration in the upper mantle. The resulting in viscosity contrast could have prevented mixing within the mantle. Hoping to explain certain longstanding mysteries about Earth's formation and evolution, the studies lead author, Rita Parai from Washington University in St. Louis says the primordial viscosity contrast may explain why the giant impacts from space which triggered whole mental magma oceans and still didn't homogenize the growing planet. Para undertook the experimental work with rock samples at a high Energy Isotope geochemical laboratory. She studied noble gas isotopes, especially Ceon, in volcanic rocks, to understand the evolution of Earth's mantle composition and then terrestrial rocks of the Earth's surface to see the evolution of the atmosphere. She says her findings could also explain why the blue mantle that's the really deep mantle near the Earth's core has experienced less processing by partial melting over Earth history. When the solar system settled into its current layout around four and a half billion years ago, earth formed when gravity pulled in swirling gas and condensing dust, eventually producing the third rough from the sun. Volatiles like water, carbon, nitrogen and the noble gases were delivered as the Earth formed. But Parai's study suggested the material that achieved earlier was a drier type of rock from that which occurred later. She found that mantle helium, neon and xeon isotopes required that the plum antel had lower concentrations of volatiles like xeon and water at the end of the period of accretion compared to the upper mantle. She says the upper mantle may well have benefited from a larger contribution of mass from volatile rich materials similar to meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites. And of course, let's not forget the fear impact which created the Moon that involved the body of the size of Mars, which also slammed into the Earth around four and a half billion years ago. That impact also turned the Earth's surface, uh, into a magma ocean with some of the ejected debris entering orbit around the forming planet to eventually solidify and create the Moon. This is spacetime. Still to come china slams NASA's boss over claims that Beijing is militarizing the Moon. And later in the Science report, the growing threat posed by the monkeypox virus. All that and more still to come on Space time. Beijing has slammed claims by NASA administrator Bill Nelson that China is trying to gain the ultimate high ground by militarizing the Moon. Nelson told the German news magazine their bills that the west should be very concerned that China's landing on the Moon and saying things like, it's ours now. You stay out. Nelson has also pointed out the fact that China has developed the capacity to destroy spacecraft in orbit, including those of other nations. The warnings come as Beijing continues to significantly ramp up its space program. Amid repeated calls by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, for the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war, china and Russia recently signed an agreement to develop a permanent joint base on the Moon's South Pole by 2026. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nigel Lizard says the cleanest by NASA's chief are reckless falsehoods. Legally, any attempt by China to take over the Moon would be considered a violation of international space law. The Outer Space Treaty, adopted in 1967 and signed by 100 and uh 34 countries, including China, explicitly states that outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. Of course, the law hasn't stopped China building a bunch of military bases in the disputed Spratley Islands in order to fragrantly violate international law and claim ownership of the entire South China Sea, saying it's Beijing's exclusive economic zone. In response to that, the United States, Australia, Canada and the British Royal Navy routinely undertake what they call freedom of navigation operations through the area. If the purpose of these operations are to annoy Beijing, they hit a home run. Meanwhile, China's launched another Gaofang high resolution spy satellite. The Gaofang Torvo Three. Uh was launched aboard a long March 4 sea rocket from the Zhukuan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. The spacecraft was placed into an air polar orbit at an average altitude of 628 km. Beijing describes the satellite as the Microwave Remote sensing spacecraft designed to monitor crop yields, land surveys, urban planning, road network design and disaster relief. In reality, it's a highresolution reconnaissance surveillance satellite being operated on behalf of the People's Liberation Army with a microwave remote sensing radar system and ground resolution down to the sudden meter level. That's not commonly needed to measure crop yields, but it is great for identifying enemy missile batteries and troop numbers under all weather conditions, day and night. Since 2016, Beijing has launched more than 191 Earth observation, surveillance or reconnaissance satellites. That includes at least 41 Gao Feng and some 92 Yao Gang spy satellites designed to provide near continuous high resolution and electronic monitoring of areas of interest to China. Virgin Orbit has successfully launched seven United States Space Force satellites aboard a Launcher One carrier rocket, which was dropped from the specially modified Boeing 747 airliner Cosmic Girl. The nighttime flight called Straight Up took off, uh, from the Mojave Air and Space ports in California. Launcher One was released from Cosmic Girl high over the North Pacific Ocean and then carried its payload up to an altitude of around 500 km before deploying all seven satellites. The spacecraft are from multiple US government agencies and are designed one to take a range of scientific experiments demonstrating new spacecraft technologies, new approaches to satellite applications and Earth atmospheric science. Virgin Orbit is now preparing for their first international launch. Prometheus Two. That will be a joint mission between the United Kingdom Space Agency, the British Royal Air Force and the United States National Reconnaissance Office. The flight will take off from spaceport Cornwall in the UK, marking the first ever orbital mission to fly from British soil. This is space time and time. Let's take another brief look at some of the other stories making news in Science this week with a science report. As monkey pox continues to spread around the world at an alarming rate, a report in the Medical Journal of Australia warns that lessons must be learned from the introduction of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis into Australia to ensure that the outbreak of monkeypox uh is stopped and to prevent the disease from becoming established in animal hosts. The report says Australia has had success with HIV control and can draw on infrastructure, community groups and expertise, as well as the Covert 19 infrastructure to tackle monkey parks. However, the authors warn that there are serious concerns as the current burden of Covert 19 on the healthcare system may pose a challenge if the monkey box epidemic grows. And Covert 19 fatigue may also mean that people are less inclined to follow health advice. The report recommends the immediate vaccination of close contacts as a key first step. Paleontologists have discovered what may be the oldest known stem vertebrates. Scientists have long puzzled over a gap in the fossil record that would explain the evolution of invertebrates, animals without backbones into the first vertebrates the animals with backbones, which include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and eventually humans, which share unique features such as the backbone and the skull. Now, a report in the journal Science claims a study of unannozoned extinct creatures from the early Cambrian period, some 580,000,000 years ago, have discovered evidence that they are in fact the oldest known stem vertebrates. The term stem vertebrates refers to those vertebrates that are extinct but very closely related to living vertebrates. A key focus of research into how vertebrates evolved have been the fancyl arches, structures that produce parts of the face and neck, such as the muscles, bone and connective tissue. Scientists hypothesized the fancyl arch evolved from an unjointed cartilage, right in, coordinate and fictitious, a close invertebrate relative of vertebrates. The researchers have been stating fossils of a soft bodied sluglike animal called a jungazoa found in uh, China's Yunan province. For the latest research, the authors went all out applying Xray microtomography scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, Ramen spectroscopy, FOIO transition infrared spectroscopy and energy dispersive Xray spectroscopy on local Unannozoa specimens. They found that Unannozoans have cellular cartilages in the Farax, a feature considered specific to vertebrates. They observed that all seven Ferrarideal arches in your nanozoan fossils are similar to each other. They found that all archers have bamboo like Ike segments and filaments. Neighboring arches are all connected by dorsal and ventral horizontal rods, forming a sort of basket and basket like farage or skeleton is a feature found today in living jawless fish such as lampreys and hagfish. Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system named Plato, which can learn basic common sense rules of the physical world in a way similar to that of a human baby. A report in the journal Nature claims the studies authors train plater by showing it videos of simple scenes such as balls falling to the ground, balls rolling behind other objects, then reappearing, and balls bouncing off each other. After training, Plato was then shown videos, sometimes containing impossible scenes. And just like a young child, Plato showed surprise when it was shown something that didn't make sense, like objects moving through each other without interacting. The authors found that these learning effects were seen after watching as little as 28 hours of videos. A maintenance security option is one of the features, including Apple's new iOS 16 software update. With the details, we're joined by technology editor Alexareofrey from ity.com.

VO Guy: Two weeks ago, Apple released the developer versions of iOS 16 iPad OS, 16 HomePod OS, tvOS macOS, and watch OS. And normally there are two or three, there's three developer meters before we normally see a public beta. Normally, the, uh, developer beat the drop a day or two before the subsequent public beta ones do. But as we're recording, the iOS 16 public beta came out today. And already if you go to the reddit page where there's a lot of talk about it and people are wondering whether the public beta is worth installing it, whether it's hitting on the phone with battery life is like, if it works, most importantly for some people with their banking apps, and these are the questions that were being asked with the developer beat of one and two. But those are the initial versions that do give some of the rough edges that are then subsequently updated. Normally, new beta versions will come out every couple of weeks, depending on what bugs are found. And one of the new things launched in the developer beta three. Which is the public beta one. Is the new lockdown mode. Where if you are somebody who's been targeted by governments because you're a pesto journalist or human rights lawyer. Or freedom fighter. Or someone government doesn't like. There is this new lockdown mode which will dramatically cut down the things that your phone can do to cut out certain web technologies. Cut out certain features. Such as the ability to open attachments. Or receive attachments and messages. Or receive FaceTime calls from unknown people. And already people, uh, were joking. Well, how long will the battery life last with this lockdown mode? It might, um, be the perfect mode as well you want to sort of detox from some of the apps on your phone while still having a phone and not having to go to a flip phone.

Stuart: Are Apple the only company that has done this?

VO Guy: In the sense that you can then switch on this mode? They appear to be the only ones to have done this. There are phones that are rated for uh, defense Departments and they need to have special environments switched on and they are defense great special uh, blackberries where they were which were securely locked down. Apparently the US president for example, has locked down phones. But this is something that the everyday person can use. You don't have to be some super secret gem has gone on to play by or presidential politician to be able to access this mode. And of course most of the journalists and freedom fighters and human agitators that are out there are not going to be qualifying or even able to purchase one of these devices. So for Apple to make it just a standard part of the iOS operating system and the iPad OS 16 system and Mac OS with Truer just gives a little bit of extra added peace of mind. Your phone starts doing something weird and you are one of these lawyers or journalists in the country that probably isn't as friendly to your profession as others in the western, then you can activate this mode and bang. You're no longer in theory are you being attacked or being spied upon.

Stuart: Yeah, bang might not be the most appropriate word to use under these circumstances.

VO Guy: But I guess even then the bad guys will try and find a way around this. Well look, if you are worried this mode will be switched on and it's something that uh, I'm sure other uh, companies will soon copy and make available to their users as well what's the.

Stuart: Stop terrorists from using it as well? That's the other side of the coin.

VO Guy: Absolutely. Yeah. Well with every good there's bad. Every good thing can be used as a weapon, cars can be used as weapons, all sorts of things. So all in the eye of the beholder really. And yes, I'm sure as you have just speculated, the bad part. Well Apple always says there isn't there have been rumors that Microsoft has been giving an NSA backdoor for years. Who knows what's going on with Android, um, who knows what the reality is in with iPhone? We only have apple's work. We know that what Apple does in uh, the US. And what Apple does in other countries, it's very different. They stand up for rights in the US. And in other countries they say they follow the local laws. So nobody really uh, knows the truth. The best thing to do is don't do anything wrong. The public beta for iOS and iPad OS is out. And this is the countdown towards us seeing the pool versions arriving around the same time. Uh, that the iPhone 14th you launch, which will be most likely late September, early October.

Stuart: That's Alexahara royt from it wide. Um.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Technology Editor

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows.