France, India Space Cooperation to Focus on Climate and Human Spaceflight

French also to contribute instrument to India’s 2025 mission to Venus

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday September 30, Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, met with his Indian counterpart, Dr. K Sivan, President of ISRO. During this virtual session, all the subjects central to cooperation between the two countries were discussed.

In August 2019, CNES and ISRO embarked on the development and manufacture of a constellation of satellites. This, carrying telecommunications (AIS automatic identification) and observation (radar and optical) instruments, will constitute the first space system in the world allowing continuous surveillance of maritime traffic. 

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Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Research into Search for Primitive Life in Clouds of Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SAN FRANCISCO (Breakthrough Initiatives PR)  – Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Venus Phosphine Detection Fact Sheet

Artist’s impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks. (Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calçada & NASA / JPL / Caltech)

Royal Astronomical Society
Fact Sheet

On 14 September 2020, astronomers announced the detection of phosphine, a potential biomarker, in the atmosphere of Venus. Here are ten essential facts about the discovery:

What has been discovered?

A molecule called phosphine has been detected in the atmosphere of the planet Venus.

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Scientists Find Hints of Life on Venus

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

CARDIFF, Wales (Cardiff University PR) — An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes – floating free of the scorching surface, but still needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial ‘aerial’ life. The new discovery is described in a paper in Nature Astronomy.

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Scientists Discover Volcanoes on Venus Are Still Active

The 3D rendition above shows two coronae observed on the surface of Venus. The ring-like structures are formed when hot material from deep inside the planet rises through the mantle and erupts through the crust. Research by UMD’s Laurent Montesi found that at least 37 coronae on Venus represent recent geologic activity, including the one named Aramaiti, seen on the left in this image. The black line represents a gap in data. (Credit: Laurent Montési)

New 3D model provides evidence that Venus is churning inside

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (University of Maryland PR) — A new study identified 37 recently active volcanic structures on Venus. The study provides some of the best evidence yet that Venus is still a geologically active planet. A research paper on the work, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on July 20, 2020.

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NASA Selects Pioneer Astronautics for 3 Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Pioneer Astronautics will begin development of a magnetic sail to de-orbit satellites, a magnetic system to improve rocket engine performance in low gravity, and a gas replacement system that would allow balloons to explore other planets with the assistance of NASA funding.

The space agency selected the projects for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The awards are worth up to $125,000 for as much as six months.

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Paragon Eyes Flying a Balloon Over Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With surface temperatures exceeding 470 degrees C (880 F), Venus has always been a difficult place to explore. The Soviet Union’s most successful lander, Venera 13, survived for only 127 minutes before succumbing to the heat.

Conditions in Venus’ atmosphere are more temperate. Venus’ atmospheric pressure and temperature at an altitude of 65 km (40.4 miles) are similar to those on Earth.

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Are Planets with Oceans Common in the Galaxy? It’s Likely, NASA Scientists Find

This illustration shows NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flying through plumes on Enceladus in October 2015. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — Several years ago, planetary scientist Lynnae Quick began to wonder whether any of the more than 4,000 known exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, might resemble some of the watery moons around Jupiter and Saturn.

Though some of these moons don’t have atmospheres and are covered in ice, they are still among the top targets in NASA’s search for life beyond Earth. Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, which scientists classify as “ocean worlds,” are good examples.

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India Opens Up Space-Run Space Sector to Commercial Companies

India plans to open up its state-run space sector to private companies. The Times of India reports:

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday announced the entry of the private sector in the country’s future inter-planetary and outer space explorations and allowed private companies to access the facilities and services of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

Whil announcing structural reforms for the eight crucial sectors, the FM said, “India has the benefit of an extraordinary space institution such as Isro, which brought the nation a lot of laurels. However, today the private sector is also doing a lot of work in the space arena. A lot of individuals and startups have spent a lot of time developing space-related technologies. Unfortunately, because of Indian regulations, they are unable to use Isro facilities for even testing their products. To provide a level-playing field in satellite launches and space-based services, we will make a provision for the private sector to benefit from the assets which are available to Isro and for India (in general) to benefit from it.”

Sithharaman said, “We will also provide a predictable policy and regulatory environment for private players. We want them to be co-travellers with us. Therefore, the private sector is being encouraged.

In another big development, the FM announced that “future projects like planetary explorations and outer spce travel (like future Chandrayaan, Venus and Aditya missions) will be opened for the private sector. So, the private sector is being given a good access to the so arena so the industry and Isro can work together for a better ‘Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat’.”

The government is also working on a new policy for geospatial data to encourage private-sector companies.

Dedicated Team of Scientists Discover Habitable-Zone Earth-Size Planet in Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) — In a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, co-authored by SETI Institute scientist Jeff Coughlin, astronomers using Kepler data have identified a planet nearly the same size of Earth that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. 

This new world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our Sun.  Only 6% bigger than the Earth, it shares its sun with a planet much like Venus, Kepler-1649b, which was discovered three years ago. Although NASA’s Kepler space telescope was retired in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the signals Kepler detected. 

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NIAC Award: Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus

Image depicting the Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus. (Credits: Eldar Noe Dobrea)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus

Eldar Noe Dobrea
Planetary Science Institute

We propose to investigate a fixed wing aircraft platform concept capable of flying over multiple sites in close proximity to the surface of Venus in a cyclic manner. Central to this investigation is the development of a system capable of using the heat from the Venusian atmosphere to power a heat engine capable of supplying propulsion and power to the aircraft.

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NIAC Award: Lightweight Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration

Graphic rendering of the Lightweight Multifunctional Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration and Locomotion. (Credits: Javid Bayandor)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Lightweight Multifunctional Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration and Locomotion

Javid Bayandor
State University Of New York, Buffalo

With many characteristics similar to Earth, Venus has long been considered of high scientific interest to NASA. The Venus surface temperatures near 460°C and pressures of 93 bar have made long duration surface missions infeasible.

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BepiColombo Takes Last Snaps of Earth en route to Mercury

A sequence of images taken by the MCAM selfie cameras on board of the European-Japanese Mercury mission BepiColombo as it neared Earth ahead of its gravity-assist flyby manoeuvre in April 2020. Images in the sequence were taken in 10-minute intervals from 11:25 UTC until 21:04 UTC on 9 April 2020, less than a day before the closest approach. (Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

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Xplore Selects Orbit Fab’s RAFTI Design Standard for its Exploration Missions

Xcraft (Credit: Xplore)

March 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington (Xplore PR) – Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space As A ServiceTM today announced they are integrating the Orbit Fab RAFTI into the XcraftTM, Xplore’s highly-capable, multi-mission ESPA-class spacecraft.

The RAFTI, which stands for Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, allows for reliable propellant transfers in the harshest space environments. It is ideal for mission destinations in any orbit, and thus aligns with Xplore’s ability to fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, LaGrange points, Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and other locations in our inner solar system, more than 320 million km (200 million miles) from Earth.

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