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Japan’s Lunar Vehicle SLIM Started Sending Signals

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had reported on January 20 that the lunar vehicle SLIM, which made a soft landing on the Moon, had ceased operations due to an issue with its solar panels. According to recent statements, the vehicle has started sending signals with the change in the angle of the Sun. Let’s review the launch and subsequent events to understand the situation from the beginning. Four months after its launch, the spacecraft SLIM successfully made a soft landing on the Moon, making Japan the fifth country to achieve this feat. JAXA vice president Hitoshi Kuninaka had stated that the vehicle had landed successfully and responded correctly to commands from the center, but there was an issue with the solar panels. “However, it seems that the solar panels are not generating electricity at this point, and the spacecraft is operating solely on its battery. The battery will last for a few more hours; these hours will be the remaining lifespan of SLIM,” he said. Officials speculated that during the landing, the vehicle might have rolled, causing the position of the solar cells to change.

The vehicle managed to transmit data and images of its current situation before completely losing power. JAXA had made the following statement regarding the matter: “After confirming that a large amount of data has been obtained, we felt relieved and began to get excited.” Later, with the change in the angle of the Sun, the vehicle started generating energy again and sending signals. SLIM will be used to search for a mineral called olivine in the lunar mantle. Project manager Shinichiro Sakai said, “If we can identify olivine components and compare them with their counterparts on Earth, this could provide new evidence supporting the theory that the Moon was once a part of the Earth.”
SLIM also achieved high success in landing with an accuracy margin of 100 meters, proving its competence for future projects.

NASA Detected Signals Coming from Outside the Milky Way

Researchers in the US state of Utah have found a signal coming from beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists say that they came across this mysterious element while examining 13 years of data obtained from NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope. It was announced that they found the signal by searching for a gamma ray related to the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB).

Francis Reddy from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said, “It was a surprising and yet unexplained element outside our galaxy.” Alexander Kashlinsky, who works as a cosmologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, presented his findings to the American Astronomical Society and said, “This is exactly a coincidental discovery. “We discovered a much stronger signal than what we were looking for, in a different region of the sky than what we were looking for,” he said. Years ago, scientists determined that the CMB was hotter towards the constellation Leo, and that it was colder and less microwave-emitting in the opposite direction. In order to see the changes in CMB more clearly, the first signal we mentioned needs to be eliminated. That’s exactly why they want to better understand this signal and decipher it in detail.

The team pursuing the Cosmic Microwave Background, or ‘CMB’, one of the oldest gamma ray elements needed to create the first known atoms, discovered by chance that this ray had a dipole structure, one end of which was hotter and denser than the other. But that wasn’t enough. Scientists have discovered another signal emitted by an unexplained element. Scientists stated that they think the discovery in question may be related to a cosmic gamma ray source observed by the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina in 2017.

Astronomers underlined that when the discoveries are taken into account, they believe that these two phenomena may have spread from a single unidentified source. While they say they hope to discover this mysterious source or develop alternative explanations for both elements, this surprising discovery by NASA seems to allow astronomers to confirm views on how the dipole structure occurs.


Scientists Changed the Direction of Lightning with a Laser

Lightning rods are simple and resizable devices that generally consist of a metal rod connected directly to the ground with a metal cable. Their lightning, which is often five times hotter than the Sun’s surface, is directed towards the ground and the electrical charge is safely dispersed. Despite this, lightning causes serious damage to infrastructures every year. This led a research team working in Switzerland to develop serious methods for directing electrical discharges from sensitive structures to more resistant areas.

Researchers, who present the details in the Nature Photonics bulletin, recently installed a laser device next to the 124-meter Telekom tower at the top of Switzerland’s Santis Mountain. This structure, which attracts dozens of lightning strikes a year, became the best place for the experiment. Between July and September of last year, lasers beamed at a series of storm fronts for a total of six hours. According to the researchers’ measurements, while these laser pulses affected the course of four upward discharges, only one occurred in clear enough conditions to be photographed with the help of high-speed cameras. The path of the lightning in this example is 50 m towards the laser beam. It seems so distorted.

The system works thanks to the ability of lasers to create a more convenient path for lightning to travel towards Earth. As the beam pulses are fired at the storm clouds more than 1,000 times per second, the refractive index of the surrounding air changes, compressing and condensing the surrounding air molecules so much that they ionize them. Then, an ionized, low-density air channel composed of air molecules heats up rapidly and spreads at supersonic speeds. Although these “filaments,” as the researchers describe them, last only a few milliseconds, their conductivity relative to the surrounding air creates a much easier path for lightning arcs. A powerful laser was able to deflect a lightning bolt by nearly 60 meters before it hit a lightning rod.
However, this system also has some obvious flaws; laser shots are extremely bright and can cause problems for pilots who may be nearby; hence the closure of the surrounding airspace for the duration of the experiment’s operation. In addition, the system’s sticker price of approximately 2 million dollars, which occurred during the five-year development process, can be described as various negative consequences, but this system has become a very good system for military bases or extremely tall structures and spaceports after being struck by lightning.

Installed Laser Equipment

“Why Didn’t We Go to the Moon?”

The project cost of Japan’s SLIM soft landing vehicle, which we mentioned in our news above, is 103 million dollars. The cost of Turkey’s first critical space mission is 55 million dollars. Some people may wonder, “Instead of just sending an astronaut to the ISS, why didn’t we spend a little more money and go to the Moon like Japan?” In this article, we will discuss this topic a little. First of all, we must consider that space is not a place we can go to when we want, under the conditions and costs we want. If we evaluate this as a process, we can say that Turkey has just started its space studies. Turkish Space Agency was founded on December 13, 2018, and considering its establishment date, it is not bad at all for a country that is just at the beginning of its journey to prepare for and carry out a manned mission to the ISS in about 5 years, and it is normal for the costs to be like this.

On the other hand, Japan launched its first satellite with its own rockets in 1970. The Japan Aerospace Agency, JAXA, was established on October 1, 2003. Before this, there were three different Japanese institutes working in this field. With the combination of these institutes, JAXA was established. This means that Japan has at least 50 years of experience and knowledge in the field of space. This also means billions of dollars of investment made in the process.
Turkey, as a country that is just at the beginning of this process, is making good progress. While he is developing his own hybrid rockets with the DeltaV company, it is also gaining experience and knowledge through space missions. In one of the scientific experiments conducted by Alper Gezeravcı, alloy tests were carried out for this rocket. Therefore, the ISS journey was not a “touristic trip”; It was an investment in the country’s know-how in the field of space.
Apart from all these, this mission of Turkey will be a source of inspiration and hope for new generations. This alone is a sufficient reason for this expenditure.

This Week in Our Art Corner

Rocket Man is a song written by Bernie Taupin, featured on Elton John’s 1972 album Honky Château. We are ending this week’s newsletter with this song, which has a beautiful video and lyrics that describe the sending of an astronaut into space and the emotional aspects of this experience. Enjoy listening.