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    Right now the "Space Force" talk is about military threats but in the future it will change into a global peaceful space exploration force, just as in Star Trek. This is its birth.

    Notice the similarity of the logo as well. This is a common logo among advanced space-faring civilisations.


    Everyone wants a Space Force — but why?

    By Chelsea Gohd a day ago

    "Nobody wants a war in space."

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    The U.S. Space Force isn't the only military space branch popping up around the world.

    The U.S. Space Force isn't the only military space branch popping up around the world. (Image: © U.S. Space Force)

    As perceived security threats mount in Earth's orbit, countries around the world are following the example of the United States and creating their own "space forces."

    Nine months ago, in December 2019, the U.S. Space Force was born. The new military branch was created with a focus to protect the nation's satellites and other space assets, which are vital to everything from national security to day-to-day communications.

    Now, countries including France, Canada and Japan are following suit, as leaders from those countries' "space force" analogs said Thursday (Sept. 10) during the 2nd Summit for Space Sustainability, an online event hosted by the nonprofit Secure World Foundation.

    So, why do these countries, as well as nations like Russia and China, want a military presence in space?

    Related: The most dangerous space weapons ever

    According to Maj. Gen. John Shaw, the combined force space component commander of the U.S. Space Command and commander of space operations command for the U.S. Space Force, it's analogous to asking "why do ocean-going or seafaring nations want a Navy?" They want "to secure that domain for all activity and to deter threats in that domain," he said during the summit on Thursday. "Nobody wants a war in space."

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    Space torpedoes

    The threats that the U.S. Space Force aims to deter are not theoretical and have already started popping up, Shaw explained.

    For example, in April and again in July, the Space Force detected an anti-satellite missile test conducted in low Earth orbit by Russia. The April test "provides yet another example that the threats to the U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing," Space Force commander Gen. John "Jay" Raymond stated following that incident.

    Satellite tests are no uncommon occurrence in low Earth orbit. However, according to Shaw, Russia was testing what looked like a "space torpedo."

    Video: Watch Russia launch the two mysterious satellites

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    "And I could add many other threats that we've seen along the continuum of space counter-space capabilities," Shaw added, citing "the proliferation of electromagnetic spectrum jammers" as an example. Jammers deliberately interfere with information beaming to or from Earth-orbiting satellites.

    And, while the U.S. Space Force is actively working to combat these threats, other countries are following suit. "We share the same concerns," French Space Command major general and commander Michel Friedling said during the summit.

    "We want to make sure that we're not riding coattails," Brig. Gen. Mike Adamson, the director general and Space/Joint Force Space Component Commander for the Canadian Department of National Defence added during the summit. Canada wants to "maintain our place at the table," Adamson said.

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    Satellite swarm threats

    However, intentional, nefarious threats from other nations are not the only concern for the U.S. Space Force and other countries' growing military space efforts. Constellations of satellites from private companies here on Earth can also pose serious issues.

    The "proliferation in low Earth orbit of commercial satellites, in some ways, might be the greatest threat to space sustainability," Shaw said, adding that this will only really be a threat if not done properly.

    Recently, SpaceX began launching large numbers of satellites to low Earth orbit, in an effort to grow a huge constellation called Starlink that's designed to provide internet access around the globe.

    SpaceX has already lofted more than 700 Starlink satellites. But Elon Musk's company has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch as many as 12,000 satellites into orbit and may want to grow the constellation even larger than that someday.

    And SpaceX isn't the only one with such ambitions. For example, Amazon aims to launch about 3,200 satellites for its own internet constellation, Project Kuiper.

    Putting so many satellites into orbit raises a number of potential concerns, including the proliferation of "space junk." While SpaceX's Starlink satellites are designed to fall out of orbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere over time, the presence of so many spacecraft in orbit at once increases the possibility of collisions, which would generate huge swarms of debris. These swarms would then pose a potential threat to other satellites in orbit.

    Related: In photos: SpaceX launches third batch of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    As Shaw mentioned, the Space Force also expects to see more and more "academic" or science-focused satellites launched into orbit.

    With all of these new satellites expected to launch, the Space Force wants to ensure that they are made with a "responsible design so that they don't become a navigational hazard," Shaw said. "As we continue to expand across all sectors…how do we do that in a responsible way?"

    This is a concern for other countries dipping their toes into space-focused military branches as well.

    These emerging military enterprises have to consider things such as, "How do we coordinate with the private actors in space?" Friedling said.

    Friedling also brought up the issue of security for these private or science-focused satellites. "Do they want to be protected or escorted?" he asked, comparing these craft to private ships that were escorted in convoys during World War I to keep them safe from enemy attack from newly introduced submarines.

    The space military representatives, which also included Maj. Gen. Hiroaki Sakanashi, the director general of the project promotion group for emerging domains and programs in the Air Staff Office in Japan, seemed to agree that these are concerns that should be addressed by space-focused military efforts.

    "You invite conflict when there's weakness, and I believe you deter conflict when there is strength, and that is the path we're on," Shaw said. Taking this approach "will lead us, I believe, to a more strategically stable situation that deters conflict in space," he added.

    "Certainly, Canada is going along those lines as well," Adamson agreed.

    Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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    San Francisco...with Martian skies


    MARTIAN SKIES OVER SAN FRANCISCO: If Mars had a Fisherman's Wharf, this is what it would look like:


    Mila Zinkova took the picture from San Francisco's Pier 39 on Sept. 9th. "The atmosphere was eerie and apocalyptic," says Zinkova. "The sky was orange, and it was so dark that streetlights were on in the middle of the day. It felt as if the whole of San Francisco had moved to Mars."

    The sky was colored Martian-red by smoke from historic wildfires raging out of control in California and Oregon. So much daylight was blotted out, some are calling it "the day the sun did not come up in San Francisco." To illustrate how dark it was, Zinkova made a 6 minute video which ends with a mailman delivering mail, using a headlight to read the addresses.

    Another resident, Scott Boyd, photographed the alien hue of San Francisco's iconic row houses:


    "I woke up this morning to a Mars-like orange sky that persisted throughout the day," says Boyd. "High smoke coupled with a dense fog layer combined to make a featureless orange that blanketed the City by the Bay."

    In the way it responds to smoke, San Francisco is special. The city's marine layer buffers smoke, holding it high above the ground. Tiny smoke particles scatter blue light before it can reach the city streets, allowing only reds to pass. The result: Mars on Earth. Let's hope it ends soon.

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    Enjoy the magnificence

    Vangelis - Creation du Monde - 09:59

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    • Official Post

    Note the Chinese space agency's logo in the bottom right corner in the first picture. This kind of logo is common among real space-faring civilisations and is also why it was used in Star Trek and as the logo for the US' new Space Force under Trump.


    On its way to Mars, Chinese spacecraft spots Earth and moon, aces steering maneuver

    By Andrew Jones 6 August 2020

    The Earth and moon imaged by Tianwen-1 on July 27, 2020, when it was 750,000 miles away from its planet of origin.

    The Earth and moon imaged by Tianwen-1 on July 27, 2020, when it was 750,000 miles away from its planet of origin. (Image: © CNSA)

    China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft captured a stunning view of the Earth and moon before making its first trajectory correction maneuver on the long journey to Mars.

    The mission consists of an orbiter, entry vehicle and rover. The spacecraft will begin orbiting the Red Planet in February 2021, and then prepare for the rover's landing attempt, which is expected in April or May.

    Tianwen-1 launched on July 23 on a Long March 5 rocket and completed the final burn to send it on a trajectory to Mars 36 minutes later. On July 27, while the spacecraft was about 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) away from Earth, an optical navigation sensor imaged the crescent-shaped Earth and the smaller, more distant moon.

    Related: NASA asteroid camera spots China's Tianwen-1 Mars spacecraft speeding away from Earth

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    The black-and-white image reveals a few apparent features of Earth, against the stark background of an otherwise vast, black ocean.

    At 7:00 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) on August 1, Tianwen-1 fired its engine for 20 seconds to optimize the spacecraft's trajectory. When the maneuver occured, Tianwen-1 was roughly 1,860,000 miles (3 million km) away from Earth after 230 hours of flight.

    The burn was a vital test of the vehicle's propulsion system, which it will rely on to correct its trajectory and slow the spacecraft to allow it to enter Mars orbit.

    The spacecraft will make four or five such adjustments before reaching Mars, Geng Yan, an official with the China National Space Administration, told Chinese media. The second such correction will be made before October.

    Tianwen-1 is in good condition, communicating well with the ground, according to the update from the China Lunar Exploration Project.

    The orbiter carries high- and medium-resolution cameras designed for studying and mapping Mars. The image of the Earth and moon, however, was taken by an optical navigation sensor that is normally pointing toward Mars.

    In the days following launch, a NASA asteroid camera picked up the spacecraft moving against the star field.

    The far side of the moon and distant Earth, as imaged by an experimental Chinese spacecraft called Chang'e-5 T1 in 2014.The far side of the moon and distant Earth, as imaged by an experimental Chinese spacecraft called Chang'e-5 T1 in 2014. (Image credit: CNSA)

    Other Chinese spacecraft have imaged the Earth and moon together previously. Chang'e-5 T1, an experimental mission launched in 2014 to test lunar sample-return technologies, took a stunning image of the far side of the moon and a distant Earth.

    The Queqiao relay satellite for the Chang'e-4 lunar far-side mission has also imaged the pair from the second Earth-moon Lagrange point beyond the moon, as did the Longjiang-2 microsatellite that launched with Queqiao. Fengyun-4A, a weather satellite in geostationary orbit, has also captured the pair in a single shot.

    Tianwen-1, as well as the United Arab Emirates' Hope mission and NASA's Perseverance rover, are now all en route to Mars and will arrive in February.

    Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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    Pluto is actually an artificially constructed world, like the moon. Under its surface, located at the area called the 'heart', is a giant heating plant which explains the mysterious heat Pluto generates despite being so far from the sun. There's such a heating plant under Antarctica too, albeit much smaller, which is part of the planet's heat regulation systems.

    New Horizons was unmanned but there have been manned journeys to Pluto, by the Russians, with their craft called Cosmospheres. The Russians have been allowed to explore the solar system with these craft by The Federation, StarFleet (not Star Trek's, but the GFL - Galactic Federation of Light) as their purposes are completely peaceful and benign with no ulterior motives, unlike the West, who would prefer to conquer, dominate and exploit space's resources instead of just exploring and peacefully co-existing with its other civilisations. That's why they aren't allowed out there with the same freedom the Russians have earned. There are rules about space travel. it's not a free-for-all.


    Pluto revealed: 5 years ago, NASA's New Horizons gave us our first close look at this distant world

    By Mike Wall 14 July 2020

    We had no idea Pluto was this diverse and dynamic.

    Pluto, as seen by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby of the dwarf planet in July 2015.

    (Image: © NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

    Five years ago today, we started to appreciate just how remarkable Pluto really is.

    The distant dwarf planet had been a frigid enigma since its 1930 discovery, remaining a fuzzy blob even in photos captured by the powerful Hubble Space Telescope. But everything changed on July 14, 2015, when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zoomed within 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers) of Pluto's icy surface.

    The historic flyby completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system's nine traditionally recognized planets and revealed a stunning complexity and diversity of terrain, from nitrogen glaciers to towering mountains of rock-hard water ice. ("Traditionally recognized" is a required qualifier here, because the International Astronomical Union "demoted" Pluto to dwarf-planet status in 2006, a decision that remains controversial to this day.)

    "It is one amazing world," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com. "It even has a heart on it! Hollywood couldn't have planned it better."

    Related: Pluto flyby photos: New Horizons mission leader Alan Stern reveals 10 of his favorite epic views

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    High drama in the home stretch

    The $720 million New Horizons mission launched in January 2006, speeding away from Earth at a record-breaking 36,400 mph (58,580 km/h).

    Even at that blistering pace, it still took the probe 9.5 years to reach Pluto, which was about 3 billion miles (5 billion km) from Earth on the day of the flyby. And in the home stretch of that deep-space trek, New Horizons suffered a glitch that threatened to scuttle the epic encounter entirely.

    The spacecraft went dark for 90 minutes on July 4, 2015, sending mission team members scrambling. But they were up to the challenge, in short order diagnosing and fixing the problem — an overloaded main computer that was trying to do two big things at once.

    This high-pressure troubleshooting was far from routine, Stern stressed, praising the talent, preparation and dedication of the mission-operations team.

    "We nearly lost this thing on July 4," he said. If the same glitch had cropped up just two days later, he added, it probably would have been too late to salvage the flyby.

    Related: Destination Pluto: NASA's New Horizons mission in pictures

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    A shockingly complex and active world

    A mere three days after the glitch, New Horizons photographed a stunning sight: a huge, heart-shaped feature on Pluto's reddish surface. Pluto's now-iconic heart came into sharper and sharper focus over the ensuing days, as did the rest of the dwarf planet's "encounter hemisphere" (the side that New Horizons flew over).

    And then came closest approach. On July 14, New Horizons skimmed just over Pluto, photographing and studying a staggering diversity of terrain.

    For example, the heart — now known as Tombaugh Regio, after Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh — is bordered in places by 2-mile-high (3 km) mountains made not of rock but of water ice. In another part of the dwarf planet, methane ice has eroded into bizarre and unique "bladed terrain." New Horizons also saw huge structures that appear to be cryovolcanoes, the largest of which is about 4.3 miles tall and 155 miles wide (7 by 250 kilometers).

    All of these dramatic landscapes and more are rubbing shoulders on a world just 1,477 miles (2,377 km) wide.

    "Pluto's kind of like if you took a whole bunch of national parks … and you crammed them all in a small space right next to each other," mission science team member Kelsi Singer, also of SwRI, told Space.com.

    But the pretty pictures just scratch the surface of Pluto's story. For example, the left lobe of Tombaugh Regio, a 600-mile-wide (1,000 km) plain of nitrogen ice called Sputnik Planitia, sports no detectable craters. That means the region has been resurfaced very recently, which in turn shows that Pluto is geologically active.

    Related: Pluto is beautiful, complex and thoroughly puzzling     

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    That came as a big surprise to many scientists, who had assumed the dwarf planet is dead. Pluto is incredibly far from the sun, after all, orbiting 39.5 astronomical units (AU) from our star on average. (One AU is the average Earth-sun distance, about 93 million miles, or 150 million km.) And there's no giant planet nearby to heat the dwarf planet's innards via tidal stretching and flexing, as happens with the active moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

    Indeed, the power source for Pluto's activity remains mysterious and the subject of considerable debate. For example, some researchers think heat from the radioactive decay of material in Pluto's core may be responsible. But others, including Stern, suspect the activity is driven by latent heat released by the slow, ongoing freezing of Pluto's subsurface ocean.

    That's right: New Horizons' observations suggest that the dwarf planet has an ocean of salty liquid water sloshing beneath its surface. Mission data also indicate that two other ingredients crucial for life as we know it — carbon-containing organic molecules and an energy source — may be abundant on Pluto as well.

    "With a straight face, you can say in 2020 that New Horizons put Pluto on the map as a world with astrobiological potential," Stern said.

    The flyby led to many other discoveries as well, far too many to recount in one story. For example, New Horizons photographed gorgeously blue skies as it sped away from Pluto after the close encounter. And the probe's observations support the theory that Charon and Pluto's other four moons were formed by a long-ago giant impact in the system.

    Related: Photos of Pluto and its moons

    Click here for more Space.com videos...

    Not done yet

    Scientists around the world are still analyzing data from the Pluto flyby, and they'll continue to do so for years to come.

    "We were surprised by how much we were surprised by," Singer said. "There's tons of stuff left to be done."

    Researchers are also still poring over information from New Horizons' second close encounter — a flyby of the 22-mile-long (35 km) object Arrokoth, conducted during the probe's ongoing extended mission.

    The Arrokoth encounter occurred on Jan. 1, 2019, when New Horizons was about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto's orbit. The spacecraft's observations revealed that Arrokoth looks like a flattened, reddish snowman, and that the odd object formed via the very gentle merger of two primordial bodies.

    The mission has therefore given us up-close looks at two very different objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of frigid bodies beyond Neptune's orbit. And New Horizons' flyby days may not be over just yet.

    The probe remains in good health, and it has one-eighth of a tank of fuel left — the same amount that was required for the Arrokoth flyby, Stern said. So the probe might be able to squeeze in one more close encounter, provided a suitable target can be found along its flight path. The mission team recently began hunting in earnest for such a target using a variety of powerful telescopes.

    "The numerical odds are long, because of the amount of fuel that's left," Stern said. "If we get lucky, then we'll have another flyby. And if we don't, we won't."

    New Horizons' legacy is assured either way. The mission has pioneered the exploration of the far outer solar system, revealing just how interesting this cold, dark realm is. And it showed Pluto to be deserving of more than a mere fleeting look, stressed Stern and Singer. They've been working, with other researchers, on a concept for a mission that would orbit the dwarf planet and potentially explore other Kuiper Belt objects up close as well.

    "Pluto really is such a complex world, and system of worlds, that this push to get an orbiter is really gaining traction," Stern said.

    Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

    Related - Pluto flyby photos: New Horizons mission leader Alan Stern reveals 10 of his favorite epic views

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