Space Exploration
Thursday, April 22, 2021

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One of the strongest solar storms in years engulfed Earth early Thursday March 8, 2012, but scientists say the planet may have lucked out. Hours after the storm arrived, officials said were no reports of problems with power grids, satellites or other technologies that are often disrupted by solar storms. But that still can change as the storm shakes the planet's magnetic field in ways that could disrupt technology but also spread colorful Northern Lights. Early indications show that it is about 10 times stronger than the normal solar wind that hits Earth.

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The storm started with a massive solar flare the evening of March 6, 2012 and grew as it raced outward from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble, scientists said. The charged particles were expected to hit at 4 million mph (6.4 million kph). The storm struck about 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) in a direction that causes the least amount of problems, said Joe Kunches, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center. "It's not a terribly strong event. It's a very interesting event," he said.

 

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The proliferation of debris orbiting the Earth – primarily jettisoned rocket and satellite components – is an increasingly pressing problem for spacecraft, and it can generate huge costs. To combat this scourge, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is launching CleanSpace One, a project to develop and build the first installment of satellites designed to clean up space debris. The design and construction of CleanSpace One, as well as its maiden space voyage, will cost about 10 million Swiss francs. Depending on the funding and industrial partners, this first orbital rendez-vous could take place within three to five years.

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The Earth's orbit is full of all kinds of floating debris; a growing crowd of abandoned satellites, spent rocket stages, bits of broken spacecraft, and fragments from collisions are rocketing around the planet at breathtaking speeds.

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Our understanding of the Universe is about to change! 


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The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

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Using Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, EUV Variability Experiment, and a Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, the semi-autonomous spacecraft gives scientists a nearly constant ability to watch our star. Its mission is science, but since NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched in 2010, it's been sending some just-plain stunning images of the sun back to Earth. The SDO spacecraft is the first mission launched for NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program, designed to understand the sun's influence on Earth.

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Check out more of the latest colorful multiwavelength images returned to earth early December, 2011 from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.

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The docking of the Shenzhou 8 capsule with the Tiangong 1 module was broadcast live on national television on November 3rd, 2011, bringing the country one step closer to its four-decade quest for manned space exploration. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao watched from the control center in Beijing, and thousands of citizens expressed their pride through Internet postings in what many referred to as the country's first "space kiss," remarking how far China had come since its more impoverished days. 

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In the coming year, officials plan to repeat the unmanned exercise with astronauts as part of its mission to reach the moon and to launch its own space station by 2020. If all goes according to plan, China's floating laboratory would become airborne around the same time the aging International Space Station goes into retirement.