December 4, 2019

Dutch-Chinese space explorer now behind the moon

Filed under: Technology by Orangemaster @ 5:21 pm

Last week The Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE) that was hanging in space for over a year finally had its three antennas unfolded, while it settled in behind the moon. As well, the accompanying satellite, QueQiao, initially planned to be a communications satellite, was turned into a radio observatory.

The NCLE is the first Dutch-Chinese space observatory for radio astronomy. With these shorter antennas, the instrument is sensitive to signals from around 800 million years after the Big Bang. Once unfolded to their full length, they will be able to capture weak radio signals from a period just following the Big Bang, called the Dark Ages.

Marc Klein Wolt, Managing Director of the Radboud Radio Lab and leader of the Dutch team, Albert-Jan Boonstra of Astron as well as Heino Falcke of Radboud University are all thrilled in their own way about being able to perform their observations during the fourteen-day-long night behind the moon. “This is a unique demonstration of technology that paves the way for future radio instruments in space,” Boonstra said.


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May 17, 2016

Growing food for Mars and the Moon

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:20 am

The Dutch are already involved in getting to Mars, but researchers at Wageningen University feel people need to be able to grow their own food if they ever plan on living there.

Wageningen University wants to grow vegetables in soils similar to those found on the Moon and Mars, but getting those soils is a tall order. However, NASA actually makes ground similar to that on the Moon from sand found in an Arizona desert, while Mars’ crimson ‘soil’ is scooped from a volcano in Hawaii. The first experiments started in 2013 after the university received an order of 100 kilos of NASA’s imitation ‘space soil’, which cost 2,000 euro.

Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University decided to grow tomatoes, peas, cress and other plants in pots containing the simulated soil. The imitation ground wasn’t big on being watered at first, but soon turned out to be good potting soil. “In the Martian soil, plants were growing fast and well. They even started to flower, something that we never anticipated,” Wamelink said. The 50-day experiment was written up in the science journal PLOS One in August 2014.

The vegetables however are not necessarily safe to eat. Wamelink suggested growing other plant species such as violets to absorb the poisons. Water should be no problem as it is found as ice on both the Moon and Mars, said Wamelink. Other questions which need answers include the presence of friendly bacteria to help plant growth and what happens to plants that grow in low gravity. It’s still all very theoretical and cannot be tested in actual Martian and lunar conditions.

Part of me wonder if earthlings so fond of all kinds of foods, wouldn’t go bonkers from a steady diet of boring, never mind a lack of meat for some, alcohol and chocolate. The first person to open up a snack bar is going to rule the planet.


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March 18, 2007

Apollo 11 flag no longer stands on the moon

Filed under: General,History by Branko Collin @ 11:36 am


When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to land on the moon, they planted a US flag there; the photo Armstrong took of Aldrin with the flag is so well-known that it has become an icon. In its extensive report on this flag, NASA writes: “it is uncertain if the flag remained standing or was blown over by the engine blast when the ascent module took off”. Last week however, according to news paper BN/De Stem, a visiting Buzz Aldrin told an audience of students from the Delft University of Technology that the flag was no longer standing; when leaving for earth, the astronauts accidentally knocked it over.

Realising how sensitive the US public would be about such a thing, the astronauts decided not to tell upon return.

(Source: BN/De Stem)

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