Five new remote-sensing satellites were sent into planned orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China's Shanxi Province Wednesday.
The five Ningxia-1 satellites were launched by a Long March-6 carrier rocket at 2:35 p.m. (Beijing Time).
The satellites are part of a commercial satellite project invested by the Ningxia Jingui Information Technology Co., Ltd. and will be mainly used for remote sensing detection.
The satellites and carrier rocket were developed by the DFH Satellite Co., Ltd. and the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.
Wednesday's launch was the 318th mission for the Long March series carrier rockets.
The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) Wednesday launched an international agricultural science program to strengthen cooperation between CAAS and its global partners in developing cutting-edge agricultural science and technology.
The program, CAASTIP, unveiled during the 6th Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology, held in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, plans to invest 10 million U.S. dollars in the coming five years to promote scientific research and innovation in frontier, basic and key fields to meet the common challenges of global agricultural development, and to push forward the research and development of emerging technologies.
More than 20 agricultural institutions from other countries and international organizations attending the forum showed interest and willingness to participate in the program.
CAAS has established an extensive network of international collaboration and partnered with agricultural research institutions from more than 100 countries and regions, 40 international organizations, multinational companies and funding units.
Over 400 representatives of senior officials and renowned scholars from agricultural research institutions of 39 countries and relevant international agricultural organizations participated in the forum with a theme of "Green Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas Driven by Science and Technology."
South Africa's National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday approved a convention to establish the world's largest radio telescope observatory.
During its plenary sitting, the NA, or the lower house of parliament, gave the green light to the convention concerning the establishment of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory, said spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
It follows an international treaty signed this March in Rome, which creates an intergovernmental organization overseeing the delivery of the SKA Observatory.
As one of its founding members, South Africa needs the convention to be ratified by national parliaments for the observatory to come into existence.
It is the first and only science intergovernmental organization where Africa plays a strategic leading role, said Mothapo.
The convention now goes to the National Council of Provinces, or the upper house of parliament, for approval.
The SKA Observatory is an international mega-science project aimed at building the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, which will be co-located in Africa and Australia.
That means "sky" in the language of the Native American Powhatan people, NASA said Tuesday.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year's Day, 3 ½ years after exploring Pluto. At the time, this small icy world 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from us.
"The name 'Arrokoth' reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies," lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement, "and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own."
The name was picked because of the Powhatan's ties to the Chesapeake Bay region.
New Horizons is operated from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The Hubble Space Telescope — which discovered Arrokoth in 2014 — has its science operations in Baltimore.
The New Horizons team got consent for the name from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, according to NASA. The International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Center approved the choice.
Arrokoth is among countless objects in the so-called Kuiper Belt, or vast Twilight Zone beyond the orbit of Neptune. New Horizons will observe some of these objects from afar as it makes its way deeper into space.
When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, it was a giant leap for mankind and a huge success for American engineering, but there was one aspect of the mission that hadn’t really gone as planned. When Neil Armstrong manually guided the lunar module to a safe touchdown, he had to override the computer which had the craft landing in a field of boulders. It left the demonstration of precision automated guidance to Apollo 12.
Fifty years ago this month, Apollo 12 successfully landed within a few hundred meters of its target, 400,000 kilometers (248,500 miles) away from where it lifted off. A key figure responsible for that precision landing was an unassuming Englishman living in the Arizona desert, Ewen Whitaker. Without the aid of computers or GPS, but with patience and an exhaustive knowledge of the geography of the Moon, Whitaker pinpointed where a robotic spacecraft had landed two years earlier.
As a scientist interested in the chronology of events on the Moon, I ultimately found myself analyzing rocks that had been brought back from the Moon by Apollo 12, working in a laboratory that Whitaker had helped establish. And even though Whitaker retired within months of my arrival in Tucson, it was a delight to get to know him and learn the stories of his quiet heroics.
The genesis of a lunar expert
Whitaker had long been fascinated by the Moon, and when pioneering planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper put out a request for collaborators at an international astronomical gathering in Dublin in 1956, Whitaker was the only one who responded. He went to join Kuiper at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, then accompanied the group when it relocated to the University of Arizona and founded the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
As the group produced progressively better images and maps of the Moon, Whitaker absorbed the details with a devotion that meant that he almost certainly knew more lunar geography than any human ever had.
When NASA’s Surveyor 1 became the first robotic spacecraft to perform a soft landing on the Moon, in 1966, Whitaker wasn’t officially part of the team. But when the team studied the images from Surveyor 1’s camera, and published the location where they thought they had landed, Whitaker disagreed. When he examined the images of the peaks and craters and compared them to the highest-resolution images of the Moon’s surface available, he concluded the spacecraft was actually a few kilometers away from the published location. The team agreed.
After Apollo 11’s hair-raising final seconds before touchdown, precision landing became a high priority for Apollo 12. But the challenge was to establish the exact location of anything on a body that humans were just beginning to explore. A subsequent Surveyor mission provided the images Whitaker needed.
Finding the right spot
NASA had landed the Surveyor 3 unmanned craft in 1967, and the location had several advantages for an Apollo 12 landing site. It was clearly an area where a spacecraft could safely land; it was near the equator, which made it easily accessible. And, if the landing was close enough to Surveyor 3, the astronauts could walk over and remove pieces of it to bring back to Earth. That way, scientists could study the wear and tear on the materials after spending two years on the lunar surface, exposed to vacuum, extreme temperatures, ionizing radiation and micrometeorite bombardment.
Given Whitaker’s success with locating Surveyor 1, he was asked to locate precisely Surveyor 3. It was a tougher task than finding Surveyor 1. Because Surveyor 3 had landed in a crater, the view was restricted, but Whitaker again poured over the best images he could find, and believed he had found the landing site.
Apollo 12 launched on November 14, 1969, and, other than being struck by lightning twice within the first minute after it lifted off, had an uneventful trip to the Moon. On November 19, the landing module, Intrepid, headed into a crater and safely touched down. When Mission Commander Pete Conrad stepped out onto the lunar surface, he saw Surveyor 3, about 200 meters away. Ewen Whitaker had gotten it right.
Conrad and fellow astronaut Alan Bean walked to the unmanned spacecraft, and some of the iconic images from the mission are of Conrad working on the Surveyor craft, including taking off its camera, which was returned to Earth for analysis.
One of the ironies of that set of images is that the photographer, Bean, later became a very successful painter, with many of his paintings reflecting his lunar experiences, including the visit to Surveyor 3. Meanwhile, the astronauts sent a personal note to Whitaker, thanking him for his contributions, and that became one of Ewen’s prized possessions, framed and hanging on the wall of his house.
But the story of Whitaker and Bean wasn’t quite over. In the late 1990s, Bean was displaying artwork at a gallery in Tucson, and Whitaker went to see if he could meet him. Jim Scotti, an astronomer (in the Lunar and Planetary Lab) and space artist who knew both Whitaker and Bean, was at the meeting, and said that it seemed more like a reunion than a first meeting, with a happy mix of Whitaker’s English accent and Bean’s Texas twang.
And why not? For each of them, that day in November of 1969 had been the highlight of their professional careers, and neither could have done it without the other.