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World’s Biggest Search For Aliens Now Using World’s Biggest Radio Telescope

Breakthrough Listen, the global initiative looking for signs of intelligent life in the Universe, has partnered with the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, the world’s largest radio telescope array, to search for extraterrestrial signals and alien “technosignatures.”

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Hollywood, CA, United States (4E) – Breakthrough Listen, the global initiative looking for signs of intelligent life in the Universe, has partnered with the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, the world’s largest radio telescope array, to search for extraterrestrial signals and alien “technosignatures.”

Breakthrough Listen is the largest ever scientific research program whose goal is to uncover evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Universe.

It announced the launch of a major new program with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), operator of the MeerKAT telescope. The partners will examine a million individual stars, or 1,000 times the number of targets in any previous search.

Breakthrough Listen’s MeerKAT survey will search for technosignatures in the quietest part of the radio spectrum and hunt for signs of extraterrestrial technology. Because of the deal with SARAO, Listen will be able to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in parallel with other surveys.

“Collaborating with MeerKAT will significantly enhance the capabilities of Breakthrough Listen,” said Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives. “This is now a truly global project.”

Built and operated by SARAO and inaugurated July 13, MeerKAT is a powerful array of 64 radio antennas in the Karoo Desert. Signals from MeerKAT’s 64 dishes are combined electronically to create a powerful combination of sensitivity, resolution and field of view.

MeerKAT also serves as a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will expand and enhance the current facility in the coming decades. SKA will eventually span a million square meters across South Africa and Australia to create the world’s largest radio telescope by far. MeerKAT will be integrated into Phase 1 of the mid-frequency component of the SKA.

“Listen and MeerKAT are developing next-generation technology and techniques that will ultimately lead to proposals for searches with the Square Kilometre Array. This is an exciting moment for SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and radio astronomy in general,” said Breakthrough Initiatives’ Executive Director, Pete Worden.

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SpaceX Breaks World Record for Most Commercial Launches in a Year

SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018.

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Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018. It still has one more launch remaining on its 2018 manifest.

SpaceX also broke its own record for the most orbital rocket launches by a single company in a year. The company set the old record (18 launches over a single calendar year) in 2017. United Launch Alliance held the title prior to that with 16 commercial rockets launched in 2009.

This has been SpaceX’s best year yet for rocket launches. The 20 successful SpaceX missions sent dozens of payloads into orbit. It also took two experimental Starlink internet satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and even hurled a red-colored Tesla Model X with a dummy driver past the orbit of Mars.

In May, Musk was feeling good enough about SpaceX’s 2018 progress that he said the company might “launch more rockets than any other country.”

That didn’t pan-out since China successfully launched 35 of its Long March orbital rockets in 2018, and will still launch a few more rockets before the year ends.

The 20th SpaceX mission on Dec. 5 was a successful re-supply mission to the International Space Station.

The 21st and last SpaceX mission for 2018 will loft the U.S. Air Force’s GPS IIIA-01 satellite into LEO on Dec. 18. This sat will improve global positioning coverage for the U.S. military.

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U.S. Has Two More Astronauts Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

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Mojave, CA, United States (4E) – The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and “Rick” C.J Sturckow earned their U.S. astronaut wings by flying the rocket-powered spacecraft named Unity to an altitude of 83 kilometers or 51.4 miles. The flight on Dec. 13 was Virgin Galactic longest rocket-powered flight ever.

Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.

The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots that have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. “Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

Slung underneath the jet-powered mothership named Eve, Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Eve released Unity upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet.

Stucky and Sturckow then piloted Unity in a thunderous boost that lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it roared into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line, which is the boundary where space begins.

After doing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

In October, Branson said Virgin Galactic was “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space.

“We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,” he said.

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China’s Lunar Probe Will Take a Month to Land on the Moon

A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

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Beijing, China (4E) – A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

The puzzling question is why will it take a month for this probe named Chang’e-4 to land on the Moon when it only took U.S. astronauts of the Apollo Program only three days to make the same journey?

China hasn’t given an official explanation, but Western scientists have their theories. The Smithsonian Institution said the Chang’e-4 space craft will make a few course corrections along the way to prepare for a landing at the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Chang’e-4 will consist of a lander and a rover. The lander will deploy a ramp to allow the rover to access the lunar surface. The rover has dimensions of 1.5 × 1.0 × 1.0 meters and has a mass of 140 kg.

The Chang’e-4 lander will carry scientific payloads to study the geophysics of the landing site. Among the more intriguing payloads on the lander is a 3 kg container with potato and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds (among others), and silkworm larvae (or eggs) to test if plants and insects can hatch and grow together.

Chinese scientists hope that if the eggs hatch, the larvae will produce carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the germinated plants will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. The plants and silkworms will together establish a simple synergy inside the container. A camera will take pictures of this experiment.

This will be the first time humans have tried to grow plants and raise insects on the Moon.

The lander will also deploy the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND), a neutron dosimeter developed by Kiel University in Germany.

If China can pull it off, it will become the first country to land a probe on the Dark Side of the Moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is a vast basin in the southern hemisphere of the far side. It extends from the South Pole to Aitken crater.

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