There is no dark side of the moon.

There is however, a far side of the moon, and the Chinese have now landed there.

(Video from The Telegraph)

As I mentioned in the previous post, space exploration seems to be heating up. The latest news is China plopping a lander, named the Chang’e 4, on the far side (AKA the dark side) of the moon.

They’re going to do some pretty far out experiments; growing potatoes in a  box, which also currently contain silkworm eggs.

The idea is that the eggs will hatch and their oxygen will feed the potatoes. They hope to discover the effects of low gravity on the growth of vegetables as well as they quality of the silk spun by the silkworms.

They’re planning to start up a cottage industry in outer space potatoes and space silk blouses. …no, not really.

They’re looking to see how viable it is to put a base on the moon from which to explore further reaches of space. They also note, that it is a good place from which to explore space as there is no electrical interference from the Earth on the side of the moon facing away from us.

They released the first image today.

The first image from China’s lunar lander. Credit: AP

China lunar mission: probe makes historic landing on far side of moon

Hello to you Bennu!

Bennu Asteroid (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP)

There’s so much fun space exploration going on right now. With the Mars Insight Lander and the Japanese landing on an asteroid, among many other exciting new projects.

Now the Americans are about to try to replicated the success of the Japanese. Yesterday, after a two year journey, a spacecraft transporting the robotic explorer dubbed Osiris-Rex arrived at another asteroid, this one named Bennu. It’s currently orbiting the asteroid at a mere 19km and will get closer as the days go on.

Bennu is thought to be about 500 meters across and is about 122 million km away from Earth. The spacecraft will orbit it for a year before scooping just over 60 grams of material and sending back to earth. Its booty is expected back around 2023.

The purpose of the mission is to better understand the birth of the solar system, as the asteroid is thought to date back 4.5 billion years, around the time the solar system came into existence.

Bennu is also thought to be something of a risk for us, as it’s getting closer and closer to Earth with every pass. They predict it could hit the Earth in about 150 years and cause significant damage. From this mission, they also hope to be better able to understand how to avert that potential calamity.

Read more:

Nasa probe reaches Bennu asteroid that could one day hit Earth

NASA spacecraft arrives at ancient asteroid, its 1st visitor

Japan Lands Rovers on Asteroid

Ryugu

Ryugu, seen here, is a diamond shape asteroid about 1km across.

In quite an incredible technological feat, Japan has successfully landed two robotic rovers on an asteroid that’s just 1km across.

The MINERVA-II1 rovers were launched from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft which was orbiting, the asteroid dubbed Ryugu. They sent back a few images on their way down, several which were a bit blurry, but a couple of nice ones. Including this one, which clearly shows the asteroid just before the rover touches down:

Photo from MINERVA-II1

The robots are designed to capitalise on the low gravity on the asteroid, by hopping, rather than rolling, along its surface. They will send back data and images that the lead scientists hope will answer questions about the formation of the universe.

Next month the orbiting spaceship will deploy explosives to the asteroid so the rover can look below its surface. Following that, yet another rover, a collaborative effort between French and German scientists will be sent to the asteroid to explore even further.

Read more: JAPAN’S SPACE ROVERS SEND PICTURES BACK AFTER FIRST EVER SUCCESSFUL LANDING ON ASTEROID

The Frontier of Computing

The BBC has an interesting piece on the state of quantum computers.

For those of you who don’t know, quantum computers offer to harness the power of the strange ‘magic’ properties of quantum mechanics, and bring about some seriously powerful computing. For example, unlike a traditional binary computer where a switch is either on or off, i.e. a 1 or a 0, a quantum computer can use superposition to be on or off, plus on and off.

The concepts and mechanics of a quantum computer are known in theory, but putting them into practice is proving difficult. The quantum effects of the quantum computer are highly sensitive to interference and are unpredictable which currently results in lots of error. If this issue can be sorted out, then it’s off to the races. There are, as the article discusses, several companies taking different approaches to the problem. IBM for example, is cooling the quantum bits, or qubits, that run the computer down to almost absolute zero to stabilise them.

Moore’s Law, which states that computing power will double, get twice as energy efficient, and half the size, every two years, is finally reaching its limits.  Quantum computing would blow the lid off that law and no doubt change the world as we know it.

Mastering quantum computing will bring serious and fast technological breakthroughs – including no doubt, the long theorised ‘singularity‘.

It’s pretty exciting stuff and an area to keep an eye on!


Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45273584