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This Canadian Company Is Crowdfunding A Mission To Mars

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Beaver rover

Beaver Rover

When I think of the past, current, and future space powers, a few different countries and agencies pop up. NASA, of course, and the ESA, Russia, JAXA, China, India. It wouldn’t occur to me to put Canada on that list, although one might argue that astronaut Chris Hadfield is a space force unto himself, but Canada is trying to put itself on the cosmic map by landing a couple of robots on Mars later this decade. Interestingly, it’s not the Canadian Space Agency that’s behind this plan—rather, the brains behind the idea belong to Thoth Technology, and the company intends to crowdfund the mission.

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular approach to bankrolling space missions. The U.K. Lunar Mission One Kickstarter campaign is nearing its final week, and Planetary Resource’s Project ARKYD was funded the same way. Thoth Technology has launched an Indiegogo campaign for its Northern Light Mission, which seeks to raise over a million dollars to put a lander and a mini rover on Mars.

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It’s Alive! Yutu Shows Signs Of Life After Malfunction

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YutuAfter arriving on the moon on December 14, China’s Yutu rover experienced a malfunction in late January, just before hibernating for its second two-week-long lunar night. Yutu seemed to bravely embrace its fate, relaying a message to “comfort” the Chang’e lunar lander, and offering some very down-to-Earth (sorry) philosophy: “About half of the past 130 explorations ended in success; the rest ended in failure. This is space exploration; the danger comes with its beauty. I am but a tiny dot in the vast picture of mankind’s adventure in space.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself, Yutu. Just before the beloved Chinese rover signed off, it relayed the message: “I don’t feel that sad. I was just in my own adventure story – and like every hero, I encountered a small problem…Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humanity.” I never thought I could get choked up over mechanical lunar explorer, but somewhere along the way the “Jade Rabbit” stopped feeling like a machine.

Yutu was supposed to wake up from the lunar night yesterday, but didn’t, prompting the China Daily to report that the rover had indeed died during the frigid two-week period. But anyone who’s ever read or watched science fiction (or Gravity) knows that death may not be a permanent condition. Indeed, late last night UHF-Satcom, a website that monitors cosmic radio signals, detected a faint signal from Yutu. Perhaps the fat lady hasn’t sung after all.

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Chinese Moon Rover Yutu May Be In Trouble

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YutuChina’s moon rover Yutu landed on the moon on December 14, 2013, making China the third country to land a spacecraft on our favorite rock. Yutu, which means “jade rabbit” in Chinese, and the lander that brought it there, Chang’e-3, delivered some stunning photos and garnered plenty of global acclaim. But recent reports indicate that all is not well with Yutu. Xinhua news agency reported a “mechanical control abnormality” with the rover, and scientists are trying to figure out a way to fix it.

The State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) pinpointed the cause of the problem as the “complicated lunar surface environment,” but didn’t elaborate. SASTIND did confirm that the abnormality occurred just before the rover was supposed to hibernate again for a two-week-long lunar night on Saturday. During a lunar night, temperatures plunge to about -180 Celsius and there’s no solar power to provide energy for the spacecraft, so they shut down to conserve energy. Both Yutu and Chang’e-3 hibernated for a couple weeks about a month ago, during the first lunar night since their arrival, and both woke up on schedule two weeks later. After awakening, tests confirmed that both vehicles were operating and communicating normally. They were expected to operate for about three months — the same length of time as NASA planned for Spirit and Opportunity to operate on Mars.

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China’s Moon Rover Delivers More Stunning Photos From The Lunar Surface

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Chang'e-3 Lander

Chang’e-3 Lander

In mid-December, China became the third country to land a craft on the moon. But given the holidays and the general madness of the end of the year, it’s easy to forget about that rover and what it might be seeing and doing. The Chinese Academy of Sciences is more than happy to remind us, though, and has released a slew of stunning photos taken by Yutu.

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NASA Will Try To Grow Plants On The Moon In 2015

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plants on the moonIn President Obama’s 2010 speech on the country’s space program, he undid the previous administration’s plan to send American astronauts back to the moon: “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” My favorite comedy show of all time, Mr. Show (starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross) has a sketch about blowing up the moon, in which a former Apollo astronaut says, “I walked on the moon. I did a push-up, I ate an egg on it… What else can you do with it?” Well, NASA has an answer to that question — it intends to grow plants on the moon.

The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, comprised of NASA scientists, as well as contractors, volunteers, and students, will try to grow a couple of plants such as basil, sunflowers, and turnips in specially constructed cylindrical aluminum planters that contain sensors, cameras, and other equipment that will broadcast images of the plants as the grow (or don’t grow). The plant habitats are intended to be self-sufficient, able to monitor and regular temperature, moisture, and their own power supply.