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Japan, UK, Australia, Italy, UAE among nations signing U.S. Artemis Accords on moon exploration

In an interview ahead of the announcement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the accords are “intended to create norms of behavior that all countries can agree to so that we can keep peace and prosperity moving forward in space and avoid any kind of confusion or ambiguity that can result in conflict.”

He said the accords, first announced in May, would build on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the use of nuclear weapons in space and prohibits nations from laying sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies.

“There is nothing in the Artemis Accords that isn’t enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty,” Bridenstine said. “It’s a forcing function to get nations to comply with the Outer Space Treaty.”

The seven nations that signed are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. It’s a somewhat eclectic mix, with countries like Japan, that have long been partners on the International Space Station, joining others, such as Australia and the UAE, that have relatively new but up and coming space programs. Bridenstine said the event Tuesday was only the beginning and that other nations would soon be joining. Ultimately, he said, the U.S. would create “the biggest, most diverse coalition of nations ever in the exploration of the moon and beyond.”

Signing the accords would also be a requirement for any nation wishing to partner with the U.S. in its Artemis program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. But not all nations have reacted favorably to the agreements, or the lunar plan.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, previously compared the accords to an invasion that would lead to another “Iraq or Afghanistan.” On Monday, during the International Astronautical Congress, a global space conference, he said Russia was not likely to participate in NASA’s moon mission, which he said was “too U.S.-centric.”

He said NASA’s approach to lunar exploration, which would use a station in orbit around the moon called the Gateway, differs from the cooperation between nations on the International Space Station.

“The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation that, which were used in order to fly ISS,” he said, speaking through a translator. “If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program then Roscomos would also consider its participation.”

Bridenstine said “the Gateway uses the exact same international agreement, the IGA, that the International Space Station uses.” He added that NASA has “shared with with Roscosmos what we would like to do with the Gateway in terms of collaborating with them and seeing what they’re interested is, and we just haven’t heard back.”

By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.

“Precedent

One dead as part of building collapses at Western Australia university

A collapsed building at Curtin University in Perth, Australia October 13, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Wamn News/via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) – One person died on Tuesday after part of a building collapsed at a Curtin University campus in Western Australia, with images online also showing a glass ceiling under construction had crashed.

A spokeswoman for St John Ambulance told Reuters that one person died following the collapse at the Bentley campus in Perth and two men in their 20s have been hospitalised with “multiple injuries.”

Curtin University said in a statement the collapse occurred at a building site under construction and that no students or staff were involved in the incident.

Media images and videos showed a glass ceiling at the building had crashed on to a construction vehicle.

A reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corp at the site said the collapse occurred during the installation of the glass roof out the front of the building.

The building is part of a project called The Exchange, which includes a hotel, student accommodation and retail, according to The West Australian.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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Pufferfish may be carving mysterious ‘crop circles’ near Australia

Japan’s white-spotted pufferfish are renowned for producing complex, ringed patterns in the sand. Now, 5,500 kilometers away in Australia, scientists have discovered what appear to be dozens more of these creations.

While conducting a marine life survey out on Australia’s North West Shelf near subsea gas infrastructure with an autonomous underwater vehicle, marine ecologist Todd Bond spotted a striking pattern on the seafloor, more than 100 meters deep.  “Immediately, I knew what it was,” recounts Bond, of the University of Western Australia in Perth. Bond and his colleagues continued the survey, ultimately finding nearly two dozen more.

Until now, these undersea “crop circles” were found only off the coast of Japan. First spotted in the 1990s, it took two decades to solve the mystery of what created them. In 2011, scientists found the sculptors — the diminutive males of what was then a new species of Torquigener pufferfish. The patterns are nests, meticulously plowed over the course of days and decorated with shells to entice females to lay their eggs in the center. 

A hovering autonomous underwater vehicle (HAUV) deployed along subsea natural gas infrastructure off Australia’s coast in September 2018 captured footage of something surprising: a rippled ring carved into the sand. Researchers eventually discovered nearly two dozen of these circles, similar to the elaborate nests crafted by white-spotted pufferfish males near Japan, making it the first such find outside Japan. While it’s not known what species created the Australian rings, an unidentified pufferfish was seen fleeing the site of one of them.
 

While there’s no video confirmation that pufferfish are building the nests in Australia, the structures are nearly identical to those in Japan, even sharing a similar number of ridges, Bond and his colleagues report in the November 2020 Journal of Fish Biology. And when a colleague deployed an underwater video system in the area, the contraption luckily landed almost directly atop a circle and captured footage of a small pufferfish fleeing the formation. 

The Australian circles lie in much deeper waters than Japan’s — 130 meters or more deep compared with about 30 meters deep in Japan. Australian pufferfish known in the area typically inhabit more shallow waters, raising questions about the identity of the species responsible.

Bond says the images captured of the likely piscean culprit are too poor to make a definitive identification. The circles could have been made by the same species that builds Japan’s nests, the white-spotted pufferfish (Torquigener albomaculosus), or the culprit could be a different, local species — possibly one totally new to science. 

“It is surprising to find the circles … at a depth where there is not much light,” says Elisabet Forsgren, a behavioral ecologist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Trondheim. If the nests are meant to be a visual signal to attract females, they may be hard to see in

Western Australia to host space communications station

Moon to Earth: WA to host space communications station
A 0.7-metre optical telescope that will be used for the ground station. Credit: ICRAR

An optical communications station capable of receiving high-speed data transmissions from space is set to be built in Western Australia.


The advanced communications ground station will be able to receive data from spacecraft anywhere between low-Earth orbit and the surface of the moon.

It has the potential to support ground-breaking space projects, including NASA’s Artemis mission to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.

The station will be installed at The University of Western Australia (UWA).

It is a joint initiative of UWA’s Astrophotonics Group, which is part of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), as well as the ARC Center of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) and UK industry partner Goonhilly Earth Station.

ICRAR-UWA Astrophotonics Group leader Dr. Sascha Schediwy said optical communications is an emerging technology expected to revolutionize data transfer from space.

“Most current space communications rely on radio waves—it’s the same technology that brought us the voice of Neil Armstrong when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon in 1969,” he said.

“Free-space optical laser communications has several advantages over radio, including significantly faster data rates and hack-proof data transfer. It’s the next generation of space communications, and it’s likely to be how we’ll see high definition footage of the first woman to walk on the moon.”

The ground station was launched today to coincide with the world’s premier global space event, the International Astronautical Congress.

It will be part of a larger Australasian optical ground station network, led by the Australian National University, and with partners in South Australia, and New Zealand.

EQUS’ Director, Professor Andrew White, said the project, which could be the first “on-sky” optical communications ground station in the Southern Hemisphere, is a prime example of fundamental research delivering real-world outcomes.

“EQUS delivers major impacts by encouraging and enabling our people to translate their research into tangible technologies and applications. We are building a culture of innovation, translation and commercialisation amongst quantum science researchers in Australia.”

Besides space communications, the ground station could also be used for applications ranging from cutting-edge fundamental physics to precision earth science and resource geophysics.

Professor White said the ground station would contribute to the development of the “quantum internet”—secure global data transmission using quantum-key distribution via optical links to quantum satellites.

He said it will stand as an example of cutting-edge science partnering with forward-looking businesses and delivering impacts for both.

The station will use make use of a 0.7m observatory-grade optical telescope donated to ICRAR by Perth local Colin Eldridge.

It will be fitted with advanced atmospheric-noise suppression technology developed at UWA.

The station will be connected to Goonhilly’s supercomputer data center in Cornwall via high-speed fiber.

Goonhilly handles data traffic and supports secure communications links for the world’s major satellite operators, including Intelsat, Eutelsat and SES Satellites.

The company is also a partner in the European Space Agency’s Lunar Pathfinder Mission,