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Spooky blue moon to illuminate sky on Halloween

The night sky will bring an added treat this Halloween as it features a spectacle that has not occurred in nearly two decades.

Halloween is shaping up much differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic with some communities electing to cancel trick-or-treating to reduce the risk of the virus spreading from one household to another. But in neighborhoods where young masqueraders will be going door-to-door collecting candy, they will have a bright full moon to help light the way.

This won’t be the typical full moon, either — it will be a blue moon.

The moon rises in the sky as seen through the Four Towers, or C.T.B.A. (Cuatro Torres Business Area) in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Contrary to its name, a blue moon does not appear blue in color. It is simply the nickname given to the second full moon in a calendar month. However, the moon can take on different colors such as orange and red when it is near the horizon, similar to how the sky can turn vibrant colors when the sun is near the horizon.

“The modern understanding of “Blue Moon” only took off in the 1980s. It was a result of a much earlier mistake printed in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and since then, the term has gone viral in the media,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac explained.

The first full moon in October rose on the first of the month and was one of the most well-known full moons of the year: The Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the nickname given to the full moon closest to the fall equinox and typically glows in September, but 2020 was one of the instances where it appeared in early October.

Blue moons like the one this month happen about once every two-and-a-half years, according to NASA. This irregularity is how the phrase “once in a blue moon” came to be.

Those who are superstitious may want to carry around a good luck charm on Oct. 31 and keep it handy with a Friday the 13th right around the corner in November.

The Halloween blue moon is being touted as a rare celestial event by some, leaving people to wonder how uncommon this event is compared to a typical blue moon.

“On average, the moon is full on Halloween every 19 years,” NASA said. “In fact, every Halloween full moon is also a Blue Moon.”

The last time that a full moon illuminated the sky on Halloween night was in 2001; however, clouds obscured the spooky sight for folks across the Northeast, the northern Plains and along the Interstate 5 corridor in the Pacific Northwest.

The GOES-12 weather satellite took this image a few hours before sunset on Oct. 31, 2001. A tropical depression can be seen over the western Caribbean Sea that would go on to become Hurricane Michelle. (NOAA)

Trick-or-treaters this year may have kids of their own the next

Eight nations sign NASA’s Artemis Accords that guide cooperative exploration of the moon

Eight countries have signed on as founding member nations to NASA’s Artemis Accords during the 71st International Astronautical Congress this week.

a couple of people that are standing in the dirt


Those nations include Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.


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NASA released the Artemis Accords in May to establish a framework of principles for safely and responsibly planning for humanity’s return to the moon.

“Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.

“With today’s signing, we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy.”

It’s been more than a year since NASA and Bridenstine released the name of Artemis, the next program to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. The program relies on partnerships, both international and commercial, to create a sustainable and lasting presence of humans on and around the moon, with the goal of eventually using Artemis to land the first people on Mars.

“Fundamentally, the Artemis Accords will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions. Transparency, public registration, deconflicting operations — these are the principles that will preserve peace,” said Mike Gold, NASA acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, in a statement. “The Artemis journey is to the Moon, but the destination of the Accords is a peaceful and prosperous future.”

It’s likely that more countries will sign and join the Artemis Accords going forward. During the Congress this week, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, indicated that Russia is currently refraining from signing the accords because they are too “US-centric.”

However, Russia and the US remain partners on the International Space Station and a crew including NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov launched for a six-month stay on the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan early Wednesday.

Some of NASA’s other international partners for Artemis include the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency known as JAXA, short for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Artemis Accords align with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, regarded as the basis of international space law to prevent the claiming of outer space by a country or sovereign. It also established free and peaceful exploration that reinforces each country’s responsibility for its activities, damage or contamination — and that no weapons should be placed in orbit.

A peaceful frontier

The accords rely on peaceful intent, transparency, interoperability and sharing of scientific data. These guiding principles apply to international and commercial partnerships that will operate in the space between the Earth and the moon, known as cislunar space.

Europe steps up contributions to Artemis Moon plan

Artwork: The Gateway will be a staging post for lunar surface operations

Thales Alenia Space in Italy will produce Europe’s two major contributions to the Lunar Gateway, a US-led space station around the Moon.

TAS will build two pressurised sections: one where astronauts can live, and the other on which refuelling and telecoms equipment can be mounted.

The UK-arm of TAS will provide the refuelling hardware.

The Gateway is intended as a staging post for astronauts as they shuttle back and forth to the Moon’s surface.

At 40 tonnes, the station is a key part of the American space agency Nasa’s Artemis project, which is targeting a human return to the lunar environment 50 years after Apollo.

The first landing is envisaged for 2024, although it will be later in the decade before all the sections of the Gateway are in place.

TAS’s iHab and Esprit modules will most likely be launched on separate Falcon Heavy rockets from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The company’s Turin factory has a proud history in developing pressurised space compartments.

It built half the habitable volume of the International Space Station (ISS); it makes the cargo section of the space station’s Cygnus freighter; it’s part of the Dynetics team developing a crewed lunar lander concept for Nasa; and is working with the private outfit Axiom on a commercial space station.

Walter Cugno, vice president of science and exploration at TAS, said the company would lean heavily on its heritage when producing iHab and Esprit.

“They are different from the space station modules in that they will not be occupied all the time. This means they will have to have much more autonomy,” he told BBC News.

The company has just signed a first tranche contract with the European Space Agency (Esa) of €36m (£32m) to begin work on iHab (the eventual, full contract will be worth €327m/£295m); and has an Authorisation To Proceed for Esprit. An ATP allows work to get under way while final contractual details are still worked out.

Lunar logistics lander
Europe will also deliver cargo to the Moon’s surface

iHab will have room for four astronauts to comfortably move around. It will require all the additional equipment needed for life support, and carry protection against micrometeorite impacts – and the increased radiation that exists when moving away from Earth.

Esprit comes in two parts. One is named HLCS (Halo Lunar Communication System) and provides the communications between the Gateway and the Moon.

This part will actually launch in 2024 with the Americans’ Halo module, the first habitation and logistics element of the Gateway.

The other Esprit part is ERM (Esprit Refuelling Module). This combines the refuelling hardware of the Gateway with a small pressurised tunnel with windows. They won’t be as big but these windows will be like those on the International Space Station’s Cupola module.

The windows will be where astronauts go to get a good view of space, the Earth, the Moon – and, most importantly, any robotic operations

Eight nations, including U.S., sign accords for moon missions

ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 13 (UPI) — Eight nations have signed NASA’s new framework to govern lunar exploration missions, the agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, announced Tuesday.

By signing the agreement, the eight nations commit to peaceful activities on the moon and in travel to the moon.

Provisions in the Artemis Accords stipulate that nations, and private companies in those nations, will openly disclose plans for lunar missions, and mine resources on the moon in accordance with the international Outer Space Treaty that dates to 1967.

The accords also commit signing nations to render aid to other nations on the moon if necessary, to minimize space debris and to register all objects taken to the lunar surface.

In addition to the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates and Britain signed the Artemis Accords.

“We are one human race and we are in this together. The Accords help us to work together to benefit all,” Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the United Arab Emirates Council of Scientists, said in a live broadcast Tuesday.

Bridenstine had said in a press conference Monday that more nations are expected to sign the accords this year, and that he hopes all nations eventually will.

“As NASA, we always try to be very transparent and what our plans and policies are, and we think it’s good for all nations to be transparent with their plans,” Bridenstine said.

The new agreement comes as NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon in 2024, with further plans to establish a lunar base to tap water ice for possible long-term habitation.

NASA officials on Monday acknowledged they didn’t approach all space-faring nations in drafting the accords because the agency wanted to move quickly. NASA sought a few nations believed to have common values, said Mike Gold, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations.

“We wanted to begin with a group substantive and large enough to make an impact,” Gold said. “It’s very challenging to do that with too large a group. Now that the text of the accords have been finalized we can broaden the coalition.”

Bridenstine said NASA couldn’t approach China, which already has landed two robotic missions on the moon, because federal law prohibits negotiations with China.

When asked how the accords would be enforced, Bridenstine said the intent of the agreement is to pre-empt conflict by being transparent.

“If one of the participants chooses to disregard the guidance, other participants … ultimately could be asked to leave the Artemis program, but I would hope that they will come to a better resolution,” Bridenstine said.

NASA’s 16 women astronauts — at least one likely to walk on moon

Tracy Caldwell Dyson pauses for a portrait in her spacesuit before going underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on July 8, 2019. Photo by Bill Ingalls/UPI

UK signs up to Nasa’s Moon exploration principles

Artwork: Moon lander
Artwork: Nasa aims to get astronauts back on the surface of the Moon in 2024

The UK has signed up to the principles that will guide the American-led return to the Moon this decade.

The US plans to put the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024, in a project called Artemis.

This would mirror the Apollo missions of the 1960s/70s but with the difference this time that astronauts would set up a permanent presence.

The so-called Artemis Accords are intended as a framework for best practice in space and on the Moon.

They cover areas such as the utilisation of resources, mining water-ice for drinking water and to make rocket fuel; common standards, open data, safe operations, and providing emergency assistance.

America, which devised the accords, has signed them, followed by the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy, Luxembourg and UAE. More countries are certain to follow.

The US space agency (Nasa) and the European Space Agency (Esa) are preparing a Memorandum of Understanding on their partnership activities at the Moon.

“It is very important that we have standards that we all adhere to when we explore space together,” Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine told BBC News.

“And that’s not just in space in general, but also on other celestial bodies like the Moon and eventually Mars. The Artemis Accords are about those foundational principles that we all agree on, so that when we go explore these worlds together, there’s a commonality of purpose.”

The accords, said Mr Bridenstine, were grounded in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which committed nations not to put weapons in space and to forego claims of ownership.

Britain was a key mover behind that landmark resolution – just as it was three decades later when it became an original signatory to the cooperation principles on the International Space Station.

Artwork: Lunar Gateway
The Lunar Gateway will be a staging post for operations on the surface

Britain is now seeking a number of roles in Artemis for its scientists and industrial sector. These include contracts to help build a lunar space station to be known as the Gateway.

This will be the jumping off point for astronauts as they shuttle back and forth to the Moon’s surface.

The British firm Surrey Satellite Technology Limited is also developing a communications relay satellite at the Moon called Lunar Pathfinder.

Not all spacefaring nations will sign the Accords. China very much does its own thing in space; and Russia too has indicated that Artemis, for the moment at least, is not part of its planning. This despite being a key partner to the US on the ISS.

“Our American partners are actively promoting [Artemis]. In our view Lunar Gateway in its current form is too US-centric. Russia is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale,” said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“This being said, we are interested in making sure that the design of the docking module

Blue Origin launches, lands NASA moon landing sensor experiment

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Blue Origin successfully launched a NASA moon landing experiment aboard the company’s reusable New Shepard rocket Tuesday morning in Texas.

Liftoff took place from the company’s launch facilities about 150 miles east of El Paso.

The capsule separated from the rocket minutes into the flight and spent about three minutes at the height of an arc just over the Kármán line, the altitude at which space begins.

The rocket booster, with NASA sensors mounted on the exterior, landed smoothly about 7 minutes, 30 seconds after launch. The capsule landed with the aid of parachutes a few minutes later, kicking up a cloud of dust and sand.

The NASA experiment is part of the agency’s Tipping Point program, which seeks to demonstrate technology that can be adopted by private industry.

The project includes a collection of sensors designed to help locate a safe site on the moon for upcoming landings, according to NASA and Blue Origin’s mission description. Some of the sensors use LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging technology, which uses laser light to map out the surface.

“A NASA-developed sensor suite could allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within half the distance of a football field,” NASA said of the project. “The rocket’s flight path is relevant to lunar landings, providing a unique opportunity to mature sensors and algorithms for potential use on Artemis [moon] missions.”

Those sensors require clear skies to function properly, which is why the mission had been delayed once in September due to cloudy weather at the launch site. But Tuesday’s weather was ideal, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said.

“It’s a great day for us to actually try that new type of experimentation on the outside of the vehicle,” Smith said during a prelaunch broadcast.

Lunar landings are important to Blue Origin because it leads the so-called National Team in developing a human lander for future moon missions. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

The sensors are the first payload to fly mounted on the exterior of a New Shepard booster rather than inside its capsule, which the company said could open up opportunities for other exterior technology, including “a wide range of future high-altitude sensing, sampling and exposure payloads.”

The launch would be the 13th New Shepard mission and the seventh consecutive flight for the rocket, which is 60 feet high and emits 110,000 pounds of thrust.

The company, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, one day wants to fly space tourists in a capsule designed for six people as it also develops its larger New Glenn rocket.

At least two plant experiments are in the rocket’s capsule for the so-called NS-13 mission, one of which was designed by researchers at the University of Florida’s Ferl/Paul Space Plants Lab.

Other payloads on board the so-called NS-13 mission include experiments from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Colorado-based Space Lab Technologies.

NASA and eight nations sign Artemis Accords for moon exploration

Artemis Accords NASA

Among other things, the accords provide a legal framework for exploring the moon, Mars, comets and asteroids.


NASA has signed a space exploration cooperation agreement with eight nations. The Artemis Accords, signed Tuesday by space agencies in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates, is aimed at creating “a safe, peaceful and prosperous future in space for all of humanity.”

The Artemis program should see NASA send the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024.

“Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator.

The Artemis Accords, announced in May, provide a legal framework for exploring the moon, Mars, comets and asteroids, as well as releasing scientific data, registering space objects and “preserving outer space heritage.” The space agencies have also committed to peaceful exploration, transparency, providing emergency assistance to those in distress and “preventing harmful interference.”

More nations are set to join the Artemis Accords in future, NASA said.

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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.


U.S. and other nations sign Artemis Accords for moon missions

Artemis moon mission
An artist’s conception shows surface operations on the moon. (NASA Illustration)

Seven nations have signed up with the United States to participate in NASA’s Artemis effort to put astronauts on the moon by as early as 2024.

The Artemis Accords commit the signatories — including Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates as well as the U.S. — to observe a set of principles ranging from the interoperability of space hardware to the protection of heritage sites and space property rights.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other international representatives announced the signing of the accords today in conjunction with this week’s International Astronautical Congress.

During a briefing with reporters, Bridenstine said the accords will serve as the “preamble of bilateral agreements between the United States and all of our international partners as we go sustainably to the moon with commercial and international partners.”

It’ll be up to each nation to ensure that commercial partners under its jurisdiction — such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, for example — observe the requirements of the Artemis Accords. Just today, Blue Origin tested a guidance system that NASA aims to use on future lunar landers.

The signers of the accords will also be required to register the objects they’re sending into space and provide public notification about the location and nature of their operations, under a provision known as due regard.

If signatories don’t adhere to the accords and the follow-up bilateral agreements, they could be asked to leave the Artemis coalition, Bridenstine said. “There’s a lot of pressure that can be brought to bear,” he said, without going into specifics on the enforcement process.

Bridenstine described the agreement as a way to “operationalize” the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which governs international activities in space.

“The Outer Space Treaty is over 50 years old, but it doesn’t look a day over 35,” he joked today in a NASA webcast as the signings were announced. “The accords both reinforce and implement the obligations of the Outer Space Treaty. For the first time, we are establishing consequences for Outer Space Treaty compliance.”

The Artemis Accords don’t have the status associated with treaties — and they don’t require Senate ratification, as treaties do. Bridenstine explained that NASA made use of bilateral agreements with individual nations to accelerate the process of preparing for the first Artemis astronauts to land on the lunar surface in 2024.

“We have a mandate to go quickly, and at the same time bring on international and commercial partners,” he told GeekWire. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The agreements relating to moon landings are separate from the multilateral agreement that governs operations on the International Space Station — as well as a similar agreement that applies to the Gateway, a NASA-led project to build an outpost in lunar orbit.

Megan Clark, head of the Australian Space Agency, was part of a retinue of space officials who affirmed their governments’ support for the Artemis Accords

Eight nations sign U.S.-led Artemis moon agreements

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Eight countries have signed an international pact for moon exploration called the Artemis Accords, NASA announced on Tuesday as the U.S. space agency tries to shape standards for building long-term settlements on the lunar surface.

The accords, named after NASA’s Artemis moon program, seek to build on existing international space law by establishing “safety zones” that would surround future moon bases to prevent conflict between states operating there, and by allowing private companies to own the lunar resources they mine.

The United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates signed the bilateral agreements during an annual space conference on Tuesday following months of talks in a U.S. bid to cultivate allies under its plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

“What we’re trying to do is establish norms of behavior that every nation can agree to,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters. He said the accords are consistent with a 1967 treaty holding that the moon and other celestial bodies are exempt from national claims of ownership.

“We are operationalizing the Outer Space Treaty for the purposes of creating the broadest, most inclusive, largest coalition of human spaceflight in the history of humankind,” Bridenstine said.

The Trump administration and governments of other spacefaring countries see the moon as a strategic asset. The moon also has value for long-term scientific research that could enable future missions to Mars – activities that fall under a regime of international space law widely viewed as outdated.

In 2019, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024 – cutting the agency’s previous timeline in half – and build a long-term human presence on the lunar surface.

The NASA program, expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, will send robotic rovers to the surface of the moon before an eventual human landing. NASA also plans to build a Lunar Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon. Plans call for it to be constructed by a mix of NASA contractors and international partners.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; editing by Bill Tarrant and David Gregorio)

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