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NASA seeks ideas from US firms on future lunar lander

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US space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the Moon by 2024, an American objective that was reconfirmed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA called the request for input a “major step” forward for its new Moon mission, dubbed Artemis — who in Greek mythology was Apollo’s twin sister.

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The space agency published documents explaining in detail what it is looking for in a lunar lander that will bring the two astronauts, one a woman, to the Moon’s South Pole, where they will stay for six and a half days.

In May, 11 companies including sector mainstays Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were picked to lead feasibility studies and develop prototypes by November. Also on the list were newcomers such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

That same month, Blue Origin unveiled its lander project, Blue Moon.

Now, NASA has provided dozens of pages of specifications that must be met in terms of onboard electronics, communications, and spacesuits.

Any company can reply, not just the 11 shortlisted earlier in the year.

“On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of #Apollo11, we’ve just issued a draft solicitation asking US companies to help us develop the 21st century human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

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“WE ARE GOING.”

After receiving the responses, NASA is expected to make a decision in a matter of months as to which company will build the lander and how.

It will be the equivalent of the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.

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One important difference will be that the lander will berth at a mini Moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway, as a kind of port between the Earth and the Moon. That will allow for the lander to be reused and refueled.

For now, the Artemis mission is behind schedule, mainly due to delays in the construction of the huge, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is primarily being made by Boeing.

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‘Will surely trigger’ the ‘snowflake crowd’: Internet celebrates climate activist Greta Thunberg as TIME’s Person of the Year

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TIME magazine has just named Swedish climate crisis and environmental activist Greta Thunberg its 2019 "Person of the Year" and the immediate responses are overwhelmingly positive -- for several reasons. Many are offering congratulations, saying it is well-deserved. But given the disgraceful and disgusting attacks the 16 year-old has endured from climate and science denying conservatives, some are enjoying the double-edged award because it "will trigger all the right people."

Here's TIME's announcement.

.@GretaThunberg is TIME's 2019 Person of the Year #TIMEPOY https://t.co/YZ7U6Up76v pic.twitter.com/SWALBfeGl6

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I thought Democrats were making a giant mistake on impeachment — but these experts changed my mind

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On Tuesday, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives announced that they would move forward with two articles of impeachment — involving abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — against President Donald Trump.

At first, I shared the frustration of many liberals and progressives that these articles are too limited in scope, and leave a great many of Trump’s apparent misdeeds unmentioned. But further reflection and exchanges with legal experts have convinced me that appearance is misleading. In fact, Democrats have performed a deft feat. In a single stroke — OK, two strokes — they have elevated the process of holding Trump accountable above the realm of partisan politics, and have also given the Democratic nominee (whoever that is) an excellent case to use against Trump in next year’s presidential election. The challenge for Democrats going forward will be to keep that nonpartisan outlook in mind — while understanding that, ultimately and unfortunately, the only possible way to hold Trump accountable will be through partisan politics.

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‘Robotic blacksmithing’: A technology that could revive US manufacturing

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Although it may not be obvious, there’s a close link between manufacturing technology and innovation. Elon Musk often talks of the “machines that build the machines” as being the real enabler in both his space and automotive businesses.

Using less-expensive, more scalable processes allows Space X to launch missions on budgets and with speed that would be unthinkable using NASA’s old-school manufacturing methods. And the new Tesla Cybertruck’s unorthodox design appears to take advantage of a simplified manufacturing process that does away with “die stamping” metal in favor of bending and folding metal sheets.

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