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Science Wrap: RIP world's largest iceberg, India's first private rocket in works, and let's just give up on Artemis!

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaNov 12, 2022 | 08:00

Science Wrap: RIP world's largest iceberg, India's first private rocket in works, and let's just give up on Artemis!

A 3D model of a human from the year 3000 (although unscientific), India's first private rocket, and the ruins of NASA's Challenger spacecraft make for this week's science updates (photo-DailyO)

With every week's science news, an Artemis-1 delay seems to be a recurring theme. This week is no exception; with the moon mission delayed yet again from November 14 to a date between November 16 and 19.

In other space news, the remains of the Challenger shuttle have been recovered from the deep abyss of the Atlantic Ocean while we get new updates about Vikram-S, India’s first privately developed rocket. Getting back on Planet Earth, the world’s largest iceberg in Antarctica is breaking into smaller pieces, foreshadowing the catastrophic global meltdown that is on its way. 

1. Time’s running out for the world’s largest iceberg

The largest iceberg once stood above the Southern Ocean as a part of the Ronne Ice Shelf. And then, in May 2021, it got separated from this shelf, causing climate change fears. Heading towards a passage between Antarctica and South America, the glacier started breaking up even though its largest chunk A-76A still maintained its gigantic size. 

The berg A-76A maintained is drifting on a passage between Antarctica and South America. (Photo- Nasa Earth Observatory)
The berg A-76A maintained is drifting on a passage between Antarctica and South America. (Photo- Nasa Earth Observatory)

In June 2021, the US National Ice Center (USNIC) stated that the chunk measured 135 kilometers long and 26 kilometers wide (approximately twice the size of London). It is currently drifting in the ever-turbulent Drake Passage, having moved 2,000 km away from its parent ice shelf. 

(meme by Shaurya Thapa for DailyO)
(meme by Shaurya Thapa for DailyO)

Why scientists are convinced that the iceberg is headed to its doom is simple: it’s floating upwards towards South America and once it starts nearing the equator (or going beyond), the warmer temperatures are bound to accelerate the melting process.

2. Remnants of NASA’s Challenger found in Atlantic 

Six crew members and a school teacher were the unfortunate ones to die on January 28, 1986, when the NASA space shuttle Challenger fell apart 73 seconds in flight, marking the first-ever fatal accident involving an American spacecraft.

Now, nearly 37 years later, some of the debris from the crashed craft has been recovered at the bottom of Atlantic Ocean. The highlight of the discovery is a piece that is more than 15 feet by 15 feet in length and breadth.

Underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger (photo-History Channel)
Underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger (photo-History Channel)

This chunk was first spotted buried in the Atlantic sands back in March when the documentary crew for History TV's documentary The Bermuda Triangle: In Cursed Waters (which will premiere November 22 onwards), were attempting to find the remains of a World War II aircraft. Instead, they ended up finding the Challenger part which has now finally been dug out of the ocean floor, with NASA exeperts believing that it belonged to the belly of the spacecraft. 

The infamous photograph capturing Challenger's crash (photo-Bruce Weaver)
The infamous photograph capturing Challenger's crash (photo-Bruce Weaver)

3. More updates on Vikram-S, India’s first privately developed rocket 

Up until now, Indian space launches have only been under the public sector undertaking Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace plans to change that by planning the launch of India’s first privately developed rocket into space. 

A representative 3D render of the rocket (photo-Skyroot Aerospace)
A representative 3D render of the rocket (photo-Skyroot Aerospace)

Christened as the Prarambh mission, the rocket Vikram-S (named after rocket science pioneer Vikram Sarabhai) is expected to launch sometime between November 12-16. The takeoff will be initiated from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre off the coast of Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

One of the three payloads that the rocket will be carrying includes a 2.5-kilogram payload developed by students from India and other countries. 

4. Artemis-1 delayed (YET AGAIN)

We've simply lost count now of how many times NASA's Moon-orbiting mission Artemis-1 has been delayed. The Orion Spacecraft with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was last delayed due to warnings caused by Hurricane Ian in September. Now with tropical storm Nicole estimated to worsen climate conditions around Florida's Kennedy Space Center, the November 14 launch has been delayed to a bracket of November 16-19. 

According to NASA's official blog, "Current forecasts predict the greatest risks at the pad are high winds that are not expected to exceed the SLS design. The rocket is designed to withstand heavy rains at the launch pad and the spacecraft hatches have been secured to prevent water intrusion." With this being the fourth major delay, it wouldn't be surprising if the launch is eventually postponed to next month. 

5. Bonus (fake) science update: How humans might look in the next millenium

While it is not verified by evolutionary biologists, American telecomunnications company Toll Free Forwarding has come out with an interesting 3D humanoid model called Mindy, a representative of what humans would look like in the year 3000. Based on the assumption that humans would still be addicted to their phones by this time, Mindy's hands represent the "text claw" while her cramped neck is termed the "tech neck".

A hunched back, a 90-degree elbow, and a smaller brain are other physical features. Of course, it is just a gimmick and must not be taken as actual science but it will be interesting to see how we do evolve in the post-technology era.

Last updated: November 12, 2022 | 08:00
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