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ESA selects EnVision orbiter to uncover mysteries of Venus

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ESA has selected EnVision as its next Venus orbiter. Scheduled to launch atop an Ariane 6 rocket between 2031 and 2033, the robotic deep-space probe will carry out a comprehensive survey of Earth’s sibling planet to learn why the two turned out so very different.

One of the great surprises of the Space Age was the discovery by the Early NASA Mariner probes that Venus and Earth, which seem so similar, are actually dramatically different. One common speculation in the first half of the 20th century was that, because Venus is a little smaller than the Earth and inside what we now call the habitable zone, the band in the solar system where liquid water can exist, it was very likely habitable. Some of the more imaginative ones even speculated that Venus was covered with tropical swamps inhabited by Venusian dinosaurs.

Instead, the flyby and orbiter probes revealed a dry world with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times denser than the Earth’s, sulfuric acid rains, and a surface temperature that is hot enough to melt lead. The question is, why? What factors led to Earth becoming a wet, habitable world, while Venus became so toxic?

EnVision in orbit around Venus
EnVision in orbit around Venus

ESA/VR2Planets/DamiaBouic

ESA’s fifth medium-class mission for its Cosmic Vision plan, Envision will work with upcoming NASA Venus orbiters and the US agency’s Deep Space Network to study the planet from its core to its upper atmosphere to build up a comprehensive profile of Venus and its evolution, as well as answer questions like, is Venus still geologically active with live volcanoes?

For the survey, Envision will carry NASA’s Venus Synthetic Aperture Radar (VenSAR) for mapping the surface, and the VenSpec-M, VenSpec-H and VenSpec-U spectrometers from various European space organizations, which will study trace gases in the atmosphere and on the surface that might be linked to volcanic activity. In addition, France will provide the Subsurface Sounding Radar (SRS) for probing the interior of the planet’s crust, and France and Germany will conduct a radio science experiment to probe the structure of Venus and its gravitational field.

EnVision now moves into the Definition Phase, when the satellite’s basic design and instruments will be selected before formal designing begins. After launching, the spacecraft will take 15 months to reach Venus and another 16 months to go into its final 92-minute circular orbit at an altitude between 138 and 336 miles (220 and 540 km) through a series of aerobraking maneuvers.

Venus as seen from the Venus Express orbiter
Venus as seen from the Venus Express orbiter

ESA/MPS/DLR-PF/IDA

“EnVision benefits from collaboration with NASA, combining excellence in European and American expertise in Venus science and technology, to create this ambitious mission,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science. “EnVision further strengthens Europe’s role in the scientific exploration of the Solar System. Our growing mission fleet will give us, and future generations, the best insights ever into how our planetary neighborhood works, particularly relevant in an era where we are discovering more and more unique exoplanet systems.”

The animation below shows EnVision deploying its instruments

EnVision

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/esa-selects-envision-orbiter-venus-mission/

NEWATLAS

2021 Monterey Auction Preview: The $5-million-plus cars

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This 1998 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR Strassenversion will go to auction during Monterey Car Week with Gooding & Co (Lot 50) on Saturday, 14 August 2021 with an official estimate of $8,500,000 - $10,000,000

When we first started keeping our listings of the most valuable cars and motorcycles sold at auction, a $3 million sale would land a spot in the top 100 most valuable cars ever sold at auction. Nowadays, a $5-million sale won’t get you into the top 100, but it still puts you into the top 150 most valuable cars of all time, so that’s where we’ve drawn the line in our preview of the coming Monterey Car Week Auction cluster.

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Category: Automotive, Transport

Tags: Ferrari, Bonhams, RM-Sothebys, Gooding & Co, Mecum, Jaguar, Aston Martin

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Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/2021-monterey-auction-preview-5-million-dollar-cars/

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NEWATLAS

Joby sets new record with 154.6-mile eVTOL flight

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Joby's eVTOL, like others in the class, burns a lot of battery power in hover mode, and can only realize its impressive range figures once in horizontal flight supported by wings

Joby has flown a new record distance for a full-sized eVTOL aircraft on a single battery charge, covering 154.6 miles (249 km) in a single 77-minute flight, complete with energy-gobbling vertical takeoff and landing phases.

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Category: Aircraft, Transport

Tags: Joby Aviation, Air Taxis, Electric Aircraft, eVTOL

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Source: https://newatlas.com/aircraft/joby-record-evtol-distance/

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Volocopter performs its first crewed public eVTOL flight in the US

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The Voloctoper takes to the skies at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021

As it aggressively pursues a future where flying taxis carry people and cargo between busy urban centers, German aviation startup Volocopter has ticked off an important milestone. At the Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the company sent its all-electric Volocopter 2X into the sky for a four-minute flight, successfully completing its first public crewed test flight of an eVTOL in the US.

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Category: Aircraft, Transport

Tags: Volocopter, eVTOL, Electric Aircraft

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Source: https://newatlas.com/aircraft/volocopter-first-crewed-public-evtol-flight-us-eaa-oshkosh/

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New CAR-NK cell immunotherapy safely tackles breast cancers in lab tests

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Immunotherapy is a promising avenue for cancer treatment, but it has trouble against solid tumors without triggering major side effects. Now, researchers at McMaster University have developed a new form of the treatment that supercharges a different type of immune cell.

The human immune system is our most effective defense against disease, but it’s not infallible. Cancer is particularly crafty, using a range of tricks to avoid detection and fight off immune cells that come knocking.

Immunotherapy aims to swing the odds back in our favor. The most common form of the treatment is called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T cell) therapy, where doctors extract T cells from the patient, engineer them to target cancer proteins, then return them to the body. Once there, they can launch a more effective attack.

So far, the technique has worked well on some forms of leukemia, but not so great against solid tumors. That’s because those cancers produce a strong environment around themselves that exhausts T cells quickly, or make it difficult for them to target the cancer. Other times the souped-up T cells can proliferate out of control, leading to a potentially fatal immune condition called a cytokine storm.

So for the new study, the McMaster scientists investigated alternatives to CAR T cell therapy. Rather than removing and editing T cells, they used a different type of immune cell called natural killer (NK) cells, which the team says should be more selective in targeting only cancer.

“These CAR-NK cells are a little bit smarter, in a way, in that they only kill the enemy cells and not good cells that happen to have the same marker,” says Ali Ashkar, corresponding author of the study. “These cells have a sober second thought that says, ‘I recognize this target, but is this target part of a healthy cell or a cancer cell?’ They are able to leave the healthy cells alone and kill the cancer cells.”

To test it out, the researchers took NK cells from patients with breast cancer, engineered them to target receptors found on cancer cells, and introduced them to tumor cells derived from the patients. They found that CAR-NK cells were able to kill more cancer cells than CAR T cells tested in the same way, even in the presence of the suppressive environment that solid tumors build around themselves.

But perhaps most importantly, the CAR-NK cells did not kill healthy cells in the samples – even those that expressed the same protein that the therapy was targeting on the cancer cells. Altogether, the study could open up new therapy options for hard-to-treat solid cancers.

“We want to be able to attack these malignancies that have been so resistant to other treatments,” says Ana Portillo, lead author of the study. “The efficacy we see with CAR-NK cells in the laboratory is very promising and seeing that this technology is feasible is very important. Now, we have much better and safer options for solid tumors.”

Of course, it is very early days for this work – so far it’s only been tested in the lab – and animal tests will need to be conducted before we even think about humans.

The research was published in the journal iScience.

Source: McMaster University

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Source: https://newatlas.com/medical/car-nk-cell-cancer-immunotherapy/

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