An experimental Japanese mission to clear'space junk' or rubbish from the Earth's orbit has ended in failure, officials said Monday, in an embarassment for Tokyo. Over 100 million pieces of garbage are thought to be whizzing around the planet, including cast-off equipment from old satellites and bits of rocket, which experts say could pose risks for future space exploration. Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were trying to test an electrodynamic'tether' - created with the help of a fishing net company - to slow down the orbiting rubbish and bring it into a lower orbit. The hope was that the clutter -- built up after more than five decades of human space exploration -- would eventually enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up harmlessly before it had a chance to crash into the planet. An artist's impression is pictured The vessel uses a so-called electrodynamic tether, which is made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium.
Russia has signed a memorandum of understanding with China in order to cooperate with the latter in the field of moon and deep-space exploration. In a recent statement, Russian space agency Roscosmos State Corporation announced the agreement, which came shortly after the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in China for a state visit Friday, June 8, and his counterpart Xi Jinping. Dmitry Rogozin, the new director-general of the Russian space agency and the country's former deputy prime minister, struck the cooperation deal with Chinese National Space Administration, aka CNSA, administrator Zhang Kedzhan. The agencies didn't reveal specific details relating to the agreement, but the latest move is the third instance of Roscosmos' gradual shift toward CNSA in last few months. Back in March, the two countries agreed to establish a joint data center for deep-space projects, while in 2017, the agencies agreed on a bilateral cooperation program focusing on space debris monitoring and research into the moon and deep space, among other things, for a period of four years.
The two major partners of the International Space Station (ISS), the United States and Russia (Canada, Europe and Japan are the others), have already committed to maintaining the orbiting space laboratory till 2024. While the Russians have announced their own options for what they may do with their ISS components after 2024 (another space station or a luxury hotel in space, among others), the U.S. is considering continuing running the lab, but shifting the operations entirely from NASA to private companies. In an interview to the Washington Post published Tuesday, new NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "We're in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station. I've talked to many large corporations that are interested in getting involved in that through a consortium, if you will." Russia's space agency Roscosmos said it was willing to consider another four-year extension to ISS, after the lab's life was extended to 2024 from 2020.
Aerospace company Airbus is to draw up plans for Europe's contribution to a base orbiting the moon. The Gateway is an international project that envisages a lunar staging post for manned space missions to the moon or Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned Airbus, which has a major space facility in Stevenage, to develop key concepts for the station over the next 15 months. The first study will look at designs for a habitation and research module measuring around 6.5 metres (21ft) and weighing nine tonnes. Airbus will also consider plans for refuelling, docking and telecommunications infrastructure.