Globalized economy making water, energy and land insecurity worse: study

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The first large-scale study of the risks that countries face from dependence on water, energy and land resources has found that globalisation may be decreasing, rather than increasing, the security of global supply chains.

Countries meet their needs for goods and services through domestic production and international trade. As a result, countries place pressures on natural resources both within and beyond their borders.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge used macroeconomic data to quantify these pressures. They found that the vast majority of countries and industrial sectors are highly exposed both directly, via domestic production, and indirectly, via imports, to over-exploited and insecure water, energy and land resources. However, the researchers found that the greatest resource risk is due to international trade, mainly from remote countries.

The researchers are calling for an urgent enquiry into the scale and source of consumed goods and services, both in individual countries and globally, as economies seek to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19. Their study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, also invites critical reflection on whether globalisation is compatible with achieving sustainable and resilient supply chains.

Over the past several decades, the worldwide economy has become highly interconnected through globalisation: it is now not uncommon for each component of a particular product to originate from a different country. Globalisation allows companies to make their products almost anywhere in the world in order to keep costs down.

Many mainstream economists argue this offers countries a source of competitive advantage and growth potential. However, many nations impose demands on already stressed resources in other countries in order to satisfy their own high levels of consumption.

This interconnectedness also increases the amount of risk at each step of a global supply chain. For example, the UK imports 50% of its food. A drought, flood or any severe weather event in another country puts these food imports at risk.

Now, the researchers have quantified the global water, land and energy use of189 countries and shown that countries which are highly dependent on trade are potentially more at risk from resource insecurity, especially as climate change continues to accelerate and severe weather events such as droughts and floods become more common.

“There has been plenty of research comparing countries in terms of their water, energy and land footprints, but what hasn’t been studied is the scale and source of their risks,” said Dr. Oliver Taherzadeh from Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “We found that the role of trade has been massively underplayed as a source of resource insecurity—it’s actually a bigger source of risk than domestic production.”

To date, resource use studies have been limited to certain regions or sectors, which prevents a systematic overview of resource pressures and their source. This study offers a flexible approach to examining pressures across the system at various geographical and sectoral scales.

“This type of analysis hasn’t been carried out for a large number of countries before,” said Taherzadeh. “By quantifying the pressures that our

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NASA picks Intuitive Machines to land an ice-mining drill on the moon

NASA has tapped the Houston-based company Intuitive Machines to land an ice-mining drill on the south pole of the moon in 2022. 

Under the deal, NASA will pay Intuitive Machines $47 million to deliver the space agency’s Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) to the moon’s south pole. It is the first-ever mission designed to harvest water ice from inside the moon, NASA officials said. Moon ice is a resource NASA hopes to exploit under its Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

“The information we’ll gain from PRIME-1 and other science instruments and technology demonstrations we’re sending to the lunar surface will inform our Artemis missions with astronauts and help us better understand how we can build a sustainable lunar presence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science missions, said in an Oct. 16 statement. 

Intuitive Machines will fly the 88-lb. (40 kilograms) PRIME-1 payload to the moon in December 2022 on its NOVA-C lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS. The company is one of several firms NASA has selected under CLPS to fly robotic missions to the moon. 

“Laying the foundation to return humans to the moon is an incredible honor and even greater challenge,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said in a separate statement. “At Intuitive Machines, we’re hungry for the pursuit of these audacious missions that will redefine what a small business is capable of.”

PRIME-1 will use its drill to dig about 3 feet (1 meter) below the lunar surface to search for buried water ice. The experiment includes a mass spectrometer to measure how much ice from PRIME-1’s sample is lost from sublimation, the process in which a solid turns directly into vapor, which happens in space. 

“PRIME-1 will give us tremendous insight into the resources at the moon and how to extract them,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology, in the NASA statement.

A version of PRIME-1’s lunar drill and mass spectrometer will be used on NASA’s next robotic moon rover, called VIPER, which is planned to launch in 2023. That mission will also fly to the lunar south pole to search for water ice. 

PRIME-1’s flight won’t be the first moon mission for Intuitive Machines. 

Earlier this year, the company announced plans to launch its first Nova-C moon lander in 2021 to a region on the moon known as the “Ocean of Storms.” That mission will land in Vallis Schröteri, the largest valley on the moon, and deliver five NASA experiments and some commercial payloads to the lunar surface under a $79.5 million contract with the U.S. space agency.

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

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Video Shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Land on Bennu Asteroid

NASA confirmed its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully touched down on Bennu—a carbonaceous asteroid located about 200 million miles from Earth.

The agency shared video of the spacecraft’s touch-and-go operation, in which it briefly landed on the astroid to swipe rocks and dust that are billions of years old. NASA says those samples, which are expected to be delivered to Earth in 2023, will likely provide some valuable insights into the solar system’s early days and the origins of life.

“One of the prime goals of the mission is to understand the origins of the solar system and life on Earth, and the role asteroids may have played in delivering life-forming compounds on Earth,” Goddard research scientist Jamie Elsila said at press conference this week, as reported by CNN.

About three-fourths of the collected samples will be archived so that future scientists can study them with advanced technology.

“… This will allow people not yet born using techniques not yet invented to answer questions not yet asked,” Elsila added. “But we’re really looking forward to searching for these organic molecules, these building blocks, and determining their formation, evolution and distribution throughout the solar system. Then, we can figure out how life got started from those ingredients.”

Although astronomers began working the mission in 2004, OSIRIS-REx did not launch until 2016. The spacecraft would spend the following 26 months traveling to Bennu, eventually reaching it in December 2018. It then spent two years orbiting and evaluating the astroid before attempting to touch down.

Mission leaders will have to wait about a week before they can determine how much material was collected within the 16-second TAG maneuver. If there is at least 60 grams, OSIRIS-REx will depart from Bennu in March 2021 and begin its journey back to Earth. 

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NASA astronaut, two cosmonauts land in Kazakhstan after departing space station

Astronauts make round trip to space station from U.S. soil

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley (C) waves to onlookers as he boards a plane at Naval Air Station Pensacola to return him and NASA astronaut Robert Behnken home to Houston a few hours after the duo landed in their SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft off the coast of Pensacola, Fla,, on August 2, 2020. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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Nasa spacecraft to land on ancient asteroid that could hit Earth

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft which will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a sample back to Earth for study is seen in an undated NASA artist rendering. NASA/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. (Reuters)

A Nasa spacecraft will attempt a tricky touch-and-go landing on a third-of-a-mile-wide space rock that has a small chance of hitting Earth in 150 years’ time.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will try to grab rocks and dust from the surface of the asteroid Bennu on 20 October at 10pm UK time. 

The landing could provide an important hint about how life arrived on Earth. 

The asteroid is 207 million miles from Earth, which means an 18-minute delay in communications. 

Read more: What are fast radio bursts, and why do they look like aliens?

Nasa will livestream animations depicting what’s happening based on commands that have already been sent to the robotic spacecraft.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has mapped the entire asteroid since it arrived in December 2018.

Bennu, a rocky mass roughly a third of a mile wide and shaped like a giant acorn, orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. 

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu, composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on 12 December, 2018, by OSIRIS-REx from a range of 15 miles. (Reuters/Nasa)

It is thought to be rich in carbon-based organic molecules dating back to the earliest days of the solar system. 

Water, another vital component to the evolution of life, may also be trapped in the asteroid’s minerals.

Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth

Scientists believe that asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could help prove that theory.

Because it is so old, Bennu could be made of material containing molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth. 

Watch: This Nasa spacecraft could unveil the origins of life

But there is another, more existential reason to study Bennu.

Scientists estimate there is a one-in-2,700 chance of the asteroid slamming catastrophically into Earth 166 years from now. 

The chance that Bennu will impact Earth between the years 2175 and 2199 is only 1 in 2,700, but scientists still don’t want to turn their backs on the asteroid. 

Scientists will refine their predictions of Bennu’s journey through the solar system with the measurement of the Yarkovsky Effect by OSIRIS-REx and with future observations by astronomers.

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NASA picks partner to land water-measuring technology on the moon

NASA has picked Houston-based Intuitive Machines to land a water-measuring technology on the moon.

The space agency has awarded Intuitive Machines an approximately $47 million contract to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the lunar surface by December 2022.

The moon looms large in America’s future. NASA’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

“The delivery of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment known as PRIME-1 will help NASA search for ice at the Moon’s South Pole and, for the first time, harvest ice from below the surface,” explained NASA, in a statement.


The moon’s polar ice caps have been garnering plenty of attention in the build-up to the Artemis mission, with NASA looking to use them to support a long-term presence on the lunar surface.

NASA chose Intuitive Machines to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the moon (NASA)

“The information we’ll gain from PRIME-1 and other science instruments and technology demonstrations we’re sending to the lunar surface will inform our Artemis missions with astronauts and help us better understand how we can build a sustainable lunar presence,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen, in the statement.

Last year, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel told Fox News that frozen water on the moon could be used for rocket fuel propellant.


The deal with Intuitive Machines is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.

“PRIME-1 will land on the Moon and drill up to 3 feet (approximately 1 meter) below the surface,” said NASA, in its statement. “It will measure with a mass spectrometer how much ice in the sample is lost to sublimation as the ice turns from a solid to a vapor in the vacuum of the lunar environment.”

Versions of the PRIME-1 drill and the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) will also fly on the VIPER mobile robot that will search for ice at the lunar South Pole in 2023, according to NASA.


Pasadena, Calif.-based Honeybee Robotics is developing the ice-mining drill. Syracuse, New York-based INFICON is developing the mass spectrometer with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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