Science Saturday: Luna-25, space exploration, nuclear energy and superconductor
Updated 17:11, 19-Aug-2023
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Space exploration

Russia successfully launched the Luna-25 Moon lander on August 11, embarking on a historic mission to explore the south pole of the Moon. It's the first lunar explorer since the Soviet Union's Luna-24 mission in 1976. 

The Luna-25, which does not have a return capsule, was launched by a Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East. 

About an hour later, Luna-25 separated from its Fregat upper stage and successfully entered the flight path to the Moon, marking the success of the first stage of its mission.

Space exploration

Virgin Galactic flew three tourists to the edge of space aboard its V-S-S Unity space-plane on August 10. It's the second commercial mission of the company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, and the first flight carrying paying customers. 

The passengers included an 80-year-old British Olympian and a mother-daughter duo from the Caribbean. 

The plane reached an altitude of over 88 kilometers, which is considered the boundary of space. It later touched down at Spaceport America in the U.S. state of New Mexico, completing the whole flight.

Nuclear energy development

China has achieved a milestone in nuclear energy with the completion of the core module of the world's first commercial small modular water reactor. The small modular reactor or S-M-R is known as the Linglong One. 

The core module is the key component of the Linglong One, designed by the Nuclear Power Institute of China. 

The completion of Linglong One's core module in Hainan Province is a historic step in the miniaturization of global nuclear energy. It also confirms China's global lead in modular S-M-R construction.

Superconductor research

A South Korean team has claimed to discover a superconductor called LK-99 that can work at room temperature and ambient pressure. It has gone viral and sparked a slew of replication efforts by scientists and amateurs alike. 

Researchers from many countries, however, remain deeply skeptical. Superconductors are materials that can carry electrical currents with zero resistance. But to work, they have to kept at extremely cold temperatures and high pressure, limiting their real-life applications.

Late last month, South Korean physicists posted a preprint study, saying samples of their material show two key hallmarks of superconductivity: zero electrical resistance and the Meissner effect, in which the material expels magnetic fields, leading samples to levitate above a magnet. 

The news soon trended on social media, and scientists around the world rushed to create the material and test if it was the real deal. 

Large laboratories in China and India were the first to report their findings, both showing the material could not show superconductivity at room temperature. So far, attempts to replicate the LK-99 have not shown the material to be promising.

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