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By the Gazette Editorial Board

THE Moon is back again to the centre stage of space exploration. Almost sixty years after Russian spacecraft Luna 2 had landed on the moon and forty years after the first humans, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, had stepped out of the Apollo 11 spacecraft’s lunar module on the surface of the moon, the Earth’s satellite is probably gaining renewed attention from the scientific community and space exploration lovers. The moon, so NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has recently suggested, could serve as a gateway for deeper exploration into space particularly since the International Space Station may retire in a matter of a few years, probably by the year 2024, though there is no officially-set date for that. The suggestion sounds exciting and thought-provoking given that the general impression has been such that the moon is already a subject of past interest. Accentuating this impression has been the notion that with as many as six human landings on the surface of the moon, the job on the satellite’s surface may be considered accomplished. And now that following the arrival of Curiosity to Mars, there is some talk of the planning of a human-led mission to the Red Planet nearly a decade and a half from now. If so, the Earth’s only permanent natural satellite may be used as a ‘gateway’ – the term Bridenstine used.

Noting that since the end of the Apollo programme in the year 1972 there has been no going back to the moon, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine indicated in remarks  to  reporters at the Johnson Space Centre  in Houston on August 2  that a return to the moon should have been made almost a decade ago. In 2008, he recalled,  an Indian experiment concluded  that there was water ice on the moon and an American experiment a year later realised that the moon could potentially have  hundreds of billions of tonnes of water ice at its poles – the areas that have been inspected because only the equatorial regions of the moon were the destination of the Apollo programme’s all six landings.

Preparing for the time when there would be no ISS to conduct space research and advance Earth-space transport technology and systems, rethinking of the moon as a possible platform sounds comprehensible. And the likely availability of ice water at the moon’s poles turns the idea even more attractive especially in view of the notion that the outer space could at some point in the future host humans for life outside our increasingly overpopulated planet.  With water scientifically proven as the indispensable element of life even for the smallest micro-organisms, the dream of reaching out for rich water resources in the outer space has continued to lure scientists and ordinary people alike. Jupiter’s moon Europa is believed to have beneath its surface crust of ice an ocean of liquid water twice as much as the whole Earth. Only through strenuous and meticulous space exploration that such notions may be scientifically proven.

CAIRO, July 31, 2018 (MENA) - An international bid to explore for oil and gas in the Red Sea will be launched by the end of 2018, said Petroleum Minister Tareq el Molla Tuesday.

A seismic survey has already been conducted in the area in cooperation with WesternGeco, a geophysical services company, Molla said in a statement.

He said his Ministry is working to increase investment opportunities in the petroleum sector.

Egypt is eyeing new exploration projects in the Red Sea and West Mediterranean regions, Molla added.

According to a ministry statement el Molla held a meeting with the team working on a programme to attract investments in oil exploration and production. The meeting also dealt with a project to create a digital database and an investment map for the available investment opportunities  in this field, the statement said.

CAIRO, July 30, 2018 (MENA) - The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) and BP-Egypt signed an agreement on oil and gas exploration in northeast Ramadan area in the Gulf of Suez, with investments amounting to 46 million dollars.

The agreement was signed by CEO of the EGPC  Abed Ezzelregal and Hesham Mekawi, the regional president, North Africa for BP.

In a statement on Monday, Petroleum Minister Tareq el-Molla said that his ministry is adopting an ambitious plan to beef up investments in the oil and gas exploration and develop discovered oil and gas fields.

The plan aims at increasing crude oil and natural gas production and reserves, the minister said.

Today's agreement brings to 88 the number of new oil and gas deals that have been signed since 2014, he noted.

Ryugu, Hayabusa and Mascot

By the Gazette Editorial Board

Ryugu, Hayabusa and Mascot may largely sound unfamiliar words, but they nevertheless are three names that will continue to retain special status in the history of scientific thinking and space exploration.

The first is the name of a diamond-shaped asteroid with a tiny radius of no more than 400 metres orbiting the sun at approximately a 290-million-kilometre distance from Earth. It is neither a well-sighted moon nor as huge a planet as Mars to draw wide scientific community appeal. And as far as common knowledge is concerned, only a minimum level, if any at all, of public awareness of the existence of this small space rock has existed.

The second, Hayabusa, is the name of the Japanese spacecraft that drew close to Ryugu last week after a long journey that had started four years earlier, exactly on December 3, 2014. For nearly four years since then, Hayabusa has travelled in full speed to cover the 290-million-kilometre-long distance. And for nearly a year and a half as of now, Hayabusa will survey the asteroid’s surface and dig a crater there in the hope of gathering data and building authentic knowledge of the composition of the asteroid. Some of us may question the wisdom of dedicating such a strenuous effort for five and a half years to closing in on such a tiny space object at a time when space exploration is obviously proceeding somehow slowly and shyly to reach large and Earth-like planets. Then comes Mascot, abbreviating Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, a German-built instrument specifically designed for the survey and sample collection tasks that Hayabusa will undertake.

There certainly and clearly is something amazing about the Hayabusa mission. For the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to spend four years tracking and monitoring Hayabusa as it travelled the 290-million-kilometre journey to its destination, let alone the very many years it took to design and build the spacecraft and the funds it allocated to the project, means that the effort must have been conceived of as scientifically and technologically worth it. Literature available online suggests that since asteroids are believed to be essentially leftover building materials from the formation of the Solar System, a study of real samples collected from Ryugu would most likely unveil some clues to understanding how the Solar System, of which our planet is a part, originated and the modalities of the building process of at least some planets. Such clues may probably not be monetisable, at least for the foreseeable future. Epistemologically, however, the value of the pursuit is almost immeasurable. An insightful reading of the Ryugu-Hayabusa-Mascot mission would unveil that underlying the engagement in such an amazing scientific and technological endeavour is the time-old human longing for getting to know the physics of life on Earth and in the outer space. It is the same longing that stands behind almost all the major scientific theories and discoveries that our world has come to know.

CAIRO, April 10, 2018 - Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aati discussed on Tuesday with the Chairman of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA), Atef Abdel Hamid and the visiting Director of the Division for Africa of the IAEA's Department of Technical Co-operation his accompanying delegation, ways of increasing co-operation in the field of groundwater exploration.

The discussions included the possibility of the African countries benefitting from the EAEA training opportunities in Egypt, under the umbrella of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Since its establishment in 1955, the EAEA has been the country's leading institution in the promotion of the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology in various fields.

ANKARA, Turkey, March 7, 2018 (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister on Wednesday renewed a threat against the government of Cyprus’ efforts to search for offshore gas around the ethnically divided island.

Turkey opposes what it says are Greek Cypriots’ “unilateral” efforts to search for gas, saying they infringe on the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the island’s resources.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said during a joint news conference with Tufan Erhurman, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state, that “provocative activities will be met with the appropriate response.”

Last month, Turkish warships prevented a rig from reaching an area southeast of Cyprus where Italian company Eni was scheduled to carry out exploratory drilling. Turkey’s blockade came shortly after Cyprus said that Eni had discovered a potentially sizeable gas deposit southeast of the island.

Yildirim’s comments were in response to reports that an ExxonMobil vessel was heading toward the Mediterranean, coinciding with exercises in the area involving the US Navy.

ExxonMobil and French company Total are among several firms that Cyprus has licensed to search for gas off its southern coast. ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum are scheduled to drill southwest of Cyprus in the autumn.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides rebuffed media reports suggesting that ExxonMobil vessels under US Navy escort where on their way to the area.

He said the reports “either don’t correspond with reality” or are trying to serve political aims which he didn’t specify.