Updates from the week ending Sunday, November 28th
This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Release viewer: version version 126.96.36.1995607, formerly the Maintenance RC and dated November 10, promoted November 15 – this viewer now contains a fix for the media issues caused by the Apple Notarisation viewer.
Release channel cohorts:
Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version 188.8.131.525672 (dated November 17) November 22.
I’ve already said I’m a Hera (zee9) fangirl. So when an IM from her drops into my chat window, it immediately grabbed my attention:
Hi there, you may remember me saying in a notecard a couple of build back that I most likely would never do Neverland, well just to prove myself wrong I just did, thought you might like to visit.
– Hera (Zee9) in telling me about her latest build
And with that, I was reorganising my list of places to visit and then on my way to visit another chapter in Hera’s evolving story of Neverworld settings, places born of the imaginations of children; places of escape and fantasy that, as we grow up, become increasingly hard to find as the paths become overgrown and eventually lost to the demands of work and life.
Neverever Land is a place that holds within it touches of J.M. Barrie’s tale of Peter Pan, Wendy, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook whilst offering a setting that is undeniably born of Hera’s creativity. It also starts with a story – a further chapter concerning Jane (Wendy’s daughter from the epilogue F.M. Barrie added to his original story of Peter and Wendy four years after its publication) – and introductory notes. Both should be read in full before proceeding further.
With the story and notes read, it’s time to enter the house and – as with some of the recent builds that have carried us into Herea’s Neverworld – is to find the story book the will carry you to Neverever Land, and I’ll use her worlds to introduce it:
The Neverever land exists at the edge of dreams just before the wall of sleep. It is not like the real world, even though it may at times seem very familiar. Yet Neither is it the land of sleep and dreams, Because the people there are all awake. It is created from what is left in memory of the real once the mundane has faded. A place of wake dreams or daydreams. What happens there is not real, But might change forever that which is. It is the neither neither land. The funambulatory path between the worlds.
Hera (Zee9) describing Neverever Land
And so we find ourselves in an] circular archipelago of islands rising from a glass-like sea that captures their reflections through a mist of surf. Only it’s not a sea nor surf; we are in fact among the clouds, the islands floating in a world of their own, surrounded by more distant peaks. The central island has a peak of its own that rises from a sandy beach landing point, a path spiralling upwards to where the first of several stone bridges connect most of the islands one to the next, while two rope bridges complete the possible connections from landing point to islands, so providing multiples roots by which to explore.
In taking a leaf from J.M. Barrie’s book, the setting is rich in motifs. There’s the Lost Boy’s camp, a garden suitable for Tinkerbell, a cavern that perhaps forms Peter Pan’s hideaway, a further camp that might be seen as the home of some of Tiger Lily’s tribe, and out on the water, a pirate ship that might be that of Captain Hook. Perhaps the clearest motif of all, however, is the crocodile; even if he does seem a little… tied up … in things in one location!
This is a place very much where visitors have space to find places to sit and relax without being overcrowded in any way. There are also – as always – plenty of opportunities for photography.
After the intensity of recent builds such as Whitechapel (see here for more) and Whitby (see here), Neverever Land presents a distinct and relaxing change of pace within Hera’s recent designs; as such it makes for a very different – but nevertheless equally imaginative – visit.
On November 24th, 2021, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, a vehicle aimed at testing a method of planetary defence against near-Earth objects (NEOs) the pose a real risk of impact.
I’ve covered the risk we face from Earth-crossing NEOs – asteroids and cometary’s fragments that routinely zoom across or graze the Earth’s orbit as they follow their own paths around the Sun. We are currently tracking some 8,000 of these objects to assess the risk of one of them colliding with Earth at some point in the future. This is important, because it is estimated a significant impact can occur roughly every 2,000 years, and we currently don’t have any proven methods of mitigating the threat should it be realised. And that is what DART is all about: demonstrating a potential means of diverting an incoming asteroid threat.
Developed as a joint project between NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), DART is specifically designed to deflect an asteroid purely through its kinetic energy; or to put it another way, by slamming into it, and without breaking it up. Both are important, because by simply slowing an Earth-crossing NEO along its orbit, we give time for Earth to get out of its way; then, by not causing it to break, then we avoid the risk of it becoming a hail of shotgun pellets striking Earth at some point further into the future.
The target for the mission is a binary asteroid 65803 Didymos (Greek for “twin”), comprising a primary asteroid approximately 780 metres across, and a smaller companion called Dimorphos (Greek: “two forms”) caught in a retrograde orbit around it, with both orbiting the Sun every 2 years 1 month, periodically passing relatively close to Earths, as well as periodically grazing that of Mars.
Discovered in 1996 by the Spacewatch sky survey the pair has been categorised as being potentially hazardous at some point in the future. At some 160m across, Dimorphos is in the broad category of size for many of the Earth-crossing objects we have so far located and are tracking, making it an ideal target.
DART actually started as a dual mission in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) called AIDA – Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment. This would have seen ESA launch a mission called AIM in December 2020 to rendezvous with Didymos and enter orbit around it in order to study its composition and that of Dimorphos, and to also be in position to observe DART’s arrival in September 2022 and its impact with the smaller asteroid.
However, AIM was ultimately cancelled, leaving NASA to go ahead with DART. To reduce costs, NASA initially looked to make it a secondary payload launch on a commercial rocket. But it was ultimately decided to use a dedicated Falcon 9 launch vehicle for the mission, allowing it to make its September 2022 rendezvous with Dimorphos.
In order to impact the asteroid at a speed sufficient to affect its velocity, DART needs to be under propulsive power. It therefore uses the NEXT ion thruster, a type of solar electric propulsion that will propel it into Dimorphos at a speed of 6.6 km/s – which it is hoped will change the velocity of the asteroid by 0.4 millimetres a second. This may not sound a lot, but in the case of hitting an actual threat whilst it is far enough away from Earth, it is enough to ensure it misses the planet when it crosses our orbit.
This motor is powered by a deployable solar array system first deployed to the International Space Station (ISS). However, what is most interesting about these solar panels is that a portion of them is configured to demonstrate Transformational Solar Array technology that can produce as much as three times more power than current solar array technology and so could be revolutionary should it reach commercial production.
Accompanying DART is Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), a cubesat developed by the Italian Space Agency, and which will separate from DART 10 days before impact to acquire images of the impact and ejecta as it drifts past the asteroid. To do this, LICIA Cube will use a pair of cameras dubbed LUKE and LEIA.
As the cubesat is unable to orbit Didymos to continue observations, ESA is developing a follow-up mission called Hera, Comprising a primary vehicle bearing the mission’s name, and two cubesats, Milani and Juventas, this mission will launch in 2024, and arrive at the asteroids in 2027, 5 years after DART’s impact, to complete a detailed assessment of the outcome of that mission.
ISS Gets a New Module
On November 26th, 2021, a new Russian module arrived at the International Space Station (ISS).
The Prichal, or “Pier,” module had been launched by a Soyuz 2.1b rocket out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan two days earlier. Mounted on a modified Progress cargo vehicle, the module was successfully mated with the Nauka module which itself only arrived at the station in July, at 15:19 UTC.
The four-tonne spherical module has a total of six docking ports, one of which is used to connect it with Nauka, leaving five for other vehicles. However, when first conceived, the module was also intended to be a node for connecting future Russian modules.
But since that time, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has abandoned plans to support the ISS with additional modules. Instead, with relations with the west continuing to cool and the ongoing rise in nationalism in Russia, the agency has indicated it plans to orbit its own space station. This being the case, Prichal is viewed as the final element in the Russian segment of ISS, and potentially the first of the new station.
Unlike the arrival of Nauka in July, Prichal managed to dock with the ISS without the additional “excitement” of any thruster mis-firings. Now, the Progress carrier vehicle will remain attached to the module through until December 21st, allowing time for the Russian cosmonauts on the station to carry out a spacewalk to attach Prichal to the station’s power systems. Once it has been detached, the Progress vehicle will be set on a path to burn-up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
As well as expending the docking facilities at the ISS, Prichal delivered some 2.2 tonnes of cargo and supplies to the station. The module will formally commence operations in its primary role in March 2022 with the arrival Soyuz MS-21.