Cis this week that we will know more – although, in fact, it may not be until September 2023, when he returns, that we will have all the answers to the most important questions: how many grams of asteroid Bennu will the probe bring back to Earth?
Already, the maneuver was almost unprecedented: gradually approach the space probe of this cosmic pebble barely 500 meters wide (around which it has been circling since December 2018), so that its arm touches the ground and, at the same time, “breaths”. Very loud – a powerful jet of nitrogen – causing a large amount of dust to rise. It happened on October 20, and the engineers at NASA estimated that with any luck, they had collected 60 grams of that Bennu dust.
On October 23, however, it turned out that they probably had 400 grams of it – but a few misplaced fragments were preventing the compartment from closing. And suddenly, if nothing is done to close this door, with each sudden maneuver of the probe, a few grams of matter will be lost in space.
While waiting to decide on the most judicious action to take to close the door, the engineers pushed back the maneuver that was to send Osiris-Rex back into orbit around the asteroid: because in microgravity, a little blow of retro rockets to slowing down is more than enough to blow up a quantity of dust inside the container, some of which will find its way out.
Note that if we say that the maneuver is “almost” new, it is because the Japanese space agency has already had two similar missions: its Hayabusa probe grazed the surface of an asteroid in 2005, and brought back a sample in 2010… representing less than a milligram of dust. Which was still enough for a fine analysis to conclude that such asteroids, formed closer to the Sun at the dawn of the solar system, could potentially have brought water to Earth. Hayabusa 2 grazed another asteroid in 2018-2019, Ryugu, and is on its way to Earth with its precious cargo.
To cross Earth’s orbit in September 2023, Osiris-Rex must leave Bennu’s vicinity in mid-2021. Upon arrival, she will drop a small capsule inside which will be – hopefully -on – this dust from afar.
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Chinese moon mission begins return to earth with lunar rocks – Global News
A Chinese spacecraft lifted off from the moon Thursday night with a load of lunar rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.
Chang’e 5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon and the first to take off from it again, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space program, which also has an orbiter and rover headed to Mars.
The Chang’e 5 touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side. Its mission: collect about two kilograms (four pounds) of lunar rocks and bring them back to Earth, the first return of samples since Soviet spacecraft did so in the 1970s. Earlier, the U.S. Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of moon rocks.
The landing site is near a formation called the Mons Rumker and may contain rocks billions of years younger than those retrieved earlier.
The ascent vehicle lifted off from the moon shortly after 11 p.m. Beijing time Thursday (1500 GMT) and was due to rendezvous with a return vehicle in lunar orbit, then transfer the samples to a capsule, according to the China National Space Administration. The moon rocks and debris were sealed inside a special canister to avoid contamination.
It wasn’t clear when the linkup would occur. After the transfer, the ascent module would be ejected and the capsule would remain in lunar orbit for about a week, awaiting the optimal time to make the trip back to Earth.
Chinese officials have said the capsule with the samples is due to land on Earth around the middle of the month. Touchdown is planned for the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where China’s astronauts have made their return in Shenzhou spacecraft.
Chang’e 5’s lander, which remained on the moon, was capable of scooping samples from the surface and drilling two metres (about six feet).
While retrieving samples was its main task, the lander also was equipped to extensively photograph the area, map conditions below the surface with ground penetrating radar and analyze the lunar soil for minerals and water content.
Right before the ascent vehicle lifted off, the lander unfurled what the space administration called the first free-standing Chinese flag on the moon. The agency posted an image — apparently taken from the lander — of the ascend vehicle firing its engines as it took off.
Chang’e 5 has revived talk of China one day sending astronauts to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.
China launched its first temporary orbiting laboratory in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, possibly to be serviced by a reusable space plane.
While China is boosting co-operation with the European Space Agency and others, interactions with NASA are severely limited by U.S. concerns over the secretive nature and close military links of the Chinese program.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Massive telescope collapse caught on remote camera and drone in Puerto Rico – CBC.ca
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released new footage of the collapse of the Arecibo telescope platform in Puerto Rico.
The 57-year-old radio telescope suffered major damage in August when one of the cables supporting the platform snapped. Another cable snapped in early November.
Then, on Tuesday, the entire platform came crashing 122 metres onto the dish below.
“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”
The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.
“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Mendez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”
Arecibo has also been featured in movies such as Contact and the James Bond film GoldenEye.
Chinese spacecraft has fresh moon rock samples to return to Earth – CBC.ca
China said Thursday its latest lunar probe has finished taking samples of the moon’s surface and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, the first time such a mission has been attempted by any country in more than 40 years.
The Chang’e 5, the third Chinese probe to land on the moon, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space program, which also has a probe en route to Mars carrying a robot rover.
The Chang’e 5 touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side, on a mission to return lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since 1976.
The probe “has completed sampling on the moon, and the samples have been sealed within the spacecraft,” the China National Space Administration said in a statement.
Plans call for the upper stage of the probe known as the ascender to be launched back into lunar orbit to transfer the samples to a capsule for return to Earth. The timing of its return was not immediately clear and the lander can last up to one moon day, or 14 Earth days, before falling temperatures would make it inoperable.
Chang’e is equipped to both scoop samples from the surface and drill two metres to retrieve materials that could provide clues into the history of the moon, Earth other planets and space features.
WATCH | An animation shows how Chang’e 5 was to land on the moon and collect samples:
While retrieving samples is its main task, the lander is also equipped to extensively photograph the area surrounding its landing site, map conditions below the surface with ground-penetrating radar and analyze the lunar soil for minerals and water content.
Chang’e 5’s return module is supposed to touch down around the middle of December on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where China’s crewed Shenzhou spacecraft have made their returns since China first put a person in space in 2003, becoming only the third country do so after Russia and the United States.
Chang’e 5 has revived talk of China one day sending a crewed mission to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.
China also launched Its first temporary orbiting laboratory in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, possibly to be serviced by a reusable space plane.
While China is boosting co-operation with the European Space Agency and others, interactions with NASA are severely limited by concerns over the secretive nature and close military links of the Chinese program.
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