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Asteroid samples escaping from jammed NASA spacecraft – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it’s jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday.

Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA’s first attempt at such a mission.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said Tuesday’s operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth – in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.

Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 19 inches (48 centimetres) into the rough, crumbly, black terrain.

“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta said at a hastily arranged news conference.

Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday – much sooner than originally planned – for the long trip home.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

This is NASA’s first asteroid sample-return mission. Bennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of our solar system. Getting pieces from this cosmic time capsule could help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth.

Scientists were stunned – and then dismayed – on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its wildly successful touch-and-go at Bennu two days earlier.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu. The situation appeared to stabilize, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place. But it was impossible to know exactly how much had already been lost.

The requirement for the $800 million-plus mission was to bring back a minimum 2 ounces (60 grams).

Regardless of what’s on board, Osiris-Rex will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March – that’s the earliest possible departure given the relative locations of Earth and Bennu. The samples won’t make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.

Osiris-Rex will keep drifting away from Bennu and will not orbit it again, as it waits for its scheduled departure.

Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule holds until it’s back on Earth. They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that manoeuvr was cancelled since it could spill even more debris.

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” Lauretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, that’s hard. … But the good news is we see a lot of material.”

Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

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'The blob': Scientists confirm discovery of a completely new undersea species – SaltWire Network

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Deep in the dark, murky waters of our oceans, a gelatinous blob, shaped like a dislodged human molar, floats along the seabed.

Thanks to its love for extreme depths and remote oceanic corners, no one had ever seen the blob, or even knew it existed, until a team of scientists accidentally discovered it during a deep-sea dive off the coast of Puerto Rico in 2015, with help from an underwater, remotely-operated vehicle called ‘Deep Discover.’

Five years on, in a paper published this month, scientists with the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that the blob is an entirely new species of undersea creature,

Duobrachium sparksae

– a never-before-seen species of jelly-like ctenophore. It’s also the first time that researchers have discovered a species using high-definition video footage only.

“It’s unique because we were able to describe a new species based entirely on high-definition video,”

explained

NOAA marine biologist Allen Collins in a release.

“We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects.”

Ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, have bulbous, balloon-like bodies, from which protrude two tentacle-like strings, known as cilia. There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, according to the NOAA, and despite their name, they are not at all related to jellyfish. Ctenophores, the group explains, are carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.

Three different specimens were filmed by the vehicle at depths around 3,900 metres, in an underwater area called the Arecibo Amphitheater, which lies within a trench known as the Guajataca Canyon, off Puerto Rico.

One of the animals appeared to use its tentacles to touch the seabed, scientists said.

“It was a beautiful and unique organism,” oceanographer Mike Ford was quoted as saying in a release.

“It moved like a hot air balloon attached to the seafloor on two lines, maintaining a specific altitude above the seafloor. Whether it’s attached to the seabed, we’re not sure. We did not observe direct attachment during the dive, but it seems like the organism touches the seafloor.”

Identifying a new species solely via photographic and video evidence has often yielded contentious results, the scientists explained in their paper, as natural classification “relies heavily” on the physical specimen samples preserved in museums “to serve as references to which other material can be compared.”

“Indeed, the idea of using photographic evidence to establish new species has been highly contentious in recent decades.”

In this case, however, the team was able to avoid any pushback due to the high-definition quality of the footage they recorded of the three observed specimens. The team hopes to collect real-life specimens on future dives, but fears it may be decades before they run into the species again.

“Even if we had the equipment, there would have been very little time to process the animal because gelatinous animals don’t preserve very well,”

Collins said.

“Ctenophores are even worse than jellyfish in this regard.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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China lands on moon in mission to collect samples from surface – Al Jazeera English

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If the Chang’e-5 mission is successful, China will become third country after US and Russia to collect lunar material.

China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface late on Tuesday in the first mission to retrieve lunar surface samples in 40 years, said the country’s National Space Administration.

The space agency said the probe had successfully landed on the near side of the moon and sent back images.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe which is not manned from the southern province of Hainan on November 24. The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins and the solar system more generally.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the landing was a “historic step” adding that it would also benefit “international cooperation and the peaceful use of space.”

The mission will attempt to collect two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of samples in an area that has yet to be explored on an enormous lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms” and if completed as planned, would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and Russia.

The lander vehicle is expected to start drilling into the ground with a robotic arm to collect the lunar material in about two days, according to state media.

The samples will then be lifted into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the return to Earth, where it is expected to land on land in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

If the mission succeeds it will be the first time scientists have secured samples of lunar rocks since Russia (then the Soviet Union) brought material back in the 1970s.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and made its first lunar landing 10 years later. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so and in July it launched a spacecraft to Mars to search for water.

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China lands on moon in mission to collect samples from surface – Aljazeera.com

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If the Chang’e-5 mission is successful, China will become third country after US and Russia to collect lunar material.

China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface late on Tuesday in the first mission to retrieve lunar surface samples in 40 years, said the country’s National Space Administration.

The space agency said the probe had successfully landed on the near side of the moon and sent back images.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe which is not manned from the southern province of Hainan on November 24. The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins and the solar system more generally.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the landing was a “historic step” adding that it would also benefit “international cooperation and the peaceful use of space.”

The mission will attempt to collect two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of samples in an area that has yet to be explored on an enormous lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms” and if completed as planned, would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and Russia.

The lander vehicle is expected to start drilling into the ground with a robotic arm to collect the lunar material in about two days, according to state media.

The samples will then be lifted into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the return to Earth, where it is expected to land on land in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

If the mission succeeds it will be the first time scientists have secured samples of lunar rocks since Russia (then the Soviet Union) brought material back in the 1970s.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and made its first lunar landing 10 years later. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so and in July it launched a spacecraft to Mars to search for water.

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