TOKYO – They resemble small fragments of charcoal, but the soil samples collected from an asteroid and returned to Earth by a Japanese spacecraft were hardly disappointing.
The samples Japanese space officials described Thursday are as big as 1 centimetre (0.4 inch) and rock hard, not breaking when picked up or poured into another container. Smaller black, sandy granules the spacecraft collected and returned separately were described last week.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft got the two sets of samples last year from two locations on the asteroid Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometres (190 million miles) from Earth. It dropped them from space onto a target in the Australian Outback, and the samples were brought to Japan in early December.
The sandy granules the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency described last week were from the spacecraft’s first touchdown in April 2019.
The larger fragments were from the compartment allocated for the second touchdown on Ryugu, said Tomohiro Usui, space materials scientist.
To get the second set of samples in July last year, Hayabusa2 dropped an impactor to blast below the asteroid’s surface, collecting material from the crafter so it would be unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.
Usui said the size differences suggest different hardness of the bedrock on the asteroid. “One possibility is that the place of the second touchdown was a hard bedrock and larger particles broke and entered the compartment.“
JAXA is continuing the initial examination of the asteroid samples ahead of fuller studies next year. Scientists hope the samples will provide insight into the origins of the solar system and life on Earth. Following studies in Japan, some of the samples will be shared with NASA and other international space agencies for additional research.
Hayabusa2, meanwhile, is on an 11-year expedition to another small and distant asteroid, 1998KY26, to try to study possible defences against meteorites that could fly toward Earth.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
How to watch NASA preview its Perseverance Mars rover landing – CNET
NASA is just weeks away from landing a shiny new robot on the surface of Mars. This Wednesday it’ll break down for us the process of setting theon the surface of the red planet.
Perseverance is due to land in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, the first artificial object to land on the surface since thein 2018 and the first rover since touched down in 2012.
Perseverance carries a number of science instruments to help look for signs of ancient life on our neighboring world, to collect samples that will be returned to Earth and to test some technologies for future Mars missions.
Also, it has a tiny helicopter.
Robots have spent years rolling around Mars, which is pretty cool, but for the first time NASA will use a, to try flying around the planet.
Several leaders from the Mars 2020 Perseverance team will be on hand Wednesday to discuss the mission and run through what landing day will look like.
The briefing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, and you can watch it all live right here.
Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.
First full moon of 2021 might be tough to see this week | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews
The first full moon of 2021 and the second one of the winter season will be viewable over Kamloops and the Okanagan later this week.
The second full moon of the season, known variously as the Wolf, Snow or Hunger Moon, will look visibly full on Jan. 27 and 28, but in astronomical terms it is at its fullest on Jan. 28 at 11:16 a.m., Pacific time, when daytime might make it a bit difficult to see.
Earthsky.org says to expect to see a full-looking moon in the east at dusk or early evening. The moon should appear full to the average viewer the night before and the night after its Jan. 28 peak.
Unfortunately for us in Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton, this month’s Wolf Moon might prove difficult to view at any time during the next few days.
Environment Canada is calling for mainly cloudy skies with periods of snow or flurries from Tuesday night, Jan. 26 through Friday, Jan. 29, with a hint of sun forecast for Friday, so keep an eye out for a break in the clouds.
The next full moon is the Snow Moon, expected on Feb. 27.
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Axiom Space Announces Ax1 – First All-Private Crew To Visit ISS – Forbes
When it comes to space, even the wildest ideas have a chance of becoming reality – especially when the timing and technology align just so. Four years ago, Axiom Space announced plans to build a private space station; like for many companies with similar plans before them, the news was generally well received but with a healthy dose of “we’ll believe it when we see it.” Over the intervening years, Houston-based Axiom has continued the steady march forward and today took a major step on the planned path to create a private space station – and prove the demand for those willing to pay to reach it.
Today, Axiom Space announced the four members selected for the first private crew to visit the International Space Station. The mission, dubbed Ax1, will be lead by former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president Michael López-Alegría as commander. American entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor Larry Connor, Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy, and impact investor and philanthropist Eytan Stibbe of Israel will round out the crew as pilot and two mission specialists respectively.
Early reception was generally positive; while some pointed out that the crew lacks gender diversity, others countered that former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is currently slated as Ax1’s backup commander. (John Shoffner of Knoxville, Tenn. is the backup mission pilot.)
“This collection of pioneers – the first space crew of its kind – represents a defining moment in humanity’s eternal pursuit of exploration and progress,” López-Alegría said. “I look forward to leading this crew and to their next meaningful and productive contributions to the human story, both on orbit and back home.”
The four-member crew, which is currently scheduled to launch to the ISS no earlier than January 2022 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will spend eight days on the space station before returning to earth. They will participate in research and philanthropy projects during that period, similar to the work current governmental astronauts do during their longer tenures on ISS. Each man paid $55 million for their spot on the Ax1 crew and to cover costs of launch and accommodation aboard ISS.
This is in line with the sums past space tourists have paid for individual flights to the ISS. Eight private citizens traveled to space between 2001 and 2009, each paying between reportedly between $20-25 million. A successful Ax1 mission will increase the number of private citizens who have visited the ISS by 50%, and pave the way for a more comfortable ride (Crew Dragon was generally praised for being comfortable by DM-2 astronaut Bob Behnken; the Russian Soyuz that carried past space tourists is notoriously uncomfortable.)
“We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I’m glad to say we’ve done that with this group,” Axiom Space President & CEO Michael Suffredini said. “This is just the first of several Axiom Space crews whose private missions to the International Space Station will truly inaugurate an expansive future for humans in space – and make a meaningful difference in the world when they return home.”
However, the flight and stay aboard ISS are not guaranteed: Axiom Space is still negotiating a Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) with NASA to enable private astronaut missions like Ax1 and future planned missions. The eventual goal is to send two missions per year to the ISS while Axiom Space builds out a private space station, first as a series of attached modules to the existing ISS structure, then as a free-floating station of its own.
The crew announcement marks an important first step, as it puts names and faces to the private citizens who may make history as early as January next year.
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