Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday and docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with the orbiting laboratory to begin a six-month science mission.
The rendezvous came about 21 hours after the team and its capsule were launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday night, following a string of weather delays that postponed the liftoff for a week and a half.
The docking took place about 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT) while the Crew Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endurance, and the space station were flying about 260 miles (420 km) above the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to NASA.
The Endurance crew consists of three American NASA astronauts – flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34 – as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, a mission specialist from the European Space Agency.
On arrival, the crew took inventory, conducted standard leak checks and pressurized the space between the spacecraft in preparation for opening the hatch to the space station about two hours later.
A live NASA video feed from the station showed the new arrivals floating headfirst through a padded passageway from their capsule into the orbiting outpost.
They were welcomed aboard with hugs from the three current space station occupants – Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who shared a Soyuz flight with his Roscosmos crewmates to the complex.
Endeavor’s second-in-command, Marshburn – a medical doctor and former NASA flight surgeon – has logged two previous spaceflights to the space station and four spacewalks.
Maurer, a materials science engineer, was making his debut spaceflight, as were Chari, a U.S. Air Force combat jet and test pilot, and Barron, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer. Shortly after coming aboard, Marshburn pinned astronaut wings to the collars of his three rookie colleagues amid handshakes and smiles.
Both Chari and Barron also are among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, aimed at returning humans to the moon later this decade, over a half century after the Apollo lunar program ended.
“I think we all loved the ride up here,” Chari said during brief remarks in a welcoming ceremony webcast from the station. “It was way smoother than we could have imagined.”
The SpaceX Dragon also delivered more than 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) of hardware and research equipment, NASA said.
The crew arriving on Thursday was officially designated “Crew 3” – the third full-fledged “operational” crew that NASA and SpaceX have flown together to the space station after a two-astronaut test run in May 2020.
“Crew 2” returned safely to Earth from the space station on Monday with a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida that capped a record 199 days in orbit.
SpaceX, the rocket company formed in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla Inc, has logged a total of 15 human spaceflights in 17 months, including its astro-tourism launch in September of the first all-civilian crew sent to Earth orbit without professional astronauts.
The space station, spanning the size of an American football field end to end, has been continuously occupied since November 2000, operated by an international partnership of five space agencies from 15 countries.
An international crew of at least seven people typically lives and works aboard the platform while traveling 5 miles (8 km) per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)
NASA’s DART Kinetic Impactor Spacecraft Launches in World’s First Planetary Defense Test Mission – SciTechDaily
Lighting up the California coastline early in the morning of November 24, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried <span aria-describedby="tt" class="glossaryLink" data-cmtooltip="
“>NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft off the planet to begin its one-way trip to crash into an asteroid.
DART — a mission designed, developed, and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office — is the world’s first full-scale mission to test technology for defending the planet against potential asteroid or comet hazards. The spacecraft launched Wednesday morning at 1:21 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
As just one part of NASA’s larger planetary defense strategy, DART will send a spacecraft to impact a known asteroid that is not a threat to Earth, to slightly change its motion in a way that can be accurately measured via ground-based telescopic observations. DART will show that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it. It’s a method called kinetic impact, and the test will provide important data to help humankind better prepare for an asteroid that might post an impact hazard to Earth, should one ever be discovered.
“The Double Asteroid Redirection Test represents the best of APL’s approach to space science and engineering: identify the challenge, devise an innovative and cost-effective technical solution to address it, and work relentlessly to solve it,” said APL Director Ralph Semmel. “We are honored that NASA has entrusted APL with this critical mission, where the fate of the world really could rest on our success.”
At 2:17 a.m. EST, DART separated from the second stage of its launch vehicle. Minutes later, mission operators at APL received the first spacecraft telemetry data and started the process of orienting the spacecraft to a safe position for deploying its solar arrays. Almost two hours later, the spacecraft successfully unfurled its two 28-foot-long roll-out solar arrays. They will power both the spacecraft and NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) ion engine, one of several technologies being tested on DART for future application on space missions.
“The DART team overcame the technical, logistical and personal challenges of a global pandemic to deliver this spacecraft to the launch pad, and I’m confident that its next step — actually deflecting an asteroid — will be just as successful,” said Mike Ryschkewitsch, head of APL’s Space Exploration Sector. “It gives me a lot of assurance that if we ever have to embark on an urgent planetary defense mission, we have the people and the playbook to make it happen.”
DART’s one-way trip is to the Didymos asteroid system, which comprises a pair of asteroids — one small, the other large — that orbit a common center of gravity. DART’s target is the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, which is approximately 530 feet (160 meters) in diameter and orbits Didymos, which is approximately 2,560 feet (780 meters) in diameter. Since Dimorphos orbits the larger asteroid Didymos at a much slower relative speed than the pair orbits the Sun, the slight orbit change resulting from DART’s kinetic impact within the binary system can be measured much more easily than a change in the orbit of a single asteroid around the Sun.
The spacecraft will intercept the Didymos system in late September of 2022, intentionally slamming into Dimorphos at roughly 4 miles per second (6 kilometers per second) so that the spacecraft alters the asteroid’s path around Didymos. Scientists estimate the kinetic impact will shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by several minutes, and they will precisely measure that change using telescopes on Earth. The results will be used to both validate and improve scientific computer models that are critical to predicting the effectiveness of kinetic impact as a reliable method for asteroid deflection.
“It is an indescribable feeling to see something you’ve been involved with since the ‘words on paper’ stage become real and launched into space,” said Andy Cheng, one of the DART investigation leads at APL and the individual who came up with the idea of DART. “This is just the end of the first act, and the DART investigation and engineering teams have much work to do over the next year preparing for the main event — DART’s kinetic impact on Dimorphos. But tonight we celebrate!”
DART’s single instrument, the camera DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation), will turn on a week from now and provide the first images from the spacecraft. DART will continue to travel just outside of Earth’s orbit around the Sun for the next 10 months until Didymos and Dimorphos will be a relatively close 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.
A sophisticated guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) system, working with algorithms developed at APL called SMART Nav (Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation) will enable the DART spacecraft to identify and distinguish between the two asteroids and then, working in concert with the other GNC elements, direct the spacecraft toward Dimorphos, all within roughly an hour of impact.
Provided by the Italian Space Agency, the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) will ride along with DART and be released prior to impact. LICIACube will then capture images of the DART impact, the resulting ejecta cloud and possibly a glimpse of the impact crater on the surface of Dimorphos. It will also look at the back side of Dimorphos, which DRACO will never have a chance to see, gathering further data to enhance the kinetic models.
Space can help to solve the biggest challenges facing our planet. Here’s how – Euronews
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
In Earth’s more than four billion years of existence, it has had so many monumental moments.
The first human to discover the use of fire, the first to invent the wheel. The first human to walk on the Moon, the creation of the internet. So much evolution. Earth has witnessed the formation of life, the destruction of species, advancements in technology and society, and, ultimately, the regression of its own health.
We are at a historical cornerstone in time right now. As forests burn with fire and cities flood with water, unprecedented challenges are facing Europe and the world at large. Right now is the moment to contribute with bold, shared ambitions to solutions enabled by space.
Ambition: More important than ever
Ambition. It’s a word I use a lot. Ambition is what has driven humans to achieve the momentous, the impossible, the unimaginable.
It is what drove Europeans to explore and cross the Atlantic to new lands and later to send the first radio signals across the same body of water. It drove Europeans to discover the antibiotic penicillin and to save millions of lives with it thereafter.
To discover the theory of general relativity. To send the first space probe to perform a detailed study of a comet, dispatch a lander to its surface, and in a spectacular finale, land on the comet itself.
Ambition. Our planet’s youth is bursting with ambition (mixed with disappointment, anger, and a smudge of hope, admittedly and, well, understandably), as we saw recently in the streets of Glasgow and beyond during COP-26.
It’s been said that ‘ambition is the road to success. But persistence is the vehicle you arrive in’.
Space missions need the strength of a united Europe
So, we must move from ambition to persistence and action on what was laid out in Agenda 2025 (the strategy I developed to raise Europe’s game in space). A strategy that moves towards tangible, programmatic, and systematic commitments that create dialogue, inspiration, and change.
This is precisely what the Matosinhos Manifesto, the resolution adopted unanimously on 19 November 2021 at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Intermediate Ministerial Meeting in Portugal, does.
It represents strength in numbers. The strength of a united Europe to deliver services to its citizens by accelerating space for the betterment and advancement of its people and of the planet overall.
A Europe that puts the user and citizen at the centre of its space activities.
Three initiatives to drive missions forward
The Manifesto is a commitment to focus on three initiatives called “Accelerators”, to speed up the use of space to solve today’s biggest challenges. To focus on space for a green future, to better understand the current state of Earth, to develop scenarios and solutions for sustainable life on this planet and to contribute effectively to achieving climate neutrality.
Then we must move from studying, observing, and understanding the planet towards action based on the deep knowledge that we gain. This is where the second Accelerator comes into play: The need to develop a rapid and resilient crisis response system to support stakeholders to decisively act on crises facing Europe.
And we cannot focus on the first two without ensuring their protection. Therein lies the third Accelerator: the protection of space assets to contribute to safeguarding and protecting our assets from space debris and space weather threats.
Beyond this, we also need our own ‘giant leap’ moment to inspire young Europeans to become more inquisitive about STEM topics so that we can continue to strengthen and enhance these fields for future generations.
New space economy
Inspirational missions will help drive innovation in the new space economy that is beginning to take shape. The Inspirators mission is to catapult Europe’s position as a global leader in space technology, innovation and deep-space scientific exploration.
To promote commercialisation, a modern, forward-looking European entrepreneurial landscape, multilateral cooperation, education, the development of human capital and STEM.
Think missions to icy moons, to unveil secrets about the origins of life or space exploration to take European astronauts beyond the International Space Station.
The passing of the Matosinhos Manifesto recently has created the necessary momentum to reach beyond our ambitions and jump-start into action.
The next steps and decisions will be formulated and taken at the European Space Summit and the ESA Council Meeting at ministerial level, both to be held in 2022.
- Josef Aschbacher is the European Space Agency’s Director General. To learn more about the Accelerators and the Matosinhos Manifesto, please visit vision.esa.int
We Asked a NASA Expert: Is NASA Aware of Any Earth-Threatening Asteroids? [Video] – SciTechDaily
Is <span aria-describedby="tt" class="glossaryLink" data-cmtooltip="
“>NASA aware of any Earth-threatening asteroids? Luckily there are no known asteroid threats to Earth for at least 100 years. But that doesn’t mean we’re not looking. Asteroid expert Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory breaks it down:
Is NASA Aware of Any Earth-Threatening Asteroids? We Asked a NASA Scientist.
No, there is no asteroid that we know of that is concerning in terms of impact hazard.
Now, we know that asteroid impacts have happened in the past and can certainly happen in the future. But we should keep in mind that those are rare events.
An asteroid impact that could cause serious regional damage only happens every few thousand years or longer.
Still, it’s a good idea to protect us against that possibility and the rule of the game is find asteroids before they find us.
And that’s why for over 20 years, NASA has been funding search programs to observe the sky pretty much every single night to find and track asteroids.
And we’ve been doing a pretty good job at that. So far, we’ve discovered more than a million asteroids, including 95 percent of the asteroids that are greater than one kilometer and that could come close to the Earth.
Once we discover an asteroid, we project its motion into the future to assess the possibility of an impact with Earth.
We have a scale called Torino scale that helps us rank the risk coming from each asteroid. It goes from zero, which is lowest risk, to 10, which is highest risk.
And the good news is that for all the asteroids that we’ve discovered so far, the Torino scale is zero — so, lowest risk for the next hundred years.
So, is NASA aware of any Earth-threatening asteroids?
No. But we will keep searching the skies just in case.
We Asked a NASA Scientist.
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