Connect with us

Science

NASA mission will touch down on asteroid Bennu today – CTV News

Published

 on


After orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for nearly two years, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to reach out its robotic arm and collect a sample from the asteroid’s surface on Tuesday. That sample will be returned to Earth in 2023.

A van-size spacecraft has to briefly touch down its arm in a landing site called Nightingale. The site is the width of a few parking spaces. The arm will collect a sample between 2 ounces and 2 kilograms before backing away to safety.

The site itself is nestled within a crater the size of a tennis court and ringed in building-size boulders.

Located more than 320 million kilometres from Earth, Bennu is a boulder-studded asteroid shaped like a spinning top and as tall as the Empire State Building. It’s a “rubble pile” asteroid, which is a grouping of rocks held together by gravity rather than a single object.

The mission — which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer — launched in September 2016.

Since arriving at Bennu, the spacecraft and its cameras have been collecting and sending back data and images to help the team learn more about the asteroid’s composition and map the best potential landing sites to collect samples.

The main event of the mission, called the Touch-and-Go sample collection event, or TAG, is scheduled for October 20 beginning at 5 p.m. ET.

Bennu has an orbit that brings it close to Earth, which is why it’s considered to be a near-Earth asteroid. One of its future approaches could bring it perilously close to Earth sometime in the next century; it has a one in 2,700 chance of impacting our planet.

The samples from Bennu could help scientists understand not only more about asteroids that could impact Earth but also about how planets formed and life began.

“It’s a historic first mission for NASA, returning an asteroid sample, and it’s hard,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, during a Monday press conference.

“Bennu is almost a Rosetta Stone out there, and it tells the history of our Earth and solar system during the last billions of years. Bennu has presented a lot of challenges, but the ingenuity of the team has enabled us to get where we are.”

WHAT TO EXPECT

Rather than the so-called “seven minutes of terror” of trying to land the Perseverance rover on Mars next year, the OSIRIS-REx team is anticipating “4.5 hours of mild anxiousness,” according to Beth Buck, the mission’s operations program manager at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

During this time, the spacecraft will descend from its orbit around the asteroid and eventually come close enough to touch it.

The asteroid and spacecraft are currently about 207 million miles from Earth, which will cause a communication delay of about 18.5 minutes.

The team at NASA will livestream an animation depicting what is occurring based on the commands that have already been sent to OSIRIS-REx hours ahead for the sample collection sequence.

The spacecraft will perform the entire sequence of approaching the asteroid and collecting the sample autonomously since live commands from Earth won’t be possible.

TOUCHING DOWN ON AN ASTEROID

The event will take about 4.5 hours to unfold and the spacecraft will execute three maneuvers to collect the sample.

The spacecraft will first fire thrusters to leave its safe orbit around the asteroid, which is about 762 metres away from the surface, and travel for four hours before reaching just 125 metres away. Then, the spacecraft will adjust for position and speed to continue descending.

Next, OSIRIS-REx will slow its descent to target a path so it matches the asteroid’s rotation during contact. Its solar panels will fold into a Y-wing configuration above the spacecraft to protect them.

At last, OSIRIS-REx will touch down for less than 16 seconds. The spacecraft will fire a pressurized nitrogen bottle into the asteroid, using the gas as a way to lift material off Bennu’s surface.

The spacecraft’s collector head will capture the stirred up material. This head, located on the 3-metre-long robotic sampling arm, is the only part of the spacecraft that will touch Bennu. The team compares it to an air filter in an older model car, perfect for collecting fine material.

Small discs, which can collect dust like sticky pads, are also located on the head in case part of the sampling maneuver doesn’t go according to plan.

AfFTER THE EVENT

A camera on the spacecraft will take footage of the collection event.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will have to detect hazards and delay its own mission if any obstacles get in the way of the sample collection. Based on its simulations, the team estimates there is less than a 6% chance the spacecraft will abort the mission.

By Tuesday night, the team should be able to confirm if the touchdown occurred successfully. Imagery will be returned by the spacecraft on Wednesday, which will provide more details of the sample collection and how the spacecraft is faring.

The team estimates that they will have a mass measurement of the sample on Saturday. By October 30, NASA will confirm if the spacecraft collected enough of a sample or if it needs to make another sample collection attempt in January at another landing site called Osprey.

But if everything runs smoothly, the spacecraft and its prized sample will begin the long journey back to Earth next year and land the sample on Earth in 2023.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope, already damaged, collapses – Vancouver Is Awesome

Published

 on


ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century has now completely collapsed. The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below on Tuesday. The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.

DáNica Coto, The Associated Press


Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Moon probe preparing to return rock samples to Earth, China says – The Globe and Mail

Published

 on


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.

Story continues below advertisement

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 off its return was not immediately clear and the lander can last up to one moon day, or 14 Earth days, before plummeting temperatures would make it inoperable.

Chang’e is equipped to both scoop samples from the surface and drill 2 metres (more than 6 feet) to retrieve materials that could provide clues into the history of the moon, Earth other planets and space features.

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 man 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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

China: Moon probe preparing to return rock samples to Earth – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

Published

 on


BEIJING – 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 off its return was not immediately clear and the lander can last up to one moon day, or 14 Earth days, before plummeting temperatures would make it inoperable.

Chang’e is equipped to both scoop samples from the surface and drill 2 metres (more than 6 feet) to retrieve materials that could provide clues into the history of the moon, Earth other planets and space features.

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 man 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.

While

Loading…

Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending