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NASA’s DART Kinetic Impactor Spacecraft Launches in World’s First Planetary Defense Test Mission – SciTechDaily

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NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft sets off to collide with an asteroid in the world’s first full-scale planetary defense test mission. Riding atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, DART took off Wednesday, November 24, from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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
Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity."

“>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.”

Andy Cheng

Andy Cheng, a Johns Hopkins APL planetary scientist and one of the DART investigation leads, reacts after the successful launch of the DART spacecraft. Cheng was the individual who came up with the idea of DART. He watched the launch from the Mission Operations Center at APL’s Laurel, Maryland, campus. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Craig Weiman

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.”

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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.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test Illustration

Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben

“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.

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Awesome Photo Shows James Webb Space Telescope in Deep Space Home – Futurism

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It’s amazing.

Parking Spot

Breathe easy, fellow space nerds. 

The much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is unfurled and parked in its final orbit, roughly one million miles away from Earth.

While we’ll likely never see it up close and personal ever again, a remotely-controlled telescope has provided us with one of the first images of the Webb in orbit — showing the JWST as a distant dot that’s virtually indistinguishable amongst the stars and galaxies in the image. 

Check out the photo for yourself below:

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Credit: Virtual Telescope Project

Robot Astronomer

The stunning image itself was captured by a 17-inch telescope dubbed “Elena.” It’s managed by the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, which provides astronomers access to two remotely-controlled robotic telescopes in Rome, Italy. 

The photo was snapped just as the Webb arrived at its final destination at the Lagrange Point 2 (L2) — and if that’s not enough for you, they were able to cobble together a short video of it moving through the inky blackness of space. 

Webb’s Future

NASA initially estimated that the Webb had enough fuel for a roughly 10 year mission. During that time, scientists hope that it’ll provide us with the most detailed — and hopefully revealing — images of deep space we’ve ever seen.  

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However, some experts believe it’ll be able to work for a lot longer than that. 

“You’ve heard numbers around 20 years. We think that’s probably a good ballpark,” Keith Parrish, the JWST observatory commissioning manager at NASA, said in a press teleconference attended by SpaceNews  after the Webb reached L2 on Monday.  “This is capping off just a remarkable 30 days.”

So hopefully, we’ll have plenty more images of — and from — the Webb for a long time to come. 

More on James Webb Space Telescope: Famed Physicist: Soon-to-Launch Telescope Likely to Discover Alien Life

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Astronomers spy powerful deep-space object unlike anything seen before – CNET

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An artist’s impression of what the object might look like if it’s a magnetar. Magnetars are incredibly magnetic neutron stars, some of which sometimes produce radio emissions. Known magnetars rotate every few seconds, but, theoretically, “ultra-long-period magnetars” could rotate much more slowly.


ICRAR

A team led by astronomers in Australia has discovered a brand new type of object in deep space that behaves in bizarre and mysterious ways never seen before. 

Something about 4,000 light-years away, which is relatively close in our cosmic neighborhood, was seen spinning around and regularly blasting out a massive burst of energy that lasts a full a minute. Even weirder, that bright beam of radiation occurred like clockwork every 18 minutes. 

“It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that,” astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker said in a statement. 

The behavior is similar to that of a pulsar or magnetar, which spin around as they blast out pulses of energy that can be detected here on Earth. But pulsars pulse very quickly, usually every few seconds. An object that sends out longer bursts just a few times an hour has never been seen before. 

Hurley-Walker led a team from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research that made the discovery, with assistance from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory. She’s also lead author on a paper detailing the find in this week’s issue of the journal Nature. 

This odd object was originally spotted by Curtin student Tyrone O’Doherty using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in outback Western Australia. The MWA is a radio observatory that can observe a wide swath of the sky over a wide range of frequencies. 

“It’s exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object,” said O’Doherty, who is working on his Ph.D.

The galactic peculiarity could be the collapsed core of a star with an ultra-powerful magnetic field. Hurley-Walker explains that it has the characteristics of something astrophysicists have theorized called an “ultra-long-period magnetar.”

“It’s a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,” she said. “But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright. Somehow it’s converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

For now, the unusual object has stopped sending out pulses that we can see, but Hurley-Walker says she is continuing to monitor it with the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in case it starts up again. 

“If it does, there are telescopes across the Southern Hemisphere and even in orbit that can point straight to it,” she added.

She also plans to go back into the MWA’s archives to see if this object is just one member of a larger family that’s gone unnoticed until now. 

“More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we’d never noticed before.” 

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SpaceX rocket booster on collision course with the moon – Globalnews.ca

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An out-of-control booster from a SpaceX rocket has been drifting through space for seven years, and astronomers say it’s now on a collision course with the moon.

The booster was originally launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral in February 2015 as part of the Falcon 9 interplanetary mission.

Read more:

Remember that mysterious moon cube? Scientists now know what it is

The booster, also known as the second stage, was left derelict and on a shaky orbit after propelling the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory far into space to help monitor space weather.

Here, it was left in a kind of purgatory, where it was too far from Earth to tumble back down, but not far enough to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth-moon system.

Bill Gray of space blog projectpluto.com first reported the upcoming crash, and said he believes it’s “the first unintentional case” of space junk colliding with the moon.

Gray, along with other space observers, believes the booster, which weighs approximately four metric tons, will strike the far side of the moon near its equator at 2.58 kilometres per second on March 4.

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Unlike Earth, the moon doesn’t have a thick atmosphere to help break up foreign objects, so the booster is expected to slam into the surface and add another mark to the moon’s already heavily cratered crust.

Astronomers, including Harvard University’s own Jonathan McDowell, say that there’s nothing to worry about — this won’t destroy the moon or really cause much damage.

Even still, it’s tough to predict exactly what will happen and where the booster will hit as there are many extraneous factors like sunlight “pushing” on the rocket and “ambiguity in measuring rotation periods,” which may slightly alter its orbit, according to Gray.

Because it looks like the booster will hit the far side of the moon, it will more than likely not be visible to the naked eye (or with a telescope) from Earth. Additionally, the collision is projected to take place a few days after the new moon, which means the majority of the moon will be obscured from vision anyway.

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Interestingly, while this may be the first instance of space junk hitting the moon, it’s not the first time a human-made device has collided with it; NASA launched a rocket at the moon in 2009 — on purpose — in order to detect what would emerge upon impact.

The LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission and collision, which was not visible from Earth, helped confirm that there is water on the moon.

Many space experts and enthusiasts are excited for the upcoming crash, as it could also inadvertently provide further information about our satellite neighbour.

As of this writing, SpaceX and NASA have not publicly commented on the impending collision.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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