The latest mission of the American space agency, NASA, will explore a group of ancient objects orbiting the sun at the distance of Jupiter.
Set to launch October 16, the Lucy spacecraft is designed to study Jupiter’s “Trojan” asteroids.
These asteroids are small bodies left over from the formation of our solar system’s large planets. They share an orbit with Jupiter as the planet goes around the sun.
The mission’s aim is to gather new information about the solar system’s formation 4.5 billion years ago.
Lucy will observe eight asteroids over 12 years. One orbits in what is known as the Asteroid Belt, an area between Mars and Jupiter. Most known asteroids orbit within this area.
The spacecraft will also observe seven Trojan asteroids. The Trojans circle the sun in two groups. One group leads Jupiter in its orbital path, while the other follows behind it. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids. There are believed to be more than 7,000 Trojan asteroids.
Scientists consider the Trojan asteroids to be the ancient remains of the formation of the solar system. They have stayed captured in Jupiter’s orbit for billions of years. Scientists hope that the NASA mission can provide new details about what conditions were like when the planets formed. They also hope the mission will lead to a better understanding of our own planet’s history.
The spacecraft was named Lucy after the ancient fossil discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. Lucy was one of the most famous scientific finds of the 20th century. The collection of skeletal bones gave scientists a better understanding of the evolution of humans.
Cathy Olkin is a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. She is the deputy lead investigator for the Lucy mission. In a video explaining the mission, Olkin compared the NASA spacecraft to the Lucy fossil.
“Just like the Lucy fossil transformed our understanding of (human) evolution, the Lucy mission will transform our understanding of solar system evolution,” she said.
The spacecraft, built by NASA contractor Lockheed Martin, is expected to fly within 400 kilometers of its targets.
The spacecraft is equipped with several imaging instruments designed to capture information about the composition of materials on the surface of asteroids. Other equipment will be used to record asteroid surface temperatures and measure the size of the objects the spacecraft observes.
Lucy will depend on solar power to operate. NASA says the mission expects to set a record because Lucy will be deployed farther from the sun than any past solar powered spacecraft.
Hal Levison is the mission’s chief scientist. He recently told reporters that although the Trojan asteroids are in a very small area of space, they are physically different from each another.
“For example, they have very different colors, some are grey, some are red,” Levison said. He added that these differences suggest how far away from the Sun they might have formed before getting to their current positions.
Lori Glaze is the director of NASA’s planetary science division. She said: “Whatever Lucy finds will give us vital clues about the formation of our solar system.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story based on reports from NASA, Agence France-Presse and Lockheed Martin. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
mission – n. an important project or trip, especially involving space travel
asteroid – n. one of many large rocks that circle the sun
fossil – n. part of an animal or plant from thousands of year ago, preserved as minerals in rock
evolution – n. a gradual process of change and development
transform – v. to change something completely, usually to improve it
composition – n. the parts, substances, etc. that something is made up of
vital – adj. necessary or important
Russia may sue NASA astronaut over claims of drilling hole in spacecraft – WION
US-Russia spat seems to have reached space now. In a new development, Russian space agency Roscosmos has threatened to sue a NASA astronaut.
The agency claims the astronaut drilled a two-mm hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle, which was docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.
After completing its investigation recently, the agency deemed the action as a sabotage. It cited Serena Auñón-Chancellor, an ISS crew member during the incident, as the culprit.
As the allegations were handed over to law enforcement of the Russia, Roscosmos announced the possibility of criminal charges.
With the hope of returning home early, Auñón-Chancellor purposefully made the hole, reported the Izvestia newspaper while citing sources on Friday.
Auñón-Chancellor seems to have wanted to leave due to a blood clot or a fight with her boyfriend onboard the ISS, Russian news outlet said citing sources.
When Auñón-Chancellor was in space, she got married to Jeff Chancellor. The couple is still married to this day. It is unclear who is the ‘boyfriend’ as stated by sources.
After a pressure drop was identified due to an air leak, the hole was spotted on August 30, 2018.
(With inputs from agencies)
NASA aims to replace ISS with a commercial space station by 2030 – The Tribune
Washington, Dec 1
The US space agency is planning to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations by 2030.
NASA’s auditing body, the Office of Audits, has produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the orbiting lab with commercial space stations.
Astronauts have lived and worked onboard the ISS orbiting roughly 250 miles above the Earth’s surface for more than 20 years.
“The ISS costs about $3 billion a year, roughly a third of NASA’s annual human space flight budget, and while current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension to 2030 is likely,” the US space agency said in the audit report.
Anticipating its retirement, NASA has committed to replacing the ISS with one or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.
“In the fiscal year (FY) that ended September 30, 2021, Congress authorised $17 million to that end — a fraction of the $150 million the Agency said it needed. NASA’s plans for long-term, deep space human exploration missions depend on continuous access to a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit,” it added.
The Artemis mission, aimed at returning humans to the Moon and ultimately landing astronauts on Mars, is not feasible without continued human health research and technology demonstrations being conducted on the ISS and its eventual replacement.
“As long as humans intend to travel in space, NASA expects research and testing will be needed in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit,” the audio report mentioned.
While overall ISS operations and maintenance costs remained steady at about $1.1 billion a year from FY2016 through FY2020, systems maintenance and upgrade costs trended upward 35 per cent in the same 5-year period, rising to approximately $169 million in FY2020 due primarily to upgrades.
Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause and long-term impacts of cracks and leaks that were recently discovered in the Station’s Service Module Transfer Tunnel, which connects the Service Module to one of eight docking ports on the Station.
“Causes being explored include structural fatigue, internal damage, external damage, and material defects. Notably, based on the models NASA used to assess the structure, the cracks should not have occurred, suggesting the possibility of an earlier-than-projected obsolescence for at least one element of the Station,” the US space agency noted. IANS
Arctic rainfall could dominate snowfall earlier than expected: study – Global Times
A view of Arctic Photo: VCG
Rainfall could start replacing snowfall in the Arctic decades sooner than previously thought, a study found Tuesday, warning the change caused by global warming could have effects beyond the region.
The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet, melting sea ice and adding moisture to the air that is likely to increase precipitation.
Comparing the latest projections to previous climate models, the study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications estimates the switch from snowfall-dominated annual precipitation to one dominated by rain will come about “one or two decades earlier.”
“Changes are going to be more severe and occur much earlier than projected and so will have huge implications for life in and beyond the Arctic,” the study’s main author Michelle McCrystall told AFP.
“In autumn, for example, when the greatest changes occur, the central Arctic may transition around 2070 in the latest set of models compared to 2090 in the previous set,” added McCrystall, a researcher at Canada’s University of Manitoba.
But everything depends on the degree of global warming.
At the current rate of warming rain could dominate snow in the Arctic before the end of the century, the study says. But it says limiting warming to 1.5 C could mean the Arctic stays dominated by snow.
Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the results “imply that the worst impacts can be avoided if countries match their stated intentions to cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.”
But Schmidt added that he felt the study did not prove the change would come sooner than expected.
Whenever it comes, the switch from snow to rain is likely to have major effects on the Arctic ecosystem.
More rainfall on top of current snow cover could lead to increased surface ice that would make it impossible for caribou and reindeer to forage for food.
Less snow cover also means the Arctic will lose some of its capacity to deflect solar heat and light away from the Earth’s surface and thus contribute to warming.
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