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Psyche, an asteroid believed to be worth $10,000 quadrillion, is observed through Hubble Telescope in new study – CNN



A new study published Monday in The Planetary Science Journal takes a closer look at this mysterious asteroid, using data from the Hubble Telescope.
Located between Mars and Jupiter, Asteroid 16 Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt in our solar system, and with a diameter of about 140 miles, it is roughly the same length as Massachusetts (if you exclude Cape Cod).
The exact composition of Psyche is still unclear, but scientists think it’s possible the asteroid is mostly made of iron and nickel. It’s been hypothesized that a piece of iron of its size could be worth about $10,000 quadrillion, more than the entire economy on our planet.
Scientists believe that Psyche could be the metallic core of an early planet that lost its mantle and crust due to collisions that might have occurred early in the formation of the solar system.
In 2022, NASA will send an unmanned spacecraft to Psyche to study it up close and better determine its composition.
In the meantime, the new study in The Planetary Science Journal looked at Psyche through the Hubble Telescope at two specific points in its rotation, to capture both sides of the asteroid.
The study includes the first ultraviolet observations of Psyche, furthering our understanding of its surface and its possible composition.
“We looked at the way that the ultraviolet light reflected off of the asteroid surface,” Tracy Becker told CNN. She is the lead author of the study and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute.
“The way the ultraviolet light was reflected from Psyche was very, very similar to the way iron reflects sunlight,” she explained.

The importance of studying Psyche

Studying Psyche could help us better understand those early times in the history of our solar system, when objects would have had “higher inclinations and crazier eccentricities,” and would have had more opportunities to collide with each other, Becker told CNN.
If Psyche is the metal core of a planet that never was, studying it more closely could tell us a lot about the core of our planet, which we wouldn’t be able to explore, Becker said.
The study also detected two possible signals of changes to the surface of Psyche due to solar winds, according to Becker.
“The first one was that as we went deeper into the UV, we started to see the asteroid get brighter, which is pretty rare,” Becker said.
“In the past, when we’ve seen that on certain planetary bodies, including the moon, that often tells us that it’s due to the charge particles from the sun interacting with the materials on the surface, causing this brightening. We call that space weathering,” she added.
The second signal, according to Becker, was the detection of iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands.
“That could be implying that there is some sort of interaction with oxygen and the metal,” Becker said.
The charged particles from the sun could be causing the oxygen to interact with the materials now, or that interaction could have occurred a long time ago, according to Becker. Further study will be required to connect these findings to more information on when the asteroid first might have formed, Becker said.

Getting ready to visit Psyche

The study comes as the NASA mission to Psyche, led by Arizona State University, is plugging away.
“We’re building space hardware and getting ready for our launch in August of 2022,” Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a planetary scientist who is the principal investigator for the mission, told CNN. Elkins-Tanton is also a minor author of the new study.
The mission’s launch, originally slated for 2023, was moved up to 2022, and will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
The unmanned spacecraft should reach Psyche by January 2026, and it will be orbiting the asteroid for 21 months, mapping it and studying it from a distance, Elkins-Tanton explained.
When it gets to Psyche, the mission will be the first to ever photograph the asteroid.
Scientists plan on making these images immediately available for everyone on Earth to see and study further, possibly within 30 minutes of taking them, Elkins-Tanton said.
“Everyone in the world is going to be able to look at Psyche at the same time we are, and scratch their heads and say, what is this thing?” she added.

What we want to know about Psyche

Elkins-Tanton said she is thrilled about the scientific community’s interest in learning more about Psyche ahead of the mission, which will be a true test for the theories about the asteroid put forth so far.
“There’s the opportunity for people to make measurements, hypotheses and predictions, and then actually find out if they’re right, because we’re going to go and find out,” she added.
The questions Elkins-Tanton hopes to find answers to could help us understand “the ingredients that went into making the cake” — that is, our planet.
“Does [Psyche] have oxygen mixed into it, the way this study has indicated it might have some? Or other light elements, like sulfur, or even potassium, mixed into the metal phase? Can we say something about the temperature and pressure conditions under which it formed, based on its composition, that would tell us something about the size of the body it came from, and the sorts of things that went into making up our Earth?”
“One thing we can pretty much promise right now is that Psyche is going to surprise us,” Elkins-Tanton said. “Everything we know about it now is probably going to be wrong when we go there and find out.”

A $10,000 quadrillion asteroid

About that staggering estimate that Psyche might be worth $10,000 quadrillion, Elkins-Tanton says she takes responsibility for coming up with that number during interviews when the NASA mission was first announced in 2017.
While the conversation on mining asteroids for resources is developing here on Earth, Psyche is not the target we should strive for, according to Elkins-Tanton.
“We cannot bring Psyche back to Earth. We have absolutely no technology to do that,” Elkins-Tanton said.
Even if it was possible to bring back metals from Psyche without destroying the Earth, that would quite possibly collapse the markets, Elkins-Tanton said.
“There are all kinds of problems with this, but it’s still fun to think about what a piece of metal the size of Massachusetts would be worth.”

Space mining and our imagination

Objects that are closer to Earth are more realistic candidates for space mining, according to Elkins-Tanton. One of the most interesting ideas is to use asteroids as a source for water, which can be made into rocket fuel.
“Most of the nearest asteroids don’t have water ice on them, but they do have minerals that contain water bound up in their crystal lattices,” and that could be accessed by heating up the minerals, Elkins-Tanton explained.
“They could almost be like little refueling stations,” she said.
“This is a bit ahead of ourselves in terms of what we can actually do, but I love it because it shows how aspirational people can be, and it shows how powerful our imaginations are,” Elkins-Tanton told CNN.
“To me, that’s the great strength of space exploration — it gives us that motivation to do great things,” she added.

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China Kickstarts A New Era In The Space Race –



China Kickstarts A New Era In The Space Race |


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China Space Race

In what could mark the beginning of another era of the “space race“, China has officially launched an unmanned spacecraft to the moon with plans of bringing back lunar rocks. It marks the first attempt by any nation to retrieve rocks from the moon since the 1970s. On Monday, Reuters confirmed the launch:

China’s probe, the Chang’e-5, sets off with the goal of China learning more about the moon’s origin and formation. If China succeeds, it will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the moon – behind the U.S. and Soviet Union, according to CNN.

The goal of the mission to collect 4.5 pounds of samples in a previously untouched area called Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”. The U.S. Apollo missions had previously landed 12 astronauts and brought back a total of 842 pounds of rocks and soil. The Soviet Union’s Luna missions had brought 6 ounces of samples in the 70s.

Both countries visited different areas of the moon than the Chinese aspire to visit.  

Source: CNN

James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University, said: “The Apollo-Luna sample zone of the moon, while critical to our understanding, was undertaken in an area that comprises far less than half the lunar surface.”

Related: Growing Crude Inventories Put A Cap On Oil Prices

Once it’s on the moon, the probe will deploy two vehicles and a lander will drill into the ground. Samples of the moon’s surface will then lift off to another module in orbit. Eventually, they will make their way back to Earth in a return capsule. 

China has visited the moon with probes in 2013 and 2019. The country says it has plans to establish a “robotic base station” on the moon within the next decade. It plans on doing so using its Chang’e 6, Chang’e 7 and Chang’e 8 missions. 

The country has also publicly said it has aspirations of getting samples from Mars before 2030. 


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Many Canadians gaining weight during COVID-19: poll – BarrieToday



OTTAWA — A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less. 

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case. 

Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians. 

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients an chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently. 

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

Shaw said people should also try learn a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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MOXIE Could Help Future Rockets Launch Off Mars – NASA's Mars Exploration Program – NASA Mars Exploration



NASA’s Perseverance rover carries a device to convert Martian air into oxygen that, if produced on a larger scale, could be used not just for breathing, but also for fuel.

One of the hardest things about sending astronauts to Mars will be getting them home. Launching a rocket off the surface of the Red Planet will require industrial quantities of oxygen, a crucial part of propellant: A crew of four would need about 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of it to produce thrust from 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel.

That’s a lot of propellant. But instead of shipping all that oxygen, what if the crew could make it out of thin (Martian) air? A first-generation oxygen generator aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover will test technology for doing exactly that.

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, is an experimental instrument that stands apart from Perseverance’s primary science. One of the rover’s main purposes is capturing returnable rock samples that could carry signs of ancient microbial life. While Perseverance has a suite of instruments geared toward helping achieve that goal, MOXIE is focused solely on the engineering required for future human exploration efforts.

Since the dawn of the space age, researchers have talked about in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. Think of it as living off the land and using what’s available in the local environment. That includes things like finding water ice that could be melted for use or sheltering in caves, but also generating oxygen for rocket fuel and, of course, breathing.

Breathing is just a side benefit of MOXIE’s true goal, said Michael Hecht of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the instrument’s principal investigator. Rocket propellant is the heaviest consumable resource that astronauts will need, so being able to produce oxygen at their destination would make the first crewed trip to Mars easier, safer, and cheaper.

“What people typically ask me is whether MOXIE is being developed so astronauts have something to breathe,” Hecht said. “But rockets breathe hundreds of times as much oxygen as people.”

Components of MOXIE: An illustration of MOXIE and its components. An air pump pulls in carbon dioxide gas from the Martian atmosphere, which is then regulated and fed to the Solid OXide Electrolyzer (SOXE), where it is electrochemically split to produce pure oxygen. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

Making Oxygen Requires Heat

Mars’ atmosphere poses a major challenge for human life and rocket propellant production. It’s only 1% as thick as Earth’s atmosphere and is 95% carbon dioxide.

MOXIE pulls in that air with a pump, then uses an electrochemical process to separate two oxygen atoms from each molecule of carbon dioxide, or CO2. AnchorAs the gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to check how much oxygen has been produced, how pure it is, and how efficiently the system is working. All the gases are vented back into the atmosphere after each experiment is run.

Powering this electrochemical conversion requires a lot of heat – about 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius). Because of those high temperatures, MOXIE, which is a little larger than a toaster, features a variety of heat-tolerant materials. Special 3D-printed nickel alloy parts help distribute the heat within the instrument, while superlight insulation called aerogel minimizes the power needed to keep it at operating temperatures. The outside of MOXIE is coated in a thin layer of gold, which is an excellent reflector of infrared heat and keeps those blistering temperatures from radiating into other parts of Perseverance.

“MOXIE is designed to make about 6 to 10 grams of oxygen per hour – just about enough for a small dog to breathe,” said Asad Aboobaker, a MOXIE systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “A full-scale system geared to make (propellant for the flight home) would need to scale up oxygen production by about 200 times what MOXIE will create.”

[embedded content]

Could NASA’s MOXIE Help Astronauts Breathe on Mars? MOXIE engineer Asad Aboobaker of JPL explains how the instrument works in this video interview. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download video ›

The Future Martians

Hecht estimates that a full-scale MOXIE system on Mars might be a bit larger than a household stove and weigh around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) – almost as much as Perseverance itself. Work is ongoing to develop a prototype for one in the near future.

The team expects to run MOXIE about 10 times over the course of one Mars year (two Earth years), allowing them to watch how well it works in varying seasons. The results will inform the design of future oxygen generators.

“The commitment to developing MOXIE shows that NASA is serious about this,” Hecht said. “MOXIE isn’t the complete answer, but it’s a critical piece of it. If successful, it will show that future astronauts can rely on this technology to help get them home safely from Mars.”

More About the Mission

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA (the European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:

News Media Contacts
Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Alana Johnson / Grey Hautaluoma
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-672-4780 / 202-358-0668 /

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