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VIDEO: NASA’s asteroid hunter Lucy soars into sky with diamonds – Abbotsford News

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A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter’s orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.

An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). Researchers grew emotional describing the successful launch — lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a child. “Go Lucy!” he urged.

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members’ lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments.

In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited for writing the song that inspired all this.

“I’m so excited — Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

The paleoanthropologist behind the fossil Lucy discovery, Donald Johanson, had goose bumps watching Lucy soar — “I will never look at Jupiter the same … absolutely mind-expanding.” He said he was filled with wonder about this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”

“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago stimulated a mission which promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, of Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral for his first rocket launch.

Lucy’s $981 million mission is the first to aim for Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands — if not millions — of asteroids that share the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the sun. Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others trail it.

Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and mostly scattered far from each other. So there’s essentially zero chance of Lucy getting clobbered by one as it swoops past its targets, said Levison of Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s principal scientist.

Lucy will swing past Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oomph to make it all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft will zip past asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a 2025 warm-up act for the science instruments.

Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase down five asteroids in the leading pack of Trojans in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then zoom back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2030. That will send Lucy back out to the trailing Trojan cluster, where it will zip past the final two targets in 2033 for a record-setting eight asteroids visited in a single mission.

It’s a complicated, circuitous path that had NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, shaking his head at first. “You’ve got to be kidding. This is possible?” he recalled asking.

Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the biggest one is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) across.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’re going to be surprised,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Weaver, who’s in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But we can hardly wait to see what … images will reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”

NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit — practice in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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NASA astronauts complete ISS spacewalk after debris scare – TRT World

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The spacewalk, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was postponed after NASA received a “debris notification” for the orbital outpost.

Last month, Russia destroyed an old satellite in a missile test, sending pieces everywhere.
(Reuters)

Two NASA astronauts have completed the 13th spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) this year, days after the event was postponed over a debris risk.

Astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron headed outside the space laboratory on Thursday, replacing a faulty antenna and restoring its capability, the agency said.

“It was awesome!” Barron said after completing her first spacewalk, according to a tweet NASA posted.

The duo also “did some get-ahead tasks for future spacewalks,” the US agency said, adding that the astronauts returned to the station after six hours and 32 minutes.

The spacewalk, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was postponed after NASA received a “debris notification” for the orbital outpost.

READ MORE: What is ‘space junk’ and what are we doing about it?

In a subsequent statement, the agency said Houston experts were assessing a fresh risk from orbital rocket debris that may pass close to the ISS on Friday.

“Mission Control is working with NASA’s international partners to prepare for a possible debris avoidance maneuver,” they said.

NASA footage showed Marshburn catching a ride on the robotic arm to move around the ISS before getting to work on the antenna.

Decades of continued human presence

The spacewalk was the fifth for the astronaut, a doctor who flew aboard a Space Shuttle in 2009 and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in a mission from 2012-13.

Barron, who was selected for the NASA astronaut corps in 2017, previously served as a submarine warfare officer for the US Navy. 

The pair arrived at the ISS on November 11 aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance with NASA’s Crew-3 mission for a six-month stay.

READ MORE: SpaceX returns ISS astronauts to Earth after 200-day flight

The ISS marked 21 years of continuous human presence this month, NASA said on its website.

During that period, they said, it had hosted 249 people from 19 nations who had taken part in thousands of research projects.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Government intervention needed to save endangered night sky, says scientist – CBC.ca

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Samantha Lawler lives in the small village of Edenwold, Sask. It’s “a place that’s so dark that I can walk out my back door and see the Milky Way,” she said.

But that deep darkness won’t last, as companies like SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper proceed with plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites into orbit, forming “mega-constellations” of satellites.

She knows exactly what that could look like, because she’s been working on simulations of satellites in the night sky.

“Every night I can see probably a few satellites in a few-minute period. And I know that’s going to increase a lot,” Lawler, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Her model relies on the planned or actual orbits of 65,000 satellites from four major companies: Starlink, Project Kuiper, OneWeb and StarNet/GW. The majority of these satellites have not yet been launched, but there are already nearly 4,000 operational satellites in orbit, Lawler noted.

According to our simulations, which take into account the brightness of satellites reflecting sunlight and the orbits that these companies want to use, I predict that there will be a couple of hundred satellites visible at any time during the summer in my night sky and within a couple hours of sunrise and sunset all year long,” she said.

The companies filed plans with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecommunications Union that detail the angles of the orbits and how many satellites would be on each orbit. As a result, Lawler and her colleagues are able to predict where the satellites will be in the sky as viewed from different locations on Earth at different times of year, and estimate how much light they’ll reflect.

They relied on observations of existing Skylink satellites at the Plaskett Telescope in Victoria, B.C. to help calibrate their model.

Samantha Lawler says that people living close to 50 degrees north will be most affected by plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites into space in the next few years. (Campion College, University of Regina/Submitted by Samantha Lawler )

“We really wanted to make sure that our model is applicable to Canada. We want to know what’s going to happen to our skies,” she said.

According to her research, people living along 50 degrees of latitude north and south will be most affected by visible satellites and other night sky light pollution. The north latitude line runs across some Canadian cities including Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary.

If 65,000 satellites are launched into space and the industry isn’t regulated, the could drown out the light from actual stars, of which we can usually only see a few thousand with the naked eye, she said.

“If you have a couple hundred satellites [visible] at all times, that means that one out of every 15 points in the sky will actually be moving. It’ll be very disorienting,” said Lawler. 

Making satellites fainter

So many moving visible satellites pose enormous challenges for research, to say nothing of the amount of pollution they’ll cause, said Lawler.

Some of them “will completely die in orbit and then they’ll just become space junk,” while others will burn up in the upper atmosphere, she explained. She noted that they’re mostly made of aluminum, and that we have no information on what such a large increase of burning aluminum will do the upper atmosphere.

WATCH | What a future with a sky full of satellite mega-constellations could look like

[embedded content]

Lawler said that instead of launching their own satellites to support their respective internet services, companies should be forced to share infrastructure, whether by government action or other forms of regulation. Failing that, they could at least be forced to ensure their devices don’t reflect so much light.

There are fantastic engineers who work for all of these companies, but right now they have absolutely no incentive to make their satellites fainter, so they’re not doing it,” said Lawler. “Starlink, to their credit, has tried. They put a tiny bit of effort into making their satellites a little bit fainter, but they’re still very much naked-eye visible.”

Lawler says that governments must push forward legislation at a federal level, but she also notes that consumers do have some power.

“If you have another option for good internet, don’t buy satellite internet. If … satellite internet is the only the only option that you have, tell your company, tell your provider that you care about the night sky, that it’s important to you that they put effort into engineering their satellites to be fainter,” she said.

She also notes that putting pressure on local governments can be effective too.

A lot of the lack of internet infrastructure in rural places is from many years of neglect by local governments, by provincial governments. If we pressure our governments into investing more in alternate forms of … internet [access], then there wouldn’t be so much demand for this.”


Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. 

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Spacewalking astronauts replace antenna after debris scare – Phys.Org

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This photo provided by NASA shows astronaut Tom Marshburn replaces a broken antenna outside the International Space Station after getting NASA’s all-clear for orbiting debris, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Marshburn and Kayla Barron completed the job Thursday. Credit: NASA via AP

Spacewalking astronauts replaced a broken antenna outside the International Space Station on Thursday after getting NASA’s all-clear for orbiting debris.

U.S. astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron were supposed to complete the job Tuesday, but NASA delayed the spacewalk because of potentially threatening space junk. NASA later determined the astronauts were safe to go out, despite a slightly increased risk of a punctured suit from satellite wreckage.

But soon after the spacewalk ended, Mission Control notified the crew that the station would need to move into a slightly lower orbit Friday to avoid an old U.S. rocket fragment.

Last month, Russia destroyed an old satellite in a missile test, sending pieces everywhere. NASA isn’t saying whether that event was the source of the junk that delayed the spacewalk.

During the first National Space Council meeting under Vice President Kamala Harris this week, top U.S. government officials joined her in condemning Russia’s extensive debris-scattering last month. More than 1,700 sizable pieces of the shattered satellite are being tracked, with tens if not hundreds of thousands too small to see.

Barron reported at least 11 small debris strikes to the failed antenna that was removed during the spacewalk, with some of the holes looking old. The device—up there for more than 20 years—malfunctioned in September.

Marshburn, 61, became the oldest person to conduct a spacewalk. It was the fourth of his career. Barron, a 34-year-old space rookie, ventured out on her first. They flew up on SpaceX last month for a six-month stay. Two other Americans are aboard the space station, along with two Russians and one German.


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Space junk forces spacewalk delay, too risky for astronauts


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