NASA Spacecraft Likely To Collide A Small Moonlet In 2022

The US space agency NASA on Monday revealed details about its plan to hit a small moonlet target in a double asteroid system with a spacecraft in 2022. This will be its first mission to demonstrate a planetary defence technique.

The asteroid, called Didymoon or Didymos B, is a moon asteroid around 150 meters tall orbiting a larger body Didymos A, the most accessible asteroid of its size from the Earth, the Xinhua news agency reported.

An international campaign is now making observations using powerful telescopes worldwide to understand the state of the asteroid system.

“The Didymos system is too small and too far to be seen as anything more than a point of light, but we can get the data we need by measuring the brightness of that point of light, which changes as Didymos A rotates and Didymos B orbits,” said Andy Rivkin, a co-lead of the investigation team.

Researchers are still not sure about the target’s composition: whether it is composed of solid rock, loose rubble or “softer” sand. A softer surface would absorb much of the impact force and may not be pushed as drastically as if a spacecraft hit a harder surface.

But the NASA team will eventually see the asteroid system close-up thanks to an Italian-made imager. The shoebox-sized cube satellite will record the spacecraft’s impact and its aftermath.

The spacecraft called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will carry an optical navigation system to capture images that help the spacecraft reach its target.

NASA Scientists Create Ocean- Like Conditions For Study, Can Offer Clues Of Life Origin

NASA scientists have made an excellent attempt and reproduced deep ocean like conditions in the lab to re-create life that could have formed on the sea floor four billion years ago.

The study focuses on the way building blocks of life form hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. This could offer clues as to how life started on Earth and where else in the space can life be found. 

Hydrothermal vents are places on the seafloor where warm water from under the Earth’s crust mixes with near-freezing seawater. These vents form natural chimneys, which play host to all kinds of ocean life.

The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California made their own miniature sea floors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean.

These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it.

“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said lead investigator astrobiologist Laurie Barge, at JPL.

“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” added co- author Erika Flores, from the JPL.

This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments.

Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts.

Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 

“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”

NASA Scientists Develop New DNA- Like Structure, Can Lead To Finding Alien Life

NASA scientists have developed a new DNA- like structure which can store and transmit information.

This DNA can also lead to new methods of finding alien life. 

The breakthrough discovery suggests there might be alternative, unimagined forms of DNA-based life as we know it on Earth. Life on other worlds might be built using different molecular systems of the kind the researchers developed in the lab, Nasa experts have suggested.

The new molecular system will allow scientists who are looking for life elsewhere in the universe to re-think what they are actually looking for, researchers said.

DNA is a complex molecule that allows the genetic information that makes us who we are to be stored and then transmitted. That information is passed from parent to offspring in every living thing on Earth, and allows life to grow and thrive.

It is made up of four different ingredients, which scientists refer to as nucleotide and are common across all life on our planet. But they might vary elsewhere in the universe, the new research suggests.

Imagining forms of life that might use different structures – and developing ways of detecting them – is a central part of Nasa’s work. The new project that has not only envisioned but created such a molecule.

“Life detection is an increasingly important goal of NASA’s planetary science missions, and this new work will help us to develop effective instruments and experiments that will expand the scope of what we look for,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

The new research saw scientists create a new kind of molecule system that functions like DNA, but has an important difference. Instead of the usual four ingredients, it contains eight.

It has all of the four that are found in life on Earth: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. But it has four extra, synthetic ones, that mimic the structures of the ingredients found in regular DNA.

The researchers call the new creation “hachimoji” DNA – hachi means eight in Japanese, and moji means letter. It functions the same as our DNA, meeting the same requirements that allow it to store and transmit information.

That has meant that the kinds of molecules that might be storing information in life on alien worlds could be similarly different. It suggests that life could structure itself in different ways than it does on Earth, at the most fundamental level – meaning that environments Earth-bound life could never live in might be teeming with unimagined life forms.

“Incorporating a broader understanding of what is possible in our instrument design and mission concepts will result in a more inclusive and, therefore, more effective search for life beyond Earth,” said Mary Voytek, senior scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters.

Green Signal For SpaceX Test Flight By NASA

NASA gave an approval of a final- go to Elon Musk’s SpaceX company on Friday to carry out its first unmanned test flight of a newly designed crew capsule to the International Space Station on March 2.

The approval cleared a key hurdle for SpaceX in its quest to help NASA revive America’s human spaceflight program, stalled since space shuttle missions came to an end in 2011.

NASA has awarded SpaceX USD 2.6 billion, and aerospace rival Boeing Co USD 4.2 billion to build separate rocket and capsule launch systems to carry US astronauts to and from the space station, an orbital research laboratory that flies 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.

“Following a full day of briefings and discussion, NASA and SpaceX are proceeding with plans to conduct the first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon on a mission to the International Space Station,” NASA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Bill Anders Ridiculed Mars Mission

Bill Anders’ comment came as Nasa prepares new human missions to the Moon. It also wants to learn the skills and develop the technology to enable a future human landing on Mars. Nasa was approached for a response to Anders’ comments, but has not responded. “What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” he said, adding “I don’t think the public is that interested”.

Bill Anders, one of the first men to orbit the Moon has that it is “stupid” to plan human missions to Mars. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Anders, lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit, said sending crews to Mars was “almost ridiculous”.

Bill Anders Claims NASA’s Mars Mission Is Ridiculous

An American astronaut who was on board the Apollo 8 manned spaceflight mission to the moon in 1968, claimed that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s quest to send a human crew to Mars is ridiculous. Bill Anders, 85, said that he is a big supporter of the unmanned missions to the planet, but told media that there is no public support for an expensive manned mission.

Bill Anders, who was on board the Apollo 8 mission to the moon in 1968, said there is no public support for an expensive manned journey to the Red Planet.

“What’s the imperative?” he asked. “What’s pushing us to go to Mars? I don’t think the public is that interested.” NASA hopes that the planned manned missions to the planet will help human beings learn skills and develop technology to enable a future landing of many people.

The 1968 Apollo 8 flight was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit. However, Anders alleged that the present-day NASA has turned into a “jobs programme”. “NASA couldn’t get to the moon today,” he said. “They’re so ossified… NASA has turned into a jobs programme… many of the centres are mainly interested in keeping busy and you don’t see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their Congressmen get re-elected.”

Anders’ Apollo 8 colleague Frank Borman, who commanded the mission, however, told BBC that the solar system needs “robust exploration”. But he expressed skepticism about the plans of Space X founder Elon Musk and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to send private missions to Mars. “Musk and Bezos, they’re talking about putting colonies on Mars, that’s nonsense,” he said.

On November 26, NASA’s InSight unmanned space probe landed successfully on Mars, and began to photograph the Red Planet’s landscape. The probe will study the interiors of the planet during a two-year mission.

Roscosmos Has Detected a Manufacturing Defect in Russian Soyuz Capsule

Roscosmos has ruled out a manufacturing defect causing the 2 mm-wide hole found in August on the Russian Soyuz capsule, but NASA has sought to dampen speculation of sabotage.

Two Russian cosmonauts have taken samples of their capsule’s exterior in the sixth hour of a spacewalk seeking to resolve the mystery of a small hole found in the craft docked at the International Space Station, a live broadcast by Russian space agency Roscosmos showed early on Wednesday.

The puncture has since been sealed, halting the oxygen leak. Officials said the crew – three US astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one German – were never in danger.

Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev’s spacewalk, originally expected to last for six hours, began at 1600 GMT on Tuesday.

After more than five hours of a rare broadcast – showing the cosmonauts in space trying to cut through an insulate of the spacecraft with a knife – they uncovered the external part of the hole, originally discovered in the capsule’s internal covering, and took samples of the exterior insulation.

In line with the instructions from the control center, they also took pictures of the external side of the hole.

“It is time to go home,” a voice from the control center said shortly before the cosmonauts started moving back toward the space station.

Elon Musk meets with NASA on SpaceX launch; key to flying Astronauts

Elon Musk met with a high-level NASA official about an upcoming launch that’s key to SpaceX becoming the first company flying astronauts for the U.S. agency.

Musk met with Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, in Washington on Thursday. The two discussed SpaceX’s Demo-1 launch slated for January, NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers wrote in an email.

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Boeing Co. have contracts to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of what’s known as the Commercial Crew program. The agency’s latest schedule has SpaceX’s first uncrewed demonstration flight on Jan. 7, and the first flight with astronauts on board in June, though timelines often slip.

Representatives for SpaceX didn’t respond to request for comment on the meeting.

NASA said in an email last month that it would conduct a “cultural assessment study” with its commercial partners to ensure that they’re meeting the agency’s requirements for workplace safety, including “adherence to a drug-free environment.” The statement followed a Washington Post report that said NASA ordered a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing after Musk smoked marijuana during a podcast interview in September.

NASA awarded both companies a combined $6.8 billion in contracts in September 2014 to revive America’s ability to fly to the space station without buying seats on Russian Soyuz capsules.

NASA probe reaches giant Asteroid which may slam into Earth 166 years from now

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) deep space probe has reached an asteroid which has a potential to collide with Earth. Nasa’s deep space explorer called Osiris-Rex, short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, flew On Monday (December 3) to a skyscraper-sized asteroid believed to hold organic compounds that are fundamental to life.

OSIRIS-REX

Nasa’s deep space probe Osiris-Rex was launched in September 2016. Osiris-Rex in 2016 embarked on a never done before mission. The seven-year mission involved a close-up survey of the asteroid Bennu and collection of sample from Bennu’s surface and return to Earth for study.

ASTEROID BENNU

Bennu is a rocky mass which is roughly a third of a mile wide and shaped like a massive oaknut. It orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. The asteroid is thought to be rich in carbon-based organic molecules that date back to the earliest days of the solar system.

It is believed that on this asteroid, water which is another vital component to the evolution of life may also be trapped in the asteroid’s minerals.

ASTEROIDS COLLIDING WITH EARTH

The boffins believe that asteroids and comets when crashed into early Earth delivered organic compounds and water that seeded planet for life; atomic-level analyses of samples from Bennu could help prove that theory

WHY STUDY BENNU?

Now on Earth, we don’t entertain things that harm us. That’s a general behaviour of Earthlings. But, like the existential virtuoso Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” So, there are scientists who have more existential reason to study Bennu.

Let’s start with destruction; scientists estimate there is a one-in-2,700 chance of the asteroid slamming catastrophically into Earth 166 years from now.

That probability ranks Bennu No 2 on Nasa’s catalogue of 72 near-Earth objects potentially capable of hitting the planet.

BENNU’S COLLISION WITH EARTH

Osiris-Rex will help scientists understand how heat radiated from the sun is gently steering Bennu on an increasingly menacing course through the solar system. That solar energy is believed to be nudging the asteroid ever closer toward Earth’s path each time the asteroid makes its closest approach to our planet every six years.

“By the time we collect the sample in 2020 we will have a much better idea of the probability that Bennu would impact Earth in the next 150 years,” Reuters quoted mission spokeswoman Erin Morton as saying.

Scientists have estimated that in 2135 Bennu could pass closer to Earth than the moon, which orbits at a distance of about 4,02,336 km, and possibly come closer still some time between 2175 and 2195.

OSIRIS-REX AND BENNU

Osiris-Rex reached the “preliminary survey” phase of its mission on Monday, soaring to within 12 miles of the asteroid. The spacecraft will pass just 1.2 miles from Bennu in late December, where it will enter the object’s gravitational pull.

Reuters reported that from that stage, the spacecraft will begin gradually tightening its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet of its surface. Osiris-Rex will then extend its robot arm to snatch a sample of Bennu’s terrain in a “touch-and-go” maneuver set for July 2020.

Osiris-Rex will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert, US in September 2023.

BRUTE FORCE VS EARTH-BOUND ASTEROIDS

NASA is developing a strategy for deflecting Bennu, or any other asteroid found to be on a collision course with Earth, by use of a special spacecraft to slam into the object hard enough to nudge it onto a safer path, Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer with Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate, said.

“But this is all dependent on the outcome of a very close approach that Bennu has with Earth in September 2135,” Johnson said.