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.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex Probe reaches Asteroid Bennu

NASA’s deep space explorer Osiris-Rex flew on December 3 reaches within a dozen miles of its destination, a skyscraper-sized asteroid believed to hold organic compounds fundamental to life as well as the potential to collide with Earth in about 150 years.

Launched in September 2016,Osiris-Rex embarked on NASA’s unprecedented seven-year mission to conduct a close-up survey of the asteroid Bennu, collect a sample from its surface and return that material to Earth for study.

Bennu, a rocky mass roughly a third of a mile wide and shaped like a giant acorn, orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth and is thought to be rich in carbon-based organic molecules dating back to the earliest days of the solar system.

Water, another vital component to the evolution of life, may also be trapped in the asteroid’s minerals.

Scientists believe that asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could help prove that theory.

But there is another, more existential reason to study Bennu.

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 catalog of 72 near-Earth objects potentially capable of hitting the planet.

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,” mission spokeswoman Erin Morton said.

Scientists have estimated that in 2135 Bennu could pass closer to Earth than the moon, which orbits at a distance of about 250,000 miles, and possibly come closer still some time between 2175 and 2195.

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.

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 in September 2023.

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, said Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“But this is all dependent on the outcome of a very close approach that Bennu has with Earth in September 2135,” Johnson said. “We‘ll just need to wait and see. Rather, our great-great-grandchildren will need to see.”

Private companies, not NASA, to carry out next US moon landing program

NASA on 30 November named nine US companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp, that will compete for funding under the space agency’s renewed long-term moon program, a private-public undertaking to develop technology that will explore the lunar surface.

The companies, some which will develop small launch vehicles and robotic rovers over the next 10 years, will vie for a chunk of the $2.6 billion under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

As soon as 2022, NASA expects to begin construction on a new space station laboratory that will orbit the moon and act as a pit stop for missions to deeper parts of our solar system, such as Mars.

“When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the earth and the moon,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a news briefing on Thursday.

“Lunar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019,” NASA said in an earlier news release.

In addition to Lockheed Martin, NASA selected Draper, which developed computers for the Apollo missions, Astrobotic Technology Inc, Firefly Aerospace Inc, Moon Express and four others to potentially develop equipment for the program.

NASA to partner with 9 US Companies to make Lunar Robotic payloads

US-based space agency NASA on Thursday announced nine commercial American companies in a partnership to develop lunar robotic landers in the coming decade.

NASA would buy space on commercial robotic landers to deliver payloads to the lunar surface, missions that could start as early as next year, Xinhua news agency reported.

Those companies are eligible for competing for NASA’s contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.

“The relatively small and inexpensive payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

CLPS stands for Commercial Lunar Payload Services. It is an experimental part of the agency’s plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s.

“These early commercial delivery missions will also help inform new space systems we build to send humans to the Moon in the next decade,” said NASA.

Those companies are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.

Orbit Beyond, a spacecraft company, is expected to fly its spacecraft to the Moon by 2020.

Masten Space Systems has a fleet of lunar landers that it plans to send to the Moon in 2021 while Moon Express also also has a host of landers that vary in size and capability.

Astrobotic Technology has built a lander called Peregrine, and have obtained backing from NASA to create a standalone system to land on the moon.

Lockheed Martin is planning for a massive lander that could ferry four astronauts from the Lunar Gateway to the moon, while Deep Space Systems is an aerospace engineering company developing the Mars Phoenix lander.

Firefly Aerospace designs, manufactures and operates launch vehicles for the small satellite and Draper works to provide payload operations guidance systems for the lunar lander.

Intuitive Machines, based in the state of Texas, specializes in autonomous systems.

Bridenstine said it was not a “guarantee” that all those missions would be successful, but even failed ones would be equally important.

NASA sets eyes on Moon, To announce Partnership with US Companies

Post the historic InSight touchdown on Mars, NASA is now set to focus on Moon mission by announcing new partnerships with American companies, the US space agency said.

Working with US companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are announcing new Moon partnerships with American companies… The US is returning to the surface of the Moon, and we’re doing it sooner than you think!” Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator tweeted.

The agency will reveal details about its endeavour to return to the moon at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

NASA will unveil the names of future partners chosen to send astronauts back to the Moon, for the first time in nearly five decades.

Known as the “Moon to Mars” project, NASA will lead an innovative and sustainable exploration of the Moon together with commercial and international partners.

The initiative falls under the Space Policy Directive-1, signed by US President Donald Trump in December 2017.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space programme on human exploration and discovery. It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use,” Trump had said.

“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond.”

NASA InSight Landing: Research on Mars to teach us more about Earth

NASA’s Mars InSight lander, due to arrive on the Red planet’s surface on Monday night, may teach us more about Earth. It is going to use seismometers to study the planet’s interior so we can learn more about how it formed and why it’s so different from Earth, BBC reported on Sunday.

In less than two days, NASA is landing on Mars with NASA InSight! Thank you to the NASA workforce… Let’s get this done and start the next phase!, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Saturday.

InSight will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometres per hour (kph) and slow down to eight kph — about human jogging speed — before its three legs touch down on Martian soil.

That extreme deceleration has to happen in just under seven minutes.

“There’s a reason engineers call landing on Mars ‘seven minutes of terror’,” Rob Grover, InSight’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) lead, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has said in a statement.

“We can’t joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-programme into the spacecraft. We’ve spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us.

“And we’re going to stay vigilant till InSight settles into its home in the Elysium Planitia region,” Grover said.

Launched on May 5, Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander marks NASA’s first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012.

The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars’ deep interior. Its data will also help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own.

About 80 live viewing events for the public to watch the InSight landing will take place around the world. It will be at 1.30 am on Tuesday in India.

People from around the world will be able to watch the event live on NASA Television, the agency’s website and social media platforms, including on YouTube.

NASA: SpaceX Crew Rocket set to Launch on 7 January

The launch test is a crucial milestone in the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to launch humans to space from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration said SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft – which will shuttle three astronauts to space from the same launch pad that sent Apollo 11’s three-man crew to the moon in 1969 – will make its debut flight atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on January 7.

While NASA did not detail the flight path, it said the test would provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9, Crew Dragon capsule, and ground systems, as well as on-orbit, docking and landing operations.

SpaceX and Boeing Co are the two main contractors selected under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to send astronauts to space as soon as 2019, using their Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft respectively.

Since the U.S. space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station, a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.

The Demo-1 launch is the latest test in a rigorous certification timeline imposed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. While SpaceX is targeting early January, NASA spokeswoman Marie Lewis said the demo mission could be pushed back because “flying safely has always taken precedence over schedule.”

Founded by Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk, SpaceX said if the January 7 test is successful, it plans to launch its first crewed mission in June 2019, but the timeline may shift.

Boeing plans a similar test launch of the Starliner spacecraft atop its Atlas 5 rocket as soon as March, with a crewed mission following in August.

The Jan. 7 launch date announcement comes a day after NASA said it would conduct a “cultural assessment study” of the companies, “including the adherence to a drug-free environment,” prior to crew test flights.