DLR, Partners Launch NEOShield to Protect Earth

Credit: DLR

DLR PR —  It is not entirely clear when exactly the last major asteroid impact on Earth occurred. But there are plenty of examples of impact craters, such as the Nördlinger Ries in Bavaria. That there will be other collisions in the future is something of which Alan Harris, asteroid researcher at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), is certain. Over the next three and a half years, he will be heading the NEOShield (Near Earth Object Shield) international collaboration, established in January 2012. In total, 13 partners from research institutions and industry will jointly investigate the prevention of impacts by asteroids and comets. The investigations will include the impact of a space probe with the asteroids to deflect them from their threatening courses. The European Union is supporting the project with four million Euros. The partners are contributing another 1.8 million Euros.

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Groups Make Progress on Protecting Earth From Asteroids

From top to bottom, pictured (not to scale) are the moon, Venus, and an asteroid.

SWF PR — A workshop has brought together leading representatives from space agencies and international experts to discuss key issues related to global response and cooperation in the event of a Near Earth Object (NEO) impact threat to Earth.

The gathering of specialists took place August 25-26 in Pasadena, California. The meeting was co-organized and co-sponsored by Action Team-14, part of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, Secure World Foundation (SWF), and the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) that represents over 350 individuals from 35 nations who have flown in space.

The supporting agency host of the meeting was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Near Earth Object Observations Program Office.

This recent workshop is a follow-up to previous meetings that took place last year in Mexico City to discuss a NEO Information, Analysis, and Warning Network (IAWN) and in Darmstadt, Germany to confer about a NEO Mission Planning and Operations Group, or MPOG, to plan, organize, and conduct any necessary missions to threatening asteroids.

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NASA to Launch Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Conceptual image of OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA PR — NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system’s formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

“This is a critical step in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit and explore into deep space,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s robotic missions like these that will pave the way for future human space missions to an asteroid and other deep space destinations.”

NASA selected OSIRIS-REx after reviewing three concept study reports for new scientific missions, which also included a sample return mission from the far side of the Moon and a mission to the surface of Venus.

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Republicans Repeal Asteroid Defense Bill, Earth Doomed

Asteroid Ida

Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth
The Onion

In a strong rebuke of President Obama and his domestic agenda, all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year to destroy the immense asteroid currently hurtling toward Earth.

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Stardust Finds Human-made Scar on Comet Tempel 1

This pair of images shows the before-and-after comparison of the part of comet Tempel 1 that was hit by the impactor from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

NASA’s Stardust spacecraft returned new images of a comet showing a scar resulting from the 2005 Deep Impact mission. The images also showed the comet has a fragile and weak nucleus.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:40 p.m. PST (11:40 p.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 178 kilometers (111 miles). Stardust took 72 high-resolution images of the comet. It also accumulated 468 kilobytes of data about the dust in its coma, the cloud that is a comet’s atmosphere. The craft is on its second mission of exploration called Stardust-NExT, having completed its prime mission collecting cometary particles and returning them to Earth in 2006.

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Stardust-NExT Flies By a Comet

Comet Tempel 1 as Seen by NASA’s Stardust

NASA’s Stardust-NExT mission took this image of comet Tempel 1 at 8:39 p.m. PST (11:39 p.m. EST) on Feb 14, 2011. The comet was first visited by NASA’s Deep Impact mission in 2005.

Stardust-NExT is a low-cost mission that will expand the investigation of comet Tempel 1 initiated by NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Stardust-NExT for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Joe Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is the mission’s principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.

For more information about Stardust-NExT, please visit http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov.

NASA Spacecraft to Fly By Comet Tonight

NASA’s Stardust-NExT mission spacecraft will fly by comet Tempel 1 on Monday evening. Live coverage on NASA TV and via the Internet begins at 8:30 p.m. PST (11:30 p.m. EST) from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Coverage also will include segments from the Lockheed Martin Space System’s mission support area in Denver.

The closest approach is expected tonight at approximately 8:40 p.m. PST (11:40 p.m. EST).

The mission team expects to begin receiving images on the ground starting at around midnight PST (3 a.m. on Feb. 15 EST). Transmission of each image will take about 15 minutes. It will take about 10 hours to complete the transmission of all images and science data aboard the spacecraft.

For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .

The live coverage and news conference will also be carried on one of JPL’s Ustream channels. During events, viewers can take part in a real-time chat and submit questions to the Stardust-NExT team at: http://www.ustream.tv/user/NASAJPL2 .

A post-flyby news conference is planned on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST).

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International Asteroid Symposium Set for April

Asteroid Ida

International Symposium on Asteroid Mitigation and Exploration
Texas A&M University — College Station
April 4-6, 2011
http://aeweb.tamu.edu/isam/index.php

The International Symposium on Asteroid Mitigation and Exploration, to be held in College Station, Texas, will bring together an international community of researchers and practitioners to discuss new research results, mitigation and exploration strategies, international collaboration, and public awareness. In additional to presentations from attendees, a round table will be held to discuss future international cooperation, public awareness, and public policy statements.

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Energia Wants to Spend $1.9 Billion on Orbital Pod to Clean Up Space Debris

Some interesting news via the Chinese Xinhua news agency that RSC Energia plans to build a nuclear-power “orbital pod” to clean up space debris. The details include:

  • cost: 600 billion rubles ($1.9 billion USD)
  • cleanup 600 satellites by dropping them in the ocean over 10 years
  • begin operations by 2023
  • 15 year lifespan.

The report also indicates that Energia has been developing plans for a “space interceptor designed to destroy dangerous space objects heading toward the Earth.” These presumably would be near Earth objects.

As with many Russian projects, it’s not clear if there is money available or this is a proposal looking for funding.

NASA’s EPOXI Spacecraft Flew Through Cosmic Snow Storm

NASA MISSION UPDATE

The EPOXI mission’s recent encounter with comet Hartley 2 provided the first images clear enough for scientists to link jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. NASA and other scientists have begun to analyze the images.

The EPOXI mission spacecraft revealed a cometary snow storm created by carbon dioxide jets spewing out tons of golf-ball to basketball-sized fluffy ice particles from the peanut-shaped comet’s rocky ends. At the same time, a different process was causing water vapor to escape from the comet’s smooth mid-section. This information sheds new light on the nature of comets and even planets.

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NASA, Roscosmos Discuss Cooperation on Lunar, Asteroid Missions and Nuclear Propulsion

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov

Roscosmos and NASA Negotiate Missions to Distant Space
Roscosmos PAO

Space agencies of Russia and US, Roscosmos and NASA, discuss space missions to distant space, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated at the summit of the space agency heads held under the aegis of International Academy of Astronautics in Washington.

Perminov and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who both lead Space Cooperation Working Group in the framework of the Russian-US President Commission, met in Washington to hold the third meeting of the Working Group.

According to Roscosmos Head, Russian proposals concerning future cooperation “had been submitted to NASA”. The list includes different options, including missions to LLO and asteroids. The agenda also covered future cooperation in the Russia-initiated Mercury landing program and development of a nuclear propulsion system.

Nuclear propulsion systems are considered for large-scale human missions, not for small spacecraft which could use other type of propulsion – ionic engines or solar wind energy. The system is unique, as no other propulsion in the world is made on the basis of similar principles.

Hayabusa Brought Back Particles From Asteroid Itokawa

JAXA PRESS RELEASE

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been engaged in collecting and categorizing particles in the sampler container* that were brought back by the instrumental module of the asteroid exploration spacecraft “Hayabusa.”

Based on the results of the scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations and analyses of samples that were collected with a special spatula from sample catcher compartment “A”, about 1,500 grains were identified as rocky particles, and most of them were judged to be of extraterrestrial origin, and definitely from Asteroid Itokawa.

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