NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following a thorough evaluation, NASA has extended the planetary science missions of eight of its spacecraft due to their scientific productivity and potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The missions – Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, OSIRIS-REx, and New Horizons – have been selected for continuation, assuming their spacecraft remain healthy. Most of the missions will be extended for three years; however, OSIRIS-REx will be continued for nine years in order to reach a new destination, and InSight will be continued until the end of 2022, unless the spacecraft’s electrical power allows for longer operations.

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NASA Gives Green Light for OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft to Visit Another Asteroid

The extended mission, dubbed OSIRIS-APEX, will study the near-Earth asteroid Apophis, which will have a close encounter with Earth in 2029.

This is an artist’s illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft firing thrusters near the surface of the asteroid Apophis.( Credit: Heather Roper)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will swing by Earth to deliver a sample from asteroid Bennu on Sept. 24, 2023. But it won’t clock out after that. 

NASA has extended the University of Arizona-led mission, which will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX, to study near-Earth asteroid Apophis for 18 months. Apophis will make a close approach to Earth in 2029. 

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AFRL/AFOSR Conducts Successful Rocket Launch at NASA Wallops for Hypersonic Research

AFRL/AFOSR BOLT II Rocket launching from NASA/Wallops Flight Facility on March 21, 2022. (Credit: NASA/Wallops/Brian Bonsteel)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL PR) – The BOLT II “In memory of Mike Holden” flight experiment, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFRL/AFOSR), launched on the evening of March 21 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Dr. Michael Holden, who, up until his passing in 2019, had been a leader in the hypersonics field since the 1960s. The flight experiment successfully flew the planned flight path and acquired tremendous scientific data to further our understanding of boundary layer transition, turbulent heating, and drag at hypersonic conditions.

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NASA, FEMA, Other U.S. Partners Simulate Asteroid Impact Response

Credits: NASA

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — This past month, NASA, FEMA, the United States Space Command, and other federal, state and local agencies convened for the fourth iteration of a Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise to inform and assess our nation’s ability to respond effectively to a (simulated) asteroid impact threat to Earth. While there are no predicted asteroid impact threats to our planet for the foreseeable future, this exercise—sponsored by NASA and FEMA and hosted by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland—focused extensively on federal and state government coordination that would be necessary to respond to such a threat should one ever be discovered.

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UArizona Students Confirm Errant Rocket’s Chinese Origins and Track Lunar Collision Course

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — The presumed SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster that’s on a course to hit the moon March 4 is actually a Chinese booster from a rocket launch in 2014, a University of Arizona team has confirmed.

UArizona students in the university’s Space Domain Awareness lab at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory have had their eyes on the piece of space junk for weeks as they studied its rotation. They have been gathering other data as well, which they used to confirm its Chinese origin.

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NASA Asteroid Tracking System Now Capable of Full Sky Search

From left to right: Sutherland ATLAS station during construction in South Africa. Credit: Willie Koorts (SAAO); Chilean engineers and astronomers installing the ATLAS telescope at El Sauce Observatory. Credit: University of Hawaii; Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben; Illustration of the NEO Surveyor spacecraft.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)—a state-of-the-art asteroid detection system operated by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Institute for Astronomy (IfA) for the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)—has reached a new milestone by becoming the first survey capable of searching the entire dark sky every 24 hours for near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could pose a future impact hazard to Earth. Now comprised of four telescopes, ATLAS has expanded its reach to the southern hemisphere from the two existing northern-hemisphere telescopes on Haleakalā and Maunaloa in Hawai’i to include two additional observatories in South Africa and Chile. 

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Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Two Small Satellites for NASA Astrophysics Pioneers Program

Artist’s conception of the NASA StarBurst astrophysics mission. (Credit: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, 25 January 2022 (SFL PR) – Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) will develop two small spacecraft for the new NASA Astrophysics Pioneers Program. SFL will provide the spacecraft platforms, perform system integration, and conduct system testing for the StarBurst and Aspera astrophysics missions, led by Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the University of Arizona, respectively.

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OSIRIS-REx Mission Team Wins 2022 Swigert Award for Space Exploration

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — The NASA and University of Arizona OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission team has been selected to receive the 2022 John L. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for space exploration and space-inspired industries.

The award will be presented April 4 during the opening ceremony of the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

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NASA’s Webb Telescope Will Have the Coolest Camera in Space

Engineers conduct a “receiving inspection” of the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center after its journey from the United Kingdom. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

Before the MIRI instrument – one of four scientific instruments aboard the observatory – can operate, it has to be cooled down to almost the coldest temperature matter can reach.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Set to launch on Dec. 22, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the largest space observatory in history, and it has an equally gargantuan task: to collect infrared light from the distant corners of the cosmos, enabling scientists to probe the structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

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Near-Earth Asteroid Might be a Lost Fragment of the Moon

The Moon as viewed by NASA’s Mariner 10 in 1973, well before research would find signs of rust on the airless surface. (Credits: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — A near-Earth asteroid named Kamo`oalewa could be a fragment of our moon, according to a paper published today in Nature Communications Earth and Environment by a team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona.

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NASA Mission Helps Solve a Mystery: Why Are Some Asteroid Surfaces Rocky?

Closeup of the rocky surface of the Bennu asteroid. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Mikayla Mace Kelley
The University of Arizona

Scientists thought Bennu’s surface was like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth had suggested the presence of large swaths of fine-grained material smaller than a few centimeters called fine regolith.  But when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission arrived at Bennu in late 2018, the mission saw a surface covered in boulders. The mysterious lack of fine regolith became even more surprising when mission scientists observed evidence of processes potentially capable of grinding boulders into fine regolith.

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Bloomberg Philanthropies, Partners Announce Carbon Mapper Accelerator Program

Carbon Mapper

New funding builds on a unique partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carbon Mapper, Planet, the State of California, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University (ASU), High Tide Foundation, and RMI to develop and deploy a constellation of satellites to help tackle potent methane emissions.

Investment will deliver powerful, advanced emissions data in support of the newly signed Global Methane Pledge 

NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO (Bloomberg Philanthropies PR) – Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carbon Mapper, and partners announced the Carbon Mapper Accelerator program, to accelerate the deployment of emerging remote sensing technologies needed to effectively pinpoint, quantify, and diagnose sources of high-emission methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) globally. The new initiative provides immediate support to governments committed to the Global Methane Pledge, an unprecedented agreement led by the United States and the European Union to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030, which yesterday gained 24 new country signatories.

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Highly Porous Rocks Responsible for Bennu’s Surprisingly Craggy Surface

During fall 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image, which shows one of asteroid Bennu’s boulders with a bright vein that appears to be made of carbonate. The image within the circle (lower right) shows a focused view of the vein. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — Scientists thought asteroid Bennu’s surface would be like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth’s orbit had suggested the presence of ­­large swaths of fine-grain material called fine regolith that’s smaller than a few centimeters.

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NASA Spacecraft Provides Insight into Asteroid Bennu’s Future Orbit

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In a study released Wednesday, NASA researchers used precision-tracking data from the agency’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to better understand movements of the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu through the year 2300, significantly reducing uncertainties related to its future orbit, and improving scientists’ ability to determine the total impact probability and predict orbits of other asteroids.

The study, titled “Ephemeris and hazard assessment for near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu based on OSIRIS-REx data,” was published in the journal Icarus.

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