Space Thread

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India’s moon rover confirms sulfur and detects several other elements near the lunar south pole
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ashok Sharma
Published Aug 29, 2023 • 2 minute read
This handout screen grab taken and released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 25, 2023, shows the Chandrayaan-3 rover as it manoeuvred from the lunar lander to the surface of the Moon
This handout screen grab taken and released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 25, 2023, shows the Chandrayaan-3 rover as it manoeuvred from the lunar lander to the surface of the moon. PHOTO BY ISRO /AFP via Getty Images
NEW DELHI — India’s moon rover confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements near the lunar south pole as it searches for signs of frozen water nearly a week after its historic moon landing, India’s space agency said Tuesday.


The rover’s laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the lunar surface, the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, said in a post on its website.


The lunar rover had come down a ramp from the lander of India’s spacecraft after last Wednesday’s touchdown near the moon’s south pole. The Chandrayan-3 Rover is expected to conduct experiments over 14 days, the ISRO has said.

The rover “unambiguously confirms the presence of sulfur,” ISRO said. It also is searching for signs of frozen water that could help future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel.

The rover also will study the moon’s atmosphere and seismic activity, ISRO Chairman S. Somnath said.


On Monday, the rover’s route was reprogrammed when it came close to a 4-metre-wide (13-foot-wide) crater. “It’s now safely heading on a new path,” the ISRO said.

The craft moves at a slow speed of around 10 centimetres (4 inches) per second to minimize shock and damage to the vehicle from the moon’s rough terrain.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India last week joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone.

The successful mission showcases India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with the image that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to project: an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite.


The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million.

India’s success came just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It would have been the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years. Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.

Active since the 1960s, India has launched satellites for itself and other countries, and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in collaboration with the United States.
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NASA spacecraft around moon spots likely crash site of Russia’s lost lunar lander
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 01, 2023 • 1 minute read
This handout picture taken on August 24, 2023
This handout picture taken on August 24, 2023 by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and made available by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University on August 31, 2023 shows a new impact crater on the Moon's surface likely from Russia's Luna 25 mission. The Luna-25 module has crashed on the Earth's natural satellite after an incident during pre-landing manoeuvres, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on August 20, 2023. PHOTO BY - /NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Ce
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft around the moon has found the likely crash site of Russia’s lost lunar lander.


The Luna 25 lander slammed into the moon last month, a harsh end to Russia’s first moon mission in almost half a century. Based on observations by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA said Thursday that it appears the impact created a crater 33 feet (10 meters) across.


This fresh crater is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) short of the spacecraft’s intended landing site at the lunar south pole, and farther north. NASA’s spacecraft found no evidence of a crater in this spot in pictures taken during a flyover last year.

It’s located on the steep inner rim of an ancient and considerably larger crater.

Since the newfound crater is close to where scientists believe Russia’s lunar lander crashed, “it is likely to be from that mission, rather than a natural impactor,” NASA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, India’s rover is exploring the moon’s south polar region after successfully touching down a few days after Russia’s failure. India became only the fourth country to pull off a lunar landing.
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India’s moon rover completes its walk. Scientists analyzing data looking for signs of frozen water
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ashok Sharma
Published Sep 03, 2023 • 3 minute read
This handout screen grab taken and released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 25, 2023, shows the Chandrayaan-3 rover as it manoeuvred from the lunar lander to the surface of the Moon
This handout screen grab taken and released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 25, 2023, shows the Chandrayaan-3 rover as it manoeuvred from the lunar lander to the surface of the moon. PHOTO BY ISRO /AFP via Getty Images
NEW DELHI — India’s moon rover has completed its walk on the lunar surface and been put into sleep mode less than two weeks after its historic landing near the lunar south pole, India’s space mission said.


“The rover completes its assignments. It is now safely parked and set into sleep mode,” with daylight on that part of the moon coming to an end, the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement late Saturday.


The rover’s payloads are turned off and the data it collected has been transmitted to the Earth via the lander, the statement said.

The Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover were expected to operate only for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 days on Earth.

“Currently, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22, 2023. The receiver is kept on. Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments!” the statement said.


There was no word on the outcome of the rover searches for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface that could help future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel.

Last week, the space agency said the moon rover confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements. The rover’s laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the surface, it said.

The Indian Express newspaper said the electronics on board the Indian moon mission weren’t designed to withstand very low temperatures, less than -120 C (-184 F) during the nighttime on the moon. The lunar night also extends for as long as 14 days on Earth.


Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on India’s space exploration, said the rover has limited battery power.

The data is back on Earth and will be analyzed by Indian scientists as a first look and then by the global community, he said

By sunrise on the moon, the rover may or may not wake up because the electronics die at such cold temperatures, Bagla said.

“Making electronic circuits and components that can survive the deep cold temperature of the moon, that technology doesn’t exist in India,” he said.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India last week joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone.

The successful mission showcases India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with Prime Minister Narendra Modi desire to project an image of an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite.


The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million.

India’s success came just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It had been intended to be the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years.

Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise because of the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.

Active since the 1960s, India has launched satellites for itself and other countries, and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in collaboration with the United States.
india-rover-scaled-e1693364626157[1].jpg
 

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Four astronauts return to Earth in SpaceX capsule to wrap up six-month station mission
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 04, 2023 • 1 minute read
SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft being lifted onto the recovery vessel
This screen grab taken from the NASA live feed shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft being lifted onto the recovery vessel after splashdown off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida on September 4, 2023. PHOTO BY HANDOUT/NASA /AFP via Getty Images
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Four astronauts returned to Earth early Monday after a six-month stay at the International Space Station.


Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the Atlantic off the Florida coast.


Returning were NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Russia’s Andrei Fedyaev and the United Arab Emirates’ Sultan al-Neyadi, the first person from the Arab world to spend an extended time in orbit.

Before departing the space station, they said they were craving hot showers, steaming cups of coffee and the ocean air since arriving in March. Their homecoming was delayed a day because of poor weather at the splashdown locations, but in the end, provided a spectacular middle-of-the-night show as the capsule streaked through the sky over Cape Canaveral toward a splashdown near Jacksonville.

The astronauts said it was incredible to be back. “You’ve got a roomful of happy people here,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed.

SpaceX launched their replacements over a week ago.

Another crew switch will occur later this month with the long-awaited homecoming of two Russians and one American who have been up there an entire year. Their stay was doubled after their Soyuz capsule leaked all of its coolant and a new craft had to be launched.

Between crew swaps, the space station is home to seven astronauts.


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Now’s the time to catch new comet before it vanishes for 400 years
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 06, 2023 • 2 minute read
comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura and its tail
This image provided by Gianluca Masi shows the comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura and its tail seen from Manciano, Italy on Sept. 5, 2023. PHOTO BY GIANLUCA MASI /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A newly discovered comet is swinging through our cosmic neighborhood for the first time in more than 400 years.


Stargazers across the Northern Hemisphere should catch a glimpse as soon as possible — either this week or early next — because it will be another 400 years before the wandering ice ball returns.


The comet, which is kilometre-sized, will sweep safely past Earth on Sept. 12, passing within 78 million miles (125 million kilometres).

Early risers should look toward the northeastern horizon about 1 1/2 hours before dawn — to be specific, less than 10 or so degrees above the horizon near the constellation Leo. The comet will brighten as it gets closer to the sun, but will drop lower in the sky, making it tricky to spot.

Although visible to the naked eye, the comet is extremely faint.

“So you really need a good pair of binoculars to pick it out and you also need to know where to look,” said said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.


The comet will come closest to the sun — closer than Mercury is — on about Sept. 17 before departing the solar system. That’s assuming it doesn’t disintegrate when it buzzes the sun, though Chodas said “it’s likely to survive its passage.”

Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project, said in an email that the next week represents “the last, feasible chances” to see the comet from the Northern Hemisphere before it’s lost in the sun’s glare.

“The comet looks amazing right now, with a long, highly structured tail, a joy to image with a telescope,” he said.

If it survives its brush with the sun, the comet should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere by the end of September, Masi said, sitting low on the horizon in the evening twilight.

Stargazers have been tracking the rare green comet ever since its discovery by an amateur Japanese astronomer in mid-August. The Nishimura comet now bears his name.

It’s unusual for an amateur to discover a comet these days, given all the professional sky surveys by powerful ground telescopes, Chodas said, adding, “this is his third find, so good for him.”

The comet last visited about 430 years ago, Chodas said. That’s about a decade or two before Galileo invented the telescope.
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Japan launches rocket carrying X-ray telescope to explore origins of universe, lunar lander
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Yuri Kageyama
Published Sep 06, 2023 • 3 minute read
An H2A rocket sits at launch pad at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. The rocket was to blast off Monday morning, but the lift-off was postponed due to strong winds, according to Kyodo News. (Kyodo News via AP)
An H2A rocket sits at launch pad at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. The rocket was to blast off Monday morning, but the lift-off was postponed due to strong winds, according to Kyodo News. (Kyodo News via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOKYO (AP) — Japan launched a rocket Thursday carrying an X-ray telescope that will explore the origins of the universe as well as a small lunar lander.


The launch of the HII-A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan was shown on live video by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.


“We have a liftoff,” the narrator at JAXA said as the rocket flew up in a burst of smoke then flew over the Pacific.

Thirteen minutes after the launch, the rocket put into orbit around Earth a satellite called the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM, which will measure the speed and makeup of what lies between galaxies.

That information helps in studying how celestial objects were formed, and hopefully can lead to solving the mystery of how the universe was created, JAXA says.

In cooperation with NASA, JAXA will look at the strength of light at different wavelengths, the temperature of things in space and their shapes and brightness.


David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, believes the mission is significant for delivering insight into the properties of hot plasma, or the superheated matter that makes up much of the universe.

Plasmas have the potential to be used in various ways, including healing wounds, making computer chips and cleaning the environment.

“Understanding the distribution of this hot plasma in space and time, as well as its dynamical motion, will shed light on diverse phenomena such as black holes, the evolution of chemical elements in the universe and the formation of galactic clusters,” Alexander said.

Also aboard the latest Japanese rocket is the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, a lightweight lunar lander. The Smart Lander won’t make lunar orbit for three or four months after the launch and would likely attempt a landing early next year, according to the space agency.


JAXA is developing “pinpoint landing technology” to prepare for future lunar probes and landing on other planets. While landings now tend to be off by about 10 kilometers (6 miles) or more, the Smart Lander is designed to be more precise, within about 100 meters (330 feet) of the intended target, JAXA official Shinichiro Sakai told reporters ahead of the launch.

That allows the box-shaped gadgetry to find a safer place to land.

The move comes at a time when the world is again turning to the challenge of going to the moon. Only four nations have successfully landed on the moon, the U.S., Russia, China and India.

Last month, India landed a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole. That came just days after Russia failed in its attempt to return to the moon for the first time in nearly a half century. A Japanese private company, called ispace, crashed a lander in trying to land on the moon in April.


Japan’s space program has been marred by recent failures. In February, the H3 rocket launch was aborted for a glitch. Liftoff a month later succeeded, but the rocket had to be destroyed after its second stage failed to ignite properly.

Japan has started recruiting astronaut candidates for the first time in 13 years, making clear its ambitions to send a Japanese to the moon.

Going to the moon has fascinated humankind for decades. Under the U.S. Apollo program, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969.

The last NASA human mission to the moon was in 1972, and the focus on sending humans to the moon appeared to wane, with missions being relegated to robots.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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word limit. :(
 

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SpaceX can’t launch its giant rocket again until fixes are made, FAA says
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 08, 2023 • 1 minute read
SpaceX's Starship turns after its launch from Starbase
SpaceX's Starship turns after its launch from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, Thursday, April 20, 2023. PHOTO BY ERIC GAY /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX must take a series of steps before it can launch its mega rocket again after its debut ended in an explosion, federal regulators said Friday.


The Federal Aviation Administration said it closed its investigation into SpaceX’s failed debut of Starship, the world’s biggest rocket. The agency is requiring SpaceX to take 63 corrective actions and to apply for a modified FAA license before launching again.


FAA official said multiple problems led to the April launch explosion, which sent pieces of concrete and metal hurtling for thousands of feet (meters) and created a plume of pulverized concrete that spread for miles (kilometers) around.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in the accident’s aftermath that he improved the 394-foot (120-meter) rocket and strengthened the launch pad. A new Starship is on the redesigned pad, awaiting liftoff. It will fly empty, as before.


During the initial test flight, the rocketship had to be destroyed after it tumbled out of control shortly after liftoff from Boca Chica Beach. The wreckage crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. SpaceX said fuel leaks during ascent caused fires to erupt at the tail of the rocket, severing connection with the main flight computer and leading to a loss of control.

That flight “provided numerous lessons learned,” the company said in a statement.

NASA wants to use Starship to land astronauts back on the moon in another few years. Musk’s ultimate goal is to build a fleet of Starships to carry people and supplies to Mars.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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NASA says more science and less stigma are needed to understand UFOs
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 14, 2023 • Last updated Sep 14, 2023 • 2 minute read
After a yearlong study into UFOs, NASA is releasing a report Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, on what it needs to better understand unidentified flying objects from a scientific point of view.
After a yearlong study into UFOs, NASA is releasing a report Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, on what it needs to better understand unidentified flying objects from a scientific point of view.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA said Thursday that the study of UFOs will require new scientific techniques, including advanced satellites as well as a shift in how unidentified flying objects are perceived.


The space agency released the findings after a yearlong study into UFOs.


In its 33-page report, an independent team commissioned by NASA cautioned that the negative perception surrounding UFOs poses an obstacle to collecting data. But officials said NASA’s involvement should help reduce the stigma around what it calls UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.

“We want to shift the conversation about UAPs from sensationalism to science,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. He promised an open and transparent approach.

Officials stressed the panel found no evidence that UAPs had extraterrestrial origin. But Nelson acknowledged with billions of stars in billions of galaxies out there, another Earth could exist.


“If you ask me, do I believe there’s life in a universe that is so vast that it’s hard for me to comprehend how big it is, my personal answer is yes,” Nelson said at a news conference. His own scientists put the likelihood of life on another Earth-like planet at “at least a trillion.”

When pressed by reporters on whether the U.S. or other governments are hiding aliens or otherworldly spaceships, Nelson said: “Show me the evidence.”

NASA has said it doesn’t actively search for unexplained sightings. But it operates a fleet of Earth-circling spacecraft that can help determine, for example, whether weather is behind a strange event.

The 16-member panel noted that artificial intelligence and machine learning are essential for identifying rare occurrences, including UFOs.


NASA recently appointed a director of UAP research, but refused to divulge his identity at Thursday morning’s news conference in hopes of avoiding the threats and harassment faced by panel members during the study.

Eight hours later, however, NASA said it’s Mark McInerney, who previously served as a liaison on the subject of UAPs between the space agency and the Defense Department. He’s also worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Hurricane Center.

No top-secret files were accessed by the panel’s scientists, aviation and artificial intelligence experts, and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the first American to spend nearly a year in space. Instead, the group relied on unclassified data in an attempt to better understand unexplained sightings in the sky.

Officials said there are so few high-quality observations that no scientific conclusions can be drawn. Most events can be attributed to planes, drones, balloons or weather conditions, said panel chairman David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation, a scientific research group.

The government refers to unexplained sightings as UAPs versus UFOs. NASA defines them as observations in the sky or elsewhere that cannot be readily identified or scientifically explained.

The study was launched a year ago and cost under $100,000.
 

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Ontario soars ahead of other provinces in UFO sightings: Study
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published Sep 19, 2023 • 1 minute read

Gone are the days of thinking objects in the sky are only birds or planes.


We live in a time when the meteors, spy balloons or, yes, even UFOs could be flying high above the ground.


NASA recently released the findings of a year-long study into UFOs and said that to learn more it will require new scientific techniques, including advanced satellites as well as a shift in how unidentified flying objects are perceived.

But for years, people have spotted unidentified flying objects and Canadians have reported 113 UFO sightings so far in 2023.



The fine folks at Casinocanada.com worked with the National UFO Reporting Centre to learn which areas of Canada have seen the most UFO sightings this year so far.


Ontario is tops on the list with 48 reported UFO sightings, while B.C. trails in second with 26.

Alberta took the third spot after reporting 16 UFO sightings, while Quebec and Nova Scotia, having reported seven and six sightings respectively, round out the top five.

Newfoundland and Labrador (four), New Brunswick (two), Saskatchewan (two), Northwest Territories (one) and Yukon (one) follow, while P.E.I. and Nunavut did not report any sightings.

The top five cities with the most UFO sightings are Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, St. Catharines and Ajax.

The most recent Canadian sighting, according to the National UFO Reporting Centre, was on Sept. 9 in Richmond Hill. It was described as “numerous unidentified metal red glowing orbs spotted in the northeast sky” and “emerging from the horizon to be seen moving in different directions.”

The last sighting reported in Toronto was on Aug. 11, which looked like a light with “varying brightness” and was spotted “floating to the southeast below cloud level” and reacted to a “plane coming its way.”
 

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Canada to get rare asteroid sample after OSIRIS-REx drops cargo to Earth on Sunday
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Sidhartha Banerjee
Published Sep 24, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read
This Dec.14, 2018, handout image shows the asteroid Bennu in a composite of 12 images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's PolyCam imager from a distance of 24 kilometres. Seven years after it blasted into space to snag a sample of the asteroid, a spacecraft is set to deliver its rare cargo on Sunday – and Canada is getting a piece of the interstellar bounty.
This Dec.14, 2018, handout image shows the asteroid Bennu in a composite of 12 images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's PolyCam imager from a distance of 24 kilometres. Seven years after it blasted into space to snag a sample of the asteroid, a spacecraft is set to deliver its rare cargo on Sunday – and Canada is getting a piece of the interstellar bounty. PHOTO BY HO /THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL — Seven years after it blasted into space to snag a sample of an asteroid, a spacecraft delivered its rare cargo on Sunday — and Canada is getting a piece of the interstellar bounty.


The NASA-led mission launched OSIRIS-REx into space in 2016 to collect from the surface of an asteroid material that scientists hope will offer them insight into the formation of the solar system. The spacecraft began orbiting the asteroid — called Bennu — in 2018 and grabbed a sample in 2020.


It started its return trip to Earth in 2021, and a capsule with the rocks and space dust landed Sunday morning in the Utah desert while the spacecraft continues on a mission to another asteroid.

Scientists estimate the capsule holds at least a cup of rubble from the carbon-rich Bennu, but won’t know for sure until the container is opened. Some spilled and floated away when the spacecraft scooped up too much and rocks jammed the container’s lid during collection three years ago.


Canada contributed a laser altimeter to the mission — a device that measures altitude and distance — that has allowed Bennu to become the “most precisely surveyed body in our solar system,” says Cameron Dickinson, a staff engineer at Canadian space company MDA Ltd., which designed the Canadian component of the spacecraft.

By taking billions of measurements of the asteroid over two years, Canada’s altimeter — known as OLA — helped scientists select the best location on the asteroid from which to gather a sample. The craft then briefly landed on the asteroid to collect the material.

“In total, we laid down more than three billion measurements … so this now provides a very highly precise map of the asteroid, Dickinson told a recent news conference.


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is the first asteroid sample-return mission in which Canada has participated — and it entitles the country to some of the space rocks.

“In exchange for this contribution, Canadian scientists have been on the OSIRIS REx science team from the very beginning,” John Moores, science adviser to the president of the Canadian Space Agency, told a recent briefing on the mission.

“As well, Canada will become the fifth country in the world to receive a sample collected in space.”

Tim Haltigin, planetary senior mission scientist with The Canadian Space Agency, has worked on the project for a decade. Asteroids, he said, are leftover ingredients from the formation of the solar system, and getting a sample from one “is sort of like going back into a cosmic mixing bowl and pulling out individual grains of sugar and a bit of flour and, you know, maybe a chocolate chip.”


“And so this is how we’re able to study the raw ingredients of the solar system as they were billions and billions and billions of years ago,” Haltigin said.

The mission selected Bennu because it was close enough to reach and large enough from which to secure a sample — and also because of what it is made of.

“There was only about a handful (of asteroids) that were made of some of the most interesting scientific materials that allow us to answer some of these fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system,” Haltigin said.

A piece of Bennu won’t be coming to Canada right away — the country’s space agency needs to first build a facility in which to store the rare find.

“We’re not on the same timeline as NASA to receive the sample _ that’s been understood since the beginning,” said Caroline-Emmanuelle Morisset, program scientist, space exploration development with the CSA. “The sample will reside at NASA for a time before it’s transferred to Canada.”


“What we need is a clean room,” Morisset said. “Those are rooms where the air is all filtered to ensure that there’s no particulates from Earth that come in contact with the sample.”

The total size of the shipment of dust and pebbles is about 250 grams, plus or minus 100 grams; Canada’s portion is about four per cent of that — somewhere between six and 14 grams, Morisset said.

But she says that’s plenty to keep scientists busy for years. The two Japan-led Hayabusa missions brought back a total of about five grams of asteroid, which she said provided decades worth of science.

“You know, with milligrams of sample we can do a lot of science,” Morisset said.
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NASA’s first asteroid samples land on Earth after release from spacecraft
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Sep 24, 2023 • 3 minute read
This shot off a NASA live feed
This shot off a NASA live feed shows NASA safety team members approaching the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample's return craft sitting in the Utah desert at Dugway, Utah, on September 24, 2023. The largest sample ever collected from an asteroid in space, and the first for NASA, landed in the Utah desert Sunday after a fiery final descent through Earth's atmosphere, seven years after the mission's launch. Scientists hope the asteroid sample aboard the spacecraft will provide humanity with a better understanding on the formation of our solar system and how Earth became habitable. PHOTO BY GEORGE FREY /NASA/AFP via Getty Images
NASA’s first asteroid samples fetched from deep space parachuted into the Utah desert Sunday to cap a seven-year journey.


In a flyby of Earth, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft released the sample capsule from 63,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) out. The small capsule landed four hours later on a remote expanse of military land, as the mothership set off after another asteroid.


“We have touchdown!” Flight Control announced, immediately repeating the news since the landing occurred three minutes before anticipated. Officials later said the orange striped parachute opened four times higher than anticipated — around 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) — which led to the early touchdown.

Scientists estimate the capsule holds at least a cup of rubble from the carbon-rich asteroid known as Bennu, but won’t know for sure until the container is opened. Some spilled and floated away when the spacecraft scooped up too much and rocks jammed the container’s lid during collection three years ago.


Japan, the only other country to bring back asteroid samples, gathered about a teaspoon in a pair of asteroid missions.

The pebbles and dust delivered Sunday represent the biggest haul from beyond the moon. Preserved building blocks from the dawn of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, the samples will help scientists better understand how Earth and life formed.

Osiris-Rex, the mothership, rocketed away on the $1 billion mission in 2016. It reached Bennu two years later and, using a long stick vacuum, grabbed rubble from the small roundish space rock in 2020. By the time it returned, the spacecraft had logged 4 billion miles (6.2 billion kilometers).

Flight controllers for spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin stood and applauded at touchdown from their base in Colorado, ecstatic to have the precious samples on Earth. NASA camera views showed the charred capsule upside down on the sand with its parachute disconnected and strewn nearby, as the recovery team moved in.


NASA’s recovery effort in Utah included helicopters as well as a temporary clean room set up at the Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range. The samples will be flown Monday morning to a new lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The building already houses the hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of moon rocks gathered by the Apollo astronauts more than a half-century ago.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, will accompany the samples to Texas. The opening of the container in Houston in the next day or two will be “the real moment of truth,” given the uncertainty over the amount inside, he said ahead of the landing.

Engineers estimate the canister holds 250 grams (8.82 ounces) of material from Bennu, plus or minus 100 grams (plus or minus 3.53 ounces). Even at the low end, it will easily surpass the minimum requirement of the mission, Lauretta said.


It will take a few weeks to get a precise measurement, said NASA’s lead curator Nicole Lunning.

As the Sun rises recovery team members
As the Sun rises recovery team members take off in helicopters flying into the Utah desert to participate in the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return and recovery mission at Dugway, Utah, on September 24, 2023. PHOTO BY GEORGE FREY /AFP via Getty Images
NASA plans a public show-and-tell in October.

Currently orbiting the sun 50 million miles (81 million kilometers) from Earth, Bennu is about one-third of a mile (one-half of a kilometer) across, roughly the size of the Empire State Building but shaped like a spinning top. It’s believed to be the broken fragment of a much larger asteroid.

During a two-year survey, Osiris-Rex found Bennu to be a chunky rubble pile full of boulders and craters. The surface was so loose that the spacecraft’s vacuum arm sank a foot or two (0.5 meters) into the asteroid, sucking up more material than anticipated and jamming the lid.

These close-up observations may come in handy late in the next century. Bennu is expected to come dangerously close to Earth in 2182 — possibly close enough to hit. The data gleaned by Osiris-Rex will help with any asteroid-deflection effort, according to Lauretta.


Osiris-Rex is already chasing after the asteroid Apophis, and will reach it in 2029.

This was NASA’s third sample return from a deep-space robotic mission. The Genesis spacecraft dropped off bits of solar wind in 2004, but the samples were compromised when the parachute failed and the capsule slammed into the ground. The Stardust spacecraft successfully delivered comet dust in 2006.

NASA’s plans to return samples from Mars are on hold after an independent review board criticized the cost and complexity. The Martian rover Perseverance has spent the past two years collecting core samples for eventual transport to Earth.
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What to know about the harvest moon, the last supermoon of the year
The harvest moon will start lighting up the sky on Thursday night

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Amudalat Ajasa
Published Sep 25, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read
The full moon closest to the September equinox is often referred to as the Harvest Moon.
The full moon closest to the September equinox is often referred to as the Harvest Moon. Getty Images
For some, leaves changing from lively greens to crisp oranges, pumpkin spice cravings and cozy sweater weather mark the beginning of autumn. While these are all iconic fall staples, skywatchers get an extra treat. The harvest moon, the conclusion of this year’s four-part supermoon series, will start lighting up the sky on Thursday night.


The moon will look a pumpkin-y orange and red – which seems oddly fitting – but that isn’t a unique trait to this month. All full moons appear orange – and we have 13 each year.


What is a supermoon?
Supermoons are full moons that occur when the moon is at the closest point of orbit to Earth. Supermoons can appear up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the smallest-seeming full moon, according to NASA. This will be the last supermoon until next August.

Why is it called a harvest moon?
The harvest moon, also known as the corn moon by Indigenous groups in the Northeast, historically signals the time of year when different summer crops are ready to be harvested. Farmers have also relied on the light from September’s full moon to harvest their crops late into the night.


“It’s close to the full harvest, so it’s a full moon that happens around the time of the fall harvest,” said Noah Petro, a scientist with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project at NASA.

Where and when can you see this moon?
While this year’s harvest moon will appear to be a bit larger and brighter because of its supermoon status, it’s simply the closest full moon to the autumn equinox.

The autumnal equinox, which results in nearly an equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes, signals the astronomical turning of seasons – meaning cooling temperatures are finally on the way after this blistering summer. This year, the harvest moon will rise about a week after the autumn equinox, from Thursday night into Friday morning. The moon will be at it’s fullest at 5:57 a.m. on Friday.

We are all separated by distance but united by the moon and, luckily, this is a moon that everyone will get to see. It will be full from sunrise to sunset.

While the harvest moon will begin to grace skies on Thursday, don’t fret if you miss it. Skywatchers, and harvesters, will be able to see a near full moon in the days leading up to its monthly peak and in the days after, according to NASA ambassador Tony Rice.

“You can go at least a day in either direction, maybe two in each direction, and it’s going to look just as full to most people,” Rice said.
 

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NASA got its first asteroid sample — with help from Queen guitarist Brian May
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
María Luisa Paúl
Published Oct 03, 2023 • 5 minute read
This shot off a NASA live feed shows NASA safety team members approaching the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample's return craft sitting in the Utah desert at Dugway, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023.
This shot off a NASA live feed shows NASA safety team members approaching the Osiris-Rex asteroid sample's return craft sitting in the Utah desert at Dugway, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023. PHOTO BY GEORGE FREY / NASA / AFP /Getty Images
Before he was performing for a sea of fans in England’s Wembley Stadium, Queen guitarist Brian May was working toward his PhD in astrophysics while researching the Zodiacal Light — a glowing patch in the sky caused by sunlight reflecting off millions of dust particles in the solar system.


By the mid-1970s, though, May put his otherworldly studies on hold as Queen achieved its status as one of the most famous rock bands in history.


The hiatus lasted 30 years. Since then, May has not only received his doctorate, but has also put his skills to the test at NASA — even helping to prevent a recent mission from biting the dust.

It all started when the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft — an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer — was launched off the coast of Florida in 2016. The mission was to collect samples from asteroid Bennu, a relic from the birth of the solar system with a 1 in 2,700 chance of smacking into Earth in the year 2182.


Bennu, named after the ancient Egyptian birdlike deity of creation and rebirth, is believed to be the product of a cataclysmic collision that caused a Connecticut-sized asteroid to break apart, according to NASA. Bennu is one of the scattered pieces — an approximately 4.5 billion-year-old compilation of rock chunks loosely held together by gravity that orbits the sun every 1.2 years.


In 2018, OSIRIS-REx reached Bennu’s orbit. But the problem wasn’t so much reaching Bennu as it was landing atop an asteroid that scientists believed held the early solar system’s secrets. The plan for the mission was to touch down on an area engineers referred to as “the beach” for its fine-grained material, The Washington Post previously reported. Yet they quickly came to realize there was no sandy beach — Bennu was actually a rubble pile littered with boulders.

That’s where May came in. Shortly before the spacecraft launched in 2016, May met with Dante Lauretta, the leader of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. The two struck up a friendship based on their mutual interest in space and a shared love for Tucson.


“As the OSIRIS-REx mission progressed, I couldn’t help but share some of the latest developments with him,” Lauretta wrote in the preface of “Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid,” a book he co-authored with May. “… To my delight, Brian showed a keen interest in the mission and the science behind it. It was clear that he was not just a casual fan, but a true space enthusiast and an advocate for space exploration.”

Eventually, Lauretta brought May on to the mission, where the rock star played a key role: helping the spacecraft touch down on Bennu.

To find a safe spot for the spacecraft to land, the rock-star physicist developed stereoscopic images of Bennu’s surface, May detailed in the book. Stereoscopic imaging is a technique that injects a depth effect to flat images — kind of like 3D glasses.


Though OSIRIS-REx’s cameras produced only two-dimensional shots, scientists meticulously mapped each inch of Bennu’s surface. May then processed the scene by clipping together pairs of side-by-side images — “allowing us to see Bennu’s rugged and rough landscape in glorious 3-D,” Lauretta wrote in the preface of “Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid.”

The rugged landscape gave birth to a new problem, he added.

“Seeing Bennu’s surface in this way really brought home the intimidating reality of this asteroid,” Lauretta wrote. “It was far beyond our initial spacecraft design capabilities. At first, it seemed like our task was impossible, that we were never going to find a suitable location to collect our sample.”


Then, May’s images showed a crater — the Nightingale Crater, to be exact. Though a boulder known as “Mount Doom” was dangerously looming at its edge, the Nightingale Crater’s colour suggested it was full of ancient regolith, or a dusty blanket of deposits that could shed light into Bennu’s history. Scientists decided that was the place where the spacecraft’s robotic arm should touch down and begin taking samples.

This NASA video frame grab handout image obtained on Oct. 21, 2020 shows NASA's robotic arm from spacecraft Osiris-Rex making contact with asteroid Bennu to collect samples.
This NASA video frame grab handout image obtained on Oct. 21, 2020 shows NASA’s robotic arm from spacecraft Osiris-Rex making contact with asteroid Bennu to collect samples. PHOTO BY HANDOUT/NASA TV /AFP via Getty Images
In October 2020, the samples were recovered from a surface that surprisingly acted like a “liquid droplet,” Lauretta previously told The Post — the product of weak gravity loosely holding particles together and turning the asteroid into a cosmic plastic ball pit. The descent was captured in a three-dimensional segment May helped the team put together, showing how bits of dust and shards flew around — some into OSIRIS-REx’s sample chamber.


By 2021, when the spacecraft started its return voyage to Earth, OSIRIS-REx had collected about 250 grams of material — more than the originally planned for 60 grams in what was NASA’s first-ever sample return mission.

On Sept. 24, those samples finally reached Earth after they were hurled from deep space via parachute into the Utah desert. The spacecraft, which is now heading to the asteroid Apophis, dropped the box from 63,000 miles away. After a four-hour drop, the box landed — perfectly upright — onto the Utah Test and Training Range, where it was collected for further assessment.

Yet May couldn’t witness the extraplanetary drop in person — much like in the ’70s, his rock-star responsibilities got in the way.


“I’m rehearsing for a Queen tour, but my heart stays with you as this precious sample is recovered,” May said in a video that aired on NASA TV on Sept. 25.

What’s inside the sample box still remains a mystery as “the initial curation process for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample of asteroid Bennu is moving slower than anticipated,” NASA said in a news release, “but for the best reason: the sample runneth over.”

May posits it could be something extraordinary.

“This box when it is opened of material from the surface of Bennu can tell us untold secrets of the origins of the universe, the origins of our planet and the origins of life itself,” the guitarist said in a video posted on his website. “What an incredibly exciting day.”

Perhaps it will warrant a song, like the space anthem May released in 2019 to commemorate NASA’s New Horizons probe’s flyby into the farthest object in our solar system ever visited by a spacecraft — another space mission he contributed to.
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Astronomers worried about satellite that's brighter than most stars
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel
Published Oct 04, 2023 • 4 minute read

It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane and it’s definitely not Superman. About 530 km above the ground, there’s a commercial satellite outshining most stars — and, as a result, it’s threatening astronomers’ data collection of our night sky. The light pollution is expected to worsen as companies plan to send thousands more satellites into space without regulations on how bright they can be.


In 2022, the Texas-based AST SpaceMobile company launched the BlueWalker 3 satellite to space to bring cellphone service across continents. But the ambitious project shined so brilliantly that it was among the top 10 brightest objects in the sky, according to a study published this week.


“The satellite would be ranging among the top 10 brightest objects if you count the stars and the sun. It’s just incredible,” said Siegfried Eggl, a co-author of the study and aerospace engineer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It’s a byproduct, I think, of the fact that these environmental considerations are generally not done.”

The new study quantifies the brightness of the satellite over 130 days. Amateur and professional astronomers recorded overpasses from Chile, United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Netherlands and Morocco. Researchers evaluated the glow on a magnitude scale, where smaller numbers indicate brighter objects. The North Star, for instance, has a magnitude of plus-two. The team found that BlueWalker 3 registered as bright as plus-0.4.



The issue of the BlueWalker 3 satellite lies in its size. Its antenna array is 64 square metres and is the largest commercial antenna system deployed in low Earth orbit. The large antenna helps bounce cell signals back and forth across the globe; and the bigger the antenna, the better the call quality. But the antenna also reflects a lot of light back to Earth, making it appear so bright in the sky.

“Once it unfurled its antennae, it was 100 or more times brighter,” said Brad Young, an amateur astronomer with the Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference. “It is (a) huge increase in the area of the antenna reflecting light back.”


The extra light has several implications for astronomers, but also non-scientists. Eggl said the light interferes with data collection. For instance, streaks of satellites could mask objects in the vicinity of Earth — like an asteroid. A previous study by Eggl showed that a portion of near-Earth objects could be affected by these streaks in data.

Light pollution also affects people’s circadian rhythms and migratory patterns for other animals.

Astronomers are already battling some of these issues with swarms of satellites, including SpaceX’s Starlink telecommunication satellites. Thousands of Starlink satellites travel across the night sky in a train formation, sometimes appearing as an otherworldly UFO. Eggl said each individual Starlink satellite is already 10 times brighter than what the astronomy community would like. SpaceX plans to launch 40,000 satellites.


But the BlueWalker satellite could quickly make conditions a lot worse. The fully extended satellite is much larger and much brighter than a Starlink satellite. With the recent launch as a prototype, AST SpaceMobile plans to send hundreds more into space, some potentially bigger.

Even without the added light, the surge of satellites could pose a problem for other launched objects. Collisions could produce a swarm of debris, which may affect or even damage other satellites in their path.

“As astronomers, we don’t want to be the Grinches of economic development or the Grinches of new developing nations arriving as actors on the space stage,” said cosmologist Aparna Venkatesan, who was not involved in the new study. “But right now, the unregulated terrain means that we are not assessing the environmental impact or the light pollution impact or many other consequences of these in systematic ways.”


Venkatesan, a professor at the University of San Francisco, said a goal would be to bring companies together under a regulatory umbrella, where operators can share with each other their specifications, satellite brightness, which film coatings they are using and other tactics to darken their satellites.

Astronomer Fabio Falchi, who was not involved in the research, also called for strict regulation — but for banning, not mitigation. He said astronomers are too flexible in allowing companies to launch swarms of bright satellites and urged for more astronomers to take a stand in a published commentary piece in March.

“The spoiling of the pristine condition of the night sky is an intangible and unprecedented attack to the cultural heritage binned to the night sky,” Falchi, a researcher with the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute, wrote to the Washington Post. “Nowhere in the world will remain the possibility to see a starry sky with no satellite ruining the experience.”