Tag: asteroids

NASA Asteroid Retrieval Mission Begins to Identify Targets

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Asteroid Retrieval Mission (Credit: NASA)

Asteroid Retrieval Mission (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is on the hunt to add potential candidate target asteroids for the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The robotic mission will identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon. In the 2020s, astronauts will explore the asteroid and return to Earth with samples. This will test and advance new technologies and spaceflight experience needed to take humans to Mars in the 2030s.

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NASA Agrees to Revamp NEO Program in Wake of Critical OIG Report

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Asteroid Eros

Asteroid Eros

Somewhere out there in the cosmos, there’s a giant rock with Earth’s name on it. Despite the danger, NASA’s effort to identify potentially dangerous near Earth objects and figure out what to do about them is disorganized and poorly managed, an internal audit has found.

“NASA has organized its NEO Program under a single Program Executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching Program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress,” according to an audit issued Monday by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

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Planetary Resources Adds Dante Lauretta to Team

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planetary_resources
REDMOND, Wash., September 9, 2014 (Planetary Resources PR) –
Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that Dante Lauretta, Ph.D., professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona and principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx – NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission – scheduled to launch in 2016 and rendezvous with asteroid Bennu, has joined the company as a science advisor.

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Congress Returns to Work, Unlikely to Achieve Very Much

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Capitol Building
Jeff Foust of Space News reports on the dismal prospects for a federal budget before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Legislators return to work on Monday after their traditional August recess. The House has only 12 working days until it adjourns on Oct. 2 for a six-week break. That recess is needed so representatives can return home to campaign for re-election based on their stellar records of achievement.

With much to do and little time, legislators are expected to pass a continuing resolution that will keep the government operating for a few more months based on the current budget. Foust reports that NASA is unlikely to have a new budget until at least December, and most likely sometime in 2015.

On the plus side, it appears unlikely the government will be shut down again as it was last year when legislators and the White House could not agree on a continuing resolution.

Legislators have a number of other space-related measures to consider, including amendments to the Commercial Space Launch Act, the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, and re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank.

No progress is expected on any of these measures until after the election. In fact, action is likely to be delayed until after the next Congress convenes in January.

NASA Plans Citizen Forums on Asteroids

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asteroid_initiative_citizen_forumWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is finding asteroids, including those that might threaten our home planet, and sending humans to explore one. The agency is engaging the public in the Asteroid Grand Challenge to find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them, accelerating NASA’s existing planetary defense work. NASA is also developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s, returning with samples. This Asteroid Redirect Mission is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for humans to pioneer Mars in the 2030s.

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Russia Eyes Technologies for Destroying Asteroids, Cleaning Up Space Debris

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Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

It won’t quite be Armageddon, but the Russian space agency wants to develop the capability to destroy incoming asteroids that could wreak havoc on Earth.

The proposed Federal Space Program 2016-2025, which is being considered by the government, envisions the creation of a “means of ensuring the delivery and impact with objects approaching on a collision course with Earth in order to change their orbits to avoid collision with the planet,” Interfax cited the document as saying.

The 23 billion ruble ($634 million) proposal is not limited to asteroid defense, however. It also calls for the creation of orbital garbage trucks — spacecraft that would comb the trash-ridden void of low Earth orbit for fragments of old rockets, dead satellites, and other potentially harmful space junk.

The programs are part of Roscosmos’s proposed 10-year spending plan covering 2016-25 that government officials are now reviewing.

Russian officials have been particularly concerned about rogue asteroids since a meteor exploded over  Chelyabinsk last year. The blast shattered windows and injured 1,500 people.

Read the full story.

DSI Opens Lab in Silicon Valley

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dsi_logoMOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (DSI PR) – Deep Space last month opened a lab and office at the NASA Ames Research Park at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, and expanded its staff. The new facility provides space to begin assembly of the company’s initial spacecraft for an exciting project to be announced next month, with room to expand. The new location enhances the visibility of Deep Space with the NASA-Ames leadership for partnering and contracting. Ames is NASA’s lead center for small spacecraft and hosts a number of agency experts in commercial space. The new facility is in close proximity to technology-savvy investors, partners and a skilled technology workforce.

Deep Space also is growing its team with several new hires and research collaborators. Colorado-based Rhonda Stevenson is now Chief Sales and Promotions Officer, starting with the revamp of the Deep Space By Design retail web site and also covering games, apps, and retail product licensing.

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Proposed Spacecraft Would Hop and Roll Over Asteroids, Moons

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Spacecraft/rover hybrids (Credit: Marco Pavone)

Spacecraft/rover hybrids (Credit: Marco Pavone)

The NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NASA) program has awarded Marco Pavone of Stanford University a Phase II grant to continue development of small exploration vehicles that would hop and tumble across the surfaces of asteroids, moons and comets.

The spacecraft/rover hybrids would be deployed from a mother ship orbiting the body to be explored. Their movements would be controlled by three internal flywheels.

The award is worth up to $500,000. The earlier Phase I award was worth up to $100,000.

NASA awarded five NIAC Phase II contracts in this round of funding.

Pavone’s summary of the project follows.

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NASA Funds Additional Smallsat Research Projects

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Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

With CubeSats and other types of small satellites are being launched in increasing numbers, there’s a race on to develop new technologies to vastly improve their capabilities and extend their range to the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations.

NASA has been at the leading edge of this technology development effort. Last week, the space agency announced its plans to fund four small-satellite research projects. The projects include phase II funding for three Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program proposals and one NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) proposal.

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Keck Proposes Deep Space CubeSat Missions

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CHAMPAGNE Rings Explorer (Credit: Keck Institute for Space Studies)

CHAMPAGNE Rings Explorer (Credit: Keck Institute for Space Studies)

Last month, the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) at the California Institute of Technology released a report titled, “Small Satellites: A Revolution in Space Science,” which examines the sorts of missions types of missions that could be with rapidly evolving small satellites. The potential missions described in the report cover planetary science (moons, asteroids, etc.), astrophysics and heliophysics.

The planetary science missions include the use of mother ships that would deploy CubeSats and impactors to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, tens of thousands of ChipSats to characterize Saturn’s rings, landing vehicles to explore asteroids, and small spacecraft that would map the moon’s interior and search for volatiles and organics.

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