Landing on Ryugu – A Surface with a View of Boulders

The boulder-strewn surface of asteroid Ryugu. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — In early October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander is expected to be in operation for approximately 16 hours on the Ryugu asteroid. The selection of the landing site will take place this August. The ideal site must firstly offer the MASCOT team engineers excellent conditions for a safe landing and stable operation on the asteroid, while providing the researchers with a wealth of new and productive measurements.

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MASCOT’s Asteroid Landing – Preparations, Risks and Last-minute Decisions

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Scientists and engineers have been waiting nearly four years for the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft – which is carrying the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander that was developed and constructed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) – to reach its destination: the asteroid Ryugu. With the approach and arrival having taken place on 27 June 2018, the landing is now within reach.

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Maxar’s SSL Expands Scope of Work for NASA Asteroid Exploration Mission Psyche

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

SSL selected to provide critical flight system component for Psyche Mission, which will reveal the mysteries of the only all-metal body known in our solar system

HERNDON, Va. – August 9, 2018 (SSL PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that it was selected by Zin Technologies to build and test the Psyche Compute Element.

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Planetary Resources to Auction off Equipment

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a fresh sign of the financial straits facing Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company will be auctioning off hundreds of items from its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., ranging from industrial-strength CNC machine tools and 3-D printers to laptops and folding chairs.

The online auction will be conducted by James G. Murphy & Co. from Aug. 21 to 28, with a preview scheduled on Aug. 27 at Planetary Resources’ machine shop, lab and offices at 6742 185th Ave. NE in Redmond.

“We are preparing to sell some equipment that we’ve identified as not currently needed and easily replaceable,” Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources’ president, CEO and chief asteroid miner, told GeekWire in an email. “This is a result of reducing overhead as we go forward with our smaller team.”

Word is the company is down to a handful of employees. Asteroid mining is a long-term venture; Planetary Resources hasn’t found a revenue model that can get it from here to there.

Imaging Ryugu from an Altitude of 6 km

Figure 1: Asteroid Ryugu from an altitude of 6km. Image was captured with the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) on July 20, 2018 at around 16:00 JST. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Hayabusa2 arrived at asteroid Ryugu on June 27, after which the spacecraft remained at a distance of about 20km (the Home Position) to continue to observe the asteroid. During this time, the spacecraft was maintaining a hovering altitude of 20km above the asteroid surface. In the week of July 16, operations were begun to lower this hovering altitude, eventually bringing the spacecraft to less than 6km from the asteroid surface. One of the images taken at that time is shown in Figure 1.

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Observatories Team Up to Reveal Rare Double Asteroid

PASADENA, Calif. (JPL/Caltech PR) — New observations by three of the world’s largest radio telescopes have revealed that an asteroid discovered last year is actually two objects, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size, orbiting each other.

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OSIRIS-REx Successfully Completes Second Deep Space Maneuver

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — New tracking data confirms that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed its second Deep Space Maneuver (DSM-2) on June 28. The thruster burn put the spacecraft on course for a series of asteroid approach maneuvers to be executed this fall that will culminate with the spacecraft’s scheduled arrival at asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3.

The DSM-2 burn, which employed the spacecraft’s Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thruster set, resulted in a 37 miles per hour (16.7 meters per second) change in the vehicle’s velocity and consumed 28.2 pounds (12.8 kilograms) of fuel.

Tracking data from the Deep Space Network provided preliminary confirmation of the burn’s execution, and the subsequent downlink of telemetry from the spacecraft shows that all subsystems performed as expected.

DSM-2 was OSIRIS-REx’s last deep space maneuver of its outbound cruise to Bennu. The next engine burn, Asteroid Approach Maneuver 1 (AAM-1), is scheduled for early October. AAM-1 is a major braking maneuver designed to slow the spacecraft’s speed from approximately 1,130 to 320 miles per hour (506.2 to 144.4 meters per second) relative to Bennu and is the first of four asteroid approach maneuvers scheduled for this fall.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing spacecraft flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Airbus Celebrates International Asteroid Day with Vigilance

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — As the world observes International Asteroid Day – established by the United for global awareness about asteroids – Airbus continues its leadership in a multinational European programme that could help humanity to protect itself from future impact hazards posed by these space objects.

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Russian Nuclear Agency Explores How to Prevent Armageddon

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

Tass reports that Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is exploring ways to blow up asteroids before they blow us up.

“Our study is only a part of the quest to create an asteroid protection system. The priorities here are detection, classification and high-precision monitoring of a celestial body. After that, a bomb should be designed, which would be safe enough during the launch. A carrier rocket will have to be designed, too,” said Vladimir Rogachev, the deputy head of the laser physics institute at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center (VNIIEF), part of the Rosatom corporation.

“This is an international task of impressive scope. We have something to offer. But there are also things that we need to borrow,” he went on.

“Regretfully, international politics and the current state of international relations necessitate a different format of communications, so we have to wait. But we should not procrastinate: when a dangerous asteroid approaches the Earth, it will be too late,” the researcher added.

Rogachev said that VNIIEF scientists have “baked” an artificial chondrite, the most popular type of asteroids, to study its qualities. According to their calculations, if a 200-meter asteroid approaches the Earth, a rocket should be launched approximately a month before the planned impact, to smash the celestial body into small parts that would burn upon entering the atmosphere.

“Yes, some parts will reach the surface of the planet, but, due to their small size, there will be no apocalypse,” he said. “This technology would be sufficient to destroy an object similar to the Tunguska meteor.”

NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids

The NEA Scout solar sail is deployed at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Watch Asteroid Day Live From Luxembourg


LUXEMBOURG (ESA PR) — The world’s first 48-hour webcast about asteroids and their place in space will begin at 12:00 CEST [6 a.m. EDT], on Friday, 29 June 2018. Kicking off this exciting event, physicist, science advocate and former rock star Brian Cox will host the first 6-hour segment live from Luxembourg.

Brian will be joined by asteroid scientists, astronauts, rock stars and experts from around the world all in the name of Asteroid Day – the annual UN-endorsed global campaign to raise awareness about asteroids, and the risks and opportunities that they bring.

Asteroid Day takes place each year on 30 June, commemorating the 1908 Tunguska airburst over Siberia, the biggest impact event in recorded history. Since its inception, ESA has long supported the Asteroid Day initiative and plays a leading role in the global hunt for risky near-Earth objects that might one day cross our path.

On Friday, ESA’s Director General Jan Wörner will join the live kick-off webcast from Luxembourg, along with Ian Carnelli, mission manager for the proposed Hera mission to the Didymos double-asteroid system.

Astronauts on the Rocks

ESA astronaut and materials scientist Matthias Maurer, the newest member of the Agency’s astronaut corps, will also take part, together with several other astronauts.

During the full 48-hour broadcast, a range of topics will be covered including ‘How to survive an asteroid strike’, ‘Scientists Rock’, and — perhaps most exciting — the global broadcast will include the joint ESA/European Southern Observatory 2-hour live segment from the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre in Garching, Munich.

Watch Live

The entire Asteroid Day webcast can be viewed live via asteroidday.org/live, or via the Asteroid Day Youtube and Twitter channels. The ESA/ESO segment will run starting at 13:00 CEST on Saturday, 30 June; this will also be available at esa.int/asteroidday.

For more information, including the full list of experts and celebrity guests, visit the Asteroid Day website.

Interstellar Visitor is Really a Comet Not an Asteroid

Artist impression of ‘Oumuamua (Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An object from another star system that made a brief appearance in our skies guised as an asteroid turns out to be a tiny interstellar comet.

‘Oumuamua, a name that reflects the Hawaiian meaning for ‘a messenger from afar, arriving first’, was discovered by astronomers working with the Pan-STARRS survey in Hawaii in October last year as the object came close to Earth’s orbit. Follow-up observations by ESA’s Optical Ground Station telescope in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and other telescopes around the world helped determine its trajectory.

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Two Pieces of a Cosmic Puzzle: Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx

Originally published by OSIRIS-REx Mission/University of Arizona
Republished with permission

It began with dust. Before there were asteroids, or planets, or people – about 4.6 billion years ago – a cloud of dust and gas swirled in the cosmos. At the center, a star began to form.

With heat and shock waves, clumps of this ancient dust coalesced into droplets of molten rock called chondrules. These chondrules and dust became the building blocks of the Solar System. Eventually, chunks of material as large as asteroids, and even planets, formed from this cloud and organized according to the laws of physics around a newly born star: our Sun.

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Join the Planetary Defenders on Saturday

Video Caption: On Saturday, 30 June, watch live when scientists, mission planners, asteroid experts and astronauts from ESA, the European Southern Observatory and worldwide bring you the latest news and science from the work they do to help defend our planet. Watch online from the ESO Supernova planetarium, 30 June 13:00 CEST: http://www.esa.int/asteroidday

Hayabusa2 Arrives at Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo and collaborators)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — JAXA confirmed Hayabusa2, JAXA’s asteroid explorer rendezvoused with Ryugu, the target asteroid.

On June 27, 2018, JAXA operated Hayabusa2 chemical propulsion thrusters for the spacecraft’s orbit control.*

The confirmation of the Hayabusa2 rendezvous made at 9:35 a.m. (Japan Standard Time, JST) is based on the following data analyses;

  • ・The thruster operation of Hayabusa2 occurred nominally
  • ・The distance between Hayabusa2 and Ryugu is approximately 20 kilometers
  • ・Hayabusa2 is able to maintain a constant distance to asteroid Ryugu
  • ・The status of Hayabusa2 is normal

From this point, we are planning to conduct exploratory activities in the vicinity of the asteroid, including scientific observation of asteroid Ryugu and surveying the asteroid for sample collection.

*Hayabusa2 operation hours: 7:00 a.m. (JST) through 3:00 p.m. (JST), June 27. The thruster operation was pre-programmed in the event sequence earlier on the day and the command was automatically executed.