To the Moon! U.S. Space Force’s Operational Area Just Got Much Larger

The Moon seen from the International Space Station. The image was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli during his second mission to ‘MagISStra’ on 20 March 2011. Paolo commented on the image: “Supermoon was spectacular from here!” (Credit: ESA/NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I looked a bit more into this memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed earlier this week by NASA and the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to deepen cooperation between the two agencies. And there’s a really fascinating aspect to it.

“With new U.S. public and private sector operations extending into cislunar space, the reach of USSF’s sphere of interest will extend to 272,000 miles and beyond — more than a tenfold increase in range and 1,000-fold expansion in service volume,” the MOU said.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins its Countdown to TAG

by Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

A historic moment is on the horizon for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. In just a few weeks, the robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface, touch down for a few seconds and collect a sample of the asteroid’s rocks and dust – marking the first time NASA has grabbed pieces of an asteroid, which will be returned to Earth for study.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx to Asteroid Bennu: “You’ve got a little Vesta on you…”

During spring 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured these images, which show fragments of asteroid Vesta present on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The bright boulders (circled in the images) are pyroxene-rich material from Vesta. Some bright material appear to be individual rocks (left) while others appear to be clasts within larger boulders (right). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In an interplanetary faux pas, it appears some pieces of asteroid Vesta ended up on asteroid Bennu, according to observations from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The new result sheds light on the intricate orbital dance of asteroids and on the violent origin of Bennu, which is a “rubble pile” asteroid that coalesced from the fragments of a massive collision.

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NASA to Provide Update on Agency’s First Asteroid Sample Collection Attempt

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) — NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24, to provide an update on the agency’s first attempt to contact the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month. Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live on NASA’s website.

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Hayabusa2 to Visit Rapidly Spinning Asteroid in Extended Mission

Hayabusa2 spacecraft at asteroid 1998 KY26. (Credit: Auburn University, JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

JAXA has selected a second asteroid for Hayabusa2 to explore after the spacecraft completes its primary mission to Ryugu in December. But, it’s not going to be an easy destination to reach.

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IG Audit: NASA Planetary Program Faces Major Financial, Managerial Challenges

Dragonfly flying over the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) faces a series of managerial, financial and personnel challenges as it prepares to conduct a series of ever more ambitious missions to the moon and planets, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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New SIMPLEx Mission to Send SmallSats on Longest Deep Space Journey to Date

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — A small satellite mission that will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids has received NASA approval to proceed to the next phase of its development.

On Sept. 3, the dual-spacecraft Janus project successfully passed the important Key Decision Point-C milestone. It’s the first concept study from the current round of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx-2) program to do so. 

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First Mode Secures $1.8M Contract to Deliver Hardware for Use on NASA Psyche Spacecraft’s Journey to the Asteroid Belt

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)

SEATTLE, September 9, 2020 (First Mode PR) — First Mode, a design, engineering, and technology development firm, today announced it has been awarded a subcontract from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build flight hardware for use on the NASA Psyche spacecraft. The firm-fixed price subcontract has a value of approximately $1.8 million and is expected to last through June 2021.

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Janus Small Satellite Mission To Rendezvous With Binary Asteroids

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

The twin-spacecraft Janus project will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” binary asteroids.

DENVER, Sept. 10, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) — The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) will soon lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids.

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Where Rocks Come Alive: OSIRIS-REx Observes an Asteroid in Action

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)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. And while here on Earth, “happy hour” is commonly associated with winding down and the optional cold beverage, that’s when things get going on Bennu, the destination asteroid of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx NASA mission.

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Vancouver Recommendations on Space Mining

Vancouver Recommendations on Space Mining
The Outer Space Institute
April 20, 2020

Background

Humanity is entering a new era of developing and utilizing Space that will likely include mining on the Moon, on near-Earth asteroids, and eventually on Mars. As part of this new era, a growing number of state and non-state actors are becoming capable of accessing and operating in Space.

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Canadian Institute Urges United Nations Agreement on Use of Outer Space Resources

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a challenge to the United States’ position that extraterrestrial resources can be legally extracted and utilized under existing law, The Outer Space Institute (OSI) is urging the United Nations to quickly begin work on an international agreement to govern these activities.

“It is our opinion that the speed and scale of developments relating to the exploration, exploitation and utilization of space resources require more affirmative and urgent action,” OSI said in an open letter to UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent earlier this month.

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Hayabusa2 Sample Return Capsule to Land in Australia on Dec. 6

Schematic diagram of the Earth return orbit for Hayabusa2 and operations. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On August 10, 2020, JAXA was informed that the Authorisation of Return of Overseas-Launched Space Object (AROLSO) for the re-entry capsule from Hayabusa2 was issued by the Australian Government. The date of the issuance is August 6, 2020.

The Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule will return to Earth in South Australia on December 6, 2020 (Japan Time and Australian Time). The landing site will be the Woomera Prohibited Area. The issuance of the AROLSO gave a major step forward for the capsule recovery.

We will continue careful operation for return of Hayabusa2 and recovery of the capsule, and the operation status will be announced in a timely manner.

Comment from JAXA President, Hiroshi Yamakawa:

“The approval to carry out the re-entry and recovery operations of the Hayabusa2 return sample capsule is a significant milestone. We would like to express our sincere gratitude for the support of the Australian Government as well as multiple organizations in Australia for their cooperation.

“We will continue to prepare for the successful mission in December 2020 in close cooperation with the Australian Government.”

Tiny Asteroid Buzzes by Earth – the Closest Flyby on Record

This illustration shows asteroid 2020 QG’s trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth. The asteroid is the closest known nonimpacting asteroid ever detected. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An SUV-size space rock flew past our planet over the weekend and was detected by a NASA-funded asteroid survey as it departed.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Near Earth Asteroids, or NEAs, pass by our home planet all the time. But an SUV-size asteroid set the record this past weekend for coming closer to Earth than any other known NEA: It passed 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) above the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 12:08 a.m. EDT (Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:08 p.m. PDT).

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