NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission Selects Final Four Site Candidates for Asteroid Sample Return

Pictured are the four candidate sample collection sites on asteroid Bennu selected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Site Nightingale (top left) is located in Bennu’s northern hemisphere. Sites Kingfisher (top right) and Osprey (bottom left) are located in Bennu’s equatorial region. Site Sandpiper (bottom right) is located in Bennu’s southern hemisphere. In December, one of these sites will be chosen for the mission’s touchdown event. (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After months grappling with the rugged reality of asteroid Bennu’s surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has selected four potential sites for the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to “tag” its cosmic dance partner.

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Asteroid’s Close Approach Demonstrates Need for More Eyes in the Sky

ESA observation of 2019OK through ISON network (Credit: S. Schmalz/ISON)

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 25 July, an asteroid the size of a football field flew by Earth, coming within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface during its closest approach – about one fifth of the distance to the Moon.

The 100 m-wide asteroid dubbed ‘2019 OK’ was detected just days before it passed Earth, although archival records from sky surveys show it had previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid.

While 2019 OK illustrates the need for even more eyes on the sky, it also provides an opportunity to improve the asteroid recognising abilities of current and future telescopes, including ESA’s upcoming ‘Flyeye‘.

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Hayabusa2’s MASCOT Lander Confirms What Scientists Have Long Suspected at Asteroid Ryugu

Close-up of the rock examined by MASCOT. The yellow arrow shows the direction of the incident light, and the dotted line separates the observed stone from the background. The red arrow shows the part of the rock where the radiometer MARA measured the surface temperature, the dotted line here shows a ledge. The scale in the center of the image shows the dimensions at this distance from the camera. The image was acquired by the DLR camera MASCAM on MASCOT. (Credit: MASCOT/DLR/JAXA)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR) PR) — Ryugu and other asteroids of the common ‘C-class’ consist of more porous material than was previously thought. Small fragments of their material are therefore too fragile to survive entry into the atmosphere in the event of a collision with Earth.

This has revealed the long-suspected cause of the deficit of this meteorite type in finds on Earth. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have come to this conclusion in a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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ESA Confirms Asteroid Will Miss Earth in September

Asteroid Lutetia (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Asteroid 2006 QV89, a small object 20 to 50 metres in diameter, was in the news lately because of a very small, 1-in-7000 chance of impact with Earth on 9 September 2019.

In the first known case of ruling out an asteroid impact through a ‘non-detection’, ESA and the European Southern Observatory have concluded that asteroid 2006 QV89 is not on a collision course this year – and the chance of any future impact is extremely remote.

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Images From Hayabusa2’s Second Landing on Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Today (July 11), the Hayabusa2 spacecraft performed a second touchdown on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The touchdown occurred at 10:06 JST at the on board time and was successful.

From the data sent from Hayabusa2, it has been confirmed that the touchdown sequence, including the discharge of a projectile for sampling, was completed successfully. Hayabusa2 is functioning normally, and thus the second touchdown ended with success.

Below we show images taken before and after the touchdown. As this is a quick bulletin, more detailed information will be given in the future.

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When CubeSats Meet Asteroid

CubeSat approaching asteroid (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.

“We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.

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Jumping Space Robot Flies Like Spacecraft

Spacebok jumping in simulated lunar gravity. (Credit; ETH Zurich/ZHAW Zurich)

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA ) — Astronauts on the Moon found themselves hopping around, rather than simply walking. Switzerland’s SpaceBok planetary exploration robot has followed their example, launching all four legs off the ground during tests at ESA’s technical heart.

SpaceBok is a quadruped robot designed and built by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich. It is currently being tested using robotic facilities at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands.

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JAXA, CNES to Cooperate on Hayabusa2 Sample Analysis, Martian Moons Mission

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA] has agreed to cooperate with Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) on the study-phase activities in JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission and analysis of Hayabusa2-returned samples.

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NASA Gives a Financial Boost to In-Space Welding Projects

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected two projects for funding focused on developing in-space welding technologies as part of its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards.

The space agency selected Busek Company of Natick, Mass., and Made in Space of Jacksonville, Fla., for phase 1 awards worth up to $125,000 apiece for six months.

“Busek proposes to initiate the development of a semi-autonomous, teleoperated welding robot for joining of external (or internal metallic uninhabited volume at zero pressure) surfaces in space,”according to the proposal summary. “This welding robot will be an adaptation of a versatile Busek developed system called SOUL (Satellite On Umbilical Line) with a suitable weld head attached to it.

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Tunguska Revisited: 111-Year-Old Mystery Impact Inspires New, More Optimistic Asteroid Predictions

Trees flattened by the intense shock wave created in the atmosphere as the space rock exploded above Tunguska on June 30, 1908. The photograph was taken by the Soviet Academy of Science 1929 expedition led by Leonid Kulik. 500,000 acres, the size of a large metropolitan city, were flattened. Flattening trees requires an immense shock wave. #WorldAsteroidDay is held every June 30 as a global awareness campaign where people around the world come together to share knowledge about asteroids and learn how to protect our planet. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Every single day, many tons of tiny rocks – smaller than pebbles – hit the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate. Between frequent shooting stars we wish on in the night sky and the massive extinction-level asteroids that we hope we never see, there is a middle ground of rocks sized to make it through the atmosphere and do serious damage to a limited area. Now, new research from NASA indicates that the impacts of these mid-size rocks may be less frequent than previously thought.

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — The research revealed that such relatively small but regionally devastating impacts happen on the order of millennia – not centuries, as previously thought. In addition, the new research has pushed forward our knowledge about the complex processes that determine how large rocks from space break up when entering Earth’s atmosphere.

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ESA to Mark Asteroid Day on June 30

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA will be participating in this year’s Asteroid Day, the UN-endorsed global awareness campaign day on the small rocky bodies scattered across space, taking place on Sunday, 30 June.

The main event will be a 24-hour live broadcast streamed from Luxembourg City, in coordination with hundreds of other events all over Europe and the world.

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Asteroid Mission Selected for Next Phase of NASA Small Spacecraft Competition

Artist’s conception of the Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER  (Lockheed Martin PR) — Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has been selected to design dual small deep space spacecraft to visit near-earth asteroids in a mission called Janus, led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

One of NASA’s Small Innovative Mission for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) finalists, Janus is designed to fly by two binary asteroids, or asteroids orbiting a common center of mass, to image the system using both visible and infrared cameras. These small satellites will launch in 2022 to reach the asteroid system in 2026.

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Hayabusa2 Team Mulls Second Touchdown on Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1: Image taken on June 13, 2019 during the operation PPTD-TM1B. This is a composite of 28 images taken at 7 second intervals starting from 10:58 JST (upper left) to 11:01 (lower right) using the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T). The image altitude is about 52m at the start and 108m at the end. The white point in the upper-left center is the target marker. You can see that detailed images have been acquired continuously from the target marker to the edge of the artificial crater, located in the lower-right of the image. (Image credit: JAXA, Chiba Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Our first touchdown took place this year on February 22. Then as a new challenge for the Hayabusa2 Project, we succeeded in creating an artificial crater using the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) on April 5.

The last big operation left at asteroid Ryugu is the collection of subsurface material exposed with the creation of the artificial crater. In order to collect this material, we need a second touchdown for which the project has been steadily preparing. At this point, it has not yet been decided whether or not to go ahead with a second touchdown, but here we will introduce our preparations in the “Approach to the second touchdown”.

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SIMPLEx Small Satellite Concept Finalists Target Moon, Mars and Beyond

“I think the thing that impressed me the most was the lunar sunrises and sunsets,” said Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders as he described his impressions of the Moon from about 60 miles. “These in particular bring out the stark nature of the terrain, and the long shadows really bring out the relief.” This oblique photograph looks northwest into the Sea of Tranquility, the site where Apollo 11 would land seven months later. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected three finalists among a dozen concepts for future small satellites. The finalists include a 2022 robotic mission to study two asteroid systems, twin spacecraft to study the effects of energetic particles around Mars, and a lunar orbiter to study water on the Moon. At least one of these missions is expected to move to final selection and flight.

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