SwRI Part of International Team Identifying Primordial Asteroid

The asteroid Toutatis photographed by Chang’e 2. (Credit: SASTIND)

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 3, 2017 (SwRI PR) — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) was part of an international team that recently discovered a relatively unpopulated region of the main asteroid belt, where the few asteroids present are likely pristine relics from early in solar system history. The team used a new search technique that also identified the oldest known asteroid family, which extends throughout the inner region of the main asteroid belt.

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Asteroid Flyby Will Benefit NASA Detection and Tracking Network

A depiction of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it safely passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth’s surface. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA scientists are excited about the upcoming close flyby of a small asteroid and plan to use its upcoming October close approach to Earth as an opportunity not only for science, but to test NASA’s network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense.

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Luxembourg Parliament Adopts Space Resources Law

LUXEMBOURG, July 13, 2017  (Luxembourg Government PR) – The Luxembourg Parliament adopted the draft law on the exploration and use of space resources. The Grand Duchy is thus the first European country to offer a legal framework ensuring that private operators can be confident about their rights on resources they extract in space. The law will come into force on August 1, 2017. Its first article provides that space resources are capable of being owned. The country’s law also establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

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Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
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NASA Uses Super Computer to Simulate Asteroid Impact

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — When an asteroid struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, the blast from the asteroid’s shock wave broke windows and damaged buildings as far away as 58 miles (93 kilometers), injuring more than 1,200 people.

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NASA’s First Asteroid Deflection Mission Enters Next Design Phase

DART spacecraft (Credit: JHU APL)

LAUREL, Md. (JHU APL PR) — The first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense – the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which is being designed and would be built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – is moving from concept development to preliminary design phase, following NASA’s approval on June 23.

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NASA to Celebrate Asteroid Day With Special Broadcast

Asteroid Itokawa (Credit: JAXA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA will mark the worldwide observance of International Asteroid Day at noon EDT Friday, June 30, with a special television program featuring the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and other projects working to find and study near-Earth objects (NEOs). The program will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Luxembourg, ESA Enhance Cooperation on Asteroid Missions

PARIS (Luxembourg Government PR) — At the occasion of the 2017 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider visited the ESA pavilion and, together with ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, signed a joint statement on future activities concerning missions to the asteroids, related technologies and space resources exploration and utilisation.

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Video: NASA Accomplishments at Mid-Year

Video Caption: 2017 is shaping up to be another year of unprecedented exploration, amazing discoveries, technological advances and progress in development of future missions – and we’re just six months into the year. Here are some of our top stories of 2017, so far – Mid-Year at NASA!

NASA Shutting Down Asteroid Retrieval Mission

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA is shutting down its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an Obama-era program that Congress gave little love and even less month.

In a presentation at a June 13 meeting of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) here, Michele Gates, program director for ARM at NASA Headquarters, said the mission received its “notice of defunding” from agency leadership in April, weeks after a budget blueprint document for fiscal year 2018 released by the White House called for cancelling the mission.

“We are in an orderly closeout phase, capturing all the good work that has been done across the team, and transitioning activities as appropriate to other potential missions or archived for future use,” she said.

ARM called for sending a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid, where it would grab a boulder a few meters across from the asteroid’s surface and return it to cislunar space. Astronauts flying on an Orion spacecraft would then visit the boulder, performing studies and collecting samples for return to Earth.

Read the full story.

B612 Foundation Forms Asteroid Institute

SILICON VALLEY, Calif. (B612 Foundation PR) — The B612 Foundation today announced the formation of a new science and technology institute dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid impacts. Dr. Ed Lu, three time US astronaut and Co-founder of B612, will serve as Executive Director of the new B612 Asteroid Institute, collaborating with a team of planetary scientists and engineers from around the world to conduct research, technology development, and data analysis on asteroid detection and deflection.

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Planetary Resources Pivots Again

Well, it looks like our friends over at the asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources have pivoted once again.

You might recall that last June the company announced it had raised a Series A round of funding totaling $21.1 million for an Earth-observation project called Ceres. The constellation of satellites would monitor natural uses using the infrared and hyperspectral sensors.

In the five years since the company came out of stealth mode, it has pivoted from focusing on asteroid missions to remote sensing and now back to asteroid missions.

Foust didn’t report on the reason for the latest pivot. However, Planetary Resources main financial backer and partner is the government of Luxembourg, a postage-size country (as these things go) that doesn’t have a lot of use for natural resource monitoring, but is very interested in asteroid mining.

In November 2016, Luxembourg announced it was investing $28 million in Planetary Resources. The company also has set up an office in the European nation.

Foust did report that Lewicki, who is the company’s CEO, said two Arkyd-6 satellites are being readied for delivery in the next month for launch. The spacecraft will search for promising asteroids.

Lewicki also said the company plans to launch its first asteroid prospecting mission in the second half of 2020.

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NASA’s Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft is a Discovery Machine

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its third year of survey data, with the spacecraft discovering 97 previously unknown celestial objects in the last year. Of those, 28 were near-Earth objects, 64 were main belt asteroids and five were comets.

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Planetary Resources Hires Lawyer

REDMOND, Wa., May 22, 2017 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has named Brian Israel as General Counsel. Mr. Israel will oversee the legal, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company, its parent, and Planetary Resources Luxembourg. The company’s vision is to expand humanity’s economic sphere of influence into the Solar System by providing resources for people and products in space, with a near-term goal of identification, extraction, and refinement of water from near-Earth asteroids.

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China Considers Asteroid Retrieval Mission

Asteroid Itokawa (Credit: JAXA)

As NASA looks to jettison its asteroid retrieval mission, China is evaluating whether to conduct a mission of its own.

A senior government space scientist said China was considering mounting a mission to “capture” an asteroid and try to fire it into the moon’s orbit within a decade, state media reported.

The ultimate aim would be to mine the asteroid for metal and minerals, or use it as the base for a space station.

Ye Peijian, chief commander and designer of China’s lunar exploration programme, said at a meeting of space authorities in Beijing this week that the nation’s first batch of asteroid exploration spacecraft would probably be launched in about 2020, according to state media reports….

Many near-Earth asteroids contain a high concentrations of precious metals, Ye told the Science and Technology Daily, a newspaper run by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.