OSIRIS-REx Continues Cruise Toward Asteroid Bennu

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) — OSIRIS-REx is continuing outbound cruise operations, en route to arrival in August of 2018 at the asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft is currently 29.6 million miles (47.6 million kilometers) from Earth and is executing a program designed to study and reduce the presence of water on the spacecraft.

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Luxembourg, Japan Sign Space Cooperation Agreement

LUXEMBOURG, November 29, 2017 (Luxembourg PR) – The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, and the Cabinet Office of Japan, represented by Masaji Matsuyama, Minister of State for Space Policy, signed today in Tokyo a memorandum of cooperation on exploration and commercial utilization of space resources.

Within its SpaceResources.lu initiative, Luxembourg offers commercial companies an attractive overall environment for space resource exploration and utilization related activities, including but not limited to a legal regime. The Grand Duchy is the first European country to offer a legal and regulatory framework addressing the capability of ownership of space resources and laying down the regulations for the authorization and the supervision of such missions in space.

The five-year cooperation agreement between Luxembourg and Japan covers the exchange of information and expertise on the exploration and commercial utilization of space resources and intends to further enhance cooperation in the field of space activities. The exchange of information may cover all the issues of the exploration and commercial utilization of space resources, including legal, regulatory, technological, economic, and other aspects.

Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider declared:

After the agreements signed with Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, this is another important step forward in enhancing international cooperation. Our common approach and goals will surely open new collaboration opportunities. The agreement is a solid recognition of our SpaceResources.lu initiative, especially as Japan and more precisely JAXA have a strong experience in space missions and have been initiators of the renowned Hayabusa missions to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth.

Short List of Elements Space Miners Should Look for on Asteroids

In addition to searching for water for use in space, there are elements we’re running short on here on planet Earth.

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (Credit: European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space-the first confirmed object from another star.

Now, new data reveal the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue. The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated-perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

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ESA to Launch Deep-space Asteroid Surveying CubeSat

M-Argo CubeSat. (Credit: ESA-Jacky Huart)

PARIS (ESA PR) — M-Argo is designed as ESA’s first CubeSat to enter interplanetary space.

Studied in the Concurrent Design Facility, ESA’s highly networked facility for designing novel missions, the ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, is a nanospacecraft based on the CubeSat design employing standardised 10 cm cubic units within which electronic boards can be stacked and subsystems attached.

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“Lighten Up” – Deep Space Communications via Faraway Photons

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)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons — the fundamental particle of visible light — to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.

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Planetary Resources Animation of Asteroid Survey Mission

Video Caption: Planetary Resources is embarking on the world’s first commercial deep space exploration mission. The purpose is to identify and unlock the critical water resources necessary for human expansion in space. Sourcing water is the first step to creating a civilization in space. Water is used for life support functions and can also be refined into rocket propellant. The initial mission will identify the asteroids that contain the best source of water, and will simultaneously provide the vital information needed to build a commercial mine which will harvest water for use in space.

Editor’s Note: This is very cool. But, when? I understand the need for promotional videos, but they often serve as placeholders. In lieu of an actual mission/demonstrable progress, here’s a video of what we’re going to do eventually. Here’s a profile of our ground crew.

I’m a little puzzled by Planetary Resources. It was formed on Jan. 1, 2009, and emerged from stealth mode in April 2012. They launched one CubeSat from the space station but said virtually nothing about it after launch (not a good sign). A follow-on Earth orbit tech demo sat was scheduled for 2015, but it still hasn’t launched. They announced a Kickstarter to display selfies in orbit but later canceled that mission and refunded the money. They announced an Earth orbiting constellation that would monitor crops from orbit. Then they canceled that program after raising $21.1 million in Series A investment to fund it.

They had this big press conference back in 2012 to announce it, and there was all this hype from Peter Diamandis and all these billionaires with more money than God involved. I would have expected more progress by now, and that the company backed by so many immensely wealthy people wouldn’t be so dependent on government funding from Luxembourg.

The company has been advertising on social media that they’re hiring, so that seems to be a good sign.

Dawn Mission Celebrates 10 Years in Space

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (Credits: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ten years ago, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft set sail for the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The mission was designed to deliver new knowledge about these small but intricate worlds, which hold clues to the formation of planets in our solar system.

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NASA Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — As NASA looks to explore deeper into our solar system, one of the key areas of interest is studying worlds that can help researchers better understand our solar system and the universe around us. One of the next destinations in this knowledge-gathering campaign is a rare world located in the asteroid belt called Psyche.

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NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
(Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

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USC Research Provides Evidence of Ground Ice on Asteroids

Large, smooth areas on exoplanet Vesta correlated with higher concentrations of hydrogen. (Credit: Elizabeth Palmer, Essam Heggy)

LOS ANGELES (USC PR) — Research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has revealed new evidence for the occurrence of ground ice on the protoplanet Vesta.

The work, under the sponsorship of NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics program, is part of ongoing efforts at USC Viterbi to improve water detectability techniques in terrestrial and planetary subsurfaces using radar and microwave imaging techniques.

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NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
(Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

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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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