Italy Boosts Contribution to ESA Budget

SEVILLE, Spain (ASI PR) — In Seville, Spain, the institutional representatives and heads of the countries that make up the European Space Agency (ESA) have set the course towards new spatial horizons in the coming years. The share of the Italian contribution rises, while Samantha Cristoforetti will return to orbit.

An increase of almost one billion euros [$1.1 billion] compared to the previous Ministerial is what the Italian delegation to the ESA Ministerial Council 2019 has destined as a contribution of our country to the budget of the ESA for the next three to four years. 

(more…)

ESA Ministers Commit to Biggest Ever Budget of $15.84 Billion

Credit: ESA

Ministers approved funding lunar Gateway, space station operations until 2030, Mars Sample Return and Hera asteroid missions

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level, Space19+, has concluded in Seville, Spain, with the endorsement of the most ambitious plan to date for the future of ESA and the whole European space sector. The meeting brought together ministers with responsibility for space activities in Europe, along with Canada and observers from the EU.

The Member States were asked to approve a comprehensive set of programmes to secure Europe’s independent access to and use of space in the 2020s, boost Europe’s growing space economy, and make breakthrough discoveries about Earth, our Solar System and the Universe beyond, all the while making the responsible choice to strengthen the efforts we are making to secure and protect our planet.

(more…)

First Detection of Sugars in Meteorites Gives Clues to Origin of Life

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)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An international team has found sugars essential to life in meteorites. The new discovery adds to the growing list of biologically important compounds that have been found in meteorites, supporting the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids – the parent bodies of many meteorites – can make some of life’s ingredients. If correct, meteorite bombardment on ancient Earth may have assisted the origin of life with a supply of life’s building blocks.

(more…)

Suitcase-sized Spacecraft to Explore Asteroid

Model of M-Argo spacecraft . (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This replica model of ESA’s ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, was on display at the Agency’s recent  Antennas workshop. It is the one of numerous small missions planned as part of in ESA’s Technology Strategy, being presented at this month’s  Space19+  Council at Ministerial Level.

(more…)

Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart Champions ESA’s Hera Mission for Planetary Defense

Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart at Noordwijk’s Walk of Space, where his handprint joined those other space luminaries, during his visit to the Netherlands in October 2019. (Credit: ESA)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (ESA PR) — Having spent much of the 21st century developing planetary defence techniques, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart is a strong supporter of ESA’s proposed Hera mission. In general, when it comes to asteroid deflection, he says, two spacecraft are better than one.

(more…)

NASA’s Lucy Mission Clears Critical Milestone

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR — NASA’s Lucy mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review on Oct. 18. 

During this review, Lucy team members presented the completed mission design, demonstrating that the team has met all the technical challenges of the mission and is ready to begin building hardware. After the review completion, NASA’s independent review board provided a green light for proceeding into the fabrication/manufacturing stage of the mission.

(more…)

NASA Plans Space Telescope to Hunt for Killer Asteroids

Asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Society – Emily Lakdawalla)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA announced on Monday that it is planning to spend $500 to $600 million to develop the NEO Surveillance Mission that would begin hunting for large asteroids and comets that could strike Earth.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, made the announcement during a meeting of the Planetary Science Advisory Committee held in Washington, D.C. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) would lead the project, which would launch around 2025.

(more…)

Hayabusa2 Releases Target Markers in Advance to Another Rover Landing

The target markers are in preparation for the landing of the MINERVA-II2 Rover-2 on the surface of asteroid Ryugu in October.

Two Asteroids to Safely Fly by Earth

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Two relatively medium-sized asteroids will fly safely past Earth overnight Sept. 13-14 (Eastern U.S. time). NASA is tracking the objects, but orbit calculations ruled out any chance that the objects could pose a threat to our planet.

(more…)

Europe, U.S. Teaming Up for Asteroid Deflection

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA – ScienceOffice.org)

ROME (ESA PR) — Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.

This combined mission is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, or AIDA for short. Its purpose is to deflect the orbit of the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.

(more…)

Canadian Laser Maps Potential OSIRIS-REx Sample Sites, Completes Global 3D View of Asteroid Bennu

These detailed views of four potential sample sites on asteroid Bennu (complete with boulders, craters and other geological features) are based on a series of measurements taken by the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), the Canadian laser instrument aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Image creation: Michael Daly, Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science, York University (Credit: NASA/University of Arizona/Canadian Space Agency/York University/MDA)

Longueuil, Quebec (CSA PR) –– A made-in-Canada laser aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has produced high-resolution topographic maps of the four locations on asteroid Bennu that mission scientists have identified as candidates for sample collection.

(more…)

Asteroid Bennu’s Features to be Named After Mythical Birds

This image shows boulder formations on asteroid Bennu’s surface. It was taken by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on April 11, 2019 from a distance of 2.8 miles (4.5 km). (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — Working with NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team, the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) approved the theme “birds and bird-like creatures in mythology” for naming surface features on asteroid (101955) Bennu.

(more…)

Hayabusa2 Packs Up Soil Samples for Return to Earth

Artificial crater created by Hayabusa 2 on asteroid Ryugu (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft is not scheduled to return its precious cargo of soil samples of asteroid Ryugu to Earth for 16 more months, but it has already begun to pack up for home.

“In an operation today (August 26), the sample catcher was stored in the re-entry capsule (see figure). The sampler and capsule teams gathered to watch and the operation was completed successfully. The capsule is now ready for Earth return!” JAXA tweeted.

(more…)

The Near-Earth Asteroid Ryugu – a Fragile Cosmic ‘Rubble Pile’

(Credit: MSCOT/DLR/JAXA)
  • The asteroid is similar to carbonaceous, 4.5 billion year old meteorites found in collections on Earth.
  • Ryugu has numerous cavities.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — In the summer of 2018, the asteroid Ryugu, which measures only approximately 850 metres across, was visited by the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft. On board was the 10-kilogram German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) – a lander no bigger than a microwave oven and equipped with four instruments.

(more…)

JAXA Names Artificial Crater and Boulders on Asteroid Ryugu

Artificial crater on asteroid Ryugu with names. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The following nicknames are being used for the area around the artificial crater:

  • Artificial crater: Omusubi-Kororin crater (SCI crater)
  • Moved rock: Iijima boulder
  • Immobile rock: Okamoto boulder
  • Large boulder: Onigiri boulder

Omusubi-Kororin crater (SCI crater)

From the folktale of the “rolling rice ball”. This was chosen as the boulders in this vicinity are shaped like Japanese rice balls and may roll down into the crater. The crater will also continue to be referred to as the “SCI crater”, depending on the situation.

Iijima boulder

In memory of Yuichi Iijima. Dr Iijima worked to gain the cooperation from universities outside JAXA during the start-up of the Hayabusa2 Project and so laid the foundation for Project’s success. In particular, in order to maximise the scientific results from the impact experiment, he worked hard across different fields and focussed on the proposal and development for the digital deployable camera for scientific observation (DCAM3). Dr Iijima passed away on December 7, 2012.

Okamoto boulder

In memory of Chisato Okamoto. Dr Okamoto was one of the core members of the Hayabusa2 sampler development team and energetically repeated laboratory experiments in preparation for collecting samples on Ryugu. She was also a member of the impact experiment team and played a central role in the simulation of the asteroid surface conditions used for the impact experiment in Kamioka. Dr Okamoto passed away on July 25, 2018.

Onigiri boulder

An onigiri is a Japanese rice ball (sometimes the shape is triangular) and resembles this boulder. (Both omusubi and onigiri mean rice ball.)