NASA Mission Helps Solve a Mystery: Why Are Some Asteroid Surfaces Rocky?

Closeup of the rocky surface of the Bennu asteroid. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Mikayla Mace Kelley
The University of Arizona

Scientists thought Bennu’s surface was like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth had suggested the presence of large swaths of fine-grained material smaller than a few centimeters called fine regolith.  But when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission arrived at Bennu in late 2018, the mission saw a surface covered in boulders. The mysterious lack of fine regolith became even more surprising when mission scientists observed evidence of processes potentially capable of grinding boulders into fine regolith.

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NASA Announces Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have coordinated to open the Deep Space Food Challenge, targeted at developing novel food system technologies for long-duration deep space missions. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.

NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.

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Slow Speed Ahead: Boeing Struggles with Starliner Valve Issues as Second Flight Test Delayed to Next Year

Boeing engineers continue work at the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility on the Starliner propulsion system valves. (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing said on Tuesday that it will delay the second uncrewed flight test of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) until sometime in the first half of next year due to ongoing problems with stuck oxidizer valves on the vehicle. A crewed flight test would follow about six months later, with the first commercial mission carrying NASA astronauts in 2023.

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With First Martian Samples Packed, Perseverance Initiates Mars Sample Return Mission

This composite of two images shows the hole drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover during its successful sample-collection attempt. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA, along with the European Space Agency, is developing a campaign to return the Martian samples to Earth.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Sept. 1, NASA’s Perseverance rover unfurled its arm, placed a drill bit at the Martian surface, and drilled about 2 inches, or 6 centimeters, down to extract a rock core. The rover later sealed the rock core in its tube. This historic event marked the first time a spacecraft packed up a rock sample from another planet that could be returned to Earth by future spacecraft.

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NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft aboard is seen in this 2 minute and 30 second exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. Like the mission’s namesake – the fossilized human ancestor, “Lucy,” whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution – Lucy will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket Passes Key Review for Artemis I Mission

A close-up view of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket inside High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20, 2021. All 10 levels of work platforms have been retracted from around the rocket as part of the umbilical release and retract test. (Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed the design certification review (DCR) for the Space Launch System Program (SLS) rocket ahead of the Artemis I mission to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The review examined all the SLS systems, all test data, inspection reports, and analyses that support verification, to ensure every aspect of the rocket is technically mature and meets the requirements for SLS’s first flight on Artemis I.

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Highly Porous Rocks Responsible for Bennu’s Surprisingly Craggy Surface

During fall 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image, which shows one of asteroid Bennu’s boulders with a bright vein that appears to be made of carbonate. The image within the circle (lower right) shows a focused view of the vein. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — Scientists thought asteroid Bennu’s surface would be like a sandy beach, abundant in fine sand and pebbles, which would have been perfect for collecting samples. Past telescope observations from Earth’s orbit had suggested the presence of ­­large swaths of fine-grain material called fine regolith that’s smaller than a few centimeters.

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NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, the agency’s first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule for launch Saturday, Oct. 16.

Named after characters in Greek mythology, these asteroids circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to hone their theories on how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.

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NASA Empowers Workforce to Advance Deep Space Technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 10 proposals led by early-career employees across the agency for two-year projects that will support the development of new capabilities for deep space human exploration.

These proposals were selected under Project Polaris, a new initiative to support the NASA workforce in efforts to meet the challenges of sending humans to the Moon and Mars. Project Polaris seeks to fill high-priority capability gaps on deep space missions like those planned under Artemis and introduce new technologies into human exploration flight programs. The project also aims to create opportunities for early-career employees across NASA centers to gain experience building and testing flight hardware while developing technologies and reducing risk for future human exploration missions.

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NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green to Retire in 2022

Jim Green, NASA’s Chief Science Officer—shown here speaking at a public event on Aug. 6, 2013, at NASA Headquarters observing the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars—will retire in 2022. He has worked at NASA since 1980. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Chief Scientist Jim Green has announced that he will retire in early 2022 after more than 40 years of service at NASA.

“I feel tremendously proud about the activities I’ve done at NASA,” said Green. “In many ways, NASA is not a job. It’s a way of life. We’re always looking for ways to do the impossible. The fact that we continue to succeed and do those things is a tremendous excitement for everyone, and really is important not just for NASA, but for the nation.”

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NASA Selects Five U.S. Companies to Mature Artemis Lander Concepts

Artist concept of the Blue Origin National Team crewed lander on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface under the agency’s Artemis program. These companies will make advancements toward sustainable human landing system concepts, conduct risk-reduction activities, and provide feedback on NASA’s requirements to cultivate industry capabilities for crewed lunar landing missions.

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Solar Sail Advancements Aim to Unlock Deep Space Exploration

Two new solar sail mission concepts will assess spacecraft communications and power requirements and explore the design of higher fidelity sail control systems to ensure precise navigation around the Sun and interstellar locations. (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

New concepts could expand human exploration of the deepest parts of the solar system faster than ever before.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — Space exploration remains a herculean effort due to the immense challenges imposed by time and distance. While missions to near-Earth objects have been successfully accomplished using traditional means of propulsion, the outermost planets in our solar system are 2 to 3.7 billion miles from the Sun. Reaching them within any reasonable time frame requires propulsion systems that exceed the capabilities of conventional propulsion methods.

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Voyager Space Subsidiary, Altius Space Machines, Inc. Announces Support of Eta Space and NASA’s LOXSAT Cryogenic Fluid Management Mission

Voyager Logo

DENVER, Aug. 24, 2021 (Voyager Space PR) — Voyager Space (Voyager), a global leader in space exploration, today announced its subsidiary, Altius Space Machines, Inc. (Altius) was recently selected by Eta Space to provide a cryogenic coupler for liquid oxygen (LOX) transfer in support of its planned nine-month LOXSAT cryogenic fluid management mission.

Eta Space was selected by NASA to execute a flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system. The system will fly as a dedicated payload on a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle and will collect critical cryogenic storage and transfer data in orbit for nine months. Eta Space will collaborate with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Redwire Developing Key Technologies to Build Sustainable Lunar Infrastructure

Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Device, which will be used to run the regolith simulant prints for the Redwire Regolith Print mission. (Credit: Redwire)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NASA PR) — The farther humans go into deep space, the more important it will be to generate products with local materials. Reducing Earth delivery requirements reduces overall mission cost and launch weight.  It also allows for the construction of infrastructure using space-based resources, a practice called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). NASA is making long term investments to advance ISRU technology across multiple areas, including regolith-based in-space manufacturing and construction.

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