NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following a thorough evaluation, NASA has extended the planetary science missions of eight of its spacecraft due to their scientific productivity and potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The missions – Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, OSIRIS-REx, and New Horizons – have been selected for continuation, assuming their spacecraft remain healthy. Most of the missions will be extended for three years; however, OSIRIS-REx will be continued for nine years in order to reach a new destination, and InSight will be continued until the end of 2022, unless the spacecraft’s electrical power allows for longer operations.

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NASA Gives Green Light for OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft to Visit Another Asteroid

The extended mission, dubbed OSIRIS-APEX, will study the near-Earth asteroid Apophis, which will have a close encounter with Earth in 2029.

This is an artist’s illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft firing thrusters near the surface of the asteroid Apophis.( Credit: Heather Roper)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will swing by Earth to deliver a sample from asteroid Bennu on Sept. 24, 2023. But it won’t clock out after that. 

NASA has extended the University of Arizona-led mission, which will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX, to study near-Earth asteroid Apophis for 18 months. Apophis will make a close approach to Earth in 2029. 

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Lockheed Martin Selected For Critical Elements Of NASA’s Mission To Bring Back First Ever Samples From Mars

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER, Feb. 15, 2022 (Lockheed Martin PR) – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] was awarded three NASA contracts for key elements of the agency’s visionary Mars Sample Return program.

The first contract is for the cruise stage that will power and steer the Mars-bound journey of the lander that retrieves Martian rock and soil samples from the Perseverance Rover. For this $35 million award from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California (JPL), Lockheed Martin will produce the cruise stage and its comprehensive elements, including the solar arrays, structure, propulsion and thermal properties.

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OSIRIS-REx Mission Team Wins 2022 Swigert Award for Space Exploration

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — The NASA and University of Arizona OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission team has been selected to receive the 2022 John L. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for space exploration and space-inspired industries.

The award will be presented April 4 during the opening ceremony of the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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NASA Receives Special Cosmic Delivery of Asteroid Sample from Japan

A Hayabusa2 sample canister containing sample fragments of the asteroid Ryugu is transferred from JAXA to NASA. (Credits: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Just as fossils hold clues to the history of life, asteroids hold clues to the history of the solar system. Rare samples collected from the surface of an asteroid by NASA and its international partners are helping to decipher these clues.

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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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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 Spacecraft Provides Insight into Asteroid Bennu’s Future Orbit

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)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In a study released Wednesday, NASA researchers used precision-tracking data from the agency’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to better understand movements of the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu through the year 2300, significantly reducing uncertainties related to its future orbit, and improving scientists’ ability to determine the total impact probability and predict orbits of other asteroids.

The study, titled “Ephemeris and hazard assessment for near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu based on OSIRIS-REx data,” was published in the journal Icarus.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample

This illustration shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing asteroid Bennu to begin its two-year journey back to Earth. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

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NASA Invites Public, Media to Watch Asteroid Mission Begin Return to Earth

This illustration shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing asteroid Bennu to begin its two-year journey back to Earth. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA invites the public and the media to watch its first asteroid sample return mission begin a two-year cruise home at 4 p.m. EDT Monday, May 10, on NASA Televisionthe NASA app, and the agency’s website. The public can follow along on the NASA Solar System InstagramTwitter, and Facebook  accounts using #ToBennuAndBack, and ask questions about the mission by commenting on an Instagram story between 12 p.m. EDT, May 10 and 12 p.m. EDT, May 11. Answers will post to NASA Solar System’s Instagram stories on May 11.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Completes Final Tour of Asteroid Bennu

This image shows a top-down view of asteroid Bennu, with a portion of the asteroid’s equatorial ridge and northern hemisphere illuminated. It was taken by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on March 4, 2021, from a distance of about 186 miles (300 km). The spacecraft’s cameras are pointed directly at Bennu’s north pole. Two large equatorial craters are visible on the asteroid’s edge (center and center left). The image was obtained during the mission’s Post-TAG Operations phase, as the spacecraft slowly approached Bennu in preparation for a final observational flyby on April 7. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx completed its last flyover of Bennu around 6 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. MDT) April 7 and is now slowly drifting away from the asteroid; however, the mission team will have to wait a few more days to find out how the spacecraft changed the surface of Bennu when it grabbed a sample of the asteroid.

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NASA OSIRIS-REx’s Final Asteroid Observation Run

This artist’s concept shows the planned flight path of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during its final flyby of asteroid Bennu, which is scheduled for April 7. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is on the brink of discovering the extent of the mess it made on asteroid Bennu’s surface during last fall’s sample collection event. On Apr. 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will get one last close encounter with Bennu as it performs a final flyover to capture images of the asteroid’s surface. While performing the flyover, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.3 miles (3.7 km) – the closest it’s been since the Touch-and-Go Sample Collection event on Oct. 20, 2020.

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UArizona Scientists Will Test Mars Exploration Drones in Iceland with $3 Million NASA Grant

TUCSON, Ariz. — A team of scientists led by Christopher Hamilton of the University of Arizona is gearing up to send drones on exploration missions across a vast lava field in Iceland to test a next-generation Mars exploration concept.

Hamilton is the principal investigator on a project that has been awarded a $3.1 million NASA grant to develop a new concept combining rovers and unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, to explore regions of the red planet that have been previously inaccessible. These new Rover–Aerial Vehicle Exploration Networks will be tested in Iceland to explore volcanic terrains similar to those observed on Mars.

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Canada’s Top Space Highlights of 2020

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was an exceptional year. As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the most compelling, inspirational and incredible moments for Canada in space. Happy New Year!

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