#NASA; #AsteroidBennu; #OSIRISRExSpacecraft
Washington, Dec 14 (Canadian-Media): After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has officially selected a sample collection site, NASA reports said.
This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team concluded a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample.
The OSIRIS-REx team spent the past several months evaluating close-range data from four candidate sites in order to identify the best option for the sample collection. The candidate sites – dubbed Sandpiper, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Nightingale – were chosen for investigation because, of all the potential sampling regions on Bennu, these areas pose the fewest hazards to the spacecraft’s safety while still providing the opportunity for great samples to be gathered.
“After thoroughly evaluating all four candidate sites, we made our final decision based on which site has the greatest amount of fine-grained material and how easily the spacecraft can access that material while keeping the spacecraft safe,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Of the four candidates, site Nightingale best meets these criteria and, ultimately, best ensures mission success.”
Site Nightingale is located in a northern crater 460 feet (140 meters) wide. Nightingale’s regolith – or rocky surface material – is dark, and images show that the crater is relatively smooth. Because it is located so far north, temperatures in the region are lower than elsewhere on the asteroid and the surface material is well-preserved. The crater also is thought to be relatively young, and the regolith is freshly exposed. This means the site would likely allow for a pristine sample of the asteroid, giving the team insight into Bennu’s history.
Although Nightingale ranks the highest of any location on Bennu, the site still poses challenges for sample collection. The original mission plan envisioned a sample site with a diameter of 164 feet (50 meters). While the crater that hosts Nightingale is larger than that, the area safe enough for the spacecraft to touch is much smaller – approximately 52 feet (16 meters) in diameter, resulting in a site that is only about one-tenth the size of what was originally envisioned. This means the spacecraft has to very accurately target Bennu’s surface. Nightingale also has a building-size boulder situated on the crater’s eastern rim, which could pose a hazard to the spacecraft while backing away after contacting the site.
The mission also selected site Osprey as a backup sample collection site. The spacecraft has the capability to perform multiple sampling attempts, but any significant disturbance to Nightingale’s surface would make it difficult to collect a sample from that area on a later attempt, making a backup site necessary. The spacecraft is designed to autonomously “wave-off” from the site if its predicted position is too close to a hazardous area. During this maneuver, the exhaust plumes from the spacecraft’s thrusters could potentially disturb the surface of the site, due to the asteroid’s microgravity environment. In any situation where a follow-on attempt at Nightingale is not possible, the team will try to collect a sample from site Osprey instead.
"Bennu has challenged OSIRIS-REx with extraordinarily rugged terrain," said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. "The team has adapted by employing a more accurate, though more complex, optical navigation technique to be able to get into these small areas. We'll also arm OSIRIS-REx with the capability to recognize if it is on course to touch a hazard within or adjacent to the site and wave-off before that happens."
With the selection of final primary and backup sites, the mission team will undertake further reconnaissance flights over Nightingale and Osprey, beginning in January and continuing through the spring. Once these flyovers are complete, the spacecraft will begin rehearsals for its first "touch-and-go" sample collection attempt, which is scheduled for August. The spacecraft will depart Bennu in 2021 and is scheduled to return to Earth in September 2023.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit
Washington, Dec 11 (Canadian-Media): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Robert Pearce as the next associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Pearce replaces Jaiwon Shin, who retired from the agency on Aug. 31, NASA reports said.
Robert Pearce. Credits: NASA
“Bob is a visionary leader with a deep understanding of the current and future aeronautics environment,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “He’ll do a great job directing NASA in helping create a generational shift in air travel for the United States and the world.”
Pearce served as the acting associate administrator for ARMD since Sept. 1, responsible for the agency’s overall aeronautics research strategic direction, including research in advanced air vehicle concepts, airspace operations and safety, integrated aviation systems, and the nurturing and development of transformative concepts for aviation.
Prior to this appointment, Pearce served as the deputy associate administrator for ARMD. He also has been ARMD’s director for strategy, architecture and analysis, as well as holding various strategic and program management positions within NASA. From 2003 until July 2010, he was the deputy director of the FAA-led Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO). The JPDO was an interagency office tasked with developing and facilitating the implementation of a national plan to transform the air transportation system to meet the long-term transportation needs of the nation.
Prior to joining NASA in 1990, Pearce was a design engineer at the Grumman Corporation, working on such projects as the Navy’s F-14 Tomcat fighter and DARPA’s X-29 Forward Swept Wing Demonstrator. Pearce also has experience from the Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center where he made contributions in the area of advanced concepts for intercity transportation systems.
Pearce has been recognized many times for his outstanding strategic leadership in the field of aeronautics research, including receiving NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, and NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. Pearce is also a recipient of a Presidential Rank Award.
Pearce’s full biography is available online.
#NASA; #Astronomy; #InternationalSpaceStation
Washington, Dec 11 (Canadian-Media): Students from Texas will have an opportunity this week to talk with a NASA astronaut currently living and working aboard the International Space Station. The Earth-to-space call will air live on NASA television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch collects and packs Mizuna mustard greens grown and harvested inside the International Space Station's Vegetable Production System located in the Columbus laboratory module. Credits: NASA
NASA astronaut Christina Koch will answer questions from students at Second Baptist School at 11:30 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 13. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is an alumnus of the school, will be in attendance.
“I am excited to be joining the students at Second Baptist School on Friday as they talk to astronaut Christina Koch from the International Space Station. Space exploration is one of the most extraordinary endeavors mankind can undertake,” said Cruz. “The next 50 years of space exploration have potential to be even more consequential than the last 50 years, which is why it’s important for the next generation of American leaders to engage with the astronauts, scientists, and mathematicians who are currently pioneering the final frontier.”
“Today’s students are the Artemis Generation. They will have the opportunity to be part of the mission and witness deep space exploration like no other generation,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “STEM is such a crucial component of NASA’s work. Inspiring young people to get involved with STEM learning is what NASA, as a whole, is all about.”
The event will be held at Second Baptist School, 6410 Woodway Dr., Houston. Media interested in covering should contact John Card at email@example.com or 713-907-7756.
Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Space Network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).
For nearly 20 years, astronauts have continuously lived and worked on the space station, testing technologies, performing science and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. Through NASA’s Artemis program, the agency will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024, with eventual human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.
#NASA; #Washington; #Switchbacks; NASA'sParkerSolarProbe
Washington, Dec 4 (Canadian-Media): New revelations of Sun in dramatic detail, by NASA's Parker Solar Probe, sheds light on the formation of other stars and their behaviour in the universe, NASA reports said.
The WISPR image on NASA's Parker Solar Probe captured imagery of the constant outflow of material from the Sun during its close approach to the Sun in April 2019. Image Credits: NASA/NRL/APL
Scorching temperatures are being endured by the spacecraft to gather data being shared for the first time, details of which are given in four new papers -- now available online from the journal Nature -- throwing light on previously unknown and only-theorized characteristics of our volatile celestial neighbor.
The information uncovered by Parker about the Sun constantly ejecting material and energy will not only help scientists rewrite the models and render a better understanding of the creation and evolution of the stars, but also protect astronauts and technology in space, an important part of NASA’s Artemis program, which will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024 and, eventually, on to Mars.
Through these flybys, the mission also has examined the dust of the coronal environment, and spotted particle acceleration events so small that they are undetectable from Earth, which is nearly 93 million miles from the Sun.
For the first time, scientists are able to study the solar wind from its source, the Sun's corona, similar to how one might observe the stream that serves as the source of a river. This provides a much different perspective as compared to studying the solar wind were its flow impacts Earth.
One particular event which caught the attention of the science teams was flips in the direction of the magnetic field. These reversals – dubbed "switchbacks" – appear to be a very common phenomenon in the solar wind flow inside the orbit of Mercury, and last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over the spacecraft.
Mechanisms of heat and accelerate the solar wind are more clear by these switchbacks. They not only provide understanding of what causes the solar wind and space weather affecting Earth, but also helps us understand a fundamental process of how stars work and how they release magnetic energy into their environment.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole – the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the Sun in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory – on October 27, 2018. While scientists have long known that fast solar wind streams flow from coronal holes near the poles, they have not yet conclusively identified the source of the Sun's slow solar wind. Image credits: NASA/SDO
Some surprising clues have been found by researchers as to how the Sun’s rotation affects the outflow of the solar wind, which can be accessed in a separate publication, based on measurements by the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) instrument.
As Parker ventured to a distance of around 20 million miles from the Sun, researchers obtained their first observations of this effect which is key to helping us understand how the Sun’s rotation slows down over time, as well as other stars and the formation of protoplanetary disks, dense disks of gas and dust encircling young stars.
Dust in the Wind
First direct evidence of dust starting to thin out around 7 million miles from the Sun was also observed by Parker using Parker’s Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument, at a distance of about 4 million miles from the Sun, that has been impossible to measure until now. The spacecraft hopes observe as early as September 2020, during its sixth flyby a truly dust-free zone beginning at a distance of about 2-3 million miles from the Sun, which would signal a place where the material of the dust has been evaporated by the Sun’s heat, to become part of the solar wind flying past Earth.
Finally, several never-before-seen events so small that all traces of them are lost before they reach Earth had been measured by Parker's Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS) energetic particle instruments. Solar energetic particle events are important, as they can arise suddenly and lead to space weather conditions near Earth that can be potentially harmful to astronauts. Unraveling the sources, acceleration and transport of solar energetic particles will help us better protect humans in space in the future.
“The Sun is the only star we can examine this closely,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “Getting data at the source already is revolutionizing our understanding of our own star and stars across the universe. Our little spacecraft is soldiering through brutal conditions to send home startling and exciting revelations.”
#NASA; #Washington, #ParkerSolarProbeMissionResults
Washington, Dec 3 (Canadian-Media): The first results from the Parker Solar Probe mission, the agency's revolutionary mission to "touch" the Sun, would be announced by NASA , during a media teleconference at 1:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 4, NASA reports said.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission has traveled closer to the Sun than any human-made object before it. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
Research results from four instruments on the probe, responsible for changing our understanding of the Sun and other stars, would be discussed by mission experts during the teleconference. Their findings will also be published at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the website of the journal Nature. Teleconference audio will stream live at: https://www.nasa.gov/live
Participants in the call are:
Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
To participate in the media teleconference, media must provide their name and affiliation to Miles Hatfield at 650-580-8333 or firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Dec. 4.
A special episode of NASA Science Live at 3 p.m would follow the media event to discuss about the results and the overall science goals of the Parker mission.
The program will air on NASA Television, the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube and Periscope. The public can send questions during the event using the hashtag #askNASA on Twitter or by leaving a comment in the chat section of Facebook.
On Thursday, Dec. 5, NASA will host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the findings. Questions can be submitted to the Reddit AMA event when it begins at 2 p.m.