Wednesday June 20, 2018

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) likely to bring astronauts closer to Mars

The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) was conducted in July and formally approved by the agency on August 15

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Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia
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  • The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft
  • NASA has identified three valid asteroids for the mission so far: Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5
  • The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world’s most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA)

August 16, 2016: US space agency NASA has approved the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to proceed to the next phase of design and development for the mission’s robotic segment, in its bid to send a manned flight to Mars.

ARM is a two-part mission that will integrate robotic and crewed spacecraft operations in the proving ground of deep space to demonstrate key capabilities needed for NASA’s journey to Mars.

For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars.

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“There, astronauts will be able to select, extract, collect and return samples from the multi-ton asteroid mass, and conduct other human-robotic and spacecraft operations in the proving ground that will validate concepts for NASA’s journey to Mars,” NASA said in a statement.

The option to retrieve a boulder from an asteroid will have a direct impact on planning for future human missions to deep space and begin a new era of spaceflight.

The 'Option A' was to deploy a container large enough to capture a free-flying asteroid up to 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The ‘Option A’ was to deploy a container large enough to capture a free-flying asteroid up to 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft.

NASA has identified three valid asteroids for the mission so far: Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5.

The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) was conducted in July and formally approved by the agency on August 15.

“This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development,” saidNASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

The robotic ARM will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion and advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body.

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It will also showcase touchdown and liftoff with a multi-ton mass from a low-gravity planetary body and astronaut activities for sample selection, extraction, containment, and return – all key components of future in-space operations for human missions to Mars.

Before beginning its trip to lunar orbit, the ARM spacecraft will demonstrate a widely supported asteroid deflection technique called a gravity tractor.

The spacecraft plus the mass of the captured boulder will create a small gravitational attraction to alter the orbit of the large asteroid.

The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world’s most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA).

NEAs are asteroids that are fewer than 121 million miles from the Sun at the closest point in their orbit. (IANS)

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Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered

The new finding add to scientists' understanding of Mars's interior and its past potential for habitability

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Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered
Finally The Cause Of Mysterious Martian Rock Formation Discovered, flickr

Explosive volcanic eruptions that shot jets of hot ash, rock and gas skyward are the probable source of a mysterious Martian rock formation near the planet’s equator, says a new study.

The Medusae Fossae Formation is a massive, unusual deposit of soft rock with undulating hills and abrupt mesas.

Scientists first observed the Medusae Fossae with NASA’s Mariner spacecraft in the 1960s but were perplexed as to how it formed.

The current study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggests the formation was deposited during explosive volcanic eruptions on the Red Planet more than three billion years ago.

The formation is about one-fifth as large as the continental US and 100 times more massive than the largest explosive volcanic deposit on Earth, making it the largest known explosive volcanic deposit in the solar system, according to the study authors.

“This is a massive deposit, not only on a Martian scale, but also in terms of the solar system, because we do not know of any other deposit that is like this,” said study lead author Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, US.

Volcanic eruption
Volcanic eruption, pixabay

The researchers believe that the new finding could add to scientists’ understanding of Mars’s interior and its past potential for habitability.

The eruptions that created the deposit could have spewed massive amounts of climate-altering gases into Mars’ atmosphere and ejected enough water to cover Mars in a global ocean more than nine centimeters thick, Ojha said.

Previous radar measurements of Mars’s surface suggested the Medusae Fossae had an unusual composition, but scientists were unable to determine whether it was made of highly porous rock or a mixture of rock and ice.

In the new study, the researchers used gravity data from various Mars orbiter spacecraft to measure the Medusae Fossae’s density for the first time.

They found the rock is unusually porous — it is about two-thirds as dense as the rest of the Martian crust.

They also used radar and gravity data in combination to show the Medusae Fossae’s density cannot be explained by the presence of ice, which is much less dense than rock.

Because the rock is so porous, it had to have been deposited by explosive volcanic eruptions, according to the researchers.

volcano
Active volcano, Pixabay

Greenhouse gases exhaled during the eruptions that spawned the Medusae Fossae could have warmed Mars’s surface enough for water to remain liquid at its surface, but toxic volcanic gases like hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide would have altered the chemistry of Mars’ surface and atmosphere.

Also read: Earthquake Then Volcano, There is No Relief For the Hawaii Residents

Both processes would have affected Mars’ potential for habitability, Ojha said. (IANS)