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Asteroid Bennu Finally Captured By NASA’S OSIRIS-REx

After the sample collection, the spacecraft will head back towards Earth before ejecting the "Sample Return Capsule" for landing in Utah.

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NASA to use Blockchain technology for air traffic management. Pixabay

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has captured the first glimpse of its distant target — asteroid Bennu — after almost two years of journey.

Launched on September 8, 2016, the OSIRIS-REx, which is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on December 3. It will help unveil the mysteries of our solar system’s formation, the US space agency said in a statement.

The spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km) or almost six times the distance between the Earth and the Moon, on August 17.

The cropped set of five images were obtained over the course of an hour. Bennu is visible as a moving object against the stars in the constellation Serpens, the statement said.

As OSIRIS-REx approaches the asteroid, the spacecraft will use its science instruments to gather information about Bennu and prepare for arrival.

NASA
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

It will regularly observe the area around Bennu to search for dust plumes and natural satellites and also study its light and spectral properties.

“Now that OSIRIS-REx is close enough to observe Bennu, the mission team will spend the next few months learning as much as possible about Bennu’s size, shape, surface features, and surroundings before the spacecraft arrives at the asteroid,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in the US.

After arrival at Bennu, the spacecraft will spend the first-month performing flybys of Bennu’s north pole, equator and south pole, at distances ranging between 11.8 and 4.4 miles (19 and 7 km) from the asteroid.

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The spacecraft will extensively survey the asteroid before the mission team identifies two possible sample sites, which will allow the team to pick one for sample collection, scheduled for July 2020.

After the sample collection, the spacecraft will head back towards Earth before ejecting the “Sample Return Capsule” for landing in the Utah desert in September 2023. (IANS)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)