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IAU Names Two Lunar Craters to Honour NASA’s Apollo 8

The Apollo 8 craters were named by the IAU's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature

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Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong
The Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong, to be offered at auction, is displayed at Sotheby's in New York, July 13, 2017. VOA
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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named two lunar craters to honour NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft, 50 years after the historic voyage carried three astronauts into orbit around the moon for the first time in 1968.

Named “8 Homeward” and “Anders’ Earthrise”, both craters are visible in the iconic earthrise colour photograph image shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, the IAU said in a statement on Friday.

The image depicts the moment that our shiny blue Earth came back into view as the spacecraft emerged out of the dark from behind the grey and barren Moon.

“This is arguably the most famous picture taken by Apollo 8. It became iconic and has been credited with starting the environmental movement,” the IAU said.

Apollo 8
The Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union has today officially approved the naming of two craters on the Moon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. IAU.org

Since the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth — it always has the same side facing the Earth — the Earth will never appear to rise above the surface to someone standing on the lunar far side.

Orbiting around the Moon, however, gave the Apollo 8 astronauts this stunning view.

Anders, mission commander Frank Borman and James Lovell became the first humans to reach the moon after they blasted off atop a giant Saturn 5 rocket on December 21, 1968, and braked into orbit around the moon that Christmas Eve.

After 10 orbits, broadcasting images back to Earth and giving live television transmissions, the crew returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

planet, apollo 8
A planet-like object, dubbed “Sedna” is seen in this artist’s concept released by NASA, March 26, 2014. A similar dwarf planet, nicknamed “the Goblin,” has been discovered well beyond Pluto.. VOA

Six-and-a-half months later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface, taking “a giant leap for mankind”.

Also Read: Voyager Probe 2 May Be Close to Interstellar Space: NASA

The Apollo 8 craters were named by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, the authority responsible for naming planetary features across the solar system. (IANS)

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NASA’s Probe Discovers Signs Of Water on Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid's gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.

The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

 

NASA, asteroid
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

 

“We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

“When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. VOA

“We’re really trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable,” Lauretta added.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

Also Read: Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023. (VOA)