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NASA Chief: Moon Mission a Step Forward to Reach Mars

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to "lead an innovative and sustainable programme of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities"

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NASA image.
Just 11 years after Eisenhower authorized NASA, American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Pixabay

NASA’s new head, Jim Bridenstine, has defended the new agency directive to return astronauts to the Moon, saying that the mission will not derail the US goal of becoming the first country to put humans on Mars.

“Our return to the surface of the Moon will allow us to prove and advance technologies that will…(enable) us to land the first Americans on the Red Planet,” the NASA Administrator said on Wednesday during his keynote address at the “Humans to Mars” summit in Washington, DC.

US President Donald Trump in December 2017 signed a change in national space policy that provides for a US-led integrated programme with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

NASA Chief: Moon Mission a Step Forward to Reach Mars.
Mars. Pixabay

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable programme of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities”.

In his first major address as NASA administrator, Bridenstine, however, did not disclose any new initiatives by NASA to send humans to the Red Planet, Space.com reported.

Mars and the moon will be complementary initiatives, said Bridenstine, who was sworn in as administrator three weeks ago after NASA went 15 months without a permanent leader.

Also Read: NASA Spacecraft Finds New Type of Magnetic Explosion

“If some of you are concerned that the coming focus is the moon, don’t be,” Bridenstine said.

“We’re doing both the Moon and Mars in tandem, and the missions are supportive of each other,” he added. (IANS)

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“It Is A More Rugged Surface Than We Predicted,” NASA’s Plan to Scoop Up Dirt from Asteroid Hits Complication

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission.

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This artist's rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

NASA’s plan to scoop up dirt and gravel from an asteroid has hit a snag, but scientists say they can overcome it.

The asteroid Bennu was thought to have wide, open areas suitable for the task. But a recently arrived spacecraft revealed the asteroid is covered with boulders and there don’t seem to be any big, flat spots that could be used to grab samples.

In a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature, scientists say they plan to take a closer look at a few smaller areas that might work. They said sampling from those spots poses “a substantial challenge.”

“But I am confident this team is up to that substantial challenge,” the project’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

The spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, is scheduled to descend close to the surface in the summer of 2020. It will extend a robot arm to pick up the sample, which will be returned to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft began orbiting Bennu at the end of last year, after spending two years chasing down the space rock.

FILE - This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu.
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. VOA

When the mission was planned, scientists were aiming to take dirt and gravel from an area measuring at least 55 yards (50 meters) in diameter that was free of boulders or steep slopes, which would pose a hazard.

“It is a more rugged surface than we predicted,” said Lauretta, of the University of Arizona in Tucson and one of the paper’s authors. But he said he believed a sample could still be collected.

NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling.

Patrick Taylor, who studies asteroids at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but didn’t participate in the spacecraft mission, noted in a telephone interview that the spacecraft was evidently maneuvering more accurately and precisely than had been expected.

“That gives me confidence they will be able to attempt a sample acquisition,” he said.

NASA
NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling. VOA

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Bennu is 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s estimated to be just over 1,600 feet (500 meters) across and is the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission. (VOA)