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NASA Delivers Supplies To The Space Station

Experiments arriving via the Cygnus will observe how cement solidifies in weightlessness, among other things.

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Space Station
Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off from the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. The rocket will deliver supplies to the International Space Station. VOA
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A load of space station supplies rocketed into orbit from Virginia on Saturday, the second shipment in two days.

And another commercial delivery should be on its way in a couple weeks.

“What an outstanding launch,” said NASA’s deputy space station program manager, Joel Montalbano.

Northrop Grumman launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island before dawn, delighting chilly early-bird observers along the Atlantic coast. The Russian Space Agency launched its own supplies to the International Space Station on Friday, just 15 hours earlier.

Parker-Solar-3, NASA, space, Space station
A Delta IV rocket, carrying the Parker Solar Probe, lifts off from launch complex 37 as seen during a time exposure at the Kennedy Space Center. VOA

The U.S. delivery will arrive at the orbiting lab Monday, a day after the Russian shipment. Among the 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of goods inside the Cygnus capsule: ice cream and fresh fruit for the three space station residents, and a 3D printer that recycles old plastic into new parts.

Thanksgiving turkey dinners — rehydratable, of course — are already aboard the 250-mile-high outpost. The space station is currently home to an American, a German and a Russian.

There’s another big event coming up, up there: The space station marks its 20th year in orbit on Tuesday. The first section launched on Nov. 20, 1998, from Kazakhstan.

“As we celebrate 20 years of the International Space Station,” Montalbano noted, “one of the coolest things is the cooperation we have across the globe.” Then there’s the U.S. commercial effort to keep the space station stocked and, beginning next year, to resume crew launches from Cape Canaveral. “To me, it’s been a huge success,” he said.

Space, Parker-Solar-3, NASA, space, Space station
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome. VOA

This Cygnus, or Swan, is named the S.S. John Young to honor the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and commanded the first space shuttle flight. He died in January.

Also Read: The Aborted Mission To Relaunch Soon: NASA

It is the first commercial cargo ship to bear Northrop Grumman’s name. Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK in June. SpaceX is NASA’s other commercial shipper for the space station; its Dragon capsule is set to lift off in early December.

Experiments arriving via the Cygnus will observe how cement solidifies in weightlessness, among other things. There’s also medical, spacesuit and other equipment to replace items that never made it to orbit last month because of a Russian rocket failure; the two men who were riding the rocket survived their emergency landing. Three other astronauts are set to launch from Kazakhstan on Dec. 3. (VOA)

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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.

 

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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)