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NASA to intensify focus on Earth’s frozen regions

Together the two missions will make critical, complementary measurements of Earth's glaciers and ice sheets, NASA said. Both missions will also make other key observations

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NASA to research more about Earth's frozen surfaces. IANS
  • NASA to conduct more research about Earth’s frozen surfaces
  • It will enhance their understanding of Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, snow cover and permafrost
  • NASA will launch two new satellite missions for this purpose

To enhance understanding of Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, snow cover and permafrost, NASA will launch two new satellite missions and conduct an array of field research in 2018, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

These missions come at a time when decades of observations from the ground, air and space have revealed signs of change in these frozen regions of our planet, called the “cryosphere.”

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA will conduct research by launching two new satellite missions. Pixabay

Ongoing changes with the cryosphere, while often occurring in remote regions, have impacts on people all around the world — sea level rise affects coastlines globally, more than a billion people rely on water from snowpack, and the diminishing sea ice that covers the Arctic Ocean plays a significant role in Earth’s climate and weather patterns.

This spring, NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences are scheduled to launch the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, twin satellites that will continue the original GRACE mission’s legacy of tracking fluctuations in Earth’s gravity field in order to detect changes in mass, including the mass of ice sheets and aquifers.

Also Read: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot grows taller: NASA

And in autumn, NASA is scheduled to launch the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), which will use a highly advanced laser instrument to measure the changing elevation of ice around the world, providing a view of the height of Earth’s ice with greater detail than previously possible.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
It will also help scientists understand about Cryosphere. IANS

Together the two missions will make critical, complementary measurements of Earth’s glaciers and ice sheets, NASA said. Both missions will also make other key observations. For instance, GRACE-FO will measure groundwater reserves and deep ocean currents and ICESat-2 will measure sea ice thickness and vegetation height. NASA research shows that permafrost — permanently frozen ground in the Arctic that contains heat-trapping gases such as methane and carbon dioxide — is thawing at faster rates now than scientists have observed before. 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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NASA
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

Also Read: To Ensure Transparency, WHO Panel Aims for Registry of All Human Gene-Editing Research

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)