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NASA Claims That No Evidence of Atmosphere is Found on Ultima Thule

The New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule could help scientists better understand what conditions were like when our Solar System formed billions of years ago

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Nasa's Opportunity rover might have 'died' on Mars. Flickr

New Horizons spacecraft which explored the ancient Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, earlier this week, has yielded that the distant object has no evidence of an atmosphere, NASA has said.

New Horizons completed the farthest flyby in history when it came within about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometres) of Ultima Thule at 12.33 a.m. EST on January 1, zooming past the object at more than 32,000 miles (51,000 kilometres) per hour.

Data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is yielding scientific discoveries daily.

 Besides finding no evidence of an atmosphere, the initial data analysis also found no evidence of rings or satellites larger than one mile in diameter orbiting Ultima Thule, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The colour of Ultima Thule matches the colour of similar worlds in the Kuiper Belt, as determined by telescopic measurements.

The two lobes of Ultima Thule — the first Kuiper Belt contact binary visited — are nearly identical in colour. This matches what we know about binary systems which haven’t come into contact with each other, but rather orbit around a shared point of gravity, NASA said.

“The first exploration of a small Kuiper Belt object and the most distant exploration of any world in history is now history, but almost all of the data analysis lies in the future,” said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA, tissue
Data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is yielding scientific discoveries daily. Flcikr

Data transmission from New Horizons will pause for about a week while the spacecraft passes behind the Sun as seen from here on Earth. Data transmission resumes January 10, starting a 20-month download of the spacecraft’s remaining scientific treasures.

“Those of us on the science team can’t wait to begin to start digging into that treasure trove,” Stern noted.

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Located 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth, Ultima Thule means “beyond the known world”.

The New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule could help scientists better understand what conditions were like when our Solar System formed billions of years ago.

New Horizons’ extended mission also includes observations of more than two-dozen other Kuiper Belt objects, as well as measurements of the plasma, gas and dust environment of the Kuiper Belt. (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)