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NASA probe beams ‘phone call’ after Pluto fly-by

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pluto
photo credit- NASA

Washington, After completing the historic fly-by of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons probe has successfully beamed a pre-programmed “phone call” — a 15-minute series of status messages — to mission scientists on Earth.

US President Barack Obama congratulated the NASA team for this historic feat on Twitter.

“Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks @NASA – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership,” he tweeted.

The mission scientists have now instructed the probe to spend the time gathering the maximum amount of data and not communicating with Earth until it was beyond the Pluto system.

“We have inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. 

“This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential,” he added. 

The “phone call” was beamed back to scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland through NASA’s Deep Space Network.

“With the successful flyby of Pluto, we are celebrating the capstone event in a golden age of planetary exploration,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.

“While this historic event is still unfolding — with the most exciting Pluto science still ahead of us — a new era of solar system exploration is just beginning,” he added.

New Horizons is collecting so much data it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.

Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object visited by a mission from Earth.

New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.

“The New Horizons flyby completes the first era of planetary reconnaissance, a half century long endeavor that will forever be a legacy of our time,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.

(IANS)

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NASA Probe Makes New Discoveries on Asteroid Bennu

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained

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

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has observed particle plumes erupting from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which began orbiting Bennu on December 31, first discovered the particle plumes on January 6, followed by additional particle plumes over the last two months.

While some of the particles were slow-moving, the others were found orbiting Bennu, like small satellites.

Bennu’s entire surface was also found to be rough and dense with boulders, contrary to the Earth-based observations, which showed a smooth surface with a few large boulders.

This means that the sample collection part of the mission will have to be adjusted to make sure that OSIRIS-REx can touch down and collect a sample, said NASA while presenting the discoveries at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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

“And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” Lauretta added.

Further, the team observed a change in the spin rate of Bennu as a result of what is known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect.

The uneven heating and cooling of Bennu as it rotates in sunlight is causing the asteroid to increase its rotation speed.

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As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The findings will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. (IANS)