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NASA Probe Finds Water Locked Inside The Asteroid Bennu

The spacecraft's first orbital insertion is scheduled for December 31, and OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until mid-February 2019, when it exits to initiate another series of flybys for the next survey phase

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NASA to use Blockchain technology for air traffic management. Pixabay

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has found water locked inside the asteroid Bennu — a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system.

Launched in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to collect sample from an asteroid.

Data obtained from the spacecraft’s two spectrometers, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) and the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) reveal the presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together, known as “hydroxyls”.

These hydroxyl groups exist globally across the asteroid in water-bearing clay minerals, meaning that at some point Bennu’s rocky material interacted with water.

While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding does indicate that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

“The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

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Launched in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to collect sample from an asteroid. Flickr

“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,” Simon added.

After travelling through space for more than two years and over two billion kilometres, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached Bennu on December 3.

The mission is currently performing a preliminary survey of the asteroid, flying the spacecraft in passes over Bennu’s north pole, equator, and south pole at ranges as close as 4.4 miles (7 km) to better determine the asteroid’s mass.

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The spacecraft’s first orbital insertion is scheduled for December 31, and OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until mid-February 2019, when it exits to initiate another series of flybys for the next survey phase.

During the first orbital phase, the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid at a range of 0.9 miles (1.4 km) to 1.24 miles (2.0 km) from the centre of Bennu – setting new records for the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft and the closest orbit of a planetary body by any spacecraft. (IANS)

Next Story

Partial Shutdown of US Delays Space Missions, But NASA Not Grounded

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said

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People rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

The partial shutdown of the US federal government has had a serious impact on the country’s space agency NASA and development work on most future space missions has been slowed or suspended.

However, NASA has not been totally grounded by the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, after last-minute negotiations in Congress failed to end a budget standoff.

Over 95 per cent of the space agency’s employees have been furloughed. As a result, various research projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope has been put on hold, the Space.com reported on Wednesday.

Hubble suffered a mechanical problem that only furloughed NASA employees could repair.

Many workers also gathered outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston to protest the shutdown and its deleterious effects on their lives and the nation’s space programmes.

The Telescope facilities that have so far remained open during the shutdown will soon run out of money and cease operations.

This includes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded organization that operates the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array (VLA), the report noted.

The partial shutdown become the longest on record after January 12, overtaking the previous record of the 21-day impasse in 1995-96 under then President Bill Clinton.

NASA, tissue
US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

President Donald Trump and the Congress have been at loggerheads over his demand to include in the budget $5.7 billion funding for building a border wall along the Mexico border. Democratic leaders have rejected his call.

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), also called the “flying telescope” has also ceased operations since the shutdown.

The telescope, which is mounted to the fuselage of a Boeing 747 aircraft, has not flown since the shutdown began, the report said.

However, despite the shutdown some “excepted” employees remained at work, assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other space missions, the report said.

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Last week, astronauts aboard the ISS conducted a range of scientific experiments and public-outreach work. They engaged in an orbital Q&A with school kids and answered a variety of questions, from the nature of the research performed aboard the ISS to the type of training astronauts receive to whether your ears pop in space.

On January 13, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule departed the orbiting lab for Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The robotic Dragon brought down important scientific research and hardware for examination here on terra firma.

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said.  (IANS)