Tuesday March 26, 2019

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) likely to bring astronauts closer to Mars

The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) was conducted in July and formally approved by the agency on August 15

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Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia
  • The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft
  • NASA has identified three valid asteroids for the mission so far: Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5
  • The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world’s most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA)

August 16, 2016: US space agency NASA has approved the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to proceed to the next phase of design and development for the mission’s robotic segment, in its bid to send a manned flight to Mars.

ARM is a two-part mission that will integrate robotic and crewed spacecraft operations in the proving ground of deep space to demonstrate key capabilities needed for NASA’s journey to Mars.

For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars.

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“There, astronauts will be able to select, extract, collect and return samples from the multi-ton asteroid mass, and conduct other human-robotic and spacecraft operations in the proving ground that will validate concepts for NASA’s journey to Mars,” NASA said in a statement.

The option to retrieve a boulder from an asteroid will have a direct impact on planning for future human missions to deep space and begin a new era of spaceflight.

The 'Option A' was to deploy a container large enough to capture a free-flying asteroid up to 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The ‘Option A’ was to deploy a container large enough to capture a free-flying asteroid up to 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft.

NASA has identified three valid asteroids for the mission so far: Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5.

The milestone, known as Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) was conducted in July and formally approved by the agency on August 15.

“This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development,” saidNASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

The robotic ARM will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion and advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body.

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It will also showcase touchdown and liftoff with a multi-ton mass from a low-gravity planetary body and astronaut activities for sample selection, extraction, containment, and return – all key components of future in-space operations for human missions to Mars.

Before beginning its trip to lunar orbit, the ARM spacecraft will demonstrate a widely supported asteroid deflection technique called a gravity tractor.

The spacecraft plus the mass of the captured boulder will create a small gravitational attraction to alter the orbit of the large asteroid.

The robotic component of the ARM will demonstrate the world’s most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA).

NEAs are asteroids that are fewer than 121 million miles from the Sun at the closest point in their orbit. (IANS)

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NASA Astronauts Spacewalk to Change ISS Batteries

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 55 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes working outside the station

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NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

Two NASA astronauts – Nick Hague and Anne McClain – have successfully completed an over six hour spacewalk and replaced the ageing batteries on the International Space Station (ISS).

During the six hour, 39 minute spacewalk, Hague and McClain replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

They also installed adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries installed on the station’s starboard truss.

These new batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries.

The batteries store power generated by the station’s solar arrays to provide power to the station when the station is not in the sunlight, as it orbits the Earth during orbital night.

In addition, the astronaut duo also removed debris from outside of the station, securing a tieback for restraints on the Solar Array Blanket Box, NASA said.

NASA, mars
NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency. Pixabay

McClain will again take a spacewalk on March 29 along with flight engineer Christina Koch to work on a second set of battery replacements on a different power channel in the same area of the ISS.

This would be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers, NASA said.

A third spacewalk on April 8 by Hague and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the ISS’s backbone.

Also Read- Should Live Broadcast on Social Media Platforms be Banned?

This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They will also install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Space station crew members have until now conducted 214 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 55 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes working outside the station. (IANS)