Wednesday October 24, 2018

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
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  • 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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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

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The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)