Our Asteroid-Bound Mission is Set to Slingshot Around Earth
NASA’s first spacecraft to travel to an asteroid will get a boost from Earth tomorrow, Sept. 22.
Earth’s gravity is going to slingshot OSIRIS-REx toward its target, an asteroid named Bennu.
Asteroids are relatively small, inactive, rocky bodies that orbit around the Sun. Scientists think asteroids like Bennu may have collided with Earth a long time ago, seeding our planet with the organic compounds that made life possible. That means that there’s a good chance Bennu contains answers to fundamental questions about the origins of life and how our solar system came to be. We sent OSIRIS-REx on a journey to investigate.
One of the best ways to change the trajectory of a spacecraft is by using the gravity of a planet or large moon to catapult it. It sounds like science fiction, but this type of maneuver, called a gravity assist, is a fuel-efficient way of traveling through space.
We’re not using the slingshot to speed the spacecraft, we’re doing it to change its direction. That’s because the asteroid’s orbit is tilted six degrees in comparison to Earth’s orbit. When OSIRIS-REx swings by, Earth’s gravity will lift it up and sling it toward Bennu.
Spot the spacecraft
Because at its closest approach OSIRIS-REx will only be 11,000 miles above Earth, you can see it with a backyard telescope. For most observers, the spacecraft will appear between the constellations Cetus and Pisces, but its exact position in the sky will vary by location.
After its closest approach, OSIRIS-REx flip around and look back at Earth, so here’s your chance to say hello! Take a picture of yourself or your group waving to OSIRIS-REx. Then share your photo using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account on Twitter @OSIRISREx or Instagram @OSIRIS_REx.
To Bennu and back
In about a year from now, OSIRIS-REx will arrive at asteroid Bennu.
After it surveys and maps Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will “high-five” the asteroid with its robotic arm to collect a sample, which it will send to Earth. This asteroid sample will be the largest amount of space material transported to Earth since we brought back rocks from the Moon. High-fives all around!
If everything goes according to plan, on Sept. 24, 2023, the capsule containing the asteroid sample will make a soft landing in the Utah desert. That’s the end of the spacecraft’s seven-year-long journey to Bennu and back.
But the mission doesn’t stop there. On Earth, the sample material collected by OSIRIS-REx will be analyzed to determine the asteroid’s chemical composition. Scientists will look for organic compounds like amino acids and sugars — the building blocks for life.
Bennu is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Our solar system is 4.6 billion years old. That means that Bennu is made up of some of the oldest stuff in our solar system. So samples from Bennu could tell us more about how our solar system evolved and possibly even how life began on Earth! Learn more about asteroid Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx mission and the Earth gravity assist.
Again, really quick followup to First contact. any suggestions on what might happen next are welcome. I am writing these as first drafts with minimal editing so it is readable, so the quality will never be better than this. sorry.
It seemed that all specie had a near universal belief that
there were monsters where no one had been to before. When they were planetary
beings, species generally believed the monsters to be in the distant regions on
their home, but when their planet was explored, they pictured the monsters to
be above them, beyond the sky. But when they left their planet, the monsters
moved to other planets. And so on and so on. It was never anything anyone took
seriously, more like children’s fairy tales than anything, but the fear of the
unknown was difficult to overcome, even for the most intelligent and rational
But a year ago,
Admiral Hot’ath and his crew seemed to find the monsters. The Dareth Were an
ancient species that had once conquered hundreds of galaxies. Though it was so
long ago, no one knew anything about them other than that they had existed and
were a supreme military force that only were stopped through the combined
efforts of every known intelligent species in the universe. Most people had
even forgotten about them entirely as they had drifted into legend, then
obscurity. And now, Admiral Hot’ath was bringing them back into the
intergalactic community. As of yet, no one knew whether this was a good or bad
thing, and the Torgians were being pressured by other species to leave them
alone and never go back. The problem was that the New Dareths, or humans as
they referred to themselves, had already mastered FTL communication, and had
colonized all hospitable planets in their solar system, and even a few
inhospitable ones. It was only a matter of time before they spread throughout
the galaxy, and eventually move beyond. It would be roughly a million years
until they reached the known Intergalactic community, but it would happen. It would
be better to establish a relationship with them now and perhaps befriend them
instead of leaving them to their own devices.
Of course there were other Species that wanted to kill them
all now, and even more that wanted to participate in making contact. But as it
was a Torgian expeditionary force that found them, it was ultimately the
decision of the Torgian King, Gil-tetch. He had since made the decision to send
the same fleet back along with a military escort and a diplomatic unit.
Thankfully, they were not going in blind. The Humans were
eager to make contact with a foreign intelligence, and gave a mass of
information about their home planet and themselves to Hot’ath as a good will
gesture. Though the information was
incredibly valuable and provided much insight, it was so bizarre, that half the
people who looked at it didn’t believe it was real. But King Gil-tetch did, and
that was all that mattered.
Their home planet was a bit of an oddity, its biomes ranging
wildly from below freezing to above boiling, and its weather patterns being
oddly unpredictable. But it’s most astonishing feature was the level of biodiversity
it supported. There were thousands of animal species, and just as many subspecies.
Plants were strange as well, few being edible unless the consumer had multiple
stomachs. Many were also carnivorous, and a few even seemed to be malicious for
non-sentient beings, and the intelligence and capabilities of the fungi would
be frightening if it was self aware.
But the humans stood out above all else. They did not remain
where they were comfortable, they went EVERYWHERE, even living in hostile areas for no discernable
reason. They seemed to enjoy dangerous environments more than safe ones as shown
by finding a way to colonize one of the Gas Giants in their solar system. It
was like their very existence was a declaration that they would refuse to die
and would prove that nothing would kill them. They ate foods that were
inedible, they owned dangerous animals as pets, they fought each other for
recreation, they would perform horrifying medical procedures that most other
species were incapable of doing, just to keep from dying. And it was Admiral
Hot’ath’s job to ensure that they would not kill anyone.
He stood on the bridge staring at the screen showing Prison
1. Or as the Humans called it, Earth. The humans seemed glad that his fleet had
returned, and had invited them to come straight to the home world. They had
already established a connection with the Information network the humans
established and was cross-referencing they information they already had with
the human’s open sources. They were traveling at .1 light speed and were now
entering orbit of the planet. It would be several days until physical contact
was made with any humans, they needed to gather samples to synthesize immunizations
so no one died from anything humans were carrying, and they needed to
distribute their own immunizations to the humans. This was a lengthy process,
and it was possible that it wouldn’t work, and the immunizations would kill
people. Hot’ath had a feeling that the humans would take to the immunizations
just fine. They were incredibly resilient.
But even after they overcame that hurdle, the Torgians would
never be able to set foot on Earth, or even enter the atmosphere. Earth had a
much higher gravity than what they were
used to, approximately five times more in fact. None of them would even be able
to stand without exo-suits, but even so, they would probably be crushed against
the inside of the suit. Most likely, the humans would come up to their ship, or
the Torgians would go to the Earth moon or the planet they named Mars. Until
then, they would use holographic conferences.
Once they were settled in orbit, Hot’ath sent a hail signal
to the planet. He had diplomats with him, but the King had placed him in
charge, so their first real conversation was his responsibility. An image of a
man sitting on a large, uncomfortable looking throne made of a dark red wood
and ornate silver inlay. “Greetings, I am Emperor Guanwudi, Ruler of the Terran
Empire.” The man announced, his lips not matching the audio as it was
translated to Standard Intergalactic. Hot’ath recognized him from the Current
Events file in the Human’s Information transfer.
Hot’ath bowed as he learned to do in the files, and replied.
“I am Admiral Hot’ath. With me are Lady Fer-gin and Sir Hot’gun. We hail from
the Torgian Kingdom.”
“May I ask how you found us and what your intentions are?”
“We were an expeditionary force exploring this galaxy, it
was believed to be mostly uninhabited until our long range sensors picked up an
artificial radiowave. We followed it here and found your system. We have no
specific intentions beyond offering friendship.”
The emperor nodded
and moved on to his next question without hesitation, revealing nothing in his
face or voice. “Why did you stop at Pluto on your first visit?”
“There was an outpost there that was the gateway to the
blackzone. Have you not found it?”
The emperor’s face faintly flinched. “No. Over five hundred
years ago, it was decreed that Pluto was to be left alone as the only untouched
planet. Have you learned why this was a blackzone since your last visit?”
This threw Hot’ath for a few moments before he remembered
that he had told them before that he did not know why the blackzone was in place.
“Yes, it seemed that a few hundred million years ago a dangerous species was
sent here as a quarantine exile. The outpost was abandoned when it was determined
that the species was no longer a threat. It was so long ago, that the records were
lost and the entire event was forgotten. But our King has suspended the blackzone
until further notice upon learning of your discovery.”
“How far away do you hail from?” he asked, as though the
previous question was not asked.
“Approximately 200 billion of what you call lightyears.”
The king gave a faint smile, the change in tone threw off the
admiral, who had thought that the human was ready to wage war at any moment. “So
even in space, there are explorers.”
“Before we came, were you content to stop where you are now?
Or did you look to the stars and find other planets you could go see?” Hot’ath
replied with a smile of his own.
“True.” The man conceded. “But we do not know how different
our species are. How do you think it would work out if we were to treat you as
humans, or you to treat us as Torgian?”
“I am glad to see that you act with forethought. I have made
many first contacts, and not all species are so intelligent.”
The emperor laughed, the noise harsh and halting. If Hot’ath
had not been thoroughly briefed on Human expression during the several month journey
here, then he would have been confused. Of course, all species had odd
expressions, but this being the most sensitive and dangerous interaction he had
ever had, it paid to be prepared. “I thank you for the compliment.” The man got
out as his laughter died down. “So, Admiral, how should we proceed? What are
Hot’ath gave a brief overview of the vaccination plan, then
went on to explain that they would not be able to set foot on any planet
greater than .3 of earth’s mass due to their bodies. They will then survey the
system’s resources and see if there is anything of value to the Hot’ath. There
were other legal questions involved such as how far theTerran Empires borders
stretched past the solar system, and how many other systems they could claim,
but that was the job of the Ambassadors. For now, he only requested permission
to gather physical samples of earth, plant, and animal tissue from each planet.
“That sounds reasonable.” The Emperor agreed. “I would
greatly like to establish trade between our people. If this can be a mutually
beneficial relationship all the better. I hope to speak to you again soon,
admiral.” He pressed a button that wasn’t visible on the arm of his chair,
cutting the communication.
Hot’ath nearly collapsed in relief. They were friendly. They
wanted to trade. They were giving him everything he asked for. He had not expected it to go anywhere close
to this well. “Admiral?” Lady Fir-gin
placed a six fingered hand on his back.
“I’m O.K.” he assured everyone. The inhabitants of the
bridge were al looking to him. They were just as scared and relieved as he was.
“Prepare for Stage 1.” He straightened up, giving out orders. “Have Dr Mon-fit’tch
coordinate with the human delegates where the survey droids are to gather their
tissue samples, and Dr. Brath’thn send excavation droids out to gather soil
After a moment of silence the bridge started to bustle in
activity. Everyone had jobs to do and no time to wait. They had made friends with
Our future Mars 2020 rover, seen here as imagined through the eyes of an artist, will search for signs of past microbial life. The mission will take the next step in exploring the Red Planet by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.
The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020, aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Learn more.
When you realize that you should post your own original art too every once in a while. But i never know what to tag ma stuff T^T
Anyway; A level concept for a game i would like to make someday. This is the Earth guardian and a sample of what his level might look like. I had SO MUCH fun doing the sculpt that I would do it again if i can scrounge up more money (hes an expansive boi T^T) based off of the Quetzalcoatl god and many other things. This accompanies the art of the mangrove i did a WHILE ago BAH.
Well this is lucky. Apparently for this FossilFriday I’m starting with ammonites in stuff.
This is a look at one of our favourite ammonites, prior to the outer matrix being polished. These ‘Cannon ball’ nodules (rocks) are thought to be exclusive to the Yorkshire Coast, found nowhere else in the world. They rarely contain fossils, but when they do, they typically contain an Eleganticeras sp. ammonite. This fossil here is featured as found. When prepared, the outer pyrite coating of the nodule will be polished, to achieve a golden mirror effect.
astronaut Kate Rubins, who has a background in genomics, conducted the
sequencing on the space station as part of the Biomolecule
Sequencer investigation. A small, commercial, off-the-shelf device called
MinION (min-EYE-ON), manufactured by Oxford Nanopore Technologies in the UK,
was used to sequence the DNA of bacteria, a virus and rodents. Human DNA was
not sequenced, and there are no immediate plans to sequence human DNA in space.
(Image Credit: Oxford Nanopore Technologies)
The MinION is about the size of a candy bar, and plugs into
a laptop or tablet via USB connection, which also provides power to the device.
The tiny, plug and play sequencer is diminutive compared to the large
microwave-sized sequencers used on Earth, and uses much less power. Unlike
other terrestrial instruments whose sequencing run times can take days, this
device’s data is available in near real time; analysis can begin within 10-15
minutes from the application of the sample.
analysis capabilities aboard the space station could allow crews to
identify microbes, diagnose infectious disease and collect genomic and genetic
data concerning crew health, without having to wait long periods of time to
return samples to Earth and await ground-based analysis.
The first DNA sequencing was conducted on Aug. 26, and on
Sept. 14, Rubins and the team of scientists back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
in Houston hit the one-billionth-base-pairs-of-DNA-sequenced mark.
more questions about how the Biomolecule Sequencer works, or how it could
benefit Earth or further space exploration? Ask the team of scientists behind
the investigation, who will be available for
questions during a Reddit Ask Me Anything on /r/science on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. EDT.
The participants are:
Dr. Aaron Burton, NASA Johnson
Space Center, Planetary Scientist and Principal Investigator
Dr. Sarah Castro-Wallace, NASA Johnson
Space Center, Microbiologist and Project Manager
Dr. David J. Smith, NASA Ames
Research Center, Microbiologist
Dr. Mark Lupisella, NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center, Systems Engineer
Dr. Jason P. Dworkin, NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center, Astrobiologist
Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Weill
Cornell Medicine Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, Associate Professor
1. Initially it was thought that the Moon was born in the same cloud of dust as the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Another theory says that the moon is the “ baby ” of the Earth, but the moment that the first stones were collected from the Moon, these theories have turned to pieces. The oldest stones date back 5.3 billion years. This is strange , because this means that the Moon was born long before our planet. Upon this discovery, Dr. Robin Brett, NASA specialist , said that “it is easier to explain the absence of the Moon than its existence.”
2. Rocks collected during the Apollo 11 mission were extracted from the area called the Sea of Tranquility. At that time several samples were taken also from the ground. In laboratory tests it was found that the rocks are much older than the soil from which they were taken. The difference is billions of years. This seems especially impressive given that it was shown that the stones were not brought by meteorites.
3. Is the Moon hollow ? The answer seems to be yes, at least this is what most scientists say. During missions that targeted Earth’s natural satellite, when the lunar modules touched the surface of the Moon, the sound they made was similar to a hammer hitting an empty bell.
4. The dark area of the Moon is another shocking mystery . When we tried to map it, we not only failed to fully do so, but we have also found traces of titanium, zirconium, yttrium, and beryllium. These metals require temperatures above 4500 degrees Celsius to fusion and to exist in the form in which they were found on the Moon. We also know that such temperatures are impossible not only the Moon, but on any planet in our solar system.
5. Russian space probe Zond 20 brought back to Earth many pure iron samples taken from the Moon. Pure iron, the one that never oxidizes, is a mystery for today’s scientific world. How can such a material exist on the Moon ?
6. Apollo 15 astronauts found traces of huge radioactivity on the Moon. Nobody could explain this finding, for which it was forgotten.
7. Anomalies on the Moon have been observed since ancient times. In the past, people used to look to the Moon using rudimentary telescopes and several times claimed to have seen dense clouds. This is impossible because the Moon’s atmosphere can not support clouds. Moreover, NASA astronauts told in their flight reports that they have often found huge clouds of water vapor. The only place from which they come is inside the Moon.
8. Most of the Moon’s surface looks as if it was coated in a layer of glaze. This proves that the Moon has been exposed to extremely high temperature. Scientists have observed that the glaze was not born as a result of nuclear explosions.
9. Another interesting fact about the Moon is that it has no magnetic field. Even so, the analyzed rocks are strongly magnetized and no one can explain why.
The best time to view the Ursids, radiating from Ursa Minor, or the little Dipper, will be from midnight on December 21 until about 1a.m. on December 22, before the moon rises.
3. At Saturn, the Ring-Grazing Continues
Our Cassini spacecraft has completed several orbits that take it just outside Saturn’s famous rings.
The first ring-grazing orbit began on November 30. The spacecraft will repeat this feat 20 times, with only about a week between each ring-plane crossing.
Our first mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth will be multitasking during its two-year outbound cruise to the asteroid Bennu. On February 9-20, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) will activate its onboard camera suite and begin its search for elusive “Trojan,” asteroids, constant companions to planets in our solar system as they orbit the sun, remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. Because they constantly lead or follow in the same orbit, they will never collide with their companion planet.
Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.
‘Sling-shot’ show for NASA spacecraft over Australia
Stargazers will be treated to a rare skyshow when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft ‘sling-shots’ its way over Australian skies on September 23.
Using Earth’s gravity to give it an orbital boost, OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018. The Earth flyby will give astronomers and those with high-end cameras a chance to view this rare encounter.
OSIRIS-REx is on an extraordinary journey to bring back to Earth a sample from the surface of the carbonaceous asteroid Bennu that could potentially record the early history of the solar system and molecular precursors to the origin of life.
The ‘sling-shot’ or Earth Gravity Assist manoeuvre will bring OSIRIS-REx close enough to Earth to be viewed through high-end cameras, where Desert Fireball Network (DFN) team members will be stationed across Australia in strategic locations to optimise viewing angles, creating a 3D triangulated track above Australia and demonstrating the capabilities of the DFN system.
Curtin University Professor Phil Bland, team leader of the Desert Fireball Network, and member of the OSIRIS-REx science team, said the rare encounter would offer an opportunity to highlight the capabilities of the DFN and planetary science research in Australia.
“The teams will be equipped with high-end DSLR cameras that will work together to track the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft across the sky from each viewpoint, enabling the DFN team to create a 3D triangulated track of its sling-shot around the Earth,” Professor Bland said.
“This important milestone furthers the work of planetary research here at Curtin and our relationship with NASA.
“We know very little about how the planets came together and why the Earth has the composition that it does. The samples that OSIRIS-REx delivers may hold the key to some of these answers.”
The DFN project is based at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, and aims to unlock the mysteries of our universe by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits.
Together with NASA, the DFN is expanding to a Global Fireball Observatory through the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). SSERVI’s science and technical research focuses on the connection between planetary exploration and human exploration via funded US teams and a large network of international partners.
The apparent pathway of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft over Australian skies will take an hour, beginning over Rockhampton at 00.22am (AEST) and exit over Adelaide at 00.53am local time on September 23.