A frequent idea in sci-fi and apocalyptic films is that of an asteroid striking Earth and causing global devastation. While the probabilities of this kind of mass extinction occurring on our planet are incredibly small, they are not zero.
The results of Nasa's Dart mission to the asteroid Dimorphos have now been published in Nature Astronomy. They contain fascinating details about the composition of this asteroid and whether we can defend Earth against incoming space rocks.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) was a spacecraft mission that launched in November 2021. It was sent to an asteroid called Dimorphos and commanded to collide with it, head on, in September 2022.
Dimorphos posed and poses no threat to Earth in the near future. But the mission was designed to see if deflecting an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth was possible through "kinetic" means—in other words, a direct impact of a human-made object on its surface.
Asteroid missions are never easy.
NASA astronaut and Artemis II pilot Victor Glover is assisted by U.S. Navy personnel as he exits a mockup of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean during training Feb. 25, while his crewmates look on.
The Artemis II crew and a team from NASA and the Department of Defense are spending several days at sea to test the procedures and tools that will be used to help the crew to safety when they splash down in the ocean at the end of their 10-day, 685,000-mile journey around the moon next year as part of the first crewed mission under NASA's Artemis campaign.
On the day of the crew's return to Earth, a Navy ship with specially trained personnel will await splashdown and then approach the Orion capsule to help extract the four astronauts. An inflatable raft, called the front porch, will provide a place for them to rest when they exit the capsule before they are then individually hoisted by helicopters and flown to the waiting ship.
Artemis II, launching atop the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will test the Orion spacecraft's life support systems needed for future lunar missions.
The International Space Station is a microgravity research lab hosting groundbreaking technology demonstrations and scientific investigations. More than 3,700 investigations conducted to date have generated roughly 500 research articles published in scientific journals. In 2023, the orbiting lab hosted more than 500 investigations.
See more space station research achievements and findings in the Annual Highlights of Results publication, and read highlights of results published between October 2022 and October 2023 below:
A new spin on pulsars
Neutron stars, an ultra-dense matter left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, are also called pulsars because they spin and emit X-ray radiation in beams that sweep the sky like lighthouses. The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) collects this radiation to study the structure, dynamics, and energetics of pulsars. Researchers used NICER data to calculate the rotations of six pulsars and update mathematical models of their spin properties.
Precise measurements enhance the understanding of pulsars, including their production of gravitational waves, and help address fundamental questions about matter and gravity.
In a recent announcement, the Chinese Space Agency (CSA) unveiled the names for its forthcoming lunar mission components. The CSA have been working toward sending humans to the moon through a series of robotic missions. The 22-ton capsule that is taking the astronauts to the moon is called Mengzhuo (translates to "dream vessel") and the lander has been named Lanyue (meaning "embracing the moon"). Assuming all goes to plan, they will send two humans and a rover to the surface of the moon by 2030.
Despite the fact that the CSA have not published a date for the mission yet, if all goes well, they will become the second country to get humans to the lunar surface. The capsules will launch to the moon atop their new super-heavy-lift carrier rocket named Long March 10.
According to Chinese state media, the Mengzhou spacecraft will include the re-entry module designed to house the astronauts and will also function as a control center. In addition to this, there will be the service module that is home to power and propulsion systems.
As SpaceX continues to gear up for flight No. 3 of its massive Starship and Super Heavy from Texas, the Federal Aviation Administration has closed the investigation into the second flight that resulted in explosions of both the booster and upper stages back in November.
The FAA on Monday said the SpaceX-led investigation into what was classified as a "mishap," cited 17 action items that have to be addressed before any future launch licenses from SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas launch site Starbase are approved.
Starship is SpaceX's replacement launch system for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets and is completely reusable. It's aiming to launch a third test flight as soon as next month if it can get approval.
The first launch of Starship and Super Heavy in April 2023 also ended in an explosion, but with the booster still connected to the upper stage. That launch also walloped the launch pad, and it took more than six months to close out that mishap investigation with 63 corrective actions.
The second flight performed much better despite the double combustive incidents mid-flight.
In July of 2023, retired commander in the U.S. Navy David Fravor testified to the House Oversight Committee about a mysterious, Tic Tac-shaped object that he and three others observed over the Pacific Ocean in 2004. The congressional hearings riveted the world by bringing Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) out of the "alien truther" realm and into the mainstream.
"This [Tic Tac-shaped object that] had just traveled 60 miles in…less than a minute, was far superior in performance to my brand-new F/A-18F and did not operate with any of the known aerodynamic principles that we expect for objects that fly in our atmosphere," claimed Fravor.
As sensor technology has advanced and personal aircraft use has skyrocketed, our ability to explain strange events has become harder to resolve. The U.S. Department of Defense has increasingly taken UAP, formerly known as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), as a serious threat to national security.
The first successful moon landing of a private lander, Odysseus, last week came a month after Japan and six months after India touched down on Earth's natural satellite.
As more states and private companies reach the moon, some experts say, adequate legal framework and international agreements may be needed to avoid conflicts.
"Many hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested over the last several decades with the hope that the moon will turn out to be a resource for commercial activity, commercial development of the minerals and the water ice on the moon," says Anthony Grayling, a British philosopher and founder of New College of the Humanities in London. NCH finalized its merger with Northeastern in 2019.
"Exploration of new frontiers will produce new ways of imagining, new challenges, new technologies that can be of tremendous utility," says Grayling, who moderated a fireside chat Monday that was part of Northeastern's "Thinking the Future" series and recently published a book, "Who Owns the Moon? In Defence of Humanity's Common Interests in Space."
Commercialization can also create friction and rivalries between different parties, he says, that can lead to potential conflicts.
Astrobotic Technology's latest space-related venture won't take it far from home.
The lunar tech company is pitching a plan to build a new four-story facility next to its North Side headquarters on North Lincoln Avenue as part of a bid to "establish a new space campus for Pennsylvania."
Astrobotic outlined the basics of the proposed development in a request for $6 million in state redevelopment assistance capital grant funding.
According to its application, the North Side startup intends to demolish an existing building next to its headquarters to clear the way for the construction of the $18 million building.
Astrobotic plans to dedicate one 29,000-square-foot floor of the new facility to tenants that are engaged in space medical research, space test equipment and defense space programs. It will take 39,000 square feet in the structure, which will be connected to its current headquarters.
"Altogether, the completion of this $18 million facility project will establish a new space campus for Pennsylvania," the application stated.
Astrobotic added that it wants to build the new complex to help capitalize on the momentum generated by four missions to the moon currently under contract and to "expand into new commercial and [U.S.
In recent years, with the significant increase in space launch activities, the number of deorbited spacecraft has sharply risen, posing a serious impact on both active orbiting spacecraft and future space activities. Traditional rope net capture systems, serving as a technology for actively deorbiting spacecraft, hold vast potential in mitigating and clearing space debris.
However, rope systems face challenges such as difficulty in maintaining shape over extended periods, susceptibility to self-entanglement, energy losses, and a reduction in the effective capture area. In contrast, thin films can fold and unfold along regular shapes, offering greater flexibility and reliability compared to tethers. They emerge as an effective solution to the entanglement issue and present a promising method for space debris mitigation and removal.
In a review article recently published in Space: Science & Technology, Professor Wei Cheng's team at Harbin Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers from Beijing Institute of Control Engineering and Benha University, has designed a thin film capture pocket system.
Russian space officials on Wednesday acknowledged a continuing air leak from the Russian segment of the International Space Station, but said it poses no danger to its crew.