Since December, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been as close as it will get to the surface of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. The space agency and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory have put together the most comprehensive video tour yet from the spacecraft's lowest mapping orbit.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency confirmed today that its Hayabusa2 probe has successfully used the Earth's gravity to slingshot itself towards a rendezvous with an asteroid. The flyby maneuver saw the unmanned spacecraft swing by the Earth on December 3, with the closest approach of 3,090 km at 7:08 pm JST as it passed over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.
ESA has used a robotic arm to simulate a spacecraft's final approach to an asteroid. The laboratory test, which took place recently at the Madrid headquarters of the GMV company in Spain, is part of the preparation for the proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which would be man's first visit to a double asteroid system.
Back in February, ESA announced that a pair of CubeSats would fly aboard its Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which forms part of the larger Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) operation. Now, ESA has shortlisted five concepts missions for the flight, including projects that plan to study asteroid composition, measure the gravity field of the object, and much more.
ESA astronomers will be looking to the skies on November 13, when a piece of debris – thought to be part of an old rocket – plummets back to Earth. The agency believes that by studying the reentry, it'll be able to gather useful data that could lead to more accurate predictions of how objects interact with our atmosphere.
Lockheed Martin has completed final assembly of NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith EXplorer (OSIRIS-REx) deep-space probe. The unmanned spacecraft, designed to rendezvous with an asteroid and return samples to Earth, will now undergo five months of environmental testing at the company’s Space Systems facilities near Denver before delivery to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
An asteroid designated 2015 TB145 will pass by the Earth at around 1.3 lunar distances (approximately 310,000 miles or about 499,000 km) on October 31 this year. Estimated to be anywhere between 280 to 620 m (918 to 2,034 ft) in diameter and traveling in excess of 126,000 km/h (78,293 mph), the asteroid was discovered less than two weeks ago using the Pan-STARRS array in Hawaii and is the largest object to so closely approach our planet in recent times.
Laser-based communications has the ability to beam enormous amounts of data at high speed, but the use of this technology in space is still in its infancy. To help push things along, ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will carry out a record-setting demonstration of space laser communications across a distance of 75 million kilometers while orbiting a binary asteroid.
NASA has announced the selection of five conceptual planetary exploration missions for further study ahead of a potential launch date of 2020. Selected under NASA's Discovery Program, the would be missions include the exploration of Venus and asteroids, as well as large scale analysis of near-Earth objects.
As demonstrated by the bumpy landing of ESA's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, exploring comets, asteroids, and small moons can be difficult due to their low gravity. Not only can landing on one be like trying to alight on a trampoline, but roving around their surfaces is next to impossible because the negligible gravity offers practically no traction. To overcome this, a team of engineers is developing Hedgehog, a completely symmetrical robot rover for low-gravity exploration that moves by hopping.