Friday, June 30, 2023

'Is NASA Mining Asteroids?' No, but it's studying them for Asteroid Day 2023

Happy International Asteroid Day, the younger but paradoxically more established version of Apophis Day! I'm celebrating by revisiting NASA's asteroid missions for Asteroid Day 2022 beginning with mentions of the Psyche and OSIRIS-REx missions as NASA asks and answers Is NASA Mining Asteroids? We Asked a NASA Expert.

Is NASA mining asteroids? No, we’re not in the business of mining asteroids but we do love to study them.

This year, our #PsycheMission launches to a unique metal-rich asteroid to study what appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system. However, the science we gain from missions like this could one day benefit future humans in cosmic mining and resource endeavors.

And in September, our OSIRIS-REx mission will deliver an asteroid sample back to Earth.
Speaking of OSIRIS-REx, SciShow Space examined its sample collection and future return in The Asteroid That Nearly Swallowed OSIRIS-Rex.

It's always an asteroid heading straight toward us that we worry about, never what happens to us when we head straight toward the asteroid. OSIRIS-REx's experience with Bennu tells us it's worth a thought.
OSIRIS-REx almost sinking into Bennu reminds me that it's the unexpected results that are most interesting. May we get more unexpected results when its sample returns to Earth on September 24, 2023.

Follow over the jump for updates on DART and Lucy, the other missions I covered last year, plus a bonus song.

DART made a cameo in CNN's NASA tracking asteroid that has potential to hit Earth in 2046.

A newly discovered asteroid roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool has a "very small chance" of colliding with Earth in 23 years, with the moment of potential impact occurring on Valentine's Day 2046, according to NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
DART was one of the reasons 2022 was another great year in space. As I wrote in 'Adam Driver asks NASA about asteroids' for Apophis Day: "DART has been as successful in its own way as the James Webb Space Telescope, the top science story of 2022. Here's to hoping humanity builds on DART's success so 'Don't Look Up' remains fiction."

NASA Goddard uploaded an update on the fourth mission I listed last year as Lucy Spacecraft Will Slingshot Around Earth.

NASA’s Lucy mission is heading to the Jupiter Trojans – two swarms of primitive asteroids trapped in Jupiter’s orbit that may hold clues to the formation of the planets. Lucy launched on October 16, 2021. After a year in orbit around the Sun, it is returning home on its launch anniversary for the first of three Earth gravity assists. On October 16, 2022, Lucy will fly by the Earth like a partner in a swing dance, boosting its speed and elongating its orbit around the Sun. At 7:04 am, Eastern Time, Lucy will make its closest approach at just 219 miles above the planet: lower than the International Space Station. This exceptionally close shave will increase its velocity by four-and-a-half miles per second, setting Lucy on track to gain even more speed when it returns to Earth for its second gravity assist in December 2024.
The first flyby already happened, but we get to see it pass Earth twice more as it visits both sets of Trojan asteroids.

I close with a bonus song, Asteroid Day - The Bygones (Original Demo).

Demo of “Asteroid Day” by The Bygones, written by Joshua Lee Turner
That is a truly lovely and nerdy song that makes a fitting end to this post and the blogging for this month and the first half of 2023. Stay tuned for a celebration of Canada Day to begin July and the second half of 2023.

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