Most of the spacecraft we send out into the Solar System are never meant to return. Time, space, and entropy overtake them, or else they’re purposely sent crashing to their doom at the end of their missions. But not OSIRIS-REx. Its mission was only a success when it returned to Earth with its rare cargo.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx collected its sample of asteroid Bennu in October 2020. Since that time, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the material’s delivery to Earth, where it can be scrutinized rigorously in laboratories in different nations.
On September 24th, after a two-year journey from Bennu to Earth, the long-anticipated day arrived, and the spacecraft released its sample-return capsule. NASA used the spacecraft’s cameras to record the release.
The Sun is at the top of the image, and at the left of the image, a crescent Earth is visible. The image is processed to remove scattered sunlight and prevent the Earth from saturating the image. As a result, we can see the capsule and the rare cargo it holds as it heads down to Earth.
The capsule was released from Bennu at 4:42 AM at a distance of over 100,000 km (63,000 miles) from Earth. When it entered the atmosphere, the sample capsule was screaming along at 44,500 km/h (27,650 mph.) The capsule is designed to withstand all the heat from the friction, but not an impact. The capsule deployed its drogue parachute at 8:44 AM, and by the time it landed, its speed was reduced to 18 km/h (11 mph.)
This animation shows how the maneuver played out.
The whole operation wasn’t without drama, though.
The sample return capsule uses two parachutes. At first, the capsule was travelling so fast that deploying a standard type of parachute would be ineffective. It would simply be torn to shreds or ripped away from the spacecraft.
To avoid this, the capsule first deploys a drogue chute. Drogue chutes are designed to be deployed from high-speed objects because they’re smaller. They lower an object’s velocity but not enough to land. The sample return’s drogue chute scratched enough of the capsule’s speed that it was safe to deploy its landing chute without it being torn apart. But the mission team didn’t receive confirmation that the drogue chute had deployed. And without it, it would’ve been game over.
The OSIRIS-REx sample-return capsule at the end of its long journey. Image Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber
Dante Lauretta is OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator. In a press briefing after the capsule landed, he explained the intense anxiety leading up to the capsule’s safe landing as he rode in a helicopter toward the landing site. “I was just trying to make sure I didn’t totally break down in front of an international audience, right? It’s like, okay, you got to keep it together,” Lauretta said.
When they finally heard that the main chute deployed properly, the floodgates opened. “I knew the moment the chute opened that was it. We knew what to do,” Lauretta continued. “There were no surprises left. And it was overwhelming relief, gratitude, pride, awe, and really trying to convince myself that I wasn’t dreaming; that it was actually happening; that the chute was open; that the capsule was coming down; and we got that science treasure in hand.”
The entire process, down to the landing, was flawless.
“Boy, did we stick that landing,” Lauretta said, “and that is pretty much what OSIRIS-REx has done consistently.”
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Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit.
Despite popular opinion, the first animals in space were not dogs or chimps, they were fruit flies launched by the United States in February 1947. The Soviet Union launched Laika, the first dog into space in November 1957 and now, it seems Iran is getting in on the act. A 500kg capsule known as the “indigenous bio-capsule” with life support capability was recently launched atop the Iranian “Salman” rocket. It has been reported by some agencies that there were animals on board but no official statement has been released.
The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) are gearing up to getting humans into space before 2029 but is testing its launch capability with animal passengers. The capsule was launched on December 6 2023 and attained an orbital altitude of 130 kilometres. According to their Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour, it is aimed at sending Iranian astronauts to space by 2029.
The “Salaman” solid-fuelled rocket was designed by the aerospace division of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and built and launched by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics. It has already been used to launch a data collecting satellite and in 2013 successfully sent and returned monkeys into space.
Ham, a chimpanzee, became the first great ape in space during his January 31, 1961, suborbital flight aboard Mercury-Redstone 2 (Credit : NASA)
To date, only three counties have human spaceflight capability; USA, Russia and China. India are attempting to become the fourth as they work on their Gaganyaan program. Will Iran become the fifth!? Iran plans further tests with further launches bearing animal occupants before attempting to send humans up.
According to the Iranian Space Agency, its satellite program is purely for scientific research and other civilian applications. There is however, international suspicion because there are suspicions that the Salamn rockets could very easily be converted to long range missiles.
Source : Iran says it sent a capsule capable of carrying animals into orbit as it prepares for human missions
The post Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit. appeared first on Universe Today.
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What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do?
Telescopes have come a long way in a little over four hundred years! It was 1608 that Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey who was said to be working with a case of myopia and, in working with lenses discovered the magnifying powers if arranged in certain configurations. Now, centuries on and we have many different telescope designs and even telescopes in orbit but none are more incredible than the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Images las year revealed the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy and around M87 but now a team of astronomers have explored the potential of an even more powerful system the Next Generation EHT (ngEHT).
There is no doubt that our understanding of the processes within our Universe have come on leaps and bounds since the invention of the telescope. The resolution of these space piercing instruments is dictated by the telescope’s aperture. The technique known as interferometry hooks individual telescopes together and combines their signal so they act as one BIG telescope, boosting the resolution.
Telescopes like the EHT have been using interferometry to great advantage to study black holes. These enigmatic and mysterious stellar corpses defy our probing; we do not fully understand their origins and processes and indeed our laws of physics break down if you get too close to the point source in the centre, the singularity. Due to their interaction with space and time, understanding the full nature of black holes will – hopefully – unlock our understanding of the Universe.
Previously, observations have only revealed the movement of stars around galactic centre suggesting an object was lurking there weighing in at around 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Data from the EHT collected during 2022, finally revealed an image of the object at the centre – SgrA* – a super massive black hole and the matter in the immediate vicinity of the event horizon. Whilst this image did not reveal the black hole itself – another article required to explain that – it certainly revealed the telltale signs.
Sag A* compared to M87* and the orbit of Mercury. Credit: EHT collaboration
A recently published paper explores the possibilities of the ngEHT and how they might be able to unpick some of the physics around black holes. The ngEHT will increase the geographical footprint of EHT by 10 further instruments that span across the Earth. Making use of the significant improvement in resolution, the ngEHT will also improve image dynamics range, provide a multi-wavelength capability and facilitate long term monitoring.
The team conclude that future enhancements in measurement sensitivity and data analysis techniques in ngEHT will substantially advance our understanding of black holes and the immediate environments surrounding them with particular focus on the photon ring, mass and spin analysis, binary supermassive black holes and more besides.
Source : Fundamental Physics Opportunities with the Next-Generation Event Horizon Telescope
The post What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do? appeared first on Universe Today.
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Déjà vu All Over Again: Backpacking in Glacier National Park
By Michael Lanza
In the second week of September, the cool air in the shade of the forest nips at our cheeks as we leave our first night’s camp beside Glenns Lake in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, starting at a reasonably early hour for a day where we will walk nearly 16 miles and 6,000 feet of combined uphill and downhill. I’m hiking in a fleece hoodie, pants, and gloves and my friends Pam Solon and Jeff Wilhelm are similarly layered up. Once the sun reaches us within an hour, we’ll strip down to shorts and T-shirts.
Where the trail crosses a meadow, the expansive view west across a calm and insistently blue Cosley Lake reveals what looks like a long wall of overlapping stone shields jammed into the earth, each 2,000 or more feet tall and tilting at different angles. At the lake’s outlet—now in warm sunshine—we ford the Belly River, ankle- to calf-deep here with just a few tiny riffles and not very cold. More hiking through quiet forest brings us to the refrigerated, cliff-shaded alcove below Dawn Mist Falls, which spills thunderously over a sheer drop and crashes onto fallen boulders at its base, its force releasing a perpetual mist. Moss wallpapers the alcove’s short cliffs.
A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61144″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
After a thoroughly relaxing lunch break on the pebbly beach at Elizabeth Lake—where the perfect combination of solar warmth and soft breeze probably converts in direct value to about a thousand hours of counseling—we start the long climb to the Ptarmigan Tunnel. Reaching the open alpine terrain, I repeatedly stop to spin 180 degrees and take big bites of our view of the valley of Helen and Elizabeth lakes and the peaks on the other side, which shelter what remains of a couple of glaciers in the shade of north-facing cliffs just below the mountaintops.
I’ve backpacked this trail before; this isn’t new to me. But time slowly renders a bit fuzzier the memory of how constantly breathtaking it is—which is, in a funny way, a gift to us: We get to experience that awe anew each time.
Everyone laughed when the legendary Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” but I think I knew what he meant.
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