NASA extended eight science missions and decided to send OSIRIS-Rex to another asteroid

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has extended the scientific programs of the Martian vehicles, as well as the lunar and interplanetary stations. The asteroid research vehicle has also been extended its mission and given a new target, the asteroid Apophis, which will fly very close to Earth in 2029.

Based on the results of an assessment of the work done and the prospects, NASA decided to extend eight space science missions: the Mars Odyssey orbiter, the MRO multifunctional station, the MAVEN orbital station , the Curiosity rover, the InSight lander , the LRO lunar orbital station , the New Horizons interplanetary station and the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid research station .

The extension of programs assumes that the devices will not have technical problems. Most of all concerns arise about InSight , which may not have enough energy.

The project was extended only until the end of 2022. Asteroid explorer OSIRIS-Rex has been given a new challenge that will require another nine years of work. The remaining projects have been extended by three years.

The Curiosity rover has traveled more than 27 kilometers through Gale Crater in the past ten years, studying the potential habitability of Martian rocks.

His mission has been extended for the fourth time. Over the next three years, Curiosity will fly higher to study the sulfate layers. Their analysis will replenish our knowledge of the history of the existence of water on the Red Planet.

InSight remains the only active seismic station outside the Earth. Since 2018, he has been monitoring marsquakes. Based on the collected data, scientists were able to assess the activity, internal structure and history of the formation of the Red Planet.

Unfortunately, the solar panels are covered with a rather dense layer of dust, and he receives too little energy. The mission team saves it by limiting the running time of the instruments. Now a lot depends on the weather: a dust storm can finally fill up the panels, and a random whirlwind can clean it up.

The Mars Odyssey orbiter will continue to monitor the planet’s radiation conditions and climate. It will also conduct a new thermal analysis of rocks and ice below the surface. Its service life depends on the amount of remaining propellant.

The MRO orbital station program has been extended for the sixth time. She will continue to study the evolution of the relief and ice, monitor the atmosphere and climate. But due to a breakdown of the cryogenic cooler, the CRISM spectrometer will be completely disabled .

The MAVEN station will take advantage of the growing activity of the Sun and continue to observe the interaction of the upper atmosphere and the magnetic field of Mars.

Orbital stations near Mars are especially valuable to NASA because, in addition to conducting their own scientific observations, they serve as repeaters for vehicles on the surface. Extending their service life is much less expensive than developing and launching replacements.

Lunar orbital station LRO will continue to study the surface and geology of our satellite. Changing the orbit of the apparatus will allow scientists to see new regions in high resolution.

In particular, areas of permanent shadow near the poles where water ice can persist. NASA also plans that the station will be useful in the preparation of the Artemis program to send people to the moon.

The New Horizons interplanetary station flew past Pluto seven years ago, and in 2019 it flew past the Arrokoth object in the Kuiper belt. Details of the further scientific program will be presented later. Now the device is from us at a distance of 63 astronomical units (the distance from the Earth to the Sun).

NASA extended eight science missions and decided to send OSIRIS Rex to another asteroid
Illustration of OSIRIX-Rex near an asteroid

The most interesting program is planned for the OSIRIS-Rex station . Now she is carrying a sample of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. “Delivery” is scheduled for September 24, 2023. And 30 days after that, the device will make its first maneuver to fly to the next target – the 370-meter asteroid Apophis.

Scientists noticed Apophis in 2004. Then there were fears that in 2029 the object would collide with the Earth, but further observations showed that the asteroid would approach at a distance of 32 thousand kilometers and be ten times closer than the Moon. According to astronomers, it will be visible to the naked eye.

The OSIRIS-Rex , which will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX , has many challenges ahead of it. The station will fly up to the asteroid shortly after its approach to the Earth and will spend 18 months around it. The device will not take samples, but will approach the surface and “blow off” the top layer.

This will allow the study of subsurface rock that has not been exposed to space. It is important that Apophis and Bennu belong to different spectral classes.

Bennu is a carbonaceous chondrite (class B). Apophis is a common silicon chondrite (class S). Researchers will be able to compare detailed data on the composition of objects. Scientists are also interested in how the gravitational attraction of the Earth will affect Apophis.

To date, NASA’s Planetary Science Division operates 14 spacecraft, plans 12 new missions, and is involved in the development of seven more projects in partnership with other space agencies.

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