A NASA spacecraft set to explore a metallic asteroid for the first time will launch in 2022, a year earlier than originally planned, and reach its destination in 2026, four years ahead of schedule, giving ground teams a shorter wait for the mission’s scientific payoff and shaving $100 million off the project’s total cost, officials said Wednesday.
In the final months of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission, scientists have found an unexpected use for the trailblazing testbed for a future gravitational wave observatory by tracking the tiny dings made by microscopic particles that strike the spacecraft in deep space, exploiting the impacts to learn about the population of dust grains cast off by comets and asteroids across the solar system.
Decisions on the future of a joint robotic mission between NASA and the European Space Agency to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth have been put off until later this year after European governments declined to fully fund their part of the project in December.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has continued its survey of the dwarf planet Ceres this year, discovering rock-bound ice hidden just beneath the airless world’s rugged surface and a handful of icy outcrops inside craters in the northern hemisphere, raising hopes that Ceres could have once held a buried habitable ocean of liquid water.
The scientist in charge of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission hopes to apply more than $30 million in leftover funding toward reducing the risk of the probe’s touch-and-go maneuver to snag a piece of asteroid Bennu, then eventually hire more experts to analyze the primordial specimens when they return to Earth in 2023.