Today’s Tidbits: September 21, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: September 21, 2017

Here are our tidbits for today, September 21, 2017. [Don’t forget to check our website for our feature-length articles, too.]

No Go Tonight for NROL-42

ULA’s launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO’s) NROL-42 mission has been postponed until at least Saturday to replace a battery on the Atlas V rocket.

Bridenstine Not On List for Nomination Consideration Next Week

The Senate Commerce Committee announced today that it will hold a hearing on four pending nominations on September 27, but NASA Administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine is not on the list.  It is a full committee hearing. Expectations have been that the Space, Science, and Competitiveness subcommittee would hold the Bridenstine hearing and that it would take place next week, but that was not announced today.  Stay tuned.

O-REx Swinging By to Say Hi

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (O-REx) asteroid sample return mission is swinging by Earth tomorrow, but just long enough to get a gravity assist to help it on its way to the asteroid Bennu.

O-REx was launched almost exactly a year ago and will reach Bennu in 2018.  After a long rendezvous to study the asteroid, it will drop down and “kiss” Bennu long enough to get a sample, which will then be returned to Earth, arriving in 2023.

The gravity assist is needed to give the spacecraft the extra oompf it needs to reach its destination.  It will fly as close as 10,711 miles from Earth — higher than the International Space Station, but lower than the constellation of GPS satellites.

Credit: Tweet from @OSIRIS-REx.

China’s Mars 2020 Plans Moving Forward

China’s official news agency, Xinhua, reported today that its plans to send a robotic orbiter/lander/rover spacecraft to Mars in 2020 are “well underway.”

The mission requires China’s Long March 5 rocket, which failed in July on its second attempt.

The first deep space mission for the rocket is a lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5, which was supposed to launch this year.  Long March 5 also is slated to launch three space station modules to form a 60-ton Chinese space station by the early 2020s.  The schedule for all these missions is uncertain until the rocket is flying successfully again.

Hurricane Maria Update: Arecibo Radio Observatory

Photo credit: USRA website.

Puerto Rico was very hard hit by Hurricane Maria. Our thoughts are with everyone there as the recovery begins.

NASA is a major user of the Arecibo Observatory on Puerto Rico’s north coast, especially for observations and characterization of near earth asteroids. The observatory — officially the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) — is the world’s largest single dish radio/radar telescope.  It belongs to the National Science Foundation and is operated by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). USRA reports today that radio contact has been restored with the staff and everyone who sheltered there is OK. Apparently the facility suffered some damage, but the extent is not yet known.  It reportedly experienced wind speeds of 155 miles per hour.  It is closed for scientific observations until at least next Thursday.


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