May 31, 2013

The Big Asteroid That is Zipping by Earth This Week is not Alone ,Because It Has a Traveling Companion

The big asteroid -- 1.7 miles long -- that is zipping by Earth this week is not alone , because it has a traveling companion. NASA radar images  , which are just released, show the asteroid  called  "QE2 '' and its previously undiscovered moon orbiting it. They technically make a binary asteroid system. The small asteroid circling the big one is estimated to be about 2,000 feet wide.
NASA declared that about 16 percent of larger (over 655 feet) near-Earth asteroids are binary or triple systems.
The closest approach of the space rockin' duo will take place on Friday, May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PT, when the system will get  close to us almost 3.6 million miles  ( 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon). The end of May passing of 1998 QE2 will be its closest visit for the next 200 years.
"Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features," declared radar astronomer Lance Benner from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.
Despite flying by nearly 4 million miles away, the  230-foot wide antenna (telescope), belonging to Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California's Mojave Desert, can zoom in very closely to 1998 QE2 in order to detect details 12 feet across.
 "We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid's distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise", declared Benner.
  The Carlo Zapponi's visual graph is called Bolides , and it puts the meteor strikes in a chronological view to get a historical perspective on the number of dazzling space rocks having fallen through our skies in recent times.
Inspired by the Greek word bolis (missile), Bolides features data from a range of historical meteor records, ranging from MetBase to London's Natural History Museum catalog of meteorites, and displays the data in a special way to explore them.
 There are more than 34,842 recordings of meteorites from the year 861. Zapponi graph only shows the 1,045 meteorites that couldn't be discredited or doubted.
 1933 was the year of 16 confirmed meteor strikes on Earth, and 1947 was the year , when the mega Sikhote-Alin meteor struck Russia.
Immediately after a large meteor hit Russia on February, and injured about 1,000 people, President Obama's administration announced that the U.S. would work on the asteroid tracking technology to avoid other severe Earth collisions.
Charles  Bolden spoke at the Human to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C. on Monday, and declared that a robotic spacecraft mission currently being planned will "prepare efforts to prevent an asteroid from colliding with devastating force into our planet."( U.S. News & World Report).
 The U.S. space agency wants to lasso a small asteroid and to tow it close  to our planet to be visited by the astronauts. They  will be able to collect samples and to conduct research that could one day assist in a mission to Mars or save Earth from a catastrophic collision.

The Obama administration intends to put the U.S. Astronauts on a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and perhaps, to follow up such missions with manned Mars flights in the following decade. Seventy-eight million dollars have officially been set aside in the next fiscal year budget for NASA to start the development of the asteroid capture plan.

 NASA's science mission directorate associate administrator John Grunsfeld  talked about the importance of the lasso mission of the Human to Mars Summit on Monday, as U.S. News & World Report declared.
Grunsfeld also said  that NASA has '' a pretty good theory that single-planet species don't survive ". "We don't want to test it, but we have some evidence of that happening 65 million years ago [when an asteroid killed much of Earth's life]. That will happen again someday ... we want to have the capability [to leave the planet] in case of the threat of large scale destruction on Earth",he added.

On Wednesday, the Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (Osiris-Rex) passed a key confirmation review , approving the development phase of the spacecraft , according to NASA.

 NASA also has chosen and named the first asteroid it will visit and sample. The asteroid  known as Bennu was previously called 1999 RQ36, but it was renamed as part of a contest involving suggestions from thousands of school children.
NASA declared that Bennu could hold clues to the origin of the solar system. NASA hopes that the new spacecraft can rendezvous with Bennu at 2018 . Osiris Rex wants to collect a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams) of surface material to be returned to Earth by 2023.
The space agency said the mission to Bennu can be a key part of a larger mission of capturing and relocating an entire asteroid for some further studies.

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