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Fifth asteroid ever discovered before impact


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    • By NASA
      Representatives from NASA, FEMA, and the planetary defense community participate in the fifth Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise on April 2 and 3, 2024, to discuss the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid or comet.Credits: NASA/JHU-APL/Ed Whitman NASA will host a virtual media briefing at 3:30 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 20, to discuss a new summary of a recent tabletop exercise to simulate national and international responses to a hypothetical asteroid impact threat.
      The fifth biennial Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise was held April 2 and 3, 2024, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
      NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, in partnership with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State Office of Space Affairs, convened the tabletop exercise to inform and assess our ability as a nation to respond effectively to the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid or comet. This exercise supports NASA’s planetary defense strategy to protect our planet and continues the agency’s mission to innovate for the benefit of humanity.
      Video of the briefing will stream live on NASA TV and NASA’s YouTube channel.
      The following participants will review the history and purpose of the exercise, the scenario encountered during this year’s simulation, and its findings and recommendations:
      Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer Emeritus, NASA Headquarters, Washington Leviticus “L.A.” Lewis, FEMA detailee to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, NASA Headquarters Terik Daly, planetary defense section supervisor, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland To register for the briefing, media must RSVP no later than two hours before the event to Alise Fisher at alise.m.fisher@nasa.gov. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available online.
      While there are no known significant asteroid impact threats for the foreseeable future, hypothetical exercises like this one, which are conducted about every two years, provide valuable insights on how the United States could respond effectively if a potential asteroid impact threat is identified.
      This year’s exercise was the first to include participation by NASA’s international collaborators in planetary defense and the first to have the benefit of actual data from NASA’s successful DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, the world’s first in-space technology demonstration for defending Earth against potential asteroid impacts.
      NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in 2016 to manage the agency’s ongoing efforts in planetary defense.
      To learn more about planetary defense at NASA, visit: 
      https://science.nasa.gov/planetary-defense/
      -end-
      Charles Blue / Karen Fox
      Headquarters, Washington 
      202-802-5345 / 202-358-1600
      charles.e.blue@nasa.gov / karen.fox@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Planetary Defense Coordination Office Planetary Defense Planetary Science Division Science & Research Science Mission Directorate View the full article
    • By NASA
      From navigating the depths of the human mind to exploring the vastness of space, Dr. Alexandra (Sandra) Whitmire helps lead research on the effects of prolonged isolation and confinement as NASA prepares to voyage to the Moon and eventually Mars. 

      Whitmire is the lead scientist for the Human Factors and Behavioral Performance element (HFBP) within NASA’s Human Research Program, or HRP. HFBP selects, supports, and helps design studies for Johnson Space Center’s HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog), which conducts missions simulating isolation and confinement to further understand psychological effects on humans.  

      These studies evaluate how crews work as a team and overcome stressors, bringing to light the potential effects of prolonged isolation on behavioral health. They also help reveal strategies for keeping crew members cohesive and engaged on long-duration missions. With greater workloads, higher stress, and more isolation anticipated in future spaceflight missions, especially with communication delays, this research is crucial. 
      Alexandra Whitmire at a Human Resources swearing-in ceremony at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz Strategies that support astronauts’ mental health have been around since the early days of spaceflight, and a strong team at NASA is in place to support the behavioral health of crews on the International Space Station. This team facilitates services such as communication with family, regular provision of crew care packages, and guidance on the optimal use of onboard methods that seek to counter adverse effects of spaceflight. For instance, lighting systems that simulate daytime and nighttime can help maintain circadian rhythms in the dark of deep space. HFBP learns from the astronauts’ current psychological support teams, while also planning a research strategy that aims to maintain this level of care in future missions beyond low Earth orbit.  

      Initially working through KBR as a research coordinator, Whitmire played a key role in establishing NASA’s behavioral health and performance research group in 2006. Over time, this small group advocated for dedicated research facilities, leading to the creation of HERA in 2013 and a Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory in 2016. HFBP also initiates and oversees studies in Antarctica, and also created and managed studies previously conducted through the Scientific International Research In a Unique terrestrial Station, or SIRIUS, a series of international missions that were held inside a ground-based analog facility in Moscow, Russia. 

      Whitmire’s role now involves managing projects aimed at mitigating risks for future spaceflight. She specializes in fatigue management, performance measurement, and strategies to counter behavioral changes that may result from spaceflight.  

      “My journey to NASA was quite unexpected,” she said. “With a background in psychology and writing, I never imagined I’d find an opportunity working in space exploration.” 
      Whitmire began her career supporting the state of Texas and MD Anderson Cancer Center on organizational development. She joined NASA’s HRP in 2006 as a research coordinator for the Human Health and Performance element. 

      Whitmire completed her bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She then earned her master’s in psychology, with a focus on experimental psychology, from the University of Texas in San Antonio, and years later, while continuing her full-time work with KBR, she completed her doctorate in psychology from Capella University. 
      Katie Koube, a HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog) crew member from Campaign 6 Mission 4, prepares food inside the ground-based habitat. Through HERA missions, HRP conducts studies that seek to evaluate how crew health and performance can be affected by stressors anticipated in future exploration missions.  One example study, led by Dr. Grace Douglas, a food technology scientist at Johnson, explored a restricted food system in which meals were replaced with compact bars. Douglas found that limited food options were associated with reduced eating and caloric intake, as well as decrements in mood, highlighting the importance of an acceptable food system for mental well-being on long duration missions.  

      Another study led by Dr. Leslie DeChurch, a professor of Communication and Psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., revealed that teams performed worse on a complex, conceptual task at the end of a mission compared to earlier on, highlighting the need to maintain team cohesion and performance over time. Still more studies seek to evaluate the effects of communications delays of up to five minutes each way between crew and HERA’s mission control, which sits just outside the HERA facility.   

      As NASA prepares to launch the first crewed Artemis missions, HRP’s behavioral health team is also incorporating studies to address Moon-specific challenges. The team is focused on the unique demands of lunar landings, such as high-tempo operations and seconds-long communication delays. The current goal is to increase the fidelity of HERA to future Artemis missions to ensure that more meaningful, operationally-relevant results emerge from future investigations.  
      The HERA Campaign 7 Mission 1 crew members inside the analog environment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Through these studies, scientists learn valuable lessons about resilience and coping mechanisms that can benefit future space missions. Their findings emphasize the importance of maintaining social connections, adequate work-rest schedules, and opportunities for exercise to support mental health. Being intentional and reflective with gratitude and positive emotions has also shown significant value, Whitmire notes, adding that during her time at NASA, she has learned more about the importance of relationships, communication, and resolving problems together as a team. 

      “Overall, our goal is to ensure that astronauts are well-prepared for and supported through the psychological demands of space exploration. We seek to apply these insights to improve mental health support for everyone,” Whitmire said. “All of us can learn from these crew members in their periods of isolation to get insights on how to live happier, healthier lives here on Earth.” 
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      ESA’s ExoMars and Mars Express missions have spotted water frost for the first time near Mars’s equator, a part of the planet where it was thought impossible for frost to exist.
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      Over 200 dedicated professionals from ESA, EUSPA and European industry across four Galileo centres and seven external entities have seamlessly upgraded Galileo’s massive ground segment. In a remarkable feat of coordination and precision involving the deployment of 400 items, and after five months of rehearsals, Galileo’s ground segment, the largest in Europe, has transitioned seamlessly to System Build 2.0.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Images from the November 2023 flyby of asteroid Dinkinesh by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft show a trough on Dinkinesh where a large piece — about a quarter of the asteroid — suddenly shifted, a ridge, and a separate contact binary satellite (now known as Selam). Scientists say this complicated structure shows that Dinkinesh and Selam have significant internal strength and a complex, dynamic history.
      Panels a, b, and c each show stereographic image pairs of the asteroid Dinkinesh taken by the NASA Lucy Spacecraft’s L’LORRI Instrument in the minutes around closest approach on Nov. 1, 2023. The yellow and rose dots indicate the trough and ridge features, respectively. These images have been sharpened and processed to enhance contrast. Panel d shows a side view of Dinkinesh and its satellite Selam taken a few minutes after closest approach.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab “We want to understand the strengths of small bodies in our solar system because that’s critical for understanding how planets like Earth got here,” said Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator at the Boulder, Colorado, branch of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Basically, the planets formed when zillions of smaller objects orbiting the Sun, like asteroids, ran into each other. How objects behave when they hit each other, whether they break apart or stick together, has a lot to do with their strength and internal structure.” Levison is lead author of a paper on these observations published May 29 in Nature.
      On November 1, 2023, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flew by the main-belt asteroid Dinkinesh. Now, the mission has released pictures from Lucy’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager taken over a roughly three-hour period, providing the best views of the asteroid to date. During the flyby, Lucy discovered that Dinkinesh has a small moon, which the mission named “Selam,” a greeting in the Amharic language meaning “peace.” Lucy is the first mission designed to visit the Jupiter Trojans, two swarms of asteroids trapped in Jupiter’s orbit that may be “fossils” from the era of planet formation. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Download this video and more at: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/14596/ Researchers think that Dinkinesh is revealing its internal structure by how it has responded to stress. Over millions of years rotating in the sunlight, the tiny forces coming from the thermal radiation emitted from the asteroid’s warm surface generated a small torque that caused Dinkinesh to gradually rotate faster, building up centrifugal stresses until part of the asteroid shifted into a more elongated shape. This event likely caused debris to enter into a close orbit, which became the raw material that produced the ridge and satellite.
      Stereo movie of asteroid Dinkinesh from NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flyby on Nov. 1, 2023.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab/Brian May/Claudia Manzoni If Dinkinesh were much weaker, more like a fluid pile of sand, its particles would have gradually moved toward the equator and flown off into orbit as it spun faster. However, the images suggest that it was able to hold together longer, more like a rock, with more strength than a fluid, eventually giving way under stress and fragmenting into large pieces. (Although the amount of strength needed to fragment a small asteroid like Dinkinesh is miniscule compared to most rocks on Earth.)
      “The trough suggests an abrupt failure, more an earthquake with a gradual buildup of stress and then a sudden release, instead of a slow process like a sand dune forming,” said Keith Noll of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, project scientist for Lucy and a co-author of the paper.
      “These features tell us that Dinkinesh has some strength, and they let us do a little historical reconstruction to see how this asteroid evolved,” said Levison. “It broke, things moved apart and formed a disk of material during that failure, some of which rained back onto the surface to make the ridge.”
      The researchers think some of the material in the disk formed the moon Selam, which is actually two objects touching each other, a configuration called a contact binary. Details of how this unusual moon formed remain mysterious.
      Stereo movie of Selam from NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flyby on Nov. 1, 2023.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab/Brian May/Claudia Manzoni Dinkinesh and its satellite are the first two of 11 asteroids that Lucy’s team plans to explore over its 12-year journey. After skimming the inner edge of the main asteroid belt, Lucy is now heading back toward Earth for a gravity assist in December 2024. That close flyby will propel the spacecraft back through the main asteroid belt, where it will observe asteroid Donaldjohanson in 2025, and then on to the first of the encounters with the Trojan asteroids that lead and trail Jupiter in its orbit of the Sun beginning in 2027.
      Lucy’s principal investigator is based out of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of Southwest Research Institute, headquartered in San Antonio. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built and operates the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA’s Discovery Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
      For more information about NASA’s Lucy mission, visit:
      https://science.nasa.gov/mission/lucy
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      Last Updated May 29, 2024 EditorWilliam SteigerwaldContactWilliam Steigerwaldwilliam.a.steigerwald@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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