NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft discovered this new asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. Previously called 2010 ML48, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently renamed this asteroid to 316201 Malala in honour of Pakistani Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Asteroid 316201 Malala orbits the sun every five years and is composed of a very dark material that is four kilometers in diameter.
This is a Theodore von Kármán Lecture Series talk, held last November at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It addressed some of the key aspects to NASA’s “Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission” as it looks to take human space travel to a new level by breaking out of the recent low Earth orbit missions. This talk was given by a long time veteran of the Jet Propulsion Lab, Brian Muirhead who is currently the Chief Engineer at JPL. Discussion included what is involved in planning a mission to the asteroid belt, possible target asteroids to capture, how to bring the asteroid back to orbit around the Moon for study, space craft design, propulsion, planetary defense techniques, robotic technologies required for such endeavours, and much more.
RT report looks at the upcoming exploration by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is approaching the dwarf planet Ceres (named after the Roman goddess of agriculture). Located in the asteroid belt, this 950 km wide body of rock and ice was previously categorized as an asteroid. Dawn will try to learn more about Ceres, which up till now has been a bit of a mysterious dwarf planet, including looking for any signs of (previous microbial) life.
NASA’s Spitzer Space telescope took this image of asteroid 2011 MD in February 2014. This infrared picture was taken at a wavelength of 4.5 microns over a very long time period (20 hours), which was needed to pick up the faint signature of the small asteroid (near the center of this image). Scientists have narrowed down the size of the space rock to roughly a mere 20 feet (6 meters).
This image of the 17 km long and 10 km wide asteroid was taken by the Galileo spacecraft as it flew by the asteroid Gaspra (951 Gaspra) on October 29, 1991. Gaspra resides near the inner edge of the asteroid belt and has a 7 hour rotation period. This picture is believed to have been taken at a range of 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) using Galileo’s solid-state imaging camera. Galileo’s encounter with Gaspra marked the first instance of an asteroid being (so) closely examined by a spacecraft.