NASA makes its first attempt to sample an asteroid, some countries are reluctant to sign the Artemis Accords and cosmonauts work to patch an air leak on the International Space Station. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com.
Cosmonauts try patching up the space-station air leak.
Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station reported on Oct. 15 that they tracked down the small air leak on the station. The leak was first detected in September 2019, and at no point has the leak threatened the crew living aboard the orbiting laboratory, according to statements from NASA and Roscosmos. The cosmonauts attempted to patch the leak but the work might not hold, according to a report from Russia's government-owned news service, Tass.
NASA makes first-ever attempt at asteroid sampling.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu this week (Oct. 21). This is the first time that NASA has attempted to collect samples from an asteroid. The mission touched down on a rocky region called Nightingale for about six seconds and then fired a puff of gas to blow tiny pieces of the asteroid into its collection device.
NASA will announce a lunar scientific discovery next week.
NASA announced this week that it will reveal a mysterious lunar finding this Monday (Oct. 26). The science finding comes from a German-American partnership called SOFIA, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The discovery is new but the observations behind the announcement will probably be old, because SOFIA was grounded in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Intuitive Machines picked by NASA to launch a moon-ice mission.
In a new deal, NASA will pay the Houston-based company Intuitive Machines to deliver the space agency's Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) to the lunar south pole in December 2022. Intuitive Machines is one of several companies that NASA has selected under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to fly robotic missions to the moon. These science payloads are designed to help NASA's Artemis program glean more information about how to successfully return humans to the moon this decade.
Trio from the space station land back on Earth.
Three International Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Wednesday (Oct. 21, when a Russian Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan. The trio, which included NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, landed 10 days before the 20th anniversary of the launch that brought a crew to live on the ISS for the first time.
Dragonfly 44 is not 98% dark matter, new study suggests.
A new paper published on Oct. 8 suggests that an earlier study, which found a galaxy made almost completely of dark matter and almost no stars, got it wrong. The new study suggested that the galaxy Dragonfly 44, which was the focus of the earlier work, is a low-mass dwarf galaxy spread across space with normal percentages of dark matter.
Some countries have not signed NASA's Artemis Accords.
Eight countries have signed the Artemis Accords, which are a set of guidelines developed by NASA for crewed exploration of the moon. But some countries have their concerns. There are concerns, for example, that no African or South American countries are amongst the founding partner states, or that the US is promoting the accords outside normal channels of international space law. Some member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed the accords, but others have not.
The astronauts on the first all-women spacewalk celebrate its anniversary.
A year ago, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir took part in the first-ever spacewalk conducted entirely by women. On Oct. 19, the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized Koch and Meir for their historic spacewalk. The all-women spacewalk was not orchestrated by NASA; it was a chance pairing, but nevertheless, the spacewalk inspired women the world over.
Astronaut requirements are changing.
The demands of astronauts are quickly changing as science progresses, according to NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman spoke on a panel of spaceflyers during the virtual International Astronautical Congress on Wednesday (Oct. 14). Being an astronaut in the 2020s will therefore be very different from how it has been. Some factors contributing to the changes include plans to commercialize space and NASA's push to return humans to the moon by 2024.
China is preparing for more lunar missions.
China is preparing for more lunar missions. The China National Space Administration's (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center opened a competitive call last month for institutions to develop payloads for the five different spacecraft that are part of the nation's upcoming Chang'e 7 mission. Chang'e 7 is scheduled to launch in 2024 and is being designed to land on the lunar south pole and to study the region from orbit.