Asteroids

The New Horizons space probe performed its Ultima Thule flyby

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has just completed its flyby of the object known as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule. The automatic program to proceed with the photos and the other detections of its target was activated a few days ago so, after sending the last images taken when it was still almost two million kilometers away, New Horizons aimed its instruments at Ultima Thule. If all went well, in the next few hours it will communicate it to the mission control center and start sending the data it collected, a process that will continue for an estimated time in about 20 months.

Asteroid Bennu (Image NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA has announced that its OSIRIS-REx space probe has found traces of water in the asteroid Bennu, reached on December 3. This is water bound to minerals present on Bennu’s surface, hydrated silicates formed in the very early stages of the solar system’s history, when the first small bodies such as the asteroids started forming.

Asteroid Bennu (Image NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA and Lockheed Martin have confirmed that the OSIRIS-REx space probe has reached the asteroid Bennu. From its orbit, at a distance of about 5 kilometers (a bit more than 3 miles), it will start studying its surface creating a map over the course of about a year and a half. This will allow NASA scientists not only to get to know it better but also to choose the most suitable area to proceed with the next phase of the mission, which will consist of taking samples from Bennu’s surface to be returned to Earth.

The Dawn space probe during its preparation (Photo NASA/Amanda Diller)

NASA announced the end of the mission of its Dawn space probe after it ran out of the hydrazine used by its thrusters prevented it from orienting towards Earth to communicate with the mission control through NASA’s Deep Space Network. Dawn is in a stable orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres and will probably remain there for at least 50 years. It’s the only space probe to have orbited two celestial bodies since the first part of its mission was orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta.