China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft successfully lands on the moon to retrieve lunar rocks and soil

Chinese state media reported Tuesday that the probe “successfully landed” at its targeted site, an area called Oceanus Procellarum. China did not immediately announce any other details about the landing.

On the lunar surface, the probe is expected to dig about seven feet deep, collecting as much as 4.5 pounds of rocks and lunar soil into the ascent vehicle, which would then meet up with the service capsule in lunar orbit and return to Earth.

Once the material is back on Earth, scientists would be able to calculate its age and examine it to determine its composition.

On Twitter, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate, congratulated China. “This is no easy task,” he wrote. “When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community.”

As part of its lunar exploration mission, NASA has been working to get countries around the world to adopt what it calls the Artemis Accords, a legal framework that would govern behavior in space and on celestial bodies such as the moon. The accords are named for NASA’s current lunar program, Artemis.

The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources and create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space, while sharing their scientific discoveries.

Several countries have signed on to the bilateral agreements, which NASA says builds on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. But NASA is essentially prohibited from partnering with China in space activities, and China is not among the signatories.

The Trump administration and conservatives have cast China’s ambitions as setting up a power struggle in space. During a speech last year, Vice President Pence directed NASA to dramatically speed up its mission to return astronauts to the moon, initially planned for 2028 but now aiming for 2024. Pence described a new space race reminiscent of the Cold War drive to the moon under the Apollo program.

“Make no mistake about it: We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s, and the stakes are even higher,” he said in the speech. China’s landing on the far side of the moon, he said, “revealed their ambition to seize the strategic high ground and become the world’s preeminent space-faring nation.”

The incoming Biden administration has said little publicly about its plans for NASA and space exploration, but several Democrats have said it plans to keep the Artemis mission, though on a timeline they said was more realistic.

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China Successfully Lands Spacecraft on Moon to Retrieve Lunar Rocks | World News

BEIJING (Reuters) – China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface on Tuesday in a historic mission to retrieve lunar surface samples, Chinese state media reported.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe on Nov. 24. The uncrewed mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins.

The mission will attempt to collect 2 kg (4-1/2 lbs) of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.

If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The lander vehicle that touched down on the moon’s surface was one of several spacecraft deployed by the Chang’e-5 probe.

Upon landing, the lander vehicle is supposed to drill into the ground with a robotic arm, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender vehicle that would lift off and dock with an orbiting module.

State broadcaster CCTV said it would start collecting samples on the lunar surface in the next two days. The samples would be transferred to a return capsule for the trip back to Earth, landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu and Tom Daly; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alex Richardson)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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China says spacecraft successfully lands on moon for historic sample collection

The Chinese government says a robot probe launched to return lunar rocks to Earth has landed on the moon. The official China News Service said the Chang’e 5 “successfully landed on the moon in the pre-selected landing area.” It gave no more details.

The probe adds to a string of increasingly ambitious missions by a Chinese space program that aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

This animation released by China Central Television (CCTV) shows Chang’e-5 probe flying to moon.

CCTV via Reuters

The spacecraft is expected to collect about 4 pounds of rock and soil samples, and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis.

If successful, the Chang’e 5 mission will make China only the third nation, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, to bring moon rocks back to Earth.

The 8,335-pound Chang’e 5 spacecraft, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, is made up of four major components: a lunar orbiter, a sample return craft, a lander carrying science instruments and sample collection equipment, and a small ascent vehicle mounted atop the lander to carry the collected surface samples back up to orbit.

An artist’s impression of the Chang’e 5 robotic lunar sample collection spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

CCTV via The Planetary Society

The Chang’e 5 lander features multiple cameras, a spectrometer to assess the composition of the soil near the spacecraft and a ground-penetrating radar. A robot arm is equipped with a percussive drill and scoop to pick up excavated rock and soil.

CBS News’ Bill Harwood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Saint Louis University Successfully Completes Fall Semester Classes

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — When Saint Louis University’s fall semester classes end on Tuesday, Nov. 24, the University will have successfully completed its on-campus semester as planned and without changes in its hybrid instruction model or on-campus living.

The University decided last summer to begin classes a week early, on Aug. 17, and end classes Thanksgiving week, with final exams taking place online the week of Nov. 30.

“Our decision to end classes by Thanksgiving was driven by concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall, which has occurred,” said President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “But most important in SLU’s successful fall semester has been the willingness of our students, faculty and staff to make essential adjustments, follow campus safeguards and care for each other.”

Those safeguards included a strict policy for face masks, requirements for social distancing and group gatherings, continued remote working for all non-essential employees, cancellation of all in-person events on campus, and limited access to campus for visitors.

Another key to the fall semester’s success was the decision to allow maximum flexibility for students and faculty to attend and teach classes in person or online or both. SLU also reduced housing density on campus and set aside space for approximately 150 students to isolate or quarantine on campus.

“Our faculty have done everything possible to ensure we finished the fall semester as we planned,” said Interim Provost Michael Lewis, Ph.D. “In many cases that meant making adjustments during the term, including help for students who had to move from in-person to online instruction during the semester.”

Testing was a major component in SLU’s response to the pandemic. In August, the University tested all 3,500 residential students for COVID-19 before they moved into campus housing. In September, SLU began weekly random testing of 10% of all residential students showing no signs of infection. Nursing students administered the asymptomatic tests.

SLU also launched a rapid contact tracing program staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees in public health. In the vast majority of instances, the University’s contact tracing team reached all close contacts in less than one day of a positive case.

“The University transparently communicated testing results with the campus and community with our COVID-19 dashboard, which was updated twice weekly,” said Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., RN., CIC, FAPIC, director of SLU’s Institute for Biosecurity and special assistant to the president for pandemic response. “What our testing told us was that SLU’s campus was a very safe place to be this fall.”

In the last few weeks of the term — as cases were surging locally — SLU experienced an uptick in positive cases linked primarily to off-campus activities where students let down their guard while socializing. Despite this, SLU’s overall positivity rate remained far lower than in the region or the state. There were also no reported positive cases linked to classroom or lab exposure.

“While the semester was not without its challenges,

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The UAE has successfully launched the Arab world’s first Mars mission

The United Arab Emirates successfully launched its Mars-bound Hope Probe on Sunday, marking the the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission — and the first of three international missions to the Red Planet this summer.

a satellite in space


The Hope Probe took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, after a delay last week due to bad weather. The solid rocket booster successfully separated from the launch vehicle, and the probe has established two-way communication with the ground segment in Dubai.

The Al Amal probe, as it is called in Arabic, is expected to reach Mars by February 2021. It will be the first time the UAE has orbited Mars, and the probe will stay in orbit for a Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — to gather data about Mars’ atmosphere.

“It’s an honor to be part of the global efforts to explore deep space,” tweeted the official Hope Mars Mission account after the launch. “The Hope Probe is the culmination of every single step that humans have taken throughout history to explore the unknown depths of space.”

The United States and China are also embarking on Mars missions this summer. NASA’s Perseverance Rover and China’s Tianwen 1 are expected to launch sometime between late July and early August, though the exact date will depend on daily launch conditions.

These three countries are all launching this summer due to the occurrence of a biennial window when Earth and Mars are closest together, making the journey a little bit shorter.

NASA tweeted its congratulations after Hope’s successful launch, writing on Perseverance’s official Twitter page: “I wish you a successful journey and look forward to the sol when we are both exploring Mars … I cannot wait to join you on the journey!”

Growing space sector

The Hope Probe is the UAE’s latest and most ambitious step in its burgeoning space sector.

The UAE has launched satellites before — in 2009 and 2013 — but they were developed with South Korean partners. The country founded its space agency in 2014, and has set ambitious targets including a colony on the Martian surface by 2117.

Government officials have previously spoken of the space program as a catalyst for the country’s growing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sector.

Simply making it this far was an impressive feat for the Gulf country. Most Mars missions take between 10 to 12 years to develop — but UAE scientists had just six years to carry out the project.

To build the spacecraft, they partnered with a team in the US, at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. And to find a novel science objective for Hope’s mission, they consulted the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), a forum created by NASA to plan explorations of Mars.

They decided to use Hope to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year, said Sarah Al Amiri, the mission’s science lead.

“The data gathered by the

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Probe Successfully Stows Space-Rock Sample

NASA’s pioneering OSIRIS-REx probe has bagged up its precious asteroid sample for return to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx has finished stowing the bits of the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu that it snagged last Tuesday (Oct. 20), successfully locking the material into the spacecraft’s return capsule, mission team members announced Thursday (Oct. 29).

And the sample appears to be substantial—far heftier than the 2.1 ounces (60 grams) the mission had set as a target, team members said. Indeed, OSIRIS-REx collected so much material on Oct. 20 that its sampling head couldn’t close properly; the head’s sealing mylar flap was wedged open in places by protruding Bennu pebbles.

The OSIRIS-REx team noticed that issue last week when examining photos of the head and its collected sample; flakes of escaped asteroid material drifted through the frames. To minimize the amount lost, the team decided to expedite the precise and complex stowing procedure, which was supposed to happen next week.

So, over the course of 36 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 27 and Oct. 28), engineers directed OSIRIS-REx to deposit the sampling head, which sat at the end of the probe’s robotic arm, into the return capsule; tug on the head to make sure it was secured properly; sever connections with the robotic arm; and lock up the return capsule via the locking of two latches.

This was all done while OSIRIS-REx was about 205 million miles (330 million kilometers) from Earth, meaning it took 18.5 minutes for each command to reach OSIRIS-REx, and another 18.5 minutes for each update from the probe to come back down to Earth. 

“We wanted to only attempt stow one time, and we wanted to make sure we were successful,” OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager Sandra Freund, of Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, said during a NASA news conference Thursday. “And we definitely were.”

The change of plans required a last-minute reallocation of time on NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), the system of radio telescopes that the agency uses to communicate with its far-flung probes. Because the stow operation was so important and so involved, OSIRIS-REx needed a large block of continuous DSN time, which other NASA missions sacrificed for the greater good.

It’s unclear exactly how much asteroid material now sits in OSIRIS-REx’s return capsule, which will come down to Earth in September 2023. The team canceled a planned post-sampling weighing procedure that would have involved spinning the probe, because this maneuver would have resulted in more sample loss. (Moving the arm—to photograph the sample and conduct the stow operation, for example—imparted grain-liberating acceleration, mission team members explained. So they wanted to minimize such motions.) 

But there’s definitely a lot of asteroid material on board, said mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

The sampling operation on Oct. 20 went extremely well, Lauretta said, and the head penetrated deep into Bennu’s surface—perhaps 19 inches (48 centimeters) or more. The team is confident that OSIRIS-REx pretty much filled its sampling head that day, meaning it likely backed

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OSIRIS-REx successfully stows sample of asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx successfully stows sample of asteroid Bennu
Taken on Oct. 28 by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, this image shows the collector head after it was separated from the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism arm. The collector head is secured onto the capture ring in the Sample Return Capsule. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

NASA’s University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission has successfully stowed the spacecraft’s Sample Return Capsule and its abundant sample of asteroid Bennu. On Oct. 28, the mission team sent commands to the spacecraft, instructing it to close the capsule—marking the end of one of the most challenging phases of the mission.

“I’m very thankful that our team worked so hard to get this sample stowed as quickly as they did,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and a professor planetary sciences at the University of Arizona. “Now, we can look forward to receiving the sample here on Earth and opening up that capsule.”

“This achievement by OSIRIS-REx on behalf of NASA and the world has lifted our vision to the higher things we can achieve together, as teams and nations,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Together, a team comprising industry, academia and international partners, and a talented and diverse team of NASA employees with all types of expertise, has put us on course to vastly increase our collection on Earth of samples from space. Samples like this are going to transform what we know about our universe and ourselves, which is at the base of all NASA’s endeavors.”

The mission team spent two days working around the clock to carry out the stowage procedure, with preparations for the stowage event beginning Oct. 24. The process to stow the sample is unique compared to other spacecraft operations and required the team’s continuous oversight and input over the two-day period. For the spacecraft to proceed with each step in the stowage sequence, the team had to assess images and telemetry from the previous step to confirm the operation was successful and the spacecraft was ready to continue. Given that OSIRIS-REx is currently more than 205 million miles from Earth, this required the team to also work with a greater than 18.5-minute time delay for signals traveling in each direction.

Throughout the process, the OSIRIS-REx team continually assessed the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism’s wrist alignment to ensure the collector head was being placed properly into the Sample Return Capsule. Additionally, the team inspected images to observe any material escaping from the collector head to confirm that no particles would hinder the stowage process. StowCam images of the stowage sequence show that a few particles escaped during the stowage procedure, but the team is confident that a plentiful amount of material remains inside of the head.

“Given the complexity of the process to place the sample collector head onto the capture ring, we expected that it would take a few attempts to get it in the perfect position,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Fortunately, the head was captured on the first

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Successfully Stows Sample of Asteroid Bennu

The left image shows the OSIRIS-REx collector head hovering over the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) after the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism arm moved it into the proper position for capture, recently. The right image shows the collector head secured onto the capture ring in the SRC. Both photos, released by NASA on October 29, 2020, were captured by the StowCam camera. The OSIRIS-REx team will now focus on preparing the spacecraft for the next phase of the mission – Earth Return Cruise. The departure window opens in March 2021 for OSIRIS-REx to begin its voyage home, and the spacecraft is targeting the delivery of the SRC to Earth on September 24, 2023. UPI

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Asteroid samples successfully sealed in capsule to return to Earth, NASA says

An estimated two pounds or more of rock and soil collected from the asteroid Bennu by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft have been successfully sealed up in a protective re-entry capsule for return to Earth in 2023, project managers said Thursday.

While detailed hands-on analysis cannot begin until the samples are returned, scientists have already gained insights into the flaky nature of Bennu’s soil, or regolith, by watching how it behaved when the rocks and soil were collected on October 20.

And that is already feeding into discussions about how to possibly one day divert a threatening asteroid from a collision with Earth.

“The OSIRIS-REx mission has collected a phenomenal data set about asteroid Bennu, which is a potentially hazardous asteroid with approximately (a) 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator.

“The biggest uncertainties on the mission where the response of the regolith to the TAGSAM (sample collector) pressing down onto the surface. And I know already different groups within NASA and other agencies have been able to use our data set for scenarios of the kind that you’re describing.”

Two shots from the OSIRIS-REx probe showing its TAGSAM sample collector, loaded with small rocks and soil from the surface of the asteroid Bennu, being mounted inside a protective capsule for return to Earth in 2023.

NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

Said Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters: “I think this information is going to be incredibly important as we think about how to mitigate future potential impacts from these potentially hazardous objects.”

But the primary goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission was to collect a minimum of 60 grams — 1.1 ounces — of rock and soil from Bennu, and the spacecraft appears to have far exceeded that modest requirement.

During a dramatic touch-and-go impact October 20, the spacecraft slowly descended to the surface of Bennu, pressing its TAGSAM collector down onto the soil as compressed nitrogen gas was released, stirring up a blizzard of rocks and fine-grained particles.

The collector was designed so the gas would drive small particles into internal chambers, capturing them for return to Earth. In fact, the TAGSAM captured so much material a flap intended to seal the material inside the collector was jammed open by a rock fragment, allowing small fragments to escape.

As a result, mission managers opted to stow the collector well ahead of schedule, foregoing plans to “weigh” the collected samples by slowly spinning the spacecraft and carefully analyzing its motion compared to earlier measurements when the sample collector was empty.

But with soil and small rock fragments working their way out of the collector, time was of the essence. Earlier this week, flight controllers carried out a 36-hour procedure to reposition OSIRIS-REx’s robot arm so the TAGSAM collector on the far end could be stowed and sealed inside a protective capsule.

If all goes well, OSIRIS-REx will begin the two-year trip back to Earth next spring. The sample capsule

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe successfully stores small sample of asteroid rocks in its belly

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully stored a small cache of rocks that it grabbed from the surface of an asteroid named Bennu last week, sealing the pebbles inside the vehicle’s belly. The asteroid particles will now remain inside the spacecraft over the next three years, as OSIRIS-REx makes its way back to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx grabbed the sample on October 20th of last week, more than four years after launching from Earth on its mission to touch an asteroid. Using a thin robotic arm, the vehicle lightly tapped the asteroid Bennu, stirring up rocks on the surface and pushing some of the pebbles up into the spacecraft.

While the maneuver worked as planned, OSIRIS-REx was a little too good at this sample grab. The vehicle wound up collecting a substantial chunk of asteroid rocks, some of which were fairly large in size. These beefier pebbles then jammed a flap at the end of the arm that was supposed to keep the material enclosed inside. With the flap stuck open, some of the asteroid particles started escaping out into space. Images of the sample collector showed tiny particles dancing and swirling as they headed out into the void.

That discovery completely upended the mission team’s plans, as they raced to store the sample before more rocks floated out into space. Originally, the team had hoped to use this week to spin up the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, measuring the vehicle’s momentum to find out just how much sample it had collected. But the engineers opted to cancel that, as the twirling could cause more rocks to escape. Instead, they decided to cut straight to storing the sample inside the main body of the spacecraft.

The storage process took a couple of days to complete, with the OSIRIS-REx team monitoring each maneuver the vehicle made and analyzing images taken by the spacecraft. Overall, it seems to have gone off just fine, and the collector is now properly secured inside of OSIRIS-REx. “We’re here to announce today that we’ve successfully completed that operation,” Rich Burns, the OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a press conference.

Unfortunately, the team doesn’t know for sure exactly how much material they stored since they had to cancel the spin maneuver. But they’re very confident that they grabbed more than what they hoped to grab. The OSIRIS-REx mission set a goal of snagging at least 60 grams of asteroid material from Bennu. Based on images taken of the robotic arm and the collector, the team members are confident they’ve grabbed at least 400 grams of material — if not more. The pictures only show about 17 percent of what’s inside the sample collector, according to Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission at the University of Arizona. They estimate there are 400 grams in just that 17 percent of space alone, which means it’s possible the spacecraft has more than a kilogram in its

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