Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon

This NASA file photo taken on July 20, 1969 shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission. US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Dec. 11, 2017 to send Americans to the Moon for the first time in decades, a move he said would help prepare for a future Mars trip.”This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at the White House as he signed the new directive.”We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.” (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2017
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Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Monday to send Americans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, in order to prepare for future trips to Mars.
“This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at a White House ceremony as he signed the new space policy directive.
“We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”
The directive calls on NASA to ramp up its efforts to send people to deep space, a policy that unites politicians on both sides of the aisle in the United States.
However, it steered clear of the most divisive and thorny issues in space exploration: budgets and timelines.
Space policy experts agree that any attempt to send people to Mars, which lies an average of 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) from Earth, would require immense technical prowess and a massive wallet.
The last time US astronauts visited the Moon was during the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.
On July 20, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon.
Trump, who signed the directive in the presence of Harrison Schmitt, one of the last Americans to walk on the Moon 45 years ago, said “today, we pledge that he will not be the last.”
The better known Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon after Armstrong and a fervent advocate of future space missions, was also present at the ceremony but not mentioned by Trump during his speech.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the newly revitalized National Space Council, have previously vowed to explore the Moon again, but offered few details.
Nevertheless, the announcement was welcomed by NASA’s Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency “looks forward to supporting the president’s directive” and “strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond.”


Former US president George W. Bush also pledged to send Americans to the Moon as part of the Constellation program, which ran from 2005 to 2009.
Constellation was projected to cost $100 billion, and aimed to get boots on the Moon’s surface by the late 2020s.
In 2009, then president Barack Obama deemed it too costly and repetitive of missions already achieved, and canceled the program in order to focus on reaching Mars by the 2030s.
Trump vowed his new directive “will refocus the space program on human exploration and discovery,” and “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972.”
The goal of the new Moon missions would include “long-term exploration and use” of its surface.
“We’re dreaming big,” Trump said.
His administration has previously held several meetings with SpaceX boss Elon Musk and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin.
A White House statement acknowledged that partnerships with other nations and private industry could well be on the cards.
The US “will work with other nations and private industry to return astronauts to the Moon, developing the technology and means for manned exploration of Mars and other destinations in our solar system,” it said.


NASA says taking sample from asteroid harder than expected

This artist's rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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NASA says taking sample from asteroid harder than expected

  • The asteroid, which orbits the sun, is 85 million kilometers (52 million miles) from the Earth
  • The samples will be stowed in the probe, which will return to Earth in 2023

WASHINGTON: After two years crossing the solar system, the NASA space probe Osiris-Rex arrived last December near the asteroid Bennu to complete its mission of collecting a sample — but touching the rock will prove much harder than scientists had expected.
The Osiris-Rex team said Tuesday that the surface of the asteroid, which measures 490 meters (1,600 feet) in diameter, was covered in stones and boulders. They had expected it to be smoother and easier for the probe to touch.
“We go back to the drawing board and start thinking again,” Dante Lauretta, the head of the mission, told a press conference. The team’s observations also appeared in the Nature journal on Tuesday.
The probe was designed to head for a flat area with a radius of 25 meters, but the images beamed back since December showed that there is no area that big which is free of boulders.
As a result, the team will have to aim more tightly.
“Now we’re going to try to hit the center of the bullseye,” said project manager Richard Burns.
Since December, the probe has been using its instruments to map Bennu from a close distance, currently three miles.
The asteroid, which orbits the sun, is 85 million kilometers (52 million miles) from the Earth.
The goal is touch the surface with a robotic arm for just five seconds in July 2020, retrieving a sample of between 60 grams and two kilograms (two ounces to 4.4 pounds) of regolith, which means relatively small particles such as gravel or sand, since the machine can only suck up particles measuring less than two centimeters.
The samples will be stowed in the probe, which will return to Earth in 2023.
Bennu is technically known as “rubble-pile asteroid,” that is, it is made up of pieces of debris that had broken off larger celestial bodies and come together under the effect of gravity.
It has more than 200 boulders larger than 10 meters in diameter, and some stretching up to 30 meters, according to researchers writing in Nature Astronomy. It has a number of craters between 10 and over 150 meters in length.
“It is not trivial to deliver a spacecraft with meter scale resolution to the surface of an asteroid in the microgravity environment,” said Lauretta, who nevertheless said he was “confident” that the team would rise to the challenge.
Another surprise Bennu had been withholding was that it emits particles which fall back to the surface like rain. That should not however endanger the probe, the team said.