Tag Archives: nasa

Astronauts Plant Trees in Russia That Tower Above Politics

Cosmonaut-grove

Trees line the path of Cosmonaut Grove at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia.
Image: Flickr, Eugene Kaspersky

In their last days on Earth before launching to the International Space Station, astronauts sees the same thing: two rows of trees that punctuate the otherwise austere landscape outside the space launch facility in Baikonur, Russia.

The trees that outline the T-shaped path are mismatched in size, but that’s for a reason. Each one was planted by an astronaut just before he or she launched to space, a tradition that Yuri Gagarin started 50 years ago when he planted the first tree just before he became the first human in space. His tree is the largest.

A fresh three-member crew — Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European astronaut Alexander Gerst — will launch to the ISS on Wednesday. All three astronauts planted their trees last week.

Expedition_40_tree_planting

Expedition 40/41 crew (from left) NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during the traditional tree-planting ceremony in the run-up to their launch to the ISS on May 28.

Image: European Space Agency

“There’s a whole wealth of Russian traditions,” NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, who planted a tree before his mission in 2012, told Mashable. “Some are funny, some are beautiful.”

Marshburn-Hadfield-Tree

t the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 34 crew members Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (left), Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko (center) and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn (right) pose for pictures Dec. 13, 2012 at the site of their tree planting.

Image: NASA

Many Russian traditions are based on the success of what a cosmonaut did before. “In a lot of ways, it’s about honoring the person who came before you,” Marshburn said.

The simple ceremony always takes place shortly before launch, no matter the environment. Be it a harsh Russian winter or an even colder political standoff, the tree will be planted.

But given the current political climate between the U.S. and Russia, these trees have a deeper meaning within the space community, which, until very recently, has been able to operate above bureaucratic squabble.

As the U.S. continues to unleash sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, both nations have put targets on the backs of each other’s space programs.

In April, NASA sent a memo to employees stating that it was cutting all ties with Russia, except for when it comes to the space station — as the U.S. depends on Russia to launch its astronauts to the ISS.

At the same time, NASA made a grandiose public statement that it would return spaceflight to the U.S. by 2017, completely nixing the need for Russian involvement at all.

“We’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017,” NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel told Mashable in April. “The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple.”

Although NASA, at the time, said politics wouldn’t make it to the space station, Russia unveiled a different plan just weeks later. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters on May 13 that Moscow would deny U.S. requests to use the ISS after 2020. He also said he would prevent the U.S. from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites.

Astronauts, however, have subtly voiced their continued commitment to teamwork — a seemingly passive protest to the two countries’ efforts to drag the ISS into their battle.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who planted his own tree alongside Marshburn, is among the most vocal. In an April interview with RT, the ISS commander condemned weaponizing space.

And just hours after the news broke that Russia wanted to ban the U.S. from the ISS — coincidentally, that was on the same day a crew of both American and Russian astronauts was returning to Earth — Hadfield tweeted this:

And just on day after the U.S. issued its first round of sanctions against Russia, NASA released the photo below before a scheduled launch, showing the two flags together.

Russia-US-Space

The flags of the countries representing the crew members of Soyuz TMA-12M are seen at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Image: NASA

“Living in space really does break down barriers,” Marshburn said. “It is a family up there. We have to survive.”

Even NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in March — around the time Russia invaded Crimea — that the space station has been the cornerstone of peaceful relations.

During a press conference, Bolden, who commanded the first U.S.-Russian space shuttle mission in 1994, told the story of flying with Russian cosmonauts only a few years after the Cold War. The men talked of their families and of their aspirations for the world over dinner.

“I found that our relationship with the Russians in the space program has been the same ever since,” Bolden said. “We have weathered the storm through lots of contingencies.”

For his part, Marshburn, who is currently training in Houston for a future ISS mission, said he will continue to work as though the next trip will be with Russia. He’ll still study Russian, and he’ll work with Russian cosmonaut colleagues on site.

“We are well padded from the political goings on,” said Marshburn. “So, I just don’t think about it because who knows where it’s going to go.”

And as long as NASA astronauts climb into a Russian spacecraft, they’ll continue to add their tree to the growing grove around the Baikonur Cosmodrome as well.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/05/28/nasa-russia-tree-cosmodrome/

Asteroid Spaceship And Fusion-Powered Pluto Orbiter Among New Funded NASA Projects

Managinga space agency requires being constantly at the forefront of science and technology, so for the last 18 years NASA has invested incutting-edge projects that make up the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

For 2016, NASA has selected 13 projects for the NIAC Phase I, which will test pioneering technologies for planetary exploration and long-distance astronomy. Each project will receive about $100,000 for nine months to support the initial definition and feasibility of these concepts.

The latest NIAC selections include a number of concepts for planetary and robotic exploration, said Steve Jurczyk, NASAs associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement. NASA continues to value early stage concept studies for our future missions.

The projects vary in scope and breadth. Among themaretwo interesting ideas for icy moon exploration. The first, called NIMPH, focuses on a tiny lander that would collect a surface sample, convert materials into propellant, and lift off from Europa (or another icy moon) to then fly back to Earth. The second idea takes a page out of Jules Verne’s book and focuses on a tethered rover that wouldclimb down a cryovolcano and deploy a submarine to explore Enceladus or Europa’ssubsurface ocean.

The rest of Phase I concepts havea good share of innovative technologies. Theres TANDEM, a new lightweight landing system;acurious concept calledBrane Craft, an ultra-thin spacecraft that could be used to remove orbital debris at a fraction of the current cost; andProject RAMA, which wouldturn asteroids into automatic spaceships and move them out of dangerous orbits, or take them closer to Earth to be mined.

Artists depictionof the TANDEM concept.Included is thedeployable heat shield and tensegrity structure for high-risk landing zones during extreme environmental missions.Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Planets are also on the target list. Venus has only been explored by a handful of probes due to its surface temperature, which is high enough to melt electronics. For this reason, scientists are looking into AREE, a mechanical lander that would collectsamplesand send them back using transport balloons. Another venus-focused project is VIP-INSPR, which wouldexplore how to generate power on Venus using its toxic atmosphere.

NASAs Journey to Mars could also come to benefit from some of these projects. Theres a project focused on planning the most cost-efficient way for crew and cargo to get to Mars, and another looking for a way to harness microorganisms to use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics.

The New Horizons and Dawn missions have also brought focus to the smaller but numerous objects in the Solar System. A laser-armed probecould be employed to study the composition of smaller objects from orbit, whileelectrically charged gliderscould use atmospheric plasma to fly around comets and asteroids.In addition, Pluto could receive an orbiter and lander powered by nuclear fusion.

The final project looks at the echo fromthe periodic oscillation of stars due to gravitational interactions with their planets. This technique could provide continent-level imaging of exoplanets, and it would be more cost effective than current imaging technologies.

The 2016 NIAC Phase I competition was fierce, as usual. All of the final candidates were outstanding, and limiting the choice to what fit in our budget was difficult, said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive, in the statement. We hope each new study will push boundaries and explore new approaches thats what makes NIAC unique.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-has-selected-its-advance-concept-projects-2016

Hubble Snaps Photo of ‘Christmas Ornament’ Nebula

Christmas-nebula

It’s the time of year when even the scientists at NASA get into the holiday spirit. Last year, the space agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer snapped an image of a cosmic Christmas wreath for the holiday season.

Not be outdone, the venerable Hubble Space Telescope delivered holiday cheer in the form of this image of NGC 5189, a nebula that — if you’re brimming over with holiday cheer or just squinting a little — resembles a very merry Christmas ornament wrapped in a festive ribbon.

You can take a trip through the cosmos to zoom in on the nebula just like the Hubble did in the short video below.

Is the “ornament” interpretation meeting astronomers — and we suspect NASA’s PR wonks — more than halfway? Yeah, probably a little more than half, but come on — ’tis the season. You can afford to be that generous, right?

Either way, we can all agree that the beauty of the image on its own is enough to make you smile.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Geekosystem
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/christmas-ornament-nebula/

NASA Will Be Making A Big Announcement On Tuesday

At 1 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. BST) on Tuesday,May 10, NASA is going to be making an announcement about the latest discoveries made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Now, we dont know what this announcement is going to be about yet, so any guesses would just be speculation at the moment. Previous events like this, though, have signaled the discovery of worlds similar to Earth.

In attendance will be a number of scientists from NASA and the Kepler mission, but other than that, we dont have much information. So, youll have to tune in with us to find out.

A stream will be posted live on NASAs website on Tuesday, which well also embed below when its available.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-announce-latest-discoveries-planet-hunting-kepler-telescope

35 Memes To Spice Up Your Saturday Night

Let’s get this meme party started.

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Read more: http://cheezburger.com/3121925/35-memes-to-spice-up-your-saturday-night

How NASA Keeps Earth’s Germs Out of Space

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In 1967, the United States joined the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in signing the “Outer Space Treaty,” which remains the closest thing the world has to “space law.” It stipulates, among other things, that as countries explore space they should avoid contaminating it with the microbial life of Earth.

So while we may talk, with a mixture of fantasy and inevitability, about the colonization of other planets by humans, NASA takes great pains to avoid colonizing those bodies with life of a different variety: bacteria and spores that might hitchhike their way through the galaxy via American spacecraft.

But keeping space free of earthly critters is a difficult task. In fact, it’s an effectively impossible one. Curiosity, for example, was not completely sterile at its launch; rather, the rover was built to ensure that it would “carry a total of no more than 300,000 bacterial spores on any surface from which the spores could get into the Martian environment.”

In that way, Curiosity is like the Mars landers that preceded it: just a tiny bit dirty. “When we clean these things, it’s virtually impossible to get them completely, totally, 100% clean, without any organic material at all,” says Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration.

Instead, he says the agency enforces “allowable limits” — a kind of controlled biological chaos — that aims to mitigate, rather than eliminate, microbial life on its vehicles. The margins here are extraordinarily slim: When you’re talking about microorganisms, 300,000 across the entire spacecraft is actually a remarkably low number. (A human adult, after all, can play host to a href=”http://discovermagazine.com/2011/mar/04-trillions-microbes-call-us-home-help-keep-healthy” target=”_blank”>as many as 200 trillion microorganisms. Trillion, with a T.)

To keep the Mars Science Laboratory mission within its 300,0000-critter range, the technicians who built Curiosity regularly cleaned the rover’s surfaces — and those of the spacecraft that delivered it to Mars — by wiping them with an alcohol solution.

They baked the mechanical components that could tolerate high heats to kill the microbes that remained. And they sealed off Curiosity’s core box, which contains its main computer and other key electronics, to prevent any traveling microbes from escaping its confines.

Pictured in the video below, the clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is where Curiosity spent much of its pre-Martian existence. Note the bunny suits worn by the technicians, the better to ensure that human microbes wouldn’t be transferred to NASA’s now-rove-ready rover.

For its standard antibiotic regimen, Lavery says NASA has three main goals. First, of course, there’s scientific accuracy — since, for many of the agency’s missions, the subtext if not the stated objective is to learn about the life that might exist beyond our atmosphere. “If we’ve taken Earth bugs with us, it defeats the entire purpose,” he says.

Second, there’s the Outer Space Treaty and the desire to be a good steward of space — by avoiding contamination of the world beyond Earth’s borders. Third, there’s protecting Earth itself — not just by preventing the passage of earthly life into space, but also by preventing any extraterrestrial life from coming back. (Hence those amazing photos of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins hanging out in their decontamination module after completing the Apollo 11 mission.)

Planetary protection has been one of the protocols that has unified NASA’s missions since they started as missions in the first place. It’s been a priority, Lavery notes, “since the very beginning of the space program.”

And yet sterilization, just like other NASA protocols, varies significantly by mission. The particulars are determined by two broad considerations: where a mission is going and what kind of spacecraft it’s using to get there. There’s an overall cleanliness standard that’s in place for every mission, Lavery notes — no earth bugs being the general goal — but beyond that, there’s a procedural spectrum NASA employs to determine its approach to decontamination.

For vehicles like the Voyager crafts, wandering the void of space with no planetary destination in mind, standards can be (relatively) less stringent. For a lander like Curiosity, however — or like the lunar modules that brought human life to the moon during the Apollo missions — the sterilization standards are stricter. Because, harsh as those environments may be to earthly life, large or small, there’s a far greater chance that life would find a way to survive in those environments than elsewhere.

We already know, for example, about the space-surviving skills of the tardigrade. And just recently, scientists discovered a species of bacteria able to survive in a lava tube, gleaning energy from a chemical reaction with the iron from basalt rock — precisely the kind of rock abundant on Mars.

Given all that, NASA ranks its missions into five general Planetary Protection categories:

nasa_pp.png

So why not simply give every mission, by default, the highest cleanliness standard, just to be safe? Because sterilization, like pretty much every protocol NASA goes through, isn’t cheap. It’s budgetary concerns, ultimately — and resource concerns more generally — that make decontamination a matter of calculated risk.

Because of that, NASA’s attempts at preventing cross-planet contamination have relied not just on antibiotic practices, but also on a near-universal feature of earthly life: its fragility. Catherine Conley, NASA’s planetary protection officer, last year told Becca Rosen about the slim likelihood of biological commerce between Earth and Mars.

While Conley suspects NASA has transported things like bacteria and pollen spores and other pieces of life inside its spacecraft, there’s been a big caveat to the potential of contamination: “The surface conditions on Mars are pretty hostile to Earth life,” Conley says. Which means that “it’s not very likely that those organisms could actually reproduce, or even survive if they came off the spacecraft.”

Curiosity relies on the same slim odds. And the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, with a roving lander as its vehicle, is ranked as a Category IV. There are subclasses within that category, Lavery points out, based on the different environments Curiosity will be exploring within Mars itself. Just like on Earth, some areas of Mars are more (potentially) hospitable to life than others.

But protocols can also evolve. For Curiosity, the process of selecting exploration sites on Mars took place simultaneously with the process of its design — meaning that a shift in one led to a shift in the other. The Mars Science Laboratory mission started out as a Category IVa — the most stringent possible for landers and probes. (“We wanted to give ourselves as much leeway as we could,” Lavery explains.)

But when the Gale Crater was chosen as Curiosity’s landing site, NASA engineers realized that the IVa classification was “a little bit of overkill,” Lavery says, and downgraded the category — since, given the crater’s aridity, there was virtually no chance that Curiosity would encounter water or ice or anything else that could potentially foster life.

At the same time, engineers at JPL began to rethink the strategy they’d built for the rover’s drill bits. Growing increasingly concerned that a rough landing could damage the rover and the drill mechanism it would rely on so heavily to do much of its work on Mars, the engineers decided to open its previously sterilized box to add a new drill bit to Curiosity’s suite — thus ensuring that, even if one got damaged, another would remain to carry out the mission.

This switch-up, which wasn’t communicated until later to NASA’s planetary protection staff, is the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times article about the “rift” between microbiologists and engineers at the agency.

The notion of a strong divide at NASA might have been a bit overblown, though. The changes made to Curiosity, being not immediately communicated to Conley, were indeed a bureaucratic “slip-up.”

But, beyond that, not only did the implemented changes follow NASA procedure, Lavery says; they were also standard practice — part of the normal evolution of spacecraft design as it accounts for changes made to mission objectives. The mission changed; the vehicle changed along with it. And there’s always that magic 300,000-critter standard. Before Curiosity was launched, “We were able to do an assay that said we were well under that number,” Lavery says. “And we were good to go.”

The question remains, though: What if Curiosity does find water? Probabilistically, that’s unlikely. But Martian water — or Martian ice — is certainly not an impossibility. Particularly given the fact that Curiosity’s work involves drilling into the Martian crust. If the rover does encounter water, any earth-borne microbes lingering on its drill might simply perish in the harsh temperatures and atmosphere of the Red Planet. On the other hand, though … they could survive.

NASA will deal with that possibility when — and, more likely, if — it comes. There are procedures for that circumstance, too. As Lavery points out, those procedures would include NASA’s mission operators, its scientists and its planetary protection officers in a discussion about the best way to move forward. Procedures meant to avoid terraforming of the unintentional variety — procedures meant to ensure that, as we explore Mars, we don’t end up colonizing it, as well.”

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/11/nasa-space-germs/

Eastern Mediterranean Drought The Worst To Hit The Region In 900 Years

Modeling the historic droughts that have hit the Mediterranean basin, scientists have found that the region’s latestdry period was the worst drought to have hit the area in the past 900 years. The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, highlights the concerns that climate change may be contributing to observed drying trends, and that those impacts might already be being felt.

The researchers looked back at the records of droughts documented in tree rings from all around the Mediterranean, sampling trees from North Africa, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey, as well as using existing tree ring data from Spain, France and Italy. They found that the growth of the trees matched up with historical records written at the time of droughts to have hit the region between 1100 CE and 2012 CE. Although the variability between wet and dry periods was quite large, the most recent 1998-2012 drought was still found to be about 50 percent drier than the driest period in the last 500 years, and over 10 percent drier than any in the past 900.

For January 2012, brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region. NASA

The scale of the project also allowed the researchers to look at how droughts affected different regions of the Mediterranean. They found that if the east was experiencing a dry period, then it was likely that the west was going through a similar spell. This is important,because it has all sorts of implications for food and water security withinthe region as a whole if everyone is experiencing a drought at the same time, and could help predict where conflict over these resources might arise.

But interestingly, when the researchers then looked at how dry periods affected the north and south of the region, they found an opposite relationship. When Greece, Italy, France and Spain were in drought, the eastern areas of North Africa tended to be wet. The differences between what happens in the east and west of the region when compared to the north-south are thought to be due to airflow patterns that move the weather systems around the Med.

Having such a longterm data set will be invaluable for any future events, as it in effect provides a baseline for comparison. This means that any variability can be checkedto see if drying conditions could be seen as a natural cycle, or iscaused by man-made climate change.

The magnitude and significance of human climate change requires us to really understand the full range of natural climate variability, explains Ben Cook, from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and who led the research. If we look at recent events and we start to see anomalies that are outside this range of natural variability, then we can say with some confidence that it looks like this particular event or this series of events had some kind of human-caused climate change contribution.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/eastern-mediterranean-drought-worst-hit-region-900-years

Saturn’s Glorious Rings Dazzle in NASA Photo

Saturn-s-glorious-rings-dazzle-in-nasa-photo-ff06083381

Saturn’s southern reaches are draped in the shadow of the huge planet’s iconic ring system in a spectacular new picture from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

The near-infrared photo, which Cassini snapped on June 15, looks toward the southern, unlit side of Saturn’s rings from 14 degrees below the ringplane, researchers said. The spacecraft was about 1.8 million miles from Saturn at the time. The image scale is 11 miles per pixel.

Saturn’s ice-covered moon Enceladus, which is 313 miles wide, is visible as a tiny, bright speck in the lower lefthand corner of the image.

Many researchers regard Enceladus as one of the best bets in our solar system to host life beyond Earth. Though surface temperatures on the moon are frigid, Enceladus is believed to harbor a vast ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell.

Enceladus also boasts huge amounts of internal heat, which power a system of geysers that erupt from the moon’s south polar regions. Cassini discovered these geysers in 2005 and has snapped many photos of them since.

The $3.2 billion Cassini mission is a collaboration involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The spacecraft launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. It has been studying the ringed planet and its many moons ever since, and should continue to do so for years to come. The Cassini mission has been extended to at least 2017.

In early 2005, Cassini’s Huygens lander, an ESA probe, touched down on the enormous moon Titan and relayed the first photos ever from the surface of that intriguing world.

Titan has a thick, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere and a weather system based on methane and ethane, which have pooled to form lakes in various places across the moon’s surface.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/01/saturn-rings-nasa-photo/

9 Terrifyingly Awesome Facts About Asteroids

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asteroid

Phil Plait, also known as the “Bad Astronomer,” is a Discover columnist known for making really complicated space stuff (Black holes! White dwarves! Spacetime!) not only totally understandable, but completely fascinating.

Plait made a stop in Portland, Ore. on tour with his latest book, Death from the Skies, to speak at Science Pub, a monthly summit of beer and geeks hosted by Portland’s excellent science museum, OMSI.

Plait’s talk was packed to the gills with both avid Bad Astronomy fans and science-minded folks curious about an astronomer’s take on the end of the world. Here are our favorite asteroid factoids.

1. Objects From Space Hit the Earth… A lot

We see mini-asteroids (meteoroids) crossing paths with Earth quite often, but most of time they fall to the earth as no bigger than a grain of sand or burn up altogether. “It seems like these things are whizzing past us all the time,” Plait says. “That’s because they are.”

2. Asteroids Kind of Look Like Potatoes… Or Dog Bones

According to Phil Plait, it’s a common fact that asteroids often look a lot like potatoes. But Kleopatra, one of Plait’s favorites, is as big as a state and shaped like a dog bone. Kleopatra is actually so big that it has a couple of moons orbiting it as it tumbles through space.

3. Asteroids Can Have Mountains Taller Than Mount Everest

The asteroid known as Vesta boasts a mountain that puts even Everest to shame. And Vesta isn’t the biggest asteroid around, either — that honor goes to Ceres, a dwarf planet that’s 590 miles in diameter.

4. The biggest Asteroid Was Discovered in 1801

We’ve known about Ceres since 1801, when Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi came across the massive body of rock and ice while looking for a star. He initially believed it to be a comet, but now we know Ceres to be much more on par with the size of a small planet.

5. Hollywood Usually Gets it Wrong

Plait thinks Armegeddon is up there with the least scientifically accurate movies ever cooked up in Hollywood. In Armageddon, an asteroid headed toward Earth is blown up into two halves. Among the inaccuracies, Plait noted that there’s no asteroid as big as Texas and if there was we’d know about it for well more than 18 days before it was set to impact Earth.

But not all movies go quite so wrong. Plait does like Deep Impact, another film about an asteroid hitting Earth from the same year. Plait thinks the depiction of the asteroid’s impact and its ensuing wildfires and tsunamis is actually “fairly accurate.” That’s terrifying.

6. Even Tiny Asteroids Are Dangerous

The main reason asteroids are dangerous is because they’re hurtling through space so fast. Asteroids fall to Earth at 50 times the speed of a rifle bullet. An asteroid’s impact could well exceed 50 megatons, the impact of the Soviet Union’s AN602 hydrogen bomb and the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated on Earth. You can even play around with an asteroid impact calculator if you’re curious about just how devastating an Earth impact could be.

7. A Group of Scientists Is Taking the End of the World Very, Very Seriously

The B612 foundation is a privately funded organization on a mission to create a “comprehensive, dynamic map” of the inner solar system. The map will identify the current location of asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth and provide data on just how close to Earth they might pass in the future. Worried? You probably should be. You can always donate to the B612 foundation — it might help you sleep at night.

8. Scientists Are Monitoring an Asteroid Headed for Earth in 2029

An asteroid called Apophis is set to pass near the Earth in 2029. Initial calculations gave Apophis a 2.7% chance of striking our planet. Now we know that Apophis’s odds are much, much smaller. But the asteroid could still pass through a half mile-wide area called a “keyhole,” which would change its orbit and up its chances of impacting the Earth on April 13, 2036.

9. How to Fend Off an Asteroid: Whack it, Don’t Blow it up

It sounds like science fiction, but according to Plait, “The idea is now that if you see one of these things coming, you send a probe at it and you smack it.” Even a tiny shift in an asteroid’s velocity and path can make a huge difference if it’s impacted when far enough away in space.

Another option would be harder to pull off: “You could land a rocket on it and push it, but it would be almost impossible to physically land on it, especially for asteroids like Kleopatra that are tumbling.” That asteroid, the one shaped like a dog bone, has an irregular orbit that would make a landing hard to stick.

Learn anything surprising? We certainly did!

This article originally published at Tecca
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/17/facts-about-asteroids/