NEA Scout: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently announced that its new spacecraft, named Near-Earth Asteroid Scout or NEA Scout, has completed all required tests and has been safely tucked inside the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
About NEA Scout:
- Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout, is a miniaturized spacecraft, known as a CubeSat, developed under NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program.
- NEA Scout is one of several payloads that will hitch a ride on Artemis I, which is expected to be launched in November 2021.
- It is a small spacecraft, about the size of a big shoebox.
- Its main mission is to fly by and collect data from a near-Earth asteroid.
- It will also be America’s first interplanetary mission using special solar sail propulsion.
- So far, spacecraft have been using solar energy to power them and execute critical functions.
- This will be the first time that a spacecraft uses it as wind to generate thrust and move forward.
- NEA Scout will use stainless steel alloy booms and deploy an aluminum-coated sail measuring 925 square feet.
- The large-area sail will generate thrust by reflecting sunlight.
- Energetic particles of sunlight bounce off the solar sail to give it a gentle, yet constant push.
- The spacecraft will take about two years to cruise to the asteroid and will be about 93 million miles away from Earth during the asteroid encounter.
- Artemis I will be an uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket.
- Under the Artemis programme, NASA aims to land the first woman on the Moon in 2024.
- NASA also aims to establish sustainable lunar exploration programs by 2030.
Why is the study of the near-Earth asteroids important?
- Despite their size, some of these small asteroids could pose a great threat to Earth.
- Understanding their properties could help in developing strategies for reducing the potential damage caused in the event of an impact.
- Scientists will use this data to determine what is required to reduce risk, increase effectiveness, and improve the design and operations of robotic and human space exploration.
About Near-Earth Objects (NEOs):
- NEOs are comets and asteroids pushed by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits which allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
- These objects are composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles.
- NEOs occasionally approach close to the Earth as they orbit the Sun.
- NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Study (CNEOS) determines the time and distances of these objects, when their approach to the Earth is close, through the Asteroid Watch Widget.
- It is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
- NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
- NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
- It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
- The 14th Administrator of NASA is Senator Bill Nelson.