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Posted on November 3rd, 2020

Reaching Orbit – Sampling on Asteroid Bennu and COVID-19’s Earthly Impact

The asteroid, Bennu, has been under scrutiny since the beginning of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission in 2018. For two years, it surveyed the asteroid for a prime sampling location. Now the spacecraft is ready for its final journey back to Earth with precious cargo. OSIRIS-REx used its sample collector, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to pick up and stow samples from Bennu. After taking pictures of the sample to ensure they managed to scoop up enough material, they realized larger rocks were blocking the lid and letting smaller particles escape.

Above is an animation taken from the SamCam aboard OSIRIS-REx, showing material escaping the sampler head. (Credit: NASA)

As such, the NASA control team prioritized stowing the sample and reducing spacecraft movement. Any shifting of the spacecraft could jeopardize more of the sample before it is safely stowed away for the journey back to Earth. In March of 2021, OSIRIS-REx will have the ideal window to head back to Earth and arrive in September 2023. This will be the first time researchers will get the opportunity to analyze material collected directly from an asteroid.

Global Emissions Impacted by COVID-19

You don’t need me to tell you how COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our lives. There seems to be very little upside to a virus that has so far killed millions of people around the world and made many of us lose faith in humanity’s response to the crises. Its physical and psychological impact is, for the most part, undeniable.

A recent study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) shows a steep decline in CO₂ emissions in the early half of 2020, a total of 8.8% less than the same period last year in 2019. This comes out to a decrease of 1,551 million tons of carbon dioxide. By looking at daily numbers from the Carbon Monitor research initiative, researchers can track how emissions changed as countries locked down.

It’s not a surprise the biggest drop came from ground transportation with emissions dropping 40% around the world. People staying home and out of their cars and public transportation had an immediate effect on carbon dioxide emissions. Conversely, power and commerce power usage went up by 22% and 17% with people staying home and shipping goods to their front doors.

This reprieve from CO₂ emissions was short-lived and saw a rebound as lockdown measures were lifted for many countries in July. While transportation is still down, the long-term effect on emissions isn’t enough to have a dramatic impact. Transportation is only one of many avenues that needs to be revamped in order to drop CO₂ emissions worldwide. Every step in the chain of consumer goods, manufacturing and distribution needs to be reworked if we hope to curb climate change.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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