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A new space race and dust from an ancient asteroid

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. NASA plans to send humans back to the moon in 2024. Photo: NASA
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. NASA plans to send humans back to the moon in 2024. Photo: NASA

Artemis delays

NASA had originally planned to land astronauts on the moon in 2025, but now expects that to happen no earlier than September of 2026, blaming safety concerns and technical issues for the postponements.

But there are others racing to get to the moon, and members of congress expressed concerns that China would send astronauts before the U.S.

Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin expressed the lack of urgency from the U.S. to send astronauts before another nation does at a congressional hearing earlier this month.

“To allow a situation to develop where the human frontier is populated by our adversary, and we are not there should be unacceptable to this nation and to our Western and Asian partners,” Griffin said.

Christian Davenport, a reporter at the Washington Post covering space, said these political concerns are resulting in pressure for the U.S. to land on the moon first.

"It does appear we really are in a space race," Davenport said. "This time not with the Soviet Union as we were during the Cold War During the Apollo era, but with China, which is also aiming to send astronauts to the lunar surface and to look at the south pole of the moon and has shown some extraordinary capability to be able to regularly land spacecraft on the lunar surface."

The space rock has been opened

The OSIRIS-Rex mission sent a capsule packed with asteroid dirt and dust back to Earth last year. But the majority of the sample that landed in September last year has been untouched because the capsule was stuck closed.

After several months, NASA technicians were able to remove fasteners holding the ancient Bennu asteroid material.

 An image of asteroid Bennu captured by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
Kel Elkins
/
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
An image of asteroid Bennu captured by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

University of Arizona's Tom Zega is a scientist working on the mission. He said this mission is vital for scientists to understand the creation of asteroids in our galaxy.

"We've tried to piece together the materials that make up things like asteroids based on meteorites," Zega said. "I sometimes imagine you were given a leaf and then from that leaf you had to reconstruct the whole tree. That's sort of an analogy of what we try to do when we get a meteorite.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.<br/><br/>Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
Marian is a multimedia journalist at WMFE 90.7 working as a reporter and producer for the 'Are We There Yet?' space podcast.
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