Tagged With asteroid

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Over the years, asteroids have gotten bad rap, probably because of that terrible Michael Bay movie. The truth is, asteroids are just hunks of rock hurling through space that aren't actively seeking to destroy the human race. Later this month, one such non-apocalyptic asteroid will get close enough to Earth for our viewing pleasure. Even though it won't do any damage, this is a damn big slice of space garbage.

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Tomorrow morning, an asteroid-bound mission will launch towards a shadowy space rock, Bennu. There, it will scoop up a bit of dirt and deliver it back to us, all without ever attempting a landing. It's not just any dirt, though. Bound up in these grains could be the answer to how life first emerged here on Earth.

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No one has managed to pluck valuable minerals from an asteroid quite yet, but when they do, the legal framework will be firmly in place: earlier today, President Obama signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law.

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What you see above could have not happened, as far as astronomers know. The Hubble space telescope has photographed this never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid. The observed space object has fragmented into several smaller pieces -- which is common when comets approach the sun -- but the process has never been observed before in the asteroid belt. Yet that is where asteroid P/2013 R3 has now ceased to exist.