Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's Mars helicopter's third flight goes farther, faster than before thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Mars helicopter’s third flight goes farther, faster than before

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This NASA photo shows the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter(C) hovering during its third flight on April 25, 2021, as seen by the left Navigation Camera aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover

NASA’s mini helicopter Ingenuity on Sunday successfully completed its third flight on Mars, moving farther and faster than ever before, with a peak speed of 6.6 feet per second.

After two initial flights during which the craft hovered above the Red Planet’s surface, the helicopter on this third covered 64 feet (50 meters) of distance, reaching the speed of 6.6 feet per second (two meters per second), or four miles per hour in this latest flight.

“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the Ingenuity project’s program executive.

The Perseverance rover, which carried the four-pound (1.8 kilograms) rotorcraft to Mars, filmed the 80-second third flight. NASA said Sunday that would be sent to Earth in the coming days.

The lateral flight was a test for the helicopter’s autonomous navigation system, which completes the route according to information received beforehand.

“If Ingenuity flies too fast, the flight algorithm can’t track surface features,” NASA explained in a statement about the flight.

Ingenuity’s flights are challenging because of conditions vastly different from Earth’s—foremost among them a rarefied atmosphere that has less than one percent the density of our own.

This means that Ingenuity’s rotors, which span four feet, have to spin at 2,400 revolutions per minute to achieve lift—about five times more than a helicopter on Earth.

NASA announced it is now preparing for a fourth flight. Each flight is planned to be of increasing difficulty in order to push Ingenuity to its limits.

This black and white image was taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its third flight on April 25, 2021. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Ingenuity experiment will end in one month in order to let Perseverance return to its main task: searching for signs of past microbial life on Mars.



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NASA’s Mars helicopter’s third flight goes farther, faster than before (2021, April 25)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's Mars copter flight could happen as soon as Monday thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Mars copter flight could happen as soon as Monday

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, with all four of its legs deployed, is pictured before dropping from the belly of the Perseverance rover in March 2021

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter could make its first flight over the Red Planet as soon as Monday, the US space agency reported, following a delay of more than a week due to a possible technical issue.

The mini-helicopter’s trip will mark the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet, and will help NASA reap invaluable data about the conditions on Mars.

“NASA is targeting no earlier than Monday, April 19, for the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter,” the reported Saturday.

Data will return to Earth “a few hours following the autonomous flight,” which would take off at approximately 3:30 am (0730 GMT), NASA said.

Ingenuity’s first trip was initially set for last Sunday, but was delayed after a potential issue emerged during a high-speed test of the four-pound (1.8 kilogram) helicopter’s rotors.

NASA calls the unprecedented helicopter operation highly risky: The flight is a challenge because the air on Mars is so thin—less than one percent of the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere.







The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s carbon fiber blades can be seen in this video taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover on April 8, 2021, the 48th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. They are performing a wiggle test before the actual spin-up to ensure they were working properly. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The helicopter arrived on Mars attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on February 18.

After the helicopter’s flight, Ingenuity will send Perseverance technical data on what it has done, and that information will be transmitted back to Earth.

The helicopter mission is be the equivalent on Mars of the first powered flight on Earth—by the Wright brothers in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked inside Ingenuity in honor of that feat.



© 2021 AFP

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NASA’s Mars copter flight could happen as soon as Monday (2021, April 18)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's Curiosity team names Martian hill that serves as mission 'gateway' thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Curiosity team names Martian hill that serves as mission ‘gateway’

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Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The team of scientists and engineers behind NASA’s Curiosity rover named a hill along the rover’s path on Mars in honor of a recently deceased mission scientist. A craggy hump that stretches 450 feet (120 meters) tall, “Rafael Navarro mountain” is located on Mount Sharp in northwest Gale Crater.

The inspiration for the name is award-winning scientist Rafael Navarro-González; he died on Jan. 28, 2021, from complications related to COVID-19. A leading astrobiologist in Mexico, Navarro-González was a co-investigator on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), a portable chemistry lab aboard Curiosity that has been sniffing out the chemical makeup of Martian soil, rocks, and air. As such, he helped lead the team that identified ancient organic compounds on Mars; his many accomplishments also included identifying the role of volcanic lightning in the origin of life on Earth. Navarro-González was a researcher at Nuclear Sciences Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

“We are truly honored to have a prominent hill named after our dad; it’s his and our dream come true to see this happen,” wrote Navarro-González’s children, Rafael and Karina Navarro Aceves, in a statement to NASA. “Ever since our parents met, their dreams merged together and they became a beautiful team, working very hard for 36 years. Our dad was an accomplished scientist, but above all, a great human being who managed to balance work and family. Our mom, Faby, would always tell him that his name one day would be on Mars, and now that is coming true. We all believe that there must be a party in heaven.”

Rafael Navarro mountain sits at a major geological transition in Gale Crater from a clay-rich region to one that’s rich in sulfate minerals. Analyzing sulfate minerals may help scientists better understand the major shift in the Martian climate from wetter to drier conditions, according to Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“We think of this hill as a gateway,” Vasavada said. “Rafael Navarro mountain will be constantly in our sights for the next year as Curiosity winds around it.”

This panorama, made up of multiple 100-millimeter Mastcam images stitched together, was taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Feb. 13, 2021, the 3,030th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The white balance has been adjusted to approximate Earth-like illumination and the sky has been filled in for aesthetic reasons. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The new hill name is informal and meant for the use of Curiosity’s global team members. The team unofficially has named thousands of features in Gale Crater, from drill holes to rocks to dunes. “Team members agree on a name for a particular feature of interest, so that people don’t get confused if we observe it with multiple instruments,” Vasavada said.

Before Rafael Navarro mountain, the Curiosity team has named four other features after deceased mission scientists: “Jake Matijevic” is the first boulder Curiosity studied and is named after a rover engineer who died in 2012. Curiosity’s first drill hole, “John Klein,” honors the mission’s deputy project manager who died in 2011. “Nathan Bridges dune” gets its name from a co-investigator on Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument who died in 2017. And “Heinrich Wänke” is a rock target that commemorates Wänke’s contributions to the development of a rover instrument, APXS, which analyzes the chemical makeup of Martian rocks.

While a few other names of notable scientists not involved with Curiosity, such as astronomer Vera Rubin, and even writers, such as Ray Bradbury, grace the features of Gale Crater (which was named after Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale), the rover team’s general strategy is to name regions, and features within them, after areas of geological significance on Earth. For example, the region where Curiosity landed, the site of an ancient lake, was named “Yellowknife” after a city in northwest Canada where scientists gather to kick off geologic expeditions. The features in Martian Yellowknife were named after towns (“Bathurst Inlet”), mountains (“Sayunei”), or lakes (“Knob Lake”) in northern Canada.

In late March, Curiosity left “Nontron,” a region that takes the name of a village in southwestern France where the mineral nontronite was first described by scientists. Nontronite is part of a group of the most common types of clays on Mars. Now, Curiosity will navigate around Rafael Navarro mountain, stopping in different regions of scientific interest to drill samples.

“We won’t have Rafael with us for this next stretch, but we will bring his considerable expertise, creativity, and great enthusiasm for astrobiology studies to bear on our investigation of the ancient habitable environments in Gale Crater,” said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator of Curiosity’s SAM experiment who’s based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Rafael was a good friend and dedicated scientist, and it has been a privilege and honor for our Mars exploration team to work with him over the years.”



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NASA’s Curiosity team names Martian hill that serves as mission ‘gateway’ (2021, April 5)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's Ingenuity helicopter dropped on Mars' surface ahead of flight thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter dropped on Mars’ surface ahead of flight

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An illustration depicting NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying on the Red Planet

NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped on the surface of Mars in preparation for its first flight, the US space agency said.

The ultra- had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18.

“MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed!” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted Saturday.

“Its 293 million mile (471 million kilometer) journey aboard @NASAPersevere ended with the final drop of 4 inches (10 centimeter) from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night.”

A photograph accompanying the tweet showed Perseverance had driven clear of the helicopter and its “airfield” after dropping to the surface.

Ingenuity had been feeding off the Perseverance’s power system but will now have to use its own battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night.

“This heater keeps the interior at about 45 degrees F (7 degrees Celsius) through the bitter cold of the Martian night, where temperatures can drop to as low as -130F (-90 degrees Celsius),” Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter Project chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in an update on Friday.

Graphic on Ingenuity, the helicopter hitching a ride on the Perseverance rover, which is scheduled to make its first flight in early April.

“That comfortably protects key components such as the battery and some of the sensitive electronics from harm at very cold temperatures.”

Over the next couple of days, the Ingenuity team will check that the helicopter’s are working properly and recharging its battery before testing its motors and sensors ahead of its first flight, Balaram said.

Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted.

Ingenuity will be attempting to fly in an atmosphere that is one percent the density of Earth’s, which makes achieving lift harder—but will be assisted by gravity that is one-third of our planet’s.

The first will involve climbing at a rate of about three feet (one meter) per second to a height of 10 feet (three meters), hovering there for 30 seconds, then descending back to the surface.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on February 18

Ingenuity will be taking high-resolution photography as it flies.

Up to five flights of gradual difficulty are planned over the month.

The four-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft cost NASA around $85 million to develop and is considered a proof of concept that could revolutionize space exploration.

Future aircraft could cover ground much quicker than rovers, and explore more rugged terrain.



© 2021 AFP

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter dropped on Mars’ surface ahead of flight (2021, April 4)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch

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Following the conclusion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s recent milestone tests, engineering teams have confirmed that the observatory will both mechanically, and electronically survive the rigors anticipated during launch. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

February marked significant progress for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which completed its final functional performance tests at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. Testing teams successfully completed two important milestones that confirmed the observatory’s internal electronics are all functioning as intended, and that the spacecraft and its four scientific instruments can send and receive data properly through the same network they will use in space. These milestones move Webb closer to being ready to launch in October.

These tests are known as the comprehensive systems test, which took place at Northrop Grumman, and the ground segment test, which took place in collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Before the launch environment test, technicians ran a full scan known as a comprehensive systems test. This assessment established a baseline of electrical functional performance for the entire observatory, and all of the many components that work together to comprise the world’s premiere science telescope. Once environmental testing concluded, technicians and engineers moved forward to run another comprehensive systems test and compared the data between the two. After thoroughly examining the data, the team confirmed that the observatory will both mechanically and electronically survive the rigors of launch.

Through the course of 17 consecutive days of systems testing, technicians powered on all of Webb’s various electrical components and cycled through their planned operations to ensure each was functioning and communicating with each other. All electrical boxes inside the telescope have an “A” and “B” side, which allows redundancy in flight and added flexibility. During the test all commands were input correctly, all telemetry received was correct and all electrical boxes, and each backup side functioned as designed.

“It’s been amazing to witness the level of expertise, commitment and collaboration across the team during this important milestone,” said Jennifer Love-Pruitt, Northrop Grumman’s electrical vehicle engineering lead on the Webb observatory. “It’s definitely a proud moment because we demonstrated Webb’s electrical readiness. The successful completion of this test also means we are ready to move forward toward launch and on-orbit operations.”

Webb’s recent systems scan confirms the observatory will withstand the launch environment.

During its final full systems test, technicians powered on all of the James Webb Space Telescope’s various electrical components installed on the observatory, and cycled through their planned operations to ensure each was functioning, and communicating with each other. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Following the completion of Webb’s final comprehensive systems evaluation, technicians immediately began preparations for its next big milestone, known as a ground segment test. This test was designed to simulate the complete process from planning science observations to posting the scientific data to the community archive.

Webb’s final ground segment test began by first creating a simulated plan that each of its scientific instruments would follow. Commands to sequentially turn on, move, and operate each of four were then relayed from Webb’s Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. During the test, the observatory is treated as if it were a million miles away in orbit. To do this, the Flight Operations Team connected the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas that NASA uses to communicate with many spacecraft. However, since Webb isn’t in space yet, special equipment was used to emulate the real radio link that will exist between Webb and the Deep Space Network when Webb is in orbit. Commands were then relayed through the Deep Space Network emulator to the observatory at Northrop Grumman.

One of the unique aspects of Webb’s final ground segment test occurred during a simulated flight environment when the team successfully practiced seamlessly switching over control from its primary MOC at STScI in Baltimore to the backup MOC at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This demonstrated a backup plan that isn’t anticipated to be needed but is necessary to practice and perfect prior to launch. Additionally, team members successfully sent multiple software patches to the observatory while it was performing its commanded operations.

“Working in a pandemic environment, of course, is a challenge, and our team has been doing an excellent job working through its nuances. That’s a real positive to highlight, and it’s not just for this but all of the tests we’ve safely completed leading up to this one,” said Bonnie Seaton, deputy ground segment & operations manager at Goddard. “This recent success is attributable to many months of preparation, the maturity of our systems, procedures, and products and the proficiency of our team.”

When Webb is in space, commands will flow from STScI to one of the three Deep Space Network locations: Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; or Canberra, Australia. Signals will then be sent to the orbiting observatory nearly one million miles away. Additionally, NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network—the Space Network in New Mexico, the European Space Agency’s Malindi station in Kenya, and European Space Operations Centre in Germany—will help keep a constant line of communication open with Webb.

Engineers and technicians continue to follow personal safety procedures in accordance with current CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance related to COVID-19, including mask wearing and social distancing. The team is now preparing for the next series of technical milestones, which will include the final folding of the sunshield and deployment of the mirror, prior to shipment to the launch site.

The next series of milestones for Webb include a final sunshield fold and a final mirror deployment.



Citation:
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch (2021, March 2)
retrieved 3 March 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-03-nasa-james-webb-space-telescope.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's Mars helicopter reports in thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Mars helicopter reports in

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In this illustration, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet’s surface as NASA’s Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have received the first status report from the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which landed Feb. 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater attached to the belly of the agency’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The downlink, which arrived at 3:30 p.m. PST (6:30 p.m. EST) via a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, indicates that both the helicopter, which will remain attached to the rover for 30 to 60 days, and its base station (an electrical box on the rover that stores and routes communications between the rotorcraft and Earth) are operating as expected.

“There are two big-ticket items we are looking for in the data: the state of charge of Ingenuity’s batteries as well as confirmation the is operating as designed, commanding heaters to turn off and on to keep the helicopter’s electronics within an expected range,” said Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at JPL. “Both appear to be working great. With this positive report, we will move forward with tomorrow’s charge of the helicopter’s batteries.”

Ensuring that Ingenuity has plenty of stored energy aboard to maintain heating and other vital functions while also maintaining optimal battery health is essential to the success of the Mars Helicopter. The one-hour power-up will boost the rotorcraft’s batteries to about 30% of its total capacity. A few days after that, they’ll be charged again to reach 35%, with future charging sessions planned weekly while the helicopter is attached to the . The data downlinked during tomorrow’s charge sessions will be compared to battery-charging sessions done during cruise to Mars to help the team plan future charging sessions.

Like much of the 4-pound (2-kilogram) rotorcraft, the six lithium-ion batteries are off-the-shelf. They currently receive recharges from the rover’s power supply. Once Ingenuity is deployed to Mars’ surface, the helicopter’s batteries will be charged solely by its own solar panel.

After Perseverance deploys Ingenuity to the surface, the helicopter will then have a 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) experimental flight test window. If Ingenuity survives its first bone-chilling Martian nights—where temperatures dip as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) – the team will proceed with the first flight of an aircraft on another world.

If Ingenuity succeeds in taking off and hovering during its first flight, over 90% of the project’s goals will have been achieved. If the rotorcraft lands successfully and remains operable, up to four more flights could be attempted, each one building on the success of the last.

“We are in uncharted territory, but this team is used to that,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL. “Just about every milestone from here through the end of our flight demonstration program will be a first, and each has to succeed for us to go on to the next. We’ll enjoy this good news for the moment, but then we have to get back to work.”

Next-generation rotorcraft, the descendants of Ingenuity, could add an aerial dimension to future exploration of the Red Planet. These advanced robotic flying vehicles would offer a unique viewpoint not provided by current orbiters high overhead or by rovers and landers on the ground, providing high-definition images and reconnaissance for robots or humans, and enable access to terrain that is difficult for rovers to reach.



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NASA’s Mars helicopter reports in (2021, February 21)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's first mission to the Trojan asteroids integrates its second scientific instrument thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s first mission to the Trojan asteroids integrates its second scientific instrument

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L’TES instrument in the cleanroom at Arizona State University. Credits: NASA/ASU

NASA’s Lucy mission is one step closer to launch as L’TES, the Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer, has been successfully integrated on to the spacecraft.

“Having two of the three instruments integrated onto the is an exciting milestone,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The L’TES team is to be commended for their true dedication and determination.”

Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojan asteroids, leftover building blocks of the Solar System’s outer planets orbiting the Sun at the distance of Jupiter. The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution. Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the birth of our solar system more than 4 billion years ago.

L’TES, developed by a team at Arizona State University (ASU), is effectively a remote thermometer. It will measure the far infrared energy emitted by the Trojan asteroids as the Lucy spacecraft flies by an unprecedented seven of these objects during this first ever mission to this population.

The instrument arrived at Lockheed Martin Space on December 13 and was successfully integrated on to the spacecraft on December 16. By measuring the Trojan asteroids’ temperatures, L’TES will provide the team with important information on the material properties of the surfaces. As the spacecraft will not be able to touch down on the asteroids during these high speed encounters, this instrument will allow the team to infer whether the surface material is loose, like sand, or consolidated, like rocks. In addition, L’TES will collect spectral information using thermal infrared observations in the wavelength range from 4 to 50 micrometers.

“The L’TES team has used our experienced designing, manufacturing, and operating similar thermal emission spectrometers on other missions such as OSIRIS-REx and the Mars Global Surveyor as we built this instrument,” said Instrument Principal Investigator, Phil Christensen. “Each instrument has its own challenges, but based on our experience we expect L’TES to give us excellent data, as well as likely some surprises, about these enigmatic objects.”

Despite the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemics, Lucy is on schedule to launch in October 2021 as originally planned.

“I am constantly impressed by the agility and flexibility of this team to handle any challenges set before them,” said mission Principal Investigator, Hal Levison of Southwest Research Institute. “Just five years ago this mission was an idea on paper, and now we have many major components of the spacecraft and payload assembled, tested, and ready to go.”

In addition to L’TES, Lucy’s High Gain Antenna, which will enable spacecraft communication with the Earth for navigation and , as well as precise measurement of the masses of the Trojan asteroids, was recently installed. It joined L’LORRI, Lucy’s highest resolution camera, built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which was installed in early November. Lucy’s remaining scientific instrument, L’Ralph, the ‘s color imaging camera and infrared spectrometer, is scheduled to be delivered in early 2021.



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NASA’s first mission to the Trojan asteroids integrates its second scientific instrument (2021, January 5)
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