NASA - General awareness questions on current affairs

1)   Which of the following are Indian American astronauts?

a. Raja Grinder Chari
b. Sunita Williams
c. Kalpana Chawla
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Raja Grinder Chari

NASA on 7 June 2017 announced names of 12 new astronauts, including an Indian-American Lt Col Raja Grinder Chari.

They, the new astronauts, were chosen from a record number of over 18000 applicants. The new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot.

The seven men and five women comprise the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees since 1959.

Raja Grinder Chari: Know More

  • Indian American Lt Col., US Air Force Raja Grinder Chari (39) is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
  • He hails from Waterloo, Iowa who graduated from the US Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
  • The other 11 selected astronaut candidates include Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Loral O’ Hara and Jessica Watkins.

2)   Which NASA probe was named after Eugene Parker?

a. Solar Plus Probe Spacecraft
b. Solar Minus Probe Spacecraft
c. First mission to a star to be launched in 2018
d. Both a and c
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Solar Plus Probe Spacecraft

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 31 May 2017 renamed the Solar Probe Plus Spacecraft, NASA’s first mission to a star which will be launched in 2018, as the Parker Solar Probe in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Eugene Parker serves as the S Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Eugene Parker was the first to predict the existence of the solar wind back in 1958. He theorized that the sun constantly sends out a flow of particles and energy called the solar wind.

This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual.

The article was based on the observations of Parker which showed that there was high speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun which affected the planets and space throughout our solar system.

He proposed a number of concepts about how stars including sun give off energy. This phenomenon has been proven to exist repeatedly through direct observation and it was named as the Solar Wind.

Parker’s observation forms the basis for understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.

Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the Corona, which is contrary to what was expected by physics laws.

As per his theory, Corona is hotter than the surface of the sun itself.

Many NASA missions since then have continued to focus on this complex space environment known as Heliophysics.

Parker Solar Probe will be launched during a 20-day window that opens on 31 July 2018.

3)   NASA scientists have developed technology to help _____ land during emergencies.

a. Drones
b. Planes
c. Jets
d. Choppers
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Drones

NASA scientists are developing a technology to help drones land safely during emergencies. The announcement regarding the new technology was made by NASA on 25 May 2017. After eight test flights, the technology has successfully spotted safer landing zones like swamps or drainage ditches to crash instead of on top of people’s cars.

This crash-landing software for drones was developed by Patricia Glaab, an aerospace technologist at NASA Langley Research Centre, and her fellow NASA colleague Lou Glaab.

The software links on-board drone components like batteries and motors to monitor their health.

The technology help them identify when something on the drone goes wrong, and puts the aerial vehicles in a crash-landing mode.

When triggered, the software checks a pre-installed database of nearby safe zones and identifies one for safe landing. The software also incorporates technology that lets drones recognise and avoid objects on the ground using on-board cameras.

4)   Which famous scientist and former Indian president had a bacteria named after him?

a. President Abdul Kalam
b. President Pratibha Patil
c. President Pranab Mukherjee
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: President Abdul Kalam

Scientists at NASA have named a new organism discovered by them after the much-loved Indian scientist and former President, APJ Abdul Kalam.

Till date, the new organism, a bacteria, has been found only on the International Space Station (ISS) and has not been found on earth.

Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the foremost lab of NASA for work on inter-planetary travel, discovered the new bacteria on the filters of the International Space Station (ISS) and named it Solibacillus kalamii to honour the late president, who was a renowned aerospace scientist.

Kalam had his early training at NASA in 1963 before he set up India’s first rocket-launching facility in the fishing village of Thumba in Kerala.

The name of the bacterium is Solibacillus kalamii, the species name is after Dr Abdul Kalam and genus name is Solibacillus which is a spore forming bacteria. The filter on which the new bug was found remained on board the ISS for 40 months.

Called a high-efficiency particulate arrestance filter or HEPA filter, this part is the routine housekeeping and cleaning system on board the international space station.

This filter was later analysed at JPL and results recently published. Even as it orbits the earth some 400 kilometres above, the ISS is home to many types of bacteria and fungi which co-inhabit the station with the astronauts who live and work on the station.

Even though Solibacillus kalamii has never been found on earth till date, it is really not an extra-terrestrial life form or ET.

5)   NASA launched a stadium sized __________ balloon to detect ultra high energy cosmic particles from beyond the galaxy as they penetrate to the atmosphere of the earth.

a. Helium
b. Carbon
c. Pressure
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Pressure

A stadium-sized pressure balloon launched by NASA in New Zealand began collecting data in near space on 26th April 2017.

This is beginning a 100-day planned journey after several launch attempts were thwarted by storms and cyclones.

The balloon, designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to detect ultra-high energy cosmic particles from beyond the galaxy as they penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, is expected to circle the planet two or three times.

The balloon’s monitoring was only the start of a long quest which would next involve a space mission currently being designed by NASA, she added.

The balloon, launched on 24th April 2017 in Wanaka, a scenic spot on New Zealand’s South Island, will collect data from 34 km above the earth.

New Zealand was also the base for NASA’s scientific balloon programme in 2015 and 2016.

New Zealand: Know More

  • New Zealand is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
  • It is consisting of 2 main islands, both marked by volcanoes and glaciation.
  • Capital Wellington, on the North Island, is home to Te Papa Tongarewa, the expansive national museum.
  • Capital: Wellington
  • Code: +64
  • Currency: New Zealand dollar
  • Prime minister: Bill English
  • Population: 4.596 million (2015) World Bank

6)   Which ISS commander surpassed the record of 534 days, 2 hours and 48 min for most time in space by an American?

a. Peggy Whitson
b. Kalpana Chawla
c. Sunita Williams
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Peggy Whitson

The International Space Station's commander Peggy Whitson surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in space by an American.

Whitson already was the world's most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space.

By the time she returns to Earth in September, she'll have logged 666 days in orbit over three flights.

The world record, 879 days, is held by Russian Gennady Padalka.

Whitson broke the NASA cumulative record set last year by astronaut Jeffrey Williams; Scott Kelly holds the US record for consecutive days in space, 340.

Whitson is also the first woman to command the space station twice and the only woman to have led NASA's astronaut corps.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, who arrived at the space station last week and took part in Monday's call, said the space station is "by far the best example of international cooperation.''

Whitson told the president that spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting to Mars will require collaboration from other countries to succeed.

NASA is building the hardware right now to test a new rocket that will carry astronauts farther from Earth than ever before, she said.

7)   NASA will launch a balloon based observatory called GUSTO, which stands for?

a. Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory
b. Galactic/Extragalactic UNDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory
c. Galactic/Extragalactic UMDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory
d. Galactic/Extragalactic UCDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory

NASA is planning to launch a balloon-based observatory to measure emissions from the interstellar medium or the cosmic medium found between stars.

This is known as Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory or GUSTO.

Data from this mission will help them to assess the life cycle of interstellar gas in the Milky Way galaxy.

The formation and destruction of star forming clouds needs to be analysed and the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the galaxy's centre need to be understood.

Data will help scientists assess the same using an Ultralong-Duration Balloon (ULDB) carrying a telescope with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission line detectors.

The unique combination of data will provide the spectral and spatial resolution information required for researchers to focus on complexities of the interstellar medium and map large sections of plane of the Milky Way galaxy and the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud.

GUSTO will provide the first complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle, from the formation of molecular clouds, through star birth and evolution, to the formation of gas clouds and the re-initiation of the cycle.

The mission is targeted for launch in 2021 from McMurdo, Antarctica, and is expected to stay in the air between 100 to 170 days, depending on weather conditions.

It will cost about USD 40 million, including the balloon launch funding and the cost of post-launch operations and data analysis

8)   Where will NASA send its next-generation atomic clock in 2017?

a. Mars
b. Moon
c. North Pole
d. Space
Answer  Explanation 


In a key advance for safely navigating future human exploration of the solar system, NASA is set to send its next-generation atomic clock to space in late 2017.

This clock will be smaller, lighter and magnitudes more precise than any atomic clock flown in space before.

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California have completed integration of the instrument, the Deep Space Atomic Clock, with the spacecraft that will take it into orbit later in 2017.

Timekeeping plays a critical role in spacecraft navigation and will be especially important for future deep space missions.

Most spacecraft are tracked using "two-way" methods -- the ground-based antenna 'pings' the spacecraft and waits for the signal to return.

By measuring how long the signal takes to travel, the distance to the spacecraft can be calculated.

A navigation team then processes this information to determine the spacecraft's flight path and also determine if any course corrections are required.

The next-generation atomic clock developed by NASA enables "one-way" tracking, where the spacecraft does not need to send the signal back to Earth.

The tracking measurements could be taken onboard and processed with a spacecraft-based navigation system to determine the path and whether any manoeuvre are needed to stay on course.

This will be a key advance for safely navigating future human exploration of the solar system by providing astronauts with their position and velocity when they need it.

It will lighten the load on the antennas in NASA's Deep Space Network, allowing more spacecraft to be tracked with a single antenna.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock would also improve the precision and quantity of the radio data used by scientists for determining a planet's gravity field and probing its atmosphere, NASA said

NASA: Know More

  • Formed: July 29, 1958
  • Preceding agency: NACA (1915–1958)[2]
  • Jurisdiction: United States government
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

9)   Scientists from NASA have discovered microbes trapped inside crystals for how many years?

a. 60,000
b. 50,000
c. 40,000
d. 30,000
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 60,000

Scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute have discovered living microorganisms (most of them bacteria) trapped inside crystals for as long as 60,000 years.

These were found in a Naica mine in Mexico.

These ancient microbes have evolved so they can survive on a diet of sulphite, manganese and copper oxide.

The discovery has caused concern for astrobiologists about bringing back samples collected on space missions in the solar system as dangerous extraterrestrial organisms could accidentally enter into Earth on a returning spaceship.

Besides there is also risk that Earth organisms could contaminate other planets in the course of missions.

Bacteria: Know More

  • Bacteria constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms.
  • Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a number of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals.
  • Scientific name: Bacteria
  • Rank: Domain

10)   Which NASA mission is studying Ceres?

a. Cassini
b. Juno
c. Chandrayaan
d. Dawn
Answer  Explanation 


NASA's Dawn mission has found evidence of organic material on Ceres.

Ceres is a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Scientists discovered the material in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet.

Organic molecules are novel to scientists because they are necessary, though not sufficient components of life on Earth.

The discovery makes it to the growing list of bodies in the solar system where organics have been found.

Organic compounds have been found in certain meteorites. They have also been inferred from telescopic observations of several asteroids.

Ceres shares many commonalities with meteorites rich in water and organics - in particular, a meteorite group referred to as carbonaceous chondrites.

This discovery further strengthens the connection between Ceres, these meteorites and their parent bodies.

This is the first clear detection of organic molecules from orbit on a main belt body.

Data supports the idea that organic materials are native to Ceres.

The carbonates and clays previously identified on Ceres provide evidence for chemical activity in the presence of water and heat.

This raises the chance that the organics were similarly processed in a warm water-rich environment.

The organics discovery makes an addition to Ceres' attributes associated with ingredients and conditions for life in the distant past.

Earlier studies have found hydrated minerals, carbonates, water ice, and ammoniated clays that must have been altered by water.

Salts and sodium carbonate, such as those found in the bright areas of Occator Crater, are also thought to have been carried to the surface by liquid.

This discovery adds to scientific understanding of the possible origins of water and organics on Earth.

The organic materials on Ceres are mainly located in an area covering approximately 1,000 square kilometres.

There are other smaller organic-rich areas several kilometres west and east of the crater.

Organics were also found in a very small area in Inamahari Crater, about 400 kilometres away from Ernutet.

Having completed nearly two years of observations in orbit at Ceres, Dawn is now in a highly elliptical orbit at Ceres, going from an altitude of 7,520 kilometres up to nearly 9,350 kilometres.

It will create a new altitude of around 20,000 kilometres, about the height of GPS satellites above Earth, and to a different orbital plane.

This will put Dawn in a position to study Ceres in a new geometry.

As time advances, Dawn will view Ceres with the sun directly behind the spacecraft, such that Ceres will appear brighter than before, and perhaps reveal more clues about its nature.

Ceres: Find More

  • Discovered by: Giuseppe Piazzi
  • Discovery date: 1 January 1801
  • Named after: Ceres
  • Alternative names: A899 OF; 1943 XB
  • Minor planet category: Dwarf planet; Asteroid belt

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