NASA - General awareness questions on current affairs

1)   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

2)   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

3)   Who is the third woman of Indian origin to fly on a NASA spacecraft?

a. Sunita Williams
b. Kalpana Chawla
c. Shawna Pandya
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Shawna Pandya

Dr Shawna Pandya is a general physician in Canada’s Alberta University Hospital.

She is also an astronaut preparing for two crucial space missions.

When they take off, she will be only the third woman of Indian origin, after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, to fly to space.

Born in Canada, the 32-year-old was shortlisted after topping the Citizen Science Astronaut (CSA) program.

Pandya said she will do experiments in bio-medicine and medical science.

She is part of a project called Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere (PoSSUM), which will study the effects of climate change.

She will also work on Physiological, Health, and Environmental Observations in Microgravity (PHEnOM).

She is a prime crew member of Project Poseidon, a 100-day underwater mission at the Aquarius Space Research Facility in Florida.

4)   Researchers have developed a reconfigurable radio to enable ATC check what in real time?

a. Location of airborne plane
b. Speed of airborne plane
c. Distance covered by airborne plane
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Location of airborne plane

Researchers have developed a reconfigurable radio to help ATC see in real time regarding the location of planes flying in air, even across oceans.

For designing and developing the new reconfigurable, higher bandwidth radio, NASA collaborated with Palm Bay based Harris Corporation.

Thanks to real time global tracking, planes can fly with less space and take more direct routes.

This will not only improve public safety, but save fuel cost too, because aircrafts no longer have to remain in particular airline traffic lanes.

The biggest point is the flexibility of the radio. Both its hardware and software are completely reconfigurable.

The company can rapidly and cheaply redesigning the radio to fit the needs of the aircraft.

It will be used to create first space-based global air traffic control system.

The air traffic control agencies will be able to see in real time the location and heading of every plane in the air.

For decades, airplanes have relied on radar surveillance via land-based radar stations. This has led to mishaps like the missing MH370.

A constellation of 66 satellites, owned by Iridium Communications Inc., goes into orbit equipped with AppSTAR radios.

The radios are programmed to receive signals from new airplane transceivers called ADS-B, which automatically send out a flight's number.

It also provides location, heading and other details.

Within seconds you can keep track of all the aircraft in the world.

System will go live in 2018.

About NASA

  • Formed: July 29, 1958
  • Preceding agency: NACA (1915–1958)
  • Jurisdiction: United States government
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
  • Key official: Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr. (acting), Administrator
  • Website:

5)   NASA's New Horizon is set to explore which object in the Kuiper belt?

a. 2014 MU69
b. 2015 MU68
c. 2015 MU67
d. 2014 MU68
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 2014 MU69

NASA's New Horizon spacecraft is set to explore small ancient object 2014 MU69 discovered by Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

This object is located 1.6 billion km beyond Pluto.

The object is in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region that surrounds the solar system and is filled with trillions of icy rocks that have yet to be explored.

The spacecraft took about 16 months to beam back all of the data from the Pluto flyby and planetary scientists are studying the developments.

The next big stage of the mission, the flyby of 2014 MU69, will occur in January 2019.

MU69 is much smaller and more representative of the trillions of other KBOs.

Pluto is comparable to the size of North America at 2,370 km in diameter.

MU69 is less than 45 km across. It has a special kind of orbit that makes it possibly a type of object that is primordial and left over from early solar system formation.

About the Kuiper Belt

  • The Kuiper belt is sometimes called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt.
  • It is a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets.
  • It is extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
  • It is similar to the asteroid belt, but it is far larger - 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.
  • The Kuiper belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.
  • Some moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, are also thought to have originated in the region.

6)   Who became the oldest woman to perform a spacewalk?

a. Peggy Watson
b. Peggy Wilson
c. Peggy Whitson
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Peggy Whitson

When Peggy Whitson completed a spacewalk for NASA on Jan 7, 2016, the 56 year old became the oldest woman to perform one.

That's no mean feat because the spacewalk was six-and-a-half hours long. When she took off for the International Space Station in November, Whitson also became the oldest woman to travel to space ever.

When she finishes her current mission, called Expedition 50/51, Whitson will hold the record for the most time spent in space–377 days-by any American astronaut. This was her seventh spacewalk

On her current mission, Whitson will spend six months in space - in fact, she will turn 57 up there next month. The purpose of the mission is a power upgrade on the International Space Station.

This was the first of two power upgrade spacewalks. During the six-hour-and-thirty-two-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the International Space Station, according to NASA scientists.

Know More About NASA

  • Formed : July 29, 1958; 58 years ago
  • Preceding agency : NACA (1915–1958)
  • Jurisdiction: United States government
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
  • Employees: Around 17,345

  • Key Officers
  • Charles Bolden, Administrator
  • Dava Newman, Deputy Administrator

7)   NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is creating a roadmap for which spacecrafts?

a. Voyager
b. Challenger
c. Cassini
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Voyager

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is set to create a roadmap for two Voyager spacecrafts that will travel through unexplored territories beyond the solar system, by measuring the material along the future trajectories of the probe.

When Voyagers run out of power and are unable to send back new data, Hubble will still be able to tap them to learn more about their environment.

A preliminary analysis of the Hubble observations shows a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing multiple clouds of hydrogen laced with other elements.

This also provides new data into how the sun travels through interstellar space.

This is a great opportunity to compare data from in situ measurements of the space environment by the Voyager spacecraft and telescopic measurements by Hubble.

The astronomers hope that the Hubble observations will help them characterise the physical properties of the local interstellar medium. Synthesising these insights with in situ measurements from Voyager would provide an unprecedented overview of the local interstellar environment.

For the next 10 years, the Voyagers will be making measurements of interstellar material, magnetic fields and cosmic rays along their trajectories.

About Voyager Spacecrafts

  • NASA launched the win Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts in 1977.
  • Both explored outer plants Jupiter and Saturn.
  • Voyager 2 went on to visit Uranus and Neptune.
  • The spacecrafts are currently exploring the outermost edge of the Sun's domain.
  • Voyager 1 is zooming through interstellar space, between stars filled with gas, dust and recycled material from dying stars.
  • The probe is 13 million miles from earth– this is the farthest human made object ever build.
  • In 40 thousand years, the spacecraft will no longer be able to father new data and will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, in the constellation Camelopardalis.
  • Its twin, Voyager 2, is 10.5 billion miles from Earth, and will pass 1.7 light-years from the star Ross 248 in about 40 thousand years.

8)   Which two missions under the Discovery Program of NASA will focus on different types of asteroids?

a. Lucy, Psyche
b. Psyche, Cassini
c. Rosetta, Lucy
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Lucy, Psyche

NASA has announced that it will provide complete funding under the Discovery Program for two missions focusing on different kinds of asteroids.

A mission called Lucy will take off in 2021 to study a plethora of asteroids, including one in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, along with size others among space rocks in Jupiter's orbit.

A mission Psyche will be launched in 2023 to visit a type of asteroid never seen closely before - a huge metallic object called 16Psyche that corresponds in composition to the core of the earth.

NASA will also provide funding for the Near Earth Object Camera designed to look for potentially hazardous asteroids in the region of space closest to the orbit of the earth.

Discovery Program missions are low-cost space science efforts, capped at USD 450 million. Before, selected discovery missions included:

  • Messenger probe to Mercury
  • Dawn probe to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres
InSight lander, which is due to begin its trip to Mars next year.

Lucy, Psyche and NEOCam were among the finalists for this year. Two missions to Venus– DAVINCI and VERITAS– lost out on the round, but could be reconsidered in the future.

Psyche Mission

This mission aims to explore one of a kind metal asteroid 16Psyche. It will be launched in 2023. Most steroids are rocky or covered in ice. 16Psyche is thought to be composed of nickel and iron, much like the core of the earth.

This is a one of a kind object in the main asteroid belt. 16Psyche is a 130 mile wide chunk of material thought to be composed of metallic iron and nickel, and could be the exposed core of a Mars sized planet which lost its outer layer in collisions billions of years ago.

Mission schedule calls for launch in Oct 2023, earth gravity assist manouver in 2024, a Mars FlyBy in 2025 and arrival at the asteroid in 2023.

The probe will study the asteroid's composition, mass distribution and magnetic field over a two year period.

16Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system and the only way humans will visit a core.

Psyche also intrigues asteroid miners because the composition of the metal bearing space object could pave the way for other resources.


Lucy mission has been named after a famous, critical hominin fossil found in Ethiopia in 1974. It will be launched in 2021 and involves sending robotic spacecrafts to study Jupiter's trojan asteroids.

These asteroids are believed to be relics of an earlier era in the history of the solar system. Lucy is due for launch in Oct 2021 and will reach the first destination in the main belt in 2025. The problem will study six Jupiter Trojan asteroids between 2027 and 2033.

Trojans are thought to be remnants of the early solar system that were gravitationally captured at balance points in the orbit of Jupiter.

The small bodies are fossils of planet formation and that is Lucy has been named after a fossil.

Lucy's target in the main asteroid belt is Donaldjohanson, in memory of the paeleontologist who discovered the famous 3.2 million year old fossil in 1974.

Other targets include Trojan asteroid Eurybates, and the binary trojan Patroclus-Menoetius.

Discovery Program Missions: Know More
  • Both the asteroid missions will unravel the origin and evolution of the solar system.
  • This puzzle will understand how the sun and its family of planets changed over time and where life could be developed and sustained.
Five proposals were selected initially for this mission, including the following:

i. Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI),

ii. Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy mission (VERITAS).

iii. Near Earth Object Camera was another project proposed; it has been granted an extra year of funding.

iv. NASA will not be observing bodies with atmospheres.

9)   Who will become the first NASA astronaut of African-American origin abroad ISS?

a. Jeanette Epps
b. Sunita Williams
c. Andrew Feustel
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Jeanette Epps

Female NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the first African-American crew member aboard the International Space Station (ISS) when she flies to the orbital post in May 2018. NASA assigned veteran Andrew Feustel and Epps to missions aboard the ISS in 2018.

Feustel will launch in March 2018 for his first long-duration mission, serving as a flight engineer on Expedition 55 and later as commander of Expedition 56. Epps will join Feustel as a flight engineer on Expedition 56 and remain on board for Expedition 57.

Epps received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 at LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She then completed a master’s of science in 1994. She received a doctorate in 2000 in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.

Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. She went on to work in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before being recruited by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

She spent 7 years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before being selected as a member of the 2009 astronaut class.

10)   NASA will join official clocks to add a leap second to which year?

a. 2015
b. 2016
c. 2017
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 2016

To maintain accuracy, NASA said its missions, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which continuously watches the sun, will join official clocks around the world in adding a leap second to the final minute of 2016.

On December 31, 2016, official clocks around the world will add a leap second at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Clocks do this to keep in sync with Earth's rotation, which gradually slows down over time. When the dinosaurs roamed Earth, for example, our globe took only 23 hours to make a complete rotation. In space, millisecond accuracy is crucial to understanding how satellites orbit.

SDO moves about 1.9 miles every second. So does every other object in orbit near SDO. We all have to use the same time to make sure our collision avoidance programs are accurate. So we all add a leap second to the end of 2016, delaying 2017 by one second.

The leap second is also key to making sure that SDO is in sync with the Coordinated Universal Time used to label each of its images.

Designed to help us understand the sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space, SDO was launched in 2010.

It has a clock that counts the number of seconds since the beginning of the mission.

To convert that count to UTC requires knowing just how many leap seconds have been added to Earth-bound clocks since the mission started.

When the spacecraft wants to provide a time in UTC, it calls a software module that takes into consideration both the mission's second count and the number of leap seconds and then returns a time in UTC.

UTC - Coordinated Universal Time

  • Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is the basis for civil time today. This 24-hour time standard is kept using highly precise atomic clocks combined with the Earth's rotation
  • UTC is the time standard commonly used across the world. The world's timing centers have agreed to keep their time scales closely synchronized - or coordinated - therefore the name Coordinated Universal Time.
  • Universal Time (UT) was created at the Washington Meridian Conference in 1884. This is the basis for the 24-hour time zone system known today.

  • Two components are used to determine UTC

  • International Atomic Time (TAI)
  • Universal Time (UT1)

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