NASA - General awareness questions on current affairs

1)   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

Explanation:
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


2)   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

Explanation:
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.


3)   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

Explanation:
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

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.


4)   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

Explanation:
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.


5)   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

Explanation:
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)


6)   NASA space based centre can see through fogs to observe which foundation of the ocean’s food web?

a. Phytoplankton
b. Algae
c. Fungi
d. Bacteria
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Phytoplankton

Explanation:
NASA space-based sensor that can 'see' through fog, clouds and darkness has given scientists the first continuous look at the boom-bust cycles of polar phytoplanktons, microscopic marine plants

Phytoplanktons are the foundation of the ocean's food web.

The decade-long set of images shows that phytoplankton cycles are more tied to the push-pull relationship between them and their predators than was initially thought.

Commercial fisheries, marine mammals and birds all depend on the phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton also influences Earth's carbon cycle. Through photosynthesis, they absorb a great deal of the carbon dioxide near the ocean's surface. That, in turn, allows CO2 from the atmosphere to go into the ocean.

Satellite-mounted LIDAR instrument, dubbed Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarisation (CALIOP), uses a laser beam to map the ocean's surface and immediate subsurface.

CALIOP monitored plankton in the Arctic and Antarctic ocean waters from 2006-2015

Its measurements show that, as the phytoplankton growth accelerates, the blooms are able to outpace the organisms that prey on them.

Once that acceleration stops, however, the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom ends.

The finding goes against the commonly held belief that blooms begin when phytoplankton growth rates reach a threshold rate and then stop when growth rates crash.

Instead, blooms start when growth rates are extremely slow, and then stop when phytoplankton growth is at its maximum but the acceleration of the bloom has hit its peak.

It is only at this point that the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom terminates.

Study showed in Arctic waters the year-to-year changes in this constant push and pull between predator and prey has been the primary driver of change over the past decade.

It is different in the southern ocean around Antarctica, where changes in the ice cover held more sway.


7)   As part of the cleanup effort of outer space, what tool(s) are the Japanese using?

a. Fishing net
b. Laser technology
c. Both a and b
d. Neither of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Both a and b

Explanation:
Earth’s orbit is currently cluttered with more than half a million bits of debris, mostly rocket and satellite remnants that can destroy anything in the flight path.

The 106-year-old Japanese fishing net maker Nitto Seimo Co is working with the Japanese space agency to develop mesh material for capturing space debris.

The material will tether and drag bus sized pieces of space junk into the atmosphere for incineration.

Scientists will get the first indication of whether the metallic line will work once it is tested in orbit next month.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is leading the cleanup effort.

The experiment is part of the international cleanup effort to protect astronauts and somewhere around USD 900 billion worth of space stations, satellites and other infrastructure relied for telecommunications, weather forecasting, earth navigation and monitoring.

About Space Debris

  • Space debris travels at 17,500 mph i.e. approximately 28,163 km/h.
  • The impact of even a small sized projectile can cause catastrophic damage.

  • Space faring nations have pursued different strategies for debris namely:

  • Harpooning
  • Sweeping
  • Lassoing
  • Dragging
  • The space debris are then dragged into a “graveyard orbit” where they won’t collide with operational equipment.
  • NASA’s Hubble Telescope has a 1 cm hole in one of its dish antennas.
  • Solar panels have been cracked by small debris.


8)   Sea ice in the Arctic and which other region are at record lows?

a. Greenland
b. Antarctica
c. Poland
d. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Antarctica

Explanation:
Sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic were at record lows this time of the year, in 2016 the first time since scientists began keeping track

  • The NASA scientists have announced that this is the first time both sea ice are running at record low levels, with sea ice tracking going back to 1979
  • Though record low sea ice is not new in the Arctic, it is new in the Antarctic
  • Even the sea ice in the Arctic has seen a rapid and consistent decline in the past decade
  • Temperatures in the Arctic have soared recently and air temperatures have been running more than 20 degree C above average
  • Water temperature in the Arctic Ocean was several degrees above average which is the result of having less sea ice


9)   What is EmDrive?

a. A controversial engine design
b. Experimental propulsion system
c. Both of the above
d. Neither of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Both of the above

Explanation:
A controversial and puzzling engine design that could make space travel cheaper and faster may work, according to a new NASA study

  • Experimental propulsion system called the EmDrive seems to violate the laws of physics yet generates thrust in a lab test
  • The EmDrive has been developed by British researcher Roger Shawyer over a decade ago and generates thrust by bouncing microwaves around inside a cone shaped chamber
  • As per Newton’s third law of motion- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction- this should not work, because no exhaust is expelled out of the EmDrive system
  • Researchers from NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston did measure some thrust
  • EmDrive variant produced 1.2 milli newtons of force per kilowatt of energy
  • This is about 100 times the thrust of a solar sailing spacecraft which harnesses the momentum of the photons streaming from the Sun
  • Much like solar sails, the EmDrive requires no propellant
  • This is a spacecraft equipped with a propulsion system to generate microwaves it needs using solar panels
  • EmDrive could make space travel cheaper and faster, opening up the heavens to greater exploration
  • Further testing is needed to rule out experimental errors


10)   NASA has planted lettuce on the International Space Station– this will help in preparing astronauts for a future manned mission to which planet?

a. Red Planet
b. Mars
c. Saturn
d. Both a and b are the same
e. None of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Both a and b are the same

Explanation:
NASA has planted lettuce on the International Space Station to learn how to grow fresh food in space- helping astronauts prepare for future manned mission to Mars

  • Farmers on Earth are planting leafy greens for the fall growing season with astronauts aboard the ISS are planting the third on-orbit crop of red romaine lettuce
  • NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough initiated the Veg-03 experiment, one of his first science assignments as a new crew member aboard the orbiting lab
  • The study is a validation of tools and procedures to grow plants and provide fresh food for astronauts
  • Members of the Veggie team examined the crops from the Experiment Monitoring Area located in Space Station Processing Facility at NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida
  • The scientists could remotely watch Kimbrough’s actions and ensure he did not encounter any challenges with activity or hardware
  • Plant pillows are small pouches containing a growth medium, fertiliser and seeds; for growing them, astronauts simply add a bit of water.
  • Astronauts on future long-duration space missions will be able to grow their own food to supplement their diets
  • The new Veg-3 crop will be the Veggie’s team’s first on-orbit attempt at a new, repetitive harvest technique termed Cut-And-Come-Again


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