TAMPA: NASA’s first-ever mission designed to visit an asteroid and return a sample of its dust back to Earth arrived Monday at its destination, Bennu, two years after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The $800 million unmanned mission, known as OSIRIS-REx, made a rendezvous with the asteroid at around 12:10 pm (1710 GMT), firing its engines a final time.
“We have arrived,” said Javier Cerna, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, as his colleagues at mission control in Littleton, Colorado cheered and exchanged high-fives, according to a live NASA television broadcast.
Bennu is about 1,600 feet (500 meters) in diameter, about the size of a small mountain. It is the smallest object ever to be orbited by a human-made spacecraft.
A fragment of the early solar system, Bennu is also considered potentially dangerous. It poses a slight risk — a one in 2,700 chance — of colliding with Earth in 2135.
The carbon-rich asteroid was chosen from some 500,000 asteroids in the solar system because it orbits close to Earth’s path around the Sun, is the right size for the scientific study, and is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA.
Scientists hope it will reveal more about the early formation of the solar system, as well as how to find precious resources like metals and water in asteroids.
“With asteroids, you have a time capsule. You have a pristine sample of what the solar system was like billions of years ago,” said Michelle Thaller, a spokeswoman for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“That is why for scientists this sample is going to be far more precious than even gold.”
The mission launched in September 2016. Over the past several months, OSIRIS REx has been creeping toward Bennu, and finally reached the space rock when it was about 80 million miles (129 million kilometers) from Earth.
“For the past several months, Bennu has been coming into focus as I approached,” said NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Twitter account.
“Now that I’m here, I’ll fly around the asteroid and study it in detail.”
The spacecraft is equipped with a suite of five science instruments to study the asteroid for the next year and a half, mapping it in high resolution to help scientists decide precisely where to sample from.
Then, in 2020, it will reach out with its robotic arm and touch the asteroid in a maneuver Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager with Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, described as a “gentle high-five.”
Using a circular device much like a car’s air filter, and a reverse vacuum to stir up and collect dust, the device aims to grab about two ounces (60 grams) of material from the asteroid’s surface and return it to Earth for further study.
NASA says it may get much more material, perhaps up to four pounds (two kilograms).
The US space agency hopes to use OSIRIS-REx to bring back the largest payload of space samples since the Apollo era of the 1960s and 1970s when American explorers collected and carried back to Earth 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon rocks.
Japanese space agency JAXA first proved sample collection from an asteroid was possible.
JAXA’s Hayabusa spacecraft crash-landed into the surface of its target asteroid and managed to return a few micrograms of material in 2010.
Once the NASA mission has successfully collected its space dust from Bennu, the sample will be kept in a canister and returned to Earth in 2023, touching down in the Utah desert in late September, NASA said.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
Facebook says it stored ‘millions’ of unencrypted Instagram passwords
SAN FRANCISCO: “Millions” of Instagram users had their passwords stored in unencrypted form on internal servers, Facebook said Thursday, raising its original estimate of tens of thousands.
“We discovered additional logs of Instagram passwords being stored in a readable format. We now estimate that this issue impacted millions of Instagram users,” Facebook said in a blog post.
“We will be notifying these users as we did the others. Our investigation has determined that these stored passwords were not internally abused or improperly accessed,” the social network said.
Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, revealed last month that the unencrypted passwords of hundreds of millions of users had been stored, putting the number of Instagram users affected in the tens of thousands.
The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.
Facebook has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.
The California firm reaches an estimated 2.7 billion people with its core social network, Instagram and messaging applications.
Samsung to inspect Galaxy Fold phones after reviewer complaints
SEOUL: Samsung announced Thursday it will inspect units of its highly anticipated folding smartphone after some reviewers reported screen damage.
A handful of US-based reporters were given the flagship Galaxy Fold phones, priced at $1,980, ahead of the model’s official release next week, and they reported screen issues within days of using the devices.
“The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in,” Bloomberg’s Mark Gunman tweeted.
And Dieter Bohn of The Verge said: “Something happened to my Galaxy Fold screen and caused a bulge… It’s broken.”
Samsung spent nearly eight years developing the Galaxy Fold, which is part of the South Korean tech giant’s strategy to propel growth with groundbreaking gadgets.
“We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” Samsung said in a statement after reports of the screen damage emerged.
The firm suggested some reviewers encountered screen failures because a section of the display was removed.
“The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches,” it said.
“Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.”
Some of the reviewers, including Bloomberg’s Gunman, had removed this layer.
CNBC’s Steve Kovach said he had not, but still faced major problems with the device.
Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, and earlier this month launched the 5G version of its top-end Galaxy S10 device.
But despite the recent announcements about its new high-end devices, Samsung has warned of a more than 60 percent plunge in first-quarter operating profit in the face of weakening markets.
The firm is also no stranger to device issues.
Its reputation suffered a major blow after a damaging worldwide recall of its Galaxy Note 7 devices over exploding batteries in 2016, which cost the firm billions of dollars and shattered its global brand image.
Samsung has said it will release the Galaxy Fold as scheduled on April 26.
Ericsson, Swisscom launch Europe’s first large scale 5G network
STOCKHOLM: Telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson said Wednesday it had launched the first European large scale commercial 5G network together with Swiss operator Swisscom, as Ericsson posted a first quarter profit boosted by sales in North America.
The Swedish supplier of network equipment said in a statement that the 5G network, launched in 54 cities in Switzerland, had been switched on just after midnight on April 17, after Swisscom secured a license to operate a 5G network in the country.
Ericsson made the announcement as it reported a first quarter net profit of 2.4 billion kronor ($260 million, 230 million euros), compared to a net loss of 725 million kronor in the corresponding quarter a year ago.
Net sales grew to 48.9 billion kronor, up from 43.4 billion in Q1 of 2018.
Chief executive Borje Ekholm said growth had primarily been driven by sales in North America.
“To date we have publicly announced commercial 5G deals with 18 named operator customers, which, at the moment, is more than any other vendor,” Ekholm said in a statement.
Ekholm also said that as 5G technology was being rolled out, the company would continue to incur costs for field trials and they were expecting large-scale deployments of 5G to begin in parts of Asia by the end of 2019.
“Combined, this will gradually impact short-term margins but strengthen our position in the long term,” he said.
Shares in Ericsson traded up more than three percent on the Stockholm stock exchange following the release of the earnings report, hitting a four-year high in early trading on Wednesday.
Ericsson, one of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s main rivals in the 5G market, said earlier this year it hadn’t felt any effects from US pressure on countries to ban Huawei’s equipment amid fears that it could compromise the security of the mobile phone networks.