NASA Launches GRAIL Mission to the Moon


NASA PR — NASA’s GRAIL mission to study the moon from crust to core successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Pad SLC-17B at 9:08 a.m. EDT.

Both GRAIL spacecraft have separated on schedule from the second stage of the Delta II rocket and are now flying to the moon. So far, all systems are working as expected. It will take the two spacecraft until New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to reach the moon.

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NASA Spacecraft to Fly By Comet Tonight

NASA’s Stardust-NExT mission spacecraft will fly by comet Tempel 1 on Monday evening. Live coverage on NASA TV and via the Internet begins at 8:30 p.m. PST (11:30 p.m. EST) from mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Coverage also will include segments from the Lockheed Martin Space System’s mission support area in Denver.

The closest approach is expected tonight at approximately 8:40 p.m. PST (11:40 p.m. EST).

The mission team expects to begin receiving images on the ground starting at around midnight PST (3 a.m. on Feb. 15 EST). Transmission of each image will take about 15 minutes. It will take about 10 hours to complete the transmission of all images and science data aboard the spacecraft.

For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .

The live coverage and news conference will also be carried on one of JPL’s Ustream channels. During events, viewers can take part in a real-time chat and submit questions to the Stardust-NExT team at: http://www.ustream.tv/user/NASAJPL2 .

A post-flyby news conference is planned on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST).

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ISRO Partners with JPL on Proposed MoonRise Lunar Sample Return Mission

ISRO announces new moon mission with US’ Jet Propulsion Lab
DNA

The Space Commission, India’s apex space policy body, today gave ISRO the go-ahead to partner with JPL, which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, for the project names ‘Moon Rise’ which could be launched by NASA.

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has invited proposals under its New Frontiers Programme announced in 2009.

As per the cooperation agreement, ISRO will send a satellite to orbit around the moon to transmit data to earth from rover JPL plans to send to the lunar surface.

As part of the project, JPL plans to drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon’s south pole to return lunar rocks back to Earth for study.

The mission, if selected, would be launched in 2016.

Read the full story.

Editor’s Note: I found this paper about the proposed mission. The mission summary reads:

MoonRise will land in the interior of the SPA Basin at a location determined by analysis of existing orbital data and selected using criteria for science and mission safety. MoonRise will document the geologic context of the landing site with descent imaging and high resolution and multi-spectral surface imaging, and will sieve a volume of soil near the lander to collect thousands of rock fragments. The regolith, well mixed from impact processes, is expected to yield small rock fragments that represent a broad area of the SPA Basin interior. The main lithologic components are impact generated rocks from the basin formation and from the formation of other large impact craters and basins within SPA. Sample materials will be returned to Earth for mineralogical, chemical, and petrologic analyses, and isotopic age determinations in state-of-the-art laboratories. Following a preliminary examination by the MoonRise science team at the Curatorial Facility at Johnson Space Center, MoonRise samples will be made available for allocation to – and study by – the scientific community worldwide.

The Lunar Networks blog also has a detailed overview.

Mars Odyssey Sets Longevity Record

NASA MISSION UPDATE
Dec. 15, 2010

NASA’s Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 8:55 p.m. EST on Wednesday to break the record set by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, which orbited Mars from 1997 to 2006.

Odyssey’s longevity enables continued science, including the monitoring of seasonal changes on Mars from year to year and the most detailed maps ever made of most of the planet. In 2002, the spacecraft detected hydrogen just below the surface throughout Mars’ high-latitude regions. The deduction that the hydrogen is in frozen water prompted NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which confirmed the theory in 2008. Odyssey also carried the first experiment sent to Mars specifically to prepare for human missions, and found radiation levels around the planet from solar flares and cosmic rays are two to three times higher than around Earth.

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After 33 Years, Voyager 1 Outruns the Solar Wind

NASA PROGRAM UPDATE

The 33-year odyssey of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind.

Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 10.8 billion miles from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

The event is a major milestone in Voyager 1’s passage through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer shell of the sun’s sphere of influence, and the spacecraft’s upcoming departure from our solar system.

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JPL to Hold Small Business Symposium

nasa_logo

NASA PRESS RELEASE

NASA will host its second annual NASA/JPL Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony Nov. 16 and 17 at the Marriot Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd., Bethesda, Md.

The Symposium provides a forum for attendees to learn about NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and agency plans for future missions in space and Earth science.

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Cool Image of the Week: Victoria Crater on Mars

 This image of Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at more of a sideways angle than earlier orbital images of this crater.
This image of Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at more of a sideways angle than earlier orbital images of this crater.

TUCSON, Ariz. — The high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned a dramatic oblique view of the Martian crater that a rover explored for two years.

The new view of Victoria Crater shows layers on steep crater walls, difficult to see from straight overhead, plus wheel tracks left by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between September 2006 and August 2008.

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Lockheed Martin Delivers Heat Shield for Mars Science Laboratory

Mars Science Lab Heatshield

PRESS RELEASE

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has completed production and testing of the heatshield for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The heatshield is half of the large and sophisticated two-part aeroshell that will encapsulate and protect the Curiosity rover during its deep space cruise to Mars, and from the intense heat and friction that will be generated as the system descends through the Martian atmosphere.

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JPL Open House Set for May 2-3

NASA PRESS RELEASE

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., welcomes the public to its annual Open House on Saturday, May 2, and Sunday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lab will salute the 40th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission – the first human landing on the moon. JPL will also celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, a United Nations-endorsed series of events around the world that commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first telescope observations of space and planets by Italian scientist Galileo Galilei.

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