PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years — longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s InSight lander is due to set its first science instrument on Mars in the coming days But engineers here on Earth already saw it happen — last week.
Like NASA’s Curiosity rover, InSight has a full-scale working model at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This sister lander, aptly named ForeSight, lets the team test all operations before they happen on Mars.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, to continue operations of the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), also in Pasadena.
This cost plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a maximum value of $30 billion. The contract begins Oct. 1 with a five-year base period of performance, followed by five one-year options that could extend the contract to Sept. 30, 2028.
Under this contract, Caltech will continue to develop and sustain core competencies in support of NASA-sponsored work in the areas of Earth and planetary sciences, heliophysics, astrophysics, and aeronautics and space activities, to include the development of spacecraft and instruments.
Caltech also will manage NASA-sponsored programs that carry out competed and peer-reviewed research, NASA partnerships with other government agencies, academia and the private sector, and the operation, research, and management of NASA’s Deep Space Network.
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PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its fourth year of survey data. Since the mission was restarted in December 2013, after a period of hibernation, the asteroid- and comet-hunter has completely scanned the skies nearly eight times and has observed and characterized 29,375 objects in four years of operations. This total includes 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets since the mission restart.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is joining with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars.
PASADENA, Calif. (Caltech PR) — Michael M. Watkins, the Clare Cockrell Williams Centennial Chair in Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Center for Space Research at The University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president at Caltech, the Institute announced today.
Watkins will formally assume his position on July 1, 2016. He succeeds Charles Elachi, who will retire as of June 30, 2016, and move to the Caltech faculty.
Watkins is an internationally recognized scientist and engineer. Prior to assuming his current position at The University of Texas in 2015, he worked at JPL for 22 years, where he held leadership roles on some of NASA’s highest-profile missions. Watkins served as mission manager and mission system manager for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover; led review or development teams for several missions including the Cassini, Mars Odyssey, and Deep Impact probes; and was the project scientist leading science development for the GRAIL moon-mapping satellites, the GRACE Earth science mission, and the GRACE Follow-On mission, scheduled for launch in 2017. He last served at JPL as manager of the Science Division, and chief scientist for the Engineering and Science Directorate.
PASADENA, Calif., April 20, 2015 (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) has signed a sponsored research agreement with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). Under the terms of the agreement, Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million to the initiative over three years.
Congratulations are in order to X Prize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis and the team behind the Mars Curiosity rover.
Popular Mechanics selected them for their 2013 Breakthrough Awards. Diamandis won the Leadership Award for his work in creating prizes and technology breakthroughs with the X Prize Foundation. The magazine includes a Q&A with Diamandis.
The Mars Curiosity team were among 9 other individuals and groups singled out in the innovators category. They landed the car-sized rover on the Red Planet.
The magazine also cited the team behind the U.S. Navy’s X-47B aircraft, a prototype for unmanned combat jets that landed on an aircraft carrier without a pilot in July. Popular Mechanics also singled out 10 innovative products for 2013, which included a desktop milling machine and a 3D scanner/printer.
Media reports are indicating that President Barack Obama’s budget will propose that NASA spend $105 million next year to begin a program to capture an asteroid and bring it back to a Lagrangian point near Earth where astronauts would be able to visit it using the Orion spacecraft beginning in 2021.
A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025.
The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Co-leaders of the study included John Brophy of NASA JPL/Caltech, Fred Culick of Caltech, and Louis Friedman of The Planetary Society and participants included representatives of other NASA centers, various universities, institutes and private companies.
The report may provide a preview of what a new company named Planetary Resources spearheaded by the X PRIZE Foundation’s Peter Diamandis will unveil during a press conference in Seattle next Tuesday. Two of the 34 study participants were Planetary Resources President and Chief Engineer Chris Lewicki and former astronaut Tom Jones, who is an adviser to the company. The start-up – which is backed by Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Microsoft mogul Charles Simonyi, filmmaker James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr. – says it will “overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.”