NASA’s Europa Clipper Builds Hardware, Moves Toward Assembly

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit: NASA)

Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The spacecraft will use multiple flybys of the moon to investigate the habitability of this ocean world.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Europa Clipper, NASA’s upcoming flagship mission to the outer solar system, has passed a significant milestone, completing its Critical Design Review. During the review, experts examined the detailed design of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready to complete construction. The mission is now able to complete hardware fabrication and testing, and move toward the assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its payload of sophisticated science instruments.

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NASA Selects Nine Scientists to Join Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter Mission

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credits: JAXA/NHK)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine scientists to join the upcoming Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) mission. Set to launch in August 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 and orbit the Moon for about a year, KPLO is the first space exploration mission of the Republic of Korea (ROK) that will travel beyond Earth orbit.

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NASA, Johns Hopkins APL Continue Partnership on Lunar Tech Maturation Strategy

Illustration of the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR), a conceptual in-space construction system, and lunar rover on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — The Artemis program will return NASA to the Moon with robotic and human missions. Before humans set foot on the Moon again, NASA will test a range of technologies on the surface. The demonstrations, everything from reliable power systems to possibly even in-space construction systems and landing pads, will expand NASA’s lunar technology toolbox.

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Comet Makes a Pit Stop Near Jupiter’s Asteroids

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of the young comet P/2019 LD2 as it orbits near Jupiter’s captured ancient asteroids, which are called Trojans. The Hubble view reveals a 400,000-mile-long tail of dust and gas flowing from the wayward comet’s bright solid nucleus. (Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Olmsted/STScI)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — For the first time, a wayward comet-like object has been spotted near the family of ancient asteroids.

After traveling several billion miles toward the Sun, a wayward young comet-like object orbiting among the giant planets has found a temporary parking place along the way. The object has settled near a family of captured ancient asteroids, called Trojans, that are orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter. This is the first time a comet-like object has been spotted near the Trojan population.

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Parker Solar Probe Offers Stunning View of Venus

When flying past Venus in July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, short for Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow — light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside. The prominent dark feature in the center of the image is Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. Bright streaks in WISPR, such as the ones seen here, are typically caused by a combination of charged particles — called cosmic rays — sunlight reflected by grains of space dust, and particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after impact with those dust grains. The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here. The dark spot appearing on the lower portion of Venus is an artifact from the WISPR instrument. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher)

By Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

LAUREL, Md. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

Though Parker Solar Probe’s focus is the Sun, Venus plays a critical role in the mission: The spacecraft whips by Venus a total of seven times over the course of its seven-year mission, using the planet’s gravity to bend the spacecraft’s orbit. These Venus gravity assists allow Parker Solar Probe to fly closer and closer to the Sun on its mission to study the dynamics of the solar wind close to its source.

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NASA’s First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids Integrates its Second Scientific Instrument

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission is one step closer to launch as L’TES, the Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer, has been successfully integrated on to the spacecraft.

“Having two of the three instruments integrated onto the spacecraft is an exciting milestone,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The L’TES team is to be commended for their true dedication and determination.”

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NASA Approves Heliophysics Missions to Explore Sun, Earth’s Aurora

From the International Space Station’s orbit 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia, this nighttime photograph captures the aurora australis, or “southern lights.” Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 crew ship is in the foreground and Progress 72 resupply ship in the background. (Credits: NASA)

ASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has approved two heliophysics missions to explore the Sun and the system that drives space weather near Earth. Together, NASA’s contribution to the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, or EZIE, will help us understand the Sun and Earth as an interconnected system.

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SpaceX Wins $109.4 Million Contract to Launch NASA Satellites on Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, which includes four secondary payloads.

IMAP will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a magnetic barrier surrounding our solar system. This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with winds from other stars. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.

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Video: Meet NASA’s Psyche Team

Video Caption: Meet the team designing and building the Psyche mission’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. This instrument on the spacecraft will detect, measure, and map Psyche’s elemental composition.

It is mounted on a 6-foot (2-meter) boom to distance the sensors from background radiation created by energetic particles interacting with the spacecraft and to provide an unobstructed field of view.

The team is based at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and is led by Principal Investigator David Lawrence.