Probing for Life in the Icy Crusts of Ocean Worlds

During 2019 field tests near Greenland’s Summit Station, a high-elevation remote observing station, the WATSON instrument is put through its paces to seek out signs of life, or biosignatures, 360 feet (110 meters) down a borehole. The winch that holds the drill pokes out the top of the drill tent. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A technique for scanning Mars rocks for microscopic fossils of ancient life is also being developed to hunt for microbes in the deep ice of Enceladus, Titan, and Europa.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long before NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, one of its highest-level mission goals was already established: to seek out signs of ancient life on the Martian surface. In fact, the techniques used by one of the science instruments  aboard the rover could have applications on Saturn’s moons  Enceladus and Titan as well Jupiter’s moon Europa.

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Engineers Identify Software Solution for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Anomaly

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9) during a planned high-speed spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. Over the weekend, the team considered and tested multiple potential solutions to this issue, concluding that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software is the most robust path forward. This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state. Modifications to the flight software are being independently reviewed and validated today and tomorrow in testbeds at JPL.

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NASA Funds Research on Lunar Crater Radio Telescope on Moon’s Far Side

Credit: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

An ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope on the far side of the Moon has significant advantages compared to Earth-based and Earthorbiting telescopes, including

(1) Conducting observations of the Universe at wavelengths longer than 10 meters (i.e., frequencies below 30 MHz), wavelengths at which critical cosmological or extrasolar planetary signatures are predicted to appear, yet cannot be observed from the ground due to absorption from the Earth’s ionosphere; and

(2) The Moon acts as a physical shield that isolates a far-side lunar-surface telescope from radio interference from sources on the Earth’s surface, the ionosphere, Earth-orbiting satellites, and the Sun’s radio emission during the lunar night. We propose the design of a Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) on the far side of the Moon.

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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter First Flight Delayed 3 Days

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.

The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.

The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter to Make First Flight Attempt Sunday

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is two days away from making humanity’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. If all proceeds as planned, the 4-pound (1.8-kg) rotorcraft is expected to take off from Mars’ Jezero Crater Sunday, April 11, at 12:30 p.m. local Mars solar time (10:54 p.m. EDT, 7:54 p.m. PDT), hovering 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds.

Mission control specialists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California expect to receive the first data from the first flight attempt the following morning at around 4:15 a.m. EDT (1:15 a.m. PDT). NASA TV will air live coverage of the team as they receive the data, with commentary beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT).

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NASA Selects Innovative, Early-Stage Tech Concepts for Continued Study

Notional view of LCRT on the far-side of the Moon. (Credits: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA encourages researchers to develop and study unexpected approaches for traveling through, understanding, and exploring space. To further these goals, the agency has selected seven studies for additional funding – totaling $5 million – from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The researchers previously received at least one NIAC award related to their proposals.

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NASA’s Odyssey Orbiter Marks 20 Historic Years of Mapping Mars

Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

For two decades, the longest-lived spacecraft at the Red Planet has helped locate water ice, assess landing sites, and study the planet’s mysterious moons.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched 20 years ago on April 7, making it the oldest spacecraft still working at the Red Planet. The orbiter, which takes its name from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” (Clarke blessed its use before launch), was sent to map the composition of the Martian surface, providing a window to the past so scientists could piece together how the planet evolved.

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NASA’s Mars Helicopter Survives First Cold Martian Night on Its Own

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Making it through the frigid Martian temperatures after being deployed by NASA’s Perseverance rover is a major milestone for the small rotorcraft.  

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has emerged from its first night on the surface of Mars.

Evening temperatures at Jezero Crater can plunge as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), which can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components and damage the onboard batteries required for flight. Surviving that first night after being deployed from where it was attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover on April 3 is a major milestone for the 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) rotorcraft. In the days to come, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Now Deployed to Surface

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter as seen from the Perseverance Rover. (Credit: NASA)

JPL tweeted:

#MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed! Its 293 million mile (471 million km) journey aboard @NASAPersevere ended with the final drop of 4 inches (10 cm) from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night. http://go.nasa.gov/ingenuity

The first flight is scheduled for no earlier than April 11.

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Sensors Collect Crucial Data on Mars Landings with Arrival of Perseverance

The MEDLI2 hardware is visible on the Mars 2020 heat shield as the heat shield falls toward the surface of Mars. The critical MEDLI2 electronics, two of the seven heat shield pressure transducers; these measure the stagnation pressure during the hypersonic and supersonic phases of flight, and one of the 11 heat shield temperature locations can be seen. The copper-colored harness snaking around the heat shield is also evident. The circuitous path of the harness was to avoid the rover wheels and other items on the bottom of the rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — “Tango delta. Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.” For more than six years, the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) team waited to hear these words.

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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’s InSight Detects Two Sizable Quakes on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander used a scoop on its robotic arm to begin trickling soil over the cable connecting its seismometer to the spacecraft on March 14, 2021, the 816th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Scientists hope insulating it from the wind will make it easier to detect marsquakes. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 temblors originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae, further supporting the idea that this location is seismically active.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae – the same place where two strong quakes were seen earlier in the mission. The new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1; the previous quakes were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet.

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NASA Begins Final Assembly of Spacecraft Destined for Asteroid Psyche

In late March of 2021, a main component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft was delivered to JPL, where assembly, test, and launch operations are underway. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, the agency’s Psyche spacecraft will explore a metal-rich asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A major component of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft has been delivered to the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the phase known as assembly, test, and launch operations is now underway. Over the next year, the spacecraft will finish assembly and undergo rigorous checkout and testing before it’s shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an August 2022 launch to the main asteroid belt.

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Major Earth Satellite to Track Disasters, Effects of Climate Change

The S-band SAR, one of two kinds of radar on the NISAR mission, arrived at JPL on March 19. The next day, technicians and engineers moved the S-SAR into the airlock to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room. The equipment will be unpacked over several days in the clean room. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Designed to spot potential natural hazards and help researchers measure how melting land ice will affect sea level rise, the NISAR spacecraft marks a big step as it takes shape.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — An SUV-size Earth satellite that will be equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA is taking shape in the clean room at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Called NISAR, the joint mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has big goals: By tracking subtle changes in Earth’s surface, it will spot warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions, help to monitor groundwater supplies, track the melt rate of ice sheets tied to sea level rise, and observe shifts in the distribution of vegetation around the world. Monitoring these kinds of changes in the planet’s surface over nearly the entire globe hasn’t been done before with the high resolution in space and time that NISAR will deliver.

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NASA Analysis: Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years

These images of asteroid Apophis were recorded by radio antennas at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone complex in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The asteroid was 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) away, and each pixel has a resolution of 127 feet (38.75 meters). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO)

The near-Earth object was thought to pose a slight risk of impacting Earth in 2068, but now radar observations have ruled that out.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After its discovery in 2004, asteroid 99942 Apophis had been identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. But that impact assessment changed as astronomers tracked Apophis and its orbit became better determined.

Now, the results from a new radar observation campaign combined with precise orbit analysis have helped astronomers conclude that there is no risk of Apophis impacting our planet for at least a century.

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