NASA’s MAVEN Selfie Marks Four Years in Orbit at Mars

This image is a composite selfie taken by MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument that normally looks at ultraviolet emissions from the Martian upper atmosphere. Lines are sketched in to show approximately where components of the spacecraft are that were not able to be imaged due to the limited motion of the instrument around its support boom. Thrusters can be seen at the lower left and right, the Electra communications antenna at the bottom toward the left, the magnetometer and sun sensor at the end of the solar-panels at the upper left, the tip of the communications antenna at the top middle. In addition, the shadow of the IUVS and of its support boom can be seen down the middle of the spacecraft body. (Credits: University of Colorado/NASA)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — Today, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft celebrates four years in orbit studying the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet and how it interacts with the Sun and the solar wind. To mark the occasion, the team has released a selfie image of the spacecraft at Mars.

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ExoMars Highlights Radiation Risk for Mars Astronauts

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

BERLIN, Germany (ESA PR) — Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed to at least 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for their career during the journey itself to and from the Red Planet, according to data from the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter being presented at the European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC, in Berlin, Germany, this week.

The orbiter’s camera team are also presenting new images of Mars during the meeting. They will also highlight the challenges faced from the recent dust storm that engulfed the entire planet, preventing high-quality imaging of the surface.
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NASA Goes to Great Lengths to Get Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Measurements

NASA Langley employees assembly flight cable harnesses for Mars 2020 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are hard at work assembling components for the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) which will collect data during the Mars 2020 mission’s entry through the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

These flight cable harnesses are 30-foot-long groups of electrical wires that will transmit signals for some MEDLI2 sensors. It takes about eight weeks to build and test all of the harnesses. Once complete, they will ship to Lockheed Martin for integration onto the Mars 2020 heat shield.

MEDLI2 will measure pressure, temperature, heat flux and radiation on the capsule that encloses the Mars 2020 rover during Mars atmospheric entry. The data collected will extend the groundbreaking entry data collected by the first MEDLI instrument suite flown aboard the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2012 and will improve designs of entry systems for future robotic and human missions to Mars, Venus, Titan and the gas giants.

MEDLI2 is a Game Changing Development project led by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate with support from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate. The project is managed at Langley and implemented in partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL manages the Mars 2020 spacecraft development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers

Engineer Joel Steinkraus uses sunlight to test the solar arrays on one of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Twenty years ago, CubeSats — a class of boxy satellites small enough to fit in a backpack — were used by universities as a teaching aid. Simpler, smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites, they’ve made space more accessible to private companies and science agencies.

This summer, NASA has been flying the first two next-generation CubeSats to deep space. They’re currently on their way to Mars, trailing thousands of miles behind the InSight spacecraft. InSight and its CubeSat tag-alongs are already more than halfway to the Red Planet.

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How NASA Goddard Tests Tools Astronauts Will Use to Explore Distant Worlds

Kelsey E. Young, a geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who helps develop space-exploration tools, is using the handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to investigate lava flow chemistry at Valentine Cave at Lava Beds National Monument, Tulelake, California. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

When astronauts land again on the surface of another world, their limited resources will allow for a short window of time each day to explore their new surroundings. Instruments designed to quickly reveal the terrain’s chemistry and form will help them understand the environments around them and how they change over time.

To protect precious hours available for extraterrestrial scientific investigations, a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland — the Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT) — is testing and refining the chemical-analyzing and land-surveying tools that will assist future human explorers of places like the Moon and Mars.

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5 Hazards of Human Spaceflight

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A human journey to Mars, at first glance, offers an inexhaustible amount of complexities. To bring a mission to the Red Planet from fiction to fact, NASA’s Human Research Program has organized hazards astronauts will encounter on a continual basis into five classifications. Pooling the challenges into categories allows for an organized effort to overcome the obstacles that lay before such a mission. However, these hazards do not stand alone. They can feed off one another and exacerbate effects on the human body. These hazards are being studied using ground-based analogs, laboratories, and the International Space Station, which serves as a test bed to evaluate human performance and countermeasures required for the exploration of space.

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ASPIRE Mars 2020 Parachute Test a Success

A Black Brant IX sounding rockets lifts off from the Wallops Flight Facility with the ASPIRE experiment on board on Sept. 7, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Allison Stancil)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — On Friday, September 7, at 9:30 a.m., a parachute test for a future mission to Mars successfully launched on a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket carried the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The payload is a bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding a supersonic parachute, the parachute’s deployment mechanism, and the test’s high-definition instrumentation, including cameras, to record data.

The payload descended by parachute and splashed-down in the Atlantic Ocean 28 miles from Wallops Island. The parachute was successfully recovered and returned to Wallops for data retrieval and inspection.

The Martian Garden Recreates Red Planet’s Surface

The Martian Garden sells gardening kits including soil that NASA has determined is chemically and mineralogically similar to the surface of Mars. (Credits: The Martian Garden)
AUSTIN, Texas (NASA PR) — If you were stranded on Mars, could you pull a Mark Watney from the book and movie “The Martian” and grow your food? Thanks to a new garden kit that mimics the soil conditions on the Red Planet, you can find out.

But the kit isn’t just for fun — it’s based on research NASA has been doing for more than 30 years, both to determine just what makes up the dirt on Earth’s next-door neighbor and to find equivalents here on the ground.

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Accessing Water Off Earth with the Moon to Mars Ice and Prospecting Challenge

Pictured is one of the university teams competing in the 2018 Mars Ice Challenge held in June at NASA’s Langley Research Center over three days. (Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Extended crewed missions to the Moon or Mars begin with finding a water supply. To access that water, NASA will require new technologies to mine through various layers of lunar or Martian soil and into ice deposits buried beneath.

NASA is working with the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Virginia to sponsor the 2019 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) special edition Moon to Mars Ice and Prospecting Challenge. This technology innovation challenge seeks to advance critical capabilities needed on the surface of the Moon and Mars. The competition asks eligible undergraduate and graduate student teams to design and build hardware that can identify, map and drill through a variety of subsurface layers, then extract water from an ice block in a simulated off-world test bed.

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Bridenstine: NASA Lunar Plan Focused on Sustainable, Commercial Architecture

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon within a decade using a sustainable architecture that stresses reusable vehicles and open systems, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

“So how do we go sustainably?” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “We start by taking advantage of capabilities in this country that didn’t exist even five or 10 years ago. We have commercial companies that can do things that weren’t possible even a few years ago….

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New NASA Competition Aims to Convert Carbon Dioxide into Exploration Sweet Success

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When astronauts begin exploring Mars, they’ll need to use local resources, freeing up launch cargo space for other mission-critical supplies. Carbon dioxide is one resource readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere.

NASA’s new CO2 Conversion Challenge, conducted under the Centennial Challenges program, is a public competition seeking novel ways to convert carbon dioxide into useful compounds. Such technologies will allow us to manufacture products using local, indigenous resources on Mars, and can also be implemented on Earth by using both waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide as a resource.

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NASA’s InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Red Planet has some of the tallest mountains in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons, a volcano nearly three times the height of Everest. It borders a region called the Tharsis plateau, where three equally awe-inspiring volcanoes dominate the landscape.

But what geologic processes created these features on the Martian surface?  Scientists have long wondered — and may soon know more.

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Martian Skies Clearing over Opportunity Rover

About 11 months before the current dust storm enveloped the rover, Opportunity took five images that were turned into a mosaic showing a view from inside the upper end of “Perseverance Valley” on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater’s western rim. The images were taken on July 7, 2017. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A planet-encircling dust storm on Mars, which was first detected May 30 and halted operations for the Opportunity rover, continues to abate.

With clearing skies over Opportunity’s resting spot in Mars’ Perseverance Valley, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe the nearly 15-year-old, solar-powered rover will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures — if the rover is able to do so. To prepare, the Opportunity mission team has developed a two-step plan to provide the highest probability of successfully communicating with the rover and bringing it back online.

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Video Update on SpaceX’s Mars Plans

Paul Wooster, Principal Mars Development Engineer, SpaceX

SpaceX’s plans for Mars

Paul is also a founding member of the Mars Society and an attendee at our early conferences!

From the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention, held at the Pasadena Convention Center in Southern California from Aug 23-26, 2018.

The four-day International Mars Society Convention brings together leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government policymakers and journalists to talk about the latest scientific discoveries, technological advances and political-economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the planet Mars.

Vice President Pence Talks Future Human Space Exploration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Mike Pence

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Thursday, Aug. 23, to discuss the future of human space exploration and the agency’s plans to return to the Moon as a forerunner to future human missions to Mars.

The event will be held at 12:45 p.m. CDT in the Teague Auditorium at Johnson and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media Schedule (all times CDT):

  • 6:30-7:30 a.m. – Media call time and pre-set for video cameras and tripods
  • 7:30-9:30 a.m. – Venue access closed to press for security sweep
  • 9:30 a.m. – Media re-entrance
  • 12:45 p.m. – Event begins

Check out the latest on NASA’s plans for human space exploration at:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space