STEREO Watches Comet ATLAS as Solar Orbiter Crosses Its Tail

Comet ATLAS swoops by the Sun.
(Credit: NASA/NRL/STEREO/Karl Battams)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO-A spacecraft, captured these images of comet ATLAS as it swooped by the Sun from May 25 – June 1. During the observations and outside STEREO’s field of view, ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft crossed one of the comet’s two tails.

(more…)

John Glenn’s Widow, Annie, Passes Away

Sen. John Glenn and his wife Annie listen to speakers during a reception at Ohio State University honoring the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic flight aboard Friendship 7 Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Statement

The following is a statement on the passing of Annie Glenn, wife of former NASA astronaut Sen. John Glenn:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Annie Glenn. A stalwart member of the space and military communities, her courageous support of her legendary husband John was unmatched.

“She provided an example for other women who followed to face the challenges of being part of our nation’s space program, and the stress of having spouses in combat. She stood steadfastly by her husband as he took to space once again as the oldest person to orbit Earth, even as she continued her own lifelong public service on behalf of children, the elderly, and the disabled.

“The Glenns dedication to each other is well known, and we looked to them as an unmatched example of the strength and compassion that a lifetime of devotion creates. She will be missed.”

NIAC Award: High Irradiance Peltier Operated Tungsten Exo-Reflector

Concept of the HI-POWER rover. A small vehicle is shielded from the sun with a tungsten shield. The connections to the shield are comprised of stacked POLAR coolers. The outer skirt of the shield includes arrays of thermoelectric generators which absorb heat from the shield and radiate waste heat to the ground without heating the rover. (Credits: Troy Howe)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

High Irradiance Peltier Operated Tungsten Exo-Reflector (HI-POWER)

Troy Howe
Howe Industries LLC 

One issue that arises with spacecraft in almost every mission is thermal management. Computers, instruments, and housing may heat up in space, as a combination of solar energy and poor heat rejection causes temperatures to rise to hundreds of degrees. This can be fought by advanced radiators or may require specialized cooling systems.

(more…)

BepiColombo Takes Last Snaps of Earth en route to Mercury

A sequence of images taken by the MCAM selfie cameras on board of the European-Japanese Mercury mission BepiColombo as it neared Earth ahead of its gravity-assist flyby manoeuvre in April 2020. Images in the sequence were taken in 10-minute intervals from 11:25 UTC until 21:04 UTC on 9 April 2020, less than a day before the closest approach. (Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

(more…)

ESA to Conduct BepiColombo Flyby Amid Coronavirus Crisis

BepiColombo approaching Mercury. (Credit: spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Controllers at ESA’s mission control centre are preparing for a gravity-assist flyby of the European-Japanese Mercury explorer BepiColombo. The manoeuvre, which will see the mission adjust its trajectory by harnessing Earth’s gravitational pull as it swings past the planet, will be performed amid restrictions ESA has implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

(more…)

Europlanet Launches 10 Million Euro Research Infrastructure Supporting Planetary Science

The Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research – a laboratory for the spectroscopic investigation of planetary simulants (terrestrial rocks ground into rock dust, such as those found on the Earth-like planets of the Solar System) – offers globally unique research opportunities. Here, the reflection properties and emissions of samples can be measured under extremely high temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius, as is the case on Venus and Mercury. Europlanet, a European platform for planetary research, is now providing 10 million euro for the ‘Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure’ project, which will provide open access to facilities for planetary simulation and analysis for scientists from Europe, Asia and Africa, including two DLR laboratories. The image shows PSL Manager Jörn Helbert with a sample chamber. (Credit: Europlanet / madebygravity.co)
  • Europlanet 2024 RI will provide open access to the world’s largest group of facilities for planetary simulation and analysis, as well as a global network of small telescopes, data services and support for the scientific community.
  • Since 2005, Europlanet has been providing Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.
  • DLR participates in the programme with a spectroscopy laboratory and a laboratory for simulating atmospheric conditions on various planetary bodies.

BERLIN (DLR PR) — Solar System exploration benefits primarily from the ability of robotic spacecraft to visit planetary bodies, carrying cameras and experiments. In addition, much research is carried out in laboratories on Earth, and during field studies on volcanoes or in arid and cold polar regions.

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin has two laboratories for planetary research with globally unique capabilities. These are a spectroscopy laboratory for emissivity measurements of planetary simulants under extremely high temperatures, and a laboratory for simulating atmospheric conditions on a wide range of planetary bodies. Now, Europlanet, a European platform for planetary science, has launched ‘Europlanet 2024 RI‘, a 10 million euro project.

(more…)

NASA to Fund Researchers to Fly on Suborbital Vehicles, Maybe Astronauts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After spending a few years in hibernation, the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) is being held in Colorado this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been following all the action on Twitter.

In a keynote address on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated the idea of letting the space agency’s astronauts fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. He also discussed certifying the systems to comply with a subset of NASA’s human ratings requirements.

(more…)

The Moon and Mercury May Have Thick Ice Deposits

Mercury (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may contain significantly more water ice than previously thought, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s LRO and MESSENGER spacecraft.

The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both worlds. On the Moon, “We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon, and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California, Los Angeles.

(more…)

NASA Mourns Loss of Human Spaceflight Pioneer Christopher Kraft

Chris Kraft was NASA’s first flight director and the inventor of the mission control. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., who died July 22, 2019, created the concept of NASA’s Mission Control and developed its organization, operational procedures and culture, then made it a critical element of the success of the nation’s human spaceflight programs.

“America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers – flight director Chris Kraft,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family.

(more…)

Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

(more…)











Electric Blue Thrusters Propelling BepiColombo to Mercury

Twin ion thrusters firing (Credit: QinetiQ)

PARIS (ESA PR) — In mid-December, twin discs will begin glowing blue on the underside of a minibus-sized spacecraft in deep space. At that moment Europe and Japan’s BepiColombo mission will have just come a crucial step closer to Mercury.

(more…)











BepiColombo Blasts Off to Explore the Mysteries of Mercury

BepiColombo liftoff (Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana, 20 October 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the New Norcia ground tracking station at 02:21 GMT confirmed that the launch was successful.

(more…)











Video: An Overview of the BepiColumbo Mission to Mercury

Video Caption: BepiColombo is scheduled for launch at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Final assembly of the two orbiters and transfer module has taken place, ready for the spacecraft to be integrated into its Ariane 5 launcher.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.











ESA to Launch BepiColombo Mission to Mercury on Saturday

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (left) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, with a sunshade module at center. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

BepiColombo is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet’s dynamic environment at the same time.

A third module will transport the orbiters on the seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Schedule
Saturday, October 20, 2018
(Times Subject to Change)

03:15 CEST [09:15 p.m. EDT on Friday] Start of live transmission
03:45 CEST [09:45 p.m. EDT on Friday] Liftoff, followed by confirmation of acquisition of signal, expected around 40 minutes after launch
04:30 CEST [10:30 p.m. EDT on Friday] End of live transmission