NASA Encounters the Perfect Storm for Science

These two views from NASA’s Curiosity rover, acquired specifically to measure the amount of dust inside Gale Crater, show that dust has increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm. The left-hand image shows a view of the east-northeast rim of Gale Crater on June 7, 2018 (Sol 2074); the right-hand image shows a view of the same feature on June 10, 2018 (Sol 2077). The images were taken by the rover’s Mastcam. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.

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Parabolic Flights Advance Space Technologies

G-FORCE-ONE
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A recent series of parabolic flights onboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft demonstrated a variety of technologies selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. The flight campaign consisted of two successful flights on March 21, 2018, lifting off from Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida.

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NASA Re-plans Juno’s Jupiter Mission

NASA’s Juno spacecraft soared directly over Jupiter’s south pole when JunoCam acquired this image on February 2, 2017 at 6:06 a.m. PT (9:06 a.m. ET), from an altitude of about 62,800 miles (101,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has approved an update to Juno’s science operations until July 2021. This provides for an additional 41 months in orbit around Jupiter and will enable Juno to achieve its primary science objectives.  Juno is in 53-day orbits rather than 14-day orbits as initially planned because of a concern about valves on the spacecraft’s fuel system. This longer orbit means that it will take more time to collect the needed science data.

An independent panel of experts confirmed in April that Juno is on track to achieve its science objectives and is already returning spectacular results.  The Juno spacecraft and all instruments are healthy and operating nominally.

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NASA to Host Live Discussion on New Mars Science Results on Thursday

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then.

The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications, in NASA’s Planetary Science Division will host the chat. Participants include:

  • Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard
  • Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
  • Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, JPL

The public can send questions on social media by using #askNASA. The event can also be watched on Facebook LiveTwitch TVUstreamYouTube and Twitter/Periscope.

For information about NASA’s Curiorsity rover, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/msl

NASA CubeSats Steer Toward Mars

An artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft on their cruise to Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has achieved a first for the class of tiny spacecraft known as CubeSats, which are opening new access to space.

Over the past week, two CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B have been firing their propulsion systems to guide themselves toward Mars. This process, called a trajectory correction maneuver, allows a spacecraft to refine its path to Mars following launch. Both CubeSats successfully completed this maneuver; NASA’s InSight spacecraft just completed the same process on May 22.

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NEOWISE Thermal Data Reveal Surface Properties of Over 100 Asteroids

Rosetta's closest approach to the asteroid Lutetia. (Credits: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
Rosetta’s closest approach to the asteroid Lutetia. (Credits: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Nearly all asteroids are so far away and so small that the astronomical community only knows them as moving points of light. The rare exceptions are asteroids that have been visited by spacecraft, a small number of large asteroids resolved by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope or large ground-based telescopes, or those that have come close enough for radar imaging.

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NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Moving Forward

NASA ISRO synthetic aperture radar satellite (Credit: NASA)

A joint collaboration between NASA and ISRO to orbit an advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellite is moving forward toward a 2021 launch date as engineers at the two agencies learn to work together effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

“The NISAR project continues to track a risk that process differences between NASA and its development partner, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), could negatively affect cost and schedule, but a recent project assessment concluded that collaboration between the two organizations has been effective,” the GAO report stated.

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GAO: JPL’s SWOT Mission Planning to Launch Ahead of Schedule

SWOT satellite (Credit: NASA JPL)

A Franco-American mission that will conduct a global survey of the Earth’s surface water is moving toward launching a year earlier than planned despite encountering technical challenges and and workforce shortages, according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite “will use its wide-swath radar altimetry technology to take repeated high-resolution measurements of the world’s oceans and freshwater bodies to develop a global survey,” the report stated.

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NASA’s Psyche Mission Aims to Launch Ahead of Original Schedule

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

The Psyche asteroid project is a rarity among the 17 major NASA projects that were recently assessed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO): it’s actually aiming to launch ahead of schedule.

“NASA selected the project’s 2023 launch proposal, but later directed the project to work to an accelerated launch readiness date of August 2022,” the GAO report stated. “The accelerated launch date will allow Psyche to arrive at the asteroid over 4 years earlier than the original timeline due to a quicker flight.”

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Mars Needs Women — NASA Needs Everybody

Credit: American International Television

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the 1967 film, Mars Needs Women, a team of martians invades Earth to kidnap women to help repopulate their dying species. Shot over two weeks on a minuscule budget and padded out with stock footage, the movie obtained cult status as one of those cinematic disasters that was so bad it was unintentionally hilarious.

A half century later, NASA finds itself in a not entirely dissimilar situation. Only this problem is not nearly as funny.

The space agency lacks sufficient personnel with the proper skill sets to undertake its complex missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. A number of key programs have been affected by the shortfall already.

NASA’s workforce is also aging. More than half the agency’s employees are 50 years and older, with one-fifth  currently eligible for retirement. Finding replacement workers with the right mix of skills is not always easy as NASA faces increased competition from a growing commercial space sector.

The space agency is addressing these challenges, but it’s too early to tell how successful these efforts will be, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

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Small Packages to Test Big Space Technology Advances

The RainCube 6U CubeSat with fully-deployed antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — This weekend, when the next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, it will be carrying among its supplies and experiments three cereal box-sized satellites that will be used to test and demonstrate the next generation of Earth-observing technology.

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Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Capsule to Host Research Destined for ISS

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 16, 2018) – The 9th Commercial Resupply Services (awarded by NASA) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by Orbital ATK is targeted for launch no earlier than 5:04 a.m. EDT on May 20th. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule will host multiple payloads sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space). These payloads represent a diverse combination of science (life and materials sciences, chemistry evaluations), technology, small satellites, and the replenishment of hardware facilities to support future research. Additionally, multiple investigations will launch to station focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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A Pale Blue Dot, As Seen by a CubeSat

The first image captured by one of NASA’s Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats. The image, which shows both the CubeSat’s unfolded high-gain antenna at right and the Earth and its moon in the center, was acquired by MarCO-B on May 9. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Voyager 1 took a classic portrait of Earth from several billion miles away in 1990. Now a class of tiny, boxy spacecraft, known as CubeSats, have just taken their own version of a “pale blue dot” image, capturing Earth and its moon in one shot.

NASA set a new distance record for CubeSats on May 8 when a pair of CubeSats called Mars Cube One (MarCO) reached 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth. One of the CubeSats, called MarCO-B (and affectionately known as “Wall-E” to the MarCO team) used a fisheye camera to snap its first photo on May 9. That photo is part of the process used by the engineering team to confirm the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna has properly unfolded.

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Old Data Reveal New Evidence of Europa Plumes

Artist’s illustration of Jupiter and Europa (in the foreground) with the Galileo spacecraft after its pass through a plume erupting from Europa’s surface. A new computer simulation gives us an idea of how the magnetic field interacted with a plume. The magnetic field lines (depicted in blue) show how the plume interacts with the ambient flow of Jovian plasma. The red colors on the lines show more dense areas of plasma. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Michigan)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Scientists re-examining data from an old mission bring new insights to the tantalizing question of whether Jupiter’s moon Europa has the ingredients to support life. The data provide independent evidence that the moon’s subsurface liquid water reservoir may be venting plumes of water vapor above its icy shell.

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GAO: NASA Moving Ahead on Defining Europa Clipper Mission

The Europa Clipper spacecraft flies over the surface of Europa in this artist’s rendering. NASA is currently studying this reduced-cost mission which would use at least 48 flybys to explore the moon instead of entering into orbit. (Credit: NASA / JPL / Michael Carroll)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is working through technical issues with scientific instruments, solar arrays and power requirements as the space agency defines its ambitious Europa Clipper orbiter, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

Europa Clipper, which is set for launch in 2022, will be the space agency’s first dedicated mission to study Jupiter’s ice covered moon. Scientists believe the ice could hide a vast ocean teeming with extraterrestrial life.

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