Mars Virtual Reality Software Wins NASA Award

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right, and Erisa Hines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, try out the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset during a preview of “Destination: Mars” at Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Based on OnSight, a tool created by JPL, “Destination: Mars” lets guests experience Mars with holographic versions of Aldrin and Hines as guides. (Credits: NASA/Charles Babir)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — A mixed-reality software that allows scientists and engineers to virtually walk on Mars recently received NASA’s 2018 Software of the Year Award.

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Still No Word From NASA’s Opportunity Rover on Mars

Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. Toward the right side of this scene is a broad notch in the crest of the western rim of crater. (Credits: NASA/JPL (Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

NASA Mission Update
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. PDT on Oct. 11, 2018

One month since increasing their commanding frequency, engineers have yet to hear from NASA’s Opportunity rover.

NASA hasn’t set any deadlines for the mission but will be briefed later this month on the progress and prospects for the recovery campaign being carried out at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

JPL engineers are employing a combination of listening and commanding methods in case Opportunity is still operational. It’s possible that a layer of dust deposited on the rover’s solar panels by the recent global dust storm is blocking sunlight that could recharge its batteries. No one can tell just how much dust has been deposited on its panels.

A windy period on Mars — known to Opportunity’s team as “dust-clearing season” — occurs in the November-to-January time frame and has helped clean the rover’s panels in the past. The team remains hopeful that some dust clearing may result in hearing from the rover in this period.

Opportunity has exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. Both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, were designed to last only 90 days on the Martian surface, with the expectation that the planet’s extreme winters and dust storms could cut their mission short. The rover has lasted nearly 15 years: It last communicated on June 10 before being forced into hibernation by the growing dust storm.

NASA Tests Tiny Satellites to Track Global Storms

RainCube is a mini weather satellite, no bigger than a shoebox, that will measure storms. It’s part of several new NASA experiments to track storms from space with many small satellites, instead of individual, large ones. (Credits: UCAR)
 PASADENA, Caif. (NASA PR) — How many times have you stepped outside into a surprise rainstorm without an umbrella and wished that weather forecasts were more accurate?

A satellite no bigger than a shoebox may one day help. Small enough to fit inside a backpack, the aptly named RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) uses experimental technology to see storms by detecting rain and snow with very small instruments. The people behind the miniature mission celebrated after RainCube sent back its first images of a storm over Mexico in a technology demonstration in August. Its second wave of images in September caught the first rainfall of Hurricane Florence.

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Still Silent Opportunity Rover Emerges From Martian Dust Storm

NASA’s Opportunity rover appears as a blip in the center of this square. This image taken by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows the dust storm over Perseverance Valley has substantially cleared. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA still hasn’t heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least we can see it again.

A new image produced by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a small object on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley. That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.

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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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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.

And the Emmy goes to: Cassini’s Grand Finale

Members of the JPL Media Relations and Public Engagement offices, and leaders of the Cassini Mission received an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program at the Television Academy’s 2018 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Los Angeles.L to R: Alice Wessen, Jia-Rui Cook, Preston Dyches, Phil Davis, Linda Spilker (holding the Emmy), Gay Hill, Veronica McGregor, Stephanie L. Smith, Bill Dunford, Earl Maize, Julie Webster, Jess Doherty. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

LOS ANGELES (NASA PR) — JPL has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Interactive Program for its coverage of the Cassini mission’s Grand Finale at Saturn. The award was presented Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

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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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The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

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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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NASA’s InSight Passes Halfway to Mars, Instruments Check In

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ahead of its May 5 launch date. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight spacecraft, en route to a Nov. 26 landing on Mars, passed the halfway mark on Aug. 6. All of its instruments have been tested and are working well.

As of Aug. 20, the spacecraft had covered 172 million miles (277 million kilometers) since its launch 107 days ago. In another 98 days, it will travel another 129 million miles (208 million kilometers) and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the Red Planet’s deep interior. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

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Astrobotic Selected for NASA Award to Develop Sensor for Precise Planetary Landings

Credit: Astrobotic

Astrobotic’s precision landing sensor will unlock compelling new destinations on the Moon for science, exploration, and commerce.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Astrobotic PR) – NASA’s Space Technology and Mission Directorate (STMD) announced today the selection of Astrobotic for a “Tipping Point” award to develop a novel terrain relative navigation (TRN) sensor for precise lunar landings.

This sensor will enable spacecraft to land with unprecedented precision at the most challenging and promising scientific and economically compelling destinations on the lunar surface, such as lunar skylights and the ice-rich poles of the Moon.

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Maxar’s SSL Expands Scope of Work for NASA Asteroid Exploration Mission Psyche

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)

SSL selected to provide critical flight system component for Psyche Mission, which will reveal the mysteries of the only all-metal body known in our solar system

HERNDON, Va. – August 9, 2018 (SSL PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that it was selected by Zin Technologies to build and test the Psyche Compute Element.

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Space Station Experiment Reaches Ultracold Milestone

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) consists of two standardized containers that will be installed on the International Space Station. The larger container is called a “quad locker,” and the smaller container is called a “single locker.” The quad locker contains CAL’s physics package, or the compartment where CAL will produce clouds of ultra-cold atoms. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tyler Winn)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is officially home to the coolest experiment in space.

NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was installed in the station’s U.S. science lab in late May and is now producing clouds of ultracold atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates. These “BECs” reach temperatures just above absolute zero, the point at which atoms should theoretically stop moving entirely. This is the first time BECs have ever been produced in orbit.

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NASA Statement on Possible Subsurface Lake near Martian South Pole

Detecting buried water with radar. (Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new paper published in Science this week suggests that liquid water may be sitting under a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole.

The finding is based on data from the European Mars Express spacecraft, obtained by a radar instrument called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding). The Italian Space Agency (ASI) led the development of the MARSIS radar. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the U.S. portion led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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