NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Nearing the End as Fuel Runs Low

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.


On Second Thought, the Moon’s Water May Be Widespread and Immobile

If the Moon has enough water, and if it’s reasonably convenient to access, future explorers might be able to use it as a resource. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A new analysis of data from two lunar missions finds evidence that the Moon’s water is widely distributed across the surface and is not confined to a particular region or type of terrain. The water appears to be present day and night, though it’s not necessarily easily accessible.


Long-Lived Mars Rover Opportunity Keeps Finding Surprises

Textured rows on the ground in this portion of “Perseverance Valley” are under investigation by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which used its Navigation Camera to take the component images of this downhill-looking scene. The rover reaches its 5,000th Martian day, or sol, on Feb. 16, 2018. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity keeps providing surprises about the Red Planet, most recently with observations of possible “rock stripes.”

The ground texture seen in recent images from the rover resembles a smudged version of very distinctive stone stripes on some mountain slopes on Earth that result from repeated cycles of freezing and thawing of wet soil. But it might also be due to wind, downhill transport, other processes or a combination.


Opportunity Hits 5,000 Days on Mars

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded the dawn of the rover’s 4,999th Martian day, or sol, with its Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on Feb. 15, 2018, yielding this processed, approximately true-color scene. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ./Texas A&M)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Sun rose on NASA’s solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.


NASA Tests Atomic Clock for Deep Space Navigation

A glimpse of the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the middle bay of the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In deep space, accurate timekeeping is vital to navigation, but not all spacecraft have precise timepieces aboard. For 20 years, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has been perfecting a clock. It’s not a wristwatch; not something available in a store. It’s the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), an instrument being built for deep space exploration.


2017: A Year of Progress and Poised for the Future

ISARA’s three antenna panels feature a printed circuit board pattern that narrowly focuses the CubeSat’s radio transmission beam in much the same way a parabolic dish reflector does. (Credit: Nanoracks)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Throughout 2017, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) made noteworthy progress in maturing and demonstrating technologies to bolster America’s space agenda, while setting the stage for vital advancements within the next several years.

From expanding the utilization of space in low-Earth orbit and enabling new scientific discoveries, to advancing capabitilties for robotic and human exploration of deep space destinations – STMD is executing a broad cross-cutting agenda, one that is pioneering groundbreaking technologies and knowhow.


Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1 (Credit: NASA)

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.


NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission Performs First Supersonic Parachute Test

A 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 4. This was the first test of the Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE. (Credit: NASA/Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.


Cygnus Carries NanoRacks Payloads to Space Station

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., November 12, 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Early this morning, the Orbital ATK CRS-8 (OA-8) launch carried another historic NanoRacks mission to the International Space Station (ISS). With a completely full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), a virtual reality camera, and educational research, this mission marks over 600 NanoRacks payloads delivered to the ISS since 2009.

This mission is enabling a unique virtual reality opportunity with National Geographic’s VUZE camera. Integrated and launched via NanoRacks, VUZE will allow for the recording of the new National Geographic series “One Strange Rock,” in which the astronaut crew will record a series of virtual reality pieces for incorporation into a larger documentary about natural history and the solar system. This is National Geographic’s first time launching with NanoRacks.


Next Mars Rover Will Have 23 ‘Eyes’

A selection of the 23 cameras on NASA’s 2020 Mars rover. Many are improved versions of the cameras on the Curiosity rover, with a few new additions as well. UPDATED AT 4:15 p.m. PDT to correct the number of EDL cameras shown in the image. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When NASA’s Mars Pathfinder touched down in 1997, it had five cameras: two on a mast that popped up from the lander, and three on NASA’s first rover, Sojourner.

Since then, camera technology has taken a quantum leap. Photo sensors that were improved by the space program have become commercially ubiquitous. Cameras have shrunk in size, increased in quality and are now carried in every cellphone and laptop.


ISS U.S. National Lab Payloads Prepped for Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 2, 2017 (CASIS) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle is slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft will carry ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth. In addition to the diverse research launching to the ISS National Lab, multiple payloads focused on enabling future research missions will be part of the CRS-8 manifest. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.


Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015. The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.


“Lighten Up” – Deep Space Communications via Faraway Photons

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)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons — the fundamental particle of visible light — to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.


Send Your Name to Mars

Mars boarding pass (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA (NASA PR) — When it lands on Mars in November of 2018, NASA’s InSight lander will be carrying several science instruments — along with hundreds of thousands of names from members of the public.


JPL Researchers Validate Technology Performance on Zero-G Parabolic Flights

Research team members evaluate the performance of the Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics on a March 2017 parabolic flight. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A series of parabolic flights from Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) in March 2017 enabled researchers to test and validate the performance of two technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):

  • Comet Sample Verification System (T0164-P): A tool that enables researchers to verify the quantity and volume of a sample from a comet surface before bringing it back to Earth for analysis
  • Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics (T0161-P): A sleeve-based gesture-recognition interface that provides intuitive force and position control signals from natural arm, hand, and finger movements, with the potential to be embedded in clothing worn by astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) and other missions