Tag: NASA

Latest Images of Pluto from New Horizons

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Pluto (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

Pluto (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

These are the most recent high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, including one showing the four mysterious dark spots on Pluto that have captured the imagination of the world. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1 and 3 of 2015, prior to the July 4 anomaly that sent New Horizons into safe mode.

The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen in close-up by New Horizons on July 14. The three images together show the full extent of a continuous swath of dark terrain that wraps around much of Pluto’s equatorial region. The western end of the swath (right image) breaks up into a series of striking dark regularly-spaced spots, each hundreds of miles in size, which were first detected in New Horizons images taken in late June. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge in the bright material north of the dark region, in particular a series of bright and dark patches that are conspicuous just below the center of the disk in the right image. In all three black-and-white views, the apparent jagged bottom edge of Pluto is the result of image processing. The inset shows Pluto’s orientation, illustrating its north pole, equator, and central meridian running from pole to pole.

Pluto (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

Pluto (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

The color version of the July 3 LORRI image was created by adding color data from the Ralph instrument gathered earlier in the mission.

NASA Funds 7 NIAC Phase II Proposals

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niac_2015_montage
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected seven technology proposals for continued study under Phase II of the agency’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The selections are based on the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities or significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

The selected proposals address a range of visionary concepts, including metallic lithium combustion for long-term robotics operations, submarines that explore the oceans of icy moons of the outer planets, and a swarm of tiny satellites that map gravity fields and characterize the properties of small moons and asteroids.

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New Horizons Set to Return to Normal Operations on Tuesday

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In NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the New Horizons probe is moved toward a work stand for a checkout on Sept. 25, 2005. The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is topped by a high-gain dish antenna to transmit data across three billion miles back to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

In NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the New Horizons probe is moved toward a work stand for a checkout on Sept. 25, 2005. The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is topped by a high-gain dish antenna to transmit data across three billion miles back to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

LAUREL, MD (NASA PR) — NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.

The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.

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NASA’s SALSSA Program Focuses on Assembling Large Structures in Space

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SALSSA

Did you know that NASA has a program focused on developing technologies that will allow for the automated assembly, servicing, refurbishment, reconfiguration and re-purposing of large modular structures in space?

I didn’t either. But, that exactly what NASA’s Space Assembly of Large Structural System Architectures (SALSSA) program is attempting to do.

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New Horizons Presented Unprecedented Challenges

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In NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the New Horizons probe is moved toward a work stand for a checkout on Sept. 25, 2005. The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is topped by a high-gain dish antenna to transmit data across three billion miles back to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

In NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the New Horizons probe is moved toward a work stand for a checkout on Sept. 25, 2005. The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is topped by a high-gain dish antenna to transmit data across three billion miles back to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA’s New Horizons mission presented challenges like no other, but its goal also was unprecedented. The spacecraft will soon begin a study of the farthest reaches of the solar system. It was an historic journey of over 3.6 billion miles that began at the agency’s Florida spaceport.

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NASA to Test Space Tech in Wallops Launch on Tuesday

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The NASA sounding rocket payload carrying two space technology development projects goes through GPS checks at the Wallops Flight Facility by technicians Tom Malaby (left) and Darren Ryan. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

The NASA sounding rocket payload carrying two space technology development projects goes through GPS checks at the Wallops Flight Facility by technicians Tom Malaby (left) and Darren Ryan. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Virg. (NASA PR) — NASA will test two space technology development projects during the flight of a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket at 5:45 a.m. EDT, July 7, from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch window for the 54-foot tall rocket runs until 8 a.m. The backup launch days are July 8 – 10.

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New Horizons Enters Safe Mode

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New Horizons spacecraft (Credit: JHUAPL/SwRI)

New Horizons spacecraft (Credit: JHUAPL/SwRI)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly the afternoon of July 4 that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.

The mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft — now 10 days from arrival at Pluto — at 1:54 p.m. EDT, and regained communications with New Horizons at 3:15 p.m. EDT, through NASA’s Deep Space Network.

During that time the autonomous autopilot on board the spacecraft recognized a problem and – as it’s programmed to do in such a situation – switched from the main to the backup computer. The autopilot placed the spacecraft in “safe mode,” and commanded the backup computer to reinitiate communication with Earth. New Horizons then began to transmit telemetry to help engineers diagnose the problem.

A New Horizons Anomaly Review Board (ARB) was convened at 4 p.m. EDT to gather information on the problem and initiate a recovery plan. The team is now working to return New Horizons to its original flight plan. Due to the 9-hour, round trip communication delay that results from operating a spacecraft almost 3 billion miles (4.9 million kilometers) from Earth, full recovery is expected to take from one to several days; New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during that time.

Status updates will be issued as new information is available.

Last Updated: July 4, 2015

Are You Ready for Pluto?!

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Video Caption: Ready to explore Pluto? NASA’s New Horizons – the fastest spacecraft ever created – will speed past Pluto on July 14, 2015, beaming back high resolution photos (and invaluable data) of the dwarf planet’s surface for the first time in human history.

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Pluto: The Other Red Planet

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What color is Pluto? The answer, revealed in the first maps made from New Horizons data, turns out to be shades of reddish brown. Although this is reminiscent of Mars, the cause is almost certainly very different. On Mars the coloring agent is iron oxide, commonly known as rust. On the dwarf planet Pluto, the reddish color is likely caused by hydrocarbon molecules that are formed when cosmic rays and solar ultraviolet light interact with methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and on its surface.

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New Horizons Reveals Two Distinct Faces of Pluto

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Two hemispheres of Pluto. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Two hemispheres of Pluto. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

BALTIMORE, Md. (NASA PR) — New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles in diameter, with a surface area that’s roughly the size of the state of Missouri.

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