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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NovaWurks’ HISats Set to Fly on DARPA Phoenix eXCITe Spacecraft

novawurks_logoSecond Mission for HISats Is Designed to Explore Experimentation of Cellular Integration Technology

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., NovaWurks — NovaWurks™ Inc., a provider of high-technology space products and services, announced today that the company’s flagship technology, the Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™), is scheduled for launch into space through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Phoenix program. As part of Phoenix’s goal to develop new satellite architectures, DARPA plans to launch its eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology (eXCITe) spacecraft to validate the concept of an aggregated satlet system cluster in low Earth orbit (LEO).

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Russians Say N(ot)yet to Reusable Rockets

Roscosmos_logoIt looks as if Roscosmos will not be following Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos down the road of reusable rockets. Instead, the newly privatized company will spend the next decade developing a new medium-lift launch vehicle that will serve as the foundation of a super-heavy booster.

That’s the word on the latest draft of Russia’s incredibly shrinking space budget. With its revenues battered by low oil prices, the government has cut back planned spending for 2016-2025 from 2 trillion rubles ($24.4 billion) to 1.4 trillion rubles ($17.1 billion). The government might allocate an additional 115 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) after 2021, TASS reports.

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NovaWurks Awarded Contract for DARPA Phoenix Project

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)
Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA has awarded a contract worth up to $42.6 million to NovaWurks of Los Alamitos, Calif., for work on the Phoenix project, an ambitious effort to recycle parts from dead satellites now in orbit.

The company’s Phoenix Phase 2 contract has a base value of $30.7 million and four options that if exercised would raise the total to $42.6 million, according to the contract award document. Last year, Novawurks received a $2.8 million Phase 1 contract.

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DARPA Selects Aurora Flight Sciences for ZombieSat Program

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Cambridge, MA (Aurora PR) – Aurora Flight Sciences was recently selected by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for the Phoenix program to explore development of a new satellite morphology through creation of “satlets” capable of harvesting key components from retired spacecraft in earth orbit.

The goal of the DARPA Phoenix program is to develop technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in geostationary orbit and to demonstrate the ability to create new spacecraft systems at greatly reduced cost.

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ATK Awarded DARPA Phoenix Contract

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

ARLINGTON, Va. (ATK PR)– ATK announces it has been selected as a key participant to support the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technologies Office (TTO) Phoenix Technologies Program. The Phoenix Program is developing technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The planned repurposing of these satellite components such as antennas represents the potential to create new space resources at significantly less cost.

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Altius Space Machines Wins DARPA ZombieSat Contract

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Louisville, CO, July 30th, 2012 (Altius PR) — Altius Space Machines of Louisville, CO is delighted to announce that we have signed a contract with DARPA to provide engineering services as part of the DARPA Phoenix Program. Associated with Altius Space Machines in this contract is ROCCOR LLC. of Louisville, CO., Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation of Pasadena, CA, and The University of Colorado at Boulder, CO.

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DARPA Makes First Award in Phoenix “ZombieSat” Program

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Los Alamitos CA (NovaWurks PR) — The DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) has announced that NovaWurks, Inc. has been awarded a portion of the Phoenix Technologies contract to develop and demonstrate technologies to copperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, non-operating satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The project will also demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced costs.

The $2.8M contract is the first of many such projects that NovaWurks will receive in this the companies first year of operation.

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Phoenix Mission Team Wins National Space Club Award

NASA PRESS RELEASE
23 October 2008

PASADENA, Calif. — The National Space Club presented NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission team with its Astronautics Engineer Award last night in Huntsville, Ala. Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., accepted the award on behalf of the team at the Space Club’s 20th Annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner.

The nonprofit National Space Club established the Astronautics Engineer Award in 1991. It is given to scientists and engineers in the United States who have led and made significant contributions in rocketry and astronautics. Past recipients include NASA’s Return to Flight Team and Alan Stern, former associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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As Shadows Grow Long, Phoenix Lander Continues Mars Dig

This false-color image shows color variations of the trench, informally named “La Mancha,” and reveals the ice layer beneath the soil surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

NASA MISSION UPDATE

As fall approaches Mars’ northern plains, NASA’s Phoenix Lander is busy digging into the Red Planet’s soil and scooping it into its on-board science laboratories for analysis.

Over the past two weeks, Phoenix’s nearly 2.4-meter-long (8 feet) arm moved a rock, nicknamed “Headless,” about 0.4 meters (16 inches), and snapped an image of the rock with its camera. Then, the robotic arm scraped the soil underneath the rock and delivered a few teaspoonfuls of soil onto the lander’s optical and atomic-force microscopes. These microscopes are part of Phoenix’s Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA).

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Trench on Mars Ready for Next Sampling by NASA Lander

PHOENIX MISSION UPDATE
24 July 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has groomed the bottom of a shallow trench to prepare for collecting a sample to be analyzed from a hard subsurface layer where the soil may contain frozen water.

Images received Thursday morning confirmed that the lander’s robotic arm had scraped the top of the hard layer clean during activities of Phoenix’s 58th Martian day, or sol, corresponding to overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The Phoenix team developed commands for sending to the spacecraft Thursday to complete two remaining preparations necessary before collecting a sample and delivering it to the lander’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA). One part of the plan for Sol 59 (overnight Thursday to Friday) would assure that the scoop is empty of any soil collected earlier. Another would complete a final cleaning of any volatile materials from the oven that will receive the sample.

In the past two weeks, the team has refined techniques for using a powered rasp on the back of the arm’s scoop to cut and collect shavings of material from the bottom of the trench. The trench, informally named “Snow White,” is 4 to 5 centimeters deep (about 2 inches), about 23 centimeters wide (9 inches), and about 60 centimeters long (24 inches) long.

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Phoenix Pulls an All-Nighter

PHOENIX MISSION UPDATE

TUCSON, Ariz. — Phoenix early Tuesday finished its longest work shift of the mission. The lander stayed awake for 33 hours, completing tasks that included rasping and scraping by the robotic arm, in addition to atmosphere observations in coordination with simultaneous observations by NASA’sMars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“Our rasping test yesterday gave us enough confidence that we’re now planning for the next use of the rasp to be for acquiring a sample to be delivered to TEGA,” said Phoenix project manager Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. TEGA is Phoenix’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, an instrument that heats samples in small ovens and uses a mass spectrometer to study the vapors driven off by the heating.

As preparation for that sample delivery in coming days, the Phoenix team developed plans to command the lander Tuesday evening to conduct 80 scrapings of the bottom of a trench informally named “Snow White.” The scraping is designed to freshly expose frozen material and ready the surface for using the rasp.

Picture caption: This animation combines two images of the trench informally named “Snow White” taken by the Surface Stereo Imager. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander Continues Tests with Rasp

PHOENIX MISSION UPDATE
18 July 2008

TUCSON, Ariz. — The team operating NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander plans to tell the lander today to do a second, larger test of using a motorized rasp to produce and gather shavings of frozen ground.

The planned test is a preparation for putting a similar sample into one of Phoenix’s laboratory ovens in coming days. The instrument with the oven, the Thermal and Evolved- Gas Analyzer (TEGA), will be used to check whether the hard layer exposed in a shallow trench is indeed rich in water ice, as scientists expect, and to identify some other ingredients in the frozen soil.

The rasp flings some of the shavings that it produces directly into an opening on the back of the scoop at the end of the lander’s robotic arm. The test planned for today differs in several ways from the first test of the rasp on Mars, on July 15.

“First, we will scrape the terrain before rasping, to expose fresh terrain for sampling,” said Richard Volpe of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., an engineer for the Phoenix robotic arm team. “Second, we will rasp four times in a row, twice the amount previously. Third, the scoop blade will be run across the rasp holes to pick up as much of the tailings as possible.”

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Phoenix Tests Methods to Get Icy Sample

NASA MISSION UPDATE
8 July 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s science and engineering teams are testing methods to get an icy sample into the Robotic Arm scoop for delivery to the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA).

Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, Phoenix’s “dig czar,” said the hard Martian surface that Phoenix has reached proved to be a difficult target, comparing the process to scraping a sidewalk.

“We have three tools on the scoop to help access ice and icy soil,” Arvidson said. “We can scoop material with the backhoe using the front titanium blade; we can scrape the surface with the tungsten carbide secondary blade on the bottom of the scoop; and we can use a high-speed rasp that comes out of a slot at the back of the scoop.”

“We expected ice and icy soil to be very strong because of the cold temperatures. It certainly looks like this is the case and we are getting ready to use the rasp to generate the fine icy soil and ice particles needed for delivery to TEGA,” he said.

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Mars Update: NASA Speeds Up Phoenix Ice Test Due to Short Circuit Concern

NASA MISSION UPDATE

The next sample delivered to NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) will be ice-rich.

A team of engineers and scientists assembled to assess TEGA after a short circuit was discovered in the instrument has concluded that another short circuit could occur when the oven is used again.

“Since there is no way to assess the probability of another short circuit occurring, we are taking the most conservative approach and treating the next sample to TEGA as possibly our last,” said Peter Smith, Phoenix’s principal investigator.

A sample taken from the trench informally named “Snow White” that was in Phoenix’s robotic arm’s scoop earlier this week likely has dried out, so the soil particles are to be delivered to the lander’s optical microscope on Thursday, and if material remains in the scoop, the rest will be deposited in the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, possibly early on Sunday.

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