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NASA uses backup Thrusters to orient Voyager 1 Spacecraft

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – 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.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth.

The Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980. They are located on the back side of the spacecraft in this orientation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980. They are located on the back side of the spacecraft in this orientation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA research shows Gravitational Pull of Moons could preserve Liquid Water Oceans on Frigid Worlds

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research.

This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24th.

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes observe Exoplanet with Hot Stratosphere devoid of Water

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A NASA-led team has found evidence that the oversized exoplanet WASP-18b is wrapped in a smothering stratosphere loaded with carbon monoxide and devoid of water. The findings come from a new analysis of observations made by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

The formation of a stratosphere layer in a planet’s atmosphere is attributed to “sunscreen”-like molecules, which absorb ultraviolet (UV) and visible radiation coming from the star and then release that energy as heat.

A NASA-led team of scientists determined that WASP-18b, a "hot Jupiter" located 325 light-years from Earth, has a stratosphere that's loaded with carbon monoxide, but has no signs of water. (NASA)

A NASA-led team of scientists determined that WASP-18b, a “hot Jupiter” located 325 light-years from Earth, has a stratosphere that’s loaded with carbon monoxide, but has no signs of water. (NASA)

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NASA designs new Rover for 2020 Mission to Mars

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In just a few years, NASA’s next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet.

At a glance, it looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity Mars rover. But there’s no doubt it’s a souped-up science machine: It has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples.

Then, they’ll be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission.

This artist's rendition depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Satellites observe Plant Life on Earth’s Land and Oceans

 

Written by Lacey Young
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean.

During the week of November 13th-17th, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.

New NASA missions will study terrestrial vegetation, such as these trees along the Kuskokwim River near McGrath, Alaska. (NASA/Peter Griffith)

New NASA missions will study terrestrial vegetation, such as these trees along the Kuskokwim River near McGrath, Alaska. (NASA/Peter Griffith)

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NASA’s TSIS-1 instrument to monitor Earth’s Ozone Layer

 

Written by Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – High in the atmosphere, above weather systems, is a layer of ozone gas. Ozone is Earth’s natural sunscreen, absorbing the Sun’s most harmful ultraviolet radiation and protecting living things below. But ozone is vulnerable to certain gases made by humans that reach the upper atmosphere. Once there, they react in the presence of sunlight to destroy ozone molecules.

Currently, several NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites track the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere and the solar energy that drives the photochemistry that creates and destroys ozone.

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

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NASA to Test Antibiotics effectiveness on E. coli in Space

 

Written by Frank Tavares
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.

EcAMSat contains this experimental module, inside which the E. coli are stored. Nutrients, the antibiotic, a special dye and waste are stored in bags connected through a series of tubes to the microfluidics card – a device storing small pools of liquid containing the bacteria. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart)

EcAMSat contains this experimental module, inside which the E. coli are stored. Nutrients, the antibiotic, a special dye and waste are stored in bags connected through a series of tubes to the microfluidics card – a device storing small pools of liquid containing the bacteria. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart)

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NASA tests Exo Brake Parachute Device for returning Small Spacecraft to Earth

 

Written by Kimberly Minafra
NASA’ Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – NASA launched the Technology Educational Satellite, or TechEdSat-6, to the International Space Station on Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on November 12th. This bread loaf-sized satellite is part of a continuing series to demonstrate the “Exo-Brake” parachute device, advanced communications and wireless sensor networks. 

TechEdSat-6 was released into low-Earth orbit from the NanoRacks platform on November 20th, to begin a series of wireless sensor experiments which will be the first self-powered tests, expanding the capabilities of sensor networks for future ascent or re-entry systems.

TechEdSat satellite with the Exo-Brake system demonstrates guided controlled re-entry of small spacecraft to Earth from space. (NASA)

TechEdSat satellite with the Exo-Brake system demonstrates guided controlled re-entry of small spacecraft to Earth from space. (NASA)

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A Last Look at Saturn from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic. 

Cassini’s wide-angle camera acquired 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other, on September 13th, 2017. Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a natural color view. The scene also includes the moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA's Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft's dramatic plunge into the planet's atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft’s dramatic plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility observes fast moving Comet 45P

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai’i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial details about ices in Jupiter-family comets and reveal that quirky 45P doesn’t quite match any comet studied so far.

Like a doctor recording vital signs, the team measured the levels of nine gases released from the icy nucleus into the comet’s thin atmosphere, or coma. Several of these gases supply building blocks for amino acids, sugars and other biologically relevant molecules.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

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