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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers sediment deposits in Martian Lake Bed

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Observations by NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate Mars’ Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years.

This interpretation of Curiosity’s finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground on Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover on Aug. 7, 2014, shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover on Aug. 7, 2014, shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft arrives at Pluto

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on December 6th for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, confirmed at 9:53pm (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures new image of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn’s best image yet of Ceres as the spacecraft makes its way toward this unexplored world.

“Now, finally, we have a spacecraft on the verge of unveiling this mysterious, alien world. Soon it will reveal myriad secrets Ceres has held since the dawn of the solar system,” said Marc Rayman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission.

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA's Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination -- the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination — the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA working with other space agencies to explore Comets, Asteroids and other Celestial Bodies

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA and space agencies across the globe are opening up new possibilities for space exploration with missions to comets, asteroids, and other celestial bodies.

Following NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) spacecraft observations of the close flyby of Mars by comet Siding Spring in October, and the successful November landing of ESA’s Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its Hayabusa2 mission on December 3rd to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth.

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. (JAXA and Akihiro Ikeshita)

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. (JAXA and Akihiro Ikeshita)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft travels to 3,600 miles above Earth completing First Spaceflight Test

 

Written by Michael Curie
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCape Canaveral, FL – NASA marked a major milestone Friday on its journey to Mars as the Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space, traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.

“Today’s flight test of Orion is a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

Following a perfect launch and more than four hours in Earth's orbit, NASA's Orion spacecraft is seen from an unpiloted aircraft descending under three massive red and white main parachutes and then shortly after its bullseye splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego. During the uncrewed test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt, where it experienced periods of intense radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. The spacecraft hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. (NASA)

Following a perfect launch and more than four hours in Earth’s orbit, NASA’s Orion spacecraft is seen from an unpiloted aircraft descending under three massive red and white main parachutes and then shortly after its bullseye splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego. During the uncrewed test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt, where it experienced periods of intense radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. The spacecraft hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. (NASA)

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NASA reports Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launches Hayabusa2 Asteroid mission

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On December 3rd, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its Hayabusa2 mission to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth.

NASA and JAXA are cooperating on the science of the mission and NASA will receive a portion of the Hayabusa2 sample in exchange for providing Deep Space Network communications and navigation support for the mission.

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. (JAXA and Akihiro Ikeshita)

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. (JAXA and Akihiro Ikeshita)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft launch moved to Friday, December 5th

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Orion’s managers for NASA, Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance said they will push on with planning to launch Orion on its flight test Friday morning at 7:05am EST. The launch window will be 2 hours, 39 minutes, the same time span as Thursday. “Our plan is to fly tomorrow,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager.

Fill-and-drain valves on the Delta IV Heavy will be tested throughout the day so the launch team can prevent a mechanical problem like one that came up Thursday. “We’re very confident we’re going to be able to exonerate the equipment,” said Dan Collins, chief operating officer of United Launch Alliance.

NASA's Orion Spacecraft ready for launch. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft ready for launch. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

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NASA uses Keck Observatory telescopes to determine dust will likely not to block images of star’s Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Planet hunters received some good news recently. A new study concluded that, on average, sun-like stars aren’t all that dusty. Less dust means better odds of snapping clear pictures of the stars’ planets in the future.

These results come from surveying nearly 50 stars from 2008 to 2011 using the Keck Interferometer, a former NASA key science project that combined the power of the twin W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft receives “Go” from Launch Readiness Review

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Managers from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin gave a “go” to proceed toward launch pending completion of open work during the Launch Readiness Review for Orion’s flight test. The weather is forecast to be 60 percent “go” for a scheduled liftoff at 7:05am EST on Thursday, December 4th.

NASA TV will air an Orion Flight Test Status and Overview briefing at 1:00pm today. On December 3rd, a prelaunch status briefing will be held at 11:00am. A NASA overview event with participation from social media followers will air at 1:00pm.

An artist's impression of the first Orion spacecraft in orbit attached to a Delta IV Upper Stage during Exploration Flight Test-1. (NASA)

An artist’s impression of the first Orion spacecraft in orbit attached to a Delta IV Upper Stage during Exploration Flight Test-1. (NASA)

 


NASA reports Melt Rate of West Antarctic Glaciers has Tripled

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A comprehensive, 21-year analysis of the fastest-melting region of Antarctica has found that the melt rate of glaciers there has tripled during the last decade.

The glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica are hemorrhaging ice faster than any other part of Antarctica and are the most significant Antarctic contributors to sea level rise. This study by scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and NASA is the first to evaluate and reconcile observations from four different measurement techniques to produce an authoritative estimate of the amount and the rate of loss over the last two decades.

Glaciers seen during NASA's Operation IceBridge research flight to West Antarctica on Oct. 29, 2014. (NASA/Michael Studinger)

Glaciers seen during NASA’s Operation IceBridge research flight to West Antarctica on Oct. 29, 2014. (NASA/Michael Studinger)

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