NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL – The largest rocket stage in the world is coming together piece by piece at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, LA. Large elements for NASA’s Space Launch System are in production and will be joined together to create the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage, the backbone of the SLS rocket.
Why is NASA building the world’s most powerful rocket? Because SLS is ready to support both near-term missions in the proving ground around the moon starting in 2018, while at the same time being capable of carrying the very large hardware like landers, habitats and other supplies and equipment needed to explore Mars and other deep space destinations in the 2030s and beyond.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes a daring two-part endgame.
Beginning on November 30th, Cassini’s orbit will send the spacecraft just past the outer edge of the main rings. These orbits, a series of 20, are called the F-ring orbits. During these weekly orbits, Cassini will approach to within 4,850 miles (7,800 kilometers) of the center of the narrow F ring, with its peculiar kinked and braided structure.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Lakes and snowmelt-fed streams on Mars formed much later than previously thought possible, according to new findings using data primarily from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The recently discovered lakes and streams appeared roughly a billion years after a well-documented, earlier era of wet conditions on ancient Mars. These results provide insight into the climate history of the Red Planet and suggest the surface conditions at this later time may also have been suitable for microbial life.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data gives new insights into Black Holes devouring Stars
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Supermassive black holes, with their immense gravitational pull, are notoriously good at clearing out their immediate surroundings by eating nearby objects. When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed — or “spaghettified” — as the black hole swallows it.
A black hole destroying a star, an event astronomers call “stellar tidal disruption,” releases an enormous amount of energy, brightening the surroundings in an event called a flare. In recent years, a few dozen such flares have been discovered, but they are not well understood.
Washington, D.C. – In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they’d never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn’t wait to get the story behind it.
Over the past year, after analyzing the images and other data that New Horizons has sent back from its historic July 2015 flight through the Pluto system, the scientists think they’ve solved the mystery.
Written by Molly Porter
Huntsville, AL – Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.
While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – A NASA airborne mission designed to transform our understanding of Earth’s valuable and ecologically sensitive coral reefs has set up shop in Australia for a two-month investigation of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef ecosystem.
At a media briefing today at Cairns Airport in North Queensland, Australia, scientists from NASA’s COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) mission and their Australian collaborators discussed the mission’s objectives and the new insights they expect to glean into the present condition of the Great Barrier Reef and the function of reef systems worldwide.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – The majestic auroras have captivated humans for thousands of years, but their nature – the fact that the lights are electromagnetic and respond to solar activity – was only realized in the last 150 years.
Thanks to coordinated multi-satellite observations and a worldwide network of magnetic sensors and cameras, close study of auroras has become possible over recent decades. Yet, auroras continue to mystify, dancing far above the ground to some, thus far, undetected rhythm.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the “Murray Buttes” region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.
Curiosity took the images with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on September 8th. The rover team plans to assemble several large, color mosaics from the multitude of images taken at this location in the near future.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.
“Ee celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”
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