Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Beginning this month, NASA is launching a suite of six next-generation, Earth-observing small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new approaches for studying our changing planet.
These small satellites range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine and weigh from a few to 400 pounds (180 kilograms). Their small size keeps development and launch costs down as they often hitch a ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket — providing an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.
NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 Satellite data used to make Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Maps
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have produced the first global maps of human emissions of carbon dioxide ever made solely from satellite observations of the greenhouse gas.
The maps, based on data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite and generated with a new data-processing technique, agree well with inventories of known carbon dioxide emissions.
No satellite before OCO-2 was capable of measuring carbon dioxide in fine enough detail to allow researchers to create maps of human emissions from the satellite data alone. Instead, earlier maps also incorporated estimates from economic data and modeling results.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter has left safe mode and has successfully completed a minor burn of its thruster engines in preparation for its next close flyby of Jupiter.
Mission controllers commanded Juno to exit safe mode Monday, October 24th, with confirmation of safe mode exit received on the ground at 10:05am PDT (1:05pm EDT). The spacecraft entered safe mode on October 18th when a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft’s onboard computer. The team is still investigating the cause of the reboot and assessing two main engine check valves.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – As southern winter solstice approaches in the Saturn system, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been revealing dramatic seasonal changes in the atmospheric temperature and composition of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
Winter is taking a grip on Titan’s southern hemisphere, and a strong, whirling atmospheric circulation pattern — a vortex — has developed in the upper atmosphere over the south pole. Cassini has observed that this vortex is enriched in trace gases — gases that are otherwise quite rare in Titan’s atmosphere. Cassini’s observations show a reversal in the atmosphere above Titan’s poles since the spacecraft arrived at Saturn in 2004, when similar features were seen in the northern hemisphere.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – The next target for NASA’s New Horizons mission — which made a historic flight past Pluto in July 2015 — apparently bears a colorful resemblance to its famous, main destination.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto. This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far-flung object that New Horizons will survey on January 1st, 2019.
Written by Kathryn Hambleton
Washington, D.C. – The crew of the International Space Station soon will be equipped to perform dozens of new scientific investigations with cargo launched Monday aboard NASA’s latest commercial resupply services mission from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft lifted off at 7:45pm EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on the company’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, October 23rd. Expedition 49 astronauts Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus, about 6:00am.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are evaluating an alternate way to collect and process science data from the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument on NASA’s Aura spacecraft following the age-related failure of a critical instrument component.
TES is an infrared sensor designed to study Earth’s troposphere, the lowermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere, which is where we live. Launched in July 2004 and designed to fly for two years, the TES mission is currently in an extended operations phase.
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.
The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.
The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.
“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”
Written by Nancy Smith Kilkenny, ATS
Cleveland, OH – When human explorers embark on the journey to Mars, they need to know the natural conditions of the red planet before they arrive. That’s why NASA sends rovers to the surface of Mars to photograph the landscape and operate scientific experiments to understand the habitat for humans or other kinds of life.
One of those future rover missions may host the Martian Aqueous Habitat Reconnaissance Suite (MAHRS), a set of five instruments that can take surface measurements in the search for habitable environments.
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