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Topic: Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover undergoes diagnostic tests on Drill Arm

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is studying its surroundings and monitoring the environment, rather than driving or using its arm for science, while the rover team diagnoses an issue with a motor that moves the rover’s drill.

Curiosity is at a site on lower Mount Sharp selected for what would be the mission’s seventh sample-collection drilling of 2016. The rover team learned December 1st that Curiosity did not complete the commands for drilling. The rover detected a fault in an early step in which the “drill feed” mechanism did not extend the drill to touch the rock target with the bit.

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called "Precipice" on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called “Precipice” on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes first look at Saturn’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, including the planet’s intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

Cassini began its new mission phase, called its Ring-Grazing Orbits, on November 30th. Each of these weeklong orbits — 20 in all — carries the spacecraft high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere before sending it skimming past the outer edges of the planet’s main rings.

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings during its penultimate mission phase. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn’s main rings during its penultimate mission phase. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft completes first dive into outer edges of Saturn’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn’s rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on November 30th.

Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn’s rings on December 4th at 5:09am PST (8:09am EST) at a distance of approximately 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. This is the approximate location of a faint, dusty ring produced by the planet’s small moons Janus and Epimetheus, and just 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers) from the center of Saturn’s F ring.

This graphic shows the closest approaches of Cassini's final two orbital phases. Ring-grazing orbits are shown in gray (at left); Grand Finale orbits are shown in blue. The orange line shows the spacecraft's Sept. 2017 final plunge into Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic shows the closest approaches of Cassini’s final two orbital phases. Ring-grazing orbits are shown in gray (at left); Grand Finale orbits are shown in blue. The orange line shows the spacecraft’s Sept. 2017 final plunge into Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Researchers develop Artificial Intelligence for Submersibles

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If you think operating a robot in space is hard, try doing it in the ocean.

Saltwater can corrode your robot and block its radio signals.

Kelp forests can tangle it up, and you might not get it back.

Sharks will even try to take bites out of its wings.

The ocean is basically a big obstacle course of robot death. Despite this, robotic submersibles have become critical tools for ocean research. While satellites can study the ocean surface, their signals can’t penetrate the water. A better way to study what’s below is to look beneath yourself — or send a robot in your place.

JPL's Steve Chien with several of the underwater drones used in a research project earlier this year. Chien, along with his research collaborators, are developing artificial intelligence for these drones. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

JPL’s Steve Chien with several of the underwater drones used in a research project earlier this year. Chien, along with his research collaborators, are developing artificial intelligence for these drones. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Techs work to make Bulk Metallic Glass Gears for Robots

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist.

For robots, it’s all in the gears.

Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you’ll need won’t come from a hardware store.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear.

Bulk metallic glass, a metal alloy, doesn't get brittle in extreme cold. That makes the material perfect for robotics operated in space or on icy planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Bulk metallic glass, a metal alloy, doesn’t get brittle in extreme cold. That makes the material perfect for robotics operated in space or on icy planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to begin first phase of it’s end mission

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Engineers have been pumping up the spacecraft’s orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings. And on November 30th, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons. During its journey, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean within Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Titan.

This is an artists concept of the Cassini Spacecraft orbiting Saturn Orbit. (NASA/JPL)

This is an artists concept of the Cassini Spacecraft orbiting Saturn Orbit. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals Ice Deposit on Mars has more water than Lake Superior

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars lies about as much water as what’s in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes, researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined.

Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region, in the mid-northern latitudes, with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument.

Analyses of data from more than 600 overhead passes with the onboard radar instrument reveal a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico.

This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in a part of Mars where such textures prompted researchers to check for buried ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in a part of Mars where such textures prompted researchers to check for buried ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Swift Space Telescopes use Microlensing to discover Brown Dwarf

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA’s Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are thought to be the missing link between planets and stars, with masses up to 80 times that of Jupiter. But their centers are not hot or dense enough to generate energy through nuclear fusion the way stars do.

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system's most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system’s most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA designs Compact Antenna for CubeSat Missions

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Black magic.

That’s what radiofrequency engineers call the mysterious forces guiding communications over the air. These forces involve complex physics and are difficult enough to master on Earth. They only get more baffling when you’re beaming signals into space.

Until now, the shape of choice for casting this “magic” has been the parabolic dish. The bigger the antenna dish, the better it is at “catching” or transmitting signals from far away.

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL's engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA’s Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas — sources of extremely energetic particles — shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

NASA's Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

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