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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) second test flight set for Tuesday, June 2nd

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The second flight test of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) now will launch no earlier than 10:30am PDT (1:30pm EDT, or 7:30am HST) Tuesday, June 2nd, from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii. NASA Television coverage will begin at 10:00am PDT (1:00pm EDT, or 7:00am HST).

To accommodate prevailing weather conditions, mission managers moved the launch window one hour earlier to increase the probability of LDSD launching on time.

This artist's concept shows the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA selects Instruments for mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath a frozen crust of unknown thickness. If proven to exist, this global ocean could have more than twice as much water as Earth.

With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for present day life beyond our home planet.

This artist's rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Roundworms to be used to study Microgravity effects on the Human Body

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Humans have long been fascinated by the cosmos. Ancient cave paintings show that we’ve been thinking about space for much of the history of our species.  The popularity of recent sci-fi movies suggest that the human mind just might be coming to grips with the harsh environment “out there.”

The human body is another matter.

When gravity is greatly reduced—as in spaceflight—we no longer use our muscles to resist the usual pull of a planetary mass, and, without additional exercise astronauts lose both bone and muscle.

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NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory starts three year mission

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed has begun science operations.

Launched January 31st on a minimum three-year mission, SMAP will help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in predicting climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP's combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP's commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP’s combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP’s commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA study reveals Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf thinning rapidly

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA study finds the last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and is likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade.

A team led by Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, found the remnant of the Larsen B Ice Shelf is flowing faster, becoming increasingly fragmented and developing large cracks. Two of its tributary glaciers also are flowing faster and thinning rapidly.

Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf is likely to shatter into hundreds of icebergs like this one before the end of the decade, according to a new NASA study. (NSIDC/Ted Scambos)

Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf is likely to shatter into hundreds of icebergs like this one before the end of the decade, according to a new NASA study. (NSIDC/Ted Scambos)

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NASA reports International Space Station uses OPALS instrument to further laser communications research

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever wonder why stars seem to twinkle? This effect is caused by variations in the density of our atmosphere that cause blurring in light coming from space. It’s pretty for stargazing, but a challenge for space-to-ground communications.

A key technology called adaptive optics corrects such distortions. By combining adaptive optics with a laser communications technology aboard the International Space Station, NASA is working toward advances in space communications that could have major benefits for our data transmission needs here on Earth as well.

This artist's rendition shows OPALS operating from the International Space Station. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition shows OPALS operating from the International Space Station. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completes Martian Marathon in 11 years

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On Earth, the fastest runners can finish a marathon in hours. On Mars it takes about 11 years.

On Tuesday, March 24th 2015, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon– 26.219 miles – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This mission isn’t about setting distance records; it’s about making scientific discoveries,” says Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”

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NASA reports Asteroid to pass by Earth at a distance Thursday, May 14th

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 1999 FN53, will safely pass more than 26 times the distance of Earth to the moon on May 14th. To put it another way, at its closest point, the asteroid will get no closer than 6.3 million miles away (10 million kilometers).

It will not get closer than that for well over 100 years. And even then, (119 years from now) it will be so far away it will not affect our planet in any way, shape or form. 1999 FN53 is approximately 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) across.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 1999 FN53, which will come no closer than 26 times the distance from Earth to the moon on May 14, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 1999 FN53, which will come no closer than 26 times the distance from Earth to the moon on May 14, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detects Auroras around Mars

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – One day, when humans go to Mars, they might find that, occasionally, the Red Planet has green skies.

In late December 2014, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars’s northern hemisphere. The “Christmas Lights,” as researchers called them, circled the globe and descended so close to the Martian equator that, if the lights had occurred on Earth, they would have been over places like Florida and Texas.

“It really is amazing,” says Nick Schneider who leads MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument team at the University of Colorado. “Auroras on Mars appear to be more wide ranging than we ever imagined.”

A map of MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

A map of MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

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