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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander will study the Deep Interior of Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?

An artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s THEMIS Mission helps reveal mystery of Pulsating Aurora

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Sometimes on a dark night near the poles, the sky pulses a diffuse glow of green, purple and red. Unlike the long, shimmering veils of typical auroral displays, these pulsating auroras are much dimmer and less common.

While scientists have long known auroras to be associated with solar activity, the precise mechanism of pulsating auroras was unknown. Now, new research, using data from NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms — or THEMIS — mission and Japan’s Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace — shortened to ERG, or also known as Arase — satellite, has finally captured the missing link thought responsible for these auroras.

Illustration of the ERG satellite in orbit. (ISAS/JAXA)

Illustration of the ERG satellite in orbit. (ISAS/JAXA)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study Mars’ transition from Wet to Dry

 

Written by Christine Pulliam
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD –  The planet Mars has fascinated scientists for over a century. Today, it is a frigid desert world with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 100 times thinner than Earth’s. But evidence suggests that in the early history of our solar system, Mars had an ocean’s worth of water.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will study Mars to learn more about the planet’s transition from wet to dry, and what that means about its past and present habitability.

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

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NASA Leads Efforts in Planetary Defense Five Years after the Chelyabinsk Meteor

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A blinding flash, a loud sonic boom, and shattered glass everywhere. This is what the people of Chelyabinsk, Russia, experienced five years ago when an asteroid exploded over their city the morning of February 15th, 2013.

The house-sized asteroid entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk at over eleven miles per second and blew apart 14 miles above the ground. The explosion released the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT and generated a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles and damaged some buildings. Over 1,600 people were injured in the blast, mostly due to broken glass.

This image of a vapor trail was captured about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Chelyabinsk meteor event, about one minute after the house-sized asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. (Alex Alishevskikh)

This image of a vapor trail was captured about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Chelyabinsk meteor event, about one minute after the house-sized asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. (Alex Alishevskikh)

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NASA ends Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer instrument’s mission

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On January 31st, NASA ended the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer’s (TES) almost 14-year career of discovery. Launched in 2004 on NASA’s Aura spacecraft, TES was the first instrument designed to monitor ozone in the lowest layers of the atmosphere directly from space. Its high-resolution observations led to new measurements of atmospheric gases that have altered our understanding of the Earth system.

TES was planned for a five-year mission but far outlasted that term.

TES collected spectral "signatures," illustrated here, of ozone and other gases in the lower atmosphere. (NASA)

TES collected spectral “signatures,” illustrated here, of ozone and other gases in the lower atmosphere. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter puts itself into Standby Mode

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), at Mars since 2006, put itself into a precautionary standby mode on February 15th in response to sensing an unexpectedly low battery voltage.

The orbiter is solar-powered but relies on a pair of nickel-hydrogen batteries during periods when it is in the shadow of Mars for a portion of each orbit. The two are used together, maintaining almost identical charge during normal operations.

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues to make discoveries on Mars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity keeps providing surprises about the Red Planet, most recently with observations of possible “rock stripes.”

The ground texture seen in recent images from the rover resembles a smudged version of very distinctive stone stripes on some mountain slopes on Earth that result from repeated cycles of freezing and thawing of wet soil. But it might also be due to wind, downhill transport, other processes or a combination.

Textured rows on the ground in this portion of "Perseverance Valley" are under investigation by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which used its Navigation Camera to take the component images of this downhill-looking scene. The rover reaches its 5,000th Martian day, or sol, on Feb. 16, 2018. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Textured rows on the ground in this portion of “Perseverance Valley” are under investigation by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which used its Navigation Camera to take the component images of this downhill-looking scene. The rover reaches its 5,000th Martian day, or sol, on Feb. 16, 2018. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover mission to take Meteorite back to Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A chunk of Mars will soon be returning home.

A piece of a meteorite called Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SaU008) will be carried on board NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission, now being built at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This chunk will serve as target practice for a high-precision laser on the rover’s arm.

Mars 2020’s goal is ambitious: collect samples from the Red Planet’s surface that a future mission could potentially return to Earth. One of the rover’s many tools will be a laser designed to illuminate rock features as fine as a human hair.

Rohit Bhartia of NASA's Mars 2020 mission holds a slice of a meteorite scientists have determined came from Mars. One of two slices will be used for testing a laser instrument for NASA's Mars 2020 rover while it's still on Earth; the other slice will go to Mars onboard the rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Rohit Bhartia of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission holds a slice of a meteorite scientists have determined came from Mars. One of two slices will be used for testing a laser instrument for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover while it’s still on Earth; the other slice will go to Mars onboard the rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes farthest image ever made from Earth

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image – and made history.

The routine calibration frame of the “Wishing Well” galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5th, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth – making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They’re also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA looks to develop 3-D Printable Tools to examine Biological Samples in Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If humans are destined for deep space, they need to understand the space environment changes health, including aging and antibiotic resistance.

A new NASA project could help. It aims to develop technology used to study “omics” — fields of microbiology that are important to human health. Omics includes research into genomes, microbiomes and proteomes.

The Omics in Space project is being led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The project was recently funded by NASA’s Translational Research Institute for Space Health four years of study.

In this 2016 photo, Matthias Maurer of ESA inserts samples into the MinION DNA sequencer while at NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), an underwater research facility. The MinION device will also be used as part of the Omics in Space project, which will develop new tools for studying microbiology in space. (NASA)

In this 2016 photo, Matthias Maurer of ESA inserts samples into the MinION DNA sequencer while at NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), an underwater research facility. The MinION device will also be used as part of the Omics in Space project, which will develop new tools for studying microbiology in space. (NASA)

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