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NASA to launch first pair of CubeSats designed for Deep Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Many of NASA’s most iconic spacecraft towered over the engineers who built them: think Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Cassini or Galileo — all large machines that could measure up to a school bus.

But in the past two decades, mini-satellites called CubeSats have made space accessible to a new generation. These briefcase-sized boxes are more focused in their abilities and have a fraction of the mass — and cost — of some past titans of space.

In May, engineers will be watching closely as NASA launches its first pair of CubeSats designed for deep space. The twin spacecraft are called Mars Cube One, or MarCO, and were built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

An artist's rendering of the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft as they fly through deep space. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats -- a kind of modular, mini-satellite -- attempting to fly to another planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft as they fly through deep space. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats — a kind of modular, mini-satellite — attempting to fly to another planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA answers the question, “What is an ‘Exoplanet?”

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Step outside on a clear night, and you can be sure of something our ancestors could only imagine: Every star you see likely plays host to at least one planet.

The worlds orbiting other stars are called “exoplanets,” and they come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big around as Earth or Mars. They can be hot enough to boil metal or locked in deep freeze. They can orbit their stars so tightly that a “year” lasts only a few days; they can orbit two suns at once. Some exoplanets are sunless rogues, wandering through the galaxy in permanent darkness.

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

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NASA’s ASTERIA CubeSat delivers Big

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The ASTERIA satellite, which was deployed into low-Earth orbit in November, is only slightly larger than a box of cereal, but it could be used to help astrophysicists study planets orbiting other stars.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, recently announced that ASTERIA has accomplished all of its primary mission objectives, demonstrating that the miniaturized technologies on board can operate in space as expected.

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe in Florida being prepared for July 31st Launch

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Sun, scheduled for July 31st, 2018.

In the middle of the night on April 2nd, the spacecraft was driven from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to nearby Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. From there, it was flown by the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing to Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, where it arrived at 9:40am CDT. It was then transported a short distance to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, where it will continue testing, and eventually undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

After unloading, the spacecraft was taken to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, for pre-launch testing and preparations. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

After unloading, the spacecraft was taken to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, for pre-launch testing and preparations. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

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NASA collects Meteorites in Antarctica

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On rare calm days, the most striking thing you notice at an altitude of more than 8,000 feet on an Antarctic glacier is the silence.

“There was just no sound; no air handling equipment, no leaves rustling, no bugs, no planes or cars. So quiet you just heard your heartbeat,” said Barbara Cohen, planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Most of the time, however, there is a steady howl of bitter cold wind flowing down from the East Antarctic ice plateau. With a summer temperature hovering around zero Fahrenheit, “It’s the wind that makes you cold,” Cohen said.

Camp at Mount Raymond in the Transantarctic Mountains. (Barbara Cohen)

Camp at Mount Raymond in the Transantarctic Mountains. (Barbara Cohen)

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NASA’s InSight Spacecraft set to launch May 5th for Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In the early morning hours of May 5th, millions of Californians will have an opportunity to witness a sight they have never seen before – the historic first interplanetary launch from America’s West Coast.

On board the 189-foot-tall (57.3-meter) United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will be NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The May 5th launch window for the InSight mission opens at 4:05am PDT (6:05 CDT, 11:05 UTC) and remains open for two hours.

NASA's InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, ahead of its May 5th launch date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, ahead of its May 5th launch date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory studies Cosmic Cold Front in Perseus Galaxy

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – This winter has brought many intense and powerful storms, with cold fronts sweeping across much of the United States. On a much grander scale, astronomers have discovered enormous “weather systems” that are millions of light years in extent and older than the Solar System.

The researchers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to study a cold front located in the Perseus galaxy cluster that extends for about two million light years, or about 10 billion billion miles.

Galaxy clusters are the largest and most massive objects in the Universe that are held together by gravity. In between the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies in a cluster, there are vast reservoirs of super-heated gas that glow brightly in X-ray light.

A gigantic and resilient “cold front” hurtling through the Perseus galaxy cluster has been studied using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. (NASA/CXC/GSFC/S. Walker, ESA/XMM, ROSAT)

A gigantic and resilient “cold front” hurtling through the Perseus galaxy cluster has been studied using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. (NASA/CXC/GSFC/S. Walker, ESA/XMM, ROSAT)

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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite to look for undiscovered Planets

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16th launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

“One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star’s habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist’s point of view?” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge, which is leading the mission. “We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers.”

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Insight Lander will give scientists look at Mars below the surface, study Marsquakes

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Starting next year, scientists will get their first look deep below the surface of Mars.

That’s when NASA will send the first robotic lander dedicated to exploring the planet’s subsurface. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, will study marsquakes to learn about the Martian crust, mantle and core.

Doing so could help answer a big question: how are planets born?

Artist's rendition showing the inner structure of Mars. The topmost layer is known as the crust, underneath it is the mantle, which rests on an inner core. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendition showing the inner structure of Mars. The topmost layer is known as the crust, underneath it is the mantle, which rests on an inner core. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to launch Two Satellites focused on studying Earth’s Frozen Areas

 

Written by Patrick Lynch
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2018, NASA will intensify its focus on one of the most critical but remote parts of our changing planet with the launch of two new satellite missions and an array of airborne campaigns.

The space agency is launching these missions at a time when decades of observations from the ground, air, and space have revealed signs of change in Earth’s ice sheets, sea ice, glaciers, snow cover and permafrost. Collectively, scientists call these frozen regions of our planet the “cryosphere.”

In 2018, NASA is scheduled to launch two new satellite missions and conduct an array of field research that will enhance our view of Earth's ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, snow cover, and permafrost. Collectively, these frozen regions are known as the "cryosphere." (NASA)

In 2018, NASA is scheduled to launch two new satellite missions and conduct an array of field research that will enhance our view of Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, snow cover, and permafrost. Collectively, these frozen regions are known as the “cryosphere.” (NASA)

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