Washington, D.C. – Christmas Eve, 1968. As one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history drew to a close, millions around the world were watching and listening as the Apollo 8 astronauts – Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders – became the first humans to orbit another world.
As their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis, closing with a wish for everyone “on the good Earth.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory CubeSat program provides big satellite performance in a small package
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Any way you slice it, space exploration — done right — requires an inordinate range of technical expertise.
From designing the spacecraft, the mission proposal and the circuit boards to testing the flight software and putting together budgets, sending something, anything, into the cosmos depends on good people who know their job.
“Although significantly smaller in size, CubeSats contain analogous payloads and subsystems to larger satellites and require similar technical knowledge and resources to traditional flight projects,” said Shannon Statham, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The training and experience gained by working on CubeSats are directly applicable to larger missions.”
Peterson Air Force Base, CO – For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight.
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – There are no garbage trucks equipped to leave the atmosphere and pick up debris floating around the Earth. But what if we could send a robot to do the job?
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on adhesive gripping tools that could grapple objects such as orbital debris or defunct satellites that would otherwise be hard to handle.
The gecko gripper project was selected for a test flight through the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. As a test, researchers used the grippers in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA’s C-9B parabolic flight aircraft in August.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA -NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.
The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.
“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby.
The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – The first global maps of atmospheric carbon dioxide from NASA’s new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission demonstrate its performance and promise, showing elevated carbon dioxide concentrations across the Southern Hemisphere from springtime biomass burning.
At a media briefing today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; Colorado State University (CSU), Fort Collins; and the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, presented the maps of carbon dioxide and a related phenomenon known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and discussed their potential implications.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come within four miles (six kilometers) of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in February of next year. The flyby will be the closest the comet explorer will come during its prime mission.
“It is the earliest we could carry it out without impacting the vitally important bound orbits that are currently being flown,” said Matt Taylor, the Rosetta project scientist from the European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. “As the comet becomes more and more active, it will not be possible to get so close to the comet. So this opportunity is very unique.”
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover detects organic chemical in atmosphere and organic molecules in rock powder on Mars
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.
“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – You may know opals as fiery gemstones, but something special called OPALS is floating above us in space. On the International Space Station, the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) is demonstrating how laser communications can speed up the flow of information between Earth and space, compared to radio signals.
“OPALS has shown that space-to-ground laser communications transmissions are practical and repeatable,” said Matthew Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As a bonus, OPALS has collected an enormous amount of data to advance the science of sending lasers through the atmosphere. We look forward to continuing our testing of this technology, which sends information to and from space faster than with radio signals.”
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