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NASA to include Two CubeSats on the next mission to Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When NASA launches its next mission on the journey to Mars – a stationary lander in 2016 – the flight will include two CubeSats. This will be the first time CubeSats have flown in deep space.

If this flyby demonstration is successful, the technology will provide NASA the ability to quickly transmit status information about the main spacecraft after it lands on Mars.

The twin communications-relay CubeSats, being built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, constitute a technology demonstration called Mars Cube One (MarCO). CubeSats are a class of spacecraft based on a standardized small size and modular use of off-the-shelf technologies.

NASA's two small MarCO CubeSats will be flying past Mars in 2016 just as NASA's next Mars lander, InSight, is descending through the Martian atmosphere and landing on the surface. MarCO, for Mars Cube One, will provide an experimental communications relay to inform Earth quickly about the landing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s two small MarCO CubeSats will be flying past Mars in 2016 just as NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, is descending through the Martian atmosphere and landing on the surface. MarCO, for Mars Cube One, will provide an experimental communications relay to inform Earth quickly about the landing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers Planets with Clouds of Helium

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – They wouldn’t float like balloons or give you the chance to talk in high, squeaky voices, but planets with helium skies may constitute an exotic planetary class in our Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope propose that warm Neptune-size planets with clouds of helium may be strewn about the galaxy by the thousands.

“We don’t have any planets like this in our own solar system,” said Renyu Hu, NASA Hubble Fellow at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and lead author of a new study on the findings accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “But we think planets with helium atmospheres could be common around other stars.”

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says June is month for Stargazing

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If you love stargazing, there’s a date you need to mark on your calendar. It’s June.

That’s right, the whole month!

Throughout the month of June 2015, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Venus and Jupiter, are going to converge for a jaw-dropping close encounter. You don’t want to miss any of the action.

When the sun goes down, step outside and look west. You don’t have to wait until the sky fades to black. Venus and Jupiter are so bright, you can see then shining through the twilight.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers Glass in Impact Craters on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.

During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass here on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina.

Researchers have found deposits of impact glass preserved in Martian craters, including Alga Crater, shown here. The detection is based on data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Researchers have found deposits of impact glass preserved in Martian craters, including Alga Crater, shown here. The detection is based on data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) completes second test flight, Briefing Tuesday

 

Written by Joshua Buck
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project completed its second flight test when the saucer-shaped craft splashed down safely Monday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

A post-flight media teleconference will be held at 10:00am PDT (1:00pm EDT / 7:00am HST), Tuesday, June 9th to review the test.

NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle attached to launch tower just prior to take off. (NASA)

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle attached to launch tower just prior to take off. (NASA)

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NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator ready for Monday, June 8th Launch

 

Written by Kim Newton
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The LDSD launch support team is go to report to stations tonight at 9:00pm HST to begin preparations for a Monday, June 8th, 7:30am HST (1:30pm EDT) launch attempt from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

NASA Television and JPL’s Ustream channel will carry live coverage of the launch beginning at 7:00am HST (1:00pm EDT).

NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle is rolled out to the launch pad under moon light, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, Hawaii. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle is rolled out to the launch pad under moon light, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, Hawaii. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data used to help Map the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Imagine trying to create a map of your house while confined to only the living room. You might peek through the doors into other rooms or look for light spilling in through the windows. But, in the end, the walls and lack of visibility would largely prevent you from seeing the big picture.

The job of mapping our own Milky Way galaxy from planet Earth, situated about two-thirds of the way out from the galaxy’s center, is similarly difficult. Clouds of dust permeate the Milky Way, blocking our view of the galaxy’s stars.

This artist's concept depicts the most up-to-date information about the shape of our own Milky Way galaxy. We live around a star, our sun, located about two-thirds of the way out from the center. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech))

This artist’s concept depicts the most up-to-date information about the shape of our own Milky Way galaxy. We live around a star, our sun, located about two-thirds of the way out from the center. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech))

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NASA to suspend Communications to Mars Missions in June due to Mars Solar Conjunction

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In June 2015, Mars will swing almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, and this celestial geometry will lead to diminished communications with spacecraft at Mars.

The arrangement of the sun between Earth and Mars is called Mars solar conjunction. It occurs about every 26 months as the two planets travel in their sun-centered orbits. The sun disrupts radio communications between the planets during the conjunction period.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Alice instrument aboard Rosetta spacecraft makes discovery on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data collected by NASA’s Alice instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft reveal that electrons close to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — not photons from the sun, as had been believed — cause the rapid breakup of water and carbon dioxide molecules spewing from the comet’s surface.

“The discovery we’re reporting is quite unexpected,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator for the Alice instrument at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “It shows us the value of going to comets to observe them up close, since this discovery simply could not have been made from Earth or Earth orbit with any existing or planned observatory. And, it is fundamentally transforming our knowledge of comets.”

This composite is a mosaic comprising four individual NAVCAM images taken from 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the center of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 20, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

This composite is a mosaic comprising four individual NAVCAM images taken from 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the center of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 20, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test to be broadcast Live on NASA Ustream channel

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Since Orville Wright first took to the skies over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, experimental flight tests have been a relatively singular affair, with aviators taking their untried machines into the sky in search of good data and a great hangar story.

But nowadays, cutting-edge testing of air and space machines has become somewhat more accessible. This week offers up another opportunity to witness an important milestone in experimental flight tests.

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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