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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gets ready for the next Mars Lander

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With its biggest orbit maneuver since 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will prepare this week for the arrival of NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, next year.

A planned 77-second firing of six intermediate-size thrusters on July 29th will adjust the orbit timing of the veteran spacecraft so it will be in position to receive radio transmissions from InSight as the newcomer descends through the Martian atmosphere and touches down on September 28th, 2016.

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

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

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover observes Sunspots on the face of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – While busily investigating bedrock types on Mars’ Mount Sharp and preparing for a drill test, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has also been looking up frequently to monitor sunspots on the face of the sun that is turned away from Earth.

Large sunspots are evident in views from Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). Scientists temporarily have no other resource providing views of the sun from the opposite side of the solar system from Earth. The sun completes a rotation about once a month — faster near its equator than near its poles.

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA's Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity moves towards valley with clay outcrops

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Operators of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity plan to drive the rover into a valley this month where Opportunity will be active through the long-lived rover’s seventh Martian winter, examining outcrops that contain clay minerals.

Opportunity resumed driving on June 27th after about three weeks of reduced activity around Mars solar conjuntion, when the sun’s position between Earth and Mars disrupts communication. The rover is operating in a mode that does not store any science data overnight. It transmits the data the same day they’re collected.

Road trip! This compilation of images from hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between January 2004 and April 2015 shows the rover's-eye-view of the Martian marathon covering 26.2 miles(42.2 kilometers) from its landing location. A map of the rover's path is on the right. (NASA)

Road trip! This compilation of images from hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between January 2004 and April 2015 shows the rover’s-eye-view of the Martian marathon covering 26.2 miles(42.2 kilometers) from its landing location. A map of the rover’s path is on the right. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft to complete 60,000th trip around Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft will reach a major milestone June 23rd, when it completes its 60,000th orbit since arriving at the Red Planet in 2001.

Named after the bestselling novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke, Odyssey began orbiting Mars almost 14 years ago, on October 23rd, 2001. On December 15th, 2010, it became the longest-operating spacecraft ever sent to Mars, and continues to hold that record today.

Odyssey, which discovered widespread water ice just beneath the surface of the Red Planet, is still going strong today, serving as a key communications relay for NASA’s Mars rovers and making continued contributions to planetary science.

Gale Crater, home to NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

Gale Crater, home to NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

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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 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 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 prepares InSight Mars Lander for journey to Red Planet

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Testing is underway on NASA’s next mission on the journey to Mars, a stationary lander scheduled to launch in March 2016.

The lander is called InSight, an abbreviation for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is about the size of a car and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the interior structure of the Red Planet. Examining the planet’s deep interior could reveal clues about how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

The solar arrays on NASA's InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. The image was taken on April 30, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

The solar arrays on NASA’s InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. The image was taken on April 30, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has to change course on Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover climbed a hill Thursday to approach an alternative site for investigating a geological boundary, after a comparable site proved hard to reach.

The drive of about 72 feet (22 meters) up slopes as steep as 21 degrees brought Curiosity close to a target area where two distinctive types of bedrock meet. The rover science team wants to examine an outcrop that contains the contact between the pale rock unit the mission analyzed lower on Mount Sharp and a darker, bedded rock unit that the mission has not yet examined up close.

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity's Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity’s Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures image of Sunset on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The sun dips to a Martian horizon in a blue-tinged sky in images sent home to Earth this week from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.

Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to record the sunset during an evening of skywatching on April 15th, 2015.

The imaging was done between dust storms, but some dust remained suspended high in the atmosphere. The sunset observations help researchers assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15th, 2015), from the rover's location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15th, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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