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NASA takes a look back at 2014

 

Written by David Weaver
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

“We continued to make great progress on our journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development; and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next deep space spacecraft in which our astronauts will travel,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We moved forward on our work to create quieter, greener airplanes and develop technologies to make air travel more efficient; and we advanced our study of our changing home planet, Earth, while increasing our understanding of others in our solar system and beyond.”

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NASA developing ECOSTRESS instrument to analyze plant reactions to heat and water stress

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new space-based instrument to study how effectively plants use water is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The instrument, called the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), will monitor one of the most basic processes in living plants: the loss of water through the tiny pores in leaves.

When people lose water through their pores, the process is called sweating. The related process in plants is known as transpiration. Because water that evaporates from soil around plants also affects the amount of water that plants can use, ECOSTRESS will measure combined evaporation and transpiration, known as evapotranspiration.

NASA's ECOSTRESS will monitor how plants react to heat and water stress. (Wikimedia Commons)

NASA’s ECOSTRESS will monitor how plants react to heat and water stress. (Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA’s Global Hawk research aircraft finishes Climate Change study

 

Written by Rachel Hoover
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA’s Global Hawk research aircraft returned to its base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, early Friday morning March 14th, marking the completion of flights in support of this year’s Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year NASA airborne science campaign.

On February 13th, the autonomously operated aircraft began conducting science flights from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam in the western Pacific region on a mission to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth’s climate.

NASA's Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to begin the 2014 ATTREX climate-change mission Jan. 17th. The two-month-long airborne science flight campaign wrapped up with the aircraft's return to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center March 14th. (U.S. Air Force)

NASA’s Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to begin the 2014 ATTREX climate-change mission Jan. 17th. The two-month-long airborne science flight campaign wrapped up with the aircraft’s return to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center March 14th. (U.S. Air Force)

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NASA’s Langley Research Center to Crash Test Helicopter for Safety Study

 

Written by Kathy Barnstorff
NASA Langley Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHampton, VA – Anybody who says NASA researchers don’t know how to have a smashing good time has not met a team at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

They are test engineers whose job it is to make aircraft safer by crashing them.

In late August those engineers plan to drop a 45-foot long helicopter fuselage from about 30 feet to test improved seat belts and seats and to collect crash worthiness data.

NASA's Langley Research Center engineers are scheduled to crash test a former Marine helicopter at the historic Landing and Impact Research facility. The fuselage is painted in black polka dots as part of a high speed photographic technique. (Image Credit: NASA Langley / David C. Bowman)

NASA’s Langley Research Center engineers are scheduled to crash test a former Marine helicopter at the historic Landing and Impact Research facility. The fuselage is painted in black polka dots as part of a high speed photographic technique. (Image Credit: NASA Langley / David C. Bowman)

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NASA finishes testing Cryogenic Propellant Tank to be used for future Space Exploration

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA recently completed a major space technology development milestone by successfully testing a pressurized, large cryogenic propellant tank made of composite materials. The composite tank will enable the next generation of rockets and spacecraft needed for space exploration.

Cryogenic propellants are gasses chilled to subfreezing temperatures and condensed to form highly combustible liquids, providing high-energy propulsion solutions critical to future, long-term human exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spots huge Hurricane at Saturn’s North Pole

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.

In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists see the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph(150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.

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Fort Campbell’s 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldiers teach local afghan children

 

Written by Sgt. Jon Heinrich
1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs

BastogneFort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne Division

Forward Operating Base Fenty, Afghanistan – U.S. Army soldiers from Provincial Reconstruction Team Nangarhar, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields, Afghanistan, volunteer their time and services to help local children learn English.

The civil affairs soldiers volunteer to be teachers, on their own time, while still managing their normal work schedules for PRT Nangarhar.

Local Afghan girls play a game of alphabet bingo to help learn English letters Feb. 15, 2013, during Girl’s English Class at Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields, Afghanistan. The children are part of a volunteer-run program to help teach local children language skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich, Task Force 1-101 PAO)

Local Afghan girls play a game of alphabet bingo to help learn English letters Feb. 15, 2013, during Girl’s English Class at Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields, Afghanistan. The children are part of a volunteer-run program to help teach local children language skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich, Task Force 1-101 PAO)

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NASA study shows Climate change likely hotter than current Projections

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA-funded study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, finds climate model projections that show a greater rise in global temperature are likely to prove more accurate than those showing a lesser rise.

The findings, published today in the journal Science, could provide a breakthrough in the longstanding quest to narrow the range of global warming expected in coming decades and beyond.

Scientists used observations from two NASA satellite instruments, including relative humidity data similar to these, from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft, to analyze how well leading global climate models reproduce observed relative humidity in Earth's tropics and subtropics. The AIRS surface relative humidity data shown here are representative only and are not from the study. Areas shown in reds and yellows are the driest; blue areas the moistest. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists used observations from two NASA satellite instruments, including relative humidity data similar to these, from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft, to analyze how well leading global climate models reproduce observed relative humidity in Earth’s tropics and subtropics. The AIRS surface relative humidity data shown here are representative only and are not from the study. Areas shown in reds and yellows are the driest; blue areas the moistest. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Aeronautics Research Mission: New Ideas Sharpen Focus for Greener Aircraft

 

Written by Kathy Barnstorff
NASA Langley Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHampton, VA – Leaner, greener flying machines for the year 2025 are on the drawing boards of three industry teams under contract to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project.

Teams from The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, CA, Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, CA, and Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, CA, have spent the last year studying how to meet NASA goals to develop technology that would allow future aircraft to burn 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998 (the baseline for the study), with 75 percent fewer harmful emissions; and to shrink the size of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.

Three proposed aircraft designs have varying levels of success in meeting tough NASA goals for reducing fuel use, emissions and noise all at the same time. (Image credit: NASA)

Three proposed aircraft designs have varying levels of success in meeting tough NASA goals for reducing fuel use, emissions and noise all at the same time. (Image credit: NASA)

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NASA Study Solves Case of Earth’s ‘Missing Energy’

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two years ago, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, released a study claiming that inconsistencies between satellite observations of Earth’s heat and measurements of ocean heating amounted to evidence of “missing energy” in the planet’s system.

Where was it going? Or, they wondered, was something wrong with the way researchers tracked energy as it was absorbed from the sun and emitted back into space?

An international team of atmospheric scientists and oceanographers, led by Norman Loeb of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, and including Graeme Stephens of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, set out to investigate the mystery.

Clouds play a vital role in Earth's energy balance, cooling or warming Earth's surface depending on their type. This painting, "Cumulus Congestus," by JPL's Graeme Stephens, principal investigator of NASA's CloudSat mission, depicts cumulus clouds, which transport energy away from Earth's surface. (Image credit: Graeme Stephens)

Clouds play a vital role in Earth's energy balance, cooling or warming Earth's surface depending on their type. This painting, "Cumulus Congestus," by JPL's Graeme Stephens, principal investigator of NASA's CloudSat mission, depicts cumulus clouds, which transport energy away from Earth's surface. (Image credit: Graeme Stephens)

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