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Topic: Mars

NASA looks to Partner with U.S. Industry to develop high power Electric Propulsion Spacecraft

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – As part of the agency’s Exploration Campaign, NASA’s Gateway will become the orbital outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space. Built with commercial and international partners, the Gateway will support exploration on and near the Moon, and beyond, including Mars.

NASA released a draft solicitation through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) June 21st, 2018, for proposals for partnership for the first element of the Gateway. NASA is seeking a high-power, 50-kW solar electric propulsion (SEP) spacecraft to maintain the Gateway’s position as well as move it between lunar orbits as needed.

NASA is seeking a high-power, 50-kW solar electric propulsion (SEP) spacecraft to maintain the Gateway’s position. (NASA)

NASA is seeking a high-power, 50-kW solar electric propulsion (SEP) spacecraft to maintain the Gateway’s position. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover takes images of Haze from Martian Dust Storm

 

Written by Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations.

But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.

A self-portrait taken by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A self-portrait taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA studies Thickest Dust Storm ever seen on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.

This set of images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a fierce dust storm is kicking up on Mars, with rovers on the surface indicated as icons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This set of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a fierce dust storm is kicking up on Mars, with rovers on the surface indicated as icons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory studies Alpha Centauri system for planets that can support life

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – In humanity’s search for life outside our Solar System, one of the best places scientists have considered is Alpha Centauri, a system containing the three nearest stars beyond our Sun.

A new study that has involved monitoring of Alpha Centauri for more than a decade by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory provides encouraging news about one key aspect of planetary habitability. It indicates that any planets orbiting the two brightest stars in the Alpha Cen system are likely not being pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from their host stars.

A new study involving long-term monitoring of Alpha Centauri by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that any planets orbiting the two brightest stars are likely not being pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from their host stars. This is important for the viability of life in the nearest star system outside the Solar System. (Optical: Zdenek Bardon; X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Colorado/T. Ayres et al.)

A new study involving long-term monitoring of Alpha Centauri by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that any planets orbiting the two brightest stars are likely not being pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from their host stars. This is important for the viability of life in the nearest star system outside the Solar System. (Optical: Zdenek Bardon; X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Colorado/T. Ayres et al.)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover waits out Dust Storm

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Science operations for NASA’s Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a growing dust storm on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first detected the storm on Friday, June 1st, 2018. As soon as the orbiter team saw how close the storm was to Opportunity, they notified the rover’s team to begin preparing contingency plans.

In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned.

This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers Ancient Organic Molecules on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8th edition of the journal Science.

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover gets back to analyzing rock samples

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is analyzing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year.

“This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,” said Jim Erickson, project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Curiosity rover is part of the MSL mission. “JPL’s engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016.”

The rover drilled its last scheduled rock sample in October 2016.

The drill bit of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover over one of the sample inlets on the rover's deck. The inlets lead to Curiosity's onboard laboratories. This image was taken on Sol 2068 by the rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The drill bit of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover over one of the sample inlets on the rover’s deck. The inlets lead to Curiosity’s onboard laboratories. This image was taken on Sol 2068 by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA CubeSats Steer make trajectory correction for Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has achieved a first for the class of tiny spacecraft known as CubeSats, which are opening new access to space.

Over the past week, two CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B have been firing their propulsion systems to guide themselves toward Mars. This process, called a trajectory correction maneuver, allows a spacecraft to refine its path to Mars following launch.

Both CubeSats successfully completed this maneuver; NASA’s InSight spacecraft just completed the same process on May 22nd.

An artist's concept of one of NASA's MarCO CubeSats. The twin MarCOs are the first CubeSats to complete a trajectory correction maneuver, firing their thrusters to guide themselves toward Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s concept of one of NASA’s MarCO CubeSats. The twin MarCOs are the first CubeSats to complete a trajectory correction maneuver, firing their thrusters to guide themselves toward Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Takes a Deep Dive into the Search for Life

 

Written by Abby Tabor
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – Deep space and the deep sea are not as different as you might think. In 2018 and 2019, NASA’s search for life beyond Earth will dive beneath the waves here at home to explore hydrothermal systems of underwater volcanoes.

These special locations could look a lot like what we’ll find on the other ocean worlds in our solar system – prime candidates to potentially support life.

Many projects at NASA study places on Earth that could be analogous to extraterrestrial locations. The project pulling together ocean and space is called SUBSEA, which stands for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog.

Saturn's moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

Saturn’s moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

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NASA’s ExoMars Rover will use Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer to search for Life on Mars

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – An international team of scientists has created a tiny chemistry lab for a rover that will drill beneath the Martian surface looking for signs of past or present life.

The toaster oven-sized lab, called the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer or MOMA, is a key instrument on the ExoMars Rover, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with a significant contribution to MOMA from NASA. It will be launched toward the Red Planet in July 2020.

Precision assembly and mechanical technician Ryan Wilkinson inspects MOMA during thermal vacuum testing at Goddard. (NASA)

Precision assembly and mechanical technician Ryan Wilkinson inspects MOMA during thermal vacuum testing at Goddard. (NASA)

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