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Topic: Mars

Adventure Science Center begins Construction of New Virtual Reality Experience

 

Adventure Science CenterNashville, TN On August 19th, 2017, Adventure Science Center will open Nashville’s first, large-scale, public, virtual reality installation with custom-designed experiences created in partnership with Nashville developers, BlackBox Simulations. The VR experience features cutting-edge technology that tracks a user’s physical position.

This allows the user complete freedom to explore a truly immersive experience. Guests who’ve purchased indoor tickets for the Music City Solar Eclipse Festival & Viewing Party on August 19th, 20th, or 21st will be the first to experience the new VR installation and will have exclusive access on those days.

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity takes panoramic photo from Perseverance Valley

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater’s rim.

The scene includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater’s rim, which may have been a spillway where water or ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. Wheel tracks visible in the area of the notch were left by Opportunity as the rover studied the ground there and took images into the valley below for use in planning its route.

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA's Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above "Perseverance Valley" on a large crater's rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above “Perseverance Valley” on a large crater’s rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

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NASA reports Limited Communications between Earth and Mars due to Sun this month

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – This month, movements of the planets will put Mars almost directly behind the sun, from Earth’s perspective, causing curtailed communications between Earth and Mars.

NASA will refrain from sending commands to America’s three Mars orbiters and two Mars rovers during the period from July 22nd to August 1st, 2017.

“Out of caution, we won’t talk to our Mars assets during that period because we expect significant degradation in the communication link, and we don’t want to take a chance that one of our spacecraft would act on a corrupted command,” said Chad Edwards, manager of the Mars Relay Network Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

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 Mars Curiosity Rover starts investigating Mars Ridge containing Hematite

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The car-size NASA rover on a Martian mountain, Curiosity, has begun its long-anticipated study of an iron-bearing ridge forming a distinctive layer on the mountain’s slope.

Since before Curiosity’s landing five years ago next month, this feature has been recognized as one of four unique terrains on lower Mount Sharp and therefore a key mission destination. Curiosity’s science team informally named it “Vera Rubin Ridge” this year, commemorating astronomer Vera Cooper Rubin (1928-2016).

“Our Vera Rubin Ridge campaign has begun,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Curiosity is driving parallel to the ridge, below it, observing it from different angles as we work our way toward a safe route to the top of the ridge.”

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Visits NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

 

Written by Jen Rae Wang
NASA’s Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Vice President Mike Pence thanked employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their commitment to America’s continued leadership in the space frontier during a visit to America’s multi-user spaceport on Thursday.

“Let us do what our nation has always done since its very founding and beyond: We’ve pushed the boundaries on frontiers, not just of territory, but of knowledge. We’ve blazed new trails, and we’ve astonished the world as we’ve boldly grasped our future without fear,” the Vice President told employees, government dignitaries and space industry leaders in remarks at the facility’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, where the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft will be prepared ahead of launches to the moon, and eventually to Mars and beyond.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks before an audience of NASA leaders, U.S. and Florida government officials, and employees inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Pence thanked employees for advancing American leadership in space. Behind the podium is the Orion spacecraft flown on Exploration Flight test-1 in 2014. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Vice President Mike Pence speaks before an audience of NASA leaders, U.S. and Florida government officials, and employees inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Pence thanked employees for advancing American leadership in space. Behind the podium is the Orion spacecraft flown on Exploration Flight test-1 in 2014. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

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NASA’s Pathfinder Lander ignited 20 years of Mars Exploration

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft approached its destination on July 4th, 1997, no NASA mission had successfully reached the Red Planet in more than 20 years.

Even the mission team anxiously awaiting confirmation that the spacecraft survived its innovative, bouncy landing could not anticipate the magnitude of the pivot about to shape the Space Age.

In the 20 years since Pathfinder’s touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on Mars or in orbit around Mars.

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA's Mars Pathfinder lander includes "Twin Peaks" on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called "Yogi." (NASA/JPL)

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder lander includes “Twin Peaks” on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called “Yogi.” (NASA/JPL)

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NASA uses Algorithm to protect Wheels on Mars Curiosity Rover

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – There are no mechanics on Mars, so the next best thing for NASA’s Curiosity rover is careful driving.

A new algorithm is helping the rover do just that. The software, referred to as traction control, adjusts the speed of Curiosity’s wheels depending on the rocks it’s climbing. After 18 months of testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the software was uploaded to the rover on Mars in March. Mars Science Laboratory’s mission management approved it for use on June 8th, after extensive testing at JPL and multiple tests on Mars.

Even before 2013, when the wheels began to show signs of wear, JPL engineers had been studying how to reduce the effects of the rugged Martian surface.

A "scarecrow" rover at NASA's JPL drives over a sensor while testing a new driving algorithm. Engineers created the algorithm to reduce wheel wear on the Mars Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A “scarecrow” rover at NASA’s JPL drives over a sensor while testing a new driving algorithm. Engineers created the algorithm to reduce wheel wear on the Mars Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft’s 20 Year Mission to come to a close

 

Written by Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spends its last few weeks in orbit around Saturn before making a controlled impact with the planet in what NASA dubbed Cassini’s “Grand Finale,” some of those who helped launch the mission 20 years ago are thrilled with the success of the massive probe they helped dispatch to one of the solar system’s most intriguing worlds.

“There’s just a real sense of fulfillment associated with being part of a launch team, particularly something as big as Cassini and as complicated as Cassini is and the whole makeup of the whole Cassini team,” said Ray Lugo, launch director for Cassini. “It was a big community of folks and everybody had to do their part to make sure that mission got off right.”

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover uses A.I. Laser Targeting for studying Mars

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Artificial intelligence is changing how we study Mars.

A.I. software on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has helped it zap dozens of laser targets on the Red Planet this past year, becoming a frequent science tool when the ground team was out of contact with the spacecraft. This same software has proven useful enough that it’s already scheduled for NASA’s upcoming mission, Mars 2020.

A new paper in Science: Robotics looks at how the software has performed since rolling out to Curiosity’s science team in May 2016. The AEGIS software, or Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, has been used to direct Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument 54 times since then. It’s used on almost every drive when the power resources are available for it, according to the paper’s authors.

This is how AEGIS sees the Martian surface. All targets found by the A.I. program are outlined: blue targets are rejected, while red are retained. The top-ranked target is shaded green; if there's a second-ranked target, it's shaded orange. These NavCam images have been contrast-balanced. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This is how AEGIS sees the Martian surface. All targets found by the A.I. program are outlined: blue targets are rejected, while red are retained. The top-ranked target is shaded green; if there’s a second-ranked target, it’s shaded orange. These NavCam images have been contrast-balanced. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover cruises near rim of Endeavour Crater

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater for signs that they may have been either transported by a flood or eroded in place by wind.

Those scenarios are among the possible explanations rover-team scientists are considering for features seen just outside the crater rim’s crest above “Perseverance Valley,” which is carved into the inner slope of the rim.

The team plans to drive Opportunity down Perseverance Valley after completing a “walkabout” survey of the area above it.

The Pancam on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the component images of this enhanced-color scene during the mission's "walkabout" survey of an area just above the top of "Perseverance Valley," in preparation for driving down the valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

The Pancam on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the component images of this enhanced-color scene during the mission’s “walkabout” survey of an area just above the top of “Perseverance Valley,” in preparation for driving down the valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

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