Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA is soliciting ideas from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s. The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA’s Journey to Mars.
The orbiter would substantially increase bandwidth communications and maintain high-resolution imaging capability. It also may use experimental cutting-edge technologies, such as high-power solar electric propulsion or an optical communications package, which could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems.
Washington, D.C. – Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission team are learning more about the structure and behavior of Pluto’s complex atmosphere by discovering new attributes of its extensive haze layers. The hazes were first discovered by New Horizons in July, as the spacecraft swept past Pluto and made its historic first exploration of the mysterious world.
Mission scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure.
Written by Cheryl Warner
Washington, D.C. – The first human-rated expandable structure that may help inform the design of deep space habitats is set to be installed to the International Space Station Saturday, April 16th. NASA Television coverage of the installation will begin at 5:30am EDT.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be attached to the station’s Tranquility module over a period of about four hours. Controllers in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will remove BEAM from the unpressurized trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, using the robotic Canadarm2, and move it into position next to Tranquility’s aft assembly port.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its second year of survey data. The spacecraft has now characterized a total of 439 NEOs since the mission was re-started in December 2013. Of these, 72 were new discoveries.
Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the giant planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood. Eight of the objects discovered in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely their orbits approach Earth.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – From its perch high on a ridge, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this image of a Martian dust devil twisting through the valley below. The view looks back at the rover’s tracks leading up the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the southern edge of “Marathon Valley.”
Opportunity took the image using its navigation camera (Navcam) on March 31st, 2016, during the 4,332nd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s long-lived Mars rover Opportunity is driving to an alternative hillside target after a climb on the steepest slope ever tackled by any Mars rover. Opportunity could not quite get within reach of a target researchers hoped the rover could touch earlier this month.
A new image shows the view overlooking the valley below and catches the rover’s own shadow and wheel tracks as Opportunity heads toward its next target.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars? A group of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been working on methods to take this question from the realm of imagination to the mind-bending domain of mixed reality.
As a result, NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to offer the public a guided tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin this summer in “Destination: Mars,” an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. “Mixed reality” means that virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.
NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft provides high resolution details of Bright Spots and complex features on Dwarf Planet Ceres
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission unveiled new images from the spacecraft’s lowest orbit at Ceres, including highly anticipated views of Occator Crater, at the 47th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on Tuesday.
Occator Crater, measuring 57 miles (92 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, contains the brightest area on Ceres, the dwarf planet that Dawn has explored since early 2015. The latest images, taken from 240 miles (385 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres, reveal a dome in a smooth-walled pit in the bright center of the crater.
Written by William Steigerwald / Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – A new map of Mars’ gravity made with three NASA spacecraft is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet.
“Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient,” said Antonio Genova of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge. “The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet’s gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars”
NASA’s MAVEN orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring create havoc with Mars’ Magnetic Field during flyby
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Greenbelt, MD – Just weeks before the historic encounter of comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) with Mars in October 2014, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft entered orbit around the Red Planet.
To protect sensitive equipment aboard MAVEN from possible harm, some instruments were turned off during the flyby; the same was done for other Mars orbiters. But a few instruments, including MAVEN’s magnetometer, remained on, conducting observations from a front-row seat during the comet’s remarkably close flyby.
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