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Topic: Mars

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sees what could be Clouds on Pluto

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The next target for NASA’s New Horizons mission — which made a historic flight past Pluto in July 2015 — apparently bears a colorful resemblance to its famous, main destination.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto. This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far-flung object that New Horizons will survey on January 1st, 2019.

Pluto's present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates -- suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds -- in images taken during the spacecraft's July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

Pluto’s present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates — suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds — in images taken during the spacecraft’s July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

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Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft launches carrying NASA Cargo to International Space Station

 

Written by Kathryn Hambleton
NASA’s Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The crew of the International Space Station soon will be equipped to perform dozens of new scientific investigations with cargo launched Monday aboard NASA’s latest commercial resupply services mission from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft lifted off at 7:45pm EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on the company’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, October 23rd. Expedition 49 astronauts Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus, about 6:00am.

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observes Superhot Balls of Gas ejected from dying Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Great balls of fire! NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying star.

The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the moon. This stellar “cannon fire” has continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years, astronomers estimate.

The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers, because the ejected material could not have been shot out by the host star, called V Hydrae.

This four-panel graphic illustrates how the binary-star system V Hydrae is launching balls of plasma into space. (NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI))

This four-panel graphic illustrates how the binary-star system V Hydrae is launching balls of plasma into space. (NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI))

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover to examine Gully on Mars that may have been created by Water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover will drive down a gully carved long ago by a fluid that might have been water, according to the latest plans for the 12-year-old mission. No Mars rover has done that before.

The longest-active rover on Mars also will, for the first time, visit the interior of the crater it has worked beside for the last five years. These activities are part of a two-year extended mission that began October 1st, the newest in a series of extensions going back to the end of Opportunity’s prime mission in April 2004.

Opportunity launched on July 7th, 2003 and landed on Mars on January 24th, 2004 (PST), on a planned mission of 90 Martian days, which is equivalent to 92.4 Earth days.

This scene from NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows "Wharton Ridge," which forms part of the southern wall of "Marathon Valley" on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The ridge's name honors the memory of astrobiologist Robert A. Wharton (1951-2012). The scene is presented in approximately true color. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

This scene from NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity shows “Wharton Ridge,” which forms part of the southern wall of “Marathon Valley” on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The ridge’s name honors the memory of astrobiologist Robert A. Wharton (1951-2012). The scene is presented in approximately true color. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA Study finds patterns in the occurrence of Global Dust Storms on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Global dust storms on Mars could soon become more predictable — which would be a boon for future astronauts there — if the next one follows a pattern suggested by those in the past.

A published prediction, based on this pattern, points to Mars experiencing a global dust storm in the next few months. “Mars will reach the midpoint of its current dust storm season on October 29th of this year. Based on the historical pattern we found, we believe it is very likely that a global dust storm will begin within a few weeks or months of this date,” James Shirley, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet's appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet’s appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover starts Two Year Mission Extension

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After collecting drilled rock powder in arguably the most scenic landscape yet visited by a Mars rover, NASA’s Curiosity mobile laboratory is driving toward uphill destinations as part of its two-year mission extension that commenced October 1st.

The destinations include a ridge capped with material rich in the iron-oxide mineral hematite, about a mile-and-a-half (two-and-a-half kilometers) ahead, and an exposure of clay-rich bedrock beyond that.

This September 2016 self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Quela" drilling location in the scenic "Murray Buttes" area on lower Mount Sharp. The panorama was stitched together from multiple images taken by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover's arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This September 2016 self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Quela” drilling location in the scenic “Murray Buttes” area on lower Mount Sharp. The panorama was stitched together from multiple images taken by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover’s arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA developing systems to utilize resources available in the Solar System

 

Written by Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – As NASA continues preparing for the Journey to Mars, the technology now in development is expanding beyond the spacecraft and propulsion systems needed to get there. NASA scientists and engineers also are developing systems to harness abundant resources available in the solar system to support these pioneering missions.

The practice is called in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. Like early European settlers coming to America, planetary pioneers will not be able to take everything they need, so many supplies will need to be gathered and made on site.

NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, currently being developed, is designed to be the first mining expedition on the moon. Using resources found in extraterrestrial soil, or in-situ resource utilization, will foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to many deep-space destinations. (NASA)

NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, currently being developed, is designed to be the first mining expedition on the moon. Using resources found in extraterrestrial soil, or in-situ resource utilization, will foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to many deep-space destinations. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers evidence that Mars Surface Material contributes to Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

Processes in Mars' surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA's Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

Processes in Mars’ surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

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Future NASA Mars Rover to examine Habitat, Weather using MAHRS instruments

 

Written by Nancy Smith Kilkenny, ATS
NASA Glenn Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCleveland, OH – When human explorers embark on the journey to Mars, they need to know the natural conditions of the red planet before they arrive.  That’s why NASA sends rovers to the surface of Mars to photograph the landscape and operate scientific experiments to understand the habitat for humans or other kinds of life.

One of those future rover missions may host the Martian Aqueous Habitat Reconnaissance Suite (MAHRS), a set of five instruments that can take surface measurements in the search for habitable environments.

NASA Glenn engineer Norman Prokop refines microscope that could study Martian soil. (NASA)

NASA Glenn engineer Norman Prokop refines microscope that could study Martian soil. (NASA)

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NASA Building Space Launch System’s Core Stage Piece by Piece

 

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – The largest rocket stage in the world is coming together piece by piece at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, LA. Large elements for NASA’s Space Launch System are in production and will be joined together to create the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage, the backbone of the SLS rocket.

Why is NASA building the world’s most powerful rocket? Because SLS is ready to support both near-term missions in the proving ground around the moon starting in 2018, while at the same time being capable of carrying the very large hardware like landers, habitats and other supplies and equipment needed to explore Mars and other deep space destinations in the 2030s and beyond.

Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen -- which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. (NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel)

Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen — which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. (NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel)

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