Written by Elizabeth Landau / Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. 3-D versions of two of these views are also available.
Dawn took these images of the southern hemisphere of Ceres on December 10th, at an approximate altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers), which is its lowest-ever orbital altitude. Dawn will remain at this altitude for the rest of its mission, and indefinitely afterward. The resolution of the new images is about 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel.
Written by Dwayne Brown and Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.
“Learning about the interior structure of Mars has been a high priority objective for planetary scientists since the Viking era,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window. A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: NASA remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars.”
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s next Mars spacecraft has arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, for final preparations before a launch scheduled in March 2016 and a landing on Mars six months later.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built and tested the spacecraft and delivered it on December 16th from Buckley Air Force Base in Denver to Vandenberg, on the central California Coast.
Preparations are on a tight schedule for launch during the period March 4th through March 30th. The work ahead includes installation and testing of one of the mission’s key science instruments, its seismometer, which is scheduled for delivery to Vandenberg in January.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – In detective stories, as the plot thickens, an unexpected clue often delivers more questions than answers. In this case, the scene is a mountain on Mars. The clue: the chemical compound silica. Lots of silica. The sleuths: a savvy band of Earthbound researchers whose agent on Mars is NASA’s laser-flashing, one-armed mobile laboratory, Curiosity.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – NASA technology is all around us, turning trash into oil, saving women from a deadly complication of childbirth, and putting the bubbles in beer.
These technologies and more, including seven connected with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are featured in the 2016 edition of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication, highlighting the many places NASA shows up in daily life and the aeronautics and space programs where the innovations got their start.
NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations completes Plans Design Review for the Journey to Mars
Written by Linda Herridge
Kennedy Space Center, FL – NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) has successfully completed its critical design review, on the path to preparing for the agency’s journey to Mars.
Members of the review board completed their in-depth assessment of the plans for the facilities and ground support systems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will be needed to process NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for deep-space exploration missions.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has begun an up-close investigation of dark sand dunes up to two stories tall. The dunes are on the rover’s trek up the lower portion of a layered Martian mountain.
The dunes close to Curiosity’s current location are part of “Bagnold Dunes,” a band along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater. Observations of this dune field from orbit show that edges of individual dunes move as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year.
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it obtained during its July flyby – and the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades.
Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14th.
Written by Bob Granath
Florida – On Thursday, December 3rd, NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida will team with industry partners to launch science and supplies to the International Space Station. The event is one more example of how the goal of establishing Kennedy as a 21st century, multi-user spaceport for both government and commercial customers has been achieved.
As part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services Program, the Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-4 spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
Written by Mike Giannone
Cleveland, OH – Think about underground water and gas as they filter through porous materials like soil and rock beds. On Earth, gravity forces water and gas to separate as they flow through the ground, cleaning the water and storing it in underground pools. Gravity’s role is significant in the process, both in nature with ground water and in chemical processes such as water reclamation reactors.
How this filtering works on Earth is well understood, even when the flow consists of different fluids. The process is still a mystery in microgravity.
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