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Topic: NASA

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory antenna now rotating at full speed

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The 20-foot (6-meter) “golden lasso” reflector antenna atop NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful completion of a two-part procedure to spin it up to full speed.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Thursday, March 26th commanded SMAP’s spun instrument assembly – the part of the observatory that spins – to increase its rotation speed from the initial rate of 5 revolutions per minute achieved on March 23rd to its final science measurement rate of 14.6 revolutions per minute.

SMAP will produce global maps of soil moisture, which will help improve our understanding of Earth's water and carbon cycles and our ability to manage water resources. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SMAP will produce global maps of soil moisture, which will help improve our understanding of Earth’s water and carbon cycles and our ability to manage water resources. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA announces details for its Asteroid Redirect Mission; Next Steps towards Mars

 

Written by David E. Steitz
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA Wednesday announced more details in its plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth Asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago.

For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars.

The Asteroid Redirect Vehicle, part of NASA's Asteroid Initiative concept, is shown traveling to lunar orbit using its solar electric propulsion system in this artist's concept. (NASA)

The Asteroid Redirect Vehicle, part of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative concept, is shown traveling to lunar orbit using its solar electric propulsion system in this artist’s concept. (NASA)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory completes spin-up procedure

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have commanded the 20-foot (6-meter) reflector antenna on NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory to begin spinning for the first time. The partial spin-up is a key step in commissioning the satellite in preparation for science operations.

Last week, mission controllers sent commands to release the locking mechanism that prevented the observatory’s spun instrument assembly — the part that spins — from rotating during launch and deployment of the reflector. The spun instrument assembly includes the spin control electronics, radiometer instrument and reflector antenna.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will produce high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will produce high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity celebrates surpassing Marathon Distance on March 24th, 2015

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday — 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “A first time happens only once.”

Cumulative driving by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity surpassed marathon distance on March 24, 2015, as the rover neared a destination called "Marathon Valley," which is middle ground of this dramatic view from early March. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cumulative driving by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity surpassed marathon distance on March 24, 2015, as the rover neared a destination called “Marathon Valley,” which is middle ground of this dramatic view from early March. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers Nitrogen on Mars

 

Written by Nancy Neal-Jones / William Steigerwald
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A team using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments.

The nitrogen was detected in the form of nitric oxide, and could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient Mars was habitable for life.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover.

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover.

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NASA reformats Mars Rover Opportunity’s onboard Flash Memory

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After avoiding use of the rover’s flash memory for three months, the team operating NASA’s 11-year-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reformatted the vehicle’s flash memory banks and resumed storing some data overnight for transmitting later.

The team received confirmation from Mars on March 20th that the reformatting completed successfully. The rover switched to updated software earlier this month that will avoid using one of the seven banks of onboard flash memory.

This view from NASA's Opportunity Mars rover shows part of "Marathon Valley" as seen from an overlook north of the valley. It was taken by the rover's Pancam on March 13, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This view from NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows part of “Marathon Valley” as seen from an overlook north of the valley. It was taken by the rover’s Pancam on March 13, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA successfully tests new Mars Landing Technology

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It’s tricky to get a spacecraft to land exactly where you want. That’s why the area where the Mars rover Curiosity team had targeted to land was an ellipse that may seem large, measuring 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers).

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been developing cutting-edge technologies that would enable spacecraft to land at a specific location on Mars — or any other planetary body — with more precision than ever before.

On December 9th, 2014, the Xombie rocket carrying the ADAPT system reached a maximum altitude of 1,066 feet (325 meters) before beginning its descent. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)

On December 9th, 2014, the Xombie rocket carrying the ADAPT system reached a maximum altitude of 1,066 feet (325 meters) before beginning its descent. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)

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NASA looks into the mystery of the Sun’s Nanoflares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When you attach the prefix “nano” to something, it usually means “very small.” Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Researchers are studying a type of explosion on the sun called a ‘nanoflare.’  A billion times less energetic than ordinary flares, nanoflares have a power that belies their name.

“A typical ‘nanoflare’ has the same energy as 240 megatons of TNT,” says physicist David Smith of UC Santa Cruz. “That would be something like 10,000 atomic fission bombs.”

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NASA to launch Magnetospheric Multiscale mission to study explosions in Earth’s Magnetic Field

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Magnetic reconnection could be the Universe’s favorite way to make things explode.

It operates anywhere magnetic fields pervade space–which is to say almost everywhere. In the cores of galaxies, magnetic reconnection sparks explosions visible billions of light-years away. On the sun, it causes solar flares as powerful as a million atomic bombs. At Earth, it powers magnetic storms and auroras. It’s ubiquitous.

The problem is, researchers can’t explain it.

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NASA reports Space Based Radar Helps Track Underground Water Pollution Risk

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The next time you’re digging for buried treasure, stop when you hit water. That underground resource is more valuable than all legendary hoards combined.

Ninety percent of Earth’s available fresh water is beneath the surface at any particular time. We drink it, we grow our food with it, and we power industries with it. We also pollute it.

Urban growth in Milan, Italy. In this region, urbanization has increased the potential for groundwater contamination. Image (Wikimedia Commons)

Urban growth in Milan, Italy. In this region, urbanization has increased the potential for groundwater contamination. Image (Wikimedia Commons)

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