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Topic: NASA

NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover waits out Dust Storm

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Science operations for NASA’s Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a growing dust storm on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first detected the storm on Friday, June 1st, 2018. As soon as the orbiter team saw how close the storm was to Opportunity, they notified the rover’s team to begin preparing contingency plans.

In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned.

This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers Ancient Organic Molecules on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8th edition of the journal Science.

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA Juno Spacecraft discovers origin of Jupiter’s Lightning

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever since NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flew past Jupiter in March, 1979, scientists have wondered about the origin of Jupiter’s lightning. That encounter confirmed the existence of Jovian lightning, which had been theorized for centuries.

But when the venerable explorer hurtled by, the data showed that the lightning-associated radio signals didn’t match the details of the radio signals produced by lightning here at Earth.

In a new paper published in Nature today, scientists from NASA’s Juno mission describe the ways in which lightning on Jupiter is actually analogous to Earth’s lightning. Although, in some ways, the two types of lightning are polar opposites.

This artist's concept of lightning distribution in Jupiter's northern hemisphere incorporates a JunoCam image with artistic embellishments. Data from NASA's Juno mission indicates that most of the lightning activity on Jupiter is near its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam)

This artist’s concept of lightning distribution in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere incorporates a JunoCam image with artistic embellishments. Data from NASA’s Juno mission indicates that most of the lightning activity on Jupiter is near its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover gets back to analyzing rock samples

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is analyzing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year.

“This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,” said Jim Erickson, project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Curiosity rover is part of the MSL mission. “JPL’s engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016.”

The rover drilled its last scheduled rock sample in October 2016.

The drill bit of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover over one of the sample inlets on the rover's deck. The inlets lead to Curiosity's onboard laboratories. This image was taken on Sol 2068 by the rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The drill bit of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover over one of the sample inlets on the rover’s deck. The inlets lead to Curiosity’s onboard laboratories. This image was taken on Sol 2068 by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA CubeSats Steer make trajectory correction for Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has achieved a first for the class of tiny spacecraft known as CubeSats, which are opening new access to space.

Over the past week, two CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B have been firing their propulsion systems to guide themselves toward Mars. This process, called a trajectory correction maneuver, allows a spacecraft to refine its path to Mars following launch.

Both CubeSats successfully completed this maneuver; NASA’s InSight spacecraft just completed the same process on May 22nd.

An artist's concept of one of NASA's MarCO CubeSats. The twin MarCOs are the first CubeSats to complete a trajectory correction maneuver, firing their thrusters to guide themselves toward Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s concept of one of NASA’s MarCO CubeSats. The twin MarCOs are the first CubeSats to complete a trajectory correction maneuver, firing their thrusters to guide themselves toward Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports small Asteroid burns up over Southern Africa, Saturday

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A boulder-sized asteroid designated 2018 LA was discovered Saturday morning, June 2nd, 2018 and was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away.

Because it was very faint, the asteroid was estimated to be only about 6 feet (2 meters) across, which is small enough that it was expected to safely disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. Saturday’s asteroid was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson and operated by the University of Arizona.

Artist's concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft uses thermal sensors to analyze hundreds of Asteroids

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Nearly all asteroids are so far away and so small that the astronomical community only knows them as moving points of light. The rare exceptions are asteroids that have been visited by spacecraft, a small number of large asteroids resolved by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope or large ground-based telescopes, or those that have come close enough for radar imaging.

When seen by optical telescopes, these individual sources of reflected sunlight can provide some very valuable but also very basic information — for example, the asteroid’s orbit, a ballpark estimate of its size, sometimes an approximation of its shape, and perhaps an idea of its physical makeup.

Analysis of asteroids like Lutetia was used in the Josef Hanuš-led paper on asteroid thermophysical modeling. Lutetia is a large main belt asteroid about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in diameter. Lutetia was visited by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft in 2010. (ESA 2010 MPS)

Analysis of asteroids like Lutetia was used in the Josef Hanuš-led paper on asteroid thermophysical modeling. Lutetia is a large main belt asteroid about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in diameter. Lutetia was visited by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft in 2010. (ESA 2010 MPS)

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NASA using new Technology to observe Carbon in Earth’s Atmosphere

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It’s a scientific conundrum with huge implications for our future: How will our planet react to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

That seemingly simple question is particularly tricky because carbon — an essential building block for life on Earth — does not stay in one place or take only one form. Carbon in its many forms, both from natural and human-caused sources, moves within and among the atmosphere, the ocean and land as our living planet breathes. To track and inventory carbon and unravel the many intricate processes that cause it to morph across the planet is an epic challenge.

And that’s where NASA comes in.

NASA's latest carbon-observing space mission is the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which is making unprecedented global measurements of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

NASA’s latest carbon-observing space mission is the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which is making unprecedented global measurements of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft moves to low orbit around Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is maneuvering to its lowest-ever orbit for a close-up examination of the inner solar system’s only dwarf planet.

In early June, Dawn will reach its new, final orbit above Ceres. Soon after, it will begin collecting images and other science data from an unprecedented vantage point. This orbit will be less than 30 miles (50 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres — 10 times closer than the spacecraft has ever been.

This picture is one of the first images returned by Dawn in more than a year, as Dawn moves to its lowest-ever and final orbit around Ceres. Dawn captured this view on May 16, 2018 from an altitude of about 270 miles (440 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This picture is one of the first images returned by Dawn in more than a year, as Dawn moves to its lowest-ever and final orbit around Ceres. Dawn captured this view on May 16, 2018 from an altitude of about 270 miles (440 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA Takes a Deep Dive into the Search for Life

 

Written by Abby Tabor
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – Deep space and the deep sea are not as different as you might think. In 2018 and 2019, NASA’s search for life beyond Earth will dive beneath the waves here at home to explore hydrothermal systems of underwater volcanoes.

These special locations could look a lot like what we’ll find on the other ocean worlds in our solar system – prime candidates to potentially support life.

Many projects at NASA study places on Earth that could be analogous to extraterrestrial locations. The project pulling together ocean and space is called SUBSEA, which stands for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog.

Saturn's moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

Saturn’s moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

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