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 Emily Baldwin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has detected the faint but distinct signature of dust coming from beyond our solar system. The research, led by a team of Cassini scientists primarily from Europe, is published this week in the journal Science.
Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, studying the giant planet, its rings and its moons. The spacecraft has also sampled millions of ice-rich dust grains with its cosmic dust analyzer instrument. The vast majority of the sampled grains originate from active jets that spray from the surface of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus.
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.
Hopkinsville Community College selected Heritage Christian Academy & Trigg High students to participate in near-space balloon Launch
Hopkinsville, KY – Hopkinsville Community College’s Balloon Satellite Club reached out to area high schools and asked that they submit experiment proposals for consideration to be a part of a spring balloon satellite launch into near-space.
Heritage Christian Academy (HCA) and Trigg County High School (TCHS) are the winning schools and will have their experiments fly on the NASA-sponsored launch scheduled for Friday, April 15th at a window between 11:30am- noon, lifting off from the grass area off of HCC’s North Drive campus entrance.
Written by Tracy McMahan and Kimberly Newton
Huntsville, AL – Testing has started at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on a concept for a potentially revolutionary propulsion system that could send spacecraft to the edge of our solar system, the heliopause, faster than ever before.
The test results will provide modeling data for the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS). The proposed HERTS E-Sail concept, a propellant-less propulsion system, would harness solar wind to travel into interstellar space.
Written by Charlie Sobeck, Kepler and K2 mission manager
NASA’s Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA – NASA mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM). On Sunday morning, the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth, enabling telemetry and historical event data to be downloaded to the ground. The spacecraft is operating in its lowest fuel-burn mode.
The mission has cancelled the spacecraft emergency, returning the Deep Space Network ground communications to normal scheduling.
NASA selects Pluto Orbiter, Extreme Environments Rover and 11 other pioneering technologies for development
Written by Gina Anderson
Washington, D.C. – NASA has selected 13 proposals through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.
Among the selected are: a concept for reprogramming microorganisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics; a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting; and a method of computational imaging that leverages extrasolar intensity fluctuations to detect “echoes” from planets and other structures orbiting a distant star.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Contrary to recent reports, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is not experiencing unexplained deviations in its orbit around Saturn, according to mission managers and orbit determination experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Several recent news stories have reported that a mysterious anomaly in Cassini’s orbit could potentially be explained by the gravitational tug of a theorized massive new planet in our solar system, lurking far beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Using satellite data on how water moves around Earth, NASA scientists have solved two mysteries about wobbles in the planet’s rotation — one new and one more than a century old. The research may help improve our knowledge of past and future climate.
Although a desktop globe always spins smoothly around the axis running through its north and south poles, a real planet wobbles. Earth’s spin axis drifts slowly around the poles; the farthest away it has wobbled since observations began is 37 feet (12 meters).
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope given new mission to discover exoplanets in the center of Milky Way Galaxy
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers have made great strides in discovering planets outside of our solar system, termed “exoplanets.” In fact, over the past 20 years more than 5,000 exoplanets have been detected beyond the eight planets that call our solar system home.
The majority of these exoplanets have been found snuggled up to their host star completing an orbit (or year) in hours, days or weeks, while some have been found orbiting as far as Earth is to the sun, taking one Earth year to circle.
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