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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover may be used to search for Water on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever since it was announced that there may be evidence of liquid water on present-day Mars, NASA scientists have wondered how best to further investigate these long, seasonally changing dark streaks in the hope of finding evidence of life — past or present — on the Red Planet.

“It’s not as simple as driving a rover to a potential site and taking a scoop of soil,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “Not only are these on steep slopes, we need to ensure that planetary protection concerns are met. In other words, how can we search for evidence of life without contaminating the sites with bugs from Earth?”

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Okoruso" drilling site on lower Mount Sharp's "Naukluft Plateau." The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Okoruso” drilling site on lower Mount Sharp’s “Naukluft Plateau.” The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft continues it’s Jupiter approach

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On June 24th, at exactly 9:57 and 48 seconds am PDT, NASA’s Juno spacecraft was 5.5 million miles (8.9 million kilometers) from its July 4th appointment with Jupiter. Over the past two weeks, several milestones occurred that were key to a successful 35-minute burn of its rocket motor, which will place the robotic explorer into a polar orbit around the gas giant.

“We have over five years of spaceflight experience and only 10 days to Jupiter orbit insertion,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It is a great feeling to put all the interplanetary space in the rearview mirror and have the biggest planet in the solar system in our windshield.”

Artist's rendering showing NASA's Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering showing NASA’s Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover finds Volcanic Mineral on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars, a finding that may alter our understanding of how the planet evolved.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been exploring sedimentary rocks within Gale Crater since landing in August 2012. In July 2015, on Sol 1060 (the number of Martian days since landing), the rover collected powder drilled from rock at a location named “Buckskin.” Analyzing data from an X-ray diffraction instrument on the rover that identifies minerals, scientists detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." Bright powder from that July 30, 2015, drilling is visible in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called “Buckskin.” Bright powder from that July 30, 2015, drilling is visible in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers newly formed Exoplanet

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. The discovery was made using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and its extended K2 mission, as well as the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars beyond our sun.

The newfound planet, K2-33b, is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. It is only 5 to 10 million years old, making it one of a very few newborn planets found to date.

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to enter orbit around Jupiter July 4th

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On July 4th, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet.

As of Thursday, Juno is 18 days and 8.6 million miles (13.8 million kilometers) from Jupiter. On the evening of July 4th, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it into a polar orbit around the gas giant.

During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity finishes work at Marathon Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – “Marathon Valley,” slicing through a large crater’s rim on Mars, has provided fruitful research targets for NASA’s Opportunity rover since July 2015, but the rover may soon move on.

Opportunity recently collected a sweeping panorama from near the western end of this east-west valley. The vista shows an area where the mission investigated evidence about how water altered the ancient rocks and, beyond that, the wide floor of Endeavour Crater and the crater’s eastern rim about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away.

"Marathon Valley" on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley's fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

“Marathon Valley” on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley’s fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data shows Dust Storm Pattern on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

For six recent Martian years, temperature records from NASA Mars orbiters reveal a pattern of three types of large regional dust storms occurring in sequence at about the same times each year during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years.

“When we look at the temperature structure instead of the visible dust, we finally see some regularity in the large dust storms,” said David Kass of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 26 Days

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission is now 26 days and 11.1 million miles (17.8 million kilometers) away from the largest planetary inhabitant in our solar system — Jupiter. On the evening of July 4th, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it into a polar orbit around the gas giant.

It will be a daring planetary encounter: Giant Jupiter lies in the harshest radiation environment known, and Juno has been specially designed to safely navigate the brand new territory.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft now under the influence of Jupiter’s Gravity

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Since its launch five years ago, there have been three forces tugging at NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it speeds through the solar system. The sun, Earth and Jupiter have all been influential — a gravitational trifecta of sorts. At times, Earth was close enough to be the frontrunner.

More recently, the sun has had the most clout when it comes to Juno’s trajectory. Today, it can be reported that Jupiter is now in the gravitational driver’s seat, and the basketball court-sized spacecraft is not looking back.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals most recent Ice Age on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists using radar data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found a record of the most recent Martian ice age recorded in the planet’s north polar ice cap.

The new results agree with previous models that indicate a glacial period ended about 400,000 years ago, as well as predictions about how much ice would have been accumulated at the poles since then.

The results, published in the May 27th issue of the journal Science, help refine models of the Red Planet’s past and future climate by allowing scientists to determine how ice moves between the poles and mid-latitudes, and in what volumes.

Climatic cycles of ice and dust build the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year, and periodically whittle down their size when the climate changes. This image is a simulated 3-D perspective view, created from image data taken by the THEMIS instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk)

Climatic cycles of ice and dust build the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year, and periodically whittle down their size when the climate changes. This image is a simulated 3-D perspective view, created from image data taken by the THEMIS instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk)

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