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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s GRAIL mission data reveals ‘Ocean of Storms’ region of Earth’s Moon formed from ancient rift valleys

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.

Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon.

A view of Earth's moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. (NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC)

A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. (NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observes strange feature in sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan.

It has now been observed twice by Cassini’s radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft to release Philae Lander to Comet’s surface November 12th

 

Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th.

Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two “lobes,” with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta’s August 6th arrival at the comet, following the spacecraft’s 10-year journey through the solar system.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover takes first drill sample from Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has collected its first taste of the layered mountain whose scientific allure drew the mission to choose this part of Mars as a landing site.

Late Wednesday, September 24th, the rover’s hammering drill chewed about 2.6 inches (6.7 centimeters) deep into a basal-layer outcrop on Mount Sharp and collected a powdered-rock sample. Data and images received early Thursday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, confirmed success of this operation. The powder collected by the drilling is temporarily held within the sample-handling mechanism on the rover’s arm.

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the first sample-collection hole drilled in Mount Sharp, the layered mountain that is the science destination of the rover's extended mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the first sample-collection hole drilled in Mount Sharp, the layered mountain that is the science destination of the rover’s extended mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler Telescopes discovers water vapor on Exoplanet outside our solar system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes — Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler — have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

“This discovery is a significant milepost on the road to eventually analyzing the atmospheric composition of smaller, rocky planets more like Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Such achievements are only possible today with the combined capabilities of these unique and powerful observatories.”

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft enters Mars Orbit

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24pm EDT Sunday, September 21st, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

“As the first orbiter dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere, MAVEN will greatly improve our understanding of the history of the Martian atmosphere, how the climate has changed over time, and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability of the planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It also will better inform a future mission to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.”

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SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft launches taking NASA’s RapidScat to International Space Station

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA mission that will boost global monitoring of ocean winds for improved weather forecasting and climate studies is among about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of NASA science investigations and cargo now on their way to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.

The cargo ship launched on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:52pm PDT Saturday, September 20th (1:52am EDT Sunday, September 21st).

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40, the nine rocket engines roar to life on the Falcon launch vehicle. (NASA)

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40, the nine rocket engines roar to life on the Falcon launch vehicle. (NASA)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) discovers source of Intense Gamma Rays

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our Milky Way galaxy is littered with the still-sizzling remains of exploded stars.

When the most massive stars explode as supernovas, they don’t fade into the night, but sometimes glow ferociously with high-energy gamma rays. What powers these energetic stellar remains?

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is helping to untangle the mystery. The observatory’s high-energy X-ray eyes were able to peer into a particular site of powerful gamma rays and confirm the source: A spinning, dead star called a pulsar.

The blue dot in this image marks the spot of an energetic pulsar -- the magnetic, spinning core of star that blew up in a supernova explosion. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO)

The blue dot in this image marks the spot of an energetic pulsar — the magnetic, spinning core of star that blew up in a supernova explosion. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft out of Safe Mode and back to Normal Operational State

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11th. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned communication with NASA’s Deep Space Network that morning. The spacecraft was not performing any special activities at the time.

Engineers immediately began working to restore the spacecraft to its normal operational state. The team determined the source of the problems, corrected them, and then resumed normal ion thrusting on Monday night, September 15th.

Artist concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres during an upcoming flyby. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

Artist concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres during an upcoming flyby. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA reports landing site for Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae lander on comet set

 

Written by DC Agle and Dwayne Brown
NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta’s lander, Philae, will target Site J, an intriguing region on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites.

The 220-pound (100-kilogram) lander is scheduled to reach the surface on November 11th, where it will perform in-depth measurements to characterize the nucleus. Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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