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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s new orbit to bring it closer to Saturn’s moons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan.

Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus.

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn’s moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn’s equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) images now available Online to the Public

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft now are available online to the public. The data was collected following the restart of the asteroid-seeking spacecraft in December 2013 after a lengthy hibernation.

The collection of millions of infrared images and billions of infrared measurements of asteroids, stars, galaxies and quasars spans data obtained between December 13th, 2013, and December 13th, 2014.

The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on January 30, 2015, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on January 30, 2015, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). (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’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captures images of new Craters on the Moon

 

Written by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) acquired images of the lunar surface before and after the largest recorded explosion occurred on the surface.

On March 17th, 2013, an object the size of a small boulder hit the surface in Mare Imbrium and exploded in a flash of light nearly 10 times as bright as anything ever recorded before.

This bright flash was recorded by researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL with coordinates 20.6°N, 336.1°E.

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover uses arm to move sample rock powder to analyzing instrument

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its robotic arm Wednesday, March 11th, to sieve and deliver a rock-powder sample to an onboard instrument. The sample was collected last month before the team temporarily suspended rover arm movement pending analysis of a short circuit.

The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument inside the rover received the sample powder. This sample comes from a rock target called “Telegraph Peak,” the third target drilled during about six months of investigating the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mount Sharp. With this delivery completed, the rover team plans to drive Curiosity away from Pahrump Hills in coming days.

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called "Pahrump Hills," that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the "Artist's Drive" route toward higher layers of the mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called “Pahrump Hills,” that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the “Artist’s Drive” route toward higher layers of the mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals Ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe.”

This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon's subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA's Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cutaway view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is an artist’s rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA’s Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to begin using it’s arm again

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Managers of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover mission expect to approve resumption of rover arm movements as early as next week while continuing analysis of what appears to be an intermittent short circuit in the drill.

A fluctuation in current on February 27th triggered a fault-protection response that immediately halted action by the rover during the mission’s 911th Martian day, or sol.

Since then, the rover team has avoided driving Curiosity or moving the rover’s arm, while engineers have focused on diagnostic tests. Science observations with instruments on the rover’s mast have continued, along with environmental monitoring by its weather station.

This March 4, 2015, image from the Navcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the position in which the rover held its arm for several days after a transient short circuit triggered onboard fault-protection programming to halt arm activities on Feb. 27th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This March 4, 2015, image from the Navcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the position in which the rover held its arm for several days after a transient short circuit triggered onboard fault-protection programming to halt arm activities on Feb. 27th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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