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Topic: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft loses third reaction wheel to failure

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29th from an “opposition” position, directly between the dwarf planet’s mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about the bright material in the center of the crater.

While preparing for this observation, one of Dawn’s two remaining reaction wheels stopped functioning on April 23rd. By electrically changing the speed at which these gyroscope-like devices spin, Dawn controls its orientation in the zero-gravity, frictionless conditions of space.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft set to dive between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is set to make its first dive through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26th, 2017.

Because that gap is a region no spacecraft has ever explored, Cassini will use its dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a protective shield while passing through the ring plane. No particles larger than smoke particles are expected, but the precautionary measure is being taken on the first dive.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Cassini spacecraft above Saturn's northern hemisphere, heading toward its first dive between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Cassini spacecraft above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, heading toward its first dive between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close orbit of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has had its last close brush with Saturn’s hazy moon Titan and is now beginning its final set of 22 orbits around the ringed planet.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21st at 11:08pm PDT (1:08am CDT on April 22nd), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.

Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Titan was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes image of Opportunity Rover’s landing Platform in Eagle Crater

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new observation from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captures the landing platform that the rover Opportunity left behind in Eagle Crater more than 13 years and 27 miles (or 44 kilometers) ago.

A series of bounces and tumbles after initial touchdown plunked the airbag-cushioned lander into the crater, a mere 72 feet (22 meters) across, on January 25th, 2004, Universal Time (January 24th, PST).

The scene includes Eagle Crater and Opportunity’s nearby parachute and backshell, from the April 10th, 2017, observation by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

The bright landing platform left behind by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004 is visible inside Eagle Crater, at upper right in this April 8, 2017, observation by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The bright landing platform left behind by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004 is visible inside Eagle Crater, at upper right in this April 8, 2017, observation by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA uses Chemical Laptop to detect life in Chile’s excessively dry Atacama Desert

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Few places are as hostile to life as Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and only the hardiest microbes survive there. Its rocky landscape has lain undisturbed for eons, exposed to extreme temperatures and radiation from the sun.

If you can find life here, you might be able to find it in an even harsher environment — like the surface of Mars. That’s why a team of researchers from NASA and several universities visited the Atacama in February. They spent 10 days testing devices that could one day be used to search for signs of life on other worlds. That group included a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on a portable chemistry lab called the Chemical Laptop.

Chile's Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth -- and a ready analog for Mars' rugged, arid terrain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth — and a ready analog for Mars’ rugged, arid terrain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover leaves Cape Tribulation heading for Perseverance Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is departing “Cape Tribulation,” a crater-rim segment it has explored since late 2014, southbound for its next destination, “Perseverance Valley.”

The rover team plans observations in the valley to determine what type of fluid activity carved it billions of years ago: water, wind, or flowing debris lubricated by water.

A color panorama of a ridge called “Rocheport” provides both a parting souvenir of Cape Tribulation and also possible help for understanding the valley ahead. The view was assembled from multiple images taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera.

A grooved ridge called "Rocheport" on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

A grooved ridge called “Rocheport” on the rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins last close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s haze-enshrouded moon Titan this weekend.

The flyby marks the mission’s final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon’s northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08pm PDT on April 21st (2:08am EDT April 22nd). During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan’s surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon's surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon’s surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar captures images of Asteroid’s flyby of Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Radar images of asteroid 2014 JO25 were obtained in the early morning hours on Tuesday, with NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.

The images reveal a peanut-shaped asteroid that rotates about once every five hours. The images have resolutions as fine as 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel.

Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona.

This composite of 30 images of asteroid 2014 JO25 was generated with radar data collected using NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in California's Mojave Desert. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

This composite of 30 images of asteroid 2014 JO25 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

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NASA Study suggests decreased Hydroxyl levels maybe the cause of recent Methane increases

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA- and the U.S. Department of Energy-funded study finds that recent increases in global methane levels observed since 2007 are not necessarily due to increasing emissions, but instead may be due to changes in how long methane remains in the atmosphere after it is emitted.

The second most important human-produced greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, methane is colorless, odorless and can be hard to track. The gas has a wide range of sources, from decomposing biological material to leaks in natural gas pipelines.

Rice paddy fields in India. Agriculture is one source of global methane emissions. (Flickr user sandeepachetan.com travel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Rice paddy fields in India. Agriculture is one source of global methane emissions. (Flickr user sandeepachetan.com travel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

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NASA instruments approved for ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington,D.C. – NASA’s partnership in a future European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Jupiter and its moons has cleared a key milestone, moving from preliminary instrument design to implementation phase. 

Designed to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants, the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch in five years, arriving at Jupiter in October 2029. JUICE will spend almost four years studying Jupiter’s giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its icy Galilean moons—Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.  

ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission set to launch in 2022. (NASA)

ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission set to launch in 2022. (NASA)

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