Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, 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.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, 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.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, 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.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.
As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well. It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.”
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface.
The observation — by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) — is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.
In a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team with scientist David R. Thompson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, detailed the observation, which occurred over Aliso Canyon, near Porter Ranch, California.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, 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.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX – On Monday, June 6th, astronaut Jeff Williams will enter the first human-rated expandable module deployed in space, a technology demonstration to investigate the potential challenges and benefits of expandable habitats for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications.
Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston expanded the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) by filling it with air during more than seven hours of operations Saturday, May 28th.
Written by Monica Edwards and Laurie Abadie
Houston, TX – After 30-days in the confines of a simulated spacecraft, the HERA Mission 10 crew will “splashdown” on the evening of Wednesday, June 1st. HERA—the Human Exploration Research Analog—is one of several analogs used by the Human Research Program (HRP) to research ways to help NASA astronauts move from lower-Earth orbit to deep space explorations.
A spaceflight analog is a situation on Earth that produces physical and mental effects on the body similar to those experienced in space. During the tenth HERA mission, crew members went through all the motions of a real deep space mission without ever actually leaving JSC’s building 220.
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Greenbelt, MD – On September 8th, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch for terra incognita: the unknown surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. Like expeditions of old, OSIRIS-REx’s mission includes mapping the exotic terrain it explores.
Bennu is part of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system and is pristine enough to hold clues to that very early history. OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer – will study Bennu in detail and collect a sample to send to Earth for in-depth analysis. The mission also will investigate how pressure from sunlight influences the path of this traveling asteroid.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – A new NASA study modeling conditions in the ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa suggests that the necessary balance of chemical energy for life could exist there, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity.
Europa is strongly believed to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath its icy shell. Whether the Jovian moon has the raw materials and chemical energy in the right proportions to support biology is a topic of intense scientific interest.
The answer may hinge on whether Europa has environments where chemicals are matched in the right proportions to power biological processes. Life on Earth exploits such niches.
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