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Topic: Orbit

NASA launches Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory into orbit around Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22am PST (9:22am EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth's vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth’s vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft takes sharpest picture yet of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on January 25th, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.

“We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by the Dawn spacecraft on January 25th, 2015.

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by the Dawn spacecraft on January 25th, 2015.

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NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna image shows Asteroid passing Earth today had it’s own Moon

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists working with NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach today (January 26th, 2015) at 8:19am PST (10:19am CST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.

The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on January 26th, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across.

This GIF shows asteroid 2004 BL86, which safely flew past Earth on Jan. 26, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This GIF shows asteroid 2004 BL86, which safely flew past Earth on Jan. 26, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft data shows evidence that Vesta may have had Water at one time

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its surface.

However, a new study shows evidence that Vesta may have had short-lived flows of water-mobilized material on its surface, based on data from Dawn.

“Nobody expected to find evidence of water on Vesta. The surface is very cold and there is no atmosphere, so any water on the surface evaporates,” said Jennifer Scully, postgraduate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. “However, Vesta is proving to be a very interesting and complex planetary body.”

This image shows Cornelia Crater on the large asteroid Vesta. On the right is an inset image showing an example of curved gullies, indicated by the short white arrows, and a fan-shaped deposit, indicated by long white arrows. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image shows Cornelia Crater on the large asteroid Vesta. On the right is an inset image showing an example of curved gullies, indicated by the short white arrows, and a fan-shaped deposit, indicated by long white arrows. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Observatory set to launch January 29th

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California is scheduled for Thursday, January 29th. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 2 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is targeted for 6:20:42am PST (9:20:42am EST) at the opening of a three-minute launch window.

If needed, a backup launch opportunity is available on the Western Range on January 30th with the same launch window.

SMAP is the first U.S. Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument to be launched into space in January 29th.

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument to be launched into space in January 29th.

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NASA reports Saturn and it’s system of Moons mapped with high accuracy

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometers).

The measurement is some 50 times more precise than those provided by ground-based optical telescopes. The feat improves astronomers’ knowledge of Saturn’s orbit and benefits spacecraft navigation and basic physics research.

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system's center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system’s center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover reaches highest point of it’s career on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After completing two drives this week, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has paused to photograph the panoramic vista from the highest point the rover has reached during its 40 months of exploring the western rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater.

The view is one of the grandest in Opportunity’s Martian career of nearly 11 years and more than 25.8 miles (41.6 kilometers).

The rover has been having trouble with a section of its flash memory, the type of memory that can store data even when power is switched off.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of "Cape Tribulation," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of “Cape Tribulation,” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports International Space Station celebrates New Year 16 Times

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Expedition 42 crew orbiting Earth on the International Space Station gets the opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve a whopping 16 times as it circles the globe at 17,500 miles an hour.

Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and his crew, which includes NASA’s Terry Virts, Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, say they plan to celebrate with fruit juice toasts.

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NASA takes a look back at 2014

 

Written by David Weaver
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

“We continued to make great progress on our journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development; and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next deep space spacecraft in which our astronauts will travel,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We moved forward on our work to create quieter, greener airplanes and develop technologies to make air travel more efficient; and we advanced our study of our changing home planet, Earth, while increasing our understanding of others in our solar system and beyond.”

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NASA scientists test Gecko like Grippers in Microgravity

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – There are no garbage trucks equipped to leave the atmosphere and pick up debris floating around the Earth. But what if we could send a robot to do the job?

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on adhesive gripping tools that could grapple objects such as orbital debris or defunct satellites that would otherwise be hard to handle.

The gecko gripper project was selected for a test flight through the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. As a test, researchers used the grippers in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA’s C-9B parabolic flight aircraft in August.

This is an image of a gecko foot. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a gripping system based on the way that gecko feet are able to stick to surfaces. Just as a gecko's foot has tiny adhesive hairs, the JPL devices have small structures that work in similar ways. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is an image of a gecko foot. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a gripping system based on the way that gecko feet are able to stick to surfaces. Just as a gecko’s foot has tiny adhesive hairs, the JPL devices have small structures that work in similar ways. (Wikimedia Commons)

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