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Topic: Orbit

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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NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovers it’s first Exoplanet during new mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures new image of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn’s best image yet of Ceres as the spacecraft makes its way toward this unexplored world.

“Now, finally, we have a spacecraft on the verge of unveiling this mysterious, alien world. Soon it will reveal myriad secrets Ceres has held since the dawn of the solar system,” said Marc Rayman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission.

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA's Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination -- the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination — the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA uses Keck Observatory telescopes to determine dust will likely not to block images of star’s Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Planet hunters received some good news recently. A new study concluded that, on average, sun-like stars aren’t all that dusty. Less dust means better odds of snapping clear pictures of the stars’ planets in the future.

These results come from surveying nearly 50 stars from 2008 to 2011 using the Keck Interferometer, a former NASA key science project that combined the power of the twin W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft test flight next step for Human Mission to Mars

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In the not-too-distant future, astronauts destined to be the first people to walk on Mars will leave Earth aboard an Orion spacecraft.

Carried aloft by the tremendous power of a Space Launch System rocket, our explorers will begin their Journey to Mars from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the spirit of humanity with them to the Red Planet.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. It’s a journey worth the risks.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. We take the next step on that journey with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion. (NASA)

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. We take the next step on that journey with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion. (NASA)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover Impenetrable Barrier in Radiation Belts

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Two donuts of seething radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts, have been found to contain a nearly impenetrable barrier that prevents the fastest, most energetic electrons from reaching Earth.

The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth's radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth’s radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

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NASA releases images of Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae Lander as it bounced/landed on Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS imaging system show the portions of the journey its Philae comet lander undertook on November 12th, as it approached and then rebounded off the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The mosaic comprises a series of images captured by OSIRIS’s narrow-angle camera over a 30-minute period spanning the first touchdown. The images were taken with Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera when the Rosetta spacecraft was orbiting the comet at about 9.6 miles (15.5 kilometers) from the surface.

The descent of its comet lander Philae was captured by the Rosetta spacecraft's main camera as the lander approached - and then rebounded off - the comet's surface. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The descent of its comet lander Philae was captured by the Rosetta spacecraft’s main camera as the lander approached – and then rebounded off – the comet’s surface. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA / NOAA’s GOES-East satellite provides image of United States in the grips of Bitter Cold Weather

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – As icy cold Canadian air settled over the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. bringing snow and bitter cold, NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured this infrared view of what looks like a frozen blanket over the region.

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite provides visible and infrared images over the eastern U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean from its fixed orbit in space.

In an infrared image taken on November 18th at 12:30 UTC (7:30am EST), the cold air over the eastern and central U.S. appears to look like a blanket of white, but it’s not all snow.

In this NOAA's GOES satellite infrared image taken on November 18th at 7:30am EST, the cold air over the central and eastern U.S. appears to look like a blanket of white, but it's not all snow. (NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters)

In this NOAA’s GOES satellite infrared image taken on November 18th at 7:30am EST, the cold air over the central and eastern U.S. appears to look like a blanket of white, but it’s not all snow. (NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission creates Geological Maps of Asteroid Vesta

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images from NASA’s Dawn Mission have been used to create a series of high-resolution geological maps of the large asteroid Vesta, revealing the variety of surface features in unprecedented detail. These maps are included with a series of 11 scientific papers published this week in a special issue of the journal Icarus.

Geological mapping is a technique used to derive the geologic history of a planetary object from detailed analysis of surface morphology, topography, color and brightness information.

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft speeding to Comet

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet.

The mission’s Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, November 12th at 7:35amPST/10:35am EST. A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02am PST/11:02am EST.

If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet's coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet’s coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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