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NASA explores possible suborbital platform with Airship Challenge

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Airships aren’t just powered balloon-like vehicles that hover above sporting events. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are floating the idea that airships have potential for important scientific and commercial uses.

NASA is considering issuing a challenge for developing stratospheric airships that can break records in terms of duration of flight at high altitudes. The agency has issued a request for information for this contemplated “20-20-20 Airship Challenge.” Submissions will be accepted until December 1st.

Artist's concept for a high-altitude, long-duration airship that could be used as a research platform or for commercial purposes. (Mike Hughes (Eagre Interactive)/Keck Institute for Space Studies)

Artist’s concept for a high-altitude, long-duration airship that could be used as a research platform or for commercial purposes. (Mike Hughes (Eagre Interactive)/Keck Institute for Space Studies)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive instrument looks to answer the question, “How does Weather influence Soil Moisture?”

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Anyone who spends time outdoors knows that weather influences soil moisture — the moisture locked in soils that allows plants to grow — through temperature, wind and, of course, rain and snowfall. But in our complex, interlocking Earth system, there are almost no one-way streets. How does soil moisture influence weather in return?

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument may help answer that question. Scheduled for launch on January 29th, 2015, SMAP was built and will be operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The U.S. Midwest is a soil moisture hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Midwest is a soil moisture hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA study of Deep Sea Shrimp may reveal what Life could be like on other Planetary Bodies

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At one of the world’s deepest undersea hydrothermal vents, tiny shrimp are piled on top of each other, layer upon layer, crawling on rock chimneys that spew hot water. Bacteria, inside the shrimps’ mouths and in specially evolved gill covers, produce organic matter that feed the crustaceans.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are studying this mysterious ecosystem in the Caribbean to get clues about what life could be like on other planetary bodies, such as Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, which has a subsurface ocean.

Shrimp called Rimicaris hybisae at deep hydrothermal vents in the Caribbean seem to have different dietary habits depending on the proximity of other shrimp. Those who live in dense clusters like this one live off bacteria primarily, but in areas where the shrimp are distributed more sparsely, the shrimp are more likely to turn carnivorous, and even eat each other. (Courtesy Chris German, WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason ©2012 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Shrimp called Rimicaris hybisae at deep hydrothermal vents in the Caribbean seem to have different dietary habits depending on the proximity of other shrimp. Those who live in dense clusters like this one live off bacteria primarily, but in areas where the shrimp are distributed more sparsely, the shrimp are more likely to turn carnivorous, and even eat each other. (Courtesy Chris German, WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason ©2012 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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NASA releases 3D image from Rosetta spacecraft of Philae’s landing on Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The image was generated from data collected by the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) aboard the European Space Agency’s Philae spacecraft during the descent to the spacecraft’s initial touchdown on the comet November 12th.

The stereographic image was generated using two images acquired by ROLIS when Philae was a little less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the surface.

 

This 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was generated by data collected by the ROLIS instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Philae spacecraft during the decent to the spacecraft's initial touchdown on the comet Nov. 12. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR)

This 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was generated by data collected by the ROLIS instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Philae spacecraft during the decent to the spacecraft’s initial touchdown on the comet Nov. 12. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR)

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NASA enhances Galileo spacecraft photos of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA’s best view of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. This is the first time that NASA is publishing a version of the scene produced using modern image processing techniques.

This view of Europa stands out as the color view that shows the largest portion of the moon’s surface at the highest resolution.

The puzzling, fascinating surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

The puzzling, fascinating surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to analysis select rocks at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed a reconnaissance “walkabout” of the first outcrop it reached at the base of the mission’s destination mountain and has begun a second pass examining selected rocks in the outcrop in more detail.

Exposed layers on the lower portion of Mount Sharp are expected to hold evidence about dramatic changes in the environmental evolution of Mars. That was a major reason NASA chose this area of Mars for this mission.

The lowermost of these slices of time ascending the mountain includes a pale outcrop called “Pahrump Hills.”

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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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’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’s Near Earth Object Program has released map showing small asteroids entering Earth’s atmosphere

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA - A map released by NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program reveals that small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere with random distribution around the globe.

Released to the scientific community, the map visualizes data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013. The data indicate that Earth’s atmosphere was impacted by small asteroids, resulting in a bolide (or fireball), on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period.

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth's atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called "bolides" and commonly referred to as "fireballs".  Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth’s atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called “bolides” and commonly referred to as “fireballs”. Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

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NASA airborne data reveals Methane not being released in high rates in Alaska

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Despite large temperature increases in Alaska in recent decades, a new analysis of NASA airborne data finds that methane is not being released from Alaskan soils into the atmosphere at unusually high rates, as recent modeling and experimental studies have suggested.

The new result shows that the changes in this part of the Arctic have not yet had enough impact to affect the global methane budget.

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska's North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska’s North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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