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Topic: Satellite

NASA’s SMAP instrument ready to measure Earth’s Soil Moisture

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA satellite that will peer into the topmost layer of Earth’s soils to measure the hidden waters that influence our weather and climate is in final preparations for a January 29th dawn launch from California.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will take the pulse of a key measure of our water planet: how freshwater cycles over Earth’s land surfaces in the form of soil moisture.

The mission will produce the most accurate, highest-resolution global maps ever obtained from space of the moisture present in the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of Earth’s soils.

Artist's rendering of the SMAP instrument. (NASA)

Artist’s rendering of the SMAP instrument. (NASA)

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NASA study shows Tropical Forests may remove more Carbon Dioxide from Atmosphere than expected

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas.

The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion — more than is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia and other northern regions, called boreal forests.

A new NASA study suggests that tropical forests, like this one in Malaysia, absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide than is absorbed by forests in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. (Wikimedia Commons)

A new NASA study suggests that tropical forests, like this one in Malaysia, absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide than is absorbed by forests in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. (Wikimedia Commons)

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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’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory CubeSat program provides big satellite performance in a small package

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Any way you slice it, space exploration — done right — requires an inordinate range of technical expertise.

From designing the spacecraft, the mission proposal and the circuit boards to testing the flight software and putting together budgets, sending something, anything, into the cosmos depends on good people who know their job.

“Although significantly smaller in size, CubeSats contain analogous payloads and subsystems to larger satellites and require similar technical knowledge and resources to traditional flight projects,” said Shannon Statham, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The training and experience gained by working on CubeSats are directly applicable to larger missions.”

Team RACE: Fifteen JPL Early Career Hires (recently graduated engineers and scientists) worked closely together to get the Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE) ready for flight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Team RACE: Fifteen JPL Early Career Hires (recently graduated engineers and scientists) worked closely together to get the Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE) ready for flight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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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NASA Earth Scientists to study Arctic Sea Ice losses effects on Clouds, Weather, Global Warming

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Climate change is a global phenomenon, yet Earth scientists are keeping a wary eye on one place in particular–the Arctic.

“Polar regions are important for us to study right now,” explains Tom Wagner of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington DC. “They are changing rapidly.”

One of the most visible of signs of warming is the retreat of Arctic sea ice. Every year, sea ice waxes and wanes in a normal response to the changing of seasons; the annual sea ice minimum occurs near the end of northern summer. Since the 1970s, researchers carefully watched to see if the rhythm of Arctic sea ice would respond to global warming.

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NASA Scientists use satellite data to find Methane Hot Spot in United States

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – One small “hot spot” in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate — according to a new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.

Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming. The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan)

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to help Farmers manage Drought conditions

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.

Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For several months, California has been in a state of "exceptional drought." The state's usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.'s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

For several months, California has been in a state of “exceptional drought.” The state’s usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.’s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 achieves final orbit and begins sending data

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Just over a month after launch, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) — NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide — has maneuvered into its final operating orbit and produced its first science data, confirming the health of its science instrument.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world.

Artist's rendering of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites data reveals River Areas Flood Potential

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Every year, river flooding takes a heavy toll of lives and property damage in the United States. A new study has found that the potential of a river basin to flood can be assessed months in advance of flood season by using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites. The new finding could eventually lead to longer lead times for flood warnings.

“Case studies of the catastrophic Missouri River floods of 2011 show that flood-potential early warning times could be increased by a couple of seasons using these satellite data,” said co-author Jay Famiglietti.

The flooded confluence of the Nishnabotna and Missouri Rivers in Iowa, June 2011. A study of the 2011 Missouri River Basin floods has shown that NASA satellite data can help predict the potential of a river basin to flood as much as 11 months in advance of flood season. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The flooded confluence of the Nishnabotna and Missouri Rivers in Iowa, June 2011. A study of the 2011 Missouri River Basin floods has shown that NASA satellite data can help predict the potential of a river basin to flood as much as 11 months in advance of flood season. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

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