Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.
A new study by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth’s continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – The first flight of NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will carry 13 low-cost CubeSats to test innovative ideas along with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft in 2018. Six of these CubeSat missions have contributions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
These small satellite secondary payloads will carry science and technology investigations to help pave the way for future human exploration in deep space, including the Journey to Mars. SLS’ first flight, referred to as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), provides the rare opportunity for these small experiments to reach deep space destinations, as most launch opportunities for CubeSats are limited to low-Earth orbit.
Written by Gina Anderson
Washington, D.C. – When global food prices spiked dramatically in late 2007 and into 2008, the costs of many basic dietary staples doubled or even tripled around the world, sparking protests and riots. Panicked governments stopped exporting food, aggravating the crisis.
Almost as troubling: the crisis had taken the world by surprise.
To keep it from happening again, international leaders created an agricultural monitoring group, bringing together representatives from governments and aid groups.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – In detective stories, as the plot thickens, an unexpected clue often delivers more questions than answers. In this case, the scene is a mountain on Mars. The clue: the chemical compound silica. Lots of silica. The sleuths: a savvy band of Earthbound researchers whose agent on Mars is NASA’s laser-flashing, one-armed mobile laboratory, Curiosity.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – A survey of 10 hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has led a team to solve a long-standing mystery — why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. The findings offer new insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.
Of the nearly 2,000 planets confirmed to be orbiting other stars, a subset of them are gaseous planets with characteristics similar to those of Jupiter. However, they orbit very close to their stars, making them blistering hot.
Written by Mike Giannone
Cleveland, OH – Think about underground water and gas as they filter through porous materials like soil and rock beds. On Earth, gravity forces water and gas to separate as they flow through the ground, cleaning the water and storing it in underground pools. Gravity’s role is significant in the process, both in nature with ground water and in chemical processes such as water reclamation reactors.
How this filtering works on Earth is well understood, even when the flow consists of different fluids. The process is still a mystery in microgravity.
Pasadena, CA – Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere — one that is far too thin to keep water from freezing or quickly evaporating. However, geological evidence has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today.
To produce a more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. For decades that left the question, “Where did all the carbon go?”
The solar wind stripped away much of Mars’ ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. But scientists have been puzzled by why they haven’t found more carbon — in the form of carbonate — captured into Martian rocks. They have also sought to explain the ratio of heavier and lighter carbons in the modern Martian atmosphere.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – If you were looking for the signatures of life on another world, you would want to take something small and portable with you. That’s the philosophy behind the “Chemical Laptop” being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California: a miniaturized laboratory that analyzes samples for materials associated with life.
“If this instrument were to be sent to space, it would be the most sensitive device of its kind to leave Earth, and the first to be able to look for both amino acids and fatty acids,” said Jessica Creamer, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at JPL.
Written by Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet.
The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.
Written by Joshua Buck
Washington, D.C. – Imagine a world with extreme temperatures that can wreak havoc on unprotected spacecraft and habitat components; a world where water is so scarce that plants are outfitted with sensors so farmers can avoid overwatering them; a world where precious water supplies are found in underground oases by satellites in orbit; a world where systems filter, recycle and purify air for the survival of inhabitants huddled in shelters.
Although images of human habitation on Mars may have filled your mind, the world just described is actually Earth, and the technologies cited are spinoffs, or technologies developed by the American space program that have gone on to benefit the public.
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