Greenbelt, MD – Fortunately for NASA scientists today, Apollo-era leaders had the foresight to save much of the 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon soil and rocks retrieved by NASA astronauts 50 years ago for future generations. They figured new crops of scientists, using instruments of their time, would be able to probe the samples with unprecedented rigor.
Now, the future that Apollo-era scientists envisioned has come. Their successors, many of whom weren’t even born when the last astronauts scooped up the Moon samples they’ll now be probing in their labs, are ready to take a giant leap towards answering long-standing questions about the evolution of our solar system.
Written by Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – On rare calm days, the most striking thing you notice at an altitude of more than 8,000 feet on an Antarctic glacier is the silence.
“There was just no sound; no air handling equipment, no leaves rustling, no bugs, no planes or cars. So quiet you just heard your heartbeat,” said Barbara Cohen, planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Most of the time, however, there is a steady howl of bitter cold wind flowing down from the East Antarctic ice plateau. With a summer temperature hovering around zero Fahrenheit, “It’s the wind that makes you cold,” Cohen said.
NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.
In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice.
But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.
The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.
“Ee celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”
Written by Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – A powerful combination of observations and computer simulations is giving new clues to how the moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at over a hundred locations across the lunar surface.
“These patterns, called ‘lunar swirls,’ appear almost painted on the surface of the moon,” said John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “They are unique; we’ve only seen these features on the moon, and their origin has remained a mystery since their discovery.” Keller is project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which made the observations.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon.
While NASA’s Curiosity rover concluded its detailed examination of the rock layers of the “Pahrump Hills” in Gale Crater on Mars this winter, some members of the rover team were busy analyzing the Martian atmosphere for xenon, a heavy noble gas.
Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment analyzed xenon in the planet’s atmosphere. Since noble gases are chemically inert and do not react with other substances in the air or on the ground, they are excellent tracers of the history of the atmosphere.
Written by Ruth Marlaire
Moffett Field, CA – NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.
Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.
NASA reports scientists discover evidence of Water Reservoir near Mar’s Surface from Meteorites on Earth
Written by William Jeffs
Houston, TX – NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface.
Though controversy still surrounds the origin, abundance and history of water on Mars, this discovery helps resolve the question of where the “missing Martian water” may have gone. Scientists continue to study the planet’s historical record, trying to understand the apparent shift from an early wet and warm climate to today’s dry and cool surface conditions.
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