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Topic: NASA’s Planetary Science Division

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft data reveals Critical Information about Planetary Formation

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Data from NASA’s New Horizons mission are providing new insights into how planets and planetesimals – the building blocks of the planets – were formed. 

The New Horizons spacecraft flew past the ancient Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019, providing humankind’s first close-up look at one of the icy remnants of solar system formation in the vast region beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The uniform color and composition of Arrokoth’s surface shows the Kuiper Belt object formed from a small, uniform, cloud of material in the solar nebula, rather than a mishmash of matter from more separated parts of the nebula. The former supports the idea that Arrokoth formed in a local collapse of a cloud in the solar nebula. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko)

The uniform color and composition of Arrokoth’s surface shows the Kuiper Belt object formed from a small, uniform, cloud of material in the solar nebula, rather than a mishmash of matter from more separated parts of the nebula. The former supports the idea that Arrokoth formed in a local collapse of a cloud in the solar nebula. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko)

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NASA’s Lucy Mission completes Critcal Design Review

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On Friday, October 18th, 2019,  NASA’s Lucy mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review.

During this review, Lucy team members presented the completed mission design, demonstrating that the team has met all the technical challenges of the mission and is ready to begin building hardware. After the review completion, NASA’s independent review board provided a green light for proceeding into the fabrication/manufacturing stage of the mission.

Artist's concept of Lucy Mission. (SwRI)

Artist’s concept of Lucy Mission. (SwRI)

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NASA Dragonfly rotorcraft lander to fly around Saturn’s moon Titan exploring

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Saturn’s moon Titan will be the next destination for NASA in our solar system. Titan is the unique, richly organic world. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan's organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry. (NASA/JHU-APL)

This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan’s organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry. (NASA/JHU-APL)

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NASA InSight’s Team looks to get heat probe digging again

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA InSight’s heat probe has been unable to dig very far on the surface of Mars. Scientists and engineers have a new plan for getting the probe also known as the “mole,” digging again on Mars. Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

But the mole hasn’t been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters) below the Martian surface since February 28th, 2019.

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA's InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study Mars’ transition from Wet to Dry

 

Written by Christine Pulliam
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD –  The planet Mars has fascinated scientists for over a century. Today, it is a frigid desert world with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 100 times thinner than Earth’s. But evidence suggests that in the early history of our solar system, Mars had an ocean’s worth of water.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will study Mars to learn more about the planet’s transition from wet to dry, and what that means about its past and present habitability.

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

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Celebrate 2019 New Year’s Eve with NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The New Year’s celebration to usher in 2019 will include an event like no other – more than four billion miles from Earth.

In just under a year – shortly after midnight Eastern Time on January 1st, 2019 – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will buzz by the most primitive and most distant object ever explored. New Horizons’ encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system – and will be performed in a region of deep space that was practically unknown just a generation ago.

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

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NASA looks to fund concepts for missions to Saturn’s Moon Titan and a Comet

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The agency announced the concepts Wednesday, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

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NASA reviews concept to land probe on surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A report on the potential science value of a lander on the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has been delivered to NASA, and the agency is now engaging the broader science community to open a discussion about its findings.

In early 2016, in response to a congressional directive, NASA’s Planetary Science Division began a pre-Phase A study to assess the science value and engineering design of a future Europa lander mission. NASA routinely conducts such studies — known as Science Definition Team (SDT) reports — long before the beginning of any mission to gain an understanding of the challenges, feasibility and science value of the potential mission.

This artist's rending illustrates a conceptual design for a potential future mission to land a robotic probe on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. (NASA)

This artist’s rending illustrates a conceptual design for a potential future mission to land a robotic probe on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. (NASA)

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NASA gives green light to Mars Insight Mission Launch

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA is moving forward with a spring 2018 launch of its InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars, following final approval this week by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission was originally scheduled to launch in March of this year, but NASA suspended launch preparations in December due to a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

NASA has set a new launch opportunity, beginning May 5, 2018, for the InSight mission to Mars. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA has set a new launch opportunity, beginning May 5, 2018, for the InSight mission to Mars. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Five Planets visible in the morning sky from now till February 20th

 

Written by Jane Platt
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – “When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.”

Well, it’s not quite like the song about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but our solar system is experiencing an uncommon lineup that should be quite a treat for sky-watchers. The solar system itself hasn’t changed — it’s just that the timing of the planets orbiting the sun puts them into a lineup that makes for good viewing by Earthlings.

Early risers have an opportunity to see five naked-eye planets in pre-dawn skies during late January and continuing through late February. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Early risers have an opportunity to see five naked-eye planets in pre-dawn skies during late January and continuing through late February. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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