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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Sees the Two Faces of Titan’s Dunes

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new analysis of radar data from NASA’s Cassini mission, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, has revealed regional variations among sand dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The result gives new clues about the moon’s climatic and geological history.

Dune fields are the second most dominant landform on Titan, after the seemingly uniform plains, so they offer a large-scale insight into the moon’s peculiar environment. The dunes cover about 13 percent of the surface, stretching over an area of 4 million square miles (10 million square kilometers). For Earthly comparison, that’s about the surface area of the United States.

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that the sizes and patterns of dunes on Saturn's moon Titan vary as a function of altitude and latitude. (NASA/JPL-Caltech, and NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that the sizes and patterns of dunes on Saturn's moon Titan vary as a function of altitude and latitude. (NASA/JPL-Caltech, and NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)

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NASA’s Twin Grail Spacecraft Reunite in Lunar Orbit

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The second of NASA’s two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft has successfully completed its planned main engine burn and is now in lunar orbit. Working together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will study the moon as never before.

“NASA greets the new year with a new mission of exploration,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The twin GRAIL spacecraft will vastly expand our knowledge of our moon and the evolution of our own planet. We begin this year reminding people around the world that NASA does big, bold things in order to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown.”

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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First of NASA’s GRAIL Spacecraft Enters Moon Orbit

 

Written by DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The first of two NASA spacecraft to study the moon in unprecedented detail has entered lunar orbit.

NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2:00pm PST (5:00pm EST) today. As of 3:00pm PST (6:00pm EST), GRAIL-A is in an orbit of 56 miles by 5,197 miles (90 kilometers by 8,363 kilometers) around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete.

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s GRAIL-A Spacecraft 24 Hours Away From Moon

 

Written by DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft is within 24 hours of its insertion burn that will place it into lunar orbit. At the time the spacecraft crossed the milestone at 1:21pm PST today (4:21pm EST), the spacecraft was 30,758 miles (49,500 kilometers) from the moon.

Launched aboard the same rocket on September 10th, 2011, GRAIL-A’s mirror twin, GRAIL-B, is also closing the gap between itself and the moon. GRAIL-B is scheduled to perform its lunar orbit insertion burn on New Year’s Day (January 1st) at 2:05pm PST (5:05pm EST).

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

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Homegrown designs sprout for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The expression goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And right now there is a need for NASA and the United States to have reliable access to low Earth orbit from homegrown sources. So, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and a number of American-led private companies are working together on new and innovative plans to do just that.

For example, when NASA astronauts journey to the International Space Station again after being launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, they could do so atop the same vehicle that rocketed the agency’s Curiosity rover toward the surface of Mars on November 26th.

Media receive an update on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which are being matured for two NASA purposes: cargo and crew. (Photo credit: Jim Grossmann)

Media receive an update on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which are being matured for two NASA purposes: cargo and crew. (Photo credit: Jim Grossmann)

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Soar Over Asteroid Vesta in 3-D

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook/Priscilla Vega
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Glide over the giant asteroid Vesta with NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in a new 3-D video.  Dawn has been orbiting Vesta since July 15th, obtaining high-resolution images of its bumpy, cratered surface and making other scientific measurements.

The new video is best viewed with red-blue glasses. The video incorporates images from Dawn’s framing camera from July to August 2011. It was created by Dawn team member Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

A still image from the 3-D video. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

A still image from the 3-D video. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Nanosail-D ‘Sails’ Home — Mission Complete

 

Written by Janet L. Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – After spending more than 240 days “sailing” around the Earth, NASA’s NanoSail-D — a nanosatellite that deployed NASA’s first-ever solar sail in low-Earth orbit — has successfully completed its Earth orbiting mission.

Launched to space November 19th, 2010 as a payload on NASA’s FASTSAT, a small satellite, NanoSail-D’s sail deployed on January 20th.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

An artist concept of a solar sail in space. (Credit: NASA)

An artist concept of a solar sail in space. (Credit: NASA)

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NASA Proposes Orion Spacecraft Test Flight In 2014

 

Agency Moves to Implement Deep Space Exploration Plan

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationDenver, CO – NASA plans to add an unmanned flight test of the Orion spacecraft in early 2014 to its contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems for the multi-purpose crew vehicle’s design, development, test and evaluation.

This test supports the new Space Launch System (SLS) that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create U.S. jobs, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human spaceflight efforts.

The Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is prepared for the Launch Abort Vehicle Configuration Test at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Denver, CO. (Credit: NASA)

The Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is prepared for the Launch Abort Vehicle Configuration Test at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Denver, CO. (Credit: NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Launch Milestones

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory is tucked inside its Atlas V rocket, ready for launch on Saturday, November 26th, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The November 26th launch window extends from 7:02am to 8:45am PST (10:02am to 11:45am EST). The launch period for the mission extends through December 18th.

The spacecraft, which will arrive at Mars in August 2012, is equipped with the most advanced rover ever to land on another planet. Named Curiosity, the rover will investigate whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life, and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

This artist's concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist's concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA in Final Preparations for November 8th Asteroid Flyby

 

Written by DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency’s Deep Space Network at Goldstone, CA, as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on November 8th.

Scientists are treating the flyby of the 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) asteroid as a science target of opportunity – allowing instruments on “spacecraft Earth” to scan it during the close pass.

Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will begin at 9:30am local time (PDT) on November 4th, using the massive 70-meter (230-foot) Deep Space Network antenna, and last for about two hours. The asteroid will continue to be tracked by Goldstone for at least four hours each day from November 6th through November 10th. Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin on November 8th, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28pm PST.

This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data taken in April of 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico. (Image credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo)

This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data taken in April of 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico. (Image credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo)

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