Pasadena, CA – Sue Smrekar really wants to go back to Venus. In her office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the planetary scientist displays a 30-year-old image of Venus’ surface taken by the Magellan spacecraft, a reminder of how much time has passed since an American mission orbited the planet.
The image reveals a hellish landscape: a young surface with more volcanoes than any other body in the solar system, gigantic rifts, towering mountain belts and temperatures hot enough to melt lead.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA says Mars and Earth are like two siblings who have grown apart.
There was a time when their resemblance was uncanny: Both were warm, wet and shrouded in thick atmospheres. But 3 or 4 billion years ago, these two worlds took different paths.
We may soon know why they went their separate ways. NASA’s InSight spacecraft will arrive at the Red Planet on Monday, November 26th, 2018 and will allow scientists to compare Earth to its rusty sibling like never before.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) is designed to study how plants respond to heat and water stress by measuring the temperature of Earth’s vegetation at all times of day with an accuracy of a few tenths of a degree.
Unusual heat can be a warning sign of important changes and concerns in many fields of research besides botany. Here are four other areas where ECOSTRESS’s precise temperature measurements could make a difference.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – NASA pulled off a scientific double play in Hawaii this winter, using the same instruments and aircraft to study both volcanoes and coral reefs. Besides helping scientists understand these two unique environments better, the data will be used to evaluate the possibility of preparing a potential future NASA satellite that would monitor ecosystem changes and natural hazards.
The advantages of studying active volcanoes from the air rather than the ground are obvious. Coral reefs may not offer the same risks in a close encounter that volcanoes do, but there’s another good reason to study them by remote sensing: they’re dotted across thousands of square miles of the globe.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – Launched five years ago on August 5th, 2011, NASA’s Juno mission maneuvered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016, joining a long tradition of discovery at the gas giant.
One of the brightest objects in the night sky, Jupiter has enthralled humans since ancient times. Today, scientists believe that learning more about the planet may be the key to discovering our solar system’s origins and formation.
Washington, D.C. – Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io has a thin atmosphere that collapses in the shadow of Jupiter, condensing as ice, according to a new study by NASA-funded researchers. The study reveals the freezing effects of Jupiter’s shadow during daily eclipses on the moon’s volcanic gases.
“This research is the first time scientists have observed this remarkable phenomenon directly, improving our understanding of this geologically active moon,” said Constantine Tsang, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The study was published August 2nd in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago, far from any ice sheet on the Red Planet today, new evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests.
The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. It also adds information about an environment combining heat and moisture, which could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life.
Sheridan Ackiss of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and collaborators used the orbiter’s mineral-mapping spectrometer to investigate surface composition in an oddly textured region of southern Mars called “Sisyphi Montes.”
Written by William Steigerwald / Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – A new map of Mars’ gravity made with three NASA spacecraft is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet.
“Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient,” said Antonio Genova of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge. “The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet’s gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars”
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – The surface of Earth is constantly being reshaped by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, changes in sea level and ice sheets, and other processes.
Since some of these changes amount to only millimeters per year, scientists must make very precise measurements of the landscape and ocean in space and time in order to study their evolution and help mitigate their impacts.
The foundation for these precision measurements is the terrestrial reference frame, which serves the same purpose as landmarks along a trail. Earth-orbiting satellites and ground-based instruments use this reference system to pinpoint their own locations and, in turn, those of the features they are tracking.
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