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NASA Updates

Discussion in 'Education & Research' started by layman, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    NASA Targeting Earth Observing Satellites and ISS Sensors to Aid Missing Malaysian Airline Search


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    Sensors aboard NASA’s Terra satellite are aiding the search for vanished flight MH 370. Credit: NASA

    NASA has actively joined the hunt for the missing Malaysian Airline flight MH-370 that mysteriously disappeared without a trace more than two weeks ago on March 8, 2014.

    Sensors aboard at least two of NASA’s unmanned Earth orbiting global observation satellites as well as others flying on the manned International Space Station (ISS) are looking for signs of the jetliner that could aid the investigators from a multitude of nations and provide some small measure of comfort to the grieving families and loved ones of the passengers aboard.

    “Obviously NASA isn’t a lead agency in this effort. But we’re trying to support the search, if possible,” Allard Beutel, NASA Headquarters, Office of Communications director, told Universe Today this evening.

    NASA’s airplane search assistance comes in two forms; mining existing space satellite observing data and retargeting space based assets for new data gathering since the incident.

    The Malaysian Airline Boeing 777-2H6ER jetliner went missing on March 8 while cruising en route from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. See cockpit photo below.

    Accurate facts on why MH-370 vanished with 239 passengers aboard have sadly been few and far between.

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    Chinese satellite image of possible debris of MH 370. Credit: China/SASTIND

    Last week, the search area shifted to a wide swath in the southern Indian Ocean when potential aircraft debris was spotted in a new series of separate satellite images from Australia and China government officials.

    A prior set of official Chinese government satellite images at a different location yielded absolutely nothing.

    The area is now focused 2,500 km (1,600 mi) south west of Perth, a city on the western coast of Australia.

    NASA’s search support was triggered upon activation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.

    Available data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites has already been transmitted to the U.S. Geological Survey and new data are now being collected in the search area.

    “In response to activation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters last week regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, NASA sent relevant space-based data to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observations and Science Hazard Data Distribution System that facilitates the distribution of data for Charter activations,” according to a NASA statement.

    And it’s important to note that NASA satellites and space-based cameras are designed for long-term scientific data gathering and Earth observation.

    “They’re really not meant to look for a missing aircraft,” Beutel stated.

    “The archive of global Earth-observing satellite data is being mined for relevant images. These include broad-area views from the MODIS [instrument] on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites,” Beutel informed me.

    The next step was to retarget both satellites and another high resolution camera aboard the ISS.

    “In addition, two NASA high-resolution assets have been targeted to take images of designated search areas: the Earth Observing-1 satellite and the ISERV camera on the International Space Station,” Beutel explained.

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    Sensors aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite are aiding the search for MH 370. Credit: NASA

    Aqua and Terra were already gathering new observations with the MODIS instrument in the search area off Australia last week. MODIS measures changes in Earth’s cloud cover.

    Here are the satellite observation times and capabilities:

    • MODIS on the Aqua satellite observed at about 1:30 p.m. local time as it passes overhead from pole-to-pole
    • MODIS on the Terra satellite observed at about 10:30 a.m. local time
    • The width (field of view) of a MODIS observation is 2,300 kilometers
    • One pixel of a MODIS image – the limit of how small a feature it can see – is about 1 kilometer.

    A new set of high resolution Earth imaging cameras are being sent to the ISS and are loaded aboard the SpaceX CRS-3 Dragon resupply capsule now slated for blastoff on March 30.

    The newly launched NASA/JAXA GPM precipitation monitoring satellite which will cover this ocean area in the future is still in the midst of science instrument checkout.

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    The International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit. Credit: NASA

    Ships and planes from at least 26 countries have been being dispatched to the new based on the new satellite imagery to search for debris and the black boxes recording all the critical engineering data and cockpit voices of the pilot and copilot and aid investigators as to what happened.

    No one knows at this time why the Malaysia Airlines flight mysteriously disappeared.

    Ken Kremer

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    Map of possible MH 370 debris locations published 1: 12 March (disproved), 2: 20–23 March 2014. Credit: Wikipedia

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    Flight deck view of the missing MH 370 aircraft, showing many of the communication systems now under investigation. Credit: Chris Finney

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    Photo of Malaysia Air Boeing 777-200



    Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/110656...ssing-malaysian-airline-search/#ixzz2wsLfgdqh
     
  2. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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  3. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Hidden Ocean Found on Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus, Could Potentially Support Life

    The Saturn moon Enceladus harbors a big ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust that may be capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study reports.

    The water ocean on Enceladus is about 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep and lies beneath a shell of ice 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km) thick, researchers said. Further, it's in direct contact with a rocky seafloor, theoretically making possible all kinds of complex chemical reactions — such as, perhaps, the kind that led to the rise of life on Earth.

    "The main implication is that there are potentially habitable environments in the solar system in places which are completely unexpected," study lead author Luciano Iess said in a video about the discovery produced by his home institution, Sapienza University in Rome. "Enceladus has a surface temperature of about minus 180 degrees Celsius [minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit], but under that surface there is liquid water." [Photos: Enceladus, Saturn's Cold, Bright Moon]



    The new finding, which is published online today (April 3) in the journal Science, doesn't exactly come out of left field. Rather, it confirms suspicions many researchers have had about Enceladus since 2005, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted ice and water vapor spewing from fractures near the moon's south pole.

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    Cartoon illustrating the possible interior of Enceladus based on Cassini gravity investigation, which suggests an ice outer shell and a low density, rocky core with a regional water ocean sandwiched in between at high southern latitudes. Cassini ISS images were used to depict the surface geology and the plumes.
    Measuring Enceladus' gravity

    Iess and his colleagues mapped out Enceladus' gravity by measuring how the 313-mile-wide (504 km) moon tugged on Cassini during three close flybys from 2010 to 2012.

    "As the spacecraft flies by Enceladus, its velocity is perturbed by an amount that depends on variations in the gravity field that we're trying to measure," co-author Sami Asmar, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "We see the change in velocity as a change in radio frequency, received at our ground stations here all the way across the solar system."

    This ultra-precise tracking system — NASA's Deep Space Network can tell if Cassini speeds up or slows down by just 1 foot (0.3 meters) per hour — revealed the presence of a "negative mass anomaly" at Enceladus' south pole. In other words, the area harbors less mass than would be expected for a perfectly spherical body.

    That makes sense, because a large depression marks the south pole's surface,researchers said. But the observed mass anomaly is significantly smaller than expected based on the size of the dent (about 0.6 miles, or 1 km deep).




    The researchers thus concluded that "extra" mass underground must be reducing the effect. A subsurface ocean of liquid water, which is denser than ice, is the only reasonable candidate, they said.

    The heat required to keep this water in a liquid state is generated within Enceladus, with much of that energy perhaps coming from tidal interactions between Enceladus and another of Saturn's moons, Dione. The moon's internal energy stores are prodigious; a 2011 study found that Enceladus' south polar region pumps out 15.8 gigawatts of heat-generated power, equivalent to the output of 20 coal-fired power plants.

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    Image of Saturn's moon Enceladus, showing the "tiger stripes," long fractures from which the water vapor jets are emitted.
    A lot of water

    The team's calculations suggest that the moon's ocean covers at least as much area as Lake Superior, the second-largest lake on Earth — though the icy moon's sea is much deeper than Lake Superior and thus holds a great deal more water.

    The ocean is likely confined to the moon's southern hemisphere, reaching halfway to the equator or so from the pole. But the study team cannot rule out the possibility that it extends globally, said co-author Dave Stevenson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    The subsurface sea probably feeds Enceladus' geysers, which blast organic compounds — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — into space along with ice and water vapor. [Enceladus' Surprising Geysers (Video)]

    Further, the new study marks the first time scientists have used gravity measurements to discover an ocean on another world, Stevenson said. For example, researchers inferred the existence of a subsurface sea on Jupiter's moon Europa from magnetic-field data, which indicated the presence of an underground conductive layer (almost certainly salty water).

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    Enceladus's water vapor jets, emitted from the southern polar region.


    Water on rock

    The gravity measurements also suggest that Enceladus is composed of layers of different materials, with a low-density core consisting of silicate rock underlying the ocean, researchers said.

    This is good news for anyone hoping that life may have sprung up on the frigid Saturn satellite.

    "When you have a situation like this, where the ocean is sitting next to the rock, there's a greater likelihood of some interesting chemistry," Stevenson said.

    Europa's sea similarly abuts rock, while some other satellites — such as Jupiter's huge moon Ganymede — appear to have subsurface seas that touch only ice above and below, he added.

    Indeed, the similarities between Europa and Enceladus continue to mount. Late last year, for example, researchers announced the discovery of water-vapor plumes erupting from Europa's south polar region.

    Hidden Ocean Found on Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus, Could Potentially Support Life | Space.com
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2014
  4. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Weird 'UFO' Light on Mars May Just Be a ....

    Scientists are throwing cold water on yet another purported "alien" sighting by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.

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    A bright flash of light appears to be visible in this image taken by the right-side navigation camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014.

    Though UFO enthusiasts may beg to differ, mission team members say bright flashes of light visible in Mars photos taken by the Curiosity rover on April 2 and April 3 almost certainly have a perfectly ordinary explanation.



    "One possibility is that the light is the glint from a rock surface reflecting the sun. When these images were taken each day, the sun was in the same direction as the bright spot, west-northwest from the rover, and relatively low in the sky," Justin Maki, the lead for Curiosity's engineering cameras, told Space.com via email. [Mars Illusions: Photos of the "Face on Mars" and Other Martian Tricks]

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    A bright flash of light appears to be visible in the distance in this image taken by the right-side navigation camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


    "The rover science team is also looking at the possibility that the bright spots could be sunlight reaching the camera's CCD [charge-coupled device] directly through a vent hole in the camera housing, which has happened previously on other cameras on Curiosity and other Mars rovers when the geometry of the incoming sunlight relative to the camera is precisely aligned," added Maki, who is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We think it's either a vent-hole light leak or a glinty rock."

    It's also possible that the flashes resulted from the impact of fast-moving cosmic rays with the camera, Maki said in a statement released by NASA today (April 8). Whatever the cause, the phenomenon is far from rare.

    "In the thousands of images we've received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week," Maki said in the NASA statement.

    The two black-and-white photos, which were snapped by Curiosity's right-side navigation camera, appear to show a small flash of light gleaming in the distance, in front of a crater rim that dominates the horizon. UFO buffs jumped on the images, touting them as possible evidence of advanced life on Mars.

    "An artificial light source was seen this week in this NASA photo which shows light shining upward from...the ground," Scott Waring wrote at UFO Sightings Daily Monday (April 7). "This could indicate there there [sic] is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do."

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    This image — captured by the left-side navigation camera on NASA's Mars Curiosity rover on April 3, 2014 — shows the same Martian locale where a bright flash seemed to appear that day in an image taken by the righthand navcam. Though the two navcam photos were taken at about the same time, no flash is visible in this one.

    Waring has found other peculiarities in Curiosity's photos. For example, back in December, he suggested that a panoramic picture snapped by the rover captured a "Mars rat" crouching between two rocks.

    The supposed Mars rodent is an example of a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia, which refers to the tendency of the human brain to perceive familiar shapes in vague or random images, experts say. Another example of pareidolia is the famous "face on Mars" supposedly visible in pictures taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.



    The "Mars light" is something different, since it's not a product of anyone's imagination. But the odds are pretty slim that the light is a sign of Martian life, researchers say, especially since the flash is not visible in images of the same spot taken nearly simultaneously on April 2 and April 3 by Curiosity's left-side navigation camera. (The two navcams sit side-by-side on the rover's headlike "mast" and return images that help the mission team plan out Curiosity's routes.)

    All of this is not to say that life has never existed on Mars, of course. Curiosity has already found evidence of an ancient stream-and-lake system, suggesting that the Red Planet could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

    Weird 'UFO' Light on Mars May Just Be a Shiny Rock, NASA Says (Video) | Space.com
     
  5. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    First 'Exomoon' Around Alien Planet Possibly Found

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    Researchers have detected the first potential "exomoon" candidate, a moon orbiting an alien planet beyond our solar system. This artist's illustration shows a possible view of the exomoon (left) and a version of the system if it is actually a star and planet.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    View full size image
    For the first time ever, astronomers may have spotted a moon circling an alien planet — though they'll probably never know for sure exactly what they've found.

    A team of scientists detected a pair of faraway objects that could be a giant Jupiter-like alien planet and a rocky exomoon flying freely through space, or a small dim star hosting a planet about 18 times more massive than Earth.

    The astronomers used a technique called gravitational microlensing, watching what happens a big foreground object passes in front of a star from our perspective on Earth. The nearby body's gravitational field bends and magnifies the light from the distant star, acting like a lens. [The Strangest Alien Planets Ever (Gallery)]



    Analyzing lensing events can reveal a great deal about the foreground object — for example, in the case of a star, whether it hosts a planet and, if so, how massive that world is compared to the star.

    In the new study, the team observed one intriguing lensing event using telescopes in New Zealand and the Australian state of Tasmania. They determined that the foreground object has an orbiting companion about 0.05 percent as massive as itself.

    "One possibility is for the lensing system to be a planet and its moon, which if true, would be a spectacular discovery of a totally new type of system," Wes Traub, chief scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

    "The researchers' models point to the moon solution, but if you simply look at what scenario is more likely in nature, the star solution wins," added Traub, who was not involved in the study.

    The team could solve the mystery if they knew how far away from Earth the lensing system, called MOA-2011-BLG-262, lies. If it's relatively nearby, MOA-2011-BLG-262 is probably a starless "rogue planet" and moon; a distant system would have to be as massive as a star to produce the same lensing effects, researchers said.



    Unfortunately, the true identity of MOA-2011-BLG-262 will probably remain a mystery forever. Microlensing events are random encounters, so there will be no follow-up observations.

    "We won't have a chance to observe the exomoon candidate again," study lead author David Bennett, of the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement. "But we can expect more unexpected finds like this."

    And astronomers may be able to measure distances during future microlensing events using the principle of parallax, which describes how the position of an object appears to change when viewed from two different locations.

    This strategy could work if observers manage to observe a lensing event with two widely spaced telescopes on Earth, or a ground-based scope and an instrument in orbit, such as NASA's Spitzer or Kepler space telescopes, researchers said.

    Astronomers have discovered more than 1,700 alien planets to date, but they're still looking for their first confirmed exomoon.

    The new study was led by the joint Japan-New Zealand-American Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) and the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork (PLANET) programs. It appears in the Astrophysical Journal.


    First 'Exomoon' Around Alien Planet Possibly Found | Space.com
     
  6. sangos

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    Mars Curiosity rover may have transported Earth bacteria to Mars – study
    Published time: May 22, 2014 03:45
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    NASA's Mars rover Curiosity (AFP Photo / NASA)


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    The NASA Curiosity rover that was thought to bring only cameras, sensors, and scientific equipment when it traveled to Mars in August 2012 may have brought along dozens of species of bacteria that originated on Earth, according to a new study.

    A study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology and published in the Nature science journal revealed that 377 strains of bacteria may have survived the sterilization process that the Curiosity rover endured before it was launched in an attempt to avoid contaminating the red planet.

    It was less of a surprise for scientists that the bacteria survived the cleaning process than the revelation about the conditions they went through. The microbes in question endured near-freezing temperatures and intense damage caused by ultra-C radiation, thought to be the most harmful type of radiation.

    Although studies are constantly expanding our knowledge about life in extreme environments, it is still unclear whether organisms from Earth can survive and grow in a Martian environment where there is intense radiation, high oxidation potential, extreme desiccation, and limited nutrients,” microbiologist Stephanie Smith of the University of Idaho in Moscow and lead author of the study wrote in the study’s abstract.

    Knowing if microorganisms survive in conditions simulating those on the Martian surface is paramount to addressing whether these microorganisms could pose a risk to future challenging planetary protection missions.”

    Whether the bacteria spread to the Mars surface is unknown, although the very possibility has already made scientists concerned about unnaturally spreading life from earth to Mars.

    There is already a United Nations Outer Space Treaty that aims to regulate how the increasingly advanced space programs from the international community explore the unknown. The parameters were first agreed upon in 1966 and they include, among others, the stipulation that “States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.”

    The limits vary depending on where the spacecraft lands. Mars, Europa, and other bodies that could potentially nurture life have a relatively strict standard of 300 bacterial spores per square meter. The goal is to keep the odds of contamination Mars (and others) at less than 1 in 10,000.

    Up to 300,000 spores are allowed on the exposed surfaces of the landed spacecraft. That many spores would fit on the head of a large pin,” said Laura Newlin, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “Currently our total spore count on the surface…is comfortably under 200,000, so we’re below the allowable level.”

    The announcement comes at a time when another team of researchers published an unrelated study revealing that methanogens, the oldest organisms on earth, could be the perfect candidate to foster Martian life. The University of Arkansas Fayetteville study determined that, because methanogens are non-photosynthetic and capable of living without oxygen, they are capable of living underground on Mars.

    The surface temperature of Mars varies widely, often ranging between minus 90 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius over one Martian day,” Rebecca Mickol, a doctoral student of space and planetary sciences, told Science Daily. “If any life were to exist on Mars right now, it would have to at least survive that temperature range. The survival of these two methanogen species, exposed to long-term freeze thaw cycles, suggests methanogens could potentially inhabit the future of Mars.”

    Mars Curiosity rover may have transported Earth bacteria to Mars – study — RT USA
     
  7. sangos

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    NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Finally at Mount Sharp

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    This Aug. 15, 2014, composite image released by NASA and made by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, shows a view looking back toward part of the west rim of Endeavour Crater that the rover drove along, heading southward, during the summer of... View Full Caption AP
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    NASA's Curiosity rover is about to conduct some serious scientific drilling at Mars.

    The space agency announced Thursday that the rover has reached the base of Mount Sharp, its destination since landing two years ago. Officials say drilling could begin as early as next week at an outcrop of rocks called Pahrump Hills.

    Mount Sharp, located in ancient Gale Crater, rises nearly 3½ miles. Curiosity began the 5-mile trek over a year ago.

    A scientific review panel has criticized the Curiosity team for an extended mission that involves too much driving and too little sampling. On Thursday, project scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology promised "we are going to do a lot more drilling" now that the six-wheel Curiosity is at Mount Sharp.

    NASA says the nuclear-powered Curiosity remains healthy, aside from worn wheels. Curiosity is a roving science laboratory with high-tech instruments to drill into rocks, forecast the weather and track radiation.

    At $2.5 billion, it's the most expensive mission to the red planet.

    NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Finally at Mount Sharp - ABC News
     
  8. sangos

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    NASA's MAVEN spacecraft close to entering Mars orbit

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    Copyright Getty Images
    Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

    (CNN) -- NASA says its latest Mars-exploring spacecraft is on track to fire up its thrusters and enter orbit this Sunday night, completing a 10-month journey of 442 million miles.

    NASA's MAVEN craft will live up to its formal name -- the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft -- by helping scientists figure out how ancient Mars changed so dramatically into the planet we know today.

    It will be the first mission devoted to studying the upper Martian atmosphere as a key to understanding the history of Mars' climate, water and habitability.

    "The evidence shows that the Mars atmosphere today is a cold, dry environment, one where liquid water really can't exist in a stable state," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator, during a mission preview briefing Wednesday at NASA headquarters in Washington. "But it also tells us when we look at older surfaces, that the ancient surfaces had liquid water flowing over it."

    So where did the planet's water and carbon dioxide go?

    Jakosky said MAVEN will help unravel that mystery by using its scientific instruments to measure the composition and escape of gases in the Martian atmosphere.

    MAVEN will study the top of the atmosphere to determine the extent to which losing gas to space might have been the driving mechanism behind climate change, Jakosky said.

    Before MAVEN can begin its year of exploration, it has to be inserted into orbit around Mars. That is set to happen at about 10 p.m. ET September 21. The craft's six thruster engines will fire and burn for 33 minutes to slow the spacecraft down so it can get pulled into orbit around Mars.

    MAVEN will have company out near Mars, manmade and otherwise.

    India's first mission to the Red Planet, the Mars Orbiter Mission, is set to arrive a few days after MAVEN does. The director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, Jim Green, says the United States and India are interested in cooperating as their crafts gather data about the planet.

    There's a visitor of the cosmic kind, too.

    Comet Sliding Spring, which was discovered last year, will be closest to Mars about four weeks after MAVEN arrives.

    The comet is going to miss Mars by about 81,000 miles, said Jakosky.

    "I'm told that the odds of having an approach that close to Mars are about one-in-a-million years," he said, adding that dust from the comet carries only a "relatively minimal" risk to the spacecraft.

    MAVEN will take advantage of the rare flyby by observing the comet itself, as well as its effect on the Martian atmosphere.

    NASA's MAVEN spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend - wptv.com
     
  9. sangos

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  10. sangos

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    MAVEN Arrives at Mars! Parks Safely in Orbit
    by Bob King on September 21, 2014

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    Tension and concentration in the control room at Lockheed Martin shortly before MAVEN successfully entered Mars orbit tonight September 21, 2014. Credit: NASA-TV

    138 million miles and 10 months journey from planet Earth, MAVEN moved into its new home around the planet Mars this evening. Flight controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado anxiously monitored the spacecraft’s progress as onboard computers successfully eased the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft into Mars orbit at 10:24 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

    Shortly before orbital insertion, six small thrusters were fired to steady the spacecraft so it would enter orbit in the correct orientation. This was followed by a 33-minute burn to slow it down enough for Mars’ gravity to capture the craft into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours. Because it takes radio signals traveling at the speed of light 12 minutes to cross the gap between Mars and Earth, the entire orbital sequence was executed by onboard computers. There’s no chance to change course or make corrections, so the software has to work flawlessly. It did. The burn, as they said was “nominal”, science-speak for came off without a hitch.

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    Simulation of MAVEN in orbit around Mars. The craft’s unique aerodynamically curved solar panels allow it to dive more deeply into the Martian atmosphere. Credit: NASA

    “This was a very big day for MAVEN,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’re very excited to join the constellation of spacecraft in orbit at Mars and on the surface of the Red Planet. Congratulations to the team for a job well done today.”

    Over the next six weeks, controllers will test MAVEN’s instruments and shape its orbit into a long ellipse with a period of 4.5 hours and a low point of just 93 miles (150 km), close enough to get a taste of the planet’s upper atmosphere. MAVEN’s one-Earth-year long primary mission will study the composition and structure of Mars’ atmosphere and how it’s affected by the sun and solar wind. At least 2,000 Astronomers want to know to determine how the planet evolved from a more temperate climate to the current dry, frigid desert.

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    Evidence for ancient water flows on Mars – a delta in Eberswalde Crater. Credit: NASA

    Vast quantities of water once flowed over the dusty red rocks of Mars as evidenced by ancient riverbeds, outflow channels carved by powerful floods and rocks rounded by the action of water. For liquid water to flow on its surface without vaporizing straight into space, the planet must have had a much denser atmosphere at one time.

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    Three to four billion years ago, Mars may have been much more like Earth with a thicker atmosphere and water flowing across its surface (left). Over time, it evolved into a dry, cold planet with an atmosphere too thin to support liquid water. Credit: NASA

    Mars’ atmospheric pressure is now less than 1% that of Earth’s. As for the water, what’s left today appears locked up as ice in the polar caps and subsurface ice. So where did it go all the air go? Not into making rocks apparently. On Earth, much of the carbon dioxide from volcanic outgassing in the planet’s youth dissolved in water and combined with rocks to form carbon-bearing rocks called carbonates. So far, carbonates appear to be rare on Mars. Little has been seen from orbit and in situ with the rovers.

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    Illustration of electrons and protons in the solar wind slamming into and ionizing atoms in Mars upper atmosphere. Once ionized, the atoms may be carried away by the wind. Credit: NASA

    During the year-long mission, MAVEN will dip in and out of the atmosphere some 2,000 times or more to measure what and how much Mars is losing to space. Without the protection of a global magnetic field like the Earth’s, it’s thought that the solar wind eats away at the Martian atmosphere by ionizing (knocking off electrons) its atoms and molecules. Once ionized, the atoms swirl up the magnetic field embedded in the wind and are carried away from the planet.

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    MAVEN’s suite of instruments will provide the measurements essential to understanding the evolution of the Martian atmosphere. Courtesy LASP/MAVEN

    Scientists will coordinate with the Curiosity rover, which can determine the atmospheric makeup at ground level. Although MAVEN won’t be taking pictures, its three packages of instruments will be working daily to fill gaps in the story of how Mars became the Red Planet and we the Blue.

    For more on the ongoing progress of MAVEN later tonight and tomorrow, stop by NASA TV online. You can also stay in touch by following the hashtags #MAVEN and #JourneytoMars on social media channels including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Twitter updates will be posted throughout on the agency’s official accounts @NASA, @MAVEN2Mars and @NASASocial.



    MAVEN Arrives at Mars! Parks Safely in Orbit
     
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  11. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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  12. Picdelamirand-oil

    Picdelamirand-oil Lt. Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    Andromede Galaxie from Hubble
     
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  13. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    NASA Europa Mission Gets White House Approval

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    [​IMG] A new view of Europa based on information from NASA's Galileo mission of the 1990s. This new, remastered version, released in 2014, features more realistic colors that resemble what the Jupiter moon would look like to the human eye.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
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    The quest to explore Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa has taken a big step forward.

    The White House's fiscal year 2016 budget request for NASA, which was released Monday (Feb. 2), allocates $18.5 billion to the space agency, including $30 million to formulate a mission to Europa, perhaps the solar system's best bet to host alien life. NASA has been studying a potential Europa mission for a while now, but the new budget proposal signals a commitment from the White House that wasn't there before.

    "For the first time, the budget supports the formulation and development of a Europa Mission, allowing NASA to begin project formulation, Phase A," NASA officials wrote in a summary of the proposed budget. [Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter]

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    Indeed, the new budget request assumes multiple years of funding for a Europa mission, said NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski.

    "The current funding profile would assume a launch in the mid-2020s," Radzanowski told reporters during a conference call Monday.

    It's unclear at the moment just how much NASA and the Europa project will actually get in the 2016 fiscal year (FY), which begins Oct. 1, 2015. Congress must approve the final budget, which often looks quite different than the one proposed by the White House.

    For example, the Obama administration allocated $15 million for early work on a potential Europa mission in its FY 2015 budget request, but Congress later upped that to $100 million.

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    NASA appears to be zeroing in on a mission that would feature multiple flybys of Europa — perhaps something along the lines of the Europa Clipper, a concept being developed by agency scientists and engineers. Once in orbit around Jupiter, the Clipper would make 45 flybys of the 1,900-mile-wide (3,100 kilometers) Europa over the course of 3.5 years, as the concept is currently envisioned.

    Europa is thought to possess an ocean of liquid water under its icy shell. During its many flybys, the Clipper would confirm and study that ocean, yielding insights about its depth, salinity and conductivity, among other characteristics.

    The Clipper would also measure and map Europa's ice shell, returning data that could be useful for a potential future mission to the moon's surface.

    "Sounding the ice shell would be key," said David Senske of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Europa Clipper pre-project deputy project scientist.

    "We have a preconceived notion of what a lander looks like," Senske told Space.com in December at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "What we find may not support our preconceived notion."

    If everything goes according to plan, the Europa Clipper could be ready to launch as early as 2022, Senske said. The mission would probably cost about $2 billion.

    The Europa mission will really start coming into focus just a few months from now: NASA aims to select science instruments for the mission this spring, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Monday. (The agency asked scientists around the world to propose instruments in July 2014.)

    NASA Europa Mission Gets White House Approval
     
  14. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    NASA Plans to Send Submarine to Explore Titan's Mysterious Methane Sea


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    (Photo : NASA) Titan Submarine, or Titan Sub for short, will be a fully autonomous, highly capable science craft that will allow a complete exploration of what exists beneath the waves on another world.



    When NASA announced a future mission to Saturn's moon, Titan, where a robotic submersible would explore the moon's massive lakes of liquid methane, the gasps of awe were audible.

    Titan is the only moon in the solar system that has an atmosphere with its own methane cycle, which is somewhat similar to our planet's water cycle. This methane cycle is driven by liquid methane that rains on the landscape as hydrocarbons that eventually formed rivers, lakes and seas.

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    These bodies of liquid methane found on Titan have been studied and observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during numerous flybys. Several seas have been measured and range anywhere in depth from a few meters deep to over 660 feet deep, which is the maximum depth the Cassini radar can detect.

    The Titan Submarine or Titan Sub concept was revealed by NASA Glenn's COMPASS Team and Applied Research Lab researchers during the Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium.

    Titan Sub is envisioned to dive into Titan's largest sea, the Kraken Mare, where the autonomous submersible vehicle will complete a 90-day mission. The sub will explore some 1,250 miles of the sea's mysterious abyssal environment and could potentially detect marine life.

    The sub will experience long periods beneath Titan's unpredictable seas. It will be powered by a radioisotope generator which works by converting heat from radioactive pellets into electricity.

    It won't be possible for Titan Sub to receive and send data while it's submerged, however. That's why it will ascend to the surface regularly to transmit data back to Earth.

    Kraken Mare is not at all a tranquil, calm alien sea. It's known to consist of perilous waves caused by strong tides that can prove challenging for the sub. Kraken Mare's extremely cold, reaching temperatures of -298 Fahrenheit.

    The last time a probe landed on the eerie surface of Titan was more than a decade ago with the Huygens probe. Now, NASA's attempt to again explore Saturn's mysterious moon find clues about the origin of molecular life in the solar system


    Read more: NASA Plans to Send Submarine to Explore Titan's Mysterious Methane Sea : Science : Chinatopix
     
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    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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