Friday, December 29, 2006

NASA makes fake Moon dust

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/28dec_truefake.htm?list199286

Ruff Ruff

New tricks for Mars Rovers:
--------------------------------------
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

News Release: 2006-152 December 28, 2006

NASA Mars Team Teaches Old Rovers New Tricks to Kick Off Year Four

NASA's twin Mars rovers, nearing the third anniversary of their landings, are getting smarter as they get older.
The unexpected longevity of Spirit and Opportunity is giving the space agency a chance to field-test on Mars some new capabilities useful both to these missions and future rovers. Spirit will begin its fourth year on Mars on Jan. 3 (PST); Opportunity on Jan. 24. In addition to their continuing scientific observations, they are now testing four new skills included in revised flight software uploaded to their onboard computers.

One of the new capabilities enables spacecraft to examine images and recognize certain types of features. It is based on software developed for NASA's Space Technology 6 "thinking spacecraft."

Spirit has photographed dozens of dusty whirlwinds in action, and both rovers have photographed clouds. Until now, however, scientists on Earth have had to sift through many transmitted images from Mars to find those few. With the new intelligence boost, the rovers can recognize dust devils or clouds and select only the relevant parts of those images to send back to Earth. This increased efficiency will free up more communication time for additional scientific investigations.

To recognize dust devils, the new software looks for changes from one image to the next, taken a few seconds apart, of the same field of view. To find clouds, it looks for non-uniform features in the portion of an image it recognizes as the sky.

Another new feature, called "visual target tracking," enables a rover to keep recognizing a designated landscape feature as the rover moves. Khaled Ali of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., flight software team leader for Spirit and Opportunity, said, "The rover keeps updating its template of what the feature looks like. It may be a rock that looks bigger as the rover approaches it, or maybe the shape looks different from a different angle, but the rover still knows it's the same rock."

Visual target tracking can be combined with a third new feature -- autonomy in calculating where it is safe to reach out with the contact tools on the rover's robotic arm. The combination gives Spirit and Opportunity a capability called "go and touch," which is yet to be tested on Mars. So far in the mission, whenever a rover has driven to a new location, the crew on Earth has had to evaluate images of the new location to decide where the rover could place its contact instruments on a subsequent day. After the new software has been tested and validated, the crew will have the option of letting a rover choose an arm target for itself the same day it drives to a new location.

The new software also improves the autonomy of each rover for navigating away from hazards by building better maps of their surroundings than they have done previously. This new capability was developed by Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and JPL.

"Before this, the rovers could only think one step ahead about getting around an obstacle," said JPL's Dr. John Callas, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers. "If they encountered an obstacle or hazard, they'd back off one step and try a different direction, and if that direction didn't work they'd try another, then another. And sometimes the rover could not find a solution. With this new capability, the rover will be smarter about navigating in complex terrain, thinking several steps ahead. It could back out of a dead-end cul-de-sac. It could even find its way through a maze."

This is the most comprehensive of four revisions to the rovers' flight software since launch. One new version was uplinked during the cruise to Mars, and the rovers have switched to upgraded versions twice since their January 2004 landings.

Callas said, "These rovers are a great resource for testing software that could be useful to future Mars missions without sacrificing our own continuing mission of exploration. This new software will be a baseline for development of flight software for Mars Science Laboratory, but it's also helpful in operating Spirit and Opportunity." NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is a next-generation Mars rover in development for planned launch in 2009.

Spirit and Opportunity have worked on Mars for nearly 12 times as long as their originally planned prime missions of 90 Martian days. Spirit has driven about 6.9 kilometers (4.3 miles); Opportunity has driven about 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles). Spirit has returned more than 88,500 images, Opportunity more than 80,700. All the raw images are available online at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/ .

Currently, Spirit is investigating rocks and soils near a ridge where it kept its solar panels tilted toward the sun during the Martian winter. Opportunity is exploring "Victoria Crater," where cliffs in the crater wall expose rock layers with clues about a larger span of Mars history than the rover has previously examined.

Opportunity's key discovery since landing has been mineral and rock-texture evidence that water drenched and flowed over the surface in at least one region of Mars long ago. Spirit has found evidence that water in some form has altered mineral composition of some soils and rocks in older hills above the plain where the rover landed.

Among the rovers' many other accomplishments:

-- Opportunity has analyzed a series of exposed rock layers recording changing environmental conditions from the times when the layers were deposited and later modified. Wind-blown dunes came and went. The water table fluctuated.

-- Spirit has recorded dust devils forming and moving, events which were made into movie clips. These provide new insight into the interaction of Mars' atmosphere and surface.

-- Both rovers have found metallic meteorites on Mars. Opportunity found one rock with a composition similar to a meteorite that reached Earth from Mars.

NASA's Mars Technology Program and New Millennium Program sponsored development of the new capabilities included in the new flight software.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. For images and information about the rovers, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers . For descriptions of technologies being developed for future Mars missions, see http://marstech.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about the New Millennium Program's Space Technology 6 mission, see http://nmp.nasa.gov/st6/ .

2006 Space Review

Everyone's space effort is on the rise!
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16369032/
Hooray!

Don't forget to vote:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16372722/

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Comet receipe

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20061214/D8M0Q0PO1.html

Don't forget the "on to Mars" part

http://www.space.com/news/061213_ap_mars_moon.html

Hot, Hot, Hot!!

Venus that is...
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061214_venus_map.html

Mars Rover Update

New pictures from Spirit (King George Island -> hematite ):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20061213a.html

and Opportunity (Cape Verde -> layers):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20061213a.html

Come one come all

The NASA Moon base will have standard architecture so that other nations can build modules that will fit.

http://www.space.com/news/061213_moonbase_international.html

X-ray Vision (almost)

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Peter Golkin 202-633-2374
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE: 2006-149 December 13, 2006

Geologists Finding a Different Mars Underneath

Mars is showing scientists its older, craggier face buried beneath the surface, thanks to a pioneering sounding radar co-sponsored by NASA aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter.

Observations by the first project to explore a planet by sounding radar strongly suggest that ancient impact craters lie buried beneath the smooth, low plains of Mars' northern hemisphere. The technique uses echoes of waves that have penetrated below the surface.

"It's almost like having X-ray vision," said Dr. Thomas R. Watters of the National Air and Space Museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, Washington. "Besides finding previously unknown impact basins, we've also confirmed that some of the subtle topographic depressions mapped previously in the lowlands are related to impact features."

Studies of how Mars evolved aid understanding of early Earth. Some signs of the forces at work a few billion years ago are more evident on Mars because, on Earth, many of them have been obliterated during Earth's more active resurfacing by tectonic activity.

Watters and nine co-authors report the findings in the Dec. 14, 2006 issue of the journal Nature.

The researchers used the orbiter's Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding, which was provided to the European Mars mission by NASA and the Italian Space Agency. The instrument transmits radio waves that pass through the Martian surface and bounce off features in the subsurface with electrical properties that contrast with those of materials that buried them.

The findings bring planetary scientists closer to understanding one of the most enduring mysteries about the geologic evolution of the planet. In contrast to Earth, Mars shows a striking difference between its northern and southern hemispheres. Almost the entire southern hemisphere has rough, heavily cratered highlands, while most of the northern hemisphere is smoother and lower in elevation.

Since the impacts that cause craters can happen anywhere on a planet, the areas with fewer craters are generally interpreted as younger surfaces where geological processes have erased the impact scars. The abundance of buried craters that the radar has detected beneath Mars' smooth northern plains means the underlying crust of the northern hemisphere is extremely old, "perhaps as ancient as the heavily cratered highland crust in the southern hemisphere."

Learning about the ancient lowland crust has been challenging because that crust was buried first by vast amounts of volcanic lava and then by sediments carried by episodic flood waters and wind.

Co-authors are Carl J. Leuschen, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.; Jeffrey J. Plaut, Ali Safaeinili and Anton B. Ivanov of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Giovanni Picardi, "La Sapienza" University of Rome, Italy; Stephen M. Clifford, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston; William M. Farrell, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Roger J. Phillips, Washington State University, St. Louis; and Ellen R. Stofan, Proxemy Research, Laytonsville, Md.

Additional information about the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding is available at http://www.marsis.com . JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages NASA's roles in Mars Express for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

The Center for Earth and Planetary Studies is the scientific research unit within the Collections and Research Department of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The Center's scientists perform original research and outreach activities on topics covering planetary science, terrestrial geophysics and the remote sensing of environmental change.

-end-

Get off my sand dune!

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

News Release: 2006-148 Dec. 13, 2006

NASA Spacecraft Read Layered Clues to Changes on Mars

SAN FRANCISCO -- Layers on Mars are yielding history lessons revealed by instruments flying overhead and rolling across the surface.Some of the first radar and imaging results from NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, show details in layers of ice-rich deposits near the poles. Observed variations in the layers' thickness and composition will yield information about recent climate cycles on the red planet.NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has photographed patterns in the layering of crater-wall cliffs that are the clearest evidence of ancient sand dunes the rover has seen since arriving at Mars nearly three years ago. The science team for Opportunity's twin, Spirit, is using new orbital images of the rover's surroundings to interpret how some rocks with minerals altered by water fit into the area's complex layered structure."The combination of instruments on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is such a great advantage," said Dr. Jack Mustard of Brown University, Providence, R.I. He is deputy principal investigator for the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, a mineral-identifying instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Researchers are using mineral information from analyses of spectrometer observations, combined with images from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, to seek the source of the mineral gypsum in dunes near the Martian north pole and clay minerals elsewhere. Gypsum and clay minerals are indicators of formerly wet conditions.Other new images from that camera show mysterious pitting in the layered terrain near the north pole. Nearby, a steep slope exposing the layers appears to be shedding blocks of icy material that disappear instead of accumulating at the bottom of the slope."Observations of the polar layered deposits are telling us about the material properties there," said Dr. Ken Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz. "These deposits record relatively recent climate variations on Mars, like recent ice ages on Earth."The Shallow Subsurface Radar instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has begun probing through similar layered deposits at Mars' south pole. "The radar is penetrating through the entire thickness of these deposits and revealing the fine-scale internal layering," said Dr. Roger Phillips of Washington University, St. Louis, the deputy team leader for that instrument.

Far from the poles, Opportunity is navigating the scalloped rim of Victoria crater about half a mile in diameter, stopping at promontories along the way to look at cliff walls of adjacent promontories. The top part of the stack of layers exposed in the cliffs appears to be rocky rubble thrown outward by the impact that dug the crater. "We see an abrupt transition between the jumbled-up material and intact layers below it that are still in place from before the impact," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers. Some of the intact layering resembles fossilized dunes in the U.S. Southwest. Spirit recently found water-altered minerals in disturbed soils and granular rocks near where the rover spent the Martian winter. An image of the region from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is aiding interpretation of how different parts of the terrain, such as a bright platform nicknamed "Home Plate," are related to others. "It appears likely that these rocks came from one or more volcanic explosions that produced 'Home Plate,'" said Dr. Ray Arvidson, also of Washington University, deputy principal investigator for the rovers.Dr. John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for the rovers, said, "The biggest news about the health of the rovers is that it is essentially unchanged from nine months ago. Each rover has operated more than 1,000 Martian days on the surface of Mars. They are well past their original design life of 90 Martian days, and there is always the possibility that a critical component on either rover could stop functioning at any time, so we operate the rovers with that in mind and value each additional day they continue to work."Researchers are describing the latest findings of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the twin rovers today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. New images from the orbiter and rovers can be seen at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/news/mro-20061213.html .

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Exploration Rover missions for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the orbiter. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., provided and operates the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo. The Shallow Subsurface Radar was provided by the Italian Space Agency and its operations are led by the INFOCOM Dept., University of Rome "La Sapienza."
-end-

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Geminids

Meteor shower starting Wednesday night.
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/12dec_geminids.htm?list199286

Lava Tube on Mars

http://www.space.com/imageoftheday/image_of_day_061212.html

Look out below

Meteors on Mars. Another thing for visitors to worry about...
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061211_st_mars_craters.html

Titan's Massive Mountains

Sounds like we need a Titan orbiter.
=========================

Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

News Release: 2006-147 Dec. 12, 2006

Massive Mountain Range Imaged on Saturn's Moon Titan

The tallest mountains ever seen on Titan -- coated with layers of organic material and blanketed by clouds -- have been imaged on Saturn's moon Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

"We see a massive mountain range that kind of reminds me of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the western United States. This mountain range is continuous and is nearly 100 miles long," said Dr. Bob Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

During an Oct. 25 flyby designed to obtain the highest resolution infrared views of Titan yet, Cassini resolved surface features as small as 400 meters (1,300 feet). The images reveal a large mountain range, dunes, and a deposit of material that resembles a volcanic flow. These data, together with radar data from previous flybys, provide new information on the height and composition of geologic features on Titan.

If Titan were Earth, these mountains would lie south of the equator, somewhere in New Zealand. The range is about 150 kilometers long (93 miles) and 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide and about 1.5 kilometers (nearly a mile) high. Deposits of bright, white material, which may be methane "snow" or exposures of some other organic material, lie at the top of the mountain ridges.

"These mountains are probably as hard as rock, made of icy materials, and are coated with different layers of organics," said Dr. Larry Soderblom, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz.

He added, "There seem to be layers and layers of various coats of organic 'paint' on top of each other on these mountain tops, almost like a painter laying the background on a canvas. Some of this organic gunk falls out of the atmosphere as rain, dust, or smog onto the valley floors and mountain tops, which are coated with dark spots that appear to be brushed, washed, scoured and moved around the surface."

The mountains probably formed when material welled up from below to fill the gaps opened when tectonic plates pull apart, similar to the way mid-ocean ridges are formed on Earth.

Separately, the radar and infrared data are difficult to interpret, but together they are a powerful combination. In the infrared images, one can see the shadows of the mountains, and in radar, one can see their shape. But when combined, scientists begin to see variations on the mountains, which is essential to unraveling the mysteries of the geologic processes on Titan.

A fan-shaped feature, possibly a remnant of a volcanic flow, is also visible in the infrared images. The radar instrument imaged this flow and a circular feature from which the flow seems to emanate on a previous flyby, but not in this level of detail.

"The evidence is mounting that this circular feature is a volcano," said Dr. Rosaly Lopes, Cassini radar team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "With radar data alone, we identified it as a possible volcano, but the combination of radar and infrared makes it much clearer."

Near the wrinkled, mountainous terrain are clouds in Titan's southern mid latitudes whose source continues to elude scientists. These clouds are probably methane droplets that may form when the atmosphere on Titan cools as it is pushed over the mountains by winds.

The composition of dunes that run across much of Titan is also much clearer. "The dunes seem to consist of sand grains made of organics, built on water-ice bedrock, and there may also be some snow and bright deposits," Brown said.

Titan is a complex place and scientists are uncovering the secrets of the surface, one flyby at a time. Scientists hope to get more clues from the next Titan flyby, on Dec. 12.

For the new infrared images of the mountains visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu . Additional information on NASA news from the American Geophysical Union conference is at http://www.nasa.gov/agu .

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona where this image was produced. The radar instrument team is based at JPL, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

Own a piece of the rock!

Mars that is...
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/763/1

I agree with this author. I would buy some land on Mars.

Review of NASA's "Why the Moon"

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/764/1

Good discussion of the issues.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mars Rover Update

Status (Spirit is driving again after a long winter's nap, Opportunity drove to Cape St. Mary along Victoria Crater):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status.html

No new pictures.

The Moon is a waystation to Mars

http://www.space.com/news/061205_dale_explore.html

and beyond!

Phoenix Mars Lander

Launching to a planet (Mars) near you in August 2007!
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/061206_mars_lander.html

Landing in May 2008.

Movie about Mars Water

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/videos/mgs/mgs20061206/

NASA's press release about water on Mars

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-145 Dec. 6, 2006

NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars

WASHINGTON - NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.

"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Dr. Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.

Liquid water, as opposed to the water ice and water vapor known to exist at Mars, is considered necessary for life. The new findings heighten intrigue about the potential for microbial life on Mars. The Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor provided the new evidence. The deposits appear in images it took in 2004 and 2005 but not in a 1999 image of one site or a 2001 image of the other site.

"The shapes of these deposits are what you would expect to see if the material were carried by flowing water," said Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "They have finger-like branches at the downhill end and are easily diverted around small obstacles." Malin is principal investigator for the camera and lead author of a report about the findings published in the journal Science.

The atmosphere of Mars is so thin and the temperature so cold that liquid water cannot persist at the surface. It would rapidly evaporate or freeze. Researchers propose that water could remain liquid long enough, after breaking out from an underground source, to carry debris downslope before totally freezing. The two fresh deposits are each several hundred meters, or yards, long.

The light tone of the deposits could be from surface frost continuously replenished by ice within the body of the deposit. Another possibility is a salty crust, which would be a sign of water's effects in concentrating the salts. If the deposits had resulted from dry dust slipping down the slope, they would likely be dark, based on the dark tones of dust freshly disturbed by rover tracks, dust devils and fresh craters on Mars.

Mars Global Surveyor has discovered tens of thousands of gullies on slopes inside craters and other depressions on Mars. Most gullies are at latitudes of 30 degrees or higher. Malin and his team first reported the discovery of the gullies in 2000. To look for changes that might indicate present-day flow of water, his camera team repeatedly imaged hundreds of the sites. One pair of images showed a gully that appeared after mid-2002. That site was on a sand dune, and the gully-cutting process was interpreted as a dry flow of sand.

Today’s announcement is the first to reveal newly deposited material apparently carried by fluids after earlier imaging of the same gullies. The two sites are inside craters in the Terra Sirenum and the Centauri Montes regions of southern Mars.

"These fresh deposits suggest that at some places and times on present-day Mars, liquid water is emerging from beneath the ground and briefly flowing down the slopes. This possibility raises questions about how the water would stay melted below ground, how widespread it might be, and whether there's a below-ground wet habitat conducive to life. Future missions may provide the answers," said Malin.

Besides looking for changes in gullies, the orbiter's camera team assessed the rate at which new impact craters appear. The camera photographed approximately 98 percent of Mars in 1999 and approximately 30 percent of the planet was photographed again in 2006. The newer images show 20 fresh impact craters, ranging in diameter from 2 meters (7 feet) to 148 meters (486 feet) that were not present approximately seven years earlier. These results have important implications for determining the ages of features on the surface of Mars. These results also approximately match predictions and imply that Martian terrain with few craters is truly young.

Mars Global Surveyor began orbiting Mars in 1997. The spacecraft is responsible for many important discoveries. NASA has not heard from the spacecraft since early November. Attempts to contact it continue. Its unprecedented longevity has allowed monitoring Mars for over several years past its projected lifetime.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, manages the Mars Global Surveyor mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

Russia wants to go to the Moon with NASA

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16090118/

I'm not sure what they could contribute unless the Constellation project was substantially revised.

Water on Mars!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16073785/

Mars Global Surveyor last long enough to produce this interesting result. Hopefully Mars Polar Lander (launching in 2007) will give us some more clues.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Canadian Meteor may be older than the Sun

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/11/061130-meteorite.html

That is a startling claim.

Space Tethers to get the Moon and Back?

Ask the Russians:
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/061204_technovelgy.html

I'll believe it when I see it. Basic tether testing in Low Earth Orbit has been very problematic.

Another article about NASA Moon plans

http://www.space.com/news/061204_nasa_moon.html

Telescopes on the Moon?

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061205_moon_clash.html

My guess is it will be a long time before there are any telescopes on the Moon. The free space telescopes (like the Hubble) work fine. There will also be advances in Earth based telescopes.

Large solar flare

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16059571/

Not pointed at the earth, but look for a sunspot soon.

Made in the Shade!

A novel way to find new planets:
http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_061204.html

Who needs the Terrestrial Planet Finder?

Alternatives to "The Stick" for Project Constellation

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/757/1

The direct launch idea is interesting:
http://www.directlauncher.com/

but still takes two launches to return to the Moon, so it sounds like you are only saving the development of a separate heavy lift launcher. The problem with that is that we need a heavy lift launcher anyway.

Instead of the Moon, why not go to L2?

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/759/1

I don't think it is going to happen because the Moon gives us practice at building things out of local materials and has the potential for "living off the land" if we can find water to extract. L2 is just space...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Spirit and Viking from Mars orbit

The new MRO pictures in are in:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/news/mro-20061204.html?msource=14206&tr=y&auid=2196418

Water ice on Ceres?

http://skytonight.com/news/4765721.html

Hopefully Dawn (launching in June 2007) will find out:
http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

Leonids hitting the Moon

Future Moon walkers watch out!

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/01dec_lunarleonid.htm?list199286

Stable Moon orbits are tricky

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/30nov_highorbit.htm?list199286

Who knew?

Blame it on the Earth. Luckily an epliptical orbit will work.

Pluto Probe Update

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/061130_newhorizons_update.html#Scene_1

Some problem with thrusters (using up too much fuel)

Sounds like a lot of good science is going to happen during Jupiter flyby.

MRO spots Opportunity Landing Site

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061129_mro_rover_sites.html

Other landers (including Viking) to follow.

NASA answers: Why the Moon?

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/exploration/mmb/why_moon.html

Don't forget, "On to Mars!".

Here are the briefing slides:
http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/163896main_Exploration-LAT_Briefing_120406.pdf

They do mention Mars in there.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ohio Spaceport

Perfect for John Glenn and Neil Armstrong!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15993507/

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sky Crane for Mars Science Laboratory

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/061129_msl_skycrane.html

Sounds like they are going to do a lot of testing which is not what I remember reading earlier.

Mars Phoenix Lander Boulder Field

http://www.space.com/imageoftheday/image_of_day_061129.html

Target in sight!

Pluto here we come!
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15955655/

Mars Rover Update

This is from a couple of weeks ago, but new for me:

Update (Spirit moves less than a meter for more stationary sensing, Opportunity is driving clockwise around Victoria Crater):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status.html

No new Spirit Pictures.

Opportunity Pictures:
(new picture from orbit from yesterday: 2006-Nov-29):
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/gallery/press/images/Oppty-areac.jpg

Now that the Mars Global Surveyor is missing in action, good thing MRO is on duty!

The Safety of Space

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2006-11-30T133935Z_01_L30663009_RTRUKOC_0_US-SPACE-HAWKING.xml&src=rss&rpc=22

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Space Junk

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15817106/

It's not just golf balls that are going to be in orbit.

The problem will only get bigger in the future.

Ares 1 Rocket Kerfuffle

http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_061120.html

Will "The Stick" work? I think so. It's only rocket science after all.

Back to the Moon and on to Mars!

Heating up part of Mars

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technovel_mars_061118.html

Watch out for gamma rays. Don't want those Mars explorers turning into the Incredible Hulk!

Mars Global Surveyor: R.I.P. ?

Maybe... (my guess is yes)
========================

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown 202-358-1237/1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-139 Nov. 21, 2006

NASA'S Mars Global Surveyor May be at Mission's End

Pasadena, Calif. - NASA's Mars Global Surveyor has likely finished its operating career. The spacecraft has served the longest and been the most productive of any mission ever sent to the red planet.

"Mars Global Surveyor has surpassed all expectations," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "It has already been the most productive science mission to Mars, and it will yield more discoveries as the treasury of observations it has made continues to be analyzed for years to come." Its camera has returned more than 240,000 images to Earth.

The orbiter has not communicated with Earth since Nov. 2. Preliminary indications are that a solar panel became difficult to pivot, raising the possibility that the spacecraft may no longer be able to generate enough power to communicate. Engineers are also exploring other possible explanations for the radio silence.

"Realistically, we have run through the most likely possibilities for re-establishing communication, and we are facing the likelihood that the amazing flow of scientific observations from Mars Global Surveyor is over," said Fuk Li, Mars Exploration Program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We are not giving up hope, though."

Efforts to regain contact with the spacecraft and determine what has happened to it will continue. NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, pointed its cameras toward Mars Global Surveyor on Monday. "We have looked for Mars Global Surveyor with the star tracker, the context camera and the high-resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Doug McCuistion, Mars Exploration Program director at NASA Headquarters. "Preliminary analysis of the images did not show any definitive sightings of a spacecraft."

The next possibility for learning more about Mars Global Surveyor's status is a plan to send it a command to use a transmitter that could be heard by one of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers later this week.

Mars Global Surveyor launched on Nov. 7, 1996, and began orbiting Mars on Sept. 11, 1997. It pioneered the use of aerobraking at Mars, using careful dips into the atmosphere for friction to shrink a long elliptical orbit into a nearly circular one. The mission then started its primary mapping phase in April 1999. The original plan was to examine the planet for one Mars year, nearly two Earth years. Based on the value of the science returned by the spacecraft, NASA extended its mission four times.

"It is an extraordinary machine that has done things the designers never envisioned despite a broken wing, a failed gyro and a worn-out reaction wheel. The builders and operating staff can be proud of their legacy of scientific discoveries and key support for subsequent missions," said Tom Thorpe, project manager for Mars Global Surveyor at JPL.

The spacecraft evaluated landing sites for the twin NASA rovers that landed in 2004 and sites for future landings of the Phoenix and Mars Science Laboratory missions. It monitored atmospheric conditions during aerobraking by newer orbiters. It served as a relay link for the rovers and provided mapping information about their surroundings.

"When we watched the launch 10 years ago, we wondered if we would make the specified mission length. We certainly were not thinking of a 10-year operating life," said JPL retiree Glenn Cunningham, who managed the Global Surveyor project through development and launch.

A few of the mission's many important discoveries about Mars include:

-- The spacecraft's camera found gullies cut into many slopes that have few, if any, impact craters. This indicates the gullies are geologically young. Scientists interpret this as evidence of action by liquid water, essentially in modern times.

-- The mineral-mapping infrared spectrometer found concentrations of a mineral that often forms under wet conditions, fine-grained hematite. This discovery led to selection of a hematite-rich region as the landing site for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

-- Laser altimeter measurements have produced an unprecedented global topographic map of Mars. The instrument revealed a multitude of highly eroded or buried craters too subtle for previous observation, and mapped canyons within the polar ice caps.

-- The magnetometer found localized remnant magnetic fields, indicating that Mars once had a global magnetic field like Earth's, shielding the surface from deadly cosmic rays.

-- The camera found a fan-shaped area of interweaving, curved ridges interpreted as evidence of an ancient river delta resulting from persistent flow of water over an extended period in the planet's ancient past.

-- A long life allowed Global Surveyor to track changes through repeated annual cycles. For three Martian summers in a row, deposits of carbon-dioxide ice near Mars' South Pole shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress.

JPL manages Mars Global Surveyor for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information on the mission, visit the Internet at:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mgs/index.html

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mars Rover Story

More on 1,000 sols on Mars:
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/061026_spiritrover_1000.html

Space Elevator Games Results

http://www.space.com/news/061026_xprize_nowinners.html

No winners this year, but one team got very close.

3-D Sun

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/061025_stereo_launch.html

Get out your 3-D glasses, stereo Sun pictures on the way...

Viking may have missed Martian Life

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/061024_mars_viking.html

I agree with these conculsions. The Viking data was inconclusive!

The Mars Science Laboratory Rover launching in 2009 will hopefully have enough capability to solve this problem. I just wish they had enough money in the budget to send two MSL rovers like they did for Spirit and Opportunity.

Name the Node

Contest to name the new NASA Space Station Node:
http://www.livescience.com/blogs/2006/10/25/nasa-wants-you-to-name-space-station-piece/

Only open to K-12 classroom or school. No individual entries.
:(

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mars Rover Update

Status:
Spirit has lasted 1,000 sols (Martian days) on Mars!

Spirit Pictures (Finally some new pictures - McMurdo Panorama):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20061025a.html

Opportunity Pictures (artist's conception of rover on Cabo Frio):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20061019a.html

Monday, October 16, 2006

Power Source Options for Next Mars Rover

http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_061016.html

Nuclear batteries all the way! We need to start exploring areas away from the equator.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Update

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp 202-358-1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-131 Oct. 16, 2006

NASA Orbiter Reveals New Details of Mars, Young and Old

During its first week of observations from low orbit, NASA's newest Mars spacecraft is already revealing new clues about both recent and ancient environments on the red planet.

Scientists hope the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will answer questions about the history and distribution of Mars' water by combining data from the orbiter's high-resolution camera, imaging spectrometer, context camera, ground-penetrating radar, atmospheric sounder, global color camera, radio and accelerometers.

Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, science instruments on the spacecraft viewed dozens of sites that reflect different episodes in Mars' history. The diverse sites provide a good test for the capabilities of the spacecraft instruments. The orbiter will begin its primary science mission phase in early November when Mars re-emerges from passing nearly behind the sun.

The instruments are seeing details in the shapes and icy composition of geologically young layering near the Martian north pole. Other views offer details of a mid-latitude valley whose upper layers have been eroded away, revealing an underlying clay layer that formed a few billion years ago, when wet conditions produced the clay. Observations of a southern-hemisphere crater show fine-scale details of more recent gullies, adding evidence that they were carved by flowing water.

"In this opening phase we have tested the instruments, and they are working perfectly," said Dr. Steve Saunders, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The teams are getting amazing science data. They are ready to fulfill the mission's science objectives and to support other Mars missions. One image is already helping the Mars Exploration Rover team choose a route to explore Victoria Crater. Others will help guide the selection of a safe site for the future Phoenix Mars Lander."

In Chasma Boreale, a vast valley that juts into the north polar ice cap, the orbiter's spectrometer sees layers that vary in soil composition and in how much ice is mixed with the soil. A dark underlying layer contains little ice, but just beneath it lies ice-rich material resembling higher layers. The spectrometer takes pictures both in visible-light and infrared wavelengths useful for identifying what a target is made of.

"You see more-ice-rich and less-ice-rich layers, which tells you that conditions changed from the time one layer was deposited to the time another layer was deposited," said Dr. Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. Murchie is the principal investigator for the spectrometer on the spacecraft. "These layers are geologically young -- on the order of thousands or millions of years -- and may hold clues about climate cycles."

A lower-latitude target was Mawrth Vallis. The European Mars Express spacecraft previously discovered ancient deposits of clay minerals that could form only if water were present for a long time at Mawrth Vallis. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's spectrometer has resolved smaller-scale compositional features and detected differing clay mineral content. The clay-rich areas show some of the best evidence for conditions possibly favorable for life on ancient Mars, Murchie said.

The mission's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera has shown unprecedented detail in orbital images of Mars. An example was released recently showing the Opportunity rover at Victoria Crater. The camera imaged 64 areas on Mars during the testing week. "These images are truly beautiful, and since they resolve features the size of people, you can visualize yourself hiking around in these diverse terrains," said the camera's principal investigator, Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The high-resolution camera, the imaging spectrometer and the orbiter's wider-looking Context Camera all observed Mawrth Vallis. Details visible in the new observations, such as small channels, are consistent with past wet conditions, McEwen said.

Another observation of an unnamed southern crater shows relatively young gullies, like those seen in many Mars locations viewed by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. Braided channels characteristic of sediment-rich streams are visible in the new observations. This reinforces the interpretation that these geologically young gullies formed at least in part from erosion by flowing water. Original discovery of the many geologically young gullies on Martian slopes was by Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mro .

Comet Swan

Binocular viewable with green head near the Big Dipper
http://skytonight.com/observing/home/3304101.html

Friday, October 06, 2006

New comet discovered

http://skytonight.com/news/home/4306207.html

David Levy does it again!

Incredible picture of Opportunity Rover from orbit

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08816?msource=ecard100606&tr=y&auid=2048980

Here is the annotated photo:
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA08816_fig1.jpg

Mars Rover and Orbiter Cooperation

Synergy!
Guy Webster/Natalie Godwin 818-354-6278/0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp 202-358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-121 Oct. 6, 2006

NASA's Mars Rover and Orbiter Team Examines Victoria Crater

NASA's long-lived robotic rover Opportunity is beginning to explore layered rocks in cliffs ringing the massive Victoria crater on Mars.

While Opportunity spent its first week at the crater, NASA's newest eye in the Martian sky photographed the rover and its surroundings from above. The level of detail in the photo from the high-resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will help guide the rover's exploration of Victoria.

"This is a tremendous example of how our Mars missions in orbit and on the surface are designed to reinforce each other and expand our ability to explore and discover," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "You can only achieve this compelling level of exploration capability with the sustained exploration approach we are conducting at Mars through integrated orbiters and landers."

"The combination of the ground-level and aerial view is much more powerful than either alone," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "If you were a geologist driving up to the edge of a crater in your jeep, the first thing you would do would be to pick up the aerial photo you brought with you and use it to understand what you're seeing from ground level. That's exactly what we're doing here."

Images from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, orbiting the red planet since 1997, prompted the rover team to choose Victoria two years ago as the long-term destination for Opportunity. The images show the one-half-mile-wide crater has scalloped edges of alternating cliff-like high, jutting ledges and gentler alcoves. The new image by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter adds significantly more detail.

Exposed geological layers in the cliff-like portions of Victoria's inner wall appear to record a longer span of Mars' environmental history than the rover has studied in smaller craters. Victoria is five times larger than any crater Opportunity has visited during its Martian trek.

High-resolution color images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera since Sept. 28 reveal previously unseen patterns in the layers. "There are distinct variations in the sedimentary layering as you look farther down in the stack," Squyres said. "That tells us environmental conditions were not constant."

Within two months after landing on Mars in early 2004, Opportunity found geological evidence for a long-ago environment that was wet. Scientists hope the layers in Victoria will provide new clues about whether that wet environment was persistent, fleeting or cyclical.

The rovers have worked on Mars for more than 10 times their originally planned three-month missions. "Opportunity shows a few signs of aging but is in good shape for undertaking exploration of Victoria crater," said John Callas, project manager for the rovers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"What we see so far just adds to the excitement. The team has worked heroically for nearly 21 months driving the rover here, and now we're all rewarded with views of a spectacular landscape of nearly 50-foot-thick exposures of layered rock," said Jim Bell of Cornell. Bell is lead scientist for the rovers' panoramic cameras. NASA plans to drive Opportunity from crater ridge to ridge, studying nearby cliffs across the intervening alcoves and looking for safe ways to drive the rover down. "It's like going to the Grand Canyon and seeing what you can from several different overlooks before you walk down," Bell said.

The orbiter images will help the team choose which way to send Opportunity around the rim, and where to stop for the best views. Conversely, the rover's ground-level observations of some of the same features will provide useful information for interpreting orbital images.

"The ground-truth we get from the rover images and measurements enables us to better interpret features we see elsewhere on Mars, including very rugged and dramatic terrains that we can't currently study on the ground," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

JPL manages the rovers and orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For images and information about the rovers, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

For images and information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mro

Mercury Transit Coming November 8

http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_mercury_transit_061005.html

New way to look at Saturn's clouds.

Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Image Advisory: 2006-119 Oct. 5, 2006

'Chinese Lantern' Technique Helps Track Clouds at Saturn

A new image of Saturn demonstrates a technique that creates a 'Chinese lantern' effect, showing Saturn's deep clouds silhouetted against the planet’s warm, glowing interior. Seen this way, Saturn’s interior shows surprising activity underneath the overlying haze, with a great variety of cloud shapes and sizes.

Because upper-level hazes and clouds obscure the view of these deep clouds in visible light, imaging clouds in the depths of Saturn is not practical using visible-light cameras. Several recent images obtained by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer were combined in a way that highlights the deep clouds in silhouette against the background radiation of heat generated by Saturn's interior. This literally lights the planet from the inside, like a lantern.

Clouds and hazes in Saturn’s northern hemisphere are noticeably thinner than those in its southern hemisphere. This is thought to be a seasonal effect; this idea will be tested as Saturn’s northern hemisphere enters springtime in the next few years.

Bright red colors indicate areas relatively free of deep-level clouds and particles, while darker red colors are cloudy regions. Images like these show Saturn's deep clouds under both daytime and nighttime conditions.

The image, produced by team members at the University of Arizona, Tucson, is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov, and http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu .

A slide show featuring colorful images of Saturn and Titan is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/slideshows/cassini-200609/

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mars Rover Update

Spirit is getting more power. Opportunity is sitting on the edge of Victoria Crater:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status.html

No new Spirit pictures.

Opportunity Pictures (Victoria Crater):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20060928a.html

The future of the X-Prize

This is an interesting article about where the X-Prize idea goes after SpaceShipOne won the first one two years ago:

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/10/04/5475.aspx

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

VSE takes to the road

http://www.space.com/adastra/adastra_road_vision_061001.html

A chance to touch a Moon rock!!

Interactive video floor sounds interesting.

Life on the Moon

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/19jul_seaoftranquillity.htm?list199286

GAO concerns about CEV

TLA heaven!

http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_061002.html

Personally I would be very surprised if there aren't significant cost overruns in building the CEV and other infrastructure needed to return to the Moon.

Great Spaceship Two article

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/717/1

Great picture from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Guy Webster 818-354-6278Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Lori Stiles 520-626-4402University of Arizona, Tucson
IMAGE ADVISORY: 2006-117 September 29, 2006
NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet
Mars is ready for its close-up. The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars is returning low-altitude images to Earth from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first imagefrom NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, low-altitude orbital path. The imaging of the red planet at this resolution heralds a new era in Mars exploration.
The image of a small fraction of Mars' biggest canyon reached Earth on Friday,the beginning of a week of tests for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experimentand other instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
"We are elated at the sharpness of the image, revealing such fine detail in the landscape," said Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is the principal investigator for this camera. The target area includes the deepest part of Ius Chasma, one portion of the vast Valles Marineris canyon. Valles Marinerisis the largest known canyon in the solar system, as long as the distance from California to New York.
The image is available online athttp://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/multimedia/mro-20060929a.html
and http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/images/TRA/TRA_000823_1720/
The camera returned test images after Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter went into orbit around Mars on March 10, 2006, but those were from altitudes more than eight times as high as the orbiter is flying now. Since March, the spacecraft has shrunk its orbit by dipping more than 400 times into the top of the Martian atmosphere to shavevelocity. It is now flying in its final, nearly circular orbit at altitudes of 250 to 316 kilometers (155 to 196 miles). The orbit will remain this shape and size for the mission's two-year primary science phase, which begins in November.
During its primary science phase, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will return more data about the red planet than all previous missions combined, pouring data to Earth at about 10 times the rate of any earlier Mars spacecraft. Scientists will analyze the information to gain a better understanding of the distribution and history ofMars' water -- whether ice, vapor or liquid -- and of the processes that formed and modified the planet's surface.
In addition to the high-resolution camera, the orbiter's science payload includes a mineral-identifying spectrometer, a ground-penetrating radar, a context camera for imaging wide swaths of the surface, a wide-angle color imager for monitoring the entire planet daily, and an instrument for mapping and monitoring water vaporand other constituents in the atmosphere.
For most of October, Mars will be passing nearly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. Communication will be intermittent. Activities will be minimal for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other spacecraft at Mars during this time, and they will resume in early November.
Information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Another Opportunity Story

Victory!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15106420/

From that picture, it looks like it won't be too hard to drive in and look around.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Robo/Bio Sphere

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/09/29/5128.aspx

I like this idea:
http://www.spaceward.org/marsChallenge.html

Space Elevator Update

http://www.space.com/news/060929_xprize_cup_elevator.html

Space Elevator Games coming October 20-21

SpaceShipTwo Interior

http://www.space.com/news/060828_spaceshiptwo_next.html

Sign me up!

Opportunity at Victoria Crater

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060927_victoria_crater.html

Mars Rover Update

New software for Spirit. Opportunity report is old. It has already reached the rim of Victoria Crater:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status.html

New Opportunity Pictures (Duck Bay):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20060928a.html

Small Shuttle Revived

I'm really surprised that anyone wants to copy anything to do with the space shuttle design. If this thing rides on the side of a rocket like the shuttle, it is doomed to the same problems of debris impacting the craft on liftoff:
http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/09/28/4985.aspx

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Overtime for Mars Probes

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown 202-358-1237/1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

NEWS RELEASE: 2006-115 September 25, 2006

NASA Mars Spacecraft Gear Up for Extra Work

NASA's Mars robotic missions are performing so well, they are being prepared for additional overtime work.

The team operating the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, since January 2004, won approval for an additional year of exploration. NASA funded the extensions on recommendations from an outside panel of scientists. NASA also is adding two more years of operations for Mars Global Surveyor, which has been orbiting Mars since 1997, and the Mars Odyssey orbiter, at the red planet since 2001.

These mission extensions will begin Oct. 1, 2006. The spacecraft beginning extended missions have already completed a successful prime mission plus years of additional service. The extensions occur when NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, named the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is about to begin its main science phase.

"Each of these missions increases the value of the others and of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "By extending these missions, we gain very cost-effective additional benefits from the investments in developing them and getting them to Mars."

Each orbiter has a different set of instruments, and the spacecraft complement each other in helping scientists understand Mars. Also, observations by the rovers on the ground validate interpretation of information from the orbiters. Observations by the orbiters allow extrapolation from what the rovers find in small areas. The orbiters support current and future surface missions with landing-site assessments and communication relays.

Both rovers are still healthy, more than 31 months into what was originally planned as a three-month exploration of their landing areas. Provided they remain operable, their fourth mission extension will take them into Martian spring and summer, increasing their solar-energy supply and daily capabilities. Spirit has been studying its surroundings from a stationary, sun-facing tilt for several months. "As we get into the Martian spring, Spirit will resume exploring the inner basin of the 'Columbia Hills,'" said Dr. Bruce Banerdt, rover project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Opportunity will spend the extension at "Victoria Crater."

Each Martian year lasts nearly two Earth years. The longevity of Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey has allowed researchers to watch how Mars changes not just from season to season, but from year to year. Mars Global Surveyor has observed shrinking of the south polar carbon-dioxide ice cap from one summer to the next. "This extension will take us through our fifth annual cycle of Martian summers and winters," said Thomas Thorpe of JPL, project manager for Mars Global Surveyor.

"With the additional years of observations, we are able to monitor the Martian climate, not just the weather. There is a hypothesis that Mars' climate is changing, perhaps rapidly. The combination of instruments from different orbiters strengthens our ability to study that possibility. With Odyssey, for example, we can monitor the mass of carbon-dioxide frost in winter to help understand the changes that Global Surveyor is seeing in the summers," said JPL's Dr. Jeffrey Plaut, project scientist for Mars Odyssey.

The Odyssey flight team at JPL and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, plans to teach the spacecraft some new tricks during the mission extension. New software will enable the spacecraft to make choices about which images are high priority. Also, the team will begin pointing Odyssey slightly off the straight-down view it has flown so far. This will enable imaging of polar areas it never flies directly over. Odyssey also will continue serving as the primary communications relay for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

NASA also has extended the U.S. participation in the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission. That orbiter reached Mars in 2003 and is in an extended mission.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Exploration Rover projects for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Global Surveyor and Odyssey projects and built those spacecraft.

For additional information about NASA Mars missions, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main .

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Voyager 1 Update

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/21sep_voyager.htm?list199286

Hopefully they have planned similar monitoring of the New Horizons Pluto probe once it passes into the outer solar system.

Mars Rover Update

Spirit electricity levels going up. Opportunity now 50 meters from Victoria (report says 100 but it is a week old):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status.html

Spirit Pictures (nothing new lately):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20060911b.html

Opportunity (first glimpse into Victoria):
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20060919a.html

Mars Exploration by Rovers and MRO

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060921_mars_probes.html

Great photo of the "Face on Mars"

So called Face that is.
http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=060921_mars_faceA_02.jpg&cap=A+perspective+view+showing+the+so-called+%27Face+on+Mars%27+located+in+the+Cydonia+region.+The+image+shows+a+remnant+massif+thought+to+have+formed+via+landslides+and+an+early+form+of+debris+apron+formation.+The+massif+is+characterized+by+a+western+wall+that+has+moved+downslope+as+a+coherent+mass.+The+image%2C+created+with+data+from+the+Mars+Express+orbiter%2C+was+released+Sept.+21%2C+2006.+Credits%3A+ESA%2FDLR%2FFU+Berlin+%28G.+Neukum%29%2C+Malin+Space+Science+Systems

Another nail in the coffin of "standard" supernovas

I never liked the idea that a certain type (1a) of supernova always has the same brightness. Haven't these guys ever heard of chaos theory?

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060920_supernova_atypical.html

It is good to see science in action.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Ring Discovered Around Saturn

Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Preston Dyches 720-974-5859
Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OperationsSpace Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

News Release: 2006-110 September 19, 2006

Scientists Discover New Ring and Other Features at Saturn

Saturn sports a new ring in an image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sunday, Sept. 17, during a one-of-a-kind observation.

Other spectacular sights captured by Cassini's cameras include wispy fingers of icy material stretching out tens of thousands of kilometers from the active moon, Enceladus, and a cameo color appearance by planet Earth.

The images were obtained during the longest solar occultation of Cassini's four-year mission. During a solar occultation, the sun passes directly behind Saturn, and Cassini lies in the shadow of Saturn while the rings are brilliantly backlit. Usually, an occultation lasts only about an hour, but this time it was a 12-hour marathon.
Sunday's occultation allowed Cassini to map the presence of microscopic particles that are not normally visible across the ring system. As a result, Cassini saw the entire inner Saturnian system in a new light.
The new ring is a tenuous feature, visible outside the brighter main rings of Saturn and inside the G and E rings, and coincides with the orbits of Saturn's moons Janus and Epimetheus. Scientists expected that meteoroid impacts on Janus and Epimetheus might kick particles off the moons' surfaces and inject them into Saturn orbit, but they were surprised that a well-defined ring structure exists at this location.
Saturn's extensive, diffuse E ring, the outermost ring, had previously been imaged one small section at a time. The 12-hour marathon enabled scientists to see the entire structure in one view. The moon Enceladus is seen sweeping through the E ring, extending wispy, fingerlike projections into the ring. These very likely consist of tiny ice particles being ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers, and entering the E-ring.
"Both the new ring and the unexpected structures in the E ring should provide us with important insights into how moons can both release small particles and sculpt their local environments," said Matt Hedman, a research associate working with team member Joseph Burns, an expert in diffuse rings, at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
In the latest observations, scientists once again see the bright ghost-like spokes -- transient, dusty, radial structures -- streaking across the middle of Saturn's main rings.
Capping off the new batch of observations, Cassini cast its powerful eyes in our direction and captured Earth, a pale blue orb, and a faint suggestion of our moon. Not since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft saw Earth as a pale blue dot from beyond the orbit of Neptune has Earth been imaged in color from the outer solar system.
"Nothing has greater power to alter our perspective of ourselves and our place in the cosmos than these images of Earth we collect from faraway places like Saturn," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. Porco was one of the Voyager imaging scientists involved in taking the Voyager `Pale Blue Dot' image. "In the end, the ever-widening view of our own little planet against the immensity of space is perhaps the greatest legacy of all our interplanetary travels."
In the coming weeks, several science teams will analyze data collected by Cassini's other instruments during this rare occultation event. The data will help scientists better understand the relationship between the rings and moons, and will give mission planners a clearer picture of ring hazards to avoid during future ring crossings.
Images of the new ring, the E-ring, Enceladus and Earth are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini , http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://ciclops.org .

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Opportunity peaks into Victoria Crater

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Image Advisory: 2006-111 September 19, 2006

NASA Rover Opportunity Takes First Peek Into Victoria Crater

On Monday, NASA's Mars rover Opportunity got to within about 160 feet of the rim of the half-mile-wide Victoria Crater, the rover's destination since late 2004.

The new position gave Opportunity a glimpse of the crater's opposite wall. That view from the navigation camera on the rover is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/images/20060919.html.

"Opportunity has been heading toward Victoria for more than 20 months, with no guarantee it would ever get there, so we are elated to see this view," said Justin Maki of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., an imaging scientist on the rover team. "However, we still have another two or three short drives before Opportunity is really right at the rim, looking down into the crater."

Once Opportunity reaches the rim, the rover’s panoramic camera will begin the task of creating a high-definition color mosaic. That mosaic of images will provide scientists not only with a beautiful view of the crater, but will also provide geologic details of the crater walls.

The width of Victoria crater is the equivalent of eight football fields placed end to end. That makes it about five times wider than "Endurance Crater," which Opportunity spent six months examining in 2004, and about 40 times wider than "Eagle Crater," where Opportunity first landed.

The great lure of Victoria is the expectation that a thick stack of geological layers will be exposed in the crater walls, potentially several times the thickness that was previously studied at Endurance and, therefore, potentially preserving several times the historical record. Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, are robotic geologists with instruments for examining rocks to learn about the ancient environmental conditions that existed at the times the rocks were formed. Opportunity has already found exposed rock layers that were formed in flowing surface water and other layers formed as windblown sand. Analyzing the layers at Victoria could extend the story further back in time.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For additional images and information about the mission, visit www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer .