Thursday, March 30, 2006

NASA emphasizing CEV other other technologies

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/060329_techwed_nasa_tech.html

Dawn Mission Back On!

Hooray!
http://www.space.com/news/060327_dawn_mission.html

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Update

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060328_mro_update.html

Mars Rover Update

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

Spirit Photos:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20060323a.html

Saturn Moonlets

They are soooo cute!
:)

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2006-046

Fresh Crater on Mars

http://www.space.com/imageoftheday/image_of_day_060327.html

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to look for Moon junk

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060327_mystery_monday.html

Why NASA Is going to use the RS-68 engine for VSE

Scroll to the bottom of this article:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/588/1

The reason is the RS-68 is in production now and the other contenders would have to have their production lines restarted.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mars Rover Update

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

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

News Release: 2006-039 March 17, 2006

Mars Rovers Get New Manager During Challenging Period

NASA's long-lived Mars rovers demand lots of care as they age and the Martian winter approaches.

Dr. John Callas, newly named project manager for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission, is coordinating the work to meet these challenges. He is a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. He was named project manager after earlier roles as science manager and deputy project manager for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

"It continues to be an exciting adventure with each day like a whole new mission," Callas said. "Even though the rovers are well past their original design life, they still have plenty of capability to conduct outstanding science on Mars. The JPL operations team and the remote science team working on the project are the best in the solar system at what they do. It is a pleasure and a privilege to lead such an outstanding team and great mission."

One of Spirit's six wheels has stopped working. Dragging that wheel, the solar-powered rover must reach a slope where it can catch enough sunshine to continue operating during the Martian winter. The period of minimum sunshine is more than 100 days away, but Spirit gets only enough power for about one hour per day of driving on flat ground. And the supply is dropping fast.

Spirit's right-front wheel became a concern once before, when it began drawing unusually high current five months after the January 2004 landing on Mars. Driving Spirit backwards redistributed lubricant and returned the wheel to normal operation. This week, during the 779th Martian day of what was originally planned as a 90-Martian-day mission, the motor that rotates that wheel stopped working.

"It is not drawing any current at all," said JPL's Jacob Matijevic, rover engineering team chief. One possibility engineers are considering is that the motor's brushes, contacts that deliver power to the rotating part of the motor, have lost contact. The motors that rotate Spirit's wheels have revolved more than 13 million times, far more than called for in the rovers’ design.

Spirit's solar panels have been generating about 350 watt-hours of electricity daily for the past week. That is down about 15 percent since February and less than one-half of their output during the Martian summer.

The best spot for Spirit is the north-facing side of "McCool Hill," where it could spend the southern-hemisphere winter tilted toward the sun. Spirit finished studying a bright feature called "Home Plate" last week and is driving from there toward the hill. It has approximately 120 meters (about 390 feet) to go. Driving backwards with the right-front wheel dragging, the rover needs to stop and check frequently that the problem wheel has not snagged on anything and caused other wheels to slip excessively. Expected progress is around 12 meters (40 feet) per day under current conditions.

Opportunity is closer to the equator, so does not need to winter on a slope like Spirit. Opportunity spent most of the past four months at "Erebus Crater." It examined layered outcrops, while the rover team determined and tested a strategy for dealing with degraded performance by a motor in the shoulder of its robotic arm. Opportunity left Erebus this week and is on a 2 kilometer (1.2 mile) journey to a giant crater called "Victoria."

Callas has worked on the Mars rovers' mission since 2000 and five other Mars missions since joining JPL in 1987. He succeeds Jim Erickson, who switched to a leadership role with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Callas grew up near Boston and graduated from Tufts University, Medford, Mass. He earned his doctorate in physics from Brown University, Providence, R.I.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter projects for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

For images and information about the rovers on the Web, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

Lots of Ice on Mars

http://skyandtelescope.com/news/article_1695_1.asp

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NASA Innovative Interstellar Explorer

http://gltrs.grc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/GLTRS/browse.pl?2005/CR-2005-214017.html

NASA Space Sciences Budget Under Pressure

http://www.space.com/news/060314_lpsc_budget.html

Stardust minerals formed at high temperature

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060313_stardust_update.html

*** UPDATE ***
Another report:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11813637/

Iron Meteorites may have started out closer to the Sun

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060314_science_tuesday.html

Google Mars on-line

http://www.google.com/mars/

It is linked with the Themis images from the Mars Odyssey space craft.

Another report about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's successful orbit of Mars

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060310_mro_mars_arrival.html

Pluto's Moons are All the Same Color

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060310_pluto_moons.html

But Pluto has a redish hue...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mars Valles Marineris fly-through

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

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp (202) 358-1726/1237NASA Headquarters, Washington
IMAGE ADVISORY: 2006-035 March 13, 2006

Years of Observing Combined Into Best-Yet Look at Mars Canyon
A new view of the biggest canyon in the solar system, merging hundreds of photos from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, offers scientists and the public an online resource for exploring the entire canyon in detail.

This canyon system on Mars, named Valles Marineris, stretches as far as the distance from California to New York. Steep walls nearly as high as Mount Everest give way to numerous side canyons, possibly carved by water. In places, walls have shed massive landslides spilling far out onto the canyon floor.

A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/missions/odyssey/20060313.html .
The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large image are at http://themis.asu.edu .

"We picked Valles Marineris to make this first mosaic because it's probably the most complex, interesting feature on the entire planet," said Dr. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe. He is the principal investigator for Mars Odyssey's versatile camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System. "To understand many of the processes on Mars -- erosion, landsliding and the effects of water -- you really need to have a
big-picture view but still be able to see the details."

Small parts of the canyon have been seen at higher resolution, but at 100 meters (328 feet) per pixel, the new view has sharper resolution than any previous imaging of the entire canyon.

In addition to the completed mosaic of Valles Marineris images, the camera team has also prepared an online data set of nearly the entire planet of Mars at 232 meters (760 feet) per pixel, the most detailed global view of the red planet. The team plans to post 100-meter-resolution mosaics of other regions of Mars in coming months.

Odyssey reached Mars in 2001. The Thermal Emission Imaging System began observing the planet systematically in February 2002 both in visible wavelengths and in infrared wavelengths, which are better for seeing surface details through Mars' atmospheric dust. As the spacecraft passes over an area, the camera records images of swaths 32 kilometers wide (20 miles wide). More than three years of observations made at infrared wavelengths during Martian daytime are combined into the assembled view of Valles Marineris and the global image data set.

Mars Odyssey is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The orbiter began an extended mission in August 2004 after successfully completing its primary mission.

Video of the simulated Valles Marineris fly-through, interview excerpts and related B-roll are available during NASA Television video file downlinks beginning March 13, 2006. NASA TV's video file news feed is broadcast on the agency's Media Channel (Program 103) at 12 p.m. (Eastern), with replays at 1, 5, 6, 10 and 11 p.m. and 6 and 7 a.m. The NASA TV Media Channel is available on an MPEG-2 digital C-band signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. In Alaska and Hawaii, it's available on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization. A Digital Video Broadcast compliant Integrated Receiver Decoder is required for reception.

For digital downlink information for NASA TV's Media Channel (Program 103) on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov/ntv . For media unable to receive the NASA TV Media Channel, a modified version of Video-File airs on the NASA TV Public Channel at 9 a.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. (Eastern). The Public Channel is accessible on the Web, at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .

For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

NASA press release: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is in orbit

Dwayne Brown(202)358-1726
Merrilee Fellows (818)393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington

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

News Release: 2006-034 March 10, 2006

Robotic NASA Craft Begins Orbiting Mars for Most-Detailed Exam

With a crucially timed firing of its main engines today, NASA's new mission to Mars successfully put itself into orbit around the red planet.

The spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will provide more science data than all previous Mars missions combined.

Signals received from the spacecraft at 2:16 p.m. Pacific Time after it emerged from its first pass behind Mars set off cheers and applause in control rooms at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

"This is a great milestone to have accomplished, but it's just one of many milestones before we can open the champagne," said Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Once we are in the prime science orbit, the spacecraft will perform observations of the atmosphere, surface, and subsurface of Mars in unprecedented detail."

The spacecraft traveled about 500 million kilometers (310 million miles) to reach Mars after its launch from Florida on Aug. 12, 2005. It needed to use its main thrusters as it neared the planet in order to slow itself enough for Mars' gravity to capture it. The thruster firing began while the spacecraft was still in radio contact with Earth, but needed to end during a tense half hour of radio silence while the spacecraft flew behind Mars.

"Our spacecraft has finally become an orbiter," said JPL's Jim Graf, project manager for the mission. "The celebration feels great, but it will be very brief because before we start our main science phase, we still have six months of challenging work to adjust the orbit to the right size and shape."

For the next half-year, the mission will use hundreds of carefully calculated dips into Mars' atmosphere in a process called "aerobraking." This will shrink its orbit from the elongated ellipse it is now flying, to a nearly circular two-hour orbit. For the mission's principal science phase, scheduled to begin in November, the desired orbit is a nearly circular loop ranging from 320 kilometers (199 miles) to 255 kilometers (158 miles) in altitude, lower than any previous Mars orbiter. To go directly into such an orbit instead of using aerobraking, the mission would have needed to carry about 70 percent more fuel when it launched.

The instruments on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will examine the planet from this low-altitude orbit. A spectrometer will map water-related minerals in patches as small as a baseball infield. A radar instrument will probe for underground layers of rock and water. One telescopic camera will resolve features as small as a card table. Another will put the highest-resolution images into broader context. A color camera will monitor the entire planet daily for changes in weather. A radiometer will check each layer of the atmosphere for variations in temperature, water vapor and dust.

"The missions currently at Mars have each advanced what we know about the presence and history of water on Mars, and one of the main goals for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is to decipher when water was on the surface and where it is now," said JPL's Dr. Richard Zurek, project scientist for the mission. "Water is essential for life, so that will help focus future studies of whether Mars has ever supported life."

The orbiter can radio data to Earth at up to 10 times the rate of any previous Mars mission. Besides sending home the pictures and other information from its own investigations, it will relay data from surface missions, including NASA's Phoenix Mars Scout scheduled for launch in 2007 and Mars Science Laboratory in development for 2009.

Additional information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available online at:

http://www.nasa.gov/mro

The mission is managed by JPL, 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 for the project and built the spacecraft.

S & T article on Enceladus Geyser

http://skyandtelescope.com/news/article_1692_1.asp

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Future Propulsion

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11730484/

Spirit and Opportunity Update

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

Spirit pictures:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20060306a.html

Opportunity Pictures:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20060307a.html

Geyser's on Saturn's Moon Enceladus

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11736311/

*** UPDATE ***
Why it matters:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11744581/

*** UPDATE2 ***
Here is the NASA press release about this:
Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

*** UPDATE3 ***
Podcast from NASA:
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/cassini-20060309.html


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

News Release: 2006-033 March 9, 2006
NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus

NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting large quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea that the particles are produced by or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility -- the jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

Mission scientists report these and other Enceladus findings in this week's issue of Science.

"We previously knew of at most three places where active volcanism exists: Jupiter's moon Io, Earth, and possibly Neptune's moon Triton. Cassini changed all that, making Enceladus the latest member of this very exclusive club, and one of the most exciting places in the solar system," said Dr. John Spencer, Cassini scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

"Other moons in the solar system have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometers of icy crust," said Dr. Andrew Ingersoll, imaging team member and atmospheric scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "What's different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of meters below the surface."

Other unexplained oddities now make sense. "As Cassini approached Saturn, we discovered that the Saturnian system is filled with oxygen atoms. At the time we had no idea where the oxygen was coming from," said Dr. Candy Hansen, Cassini scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "Now we know that Enceladus is spewing out water molecules, which break down into oxygen and hydrogen."

Scientists are also seeing variability at Enceladus. "Even when Cassini is not flying close to Enceladus, we can detect that the plume's activity has been changing through its varying effects on the soup of electrically-charged particles that flow past the moon," said Dr. Geraint H. Jones, Cassini scientist, magnetospheric imaging instrument, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

Scientists still have many questions. Why is Enceladus currently so active? Are other sites on Enceladus active? Might this activity have been continuous enough over the moon's history for life to have had a chance to take hold in the moon's interior?

"Our search for liquid water has taken a new turn. The type of evidence for liquid water on Enceladus is very different from what we've seen at Jupiter's moon Europa. On Europa the evidence from surface geological features points to an internal ocean. On Enceladus the evidence is direct observation of water vapor venting from sources close to the surface," said Dr. Peter Thomas, Cassini imaging scientist, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

In the spring of 2008, scientists will get another chance to look at Enceladus when Cassini flies within 350 kilometers (approximately 220 miles), but much work remains after Cassini's four-year prime mission is over.

"There's no question that, along with the moon Titan, Enceladus should be a very high priority for us. Saturn has given us two exciting worlds to explore," said Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the Caltech, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter nears Mars

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2006-032

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SMART-1 to crash into the Moon

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060307_smart1_moon.html

Solar Minimum is Here

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/06mar_solarminimum.htm?list199286

Lunar Ice?

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060306_lunar_ice.html

Cassini Ocean

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060301_titan_methane_ocean.html

Dawn Comet

http://skyandtelescope.com/printable/observing/objects/comets/article_1687.asp

Red Spot Jr.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/02mar_redjr.htm

Stardust dust comtains building blocks of life

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2070393,00.html

NASA Stardust Project News Conference

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11703892/#060306b

Chinese space walk now scheduled for 2008

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11699145/

New Sunspot Cycle Model

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11701699/