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