Archive for the ‘NASA’ Category

Curiosity Sends High-Resolution Color Images from Gale Crater

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Source – NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States, adding to the impression gained from the lower-resolution thumbnail images released earlier this week.

The 79 images that went into the large mosaics were taken on Aug. 8, 2012 PDT (Aug. 9, EDT) by Curiosity’s 34-millimeter Mastcam. The black areas indicate high-resolution images not yet returned by the rover.

The full-resolution images are available at: “http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/.

Curiosity sent lower-resolution versions of these images earlier in the week. The latest versions, sent while Curiosity was undergoing a software “brain transplant” and pausing in its acquisition of new science data, are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels.

In one version of the large mosaic, the colors portrayed are unmodified from those returned by the camera. The view is what a cell phone or camcorder would record, since the Mastcam takes color pictures in the exact same manner that consumer cameras acquire color images. The second version shows the colors modified as if the scene were transported to Earth and illuminated by terrestrial sunlight. This processing, called “white balancing,” is useful for scientists to be able to recognize and distinguish rocks by their color in more familiar lighting.

Smaller mosaics of some of the areas most interesting to science team members are also available. One shows a section on the crater wall north of the landing site, where a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system – one relating to a river or stream – from the surface of Mars.

A second section of the mosaic looks south of the landing site, towards Mount Sharp, a peak that is about 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) high and taller than Mt. Whitney in California. This provides an overview of the eventual geologic targets Curiosity will explore in the next two years. Close by is a rock-strewn, gravelly surface. Farther away is a dark dune field, and beyond that lie the layered buttes and mesas of the sedimentary rock of Mount Sharp.

Another section of the mosaic shows an area excavated by the blast of the Mars Science Laboratory’s descent stage rockets. With the loose debris blasted away by the rockets, details of the underlying materials are clearly seen. Of particular note is a well-defined, topmost layer that contains fragments of rock embedded in a matrix of finer material.

Curiosity continues to be very healthy, with all instruments and engineering subsystems operating as planned. There are no science or instrument activities planned on Sol 5. Last night, the new flight software, which is optimized for surface operations, was tested for the first time and successfully executed all planned Sol 5 rover activities. The test demonstrated that the new software is ready to support the upcoming surface operations mission phase. After an afternoon nap, Curiosity then returned to operating on its previous flight software, as planned. The rover’s primary main computer will be permanently transitioned to the new flight software on Aug. 13.

2012-239

Veronica McGregor/Guy Webster
818-354-9452/818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
veronica.mcgregor@jpl.nasa.gov / guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Unveils Xbox Kinect ‘Mars Rover Landing’ Game (Free)

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I have not tried this yet.

Source – NASA Video Gallery:

Danielle Roosa, granddaughter of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa, demonstrates NASA and Microsoft’s free Kinect interactive Xbox video game, ‘Mars Rover Landing.’ The new game lets players try their skill at landing the Curiosity rover on Mars. The game is available free of charge in the Xbox Live Marketplace and Kinect Central.

Stop-Motion Video From Curiosity’s Descent

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Source – NASA Video Gallery:

Curiosity’s Descent
This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. These thumbnail images were received on Earth on Aug. 6, 2012, and cover the last two and a half minutes of descent.

Touch Down…… For NASA New Rover on Mars…

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Source – NASA:

NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.

“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

“The Seven Minutes of Terror has turned into the Seven Minutes of Triumph,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld. “My immense joy in the success of this mission is matched only by overwhelming pride I feel for the women and men of the mission’s team.”

Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.

“Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars,” said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives.”

Confirmation of Curiosity’s successful landing came in communications relayed by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter and received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information on the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity And http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

Guy Webster / D.C. Agle 818-354-6278 / 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov / agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

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NASA /JPL What’s up for April 2012

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Source – NASA /JPL Solar System Exploration:

View Saturn all night this month, and view icy moons through a telescope.

NASA Launches Most Capable and Robust Rover To Mars Call Curiosity

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST (7:02 a.m. PST).
“We are very excited about sending the world’s most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we’ll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we’ve never been.”

The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.

“The launch vehicle has given us a great injection into our trajectory, and we’re on our way to Mars,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The spacecraft is in communication, thermally stable and power positive.”

The Atlas V initially lofted the spacecraft into Earth orbit and then, with a second burst from the vehicle’s upper stage, pushed it out of Earth orbit into a 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) journey to Mars.

“Our first trajectory correction maneuver will be in about two weeks,” Theisinger said. “We’ll do instrument checkouts in the next several weeks and continue with thorough preparations for the landing on Mars and operations on the surface.”

Curiosity’s ambitious science goals are among the mission’s many differences from earlier Mars rovers. It will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science-instrument payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the elemental composition of rocks from a distance, and an X-ray diffraction instrument for definitive identification of minerals in powdered samples.

To haul and wield its science payload, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. Because of its one-ton mass, Curiosity is too heavy to employ airbags to cushion its landing as previous Mars rovers could. Part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is a rocket-powered descent stage that will lower the rover on tethers as the rocket engines control the speed of descent.

The mission’s landing site offers Curiosity access for driving to layers of the mountain inside Gale Crater. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

Precision landing maneuvers as the spacecraft flies through the Martian atmosphere before opening its parachute make Gale a safe target for the first time. This innovation shrinks the target area to less than one-fourth the size of earlier Mars landing targets. Without it, rough terrain at the edges of Curiosity’s target would make the site unacceptably hazardous.

The innovations for landing a heavier spacecraft with greater precision are steps in technology development for human Mars missions. In addition, Curiosity carries an instrument for monitoring the natural radiation environment on Mars, important information for designing human Mars missions that protect astronauts’ health.

The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida managed the launch. NASA’s Space Network provided space communication services for the launch vehicle. NASA’s Deep Space Network will provide spacecraft acquisition and mission communication.

For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ .

For more information about the Deep Space Network, visit:

Asteroid 2005 YU55 to Approach Earth on November 8, 2011

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Source – NASA Near Earth Object Program (NEO):

Don Yeomans, Lance Benner and Jon Giorgini
March 10, 2011

Path of Astroid 2005 YU55

Trajectory of Asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 8-9, 2011
Click on image for animation

Near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass within 0.85 lunar distances from the Earth on November 8, 2011. The upcoming close approach by this relatively large 400 meter-sized, C-type asteroid presents an excellent opportunity for synergistic ground-based observations including optical, near infrared and radar data. The attached animated illustration shows the Earth and moon flyby geometry for November 8th and 9th when the object will reach a visual brightness of 11th magnitude and should be easily visible to observers in the northern and southern hemispheres. The closest approach to Earth and the Moon will be respectively 0.00217 AU and 0.00160 AU on 2011 November 8 at 23:28 and November 9 at 07:13 UT.

Discovered December 28, 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program near Tucson Arizona, the object has been previously observed by Mike Nolan, Ellen Howell and colleagues with the Arecibo radar on April 19-21, 2010 and shown to be a very dark, nearly spherical object 400 meters in diameter. Because of its approximate 20-hour rotation period, ideal radar observations should include tracks that are 8 hours or longer on multiple dates at Goldstone (November 3-11) and when the object enters Arecibo’s observing window on November 8th.

Using the Goldstone radar operating in a relatively new “chirp” mode, the November 2011 radar opportunity could result in a shape model reconstruction with a resolution of as fine as 4 meters. Several days of high resolution imaging (about 7.5 meters) are also planned at Arecibo. As well as aiding the interpretation of the radar observations, collaborative visual and near infrared observations could define the object’s rotation characteristics and provide constraints upon the nature of the object’s surface roughness and mineral composition.

Since the asteroid will approach the Earth from the sunward direction, it will be a daylight object until the time of closest approach. The best time for new ground-based optical and infrared observations will be late in the day on November 8, after 21:00 hours UT from the eastern Atlantic and western Africa zone. A few hours after its close Earth approach, it will become generally accessible for optical and near-IR observations but will provide a challenging target because of its rapid motion across the sky.

Side View

Trajectory of Asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 9, 2011

Although classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years. However, this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WN5 will pass to within 0.6 lunar distances.

Falling German satellite ROSAT X-ray astronomy observatory

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Source -Spaceflight Now.

Less than a month after NASA’s falling UARS satellite grabbed the headlines, the German space agency says one of its abandoned satellites will dive back to Earth later this month, but no one knows where it will land.

The ROSAT X-ray astronomy observatory is smaller and less massive than NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite, or UARS, which fell back to Earth on Sept. 24. But officials predict it will spread three times more debris and pose a greater threat to people than UARS.

That’s because ROSAT is made of heat-resistant components, especially its primary mirror, which officials say will probably be the largest single fragment that will reach Earth.

The satellite will streak into the atmosphere at 17,000 mph, and temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit will burn up much of the spacecraft.

“All these forces exerted on the satellite cause it to disintegrate, which in turn means that it eventually lands in the form of a long debris trail,” said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s space debris office. “The lightweight objects fall to Earth first, similar to leaves from a tree. The really heavy objects land later, because they ultimately have to drill their way through the atmosphere.”

But engineers expect the bulk of ROSAT to survive re-entry, littering its impact point with up to 30 pieces of debris.

The 5,348-pound satellite launched from Florida on a Delta 2 rocket in 1990. ROSAT does not have an engine or propulsion system because it used reaction wheels to point its telescope toward scientific targets in the cosmos.

Up to 3,750 pounds of the satellite could reach Earth’s surface. NASA said they expected 1,200 pounds of UARS to survive re-entry.

There is a 1-in-2,000 chance someone will be struck by fragments of ROSAT on its way down, according to Germany. That equates to odds of about 1-in-14 trillion that any individual person will be hit.

The threat from UARS wasn’t as high. An analysis from NASA showed there was a 1-in-3,200 chance of a collision between a human and a piece of UARS.

The remnants of UARS fell in the remote Pacific Ocean, and ROSAT will likely also end up in the sea, but its impossible to tell where it will crash until hours before.

ROSAT launched in June 1990 on a Delta 2 rocket.

ROSAT, which stands for Roentgen Satellite, was turned off in 1999, and its altitude has gradually dropped since then from an operational orbit more than 350 miles high. The German Aerospace Center, also known as DLR by its German acronym, says the spacecraft should re-enter the atmosphere between Oct. 20 and Oct. 25.

But the margin of error in the re-entry forecast is three days, and officials likely won’t know where the satellite will come down until after it falls. Even one day before re-entry, the time of ROSAT’s demise will only be known with a precision of plus-or-minus five hours, putting entire oceans and continents in the satellite’s flight path.

“All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude could be affected by its re-entry,” said a posting on DLR’s website. “The bulk of the debris will impact near the ground track of the satellite.”

“It will not be possible to make any kind of reliable forecast about where the satellite will actually come down until about one or two hours before the fact,” Klinkrad said. “It will, however, be possible to predict, about one day in advance, which geographical regions will definitely not be affected.”

ROSAT’s orbit was at an average altitude of 149 miles Wednesday.

“This slow descent is due to the friction encountered by the satellite as it enters the outer fringes of Earth atmosphere, which increases the more ROSAT penetrates into our atmosphere,” Klinkrad said.

Klinkrad said the major factor affecting a satellite’s fall from orbit is solar activity. Energy unleashed from the sun causes Earth’s atmosphere to heat up and expand, generating more drag for satellites in low orbits.

Fluctuations in solar activity can quicken or slow a satellite’s re-entry. Experts initially expected ROSAT’s plunge to occur last year, but solar activity turned out to be less than predicted, delaying the re-entry until this month.

NASA \ JPL What’s Up for October 2011?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Source – NASA /JPL Solar System Exploration:

Look for moons and meteors this month!

NASA: What’s Up For September 2011?

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Source – NASA /JPL Solar System Exploration:

Enjoy a tour of lunar landing sites as NASA’s GRAIL mission launches to the moon this month.