Solar System: Things to Know This Week
Get the latest on women making history at NASA, our Juno mission, the Curiosity rover and move!
1. Women at NASA Making History, Creating the Future
Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ve been presenting profiles of the women who are leading the way in deep space exploration.
2. Juno and the Giant
Our Juno spacecraft made its fifth close flyby over giant Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops.
3. When the Road Gets Rough, the Tough Keep Rolling
A routine check of the aluminum wheels on our Curiosity Mars rover has found two small breaks on the rover’s left middle wheel tread–the latest sign of wear and tear as the rover continues its journey, now approaching the 10-mile (16 kilometer) mark. But there’s no sign the robotic geologist won’t keep roving right through its ongoing mission.
4. What Do Mars and Dinosaurs Have in Common?
Our research reveals that volcanic activity at the giant Martian volcano Arsia Mons ceased about 50 million years ago, around the time of Earth’s Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when large numbers of plant and animal species (including dinosaurs) went extinct. However, there’s no reason to think the two events were more than a cosmic coincidence.
5. A Comet in Commotion
Images returned from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission indicate that during its most recent trip through the inner solar system, the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was a very active place – full of growing fractures, collapsing cliffs and massive rolling boulders.
6. Next Generation Space Robot is Ingenious, Versatile–and Cute
The next rovers to explore another planet might bring along a scout. The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) in development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was inspired by origami. Its lightweight design is capable of flattening itself, tucking in its wheels and crawling into places rovers can’t fit.
7. Shadowy Dawn
According to data from our Dawn mission to Ceres, shadowed craters on the dwarf planet may be linked to the history of how the small world has been tilted over time by the gravity of planets like Jupiter.
8. On Orbit and Online
We’re developing a long-term technology demonstration project of what could become the high-speed internet of the sky. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will help engineers understand the best ways to operate laser communications systems, which could enable much higher data rates for connections between spacecraft and Earth, such as scientific data downlink and astronaut communications.
9. A Big Role for Small Sats in Deep Space Exploration
We selected 10 studies to develop mission concepts using CubeSats and other kinds of very small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets. “These small but mighty satellites have the potential to enable transformational science,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.
10. Rings Around the Red Planet?
It’s possible that one of our closest neighbors had rings at one point – and may have them again someday. At least, that’s the theory put forth by NASA-funded scientists at Purdue University.
Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.
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