May 11th, 2009 - OV-104 Atlantis departs from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A on a final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). STS-125 would be the only mission Atlantis would visit the HST - prior servicing missions were done by Discovery twice, with Columbia and Endeavour each once.

Upgrades to HST included the Cosmic Origins Spectograph, the Wide Field Camera 3 which can record different wavelengths of light, and a device called the Soft-Capture Mechanism, which will be used by a future craft to safely de-orbit Hubble at the end of its life span. HST is expected to continue to operate well into the 2030s.

STS-125 was unique in that it is one of a few missions that had two full Shuttle stacks on the launch pad at the same time. Any damage sustained from the launch that prevented Atlantis from returning home meant that she would be stuck in orbit with only three weeks of supplies. A rescue mission was specifically developed for STS-125, as the low inclination orbit of the HST meant that the International Space Station would effectively be out of reach of Atlantis and her crew.

In the event of Atlantis suffering damage, STS-400 would launch up to the crippled shuttle and extract the crew for a safe return home. OV-105 Endeavour was placed on stand-by at LC-39B until May 21st, after Atlantis was deemed safe to return home, and was released to begin processing for STS-127.

Atlantis and crew would return home May 24th, landing at Edwards Air Force Base - the weather in Florida deemed unsatisfactory for landing the orbiter. STS-125 had five successful EVAs, orbited the Earth 197 times, and featured the first Tweet from space by Astronaut Michael Massimino which read, “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!

STS-125 was another shuttle mission to feature an IMAX camera, used to document the life of HST and the views of the universe it has brought to us. IMAX: Hubble 3D was released in 2010 and features the launch of STS-125. 

Orbiting high above Earth, NASA Astronaut John M. Grunsfeld “peers into the crew cabin of the Space Shuttle Columbia during the first STS-109 extravehicular activity (EVA-1) on March 4, 2002.” The photo was snapped “with a digital still camera by a crewmate on shuttle’s aft flight deck.” [3032x2004]

NASA Mission Reveals Speed of Solar Wind Stripping Martian Atmosphere

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.

MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the Nov. 5 issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.

Keep reading

Liquid water flows on Mars.

Darkened streaks that ebb and flow with time have been observed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists believe this changing coloration, which appears to flow down slopes during warm seasons and disappears during cooler seasons, is evidence of hydrated minerals. They believe the liquid is a salty brine water. 

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water – albeit briny – is flowing today on the surface of Mars.” Read the photo caption below. Learn more here.

The discovery was first observed in 2010 by Lujendra Ojha, a Georgia Tech undergraduate student who saw the darkened streaks while looking at images acquired by MRO.

(This animation simulates a fly-around look at one of the places on Mars where dark streaks advance down slopes during warm seasons, possibly involving liquid water. This site is within Hale Crater. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field. Courtesy of NASA.)

Keep reading

NASA Discovers Evidence for Liquid Water on Mars

Today at 12:40 EDT, Museum Curator and Astrophysicist Michael Shara will appear on @AMNH Periscope to talk about today’s announcement from NASA:

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water – albeit briny – is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

Read the full announcement. 

Brush up on your Mars knowledge with this timeline of the Search for Life on Mars and learn about a Science Bulletin about water on Mars

Close-up of Astronaut John Grunsfeld shows the reflection of Astronaut Andrew Feustel, perched on the robotic arm and taking the photo. The pair teamed together on three of the five spacewalks during Servicing Mission 4 in May 2009

Where Will We Land On Mars?


You’ve heard us say that we’re on a journey to Mars, but the Red Planet is big. Once we get there, where will we land the first humans? We’re holding the first Landing Sites/Exploration Zones Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars to figure it out. This first workshop was held Oct. 27-30, 2015 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.


The goal of this workshop was to collect proposals for locations on Mars that would be of high scientific research value while also providing natural resources to enable explorers to land, live and work safely on the Red Planet. Determining where we will land humans on Mars is a multi-year process. There was around 45 proposal teams at the workshop. This was the first of many workshops to determine the best landing site for human exploration on Mars.

Why Now?

We plan to use existing assets at Mars, such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Odyssey spacecraft, to support the selection process of potential Exploration Zones. However, the life expectancy of MRO and Odyssey are limited. We are eager to take advantage of the remaining operational years of those Martian images to gather high resolution maps of potential Exploration Zones while the spacecraft remain operational.

Stay Updated

The workshop will be aired live USTREAM starting at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 27.

This blog post will also be updated daily with a recap from the workshop’s events.

For a full schedule of the event visit:

Day 1 Recap:

“There is no such thing as robotic exploration. All exploration is human exploration — the robot is just a tool.” - John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate

Day one of the workshop answered a lot of basic questions about why looking at landing sites now is important for the future of our journey to Mars.

Attendees heard from many presenters, including Ellen Ochoa, Director of Johnson Space Center and John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Experts explained that in order to leverage our current assets at Mars and start the process of picking possible landing sites, we need to start the discussion now.

This data will Inform our efforts to define what we need as far as future reconnaissance capabilities at Mars and drive where we send robotic landers to get ground truth.

Check back tomorrow for the day two update, and watch live on USTREAM starting at 9 a.m. EDT.

BONUS: Have questions about potential landing sites on Mars? We’ll be hosting a live social Q&A tomorrow at 7 p.m. EDT. Two NASA experts and one 15-year old student on one of the proposal teams will be answering your questions. Tune in on USTREAM and use #askNASA.

Day 2 Recap:

The second day of the Mars Landing Sites Workshop was filled with presentations from various proposal groups. Contributors made cases for where the best science could be collected on the Martian surface.

We also had the opportunity to hear from a young presenter, Alex Longo. A 15-year old student from Raleigh, N.C.

Longo also joined us for the social Q&A where we answered questions from #askNASA. He, along with two NASA experts, fielded questions that ranged from specifics about the workshop, to chatting aboutMars mysteries.

Tune in tomorrow to watch more of the presentations and see potential Mars landing sites! Watch live on USTREAM starting at 9 a.m. EDT.

Check back tomorrow for the day three update.

Day 3 Recap:

The third day of the workshop included presentations from the remaining proposal teams. This final day of presentations will lead into the last day of the workshop, when groups will discuss all of the ideas shared during the past week.

The day got really exciting when our Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) made an appearance. This SEV concept is designed to be flexible, depending on the exploration destination. The pressurized cabin can be used for surface exploration of planetary bodies, including near-Earth asteroids and Mars.

Tomorrow is the final day of the workshop and will include group discussions. Participants will have the chance to assess the proposed sites and talk about the future steps needed for selecting a potential human landing site for our journey to Mars.

Watch these discussions live on USTREAM starting at 9 a.m. EDT.

Final Day Recap:

The final day of our workshop on potential Mars landing sites included discussions on the presentations that were made throughout the week.

Participants also had the opportunity to hear from NASA experts like Jim Green, director of planetary science, about future exploration and our journey to Mars.

Video of the full workshop will be available on the Lunar Planetary Institute’s YouTube channel. For more information and updates on our journey to Mars, visit HERE.


On Thursday I went to a talk by John Grunsfeld. Grunsfeld has flown in space five times, and is currently NASA’s Associate Administrator to the Science Mission Directorate. His last shuttle mission was the final Hubble servicing mission, STS-125, which was also one of the missions in “Hubble:3D.”

Dr. Grunsfeld talked all about the recent discoveries in the solar system, but he also discussed his STS-125 flight, and how the mission could have easily gone wrong many, many times. Unfortunately my photos don’t really sell the event. But if you ever get a chance to see him, go - he’s a great speaker.