mars exploration rover mission

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

State of the Solar System: 10 quick updates from around our galactic neighborhood.

1. Powered by the Sun

Fifty-nine years ago, Vanguard 1 launched to demonstrate a new spacecraft technology – solar power. We’ve been going farther and for longer ever since.

+More on Vanguard 1

2. Mapping Mercury

A big week in history for exploration of the innermost planet. On March 16, 1975, our Mariner 10 made its third and final flyby of Mercury. One day and 36 years later, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Next up: ESA’s BepiColumbo, undergoing testing now, is set to launch for Mercury in 2018.

+Missions to Mercury

3. Return to Venus

U.S. and Russian scientists are discussing a planned revival of the successful Venera program that revealed much about Venus in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, Japan’s Akatsuki orbiter continues to study our sister planet.

+More on Venera-D

4. Rocket Power

Back on Earth 91 years ago (March 16, 1926), inventor and dreamer Robet Goddard changed the world forever with the first test of a liquid-fueled rocket. We’ve been going farther and faster ever since.

+More on Goddard

5. Moon Watch

Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been sending a steady stream of high-resolution images back to Earth for more than seven years.

+More on LRO

6. Busy Mars

There are currently five orbiters (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, MAVEN, ESA’s Mars Express and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission) and two rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity) exploring Mars, making it second only to Earth in the number of robotic spacecraft studying its secrets.

+Meet the Mars Fleet

7. Vote for Jupiter

Polls close today (March 20) so vote not to point a real spacecraft camera at Jupiter during the mission’s 5th perijove pass.

+Vote now

8. Science to the Last Second

In a little less than six months, our Cassini orbiter will plunge into Saturn as a spectacular finale to its 19-year mission – but not before it embarks on a completely new mission into unexplored space between Saturn and its mighty rings.

+More on Cassini’s Grand Finale

9. By George?

Happy belated birthday to Uranus, discovered on March 13, 1781 by William Herschel. The English astronomer wanted to name his discovery – the first planet discovered in recorded history – “Georgium Sidus” after England’s King George III. But he was overruled, and astronomer stuck with traditional mythological names – creating an opportunity for 263 years of student jokes at the expense of the ice giant planet’s name.

+More on Uranus

10. Go Farther

The round trip light time from Voyager 1 to Earth is more than 38 hours. Voyager 1 is almost 13 billion miles from our home planet.

+More on Voyager

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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Read the newly posted Sky Reporter blog, “Exploring Mars”:

The heat of summer is upon us, lingering into evenings as Mars remains a tantalizing sight low in our southern sky. For years NASA’s mantra in the great endeavor to find life on other worlds has been “follow the water.” Evidence the red planet, which harbored substantial amounts liquid water, was considered a requisite for eventual discovery of “life as we know it” on that neighboring world.
This chapter in the quest is now being supplanted. Evidence of Martian water has been found. Our Hayden blog back on October 6 illustrated cascades of water periodically flowing from walls of Horowitz Crater at Martian coordinates 32.04° S, 219.36° W.
Searching for signs of life, evaluating sites for future habitation, and plans for personal human exploration are now in play. Previous missions including the Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Phoenix Lander were primarily designed to seek water. They did their jobs well, finding that evidence, allowing Mars Science Laboratory and its carrier, Curiosity Rover, to be tasked with a fresh mission “seeking signs of life.”

Read the full post.

Image: NASA

the-christian-identity  asked:

Bill Nye isn't even a real scientist.

After attending the private Sidwell Friends School, Nye enrolled at Cornell University, where he studied mechanical engineering. Upon earning his Bachelor of Science degree there, Nye went on to begin his career at The Boeing Company in Seattle, where he would live for many years. Nye developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor that is still used in the Boeing 747.

In the early 2000s, he helped develop sundials that were used in the Mars Exploration Rover missions. From 2005 to 2010, he served as vice president and then as second executive director of The Planetary Society, one of the largest space-interest groups in the world.

Nye is a professor at the Frank H. T. Rhodes Visiting Professorship at Cornell. He holds three honorary doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College and Johns Hopkins.

[Source]

10 Technologies That Are Changing the Game

Earlier this year, we hosted a Game Changing Technology Industry Day for the aerospace industry, and in October our engineers and technologists visited Capitol Hill showcasing some of these exciting innovations. Check out these technology developments that could soon be making waves on Earth and in space.

1. Wearable technology

With smartwatches, glasses, and headsets already captivating users around the world, it’s no surprise that the next evolution of wearable technology could be used by first responders at the scene of an accident or by soldiers on a battlefield. The Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness System (IDEAS) is an interactive optical computer that works for smart glasses. 

It has a transparent display, so users have an unobstructed view even during video conferences or while visualizing environmental data. 

And while the IDEAS prototype is an innovative solution to the challenges of in-space missions, it won’t just benefit astronauts – this technology can be applied to countless fields here on Earth.

2. Every breath they take: life support technologies

Before astronauts can venture to Mars and beyond, we need to significantly upgrade our life support systems. The Next Generation Life Support project is developing technologies to allow astronauts to safely carry out longer duration missions beyond low-Earth orbit. 

The Variable Oxygen Regulator will improve the control of space suit pressure, with features for preventing decompression sickness. The Rapid Cycle Amine technology will remove carbon dioxide and humidity and greatly improve upon today’s current complex system.

3. 3-D printing (for more than just pizza)

New Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT), such as 3-D printing, can help us build rocket parts more quickly and aid in building habitats on other planets. 

These manufacturing initiatives will result in innovative, cost-efficient solutions to many of our planetary missions. Back in 2014, the International Space Station’s 3-D printer manufactured the first 3-D printed object in space, paving the way to future long-term space expeditions. 

The object, a printhead faceplate, is engraved with names of the organizations that collaborated on this space station technology demonstration: NASA and Made In Space, Inc., the space manufacturing company that worked with us to design, build and test the 3-D printer.

4. Spacecraft landing gear

Large spacecraft entering the atmosphere of Mars will be traveling over five times the speed of sound, exposing the craft to extreme heat and drag forces. The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) is designed to protect spacecraft from this environment with an inflatable structure that helps slow a craft for landing. 

To get astronauts and other heavy loads to the surface safely, these components must be very strong. The inflatable consists of a material 15 times stronger than steel, while the thermal protection system can withstand temperatures over 1600°C.

5. From heat shield technology to firefighter shelters

For the Convective Heating Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters (CHIEFS) project, we partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to develop safer, more effective emergency fire shelters for wild land firefighters. 

Using existing technology for flexible spacecraft heat shields like HIAD, we are building and testing new fire shelters composed of stacks of durable, insulated materials that could help protect the lives of firefighters.

6. Robots and rovers

Real life is looking a bit more like science fiction as Human Robotics Systems are becoming highly complex. They are amplifying human productivity and reducing mission risk by improving the effectiveness of human-robot teams. 

Our humanoid assistant Robonaut is currently aboard the International Space Station helping astronauts perform tasks.

A fleet of robotic spacecraft and rovers already on and around Mars is dramatically increasing our knowledge and paving the way for future human explorers. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover measured radiation on the way to Mars and is sending back data from the surface. 

This data will help us plan how to protect the astronauts who will explore Mars. 

Future missions like the Mars 2020 rover, seeking signs of past life, will demonstrate new technologies that could help astronauts survive on the Red Planet.

7. Robotic repairs

Currently, a satellite that is even partially damaged cannot be fixed in orbit. Instead, it must be disposed of, which is a lot of potential science lost.

Satellite Servicing technologies would make it possible to repair, upgrade, and even assemble spacecraft in orbit using robotics.

This can extend the lifespan of a mission, and also enable deeper space exploration. 

Restore-L, set to launch in 2020, is a mission that will demonstrate the ability to grab and refuel a satellite.

8. Low-cost spacecraft avionics controllers

Small satellites, or smallsats, are quickly becoming useful tools for both scientists and industry. However, the high cost of spacecraft avionics—the systems that guide and control the craft—often limits how and when smallsats can be sent into orbit by tagging along as payloads on larger launches. 

Using Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA) technology, we could launch many more small satellites using an inexpensive avionics controller. This device is smaller than a stack of six CD cases and weighs less than two pounds!

9. Making glass from metal

After a JPL research team of modern-day alchemists set about mixing their own alloys, they discovered that a glass made of metal had the wear resistance of a ceramic, was twice as strong as titanium, and could withstand the extreme cold of planetary surfaces, with temperatures below -150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bulk Metallic Glass (BMG) gears would enable mechanisms to function without wasting energy on heaters. Most machines need to maintain a warmer temperature to run smoothly, which expends precious fuel and decreases the mission’s science return. 

By developing gearboxes made of BMG alloys, we can extend the life of a spacecraft and learn more about the far reaches of our solar system than ever before. Plus, given their extremely high melting points, metallic glasses can be cheaply manufactured into parts by injection molding, just like plastics.

10. Lighter, cheaper, safer spacecraft fuel tanks

Cryogenic propellant tanks are essential for holding fuel for launch vehicles like our Space Launch System—the world’s most powerful rocket. But the current method for building these tanks is costly and time-consuming, involving almost a mile of welded parts.

Advanced Near Net Shape Technology, part of our Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, is an innovative manufacturing process for constructing cryotanks, using cylinders that only have welds in one area. 

This makes the tank lighter, cheaper, and safer for astronauts, as there are fewer potentially defective welds.

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Martian sunset

What would it be like to see a sunset on Mars? To help find out, the robotic rover Spirit was deployed in 2005 to park and watch the Sun dip serenely below the distant lip of Gusev crater. Colors in the above image have been slightly exaggerated but would likely be apparent to a human explorer’s eye. Fine martian dust particles suspended in the thin atmosphere lend the sky a reddish color, but the dust also scatters blue light in the forward direction, creating a bluish sky glow near the setting Sun. Because Mars is farther away, the Sun is less bright and only about two thirds the diameter it appears from Earth. Images like this help atmospheric scientists understand not only the atmosphere of Mars, but atmospheres across the Solar System, including our home Earth.

Image credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Texas A&M, Cornell, JPL, NASA