Mars One, the highly anticipated private mission to colonize Mars in the next decade, is the next in a long line of private space missions that highlight the important connection between NASA and the private sector. The first phase of the mission is set to launch in 2018, and it will consist of an unmanned rover and landing system modeled after NASA’s Phoenix lander.

The Phoenix mission lasted from May to November 2008. It studied the history of water on the Red Planet and searched for evidence of habitability. According to Ed Sedivy, a civil space chief engineer at Lockheed Martin and the program manager for the Phoenix lander flight system, “Phoenix is a proven delivery system…there are very few impediments to continuing on beyond the study concept.” He also said that the first phase of Mars One will be very similar to Phoenix, with a robotic digging arm to excavate soil and an experiment to extract water.

Clearly, NASA’s influence reaches far beyond its own missions. NASA is a pioneer in all aspects of the space industry, setting precedents for the science and technology that continues to shape our world. With a Penny4NASA, the space industry as a whole will go even further.

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Ever since the release of its famous “Earthrise over the Moon” image, NASA has provided exceptional views of our planet that captivate the imagination. As Neil deGrasse Tyson points out, NASA has allowed us to see the Earth as it was meant to be seen, without political borders or color-coated countries. There is perhaps no concept more humbling and motivating than visualization of Earth, as a whole, sustaining life in the vast, empty, black backdrop of space.

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This stunning mosaic image of M83, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope, recently gave rise to the Zooniverse citizen science project called “STAR DATE: M83,” which aims to discover more about the formation and evolution of star clusters in spiral galaxies. M83 is also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy and lies 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. The bright magenta and blue areas in the image indicate that the galaxy has vast regions of star formation. Researchers have also found interstellar “bubbles” in the new Hubble image of M83, produced from nearly 300 supernovae and captured during an exposure from 2009 to 2012. These supernova remnants will be useful in understanding the nature of the stars that exploded and dispersed their remnants back into the galaxy.

“STAR DATE: M83” is a unique opportunity for amateur astronomers and citizen scientists to help with the research surrounding this spectacular galaxy. Through Zooniverse, an innovative citizen science platform, the project teaches users how to critically investigate sections of the M83 images and then allows users to do research with real data, ultimately leading to estimates of the ages of various star clusters. Citizen scientists use color, hydrogen emission presence, and the sharpness of individual stars as components of the research. Projects like “STAR DATE: M83” are extremely useful to scientists, because interpreting subjective patterns and subtleties in images like this is often difficult for computers to do, leading to some inconsistent results. Having thousands of volunteer citizen scientists to notice patterns and trends that a computer program might otherwise overlook is a vital tool for scientists, and it is a great way for the community to get engaged in scientific research. With a Zooniverse account, willingness to learn, and eagerness to contribute, you too can be a part of the citizen science movement!

Read more and watch a video exploring the Hubble M83 image here:

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“Nuclear Pasta” may sound like scientific spaghetti, but it is actually the term for a rare new state of matter found in neutron stars. Theorists proposed this new state of matter years ago, but astronomers never had sufficient evidence to suggest that it actually existed. Now, using the complex spin rates of extremely dense neutron stars (called pulsars), astronomers have gathered the first evidence that points to the existence of Nuclear Pasta.

But what exactly is Nuclear Pasta? When atoms are crammed together inside a pulsar, the nuclei get so tightly packed that they arrange themselves in complex patterns which look similar to (you guessed it) pasta. Other than black holes, neutron stars are the densest objects in the universe, so such conditions can only be reached in types of neutron stars such as pulsars.

These dense, pasta-like clumps of atomic nuclei may be the answer behind the mystery of the spin rates of pulsars. The highest observed spin rate of a pulsar is 12 seconds, but in theory, some should have much longer spin rates. A new study suggests that the mysterious force limiting the maximum spin rate of pulsars is Nuclear Pasta, because it affects the magnetic field of a neutron star in such a way that it maintains its angular momentum. The pulsar essentially gets stuck at a maximum spin period, and the role of Nuclear Pasta in this process is the first solid evidence of its existence. The study was published on June 9 in the journal Nature Physics.

Ever wondered what a pulsar sounds like? Find out here:

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With the new NASA budget plan released we have a set date for the heavy lift rocket in 2017. NASA is far from standing still and they have a few exciting tricks up their sleeves.

Researchers at Washington University are working on a fusion-powered spacecraft that could turn an 8 month trip to Mars into just 30 days! The spacecraft not only speeds up the trip but also costs NASA less fuel and budget to do it all. For example one small grain of sand of this material is the same as a gallon of fuel that the space shuttle would have used.

“To power a rocket, the team has devised a system in which a powerful magnetic field causes large metal rings to implode around this plasma, compressing it to a fusion state.” 

This is very exciting news for NASA as well as the space industry. For more information check out the original source here:

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Space exploration truly opens more doors up then most people think. There have been over 1,600 NASA-derived technologies profiled as Spinoff. We don’t take the time to realize how amazing some of these technologies are and where they even came from in the first place.

Doubling NASA’s budget would only increase the amount of spinoffs and potential new industries as well as jobs that would be created from that. It really does boost the economy when we look at what comes out of NASA. Not only does it inspire children to dream as well as spark the magic of science again but also it helps the country if not even the world.

Check out NASA’s spinoff section and their timeline of new inventions here

Let’s take action and invest in NASA so we can dream about tomorrow.

In recent years, planetary science and astrobiology have become major areas of exciting and groundbreaking research. Now, the search for Earth-like planets is shedding light on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and on December 4th, scientists urged Congress to invest in this next chapter of exploration.

According to Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets…People will look back on us as the [generation] who found Earth-like worlds.”

NASA’s Kepler mission identified upwards of 3,500 potential exoplanets, the Curiosity rover has already provided groundbreaking information about the Red Planet, and the study of microbial life in extreme conditions here on Earth has shown that life may exist in the most unlikely of places. These are all pieces of a puzzle that NASA is helping to solve, and in 2017, NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) will continue the search and study of exoplanets. With the appropriate funding, NASA would have the ability to do even more. 

NASA’s head of astrobiology, Mary Voytek, told members of Congress that after 50 years, humanity can finally provide data for whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. With a Penny4NASA, the search for Earth-like planets and extraterrestrial life can continue like never before.

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According to NASA scientists, Curiosity has “completed the first comprehensive mineralogical analysis on another planet”. Curiosity, using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, has found that Martian soil contains approximately 2% water by weight. SAM heated and analyzed a soil sample from an area called Rocknest for the study, which was conducted by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Science Team. When heated to 1,535 degrees Fahrenheit inside SAM, the soil sample also released significant amounts of carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulfur compounds. MSL team leaders say that, through future experiments, SAM will have the ability to determine whether or not organic molecules are present in Martian soil.

In addition to all the other information gathered through this study, Curiosity team leaders are learning even more about the formation and evolution of Martian crust by studying an igneous rock known as “Jake Matijevic”. Since the chemical composition of igneous rocks depends on the various conditions under which they form, studying rocks like Jake M. gives scientists a wealth of information about the dynamic formation of Mars itself. These findings are clearly significant in gaining a more complete understanding of conditions on Mars, and knowing more about such conditions will only help in making human exploration of the Red Planet a reality.

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Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is one of the most Earth-like worlds in the solar system; it has a dynamic surface, an atmosphere, and is bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan’s thick atmosphere makes obtaining direct observations of its surface features difficult, but thanks to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have been able to create the first global topographic map of Titan.  Cassini used a radar imager to peer through the haze and gather crucial data about Titan’s topography. Since Cassini doesn’t exclusively orbit Titan, though, it could only gather data for parts of Titan’s surface. Scientists used a mathematical process called splining, essentially using curved surfaces to join the voids between existing data grids, to calculate the rest of the map. This map is already providing a whole new view of one of the most intriguing worlds in the solar system, and it could aid in the search for life on Titan in the future. Read more and see the map here: Tell Congress that you support doubling funding for NASA:

Dark matter and dark energy make up about 95% of the known universe, so developing a better understanding of this “dark universe” is obviously a top priority for astronomers and physicists. NASA scientists have teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to create plans for Euclid, a mission that will “study the geometry of the dark universe”. NASA joined the mission as a partner back in January. NASA’s work with Euclid will be centered at JPL in Pasadena, California.

Euclid is set to launch in 2020. Over the course of six years, it will observe upwards of two billion galaxies with unprecedented detail. Scientists will use multiple techniques to analyze the large-scale structure of galaxies, the nature of dark matter, and the nature of dark energy. Some of the techniques include weak gravitational lensing (to study dark matter) and galaxy clustering, also called baryon acoustic oscillations (to study dark energy). Euclid will use a 1.2-meter diameter telescope and two instruments to study the two billion galaxies’ shape, brightness, distribution, and behavior in relation to dark matter and dark energy.

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3D food printing may sound like science fiction, but soon, it may become science fact. Scientists at NASA are attempting to reinvent food product development for long duration space missions, and 3D food printing is one of the many technologies being tested to address NASA’s Advanced Food Systems Technology needs.

NASA is working with the Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas to study the possibility of using 3D printed food in space. According to the SMRC proposal abstract, the project aims to use 3D printing technology to deliver macronutrients (such as starch, protein, and fat), texture, and structure to the food. Ink jet technology will be used to deliver micronutrients, flavor, and scent. The project is still in its earliest stages, but scientists are hoping that it will continue to move forward after promising results from phase I.

The implications of this project are astounding. 3D printed food would likely eliminate food waste, allow for more efficient food storage and production, and allow for food to be personalized by astronauts. In short, 3D printed food might just be a tasty way to make deep-space missions possible in the future.


For more details, read the full proposal here:

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What’s next for Kepler?

Even with only two functional reaction wheels left, Kepler will likely continue to explore the cosmos through an innovative new mission. NASA announced call for scientific white papers on August 2nd to compile ideas for Kepler’s future tasks, and 42 white papers were received. The ideas for the new mission include astrophysical research (such as observations of star clusters and active galaxies) and modified exoplanet research. 

Scientists are currently examining the proposals to determine the feasibility of the missions using the repurposed Kepler system. From the 42 white papers, scientists will put together a plan for a repurposed Kepler mission and submit it to NASA headquarters by November 1st. The white papers are available publically at the Kepler Science Center. 

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“I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime.” –Buzz Aldrin

Mars Arctic 365 is the next step in working toward human exploration of the Red Planet. Set to begin in July of 2014, the mission is a creation of the Mars Society and will be the most realistic mock Mars mission to date. Six crewmembers will spend one full year living and working in the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS), situated on Devon Island in the high-altitude Canadian Arctic. FMARS is a 25 x 27 foot cylindrical structure, simulating more similar spatial restrictions that will likely be conditions for astronauts on Mars. The crewmembers will conduct scientific research, such as field geology, and perform maintenance on their habitat and equipment (all while wearing space suits, of course).

Compared to past mock Mars missions, like Mars 500, Mars Arctic 365 will be a more precise and realistic mission simulation. As FMARS director Joe Palaia points out, “The duration, the harsh environment, actually doing the same activities as a Mars crew—this combination hasn’t been done before.” The Mars Society wants to test the crew’s ability—under all of the conditions aforementioned—to work efficiently and to make any small changes to procedures or equipment that might have otherwise been overlooked. Put simply, through learning and making modifications, Mars Arctic 365 will prepare us for the challenges (and excitement) that will accompany the first manned mission to Mars, and NASA will surely be at the forefront of such missions in the future. The best way to improve efficiency and design of the mission is to give it a test-run. 

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With more answers come even more questions. That’s part of the beauty of science and exploration. Growing fields of study, like astrobiology, have emerged from the drive to answer some of our most fundamental questions: Are we alone? How did the universe begin? How will it end? Such questions are an integral part of what it means to be human, and NASA has been on the forefront of developments to find the answers. Let’s make sure that NASA has the appropriate funding to continue doing such fascinating research for the advancement of humanity.

Innovation, exploration, and imagination build the foundation of science. Aside from being purely fascinating, the work that NASA does every day in space and on Earth is essential for the progress of humanity. With the proper funding, there is no limit to the number of new trails that NASA will create in the future. A Penny4NASA will keep tomorrow alive by pushing the frontiers of exploration.

Let’s make tomorrow happen.

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The future of sustainable manufacturing is out of this world. According to a study published by a NASA research team, robotic manufacturing in space may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Following its anticipated asteroid landing in 2021, NASA hopes to lead the way in establishing an asteroid-based, self-sustaining manufacturing industry in space. In the near future, minerals, rubber, plastic, and metal could all be made using elements mined from asteroids. Those materials would either be returned to Earth or be used to directly expand the robotic capabilities on the asteroids themselves. In addition to those (and many other) resource components, asteroids are a source of life’s fundamental necessity: water. The combination of cutting-edge robotics and an asteroid belt full of resources could literally pave the way for human exploration of the solar system.

One of the leaders of the project, Phil Metzger, says that expanding our reach to utilize extraterrestrial resources will be the next step in the process of terraforming planets. He also claims that such an industry would be “the next revolution in human civilization.” We can and will find out the future of this prospect with a Penny4NASA.

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The creation and manipulation of light has shaped the course of human history. While it has surely allowed society to grow and progress, the exponential increase of light usage has given rise to the “dark side” of light: light pollution. Light pollution is generally defined as the overuse and/or misuse of artificial lighting. The consequences of light pollution include reduced or little night sky visibility, disruption of biological processes in nature, disruption of sleep cycles, waste of energy and money, and a possible link to increased air pollution in cities. NASA’s Earth Observatory System has gathered crucial data detailing the spread and intensity of light pollution. In stunning images of the Earth at night, EOS has also learned a great deal more about human impact on the world.

Learn more about the “dark side” of light in our latest blog post: