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  • richardmitnick 7:37 am on May 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Mars Exploration   

    From European Space Agency: “ExoMars laboratory passes Red Planet simulation” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    8 May 2019

    Frédéric Didot
    ESA ExoMars ALD system engineer
    Email: frederic.didot@esa.int

    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    A key set of scientific instruments developed for the ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin passed tests last month to ensure compatibility with the martian environment.

    The rover’s Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD) flight model completed its thermal and vacuum sessions in Turin, Italy, at a Thales Alenia Space facility.

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    Moving the ExoMars Analytical Laboratory Drawer

    The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to both roam the Mars surface and to study it at depth. Rosalind Franklin will drill down to two metres into the surface to sample the soil, analyse its composition and search for evidence of past – and perhaps even present – life hidden underground.

    A miniature laboratory inside the rover will analyse the samples and send data and images back to Earth to the scientific community, eager to learn more about our neighbouring planet.

    Under the hood

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    ExoMars rover: front view, annotated

    The ExoMars rover ALD system is designed by Thales Alenia Space in Turin and carries a set of four complex mechanisms developed by OHB in Munich, Germany, that can process and supply soil samples to three scientific instruments. Dedicated control electronics and a thermal control system will keep the system working and operating at the required temperatures while preserving the Mars samples and possible traces of organic molecules.

    The instruments will make a detailed study of the composition and chemistry of the soil samples collected by the rover’s drill. Following a process similar to a factory floor, once acquired from the drill, samples are dropped into a crushing station and pulverised. The fine powder is then dosed and moved on to the next area for precise distribution – either on a refillable container or in thumb-sized ovens where the specimens are analysed.

    The Analytical Laboratory Drawer houses three instruments to search for signs of life on Mars.

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    ExoMars Analytical Laboratory Drawer

    The MicrOmega instrument uses visible and infrared light to characterise minerals in the samples; a Raman spectrometer (developed by INTA) uses a laser to identify mineralogical composition and lastly a combination of a Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometer and a Gas Chromatograph (part of the Mars Organics Molecule Analyser, MOMA) will study and identify soil chemistry. The most scientifically interesting samples, will be dosed into the MOMA ovens. The ALD has 31 ovens, where samples can be heated and the vapour and gases emitted will be analysed with gas chromatography techniques to look for traces of organic compounds.

    Roving laboratory

    The instruments must work with the highest level of precision in an environment that is far from the pristine interiors common in laboratories on Earth. Rosalind Franklin can expect harsh days and nights on Mars with temperatures dropping to –120°C outside, and –60°C inside the rover.

    “The ALD behaved well with good results from both mechanisms and instruments during operations,” says Frédéric Didot, ESA ExoMars ALD system engineer.

    “The Mars environment tests were performed according to the project’s schedule thanks to the effort and dedication of industry and instrument teams supporting this amazing project.”

    The Exomars mission is in its final stages of preparation, the landing platform was delivered by Roscosmos’ prime contractor Lavochkin from Moscow to Turin in March. The ALD Flight Model having now passed these martian simulation tests is shipping to the UK for an arrival at an Airbus site in Stevenage on 8 May where it will be integrated with the rover.

    The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos. Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor on both ExoMars missions, 2016 and 2020, at the head of a large industrial consortium. For the 2020 mission, Leonardo will provide the soil sample drill, OHB the carrier module and various rover instruments, while the rover, named after Rosalind Franklin, is supplied by Airbus Defense & Space. NPO Lavochkin will build the descent module and its landing platform.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:59 am on March 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mars Exploration, Rosalind Franklin the ExoMars rover   

    From European Space Agency: “ExoMars locomotion tests” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    1

    13/03/2019

    ESA/Roscosmos Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover

    What’s in a name?
    7 February 2019

    The ExoMars rover that will search for the building blocks of life on the Red Planet has a name: Rosalind Franklin. The prominent scientist behind the discovery of the structure of DNA will have her symbolic footprint on Mars in 2021.

    A panel of experts chose ‘Rosalind Franklin’ from over 36 000 entries submitted by citizens from all ESA Member States, following a competition launched by the UK Space Agency in July last year.

    The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to combine the capability to roam around Mars and to study it at depth. The Red Planet has hosted water in the past, but has a dry surface exposed to harsh radiation today.

    The rover bearing Rosalind Franklin’s name will drill down to two metres into the surface to sample the soil, analyse its composition and search for evidence of past – and perhaps even present – life buried underground.

    The rover is part of the ExoMars programme, a joint endeavour between ESA and the Russian State Space Corporation, Roscosmos.

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    Rosalind Franklin

    Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to unravelling the double helix structure of our DNA. She also made enduring contributions to the study of coal, carbon and graphite. ESA has a long tradition of naming its missions for great scientists, including Newton, Planck and Euclid.

    “This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore. Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA. Rosalind the rover captures this spirit and carries us all to the forefront of space exploration,” says ESA Director General Jan Woerner.

    Looking beyond ExoMars, bringing samples back from Mars is the logical next step for robotic exploration. ESA is already defining a concept for a sample return mission working in cooperation with NASA.

    “Returning martian samples is a huge challenge that will require multiple missions, each one successively more complex than the one before,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration.

    “We want to bring the Red Planet closer to home. We want to delve into its mysteries and bring back knowledge and benefits to people on Earth. Returned planetary samples are truly the gift that keeps on giving – scientific treasure for generations to come,” he adds.

    Long-term planning is crucial to realise the missions that investigate fundamental science questions like could life ever have evolved beyond Earth?

    ESA has been exploring Mars for more than 15 years, starting with Mars Express and continuing with the two ExoMars missions, keeping a European presence at the Red Planet into the next decade.

    ESA Mars Express


    ESA Mars Express Orbiter

    ESA/ExoMars


    ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter


    ESA/ExoMars Schiaparelli module

    Before Rosalind Franklin the ExoMars rover can search for signs of life on Mars, it must learn how to manoeuvre the landscape. Scientists and engineers are putting the rover through a series of locomotion tests to fine tune how it will respond to a challenging martian terrain.

    The ExoMars mission will see Rosalind the rover and its surface platform land on Mars in 2021. There, the rover will move across many types of terrain, from fine-grained soil to large boulders and slopes to collect samples with a 2-m-long drill, and analyse them with instruments in its onboard laboratory. Engineers must ensure Rosalind does not get stuck in sand or topple over and that it is able to climb steep slopes and overcome rocks.

    The ExoMars teams are using a dedicated rover to run locomotion tests. In this image, the full-sized locomotion model is about to move from the surface platform. This rover has been designed to behave exactly like Rosalind would do under martian gravity – that is about a third of gravity found on Earth. For that purpose, the model has a different weight distribution and features a boom mounted on top to achieve the exact location of the centre of gravity of the rover.

    A special facility at RUAG Space in Zurich, Switzerland, emulates all the terrain conditions that Rosalind the rover is expected to encounter on Mars: different types of soil, various obstacle shapes and sizes and all kind of terrain slopes. A large hydraulic platform filled with 20 tonnes of soil was put in place for the tests.

    Over the past few weeks, ESA, Roscosmos, Thales, Airbus and RUAG engineers have been testing the capability of the rover to egress from its landing platform onto the martian soil. Should the platform and rover find themselves on a slope upon landing, as simulated in the image, Rosalind the rover must be able to negotiate steep inclinations to descend from the platform. The team looked closely at the performance of the rover over the ramps at different inclination angles, from 5 up to 35 degrees.

    The steep slope was a challenge for the rover. The wheels found it difficult at times to gain traction, a valuable lesson of what can be expected on Mars.

    The rover has six wheels. Each wheel pair is suspended on a pivoted bogie so each wheel can be steered and driven independently. Its flexible metallic wheels, equipped with springs, offer great traction capability, allowing the rover to achieve better grip during obstacle climbing and achieve smoother locomotion.

    Thanks to a triple-bogie locomotion system, the rover is able to overcome obstacles as big as its wheels. The rover uses inclinometers and gyroscopes to enhance its motion control.

    Two cameras at the top of the rover’s mast allow Rosalind Franklin to see in 3D, like humans do, and identify rocks and slopes in front of it. This also allows the navigation system to take account of, and correct for, any wheel slippage. Rovers on Mars have previously been caught in sand, and continued wheel turning might actually dig them deeper – just like a car stuck in mud or snow.

    These tests took place at the same time as the ExoFit field tests. In the most recent campaign, the rover drove from its landing platform and targeted sites of interest to sample rocks in the Mars-like landscapes of the Chilean desert.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on December 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z from ASU, Mars Exploration   

    From Arizona State University: “Mars 2020 rover mission camera system ‘Mastcam-Z’ testing begins at ASU” 

    ASU Bloc

    From Arizona State University

    December 4, 2018

    Arizona State University research technician and Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z calibration engineer Andy Winhold waited patiently on the loading dock of ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV in anticipation of the arrival of a very special delivery.

    On board the delivery truck was precious cargo from Malin Space Science Systems, a test model of “Mastcam-Z,” the mast-mounted camera system for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission.

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic

    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z

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    The Eyes of NASA’s Next Mars Rover
    Mastcam-Z is the name of the mast-mounted camera system that is equipped with a zoom function on the Mars 2020 rover. Mastcam-Z has cameras that can zoom in, focus, and take 3D pictures and video at high speed to allow detailed examination of distant objects. The principal investigator for the instrument is professor and planetary scientist Jim Bell of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

    Mastcam-Z is being designed, built and tested under the direction of principal investigator Jim Bell, of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. The dual camera system can zoom in (hence the ‘Z’ in “’Mastcam-Z’), focus and take 3D pictures and panoramas at a variety of scales. This will allow the Mars 2020 rover to provide a detailed examination of both close and distant objects.

    The test model that arrived on the Tempe campus in November, otherwise known as an engineering qualification model or EQM, is an important step in designing and building instruments for space. These models not only serve as a way to run the instruments through the rigors of launch and functionality in space, they also serve as a way for the instrument team to evaluate the design and testing plans before the final cameras are fully assembled.

    Testing the Mastcam-Z engineering model

    The engineering model essentially allows the team to do a “dry run” through the complete design and build process of the instrument before the final versions of the cameras are complete.

    “Parts may take longer to build than expected, a certain assembly step may be more difficult than initially thought or resources from third parties could become scarce on short notice,” Winhold said. “These are all things we can learn about and prepare for in advance using the engineering model.”

    The team first verifies that the test instrument operates correctly in terms of parts, power consumption and software. They also use the model to ensure the instrument meets mission requirements in terms of functionality, size and weight. “For Mastcam-Z, one of the primary interests with the engineering model was evaluating the instrument’s ability to change focal length — or zoom,” Winhold said.

    Specifically, the team tested the engineering model in the thermal vacuum chamber, located in ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV, to confirm that their support equipment was designed appropriately and allowed the camera to be placed securely in the chamber and view out the chamber’s window clearly. They also timed the tests so they knew how long testing the actual cameras will take, and they tested the IT network’s ability to share data quickly between people inside the cleanroom and other support team members outside of the room and around the world.

    Winhold describes his role on the mission as similar to someone playing the game “Operation,” where the patient is the Mastcam-Z cameras and the tweezers are the support pieces.

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    The Mastcam-Z team testing the engineering model in ASU’s cleanrooms. Team members include Jim Bell, Andy Winhold, Alex Hayes, Ken Herkenhoff, Elsa Jensen, Tex Kubacki, Jake Schaffner, Paul Corlies, Christian David Tate, Megan Emch, Kristen Paris, Ernest Cisneros, Winston Carter, Corrine Rojas, Shane Thompson and Rick Hoppe. Photo courtesy ASU

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    A calibration target used to assess the image quality of the cameras, consisting of geometric patterns, slanted edges, and lines very finely spaced apart to evaluate the camera’s optics and their ability to accurately capture the resolution and contrast of the imaged scene onto the camera’s image sensor. Photo courtesy ASU

    3
    ASU research technician and Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z calibration engineer Andy Winhold with ASU’s thermal vacuum chamber in ISTB IV on the Tempe campus. The thermal vacuum chamber simulates the space environment so instruments can be tested for the rigors of space exploration. Photo courtesy ASU

    6
    The engineering qualification model — a test model of Mastcam-Z, the mast-mounted camera system for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission — in the cleanroom of ISTB IV on the ASU Tempe campus. Photo courtesy ASU

    “But in my case,” said Winhold, “I’m only shown pictures of the board game, and based on those pictures I need to design and create the best tweezers for removing ailments without hurting the patient.”

    And according to the team, the testing has been a success so far.

    “We had a few hiccups we worked around, like cables not being long enough, not understanding best communication procedures, that sort of thing; but nothing truly unexpected,” Winhold said. “That’s exactly how we like things. In testing equipment that will be going to space, a boring day that goes according to procedure is a good one.”

    Next steps for the Mastcam-Z team

    In December, the actual Mastcam-Z flight cameras will arrive on the ASU Tempe campus for testing. They will then be delivered to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and installed on the Mars 2020 rover, which will launch in summer 2020, landing on Mars in February 2021. The mission is expected to last at least one Mars year (687 Earth days).

    “The tests we ran on the engineering unit at ASU are almost identical to the tests we’ll be running on the actual cameras when they arrive,” Winhold said.

    Once the instrument is finalized and installed in the Mars 2020 rover, the engineering model continues to have a purpose.

    “Largely it is considered a ‘flight spare’ and will be a back-up unit should something happen to the flight cameras before launch,” Winhold explained. “Once the rover launches in the summer of 2020 we won’t be able to do any hands-on interaction with the flight cameras, though, so we’ll have the engineering model as a reference for possible problem solving and as a reference for subsequent rover missions.”

    About Mastcam-Z

    The cameras weigh about 8.8 pounds and will produce images of color quality similar to that of a consumer digital HD camera (2 megapixels). The cameras will help other Mars 2020 experiments on the rover by looking at the whole landscape and identifying rocks and soil (regolith) that deserve a closer look by other instruments. They will also spot important rocks for the rover to sample and cache on the surface of Mars, for eventual return (by a future mission) to Earth.

    Mastcam-Z’s purpose is to take high resolution panoramic color and 3D images of the Martian surface and features in the atmosphere with a zoom lens to magnify distant targets. It will be mounted on the Mars 2020 rover mast at the eye level of a 6-foot-5-inch person. The two cameras are separated by 9.5 inches to provide stereo vision. These cameras, with their all-seeing sharp vision, will provide images for science team members to pick out the best rocks, to hunt for evidence of past habitability recorded in the geology and texture of the landscape, and to look for signs of past water on Mars.

    Mastcam-Z’s principal investigator is Professor Jim Bell of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The deputy principal investigator is Dr. Justin Maki of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Planetary Society serves as the instrument’s education and public outreach partner, and the prime subcontractor for instrument development is Malin Space Science Systems, Inc.

    NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission

    The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The mission also seeks to gather knowledge and to demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.

    Mastcam-Z Team

    On February 6, 2018, the Mastcam-Z team captured their traditional team photo in an unusual way: with the stereo testbed model of the camera. Just as the real camera will do on Mars, the testbed rotated to multiple positions to gather in the full scene. To produce this panoramic view, the team corrected the images for geometric distortion and assembled them into a mosaic.

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    From left to right, the pictured team members are: Jim Bell, Justin Maki, Jeffrey Johnson, Mark Lemmon, Ken Edgett, Mike Wolff, Ken Herkenhoff, Samantha Jacob, Ed Cloutis, Andy Winhold, Zach Bailey, Danika Wellington, Nicole Schmitz, Rob Sullivan, Peter Martin, Paul Corlies, Jim Bell, Sarah Fagents, Kristen Paris, Stephanie Holaday, Elsa Jensen, Piluca Caballo Perucha, Ernest Cisneros, Jake Adler, Melissa Rice, Christian Tate, Kjartan Kinch, Darian Dixon, Gerhard Paar, Kathleen Hoza, Jon Proton, Jim Bell, and Mat Kaplan.

    Principal Investigator: Jim Bell, Arizona State University

    Deputy Principal Investigator: Justin Maki, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    Education and Public Outreach Partner: The Planetary Society

    Instrument Development: Malin Space Science Systems
    Team Blogs

    What’s the latest on the Mastcam-Z team? Check out the Planetary Society Mastcam-Z team blogs.

    Press

    Planetary Society Mastcam-Z Press Room

    NASA Mars 2020 Mission Newsroom

    Additional Resources

    NASA Mastcam-Z webpage

    Planetary Society Mastcam-Z webpage

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ASUis the largest public university by enrollment in the United States. Founded in 1885 as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe, the school underwent a series of changes in name and curriculum. In 1945 it was placed under control of the Arizona Board of Regents and was renamed Arizona State College. A 1958 statewide ballot measure gave the university its present name.
    ASU is classified as a research university with very high research activity (RU/VH) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one of 78 U.S. public universities with that designation. Since 2005 ASU has been ranked among the Top 50 research universities, public and private, in the U.S. based on research output, innovation, development, research expenditures, number of awarded patents and awarded research grant proposals. The Center for Measuring University Performance currently ranks ASU 31st among top U.S. public research universities.

    ASU awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 16 colleges and schools on five locations: the original Tempe campus, the West campus in northwest Phoenix, the Polytechnic campus in eastern Mesa, the Downtown Phoenix campus and the Colleges at Lake Havasu City. ASU’s “Online campus” offers 41 undergraduate degrees, 37 graduate degrees and 14 graduate or undergraduate certificates, earning ASU a Top 10 rating for Best Online Programs. ASU also offers international academic program partnerships in Mexico, Europe and China. ASU is accredited as a single institution by The Higher Learning Commission.

    ASU Tempe Campus
    ASU Tempe Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 1:40 pm on November 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mars Exploration, , , NASA’s InSight Lander Is Already Snapping Amazing Pictures of Mars   

    From Motherboard: “NASA’s InSight Lander Is Already Snapping Amazing Pictures of Mars” 

    motherboard

    From Motherboard

    Nov 27 2018
    Becky Ferreira

    On its first sol on the red planet, the mission sent home images of a dusty landscape, a lander selfie, and a wide shot of Mars from space.

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    NASA’s InSight lander takes its first selfie on November 26, 2018. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Shortly after it successfully touched down on Mars on Monday, NASA’s InSight lander took a selfie showing off its new home in the Elysium Planitia region. The picture was taken by the mission’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), mounted on the lander’s robotic arm, and captures the upper deck of InSight’s instrument package, against a backdrop of flat Martian terrain.

    Though it was InSight’s first selfie on the red planet, it was not the first picture the lander sent back to Earth. Just minutes after its nail-biting touchdown, InSight sent a quick landscape shot home to the mission control team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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    This image was taken with the Instrument Context Camera (ICC), which is attached directly to the lander’s deck and provides a wide-angle fisheye view of the landscape. The ICC lens is speckled with dust kicked up by the retrorockets that guided the craft safely down to its landing site.

    But the lander wasn’t the only mission component busy snapping exhilarating new pictures of Mars. Perhaps the most groundbreaking snapshot came from MarCO-B, a trailblazing satellite that imaged Mars during its flyby at a distance of about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers).

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    JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube

    MarCO-B, along with its twin MarCO-A—nicknamed “Wall-E” and “EVE” respectively—are both CubeSats, a class of miniaturized cubic satellite introduced to reduce the cost of spaceflight. Hundreds of CubeSats have been deployed in low Earth orbit, but the MarCO satellites are the first to voyage into deep space.

    The CubeSats are about the size of a shoebox, and were launched with the InSight lander back in May, before separating from the main spacecraft to pursue their own trajectories to Mars. Just a few days into the trip, MarCO-B took this picture of Earth with its wide field camera.

    The MarCO satellites were not essential for the mission, and were bundled into InSight to test out CubeSat performance in deep space. Their successful communications performance and the dazzling shots bode well for the use of CubeSats in interplanetary missions.

    Given how many fascinating visuals InSight has sent home on its very first sol on Mars, it seems like the mission is already paying off. No doubt the lander will produce many more stunning pictures—not to mention tantalizing data about Mars’ interior—in the years to come.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The future is wonderful, the future is terrifying. We should know, we live there. Whether on the ground or on the web, Motherboard travels the world to uncover the tech and science stories that define what’s coming next for this quickly-evolving planet of ours.

    Motherboard is a multi-platform, multimedia publication, relying on longform reporting, in-depth blogging, and video and film production to ensure every story is presented in its most gripping and relatable format. Beyond that, we are dedicated to bringing our audience honest portraits of the futures we face, so you can be better informed in your decision-making today.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:59 am on November 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Mars Exploration   

    From The New York Times: NASA’s InSight Mission Has Touched Down on Mars to Study the Red Planet’s Deep Secrets 

    New York Times

    From The New York Times

    Nov. 26, 2018
    Kenneth Chang

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    The InSight lander, NASA’s latest foray to the red planet, has landed.

    Cheers erupted on Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which operates the spacecraft, when InSight sent back acknowledgment of its safe arrival on Mars. That was the end of a journey of more than six months and 300 million miles.

    As InSight descended and each milestone of the landing process was called out, “the hairs on the back of my neck would start rising a little bit higher, a little bit higher,” Tom Hoffman, the project manager for the mission, said at a news conference after the landing. “And then when we finally got the confirmation of touchdown, it was completely amazing. The whole room went crazy. My inner four-year-old came out.”

    In the months ahead, InSight will begin its study of the Martian underworld, listening for tremors — marsquakes — and collect data that will be pieced together in a map of the interior of the red planet and help would help scientists understand how Mars and other rocky planets formed.

    Those lessons could also shed light on Earth’s origins.

    “We can basically use Mars as a time machine to go back and look at what the Earth must have looked like a few tens of millions of years after it formed,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the mission.

    InSight set down at Elysium Planitia, near the Equator in the northern hemisphere.

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    Mission scientists have described the region as resembling a parking lot or “Kansas without the corn.” Within minutes, the first photograph from InSight appeared on the screen, eliciting another round of cheers.

    The image was partially obscured by dirt kicked up onto a protective but clear lens cover, but it was evident that the landscape was indeed flat. One rock could be seen in the foreground.

    “I’m very very happy that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and boring-looking landing location,” Mr. Hoffman said.

    Because the mission is not interested in rocky terrain or pretty sunsets, planners wanted a flat place with sandy soil. “There’s one rock, so I’m going to have to talk to them a little bit,” Mr. Hoffman joked.

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    Debris partially obscured a Mars landscape in the first frame sent by NASA’s Mars InSight lander from Mars’s surface after a successful landing.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

    The main scientific part of the mission will not begin for a few months. Once the mission’s managers have confirmed the health of the spacecraft, including its robotic arm, the arm will lift the spacecraft’s primary instruments off the main deck of the lander and place them on the Martian ground.

    Elizabeth Barrett, a science system engineer, likened the process to a claw game where one tries to pull out a prize without it falling. “But you’re doing it with a really, really valuable prize,” she said. “And you’re doing it blindfolded where you can only take occasional pictures. And then you’re doing it via remote control on another planet.”

    That requires some additional care. “You need to make sure you actually have the grapple on the payload before you lift it up and it’s actually on the ground before you let it go,” Dr. Barrett said.

    InSight’s primary mission on the surface is to last nearly two years.

    One simple thing Dr. Banerdt hopes to learn: how thick is the crust of Mars?

    He recalled a project he worked on as an intern in the 1970s where the thickness of Mars’s crust needed to be known. “We just had to fake it, because we had no idea,” he said.

    InSight should finally provide the answer. “That’s one measurement I would like to go back to the old paper, plug it in to see how close I was,” Dr. Banerdt said.

    Other questions the mission aims to answer: How often does the ground shake with marsquakes? How big is Mars’s molten core? How much heat is flowing up from the decay of radioactive elements at the core?

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    InSight’s landing on Monday was live-streamed to viewing parties across the country, including in Times Square in New York.Credit Jeenah Moon for The New York Times.

    To study these questions, InSight will use two main instruments: a dome-shape package containing seismometers and a heat probe that is to burrow about 16 feet down. NASA has spent $814 million on InSight. In addition, France and Germany invested $180 million to build these main instruments.

    The seismometers, which are designed to measure surface movements less than the width of a hydrogen atom, will produce what are essentially sonograms of the planet’s insides. In particular, scientists are looking to record at least 10 to 12 marsquakes over two years.

    Temblors on Mars are not caused by plate tectonics, like on Earth. Instead they are generated when the planet’s crust cracks because of its interior’s cooling and shrinking. The seismometers could also detect other seismic vibrations from meteors hitting Mars.

    InSight’s landing wasn’t NASA’s only success on Monday. The agency used the mission to test new technology.

    Two identical spacecraft known as Mars Cube One, or MarCO for short, launched with InSight in May. MarCO A and B then separated from InSight’s cruise stage and have since been trailing behind it.

    Depictikon of NASA JPL MarCo cubesat


    JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube

    Hundreds of miniature satellites known as CubeSats have launched into orbit around Earth in recent years, but this is the first time that CubeSats have been sent on an interplanetary voyage.

    The MarCO spacecraft relayed InSight’s telemetry to Earth flawlessly, enabling the immediate celebration. “This has been a fantastic day for spacecraft great and small,” said Andrew Klesh, the chief engineer for the CubeSats.

    He showed a picture of Mars taken by one of the MarCO satellites shortly after the InSight landing as it sped away from Mars.

    6

    “This image is really our farewell to InSight, our wish for good luck and a farewell for Mars itself as we continue on,” he said.

    InSight joins a busy cast of Martian robotic explorers.

    In orbit, NASA also has the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and Maven.

    NASA/Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

    NASA/Mars Odyssey Spacecraft

    NASA Mars MAVEN


    NASA/Mars MAVEN

    The European Space Agency has Mars Express and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

    ESA Mars Express Orbiter

    ESA/ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

    The Indian Space Research Organization has the Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as Mangalyaan.

    ISRO Mangalyaan

    On the surface, NASA currently has the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, although solar-powered Opportunity has been quiet since the summer when a global dust storm prevented it from generating enough power to operate.

    NASA Mars Curiosity Rover

    And the year 2020 could get busier, when NASA is planning to launch another rover that will search for the building blocks of life.

    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    China, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and a European-Russian collaboration are also all intending to launch missions to Mars then.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on November 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration,   

    From European Space Agency: ” Elysium Planitia” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    1
    Elysium Planitia 29 February 2016 labeled

    At just before 9pm Central European Time on 26 November, Mars received a new visitor: NASA’s InSight lander.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight will be the first Mars mission dedicated to studying the planet’s interior, including sensing Mars quakes. Learning about the interior of the planet will inform scientists about the early formation of the rocky planets in our own Solar System, as well as the evolution of exoplanets orbiting other stars.

    Since InSight’s study is focused on sensing the planet’s interior, surface geology is not such an important factor in deciding the landing site as it is for other missions. Therefore, it is targeting a flat, stable surface in the Elysium Planitia region, which is captured in this wide field view from ESA’s Mars Express Visual Monitoring Camera taken on 29 February 2016 (click here for a labelled view).

    InSight will target a landing site centred at 4.5ºN/135.9ºE, about 600 km from Gale Crater, the region that NASA’s Curiosity rover is exploring.

    In the image shown here, Elysium Planitia is located roughly between the dark features at the bottom right (which includes Gale Crater), and the brighter arc-shaped feature above, to the right of the centre of the image, which is the location of volcano Elysium Mons. The north polar ice cap is seen at the top of the image.

    ESA has already been supporting InSight’s mission with its ground station network throughout the cruise to Mars, following the mission’s launch in May 2018. The joint ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the ExoMars mission, which arrived at Mars in October 2016, is ready to support data relay from InSight several times per day once it has landed safely, as required. Mars Express will also be prepared to support, on NASA’s request, ad hoc relay contacts with InSight in case of emergency needs.

    TGO will also act as a data relay for the ExoMars rover mission in 2021, for which the landing site was recommended earlier this month as Oxia Planum. A region that is thought to have hosted vast volumes of water in the past, it is an ideal location to search for clues that may help reveal the presence of past life on Mars.

    NASA also just announced the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover, which is set to explore an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater.

    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    Moreover, the rover will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, setting the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.

    More information about InSight and how to follow the landing: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 1:11 pm on November 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Mars Exploration,   

    From Science News: “Tiny satellites will relay news of InSight’s Mars landing in minutes, not hours” 

    From Science News

    November 18, 2018
    Lisa Grossman

    Two CubeSats will send data back to Earth of the lander’s fate as they pass the Red Planet.

    1
    BOLDLY GOING Two briefcase-sized satellites, shown side by side in this artist’s rendering, will become the first tiny spacecraft to fly by Mars and act as communications relays for a lander.

    The next spacecraft set to land on Mars is bringing its own communications team. InSight, a lander scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet on November 26, is accompanied by a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that will send details of the landing to Earth in almost real time.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    The twin craft on this mission are CubeSats — tiny, inexpensive satellites that are easy to build and launch. Called Mars Cube One, or MarCO for short, they will fly past Mars as InSight lands, becoming the smallest spacecraft ever to be entrusted with a task as crucial as relaying landing information for a mission. Now nearing Mars, they are also already the first CubeSats to make it so far from Earth. If all goes well with InSight’s landing, future Mars missions could also be equipped with their own single-use comms team.

    “A future where landers and rovers brought their own communications systems for landing, that would be fantastic,” says engineer Joel Krajewski of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and MarCO’s program manager.

    InSight — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will carry the first seismometer to Mars (SN: 5/26/18, p. 13). After touching down in a wide, flat plain called Elysium Planitia near Mars’ equator, the lander will sit perfectly still to listen to seismic waves and measure how heat flows through the Red Planet’s interior. The results will help scientists understand how Mars, and perhaps other rocky planets like Earth, formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

    ______________________________________________
    Marks the spot

    InSight will land in the flat, smooth plains of Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator. The spot provides relative calm, geologically speaking, and ample sunlight for powering the lander. The landing sites of previous Mars surface missions are shown as well.

    3

    ______________________________________________

    It will be only 6½ minutes between when InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, at a speed of nearly 1,000 meters per second, to the moment its legs touch the ground. The spacecraft will use a parachute and rockets aimed at the ground to slow to about 2.4 meters per second as it lands. Light-speed signals from the CubeSats or Insight itself will then take about eight minutes to travel between Earth and Mars, so by the time NASA engineers hear that InSight has entered Mars’ atmosphere, the spacecraft will be on the ground.

    “Which is terrifying,” says engineer Farah Alibay, also of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Whether it landed softly or pretty hard, we won’t know. But we’ll know when you get that first bit of data, InSight’s already landed.”

    ______________________________________________
    We’re listening

    The MarCO CubeSats will watch InSight’s descent to the Martian surface (red line) and send details of the landing back to Earth, before continuing past the planet.

    4
    ______________________________________________

    For most previous Mars landings, one of the large orbiters currently circling the Red Planet had to pause its data-taking to watch the event and send details to Earth. The orbiter that will be in the best position to watch InSight will be NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    NASA/Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

    While that spacecraft will observe the landing, it won’t be able to relay any details to Earth for at least three hours as its orbit takes the craft behind Mars from Earth’s point of view, blocking communications.

    “Three to four hours is not long for most people, but it’s pretty long for us,” Alibay says. “Landing is the scariest part of your mission.” Waiting to hear about the spacecraft’s landing is like waiting for news about a loved one’s health, she says.

    To avoid that waiting, the team sent the twin CubeSats. The spacecraft launched with InSight, but have been navigating through deep space on their own since May. The MarCO craft can change their trajectories by expelling compressed cold gas, similar to the way a fire extinguisher works — which earned them the nicknames Wall-E and Eve among the team, after the space-flying Disney robot characters. “We’ve demonstrated that a CubeSat can leave Earth orbit, survive the harsh environment of space and direct itself towards Mars,” Alibay says.

    About five minutes before InSight hits the top of the Martian atmosphere, the two MarCO craft will position themselves to track the lander all the way to the ground, and send details back to Earth immediately. Each operates independently, backing each other up.

    If all goes well, MarCO could set a precedent for future Mars missions. Existing Mars orbiters will be able to support two Mars missions launching in 2020 — NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the ExoMars rover run by the European Space Agency and Russia’s space agency. But after that, the future is dim.

    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    ESA Exomars 2020

    “Right now, there’s not an active plan for an orbiter beyond that time frame,” Krajewski says. Plus, existing orbiters have to burn fuel to get into the right position to watch other spacecraft land, which shortens the orbiters’ lives. Sending future spacecraft with their own CubeSat comms team could help scientists monitor landings without compromising the big orbiters’ science missions.

    After InSight lands, MarCO’s job will be done. The tiny craft don’t have enough fuel or the right equipment to enter a long-term orbit around Mars. Instead, MarCO will “wave goodbye and continue along,” Krajewski says.

    You can watch InSight’s landing online on NASA TV.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 7:39 am on September 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Mars Exploration, Mars Express for 15 years   

    From European Space Agency via Manu: ” From horizon to horizon, the Tharsis region.” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    via


    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    2.9.18
    No ESA writer credits.

    Fifteen years of Mars Express at Mars.

    1
    Artist impression of Mars Express. The image is based on a real image of Mars taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera spacecraft. Credit: ESA / Medialab ATG; Mars: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO .

    4
    DLR HRSC – High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA Mars Express

    1
    Mars from horizon to horizon.

    15 years ago, the Mars Express probe was launched ESA in order to investigate the Red Planet. To commemorate the date, here we have a spectacular view of Mars showing us, from horizon to horizon, one of the most enigmatic regions of the planet.

    Mars Express took off from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) A June 2, 2003 toward his journey exploring our neighboring planet. In these 15 years, it has become one of the most successful missions ever sent to Mars, as evidenced by this striking image of the Tharsis region.

    With giant volcanoes, deep canyons and fractured terrain, Tharsis is geologically one of the most interesting and explored the planet ‘s surface areas. In the past it was a very active area with volcanism and tectonic movements, so here we find most large volcanoes on the planet, the largest in the solar system.

    This view, captured by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express in October 2017, shows the region in all its splendor.

    It extends from the upper horizon of the planet, marked by the blueness of the end of the image, through a network of pale fissures called Noctis Labyrinthus (a part of Valles Marineris extending to the upper left corner of the image), Ascraeus Mons and Pavonis Mons (two of the four great volcanoes of Tharsis, with over 20 km high) to reach the northern polar cap of the planet, in this view, is in the lower left.

    Located next to the Martian Ecuador, Tharsis occupies about a quarter of the planet’s surface and is believed played an important role in its history. Across the boundary between the southern highlands and the northern lowlands.

    Mars elevation is defined relative to where gravity is equal to the average in the Mars Ecuador. Thus, it is used as a ‘sea level’, although there is no seas as such.

    Most of the Tharsis region is above average, at an altitude of between 2 and 10 km. It is likely that the province be formed as columns of molten rock (magma) as mushroom were spread under the slimy surface, creating flows filtration, magma chambers and large rock regions as Tharsis, and contributing to volcanism from inside .

    Tharsis is also related to the formation of the famous Valles Marineris, which is about four times longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon (United States) and is the system discovered longest canyons in the Solar System. It can be seen forming part dark branches on the top left of the image.

    2

    Location of the Tharsis region on Mars. This map is based on data from the mission
    Viking NASA. Mars shows the portion captured by Stereo Camera
    High Resolution aboard the Mars Express spacecraft ESA to celebrate the 15th
    anniversary of the mission: the intriguing and active old province of Tharsis. This
    labeled view extensive canyon system Valles Marineris is included, the system
    type seamless network comprising Noctis Labyrinthus, four volcanoes and the cap
    polar north. This map was created by the Planetary Sciences Group and Remote
    Sensing at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
    Credit: NASA / Viking, FU Berlin.

    As the magma filled the basement of the Tharsis region, the tension caused certain areas and fracturasen be broken. Then the molten rock filled these fractures and destabilized and separated even more certain regions of the cortex, causing pits and wide cracks we see today in Valles Marineris and the intricate network of Noctis Labyrinthus, located at the western end canyon system.

    The new view shows volcanoes Pavonis Mons (top right), Ascraeus Mons (just below), Alba Mons (to the lower left corner) and a small fragment of Olympus Mons (at the bottom right, which continues offscreen) in brown tones; Here you can view a labeled view of the region. The location of this section of the Martian surface is also shown in a context map the planet and a topographical map.

    The latter view shows the highest and lowest in blue and green tones red areas, illustrating the difference in altitude between the north and south of Mars.

    Mars Express has 15 years showing the beauty and variety of Mars, and is still strong.

    This map is based on data context of the experiment Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission of NASA. Mars shows the portion captured by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board Mars Express spacecraft ESA to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the mission: the intriguing and active old province of Tharsis.

    3
    Topography of the Tharsis region on Mars.
    Credit: NASA Science Team / MGS / MOLA, FU Berlin.

    Included in this labeled view is the extensive system of canyons of Valles Marineris, the fissure system in a network comprising Noctis Labyrinthus, two of the four volcanoes north pole and called Martian dichotomy: the altitude difference between north and the southern regions of Mars. The areas higher red are shown in orange shades, while the lower are shown in blue-green (as indicated by the scale at the bottom left).

    This map was created by the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing Group at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

    In addition to countless views as spectacular as this, the probe has produced global maps of geological activity, water, volcanism and minerals on the planet and has provided sufficient data to generate thousands of three-dimensional images of the surface. He studied volcanoes, canyons, icy poles and ancient impact craters; He has studied the ground radar; He has explored Mars atmosphere, detecting signs of ozone and methane ephemeral cloud layers and powerful dust storms. The ship has seen escaping charged particles into space and examined the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. It has successfully identified dry river valleys, the remains of buried glaciers and catastrophic floods.

    The last 15 years of observations of Mars Express have contributed significantly to the new image of Mars as living in the past, with warmer and wetter periods that could have acted as an oasis for life on Mars planet. These findings have laid the foundations for missions detecting signs of life on the planet, as the two ExoMars missions of ESA and Roscosmos program.

    Meanwhile, aboard Mars Express, an innovative software update just ‘rejuvenate’ the ship.

    Once successfully activated the new software loaded on the ship on April 16 and passed the flight tests later, Mars Express science operations resumed on April 27. This software, developed by ESA, it was necessary to offset the potential wear age of six satellite gyroscopes, which measure how Mars Express tour on any of its three axes. Since 16 May, the ship is operating with virtually off gyroscopes. The precise adjustment of the new software will take place in the coming months.

    This implementation is an important operational milestone for the mission, because it extends the life of Mars Express, possibly until the mid-2020s.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:58 pm on August 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA’s InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    1
    NASA’s InSight Mars lander will carry a unique instrument capable of measuring heat flowing out of the planet. That could shed light on how Mars’ massive mountains — which eclipse Mt. Everest here on Earth — first formed.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    August 28, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    NASAMars InSight Lander

    Ambitious climbers, forget Mt. Everest. Dream about Mars.

    The Red Planet has some of the tallest mountains in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons, a volcano nearly three times the height of Everest. It borders a region called the Tharsis plateau, where three equally awe-inspiring volcanoes dominate the landscape.

    But what geologic processes created these features on the Martian surface? Scientists have long wondered — and may soon know more.

    NASA and DLR (German Aerospace Center) plan to take the planet’s temperature for the first time ever, measuring how heat flows out of the planet and drives this inspiring geology. Detecting this escaping heat will be a crucial part of a mission called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    InSight will be the first mission to study Mars’ deep interior, using its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument to measure heat as it is conducted from the interior to the planet’s surface. This energy was in part captured when Mars formed more than 4 billion years ago, preserving a record of its creation. That energy is also due to the decay of radioactive elements in the rocky interior.

    The way heat moves through a planet’s mantle and crust determines what surface features it will have, said Sue Smrekar of JPL, the mission’s deputy principal investigator and the deputy lead for HP3.

    “Most of the planet’s geology is a result of heat,” Smrekar said. “Volcanic eruptions in the ancient past were driven by the flow of this heat, pushing up and constructing the towering mountains Mars is famous for.”

    A mole for Mars

    While scientists have modeled the interior structure of Mars, InSight will provide the first opportunity to find ground truth — by literally looking below the ground.

    HP3, built and operated by DLR, will be placed on the Martian surface after InSight lands on Nov. 26, 2018. A probe called a mole will pummel the ground, burying itself and dragging a tether behind it. Temperature sensors embedded in this tether will measure the natural internal heat of Mars.

    That’s no easy task. The mole has to burrow deep enough to escape the wide temperature swings of the Martian surface. Even the spacecraft’s own “body heat” could affect HP3’s super-sensitive readings.

    “If the mole gets stuck higher up than expected, we can still measure the temperature variation,” said HP3 investigation lead Tilman Spohn of DLR. “Our data will have more noise, but we can subtract out daily and seasonal weather variations by comparing it with ground-temperature measurements.”

    In addition to burrowing, the mole will give off heat pulses. Scientists will study how quickly the mole warms the surrounding rock, allowing them to figure out how well heat is conducted by the rock grains at the landing site. Densely packed grains conduct heat better — an important piece of the equation for determining Mars’ internal energy.

    Cooking up a new planet

    For an example of planetary heat flow, imagine a pot of water on a stove.

    As water heats, it expands, becomes less dense, and rises. The cooler, denser water sinks to the bottom, where it heats up. This cycling of cool to hot is called convection. The same thing happens inside a planet, churning rock over millions of years.

    Just as expanding bubbles can push off a pot lid, volcanoes are lids being blown off the top of a world. They shape a planet’s surface in the process. Most of the atmosphere on rocky planets forms as volcanoes expel gas from deep below. Some of Mars’ biggest dry river beds are believed to have formed when the Tharsis volcanoes spewed gas into the atmosphere. That gas contained water vapor, which cooled into liquid and may have formed the channels surrounding Tharsis.

    The smaller the planet, the faster it loses its original heat. Since Mars is only one-third the size of Earth, most of its heat was lost early in its history. Most Martian geologic activity, including volcanism, occurred in the planet’s first billion years.

    “We want to know what drove the early volcanism and climate change on Mars,” Spohn said. “How much heat did Mars start with? How much was left to drive its volcanism?”

    NASA’s orbiters have given scientists a “macro” view of the planet, allowing them to study Martian geology from above. HP3will offer a first look at the inside of Mars.

    “Planets are kind of like an engine, driven by heat that moves their internal parts around,” Smrekar said. “With HP3, we’ll be lifting the hood on Mars’ engine for the first time.”

    What scientists learn during the InSight mission won’t just apply to Mars. It will teach them how all rocky planets formed — including Earth, its Moon and even planets in other solar systems.

    More information about InSight is at:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 12:17 pm on May 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA, ULA Launch Mission to Study How Mars Was Made” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    May 5, 2018

    D.C. Agle / Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-5011
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

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

    JoAnna Wendel
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1003
    joanna.r.wendel@nasa.gov

    1

    The NASA InSight spacecraft launches onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket, Saturday, May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

    2
    This image shows the trail of NASA’s Mars InSight lander over the Los Angeles area after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018. This is a stack of exposures taken from Mt. Wilson. Credit: D. Ellison

    NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile (483-million-kilometer) trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    “The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”

    First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

    Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Sixty-one minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory toward the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later — 93 minutes after launch — and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 5:41 a.m. PDT (8:41 a.m. EDT).

    “The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

    With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

    InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST (noon PST) Nov. 26, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

    “Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

    The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

    “InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

    Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

    “InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

    JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

    A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.

    For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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