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  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on August 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , European Space Agency's Euclid telescope, , , , NASA Mars Insight Lander, , , NASA's Lucy mission, NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope, Parker Solar Probe Plus,   

    From Science Alert: “Here Are NASA’s Wild Plans to Explore Time And Space For The Next 10 Years” 

    ScienceAlert

    From Science Alert

    21 AUG 2019
    MORGAN MCFALL-JOHNSEN

    1
    NASA hopes to reach a dead planet called Psyche. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

    NASA’s 10-year plan involves billions of dollars and spans millions of miles. And much like the universe, it’s only expanding.

    Last year, the agency announced that it’s planning to send astronauts back to the Moon and eventually build a base there, with a Mars-bound mission to follow in the years after that.

    In June, the agency introduced a mission that aims to fly a nuclear-powered helicopter over the surface of Titan, an icy Moon of Saturn’s, to scan for alien life. NASA wants to looking for life in other places too, like the ocean below the icy surface of Jupiter’s Moon Europa.

    Other future missions will try to photograph our entire cosmic history and map the dark matter and dark energy that govern our Universe.

    Here are some of NASA’s biggest and most ambitious plans for the coming decade.
    1. Several ground-breaking NASA missions are already in progress, including the Parker Solar Probe, which will will rocket past the Sun a total of 24 times.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

    Launched: August 12, 2018

    Arrived: November 5, 2018

    The probe is travelling closer to the Sun than anything from Earth before it. The mission aims to investigate the forces behind solar wind, which could inform efforts to protect technology on Earth from the Sun’s flare-ups.

    Parker slingshots around the Sun at record speeds of up to 213,200 mph (343,000 km/h); it’s currently approaching its third close encounter. A powerful heat shield keeps the spacecraft’s equipment cool.

    The Parker Solar Probe will get closer to the sun than any other probe before it. (NASA Goddard/Youtube)

    2. Far from the Sun, New Horizons is exploring the Kuiper Belt, a region of millions of chunks of ice left over from the Solar System’s birth.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Launched: January 19, 2006

    Arrived at Ultima Thule: January 1, 2019

    The New Horizons spacecraft visited Pluto and the ice dwarfs surrounding it in 2015. In January, the spacecraft reached the farthest object anything human-made has ever visited: a snowman-shaped space rock called 2014 MU69 (or Ultima Thule).

    It sent back the following video of Ultima Thule, though it will likely take until late 2020 for scientists to receive and download all the data from New Horizons’ flyby.

    So far, we’ve learned that the primordial object contains methanol, water ice, and organic molecules.

    3. On the surface of Mars, the InSight lander is listening for quakes.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    Launched: May 5, 2018

    Arrived: November 26, 2018

    Since the InSight lander touched down on the surface of the red planet, it has detected dozens of Mars quakes. The early data is giving scientists new insight into the planet’s internal structure.

    4
    Illustration of the InSight lander on Mars. (NASA/JPL-CaltechAn)

    4. A new Mars rover will join InSight next year. NASA is currently building the vehicle in its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic

    NASA Mars 2020 Rover

    5
    Members of NASA’s Mars 2020 project after attaching the rover’s mast. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    5. Researchers hope a future mission to Mars could return the Martian rock samples that the Mars 2020 rover collects back to Earth.

    Planned launch: Unknown

    Anticipated arrival: Unknown

    Until NASA sends another robot to Mars that could launch the stored samples to Earth, the 2020 rover will store the samples in its belly and search for a place on Mars where it can stash them for pickup.

    6
    Proposed Mars Sample Return mission launching samples towards Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Planned launch: July 2020

    Anticipated arrival: February 2021

    The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of ancient microbial alien life on the red planet, collect and stash rock samples, and test out technology that could pave the way for humans to walk the Martian surface one day.

    You can tune in to NASA’s live broadcast of the Mars 2020 rover’s construction anytime to watch the US$2.1 billion mission take shape.

    6. NASA eventually hopes to send a crewed mission to Mars. But before that, the agency plans to return astronauts to the Moon and built a lunar base there.

    Planned launch: Unknown

    Anticipated arrival: 2024

    NASA wants to send humans to the Moon again by 2024. Those would be the first boots on the lunar surface since the Apollo program ended over 45 years ago. This time, however, NASA wants to build a Moon-orbiting space station with a reusable lunar-landing system.

    The idea is that the lunar base could allow for more in-depth scientific research of the Moon, and potentially even enable us to mine resources there that could be converted to fuel for further space travel.

    7. From the lunar surface, astronauts may springboard to Mars.

    Planned launch: 2030s

    Anticipated arrival: 2030s

    The next Moon mission will test deep-space exploration systems that NASA hopes will carry humans on to Mars.

    Astronauts travelling to Mars would have to spend about three years away from Earth. In order to explore of the red planet, human travellers would have to be able to use the materials available on the lunar and Martian surfaces.

    NASA is already designing future astronauts’ gear. They’re sending spacesuit material on the Mars 2020 rover to test how it holds up in the planet’s harsh atmosphere. A deep-space habitat competition this year yielded a 3D-printable pod that could be constructed using materials found on Mars.

    6
    Concept illustration of Martian habitats. (JPL/NASA)

    8. NASA also plans to investigate our Solar System’s past by launching a mission to an asteroid belt surrounding Jupiter.

    Planned launch: October 2021

    Anticipated arrival: 2027

    A mysterious swarm of Trojan asteroids – the term for space rocks that follow planets – trail Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun. NASA’s Lucy mission plans to visit six of them.

    “We know very little about these objects,” Jim Green, the leader of NASA’s planetary science program, said in a NASA video. “They may be captured asteroids, comets, or even Kuiper Belt objects.”

    What we do know is that the objects are as old as the Sun, so they can serve as a kind of fossil record of the Solar System.

    9. Relatively nearby, a spacecraft will scan for alien life in the saltwater ocean on Jupiter’s Moon Europa.

    Planned launch: 2020s

    Anticipated arrival: Unknown

    When Galileo Galilei first looked at Jupiter through his homemade telescope in 1610, he spotted four Moons circling the planet. Nearly 400 years later, NASA’s Galileo mission found evidence that one of those Moons, Europa, conceals a vast ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust.

    NASA is planning to visit that ocean with the Europa Clipper, a spacecraft that will fly by the Moon 45 times, getting as close at 16 miles above the Moon’s surface.

    NASA/Europa Clipper annotated

    Clipper will fly through water vapour plumes that shoot out from Europa’s surface (as seen in the NASA visual above) to analyse what might be in the ocean. Radar tools will also measure the thickness of the ice and scan for subsurface water.

    10. That investigation could help scientists prepare to land a future spacecraft on Europa’s surface and punch through the ice.

    6
    NASA’s Lucy mission visiting asteroids near Jupiter. (Southwest Research Institute)

    Anticipated launch and arrival: Unknown

    The future lander would search for signs of life in the ocean, digging 4 inches below the surface to extract samples for analysis in a mini, on-the-go laboratory.

    11. A nuclear-powered helicopter called Dragonfly will take the search for alien life one planet further, to Saturn’s largest Moon, Titan.

    10
    Dragonfly visiting sampling location on Titan. (NASA)

    Planned launch: 2026

    Anticipated arrival: 2034

    Titan is a world with ice, liquid methane pools, and a thick nitrogen atmosphere. It somewhat resembles early Earth, since it has carbon-rich organic materials like methane and ethane. Scientists suspect that an ocean of liquid water might lurk 60 miles below the ice.

    All that makes Titan a contender for alien life.

    But getting to the distant, cold Moon is not easy – Saturn only gets about 1 percent of the sunlight that bathes Earth, so a spacecraft can’t rely on solar energy. Instead, Dragonfly will propel itself using the heat of decaying plutonium.

    12. Another NASA team is developing a spacecraft to probe the metal core of a dead planet called Psyche.

    Planned launch: 2022

    Anticipated arrival: 2026

    Most of the asteroids in our Solar System are made of rock or ice, but Psyche is composed of iron and nickel. That’s similar to the makeup of Earth’s core, so scientists think Psyche could be a remnant of an early planet that was decimated by violent collisions billions of years ago.

    NASA is sending a probe to find out.

    “This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world – not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” Linda Elkins-Tanton, who’s leading the mission, said in a press release. “This is the only way humans will ever visit a core.”

    If Psyche really is the exposed core of a dead planet, it could reveal clues about the Solar System’s early years.

    The probe NASA plans to send to Psyche would be the first spacecraft to use light, rather than radio waves, to transmit information back to Earth. The agency gave the team the green light to start the final design and early assembly process in June.

    13. NASA also has 176 missions in the works that use CubeSats: 4-by-4-inch cube-shaped nanotechnology satellites.

    11
    Three CubeSats ejected from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory. (NASA)

    NASA is partnering with 93 organisations across the US on these CubeSat projects. Such satellites have already been built and sent to space by an elementary school, a high school, and the Salish Kootenai College of the Flathead Reservation in Montana.

    The first CubeSats sent to deep space trailed behind the InSight Mars lander last year. They successfully sent data from the InSight lander back to Earth as it landed on the Martian surface.

    One planned mission using the nanotechnology will use lasers to search for ice on the Moon’s shadowy south pole. It’s expected to launch in November 2020.

    Another CubeSat mission, also set to launch in 2020, will fly past an asteroid near Earth and send back data. It will be the first exploration of an asteroid less than 100 meters in diameter.

    That data will help scientists plan for future human missions to asteroids, where astronauts might mine resources as they explore deep space.

    14. Closer to home, the European Space Agency’s Euclid telescope will study dark matter and dark energy.

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    Planned launch and arrival: 2022

    Dark matter makes up 85 percent of the universe, but nobody is sure what it is. Part of the problem is that we can’t see it because it doesn’t interact with light.

    Dark matter’s gravity holds the entire universe together, while an unknown force called dark energy pushes everything apart. Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

    As Euclid orbits Earth, the space telescope will measure the universe’s expansion and attempt to map the mysterious geometry of dark matter and energy.

    NASA is working with the ESA on imaging and infrared equipment for the telescope.

    15. The James Webb Space Telescope, which has a massive, 18-panel mirror, will scan the universe for life-hosting planets and attempt to look back in time to photograph the Big Bang.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Planned launch and arrival: 2021

    It’s been almost 30 years since the Hubble Space Telescope launched. The James Webb Space Telescope is its planned replacement, and it packs new infrared technology to detect light beyond what the human eye can see.

    The telescope’s goal is to study every phase of the universe’s history in order to learn about how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

    A 21-foot-wide folding beryllium mirror will help the telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail. A five-layer, tennis court-size shield protects it from the Sun’s heat and blocks sunlight that could interfere with the images.

    16. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of capturing extremely faint signals. The farther it looks out into space, the more it will look back in time, so the telescope could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

    The telescope will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

    12
    The expanding universe. (NASA)

    17. The Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is expected to detect thousands of new planets and test theories of general relativity and dark energy.

    NASA/WFIRST

    Planned launch and arrival: mid-2020s

    WFIRST’s field of view will be 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 exoplanets.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:06 am on July 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Behold the “mole”: The heat-sensing spike that NASA’s InSight lander deployed on the Martian surface is now visible., NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    From NASA Mars Insight Mission: “NASA’s InSight Uncovers the ‘Mole’ “ 

    NASA image


    From NASA Mars Insight Mission

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    July 1, 2019

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

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    1
    Fisheye Camera: InSight Lifts the Mole’s Support Structure: On June 28, 2019, NASA’s InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument, informally called the “mole.” This view was captured by the fisheye Instrument Context Camera under the lander’s deck. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Behold the “mole”: The heat-sensing spike that NASA’s InSight lander deployed on the Martian surface is now visible. Last week, the spacecraft’s robotic arm successfully removed the support structure of the mole, which has been unable to dig, and placed it to the side. Getting the structure out of the way gives the mission team a view of the mole — and maybe a way to help it dig.

    “We’ve completed the first step in our plan to save the mole,” said Troy Hudson of a scientist and engineer with the InSight mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re not done yet. But for the moment, the entire team is elated because we’re that much closer to getting the mole moving again.”

    Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the self-hammering mole is designed to dig down as much as 16 feet (5 meters) and take Mars’ temperature. But the mole hasn’t been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters), so on Feb. 28, 2019 the team commanded the instrument to stop hammering so that they could determine a path forward.

    3
    Arm Camera: InSight Lifts the Mole’s Support Structure: On June 28, 2019, NASA’s InSight lander used its robotic arm to move the support structure for its digging instrument, informally called the “mole.” This view was captured by the Instrument Deployment Camera on the spacecraft’s robotic arm. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Scientists and engineers have been conducting tests to save the mole at JPL, which leads the InSight mission, as well as at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which provided HP3. Based on DLR testing, the soil may not provide the kind of friction the mole was designed for. Without friction to balance the recoil from the self-hammering motion, the mole would simply bounce in place rather than dig.

    One sign of this unexpected soil type is apparent in images taken by a camera on the robotic arm: A small pit has formed around the mole as it’s been hammering in place.

    “The images coming back from Mars confirm what we’ve seen in our testing here on Earth,” said HP3 Project Scientist Mattias Grott of DLR. “Our calculations were correct: This cohesive soil is compacting into walls as the mole hammers.”

    The team wants to press on the soil near this pit using a small scoop on the end of the robotic arm. The hope is that this might collapse the pit and provide the necessary friction for the mole to dig.

    It’s also still possible that the mole has hit a rock. While the mole is designed to push small rocks out of the way or deflect around them, larger ones will prevent the spike’s forward progress. That’s why the mission carefully selected a landing site that would likely have both fewer rocks in general and smaller ones near the surface.

    The robotic arm’s grapple isn’t designed to lift the mole once it’s out of its support structure, so it won’t be able to relocate the mole if a rock is blocking it.

    The team will be discussing what next steps to take based on careful analysis. Later this month, after releasing the arm’s grapple from the support structure, they’ll bring a camera in for some detailed images of the mole.

    A Q&A with team members about the mole and the effort to save it is at:
    https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8444/common-questions-about-insights-mole/?site=insight

    See the full article here .

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    NASA Mars Insight Mission

    About InSight

    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. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

    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 to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

    For more information about InSight, visit:
    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:24 am on July 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , DLR "mole" importuned, NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    From Sky & Telescope: “A Strategy to Get the Mars Insight Lander Back in the Drilling Business” 

    SKY&Telescope bloc

    From Sky & Telescope

    July 3, 2019
    David Dickinson

    Insight’s robotic arm has uncovered the lander’s “mole,” as NASA and German aerospace engineers work to get it drilling once again.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    2
    Insight’s robotic arm has moved back the HP3, exposing the mole and the hole it has dug into the surface of Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Spaceflight is hard, and drilling on an alien world is even harder. But this week, we have some good news: NASA has completed the first stage of getting Mars Insight’s heat-sensing spike, referred to as the “mole,” back to work. The mole became stuck this past February and has been taking a breather for the past couple months. The first step in NASA’s new strategy: grabbing the deployment package and lifting it out of the way to see exactly what is happening.

    “We’ve completed the first step in our plan to save the mole,” says Troy Hudson (NASA-JPL) in a recent press release. “The entire team is elated because we’re that much closer to getting the mole moving again.”

    2
    Insight’s fish-eye camera chronicles the motions of the lander’s robotic arm as it moves the support structure back to reveal the mole underneath.
    NASA / JPL-Caltech

    Digging on Mars

    Insight landed on the Elysium Planitia region of Mars on November 26, 2018, accompanied by the first set of interplanetary smallsats, Mars Cube One’s MARCO-A and MARCO-B, which both chronicled the descent of Insight to the Martian surface.

    Marco-A and Marco-B Cubesats in support of NASA Mars Insight Lander for radio relay

    A dedicated, geophysical science mission, the Insight lander deployed its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) onto the Martian surface using a mechanical arm on February 4, 2019. On February 28th, drilling started via the mole, a mechanical spike designed to drill 5 meters (16 feet) down into the Martian regolith. Trouble came about a week after, on March 7th, when the tethered spike stalled at just 12 inches (30 centimeters) below the Martian surface. The mole needs to reach a minimum depth of 3 meters for useful science operations. The mole is currently stuck at an angle of about 20 degrees off of vertical.

    3
    Artist’s conception of the mole hammering into the surface of Mars. DLR

    HP3 is designed to detect heat emanating from the core of Mars, data that will help planetary scientists model the planet’s interior structure.

    NASA’s plans called for lifting the HP3 package out of the way to the give engineers a better view of the mole and its progress thus far. This maneuver was not without its risks: for example, if the arm pulls the spike out of the soil while lifting the structure, it cannot place the mole back into the ground.

    Engineers first suspected that a rock had blocked the mole, but lab tests offered another option. The mole drills by using the friction of the loose soil flowing around it to counter its own recoil action. Engineers suspected that a lack of friction was causing the hammering spike to simply bounce in place.

    Lab tests were conducted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, with an Insight “twin” working in material similar to Martian soil, in the so-called Mars yard.” Tests were also conducted at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which had developed and built the HP3 package for the Insight mission.

    Uncovering the hole hammered out by the mole and getting a good look at it this past weekend provided initial confirmation of engineeers’ suspicions: The mole has dug a small pit around itself into the unexpectedly loose soil, causing it to bounce in place rather than dig straight down.

    “The images coming back from Mars confirm what we’ve seen in our testing here on Earth,” says Mattias Grott (DLR) in a recent press release. “This cohesive soil is compacting into the walls as the mole hammers.”

    Next, the team wants to get a closer look and use a small scoop on the end of the lander’s mechanical arm to press down on the soil around the pit, allowing the mole to regain traction and resume digging. And, although the arm can’t grab the mole for repositioning, it could, if needed, push against the spike in an effort to get it to resume drilling.

    The mole is designed to push small rocks out of the way, and the landing site and deployment area for the HP3 package were selected with this in mind. Worst-case scenario is that the mole is striking against a large boulder submerged just below the Martian surface — that would be a tough break after a journey of millions of miles. Or perhaps the site was too well selected: the equivalent of a Martian sand trap offering little friction for the mole.

    Insight is busy conducting other science experiments as well. The lander’s seismometer recorded its first Marsquake on April 6, 2019, along with another larger seismic event on May 22nd with a magnitude 3.0 marsquake.

    See the full article here .

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    Sky & Telescope magazine, founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, has the largest, most experienced staff of any astronomy magazine in the world. Its editors are virtually all amateur or professional astronomers, and every one has built a telescope, written a book, done original research, developed a new product, or otherwise distinguished him or herself.

    Sky & Telescope magazine, now in its eighth decade, came about because of some happy accidents. Its earliest known ancestor was a four-page bulletin called The Amateur Astronomer, which was begun in 1929 by the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York City. Then, in 1935, the American Museum of Natural History opened its Hayden Planetarium and began to issue a monthly bulletin that became a full-size magazine called The Sky within a year. Under the editorship of Hans Christian Adamson, The Sky featured large illustrations and articles from astronomers all over the globe. It immediately absorbed The Amateur Astronomer.

    Despite initial success, by 1939 the planetarium found itself unable to continue financial support of The Sky. Charles A. Federer, who would become the dominant force behind Sky & Telescope, was then working as a lecturer at the planetarium. He was asked to take over publishing The Sky. Federer agreed and started an independent publishing corporation in New York.

    “Our first issue came out in January 1940,” he noted. “We dropped from 32 to 24 pages, used cheaper quality paper…but editorially we further defined the departments and tried to squeeze as much information as possible between the covers.” Federer was The Sky’s editor, and his wife, Helen, served as managing editor. In that January 1940 issue, they stated their goal: “We shall try to make the magazine meet the needs of amateur astronomy, so that amateur astronomers will come to regard it as essential to their pursuit, and professionals to consider it a worthwhile medium in which to bring their work before the public.”

     
  • richardmitnick 7:39 am on November 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA Mars Insight Lander, Probing The Insides of Mars to Learn How Rocky Planets Are Formed, The Tharsis region of Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons which is 375 miles in diameter and as much as 16 miles high. (U.S. Geological Survey)   

    From Many Worlds: “Probing The Insides of Mars to Learn How Rocky Planets Are Formed” 

    NASA NExSS bloc

    NASA NExSS

    Many Words icon

    From Many Worlds

    2018-11-08
    Marc Kaufman

    1
    An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is designed to look for tectonic activity and meteorite impacts, study how much heat is still flowing through the planet, and track Mars’ wobble as it orbits the sun. While InSight is a Mars mission, it will help answer key questions about the formation of the other rocky planets of the solar system and exoplanets beyond. (NASA/JPL-Caltech).

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    In the known history of our 4.5-billion-year-old solar system, the insides of but one planet have been explored and studied. While there’s a lot left to know about the crust, the mantle and the core of the Earth, there is a large and vibrant field dedicated to that learning.

    Sometime next month, an extensive survey of the insides of a second solar system planet will begin. That planet is Mars and, assuming safe arrival, the work will start after the InSight lander touches down on November 26.

    This is not a mission that will produce dazzling images and headlines about the search for life on Mars. But in terms of the hard science it is designed to perform, InSight has the potential to tell us an enormous am0unt about the makeup of Mars, how it formed, and possibly why is it but one-third the size of its terrestrial cousins, Earth and Venus.

    “We know a lot about the surface of Mars, we know a lot about its atmosphere and even about its ionosphere,” says Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, in a NASA video. “But we don’t know very much about what goes on a mile below the surface, much less 2,000 miles below the surface.”

    The goal of InSight is to fill that knowledge gap, helping NASA map out the deep structure of Mars. And along the way, learn about the inferred formation and interiors of exoplanets, too.

    2
    Equitorial Mars and the InSight landing site, with noting of other sites. (NASA)

    The lander will touch down at Elysium Planitia, a flat expanse due north of the Curiosity landing site. The destination was selected because it is about as safe as a Mars landing site could be, and InSight did not need to be a more complex site with a compelling surface to explore.

    “While I’m looking forward to those first images from the surface, I am even more eager to see the first data sets revealing what is happening deep below our landing pads.” Barerdt said. “The beauty of this mission is happening below the surface. Elysium Planitia is perfect.”

    By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of the Martian core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet’s interior, the InSight mission will provide glimpses into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner solar system.

    That’s because in terms of fundamental processes that shape planetary formation, Mars is an ideal subject.

    It is big enough to have undergone the earliest internal heating and differentiation (separation of the crust, mantle and core) processes that shaped the terrestrial planets (Earth, Venus, Mercury, our moon), but small enough to have retained the signature of those processes over the next four billion years.

    So Mars may contain the most in-depth and accurate record in the solar system of these processes. And because Mars has been less geologically active than the Earth — it does not have plate tectonics, for example — it has retains a more complete evolutionary record in its own basic planetary building blocks. In terms of deep planet geophysics, it is often described as something of a fossil.

    By using geophysical instruments like those used on Earth, InSight will measure the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs.” They include the “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

    One promising way InSight will peer into the Martian interior is by studying motion underground — what we know as marsquakes.

    NASA has not attempted to do this kind of science since the Viking mission. Both Viking landers had their seismometers on top of the spacecraft, where they produced noisy data. InSight’s seismometer will be placed directly on the Martian surface, which will provide much cleaner data.

    As described by the agency, “NASA have seen a lot of evidence suggesting Mars has quakes. But unlike quakes on Earth, which are mostly caused by tectonic plates moving around, marsquakes would be caused by other types of tectonic activity, such as volcanism and cracks forming in the planet’s crust.

    “In addition, meteor impacts can create seismic waves, which InSight will try to detect.

    “Each marsquake would be like a flashbulb that illuminates the structure of the planet’s interior. By studying how seismic waves pass through the different layers of the planet (the crust, mantle and core), scientists can deduce the depths of these layers and what they’re made of. In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars.”

    3
    The InSight seismometer, developed by European partners and JPL, consists of a total of six seismic sensors that record the vibrations of the Martian soil in three directions in space and at two different frequency ranges. ges allows them to be mathematically combined into a single extremely broadband seismometer. In order to protect the seismometer against wind and strong temperature fluctuations, a protective dome (Wind and Thermal Shield, WTS) will be placed over it. (German Aerospace Center [DLR])

    Scientists think it’s likely they’ll see between a dozen and a hundred marsquakes over the course of two Earth years. The quakes are likely to be no bigger than a 6.0 on the Richter scale, which would be plenty of energy for revealing secrets about the planet’s interior.

    Another area of scientific interest involves whether or not the core of Mars is liquid. InSight’s Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, RISE, will help answer that question by tracking the location of the lander to determine just how much Mars’ North Pole wobbles as it orbits the sun.

    These observations will provide information on the size of Mars’ iron-rich core and will help determine whether the core is liquid. It will also help determine which other elements, besides iron, may be present.

    The InSight science effort includes a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow down to 16 feet into the Martian soil and will for the first time measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior. Combining the rate of heat flow with other InSight data will reveal how energy within the planet drives changes on the surface.

    This is especially important in trying to understand the presence and size of some of the solar system’s largest shield volcanoes in the solar system, a region known as Tharsis Mons.

    3
    The Tharsis region of Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons, which is 375 miles in diameter and as much as 16 miles high. (U.S. Geological Survey)

    Heat escaping from deep within the planet drives the formation of these types of features, as well as many others on rocky planets.

    InSight is not an astrobiology mission — no searching for life beyond Earth.

    But it definitely is part of the process by which scientists will learn what planet formation and the dynamics of their interiors says about whether a planet can be home to life.

    See the full article here .


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    About Many Worlds
    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

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

    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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    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 4:39 pm on May 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DEEP SPACE STATIONS READY FOR NASA'S INSIGHT MRS FLIGHT, , NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    From European Space Agency: ESA DEEP SPACE STATIONS READY FOR NASA’S INSIGHT MARS FLIGHT” 

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    From European Space Agency

    4 May 2018
    No writer credit

    1
    New Norcia

    NASA’s latest mission to Mars begins tomorrow. ESA deep space ground stations in Australia and South America will track the InSight spacecraft on NASA’s behalf as it begins its cruise to the Red Planet.

    Set to be launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California on an Atlas V at 1105 UTC (1305 CEST) on Saturday, InSight will bring a lander to Mars to study its interior, with equipment to measure internal heat and detect ‘marsquakes’. InSight’s 485-million km journey to Mars will take about six months, beginning soon after it separates from its launcher in Earth orbit.

    Five hours after launch, ESA’s deep space ground station at New Norcia in Western Australia, will pick up the signal from InSight. It will maintain contact as a ‘hot backup’ at the same time as NASA’s own Deep Space Network ground station at Canberra, over on the easterly side of the continent.

    Once Canberra loses contact, the 35-m dish antenna at New Norcia will maintain contact with the mission until it vanishes under the horizon. ESA’s second southern-hemisphere deep space ground station at Malargüe in Argentina will pick up the contact two and a half hours after that.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    “Our stations at New Norcia and Malargüe will allow NASA to keep in touch with InSight during its critically important ‘launch and early operations’ phase, when the spacecraft systems are first turned on and checked,” explains Daniel Firre, the Agency’s ESA-NASA cross-support service manager.

    “NASA requested this support because at this time of year the southern hemisphere has very good visibility of the trajectory to Mars, and by extension the NASA DSN stations at Madrid and Goldstone have poor visibility to no visibility in the early days after launch, which leaves only its remaining DSN station at Canberra.

    “This is based on a long-standing cross-support agreement between ESA and NASA, where we provide tracking station support to one another as needed. And by extension, as New Norcia monitors InSight telemetry NASA will be filling in for ESA missions normally served from there, such as ESA’s star-mapping Gaia.”

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    2
    Malargüe

    InSight’s separation from its upper stage and initial determination of its orbital path will be carried out from Goldstone in California. The role of New Norcia and Malargüe will be to monitor the spacecraft as it departs Earth and to receive essential telemetry, allowing the early identification of any possible problems.

    Should the mission team based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory require any corrective telecommands to be uplinked to InSight then they would make a request to ESA’s ESOC European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, which is staffed 24 hrs/day and manages all ESA Estrack stations, including New Norcia and Malargüe.

    “Our support for InSight extends for the first 30 days after launch, but the period of our ‘critical support’ lasts until 0530 UTC on Sunday,” adds Yves Doat, heading ESA’s Ground Facilities Infrastructure Section.

    “During this time we will have local maintenance support in place at New Norcia, to immediately remedy any technical problems that might arise, and a station engineer will also be supporting the team at ESOC.”

    “During the critical phase after launch we will be listening out not for one spacecraft but three,” adds Daniel.“InSight itself is accompanied by a pair of CubeSats called MarCOs, which will be monitoring InSight’s own atmospheric entry, descent and landing to return data direct to Earth as they pass by Mars.

    “All three spacecraft will be near enough together that we should receive them in the same beam.”

    After the first month of interplanetary travel, InSight’s will be easier to track from the northern hemisphere, but New Norcia will go on to play a role in monitoring InSight’s landing on 26 November 2018.

    See the full article here .

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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 12:17 pm on May 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    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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  • richardmitnick 7:22 pm on February 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Seven Ways Mars InSight is Different” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    February 22, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


    We know what “The Red Planet” looks like from the outside — but what’s going on under the surface of Mars? Find out more in the 60-second video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?

    InSight is the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars.

    A dictionary definition of “insight” is to see the inner nature of something. InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will do just that. InSight will take the “vital signs” of Mars: its pulse (seismology), temperature (heat flow), and its reflexes (radio science). It will be the first thorough check-up since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago.

    InSight will teach us about planets like our own.

    InSight’s team hopes that by studying the deep interior of Mars, we can learn how other rocky planets form. Earth and Mars were molded from the same primordial stuff more than 4 billion years ago, but then became quite different. Why didn’t they share the same fate?

    When it comes to rocky planets, we’ve only studied one in great detail: Earth. By comparing Earth’s interior to that of Mars, InSight’s team hopes to better understand our solar system. What they learn might even aid the search for Earth-like exoplanets, narrowing down which ones might be able to support life. So while InSight is a Mars mission, it’s also more than a Mars mission.

    InSight will try to detect marsquakes for the first time.

    One key way InSight will peer into the Martian interior is by studying motion underground — what we know as marsquakes. NASA has not attempted to do this kind of science since the Viking mission. Both Viking landers had their seismometers on top of the spacecraft, where they produced noisy data. InSight’s seismometer will be placed directly on the Martian surface, which will provide much cleaner data.

    Scientists have seen a lot of evidence suggesting Mars has quakes. But unlike quakes on Earth, which are mostly caused by tectonic plates moving around, marsquakes would be caused by other types of tectonic activity, such as volcanism and cracks forming in the planet’s crust. In addition, meteor impacts can create seismic waves, which InSight will try to detect.

    Each marsquake would be like a flashbulb that illuminates the structure of the planet’s interior. By studying how seismic waves pass through the different layers of the planet (the crust, mantle and core), scientists can deduce the depths of these layers and what they’re made of. In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars.

    Scientists think it’s likely they’ll see between a dozen and a hundred marsquakes over the course of two Earth years. The quakes are likely to be no bigger than a 6.0 on the Richter scale, which would be plenty of energy for revealing secrets about the planet’s interior.

    First interplanetary launch from the West Coast

    All of NASA’s interplanetary launches to date have been from Florida, in part because the physics of launching off the East Coast are better for journeys to other planets. But InSight will break the mold by launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will be the first launch to another planet from the West Coast.

    InSight will ride on top of a powerful Atlas V 401 rocket, which allows for a planetary trajectory to Mars from either coast. Vandenberg was ultimately chosen because it had more availability during InSight’s launch period.

    A whole new region will get to see an interplanetary launch when InSight rockets into the sky. In a clear, pre-dawn sky, the launch may be visible in California from Santa Maria to San Diego.

    First interplanetary CubeSat

    The rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth will also launch a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These briefcase-sized CubeSats will fly on their own path to Mars behind InSight.

    Their objective is to relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. It will be a first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

    If successful, the MarCOs could represent a new kind of data relay to Earth. InSight’s success is independent of its CubeSat tag-alongs.

    InSight could teach us how Martian volcanoes were formed.

    Mars is home to some impressive volcanic features. That includes Tharsis — a plateau with some of the biggest volcanoes in the solar system. Heat escaping from deep within the planet drives the formation of these types of features, as well as many others on rocky planets. InSight includes a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow down to 16 feet (5 meters) into the Martian soil to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior for the first time. Combining the rate of heat flow with other InSight data will reveal how energy within the planet drives changes on the surface.

    Mars is a time machine

    Studying Mars lets us travel to the ancient past. While Earth and Venus have tectonic systems that have destroyed most of the evidence of their early history, much of the Red Planet has remained static for more than 3 billion years. Because Mars is just one-third the size of Earth and Venus, it contains less energy to power the processes that change a planet’s structure. That makes it a fossil planet in many ways, with the secrets of our solar system’s early history locked deep inside.

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    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 [1], 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.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
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