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  • richardmitnick 8:45 am on October 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Messenger,   

    From Goddard: “Small Collisions Make Big Impact on Mercury’s Thin Atmosphere” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sept. 29, 2017
    Kathryn DuFresne
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

    Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft — short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, a mission that observed Mercury from 2011 to 2015 — has shed new light on how certain types of comets influence the lopsided bombardment of Mercury’s surface by tiny dust particles called micrometeoroids.

    NASA Messenger satellite schematic

    NASA Messenger satellite

    This study also gave new insight into how these micrometeoroid showers can shape Mercury’s very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere.

    The research, led by Petr Pokorný, Menelaos Sarantos and Diego Janches of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, simulated the variations in meteoroid impacts, revealing surprising patterns in the time of day impacts occur. These findings were reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 19, 2017.

    “Observations by MESSENGER indicated that dust must predominantly arrive at Mercury from specific directions, so we set out to prove this with models,” Pokorný said. This is the first such simulation of meteoroid impacts on Mercury. “We simulated meteoroids in the solar system, particularly those originating from comets, and let them evolve over time.”

    Earlier findings based on data from MESSENGER’s Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer revealed the effect of meteoroid impacts on Mercury’s surface throughout the planet’s day. The presence of magnesium and calcium in the exosphere is higher at Mercury’s dawn — indicating that meteoroid impacts are more frequent on whatever part of the planet is experiencing dawn at a given time.

    This dawn-dusk asymmetry is created by a combination of Mercury’s long day, in comparison to its year, and the fact that many meteroids in the solar system travel around the Sun in the direction opposite the planets. Because Mercury rotates so slowly — once every 58 Earth days, compared to a Mercury year, a complete trip around the Sun, lasting only 88 Earth days — the part of the planet at dawn spends a disproportionately long time in the path of one of the solar system’s primary populations of micrometeoroids. This population, called retrograde meteoroids, orbits the Sun in the direction opposite the planets and comprises pieces from disintegrated long-period comets. These retrograde meteroids are traveling against the flow of planetary traffic in our solar system, so their collisions with planets — Mercury, in this case — hit much harder than if they were traveling in the same direction.

    These harder collisions helped the team further key in on the source of the micrometeoroids pummeling Mercury’s surface. Meteroids that originally came from asteroids wouldn’t be moving fast enough to create the observed impacts. Only meteoroids created from two certain types of comets — Jupiter-family and Halley-type — had the speed necessary to match the obseravations.

    “The velocity of cometary meteoroids, like Halley-type, can exceed 224,000 miles per hour,” Pokorný said. “Meteoroids from asteroids only impact Mercury at a fraction of that speed.”

    Jupiter-family comets, which are primarly influenced by our largest planet’s gravity, have a relatively short orbit of less than 20 years. These comets are thought to be small pieces of objects originating in the Kuiper Belt, where Pluto orbits. The other contributor, Halley-type comets, have a longer orbit lasting upwards of 200 years. They come from the Oort Cloud, the most distant objects of our solar system — more than a thousand times farther from the Sun than Earth.

    Oort Cloud NASA

    The orbital distributions of both types of comets make them ideal candidates to produce the tiny meteoroids that influence Mercury’s exosphere.

    Pokorný and his team hope that their initial findings will improve our understanding of the rate at which comet-based micrometeoroids impact Mercury, further improving the accuracy of models of Mercury and its exosphere.

    These harder collisions helped the team further key in on the source of the micrometeoroids pummeling Mercury’s surface. Meteroids that originally came from asteroids wouldn’t be moving fast enough to create the observed impacts. Only meteoroids created from two certain types of comets — Jupiter-family and Halley-type — had the speed necessary to match the obseravations.

    “The velocity of cometary meteoroids, like Halley-type, can exceed 224,000 miles per hour,” Pokorný said. “Meteoroids from asteroids only impact Mercury at a fraction of that speed.”

    Jupiter-family comets, which are primarly influenced by our largest planet’s gravity, have a relatively short orbit of less than 20 years. These comets are thought to be small pieces of objects originating in the Kuiper Belt, where Pluto orbits. The other contributor, Halley-type comets, have a longer orbit lasting upwards of 200 years. They come from the Oort Cloud, the most distant objects of our solar system — more than a thousand times farther from the Sun than Earth.

    The orbital distributions of both types of comets make them ideal candidates to produce the tiny meteoroids that influence Mercury’s exosphere.

    Related:

    NASA’s MESSENGER mission
    More information about Mercury

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

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  • richardmitnick 6:53 am on September 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Messenger, Tectonically Active Planet Mercury   

    From NASA: “Tectonically Active Planet Mercury” 

    NASA image
    NASA

    Sept. 26, 2016
    Editor: Bill Keeter

    1
    It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. Surprising new NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/USGS/Arizona State University

    It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. New NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet.

    Images obtained by NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft reveal previously undetected small fault scarps— cliff-like landforms that resemble stair steps.

    NASA/Messenger satellite
    NASA/Messenger satellite

    These scarps are small enough that scientists believe they must be geologically young, which means Mercury is still contracting and that Earth is not the only tectonically active planet in our solar system, as previously thought.

    The findings are reported in a paper in the October issue of Nature Geoscience.

    “The young age of the small scarps means that Mercury joins Earth as a tectonically active planet, with new faults likely forming today as Mercury’s interior continues to cool and the planet contracts,” said lead author Tom Watters, Smithsonian senior scientist at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

    Large fault scarps on Mercury were first discovered in the flybys of Mariner 10 in the mid-1970s and confirmed by MESSENGER, which found the planet closest to the sun was shrinking. The large scarps were formed as Mercury’s interior cooled, causing the planet to contract and the crust to break and thrust upward along faults making cliffs up to hundreds of miles long and some more than a mile (over one-and-a-half kilometers) high.

    In the last 18 months of the MESSENGER mission, the spacecraft’s altitude was lowered, which allowed the surface of Mercury to be seen at much higher resolution. These low-altitude images revealed small fault scarps that are orders of magnitude smaller than the larger scarps. The small scarps had to be very young, investigators say, to survive the steady bombardment of meteoroids and comets. They are comparable in scale to small, young lunar scarps that are evidence Earth’s moon is also shrinking.

    This active faulting is consistent with the recent finding that Mercury’s global magnetic field has existed for billions of years and with the slow cooling of Mercury’s still hot outer core. It’s likely that the smallest of the terrestrial planets also experiences Mercury-quakes—something that may one day be confirmed by seismometers.

    “This is why we explore,” said NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green at Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “For years, scientists believed that Mercury’s tectonic activity was in the distant past. It’s exciting to consider that this small planet – not much larger than Earth’s moon – is active even today.”

    Managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, MESSENGER launched Aug. 3, 2004 and began orbiting Mercury March 18, 2011. The mission ended with a planned impact on the surface of Mercury on April 30, 2015.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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 11:47 am on May 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Messenger, ,   

    From New Scientist: “First global Mercury map shows its hills and valleys in detail” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    May 2016
    Lisa Grossman

    1
    Mountains and valleys mapped NASA/U.S. Geological Survey/Arizona State University/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    The innermost planet is ready for its close-up. The team behind NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury has released the first global topographic map of the small, cratered world – just in time for its biggest show of the decade.

    NASA/Messenger satellite
    NASA/Messenger satellite

    MESSENGER orbited Mercury from 2011 until 2015, and took more than 10 terabytes of data, including 300,000 images and millions of spectra. A laser altimeter measured the heights of hills and depths of craters, but because the spacecraft had a highly eccentric orbit, this was not possible for the southern hemisphere.

    Now, the team have combined more than 100,000 images to create a model of the whole planet’s topography. It includes the highest point – 4.48 kilometres above average elevation, located south of the equator in some of Mercury’s oldest terrain – and the lowest point – 5.38 kilometres below average elevation, at the floor of the volcanic Rachmaninoff basin.

    The map was released just days before Mercury is scheduled to cross in front of the sun from the perspective of Earth.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on November 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Messenger   

    From NASA: “Mercury Gets a Meteoroid Shower from Comet Encke” 

    NASA

    NASA

    Nov. 10, 2015
    Mark Bailey and Apostolos Christou
    Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland

    1
    Mercury appears to undergo a recurring meteoroid shower when its orbit crosses the debris trail left by comet Encke. (Artist’s concept.) Credits: NASA/Goddard

    Earthlings are no strangers to the effects of cometary dust on a planet and its environment. On a clear, moonless night we witness the demise of countless such dust grains as they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere in the form of meteors or “shooting stars.” At certain times of the year, their numbers increase manyfold, creating a natural fireworks display: a meteor shower. This is caused by the Earth passing through a stream of dust particles left behind by certain comets.

    One of the most well-known showers, the August Perseids, originates from comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last seen back in 1992 and won’t be back in the inner solar system for another century. But Earth is not the only planet in the solar system to sweep up cometary dust in this fashion. Last year, comet Siding Spring came within 100,000 miles of Mars, loading its upper atmosphere with several tons of cometary material. The aftermath was recorded by instruments onboard several Mars-orbiting spacecraft such as NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission and ESA’s Mars Express.

    NASA Mars MAVEN
    NASA/MAVEN

    ESA Mars Express Orbiter
    ESA/Mars Express

    Bodies such as the moon and Mercury are typically thought of as airless, yet we have known since the time of the Apollo moon landings that they are surrounded by clouds of atomic particles either launched from the surface or brought in by the solar wind. Though tenuous by comparison to the dense atmospheres of the Earth or Mars, the observational record has revealed these “surface boundary exospheres” to be complex and dynamic entities, fascinating to study in their own right.

    NASA’s MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER), the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, measured how certain species in the exosphere vary with time.

    NASA Messenger satellite
    NASA/MESSENGER

    Analysis of the data by Burger and colleagues found a pattern in the variation of the element calcium that repeats from one Mercury year to the next. To investigate, Killen teamed up with Joe Hahn of the Space Science Institute, based in Austin, Texas, to understand what happens when Mercury ploughs through the so-called zodiacal cloud of interplanetary dust around the sun and its surface is pelted by high-speed meteoroids.

    The researchers found that both the observed amount of calcium and the pattern in which it varies could be explained in terms of the material thrown off the planet’s surface by the impacts. But one feature in the data did not make sense: the peak in calcium emission is seen right after Mercury passes through its perihelion — the closest point of its orbit to the Sun — whereas Killen and Hahn’s model predicted the peak to occur just before perihelion. Something was still missing.

    That “something” arrived in the form of a cometary dust stream. Discovered in the 18th century, comet Encke is named after the German mathematician who first computed its orbit. It has the shortest period of any comet, returning to perihelion every 3.3 years at a distance of 31 million miles (nearly 50 million kilometers) from the sun. Its orbit, and that of any dust particles thrown off it, is stable enough so, over millennia, a dense dust stream would have formed. Killen and Hahn proposed that Encke dust impacting Mercury could kick up more calcium from the surface and explain what MESSENGER was seeing. The match was not perfect, however. For one thing, Encke is closest to Mercury’s orbit about a week later than the calcium peak. The researchers postulated that the evolution of the dust stream over thousands of years had somehow shifted the stream away from comet Encke’s present orbit.

    But what was causing the shift? To find out, Killen and Burger teamed up with Christou to simulate the evolution of the Encke stream for several tens of thousands of years — the likely lifetime of the comet. Christou had to first compute a “best guess” of the comet’s orbit many thousands of years before it was first observed. Starting from that point in time, he followed a cloud of simulated dust grains launched from the comet’s nucleus to find out if — and, more importantly, where — their present orbits would intersect Mercury’s. He found that the dust, rather than shifting away from the comet’s orbit, simply spread along it, forming a stream that encounters Mercury exactly when the comet does.

    Then he reran the model, to allow for a subtle interaction between the dust grains and sunlight called Poynting-Robertson drag. This creates an extra, though tiny, force on the grains which, over long periods of time, could amount to a significant change in the orbit. The result was that the orbit of the stream in the simulations shifted behind the comet’s orbit and toward the location where the peak in calcium emission was observed. Moreover, the size of the shift depended on the size of the dust grains — bigger grains means a smaller drag force — and on how long ago they were released from the comet. Christou found that he could reproduce the timing of the calcium peak for grains a millimeter or so in size, ejected from Encke between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. This is consistent with what we know about cometary dust: droves of millimeter-sized cometary grains enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day, creating visible meteors. It also agrees with present best estimate of the age of the stream based on Earth-based meteor studies.

    “Finding that we can move the location of stream to match MESSENGER’s observations is gratifying, but the fact that the shift agrees with what we know about Encke and its stream from independent sources makes us confident that the cause-and-effect relationship is real,” Christou explained.

    The work has set an interesting precedent on the importance of the different dust populations in exosphere production.

    “We already knew that impacts were important in producing exospheres,” Killen said. “What we did not know was the relative importance of comet streams over zodiacal dust. Apparently, comet streams can have a huge, but periodic, effect.”

    Killen looks forward to searching for the signature of the Encke stream on other exospheric species. “This will be further confirmation of the relationship,” she added.

    A paper describing the research appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

    For more information the MESSENGER mission, visit:
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/index.html

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    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 9:32 am on May 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA Messenger,   

    From NASA Science- “Fire and Ice: A MESSENGER Recap” 

    NASA Science Science News

    April 30, 2015
    Dr. Tony Phillips

    1
    The colors of the solar system’s innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. Human eyes would not discern the clear color differences but they are real none the less, indicating distinct chemical, mineralogical, and physical regions across the cratered surface. Notable at the upper right, Mercury’s large, circular, tan colored feature known as the Caloris basin was created by an impacting comet or asteroid during the solar system’s early years. The ancient basin was subsequently flooded with lava from volcanic activity, analogous to the formation of the lunar maria. Color contrasts also make the light blue and white young crater rays, material blasted out by recent impacts, easy to follow as they extend across a darker blue, low reflectance terrain.

    Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, have confirmed that MESSENGER slammed into the surface of Mercury on April 30th at 3:26 p.m. EDT. It had used the last of its propellant on April 24th and could no longer maintain a stable orbit. Traveling some 8,750 mph, the plummeting spacecraft made an unseen crater on the side of the planet facing away from Earth.

    NASA Messenger satellite
    Messenger

    “Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission,” says John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now, we begin the next phase of this mission–analyzing the exciting data already in the archives, and unravelling the mysteries of Mercury.”

    Here are some of MESSENGER’s most important findings so far:

    The hidden face of Mercury: In the mid-1970s when Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times, the probe imaged less than half the planet.

    NASA Mariner 10
    Mariner 10

    Until MESSENGER arrived, the rest of Mercury was a land of mystery. MESSENGER was the first spacecraft to view the entirety of the mighty Caloris basin—one of the biggest and youngest impact features in the solar system. Moreover, MESSENGER spotted volcanic vents around the rim of the basin, proving that volcanism—and not only impacts—have shaped the surface of the innermost planet.

    The irony of Mercury’s poles: Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice. But the tilt of Mercury’s rotational axis is almost zero – less than one degree – so the floors of craters at the planet’s poles never see sunlight. Scientists suggested decades ago that there might be frozen water trapped there. The idea received a boost in 1991 when the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and the Goldstone antenna in California detected unusually bright radar reflections from Mercury’s poles—the kind of reflections that ice would make. From Mercury orbit, MESSENGER was able to look down on Mercury’s poles like no other spacecraft or telescope, and it confirmed the unlikely: Permanently shadowed craters near Mercury’s poles have temperatures less than -280F (-173C), and water ice is stable on their dark inner surfaces. Some of the polar ice is covered by a mysterious dark organic material that researchers still do not understand.

    Arecibo Observatory
    Arecibo Radio Telescope

    NASA DSCC Goldstone Antenna
    NASA DSCC Goldstone Antenna

    2
    These graphics show the predicted location and time of MESSENGER’s impact on Mercury’s surface.

    The incredible shrinking planet: The dominant tectonic landforms on Mercury are huge cliffs called “lobate scarps.” Even before MESSENGER, researchers thought these scarps were signs of global shrinkage, like wrinkles on a raisin. Why would Mercury shrink? The planet’s core makes up a whopping 60–70% of its mass. Cooling of this oversized core has led to a remarkable contraction of the planet. MESSENGER’s images of lobate scarps show that the total contraction is two to seven times greater than researchers previously thought.

    Magnetically speaking, Mercury is alive: Until Mariner 10 discovered Mercury’s magnetic field in the 1970s, Earth was the only other terrestrial planet known to have a global magnetic field. Earth’s magnetism is generated by the planet’s churning hot, liquid-iron core via a mechanism called a magnetic dynamo. Researchers have been puzzled by Mercury’s field because its iron core was supposed to have finished cooling long ago and stopped generating magnetism. Some researchers thought that the field may have been a relic of the past, frozen in the outer crust. MESSENGER data show otherwise: Mercury’s field appears to be generated by an active dynamo in the planet’s core. It is not a relic.

    A planet with a tail: Orbiting Mercury, MESSENGER made the first in situ observations of Mercury’s unique exosphere. The exosphere is an ultrathin atmosphere where atoms and molecules are so far apart they are more likely to collide with the surface than with each other. This material is derived mainly from the surface of Mercury itself, knocked aloft by solar radiation, solar wind bombardment and meteoroid vaporization. MESSENGER was able to determine the chemical composition of the exosphere (hydrogen, helium, sodium, potassium, and calcium) and monitor the material as it was stretched out into a comet-like tail as long as 2 million km by the action of the solar wind. This tail, as well as Mercury’s magnetic field, was often buffeted by solar activity during MESSENGER’s long mission, giving the spacecraft a point-blank view of the roughest space weather in the solar system.

    In addition to science discoveries, the mission provided many technological firsts, including the development of a ceramic cloth sunshade that protected the spacecraft’s instruments and electronics from fierce solar radiation.

    “The front side of the sunshade routinely experienced temperatures in excess of 300° Celsius (570° Fahrenheit), whereas the majority of components in its shadow routinely operated near room temperature (20°C or 68°F),” said Helene Winters, mission project manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). “This technology to protect the spacecraft’s instruments was a key to mission success during its prime and extended operations.”

    Goodbye, MESSENGER, and thanks!

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA leads the nation on a great journey of discovery, seeking new knowledge and understanding of our planet Earth, our Sun and solar system, and the universe out to its farthest reaches and back to its earliest moments of existence. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space to visit and return samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into our Galaxy and beyond. NASA’s science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all:

    This is NASA’s science vision: using the vantage point of space to achieve with the science community and our partners a deep scientific understanding of our planet, other planets and solar system bodies, the interplanetary environment, the Sun and its effects on the solar system, and the universe beyond. In so doing, we lay the intellectual foundation for the robotic and human expeditions of the future while meeting today’s needs for scientific information to address national concerns, such as climate change and space weather. At every step we share the journey of scientific exploration with the public and partner with others to substantially improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education nationwide.

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  • richardmitnick 3:12 pm on April 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA Messenger   

    From NASA: “NASA Spacecraft Achieves Unprecedented Success Studying Mercury” 

    NASA

    NASA

    April 16, 2015

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

    Paulette Campbell
    Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
    240-228-6792
    paulette.campbell@jhuapl.edu

    NASA Messenger satellite
    NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft traveled more than six and a half years before it was inserted into orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011.

    After extraordinary science findings and technological innovations, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2004 to study Mercury will impact the planet’s surface, most likely on April 30, after it runs out of propellant.

    NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft will impact the planet at more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second) on the side of the planet facing away from Earth. Due to the expected location, engineers will be unable to view in real time the exact location of impact.

    On Tuesday, mission operators in mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, completed the fourth in a series of orbit correction maneuvers designed to delay the spacecraft’s impact into the surface of Mercury. The last maneuver is scheduled for Friday, April 24.

    “Following this last maneuver, we will finally declare the spacecraft out of propellant, as this maneuver will deplete nearly all of our remaining helium gas,” said Daniel O’Shaughnessy, mission systems engineer at APL. “At that point, the spacecraft will no longer be capable of fighting the downward push of the sun’s gravity.”

    Although Mercury is one of Earth’s nearest planetary neighbors, little was known about the planet prior to the MESSENGER mission.

    “For the first time in history we now have real knowledge about the planet Mercury that shows it to be a fascinating world as part of our diverse solar system,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “While spacecraft operations will end, we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission. It’s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury.”

    The spacecraft traveled more than six and a half years before it was inserted into orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011. The prime mission was to orbit the planet and collect data for one Earth year. The spacecraft’s healthy instruments, remaining fuel, and new questions raised by early findings resulted in two approved operations extensions, allowing the mission to continue for almost four years and resulting in more scientific firsts.

    One key science finding in 2012 provided compelling support for the hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant frozen water and other volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters.

    Data indicated the ice in Mercury’s polar regions, if spread over an area the size of Washington, would be more than two miles thick. For the first time, scientists began seeing clearly a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.

    A dark layer covering most of the water ice deposits supports the theory that organic compounds, as well as water, were delivered from the outer solar system to the inner planets and may have led to prebiotic chemical synthesis and, thusly, life on Earth.

    “The water now stored in ice deposits in the permanently shadowed floors of impact craters at Mercury’s poles most likely was delivered to the innermost planet by the impacts of comets and volatile-rich asteroids,” said Sean Solomon, the mission’s principal investigator, and director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. “Those same impacts also likely delivered the dark organic material.”

    In addition to science discoveries, the mission provided many technological firsts, including the development of a vital heat-resistant and highly reflective ceramic cloth sunshade that isolated the spacecraft’s instruments and electronics from direct solar radiation – vital to mission success given Mercury’s proximity to the sun. The technology will help inform future designs for planetary missions within our solar system.

    “The front side of the sunshade routinely experienced temperatures in excess of 300° Celsius (570° Fahrenheit), whereas the majority of components in its shadow routinely operated near room temperature (20°C or 68°F),” said Helene Winters, mission project manager at APL. “This technology to protect the spacecraft’s instruments was a key to mission success during its prime and extended operations.”

    The spacecraft was designed and built by APL. The lab manages and operates the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed for the directorate by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

    For a complete listing of science findings and technological achievements of the mission visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/messenger

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 9:17 am on April 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA Messenger,   

    From U Colorado: “After successful mission to Mercury, spacecraft on a crash course with history” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    April 16, 2015
    William McClintock, 303-492-8407
    william.mcclintock@lasp.colorado.edu

    Daniel Baker, 303-492-0591
    daniel.baker@lasp.colorado.edu

    Gregory Holsclaw, 303-735-0480
    gregory.holsclaw@colorado.edu

    Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114
    jim.scott@colorado.edu

    NASA Messenger satellite
    MESSENGER

    NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury carrying an $8.7 million University of Colorado Boulder instrument is slated to run out of fuel and crash into the planet in the coming days after a wildly successful, four-year orbiting mission chock full of discoveries.

    The mission began in 2004, when the MESSENGER spacecraft launched from Florida on a seven year, 4.7 billion mile journey that involved 15 loops around the sun before the spacecraft settled in Mercury’s orbit in March 2011. Since then the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS), built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), has been making measurements of Mercury’s surface and its tenuous atmosphere, called the exosphere.

    U ColoradoMASCS
    MASCS

    “The spacecraft is finally running out of fuel, and at this point it’s just sort of skimming the planet’s surface,” said Senior Research Scientist William McClintock of LASP, the principal investigator of the MASCS instrument for the mission. It could crash onto Mercury’s surface or run into towering cliff-like features known as scarps that are evidence of a planet-wide contraction as the object cooled, he said.

    “A lot of people didn’t give this spacecraft much of a chance of even getting to Mercury, let alone going into orbit and then gathering data for four years instead of the original scheduled one-year mission.” said McClintock. “In the end, most of what we considered to be gospel about Mercury turned out to be a little different than we thought.”

    Mercury is about two-thirds of the way closer to the sun than Earth and has been visited by only one other spacecraft, NASA’s Mariner 10, in 1974 and 1975.

    NASA Mariner 10
    Mariner 10

    About half the size of a compact car, MESSENGER is equipped with a large sunshade and is toting a camera, a magnetometer, an altimeter and four spectrometers.

    One surprise to the CU-Boulder scientists was the behavior of the thin, tenuous atmosphere of Mercury known as the exosphere. “We thought the exosphere would be highly variable and episodic, and we discovered quite the opposite,” said McClintock. “We found it was very seasonal, like our climate on Earth. We saw the same patterns year after year, which was a big surprise.”

    A number of wild discoveries have come from the MESSENGER mission: Mercury may have as much as 1 trillion metric tons of ice tucked in the dark recesses of its craters, despite its 800 degree Fahrenheit surface temperatures; dust from comets may have painted its surface dark with carbon; some of its craters were once filled with lava; it has a lopsided magnetic field and a gigantic iron core.

    Despite the large iron core, very little of the element was found on the surface, said Greg Holsclaw, a LASP researcher who helped develop the MASCS instrument. “Despite clear evidence of volcanic activity, the abundance of iron was found to be very low,” he said. “This, combined with the presence of materials that vaporize at relatively low temperatures, indicates Mercury experienced a formation history unlike any other planet.”

    During the mission, McClintock and his colleagues used MASCS to make the first detection of magnesium in the planet’s exosphere. The team also determined magnesium, calcium and sodium, the major elements observed with MASCS, show distinctive and different spatial patterns that repeat every Mercury year.

    LASP Director Daniel Baker, also a co-investigator on the MESSENGER mission, is studying Mercury’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind including violent “sub-storms” that occur in the planet’s vicinity. “MESSENGER has taught us more in four years of orbiting our sun’s nearest neighbor than we’ve learned in the prior several centuries put together,” Baker said. “We have come to understand much more deeply the geology, chemistry, atmospheric aspects and the space environment of a truly fascinating ‘miniature’ world.”

    Baker said CU-Boulder’s involvement in the MESSENGER mission has helped attract bright and energetic faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Even undergraduates have been participating in the mission including senior Ryan Dewey, a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship winner who sought out Baker as a sophomore because he wanted to be at the forefront of the MESSENGER discoveries.

    “Ryan is an exceptional student who has worked on Mercury science at a level often reserved for advanced graduate students,” said Baker, noting Dewey was lead author on a 2013 scientific paper dealing with the interactions of Mercury’s magnetosphere and its space environment. “I know this work will serve him well as he moves on to graduate school and a professional career after that.”

    The fate of MESSENGER is not in doubt, said McClintock. “Before long it’s going to be in pieces scattered across the surface of Mercury. But I don’t think anyone who has worked on the project will ever forget it,” he said. “It has been an extremely exciting mission, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

    CU-Boulder’s LASP has designed and built instruments that have visited or are en route to every planet in the solar system. As the MESSENGER mission to Mercury winds down, LASP has a student-built dust counter on NASA’s New Horizons mission, which launched in 2006 and will make its closest flyby of Pluto — 7,000 miles — on July 14. LASP also built instruments for NASA spacecraft now at Mars and Saturn.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    New Horizons

    The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University manages the MESSENGER mission for NASA. Sean Solomon from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, is the MESSENGER principal investigator. For more information about MESSENGER visit http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/. For more information about LASP, visit http://lasp.colorado.edu/.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:28 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Messenger   

    From NASA Goddard: “MESSENGER Data Suggest Recurring Meteor Shower on Mercury “ 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    December 12, 2014
    Nancy Neal-Jones
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-614-5438
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov

    The closest planet to the sun appears to get hit by a periodic meteor shower, possibly associated with a comet that produces multiple events annually on Earth.

    The clues pointing to Mercury’s shower were discovered in the very thin halo of gases that make up the planet’s exosphere, which is under study by NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft.

    NASA Messenger satellite
    NASA/MESSENGER

    “The possible discovery of a meteor shower at Mercury is really exciting and especially important because the plasma and dust environment around Mercury is relatively unexplored,” said Rosemary Killen, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study, available online in Icarus.

    m
    Mercury appears to undergo a recurring meteor shower, perhaps when its orbit crosses the debris trail left by comet Encke. (Artist’s concept.)
    Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    A meteor shower occurs when a planet passes through a swath of debris shed by a comet, or sometimes an asteroid. The smallest bits of dust, rock and ice feel the force of solar radiation, which pushes them away from the sun, creating the comet’s sometimes-dazzling tail. The larger chunks get deposited like a trail of breadcrumbs along the comet’s orbit – a field of tiny meteoroids in the making.

    Earth experiences multiple meteor showers each year, including northern summer’s Perseids, the calling card of comet Swift–Tuttle, and December’s reliable Geminids, one of the few events associated with an asteroid. Comet Encke has left several debris fields in the inner solar system, giving rise to the Southern and Northern Taurids, meteor showers that peak in October and November, and the Beta Taurids in June and July.

    The suggested hallmark of a meteor shower on Mercury is a regular surge of calcium in the exosphere. Measurements taken by MESSENGER’s Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer have revealed seasonal surges of calcium that occurred regularly over the first nine Mercury years since MESSENGER began orbiting the planet in March 2011.

    The suspected cause of these spiking calcium levels is a shower of small dust particles hitting the planet and knocking calcium-bearing molecules free from the surface. This process, called impact vaporization, continually renews the gases in Mercury’s exosphere as interplanetary dust and meteoroids rain down on the planet. However, the general background of interplanetary dust in the inner solar system cannot, by itself, account for the periodic spikes in calcium. This suggests a periodic source of additional dust, for example, a cometary debris field. Examination of the handful of comets in orbits that would permit their debris to cross Mercury’s orbit indicated that the likely source of the planet’s event is Encke.

    e
    Encke

    “If our scenario is correct, Mercury is a giant dust collector,” said Joseph Hahn, a planetary dynamist in the Austin, Texas, office of the Space Science Institute and coauthor of the study. “The planet is under steady siege from interplanetary dust and then regularly passes through this other dust storm, which we think is from comet Encke.”

    The researchers created detailed computer simulations to test the comet Encke hypothesis. However, the calcium spikes found in the MESSENGER data were offset a bit from the expected results. This shift is probably due to changes in the comet’s orbit over time, due to the gravitational pull of Jupiter and other planets.

    “The variation of Mercury’s calcium exosphere with the planet’s position in its orbit has been known for several years from MESSENGER observations, but the proposal that the source of this variation is a meteor shower associated with a specific comet is novel,” added MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. “This study should provide a basis for searches for further evidence of the influence of meteor showers on the interaction of Mercury with its solar-system environment.”

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 4:41 am on August 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Messenger   

    From NASA: "NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft: 10 Years in Space " 

    NASA

    NASA

    August 1, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    Ten years ago, on August 3, 2004, NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a risky mission that would take the small satellite dangerously close to Mercury’s surface, paving the way for an ambitious study of the planet closest to the Sun.

    NASA Messenger satellite
    The spacecraft traveled 4.9 billion miles (7.9 billion kilometers) — a journey that included 15 trips around the Sun and flybys of Earth once, Venus twice, and Mercury three times — before it was inserted into orbit around its target planet in 2011.

    “We have operated successfully in orbit for more than three Earth years and more than 14 Mercury years as we celebrate this amazing 10th anniversary milestone,” said MESSENGER Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). “The MESSENGER spacecraft operates in one of the most challenging and demanding space environments in our Solar System, and we have met that challenge directly through innovation and hard work, as exemplified by the stunning discoveries and data return achievements. Our only regret is that we have insufficient propellant to operate another 10 years, but we look forward to the incredible science returns planned for the final eight months of the mission.”

    p
    MESSENGER captured the images in the flyover movie during this flight path over Mercury’s north polar region.
    Image Credit: NASA

    MESSENGER is only the second spacecraft sent to Mercury. Mariner 10 flew past it three times in 1974 and 1975 and gathered detailed data on less than half the surface. MESSENGER took advantage of an ingenious trajectory design, lightweight materials, and miniaturization of electronics, all developed in the three decades since Mariner 10 flew past Mercury.

    NASA Mariner 10
    NASA Mariner spacecraft

    “It was quite challenging to design and execute a trajectory that could culminate in Mercury orbit,” said Mission and Spacecraft Systems Engineer Dan O’Shaughnessy, of APL. “Designing an attendant spacecraft that was light enough to carry the necessary propellant to execute such a trajectory with enough room left over for a payload capable of global characterization of the planet is an impressive accomplishment.”

    Additionally, he said, “the team’s concept of operations that streamlines planning while optimizing the use of our payload — despite substantial thermal and power constraints — is an amazing feat.”

    MESSENGER Deputy Principal Investigator Larry Nittler, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said that the mission has rewritten scientists’ understanding of the planet “and given us plenty of surprises.”

    “Geochemical measurements have revealed a surface poor in iron, but rich in moderately volatile elements such as sulfur and sodium,” said Nittler. “These results rule out some long-standing theories put forward to explain Mercury’s anomalously high density compared with the other planets in the inner solar system,” he explained. “Maps of elemental abundances show that the interior is highly chemically heterogeneous, providing important clues to the early geological history of the planet.”

    “MESSENGER observations have also shown that Mercury’s surface was shaped by volcanic activity, identified unique landforms shaped by loss of volatile materials, and confirmed the presence of large amounts of water ice protected from the Sun’s heat within permanently shadowed impact craters near the planet’s poles, said Nittler

    strip
    MESSENGER: 10 Years in Space, By the Numbers Image Credit: NASA

    “We have found that the complex interplay of the interplanetary magnetic field with that of Mercury results in a remarkably dynamic electromagnetic environment surrounding the planet, including unexplained bursts of electrons and highly variable distributions of different elements in the thin exosphere,” Nittler added. “Over the next few months, MESSENGER will observe Mercury at lower altitudes and thus smaller spatial scales than ever before, and this is sure to result both in exciting scientific discoveries and new puzzles about our solar system’s enigmatic innermost planet.”

    In celebration of the 10th anniversary of its launch, the MESSENGER team has released a movie acquired during an early stage of MESSENGER’s low-altitude campaign. The movie provides a bird’s-eye view of what the spacecraft sees as it flies over the planet at close range and was assembled from 214 images taken by the narrow-angle camera (NAC) on June 8, 2014. The NAC’s field of view looked toward the horizon along the direction of MESSENGER’s motion as the probe crossed the terminator into night. [Sorry, no video present]

    “This view is what a traveler on the MESSENGER spacecraft might see during low-altitude operations in the coming year,” noted MESSENGER Co-Investigator Scott Murchie of APL. “During the final phase of its mission, MESSENGER’s science instruments will use low-altitude operations like this to explore the surface and subsurface of Mercury at unprecedented resolution.”

    The images have resolutions ranging from 21 to 45 meters/pixel. Higher-resolution images of Mercury’s surface are possible if the camera is pointed directly below the spacecraft rather than looking to the horizon, and such operations will be the routine approach for low-altitude imaging in the coming year. The movie starts in the far north, east of the large crater Gaudí, passes over two unnamed craters just north of the crater Yoshikawa, over the large impact basin Lismer, north of the crater Van Dijck, and ends in the plains between the craters Nizami and Jókai. Many craters in this polar region are believed to host water ice in their permanently shadowed interiors. (See photo strip of flyover)

    “Our spacecraft team is delighted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of MESSENGER’s launch,” adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In the past decade, observations by our resilient probe have deepened our understanding of both rocky planets and the dynamics of the inner heliosphere. As the new video demonstrates, however, some of the most exciting observations from the mission are still to come. We can expect new surprises as we view the innermost planet and its environment from closer range than ever before achieved by spacecraft.”

    See the full article, , here.

    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 Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.


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