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  • richardmitnick 3:23 pm on February 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA, New Bedrest Adventure Adds Artificial Gravity   

    From ESA: New Bedrest Adventure Adds Artificial Gravity 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner
    European Space Agency

    2 February 2016
    No writer credit found

    The human body is made for living on Earth – take away the constant pull of gravity and muscles and bones begin to waste away. Living in space is hard on astronauts and ways must be found to keep them fit and safe.

    ESA and NASA are planning to confine human subjects to bed for 60 days in 2017 in Cologne, Germany to probe the effects of spaceflight, with periods in a centrifuge to test if artificial gravity can keep them healthy.

    Bedrest studies offer a way of testing measures to counter some of the negative aspects of living in space. Volunteers are kept in beds with the head end tilted 6° below the horizontal. For 60 days one of the subject’s shoulders must be touching the bed at all times.

    As blood flows to the head and muscle is lost from underuse, researchers can investigate changes and test techniques from diet to physical exercise.

    Human centrifuge for artificial gravity

    The study will be conducted at the DLR German Aerospace Center’s :envihab flagship site in Cologne. Built from the ground up to research the human body under spaceflight conditions, it allows researchers to change almost every aspect of the environment, including humidity, daylight and temperature.

    ESA and DLR have already run their first study – spare a thought for the 12 brave volunteers who finished 60 days in bed last November – but this one will be the first to use the facility’s centrifuge. By spinning the subjects, the blood is encouraged to flow back towards the feet.

    The advantage of artificial gravity is that it has the potential of reducing most of the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body in one go.

    :envihab’s centrifuge can adjust the centre of spin so that subjects can be spun around their heads or chests. Changing the position could have far-reaching consequences for rehabilitation but, as this is a new domain, nobody knows yet.

    Jennifer Ngo-Anh, leading ESA’s human research, says, “I am happy to start this new bedrest study with our friends and colleagues from NASA, our first in 10 years. This study begins a series of bedrest studies focusing on artificial gravity, making use of the ESA-built centrifuges in Cologne and at MEDES in Toulouse, France.

    “This exciting research platform offers scientists around the world a way to collect results and contribute to long-duration missions to the Moon, Mars and even beyond.”

    The results are helping astronaut physicians to design better ways for astronauts to keep fit, but the knowledge is also directly applicable to bedridden people on Earth.

    Scientists are invited to submit research proposals via this link. The letter of intent is due by 15 February, with a workshop at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC, on 22 February.

    DLR Bloc

    NASA image

    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 9:27 am on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA, Space Shuttle and Centaur   

    From ars technica: “A deathblow to the Death Star: The rise and fall of NASA’s Shuttle-Centaur” 

    Ars Technica
    ars technica

    Oct 9, 2015
    Emily Carney

    In January 1986, astronaut Rick Hauck approached his STS-61F crew four months before their mission was scheduled to launch. The shuttle Challenger was set to deploy the Ulysses solar probe on a trajectory to Jupiter, utilizing a liquid-fueled Centaur G-Prime stage. While an upcoming launch should be an exciting time for any astronaut, Hauck’s was anything but optimistic. As he spoke to his crew, his tone was grave. He couldn’t recall the exact quote in a 2003 Johnson Space Center (JSC) oral history, but the message remained clear.

    “NASA is doing business different from the way it has in the past. Safety is being compromised, and if any of you want to take yourself off this flight, I will support you.”

    Hauck wasn’t just spooked by the lax approach that eventually led to the Challenger explosion. Layered on top of that concern was the planned method of sending Ulysses away from Earth. The Centaur was fueled by a combustible mix of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, and it would be carried to orbit inside the shuttle’s payload bay.

    The unstoppable shuttle

    Hauck’s words may have seemed shocking, but they were prescient. In the early 1980s, the space shuttle seemed unstoppable. Technically called the US Space Transportation System program, the shuttle was on the verge of entering what was being called its “Golden Age” in 1984. The idea of disaster seemed remote. As experience with the craft grew, nothing seemed to have gone wrong (at least nothing the public was aware of). It seemed nothing could go wrong.

    In 1985, the program enjoyed a record nine successful spaceflights, and NASA was expected to launch a staggering 15 missions in 1986. The manifest for 1986 was beyond ambitious, including but not limited to a Department of Defense mission into a polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the deployment of the Hubble telescope to low Earth orbit, and the delivery of two craft destined for deep space: Galileo and Ulysses.

    The space shuttle had been touted as part space vehicle and part “cargo bus,” something that would make traveling to orbit routine. The intense schedule suggested it would finally fulfill the promise that had faded during the wait for its long-delayed maiden flight in April 1981. As astronaut John Young, who commanded that historic first flight, stated in his book Forever Young, “When we finished STS-1, it was clear we had to make the space shuttle what we hoped it could be—a routine access-to-space vehicle.”

    To meet strict deadlines, however, safety was starting to slide. Following the last test flight (STS-4, completed in July 1982), crews no longer wore pressure suits during launch and reentry, making shuttle flights look as “routine” as airplane rides. The shuttle had no ejection capability at the time, so its occupants were committed to the launch through the bitter end.

    Yet by mid-1985, the space shuttle program had already experienced several near-disasters. Critics of the program had long fretted over the design of the system, which boasted two segmented solid rocket boosters and an external tank. The boosters were already noted to have experienced “blow by” in the O-rings of their joints, which could leak hot exhaust out the sides of the structure. It was an issue that would later come to the forefront in a horrific display during the Challenger disaster.

    But there were other close calls that the public was largely unaware of. In late July 1985, the program had experienced an “Abort to Orbit” condition during the launch of STS-51F, commanded by Gordon Fullerton. A center engine had failed en route to space, which should normally call for the shuttle’s immediate return. Instead, a quick call was made by Booster Systems Engineer Jenny Howard to “inhibit main engine limits,” which may have prevented another engine from failing, possibly saving the orbiter Challenger and its seven-man crew. (The mission did reach orbit, but a lower one than planned.)


    download mp4 video here.
    Howard makes the call to push the engines past their assigned limits.

    People who followed things closely recognized the problems. The “Space Shuttle” section of Jane’s Spaceflight Directory 1986 (which was largely written the year before) underscored the risky nature of the early program: “The narrow safety margins and near disasters during the launch phase are already nearly forgotten, save by those responsible for averting actual disaster.”
    The push for Shuttle-Centaur

    All of those risks existed when the shuttle was simply carrying an inert cargo to orbit. Shuttle-Centaur, the high-energy solution intended to propel Galileo and Ulysses into space, was anything but inert.

    Shuttle-Centaur was born from a desire to send heavier payloads on a direct trajectory to deep space targets from America’s flagship space vehicles.

    6
    Centaur-2A upper stage of an Atlas IIA

    The Centaur rocket was older than NASA itself. According to a 2012 NASA History article, the US Air Force teamed up with General Dynamics/Astronautics Corp. to develop a rocket stage that could be carried to orbit and then ignite to propel heavier loads into space. In 1958 the proposal was accepted by the government’s Advanced Research Products Agency, and the upper stage that would become Centaur began its development.

    The first successful flight of a Centaur (married to an Atlas booster) was made on November 27, 1963. While the launch vehicle carried no payload, it did demonstrate that a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen upper stage worked. In the years since, the Centaur has helped propel a wide variety of spacecraft to deep-space destinations. Both Voyagers 1 and 2 received a much-needed boost from their Centaur stages en route to the Solar System’s outer planets and beyond.

    NASA Voyager 1
    Voyager 1

    General Dynamics was tasked with adapting the rocket stage so it could be taken to orbit on the shuttle. A Convair/General Dynamics poster from this period read enthusiastically, “In 1986, we’re going to Jupiter…and we need your help.” The artwork on the poster appeared retro-futuristic, boasting a spacecraft propelled by a silvery rocket stage that looked like something out of a sci-fi fantasy novel or Omni magazine. In the distance, a space shuttle—payload bay doors open—hovered over an exquisite Earth-scape.

    2
    General Dynamics’ artistic rendering of Shuttle-Centaur, with optimistic text about a 1986 target date for launch.
    The San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives on Flickr.

    The verbiage from a 1984 paper titled Shuttle Centaur Project Perspective, written by Edwin T. Muckley of NASA’s Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center, suggested that Jupiter would be the first of many deep-space destinations. Muckley optimistically announced the technology: “It’s expected to meet the demands of a wide range of users including NASA, the DOD, private industry, and the European Space Agency (ESA).”

    The paper went on to describe the two different versions of the liquid-fueled rocket, meant to be cradled inside the orbiters’ payload bays. “The initial version, designated G-Prime, is the larger of the two, with a length of 9.1 m (30 ft.). This vehicle will be used to launch the Galileo and International Solar Polar Missions (ISPM) [later called Ulysses] to Jupiter in May 1986.”

    According to Muckley, the shorter version, Centaur G, was to be used to launch DOD payloads, the Magellan spacecraft to Venus, and TDRSS [tracking and data relay satellite system] missions. He added optimistically, “…[It] is expected to provide launch services well into the 1990s.”

    NASA Magellan
    Magellan

    Dennis Jenkins’ book Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System, the First 100 Missions discussed why Centaur became seen as desirable for use on the shuttle in the 1970s and early 1980s. A booster designed specifically for the shuttle called the Inertial Upper Stage (developed by Boeing) did not have enough power to directly deliver deep-space payloads (this solid stage would be used for smaller satellites such as TDRSS hardware). As the author explained, “First and most important was that Centaur was more powerful and had the ability to propel a payload directly to another planet. Second, Centaur was ‘gentler’—solid rockets had a harsh initial thrust that had the potential to damage the sensitive instruments aboard a planetary payload.”

    However, the Centaur aboard the shuttle also had its drawbacks. First, it required changes in the way the shuttle operated. A crew needed to be reduced in size to four in order to fit a heavier payload and a precipitously thin-skinned, liquid-fueled rocket stage inside a space shuttle’s payload bay. And the added weight meant that the shuttle could only be sent to its lowest possible orbit.

    In addition, during launch, the space shuttles’ main engines (SSMEs) would be taxed unlike any other time in program history. Even with smaller crews and a food-prep galley removed mid-deck, the shuttle’s main engines would have to be throttled up to an unheard-of 109-percent thrust level to deliver the shuttle, payload, and its crew to orbit. The previous “maximum” had been 104 percent.

    But the risks of the shuttle launch were only a secondary concern. “The perceived advantage of the IUS [Inertial Upper Stage] over the Centaur was safety—LH2 [liquid hydrogen] presented a significant challenge,” Jenkins noted. “Nevertheless, NASA decided to accept the risk and go with the Centaur.”

    While a host of unknowns remained concerning launching a volatile, liquid-fueled rocket stage on the back of a space shuttle armed with a liquid-filled tank and two solid rocket boosters, NASA and its contractors galloped full speed toward a May 1986 launch deadline for both spacecraft. The project would be helmed by NASA’s Lewis. It was decided that the orbiters Challenger and Discovery would be modified to carry Centaur (the then-new orbiter Atlantis was delivered with Centaur capability) with launch pad modifications taking place at the Kennedy Space Center and Vandenberg.

    The “Death Star” launches

    The launch plan was dramatic: two shuttles, Challenger and Atlantis, were to be on Pads 39B and 39A in mid-1986, carrying Ulysses and Galileo, each linked to the Shuttle-Centaur. The turnaround was also to be especially quick: these launches would take place within five days of one another.

    The commander of the first shuttle mission, John Young, was known for his laconic sense of humor. He began to refer to missions 61F (Ulysses) and 61G (Galileo) as the “Death Star” missions. He wasn’t entirely joking.

    The thin-skinned Centaur posed a host of risks to the crews. In an AmericaSpace article, space historian Ben Evans pointed out that gaseous hydrogen would periodically have to be “bled off” to keep its tank within pressure limits. However, if too much hydrogen was vented, the payloads would not have enough fuel to make their treks to Jupiter. Time was of the essence, and the crews would be under considerable stress. Their first deployment opportunities would occur a mere seven hours post-launch, and three deployment “windows” were scheduled.

    The venting itself posed its own problems. There was a concern about the position of the stage’s vents, which were located near the exhaust ports for the shuttles’ Auxiliary Power Units—close enough that some worried venting could cause an explosion.

    Another big concern involved what would happen if the shuttle had to dump the stage’s liquid fuel prior to performing a Return-to-Launch-Site (RTLS) abort or a Transatlantic (TAL) abort. There was worry that the fuel would “slosh” around in the payload bay, rendering the shuttle uncontrollable. (There were also worries about the feasibility of these abort plans with a normal shuttle cargo, but that’s another story.)

    These concerns filtered down to the crews. According to Evans, astronaut John Fabian was originally meant to be on the crew of 61G, but he resigned partly due to safety concerns surrounding Shuttle-Centaur. “He spent enough time with the 61G crew to see a technician clambering onto the Centaur with an untethered wrench in his back pocket and another smoothing out a weld, then accidentally scarring the booster’s thin skin with a tool,” the historian wrote. “In Fabian’s mind, it was bad enough that the Shuttle was carrying a volatile booster with limited redundancy, without adding new worries about poor quality control oversight and a lax attitude towards safety.”

    4
    Astronauts John Fabian and Dave Walker pose in front of what almost became their “ride” during a Shuttle-Centaur rollout ceremony in mid-1985.
    NASA/Glenn Research Center

    STS-61F’s commander, Hauck, had also developed misgivings about Shuttle-Centaur. In the 2003 JSC oral history, he bluntly discussed the unforgiving nature of his mission:

    “…[If] you’ve got a return-to-launch-site abort or a transatlantic abort and you’ve got to land, and you’ve got a rocket filled with liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen in the cargo bay, you’ve got to get rid of the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, so that means you’ve got to dump it while you’re flying through this contingency abort. And to make sure that it can dump safely, you need to have redundant parallel dump valves, helium systems that control the dump valves, software that makes sure that contingencies can be taken care of. And then when you land, here you’re sitting with the Shuttle-Centaur in the cargo bay that you haven’t been able to dump all of it, so you’re venting gaseous hydrogen out this side, gaseous oxygen out that side, and this is just not a good idea.”

    Even as late as January 1986, Hauck and his crew were still working out issues with the system’s helium-actuated dump valves. He related, “…[It] was clear that the program was willing to compromise on the margins in the propulsive force being provided by the pressurized helium… I think it was conceded this was going to be the riskiest mission the Shuttle would have flown up to that point.”
    Saved by disaster

    Within weeks, the potential crisis was derailed dramatically by an actual crisis, one that was etched all over the skies of central Florida on an uncharacteristically cold morning. On January 28, 1986, Challenger—meant to hoist Hauck, his crew, Ulysses, and its Shuttle-Centaur in May—was destroyed shortly after its launch, its crew of seven a total loss. On that ill-fated mission, safety had been dangerously compromised, with the shuttle launching following a brutal cold snap that made the boosters’ o-rings inflexible and primed to fail.

    It became clear NASA had to develop a different attitude toward risk management. Keeping risks as low as possible meant putting Shuttle-Centaur on the chopping block. In June 1986, a Los Angeles Times article announced the death-blow to the Death Star.

    “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Thursday canceled development of a modified Centaur rocket that it had planned to carry into orbit aboard the space shuttle and then use to fire scientific payloads to Jupiter and the Sun. NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher said the Centaur ‘would not meet safety criteria being applied to other cargo or elements of the space shuttle system.’ His decision came after urgent NASA and congressional investigations of potential safety problems following the Jan. 28 destruction of the shuttle Challenger 73 seconds after launch.”

    5
    Astronauts Rick Hauck, John Fabian, and Dave Walker pose by a Shuttle-Centaur stage in mid-1985 during a rollout ceremony. Hauck and Fabian both had misgivings about Shuttle-Centaur. The San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives on Flickr.

    After a long investigation and many ensuing changes, the space shuttle made its return to flight with STS-26 (helmed by Hauck) in September 1988. Discovery and the rest of the fleet boasted redesigned solid rocket boosters with added redundancy. In addition, crews had a “bailout” option if something went wrong during launch, and they wore pressure suits during ascent and reentry for the first time since 1982.

    Galileo was successfully deployed from Atlantis (STS-34) using an IUS in October 1989, while Ulysses utilized an IUS and PAM-S (Payload Assist Module) to begin its journey following its deployment from Discovery (STS-41) in October 1990.

    NASA Galileo
    Galileo

    As for Shuttle-Centaur? Relegated to the history books as a “what if,” a model now exists at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It still looks every inch the shiny, sci-fi dream depicted in posters and artists’ renderings back in the 1980s. However, this “Death Star” remains on terra firma, representing what Jim Banke described as the “naive arrogance” of the space shuttle’s Golden Age.

    Additional sources

    Hitt, D., & Smith, H. (2014). Bold they rise: The space shuttle early years, 1972 – 1986. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
    Jenkins, D. R. (2012). Space shuttle: The history of the national space transportation system, the first 100 missions. Cape Canaveral, FL: Published by author.
    Turnill, R. (Ed.). (1986). Jane’s spaceflight directory (2nd ed.). London, England: Jane’s Publishing Company Limited.
    Young, J. W., & Hansen, J. R. (2012). Forever young: A life of adventure in air and space. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.
    Dawson, V., & Bowles, M.D. (2004). Taming liquid hydrogen: The Centaur upper stage rocket, 1958 – 2002. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    See the full article here .

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    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

     
  • richardmitnick 7:53 pm on October 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA   

    From NASA: “NASA Releases Plan Outlining Next Steps in the Journey to Mars” 

    NASA

    NASA

    Oct. 8, 2015

    Stephanie Schierholz
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1100
    stephanie.schierholz@nasa.gov

    1

    NASA is leading our nation and the world on a journey to Mars, and Thursday the agency released a detailed outline of that plan in its report, “NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration.”

    “NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today, we are publishing additional details about our journey to Mars plan and how we are aligning all of our work in support of this goal. In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to discuss the details of our plan with members of Congress, as well as our commercial and our international and partners, many of whom will be attending the International Astronautical Congress next week.”

    The plan can be read online at:

    http://go.nasa.gov/1VHDXxg

    2
    An artist’s depiction of the Earth Reliant, Proving Ground and Earth Independent thresholds, showing key capabilities that will be developed along the way.

    The journey to Mars crosses three thresholds, each with increasing challenges as humans move farther from Earth. NASA is managing these challenges by developing and demonstrating capabilities in incremental steps:

    Earth Reliant exploration is focused on research aboard the International Space Station. From this world-class microgravity laboratory, we are testing technologies and advancing human health and performance research that will enable deep space, long duration missions.

    In the Proving Ground, NASA will learn to conduct complex operations in a deep space environment that allows crews to return to Earth in a matter of days. Primarily operating in cislunar space—the volume of space around the moon featuring multiple possible stable staging orbits for future deep space missions—NASA will advance and validate capabilities required for humans to live and work at distances much farther away from our home planet, such as at Mars.

    Earth Independent activities build on what we learn on the space station and in deep space to enable human missions to the Mars vicinity, possibly to low-Mars orbit or one of the Martian moons, and eventually the Martian surface. Future Mars missions will represent a collaborative effort between NASA and its partners—a global achievement that marks a transition in humanity’s expansion as we go to Mars to seek the potential for sustainable life beyond Earth.

    “NASA’s strategy connects near-term activities and capability development to the journey to Mars and a future with a sustainable human presence in deep space,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters. “This strategy charts a course toward horizon goals, while delivering near-term benefits, and defining a resilient architecture that can accommodate budgetary changes, political priorities, new scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and evolving partnerships.”

    3
    The space station is the only microgravity platform for the long-term testing of new life support and crew health systems, advanced habitat modules, and other technologies needed to decrease reliance on Earth. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, left, and Scott Kelly are pictured here, just before the halfway point of Kelly’s one-year mission on station. Credits: NASA

    NASA is charting new territory, and we will adapt to new scientific discoveries and new opportunities. Our current efforts are focused on pieces of the architecture that we know are needed. In parallel, we continue to refine an evolving architecture for the capabilities that require further investigation. These efforts will define the next two decades on the journey to Mars.

    CHALLENGES FOR SPACE PIONEERS

    Living and working in space require accepting risks—and the journey to Mars is worth the risks. A new and powerful space transportation system is key to the journey, but NASA also will need to learn new ways of operating in space, based on self-reliance and increased system reliability. We will use proving ground missions to validate transportation and habitation capabilities as well as new operational approaches to stay productive in space while reducing reliance on Earth.

    We identify the technological and operational challenges in three categories: transportation, sending humans and cargo through space efficiently, safely, and reliably; working in space, enabling productive operations for crew and robotic systems; and staying healthy, developing habitation systems that provide safe, healthy, and sustainable human exploration. Bridging these three categories are the overarching logistical challenges facing crewed missions lasting up to 1,100 days and exploration campaigns that span decades.

    STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS TO ADDRESS PIONEERING CHALLENGES

    NASA is investing in powerful capabilities and state-of-the-art technologies that benefit both NASA and our industry partners while minimizing overall costs through innovative partnerships. Through our evolvable transportation infrastructure, ongoing spaceflight architecture studies, and rapid prototyping activities, we are developing resilient architecture concepts that focus on critical capabilities across a range of potential missions. We are investing in technologies that provide large returns, and maximizing flexibility and adaptability through commonality, modularity, and reusability.

    On the space station, we are advancing human health and behavioral research for Mars-class missions. We are pushing the state-of-the-art life support systems, printing 3-D parts, and analyzing material handling techniques for in-situ resource utilization. The upcoming eighth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission will launch the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, a capability demonstration for inflatable space habitats.

    With the Space Launch System, Orion crewed spacecraft, and revitalized space launch complex, we are developing core transportation capabilities for the journey to Mars and ensuring continued access for our commercial crew and cargo partners to maintain operations and stimulate new economic activity in low-Earth orbit.

    NASA Orion Spacecraft
    Orion

    This secured U.S. commercial access to low-Earth orbit allows NASA to continue leveraging the station as a microgravity test bed while preparing for missions in the proving ground of deep space and beyond.

    Through the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), we will demonstrate an advanced solar electric propulsion capability that will be a critical component of our journey to Mars.

    NASA ARM Asteroid Redirect Mission satellite
    NASA/ARM

    ARM will also provide an unprecedented opportunity for us to validate new spacewalk and sample handling techniques as astronauts investigate several tons of an asteroid boulder – potentially opening new scientific discoveries about the formation of our solar system and beginning of life on Earth

    We are managing and directing the ground-based facilities and services provided by the Deep Space Network (DSN), Near Earth Network (NEN), and Space Network (SN) – critical communications capabilities that we continue to advance for human and robotic communication throughout the solar system.

    Through our robotic emissaries, we have already been on and around Mars for 40 years, taking nearly every opportunity to send orbiters, landers, and rovers with increasingly complex experiments and sensing systems. These orbiters and rovers have returned vital data about the Martian environment, helping us understand what challenges we may face and resources we may encounter. The revolutionary Curiosity sky crane placed nearly one metric ton – about the size of a small car – safely on the surface of Mars, but we need to be able to land at least 10 times that weight with humans – and then be able to get them off the surface.

    These challenges are solvable, and NASA and its partners are working on the solutions every day so we can answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth: Was Mars home to microbial life? Is it today? Could it be a safe home for humans one day? What can it teach us about life elsewhere in the cosmos or how life began on Earth? What can it teach us about Earth’s past, present and future?

    The journey to Mars is an historic pioneering endeavor—a journey made possible by a sustained effort of science and exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit with successively more capable technologies and partnerships.

    4
    This table shows high-level, near-, and far-term decisions that must be made to continue on the journey to Mars.

    To learn more about NASA’s journey to Mars, including the agency’s latest scientific exploration of the Red Planet, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

    See the full article here .

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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 9:01 am on October 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA   

    From AAAS: “Venus and a bizarre metal asteroid are leading destinations for low-cost NASA missions” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    30 September 2015
    Eric Hand

    Venus is back on NASA’s agenda. Today, NASA winnowed down the contenders for the agency’s next low-cost planetary science mission. Five finalists were announced from among 27 proposals in Discovery, a competitive mission line with a $500 million cost cap, and two of them are missions to Venus, not visited by a NASA spacecraft since 1994. The other three finalists would study asteroids.

    “It sends a very positive message that it’s time to go back to Venus,” says Lori Glaze, a planetary scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the leader of one of the two Venus mission proposals.

    Typically, NASA picks just three finalists in its Discovery competitions, which take place every few years. But this time the agency may choose two winners instead of the usual one, says Michael New, Discovery program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The two winners’ development and launch would be staggered. “It depends on what our budgets in the out years look like,” he says. “Based on what we’ve seen to date, it looks like we’ll be able to do two.” Each of the five finalists will now get up to $3 million to pursue a more detailed proposal for the final selection about a year from now.

    The five finalists are:

    VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR Topography and Spectroscopy) a mission to map Venus’ surface with radar;
    Psyche, a mission to explore an asteroid that could be made up almost entirely of iron and nickel;
    Lucy, which would tour five Trojan asteroids, which follow the orbit of Jupiter either ahead or behind the giant planet;
    NEOCam (Near Earth Object Camera), which aims to discover 10 times more near-Earth objects than have been discovered to date; and
    DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging), which would study the chemical composition of Venus’ atmosphere during a 63-minute descent.

    VERITAS and DAVINCI represent a vindication for Venus scientists in the United States, who have not sent a probe to the planet since the Magellan orbiter mission ended in 1994.

    NASA Magellan
    Magellan

    Radar, the primary tool of VERITAS, allows scientists to see through Venus’ thick clouds. Able to map the surface at higher resolution than Magellan, the spacecraft should be able to add to the mounting evidence Venus’s surface is dotted with active volcanoes. The mission is led by Suzanne Smrekar, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    DAVINCI would drop a spherical metal ball through the Venusian atmosphere. Studded with sensors, the probe would relay its measurements to Earth via the carrier spacecraft. It would also make the first images of Venus’ surface since the Soviet Venera landers of the 1970s. Glaze says her team will aim DAVINCI at Venus’ “tesserae,” regions of crumpled terrain that are thought to be the remnants of continents. “They’re really mysterious — we don’t know what they are,” she says. “We’ll be taking pictures of these for the first time.”

    Psyche’s destination, a metallic asteroid of the same name, “is not just another asteroid,” says principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University, Tempe. She says the body, which appears to be 90% iron and nickel, may be the remnant core of a planetesimal that was stripped of its mantle and crust by an impact. “This is the only way that humankind will ever be able to visit a core,” she says. She says that Psyche is also suspected to be strongly magnetic. “It could almost be like a little fridge magnet in space,” she says. The mission would launch in 2020 and arrive in 2026 for a year of science.

    Lucy, the mission to five Trojan asteroids, would launch in 2021 and arrive in 2027 to visit three of them, says principal investigator Hal Levison, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. After those flybys, Lucy would swoop back by Earth and return to the vicinity of Jupiter’s orbit to visit the last two asteroids, which orbit each other as a binary. While other asteroid types are represented in meteorite collections, no Trojan-derived meteorites have ever been conclusively identified, leaving their compositions a mystery. “We’ve never been able to study them,” Levison says. Some of the Trojans are believed to be captured Kuiper Belt objects, comet-like objects from beyond the orbit of Neptune that formed in cold conditions and have not changed much in the past 4.5 billion years. Levison says the Lucy mission thus offers a chance to study the solar system’s building blocks.

    NEOCam, led by Amy Mainzer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is a space telescope that would find near-Earth asteroids from a position 1 million kilometers from Earth. In 2005, Congress mandated that NASA identify 90% of objects larger than 140 meters across by the year 2020. NASA will almost certainly fail to meet that mandate if it can only search for these potentially hazardous bodies from the ground. “NEOCam was selected because of its science,” says New. “The fact that it will also help us fill our congressional mandate was considered an extra benefit.”

    NEOCam competed in the last round of Discovery, but it had some competition from outside NASA: the B612 foundation. The nonprofit organization, dedicated to finding hazardous asteroids, said it would raise private money to build its own space telescope, Sentinel. But B612 has struggled to meet its fundraising goals and scheduled objectives, and, earlier this week, it was reported that NASA had ended a cooperative agreement with B612. Hap McSween, a planetary scientist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, says NEOCam’s selection is not unrelated to the end of the B612 agreement. “The choice of NEOCam here is perhaps a reflection of harsh reality,” McSween says. “If this is going to happen, NASA is going to have to pay for it.”

    Of the 27 Discovery proposals that were evaluated (28 were proposed in February but one was non-compliant), the vast majority were missions to study so-called “small bodies.” Three aimed to study the small moons of Mars, four to use space telescopes (like NEOCam) to study small bodies, and 11 to visit comets and asteroids. There were four proposals to target Venus, two proposals that targeted the Moon, and one to Mars. One proposal would study Jupiter’s moon Io.

    Just one group proposed to venture beyond the orbit of Jupiter—to Saturn’s moon Enceladus. That may be because solar power is scarce at those distances. At the time of the last Discovery competition in 2012, NASA was developing a new plutonium-238 isotope power source, called the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator. But the project was canceled in 2013. New says that NASA is now trying to revamp an older radioisotope generator, like the one riding on the Mars rover Curiosity, which could be offered in future Discovery competitions.

    Planetary scientists hail Discovery, which began in 1996 with the launch of NEAR Shoemaker, an asteroid probe, as one of the most cost-effective mission lines at NASA. But in recent years, NASA has struggled to sustain the planned two-to-three year rhythm of Discovery launches. In 2016, the latest Discovery mission, called InSight, will head to Mars, 5 years after the previous Discovery launch, of the moon mission GRAIL. McSween says that NASA’s goal of selecting two winners next year may be aimed at getting the program back on track. “This may well be a response that they are trying to keep a regular cadence in the Discovery program,” he says.

    See the full article here .

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 10:55 am on September 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA,   

    From NASA: “NASA Selects Science Education Partners for STEM Agreements” 

    NASA

    NASA

    Sept. 25, 2015
    Dwayne Brown / Karen Northon
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726 / 202-358-1540
    dwayne.brown@nasa.gov

    Editor: Karen Northon
    karen.northon@nasa.gov

    “NASA seeks to innovate, explore, discover, and inspire and these selections build upon a legacy of excellence from our science education community,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of SMD. “STEM education is the enabler of future space exploration and these awards, together with efforts in NASA’s Office of Education and other partners, will advance STEM efforts in this country, improve U.S. scientific literacy, and help to inspire our nation.”

    With a portfolio of approximately 100 science missions, NASA’s commitment to education places special emphasis on increasing the effectiveness, sustainability and efficient utilization of SMD science discoveries and learning experiences. Goals also include enabling STEM education, improving U.S. scientific literacy, advancing national educational goals, and leveraging science activities through partnerships.

    The agency’s Office of Education in Washington supports the work of SMD by coordinating projects for students, faculty and institutions that broaden the base of those who compete for NASA research awards. All agreements will be evaluated through NASA’s Office of Education.

    “The Office of Education will assist in working with the selectees for new approaches given their capabilities and priorities,” said Donald James, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Education. “Their efforts will help create and sustain the scientific and engineering workforce of the future.”

    NASA’s education programs help inspire and support students from elementary school to college level, and beyond. The agency has provided lifelong learners around the globe the information to become science and tech-literate, a key asset being the inspiration NASA missions provide.

    “It’s an incredible time for science, and NASA is leading the way,” said Grunsfeld. “People crave inspiration and heroes more than ever, and science reminds us of what we’re capable of achieving.”

    1
    Locations across the nation of the 27 Science Education Partners selected by NASA for STEM Agreements
    Credits: NASA

    The organizations selected to enter into negotiations leading to cooperative agreements are:

    Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission – Huntsville, AL. Deborah Barnhart, Principal Investigator for “Space Racers: Educating the Next Generation of Explorers about NASA’s Missions”

    American Museum of Natural History – New York City, NY. Rosamond Kinzler, Principal Investigator for “OpenSpace: An Engine for Dynamic Visualization of Earth and Space Science for Informal Education and Beyond”

    Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ. Linda Elkins-Tanton, Principal Investigator for “NASA SMD Exploration Connection”

    Challenger Center for Space Science Education – Washington, DC. Stephanie Hall, Principal Investigator for “CodeRed: My STEM Mission”

    Gulf of Maine Research Institute – Portland, ME. Leigh Peake, Principal Investigator for “Real World, Real Science: Using NASA Data to Explore Weather and Climate”

    Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – Arlington, VA. Theresa Schwerin, Principal Investigator for “NASA Earth Science Education Collaborative”

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Pasadena, CA. Michelle Viotti, Principal Investigator for “NASA Active and Blended Learning Ecosystem (N-ABLE)”

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Greenbelt, MD. C. Alex Young, Principal Investigator for “Heliophysics Education Consortium: Through the Eyes of NASA to the Hearts and Minds of the Nation”

    National Institute of Aerospace Associates – Hampton, VA. Shelley Spears, Principal Investigator for “NASA eClips 4D Multi-Dimensional Strategies to Promote Understanding of NASA Science: Design, Develop, Disseminate and Discover”

    Northern Arizona University – Flagstaff, AZ. Joelle Clark, Principal Investigator for “PLANETS (Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science)”

    Science Museum of Minnesota – Saint Paul, MN. Paul Martin, Principal Investigator for “NASA Space and Earth Informal Science Education Network (SEISE-Net)”

    SETI Institute – Mountain View, CA. Edna DeVore, Principal Investigator for “Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts”

    SETI Institute –Mountain View, CA. Dana Backman, Principal Investigator for “Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA)”

    Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville – Edwardsville, IL. Pamela Gay, “CosmoQuest: Engaging Students & the Public through a Virtual Research Facility”

    Space Science Institute – Boulder, CA. Paul Dusenbery, Principal Investigator for “NASA@ My Library: A National Earth and Space Science Initiative that Connects NASA, Public Libraries and their Communities”

    Space Telescope Science Institute – Baltimore, MD. Denise Smith, Principal Investigator for “NASA’s Universe of Learning: An Integrated Astrophysics STEM Learning and Literacy Program”

    University of Alaska, Fairbanks – Fairbanks, AK. Elena Sparrow, Principal Investigator for “Impacts and Feedbacks of a Warming Arctic: Engaging Learners in STEM using NASA and GLOBE Assets”

    University Of Colorado, Boulder – Boulder, CO. Douglas Duncan, Principal Investigator for “Enhancement of Astronomy and Earth Science Teaching Using High Resolution Immersive Environments”

    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, MI. Jon Miller, Principal Investigator for “Demonstration of the Feasibility of Improving Scientific Literacy and Lifelong Learning through a Just-in-Time Dissemination Process”

    University of Texas, Austin – Austin, TX. Wallace Fowler, Principal Investigator for “STEM Enhancement in Earth Science”

    University of Toledo – Toledo, OH. Kevin Czajkowski, Principal Investigator for “Mission Earth: Fusing GLOBE with NASA Assets to Build Systemic Innovation in STEM Education”

    University Of Washington, Seattle – Seattle, WA. Robert Winglee, Principal Investigator for “Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP)”

    Wayne County Intermediate School District – Wayne, MI. David Bydlowski, Principal Investigator for “AEROKATS and ROVER Education Network (AREN)”

    WGBH Educational Foundation – Boston, MA. Rachel Connolly, Principal Investigator for “NASA and WGBH: Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms”

    Of the 27, three organizations are selected to support the science education associated with the upcoming 2017 total solar eclipse over North America:

    Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. – Tucson, AZ. Matthew Penn, Principal Investigator for “Geographically Distributed Citizen Scientist Training for the 2017 Citizen CATE Experiment”

    Exploratorium – San Francisco, CA. Robert Semper, Principal Investigator for “Navigating the Path of Totality”

    Southwestern Community College – Sylva, NC. Lynda Parlett, Principal Investigator for “Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative: Bridging the Gaps in the K-12 to Post-Secondary Education Pathway”

    Last Updated: Sept. 25, 2015
    Editor: Jim Wilson

    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 2:43 pm on September 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA,   

    From Astronomy: “NASA satellites help explain coronal heating” 

    Astronomy magazine

    Astronomy Magazine

    August 26, 2015
    NASA

    Scientists have directly observed an essential part of the process for how magnetic waves in the Sun heat the solar plasma.

    1
    This image taken October 19, 2013, shows a filament on the Sun — a giant ribbon of relatively cool solar material threading through the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. The individual threads that make up the filament are clearly discernible in this photo. This image was captured by the Solar Optical Telescope onboard JAXA/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory. Researchers studied this filament to learn more about how material gets heated in the corona. JAXA/NASA/Hinode

    Modern telescopes and satellites have helped us measure the blazing hot temperatures of the Sun from afar. Mostly, the temperatures follow a clear pattern: The Sun produces energy by fusing hydrogen in its core, so the layers surrounding the core generally get cooler as you move outwards — with one exception. Two NASA missions have just made a significant step toward understanding why the corona — the outermost wispy layer of the Sun’s atmosphere — is hundreds of times hotter than the lower photosphere, which is the Sun’s visible surface.

    Researchers led by Joten Okamoto of Nagoya University in Japan and Patrick Antolin of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan observed a long-hypothesized mechanism for coronal heating in which magnetic waves are converted into heat energy. Past studies have suggested that magnetic waves in the Sun — Alfvénic waves — have enough energy to heat up the corona. The question has been how that energy is converted to heat.

    “For over 30 years, scientists hypothesized a mechanism for how these waves heat the plasma,” said Antolin. “An essential part of this process is called resonant absorption, and we have now directly observed resonant absorption for the first time.”

    Resonant absorption is a complicated wave process in which repeated waves add energy to the solar material, a charged gas known as plasma, the same way that a perfectly timed repeated push on a swing can make it go higher. Resonant absorption has signatures that can be seen in material moving side to side and front to back.

    To see the full range of motions, the team used observations from NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory to successfully identify signatures of the process. The researchers then correlated the signatures to material being heated to nearly corona-level temperatures. These observations told researchers that a certain type of plasma wave was being converted into a more turbulent type of motion, leading to lots of friction and electric currents, heating the solar material.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft
    NASA IRIS

    JAXA HINODE spacecraft
    JAXA Hinode

    The researchers focused on a solar feature called a filament. Filaments are huge tubes of relatively cool plasma held high up in the corona by magnetic fields. Researchers developed a computer model of how the material inside filament tubes moves, and then looked for signatures of these motions with Sun-observing satellites.

    2
    A filament stretches across the lower half of the Sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on February 10, 2015. Filaments are huge tubes of relatively cool solar material held high up in the corona by magnetic fields. Researchers simulated how the material moves in filament threads to explore how a particular type of motion could contribute to the extremely hot temperatures in the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona. NASA/SDO

    “Through numerical simulations, we show that the observed characteristic motion matches well what is expected from resonant absorption,” said Antolin.

    The signatures of these motions appear in 3-D, making them difficult to observe without the teamwork of several missions. Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope was used to make measurements of motions that appear, from our perspective, to be up and down or side to side, a perspective that scientists call “plane of sky.” The resonant absorption model relies on the fact that the plasma contained in a filament tube moves in a specific wave motion called an Alfvénic kink wave, caused by magnetic fields. Alfvénic kink waves in filaments can cause motions in the plane of sky, so evidence of these waves came from observations by Hinode’s extremely high-resolution optical telescope.

    NASA Solar Optical Telescope
    NASA Solar Optical Telescope on Hinode

    More complicated were the line-of-sight observations — line of sight means motions in the third dimension, toward and away from us. The resonant absorption process can convert the Alfvénic kink wave into another Alfvénic wave motion. To see this conversion process, scientists need to simultaneously observe motions in the plane of sky and the line-of-sight direction. This is where IRIS comes in. IRIS takes a special type of data called spectra. For each image taken by IRIS’s ultraviolet telescope, it also creates a spectrum, which breaks down the light from the image into different wavelengths.

    Analyzing separate wavelengths can provide scientists with additional details such as whether the material is moving toward or away from the viewer. Much like a siren moving toward you sounds different from one moving away, light waves can become stretched or compressed if their source is moving toward or away from an observer. This slight change in wavelength is known as the Doppler effect. Scientists combined their knowledge of the Doppler effect with the expected emissions from a stationary filament to deduce how the filaments were moving in the line of sight.

    “It’s the combination of high-resolution observations in all three regimes — time, spatial, and spectral — that enabled us to see these previously unresolved phenomena,” said Adrian Daw from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Using both the plane-of-sky observations from Hinode and line-of-sight observations from IRIS, researchers discovered the characteristic wave motions consistent with their model of this possible coronal heating mechanism. What’s more, they also observed material heating up in conjunction with the wave motions, further confirming that this process is related to heating in the solar atmosphere.
    “We would see the filament thread disappear from the filter that is sensitive to cool plasma and reappear in a filter for hotter plasma,” said Bart De Pontieu from Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, California.

    In addition, comparison of the two wave motions showed a time delay known as a phase difference. The researchers’ model predicted this phase difference, thus providing some of the strongest evidence that the team was correctly understanding their observations.

    Though resonant absorption plays a key role in the complete process, it does not directly cause heating. The researchers’ simulation showed that the transformed wave motions lead to turbulence around the edges of the filament tubes, which heats the surrounding plasma.

    It seems that resonant absorption is an excellent candidate for the role of an energy transport mechanism, although these observations were taken in the transition region rather than the corona. Researchers believe that this mechanism could be common in the corona as well.

    “Now the work starts to study if this mechanism also plays a role in heating plasma to coronal temperatures,” said De Pontieu.

    With the launch of over a dozen missions in the past 20 years, astronomers’ understanding of the Sun and how it interacts with Earth and the solar system is better than at any time in human history. Heliophysics System Observatory missions are working together to unravel the coronal heating problem and the Sun’s other remaining mysteries.

    3

    This is a simulation of a cross-section of a thread of solar material called a filament hovering in the Sun’s atmosphere. The yellow area is the thread itself, where the material is denser, and the black area is the surrounding, less dense material. The characteristic wave motion leads to complex turbulence around the edges of the yellow thread, which heats the surrounding black material. This model was created with the Aterui supercomputer at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. // NAOJ/Patrick Antolin

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  • richardmitnick 3:07 pm on September 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA,   

    From NYT: “When Congress Puts NASA on Hold, Planets Don’t Wait” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    SEPT. 8, 2015
    DAVID W. BROWN

    1
    Adam Maida

    The United States asks NASA to do an extraordinary amount with very little money. Explore Mars, document climate change, stop doomsday asteroids, find life on Europa — all for less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget. But budget uncertainties on Capitol Hill, including delays in federal appropriations legislation and temporary government shutdowns, measurably harm the American space program. Even the threat of a shutdown can have a far-reaching impact on scientific projects, often in unexpected ways.

    “I keep a standing Google News alert for ‘NASA Budget,’ ‘Federal Budget’ and ‘Government Shutdown,’ ” says Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of NASA’s Osiris-REx mission, in which a spacecraft will fly to an asteroid, study it, grab a piece of it, and then fly back to Earth.

    NASA Osiris-REx
    OSIRIS-REx

    Osiris-REx is set to launch next year, but the federal shutdown in 2013 caused a major schedule slip in the development of a key instrument on the spacecraft, costing taxpayers $1.7 million.

    According to Eric Smith, the program director of the James Webb Space Telescope [JWST], NASA programs develop contingency plans for how hardware can be placed into a safe configuration should, for example, the order for a shutdown be given.

    NASA Webb Telescope
    NASA/JWST

    It was a hard-learned lesson. “In 2013,” he said, “some of our science instruments, including ones from our foreign partners, were in a cryogenic vacuum when the shutdown order came. We were permitted to keep the hardware safe in a cold vacuum state, but could not continue testing.” As a result, the program was able to make up for it, but at a cost.

    Such delays are not trivial events at NASA; everything there is tested, first in isolation and then in aggregate, each part having to prove itself to engineering specifications before being added to a larger rocket or spacecraft, where more tests are conducted to make sure everything works well together. NASA flourishes when it is given a clear goal and the long term support to make it happen. Erratic funding streams add an unstable element to a process where instability means the loss of irreplaceable hardware and the interruption of research.

    Two years ago, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) spacecraft, a $671 million mission to study the composition of the Martian upper atmosphere, sat at Kennedy Space Center ready to go to space, but with no one there to push the button.

    NASA Mars MAVEN
    MAVEN

    Congress and the Obama administration were competing to see who would blink first, but the planets weren’t waiting. If Maven didn’t lift off before the close of its launch window, the position of Mars relative to Earth would force a launch delay of 26 months. This would have had repercussions for Mars missions subsequent to Maven, as well as for scientists awaiting data for study and analysis.

    The launch was saved at the last minute only because of a technicality. The Antideficiency Act, a century-old law that prohibits the federal government from spending money before appropriation (or in excess of it), is the reason that the government shuts down when Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill. Its language is unambiguous, though it does provide an exception for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

    Maven, though ostensibly designed to study the atmosphere of Mars, also contains a powerful telecommunications relay. NASA asserted that the active Mars rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, would be endangered without Maven to augment the aging communications systems on satellites already orbiting Mars.

    NASA Mars Curiosity Rover
    Curiosity

    NASA Mars Opportunity Rover
    Opportunity

    The government fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. To avoid another shutdown this year, Congress will most likely pass continuing resolutions to keep things running while differences are hashed out. Although such stopgap measures authorize spending at current levels, NASA’s funding is capped at whichever budget is lower — the current one, or the president’s proposed budget. Congress has been good to NASA in recent years, at least with respect to planetary exploration, ultimately restoring most of the funding cuts proposed annually by the White House.

    But even a continuing resolution will be a problem for the planetary science division, which is responsible for Osiris-REx, the rovers on Mars and the New Horizons spacecraft, which is still sending back data from its mission to Pluto.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    New Horizons

    Based on the proposed budget, funding for the division will immediately drop by approximately $76 million until an actual budget is passed. Something will have to be shut down or postponed.

    In an annual report last year, Paul K. Martin, the inspector general of NASA, reported that “fiscal uncertainties” compounded the problem of the agency’s meeting its already underfunded goals, and “the principal challenge facing NASA leaders in 2015 will be to effectively manage the agency’s varied programs in an uncertain budget environment.” The 2013 annual report said the same thing. So did the 2012 report.

    If the agency is forced to hobble into 2016 on a continuing resolution, haunted by continued budget uncertainties, it’s easy to guess what the inspector general’s next report will say. NASA deserves better than this. We all do.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:38 pm on September 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA,   

    From NASA: “NASA Awards Grants to Expand STEM Education” 

    NASA

    NASA

    Sep. 1, 2015

    Sarah Ramsey
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1694
    sarah.ramsey@nasa.gov

    Jeannette Owens
    Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
    216-433-2990
    jeannette.p.owens@nasa.gov

    NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected nine universities for cooperative agreement awards totaling $3.6 million to create and operate a NASA MUREP Aerospace Academy.

    The universities will receive as much as $160,000 per year for two years and up to $100,000 for a third year. The Aerospace Academies will engage historically underserved and underrepresented students in grades K-12 through hands-on activities that reflect each of NASA’s four mission directorates: Science, Aeronautics, Space Technology and Human Exploration and Operations. The academies will also provide access to NASA technology through an Aerospace Education Laboratory, and encourage families and communities to get involved through the Family Café, an interactive forum with activities, workshops and guest speakers.

    The universities selected for Aerospace Academy grants are:

    California State University, Fresno
    Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland
    Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina
    Hartnell College, Salinas, California
    Morgan State University, Baltimore
    Tennessee State University, Nashville
    Texas State University, San Marcos
    The University of Texas at El Paso
    York College, City University of New York

    MUREP awards promote STEM literacy and enhance and sustain the capability of institutions to perform NASA-related research and education. The goals of the program are to expand the nation’s base for aerospace research and development, increase participation by faculty and students at minority serving institutions, and increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in NASA-related fields awarded to students from minority serving institutions.

    For more information on the award process, visit:

    http://nspires.nasaprs.com

    For more information on NASA’s education programs, please visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/education

    See the full article here.

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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 8:15 pm on August 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA   

    From JPL: “NASA to Study Arctic Climate Change Ecosystem Impacts” 

    JPL

    August 31, 2015
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-0474
    Alan.Buis@jpl.nasa.gov

    Steve Cole
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0918
    Stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

    Rani Gran
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-2483
    rani.c.gran@nasa.gov

    1
    NASA’s ABoVE campaign will combine field work, airborne surveys, satellite data and computer modeling to study the effects of climate change on Arctic and boreal ecosystems, such as this region at the base of the Alaska Range south of Fairbanks. Credit: NASA/Ross Nelson

    As part of a broad effort to study the environmental and societal effects of climate change, NASA has begun a multi-year field campaign to investigate ecological impacts of the rapidly changing climate in Alaska and northwestern Canada, such as the thawing of permafrost, wildfires and changes to wildlife habitats.

    The Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will bring together on-the-ground research in Alaska and northwestern Canada with data collected by NASA airborne instruments, satellites and other agency programs, including the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), and upcoming Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) and NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) missions.

    NASA SMAP
    NASA SMAP

    NASA OCO satellite
    NASA/OCO

    NASA ICESat
    NASA/ICESat

    NASA ISRO SAR satellite
    NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR)

    Over the next decade, scientists from NASA and other public and private organizations will investigate questions about the formidable region that spans about 2.5 million square miles (6.4 million square kilometers).

    “Boreal forests and tundra are critical for understanding the ecological impacts of Earth’s changing climate,” said Jack Kaye, associate director for research in NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “These ecosystems hold a third of the carbon stored on land — in trees, shrubs and the frozen ground of the permafrost. That’s a lot of potential greenhouse gases in play. We need to better understand these ecosystems, and how a warming climate will affect forests, wildlife and communities both regionally and globally.”

    ABoVE includes three project phases and two seasons of intensive airborne surveys. The research activities will be coordinated with other U.S. and Canadian partner organizations. The 21 projects selected for the first phase will investigate topics such as the impacts of wildfire on ecosystems and insect outbreaks on forest health.

    “The region is rapidly changing, and we’ve already seen a lot of that from field measurements and remote sensing,” said Scott Goetz, ABoVE science team lead and deputy director at Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. “It’s an area that’s warming with climate change, and there’s a lot of potential for permafrost degradation, especially with these massive fires burning off the organic soil layer.”

    The field campaign will provide an opportunity to study how Arctic ecosystems respond to the scorching fires on a regional scale. More than 5 million acres in Alaska and 9.7 million acres in Canada have burned so far this year, making 2015 the second most devastating fire year on record for Alaska, with the most intensive three-week period of burning on record, according to Charles Miller, deputy science team lead for ABoVE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    ABoVE researchers will survey Alaska’s interior forests to better determine how much carbon is stored in these remote regions. They’ll investigate the extent and thawing rate of permafrost — soils that have been frozen for hundreds of thousands of years, locking in carbon-rich plant and organic matter.

    “Warming air temperatures can thaw permafrost, which acts like unplugging a deep freezer,” said Peter Griffith, ABoVE chief support scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The vegetation and carbon previously frozen in the soil start to rot and decay — like food in an unplugged freezer — releasing methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This increase in greenhouse gases further warms air temperatures, perpetuating the cycle by causing more thawing and more greenhouse gas release.”

    The ABoVE projects also will study impacts on the wildlife of Alaska and northern Canada, including habitat and migration changes for raptors, songbirds, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and brown bears.

    The socio-ecological impacts of climate change will be a significant focus of the campaign. The Dall sheep study, for example, will examine the effects of their changing habitat on subsistence hunting and tourism. Another research group will work with village residents in the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta of western Alaska to track changes in vegetation, permafrost, fire and lakes.

    “More societal impacts of change will be investigated in future projects, with another call for projects scheduled for 12 to 18 months from now,” Griffith said. “What’s happening in the Arctic is not staying in the Arctic. It certainly matters to the people who live there, but the consequences are far reaching.”

    The ABoVE field campaign’s research agenda was developed through workshops that brought together scientific experts from across the United States and Canada, and builds on ongoing NASA projects including the JPL-managed Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) and Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface (AirMOSS) airborne missions.

    For more information about the ABoVE campaign, visit:

    http://above.nasa.gov/

    NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

    For more information on NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/earth

    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 [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.

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  • richardmitnick 1:00 pm on August 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA, Schlieren imaging   

    From NASA Armstrong: “Schlieren Images Reveal Supersonic Shock Waves” 

    NASA

    NASA

    NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

    Aug. 25, 2015
    Peter Merlin, Public Affairs
    NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

    1
    This schlieren image dramatically displays the shock wave of a supersonic jet flying over the Mojave Desert. Researchers used NASA-developed image processing software to remove the desert background, then combined and averaged multiple frames to produce a clear picture of the shock waves.
    Credits: NASA Photo

    NASA is using a 21st century version of schlieren imagery, invented by a German physicist in 1864, to visualize supersonic flow phenomena with full-scale aircraft in flight.
    Credits: NASA Photo

    NASA researchers in California are using a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique to capture images of shock waves created by supersonic airplanes. Over the past five years scientists from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base and Ames Research Center at Moffett Field have teamed up to demonstrate how schlieren imagery, invented in 1864 by German physicist August Toepler, can be used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena with full-scale aircraft in flight. The results will help engineers to design a quiet supersonic transport. Although current regulations prohibit unrestricted overland supersonic flight in the United States, a clear understanding of the location and relative strength of shock waves is essential for designing future high-speed commercial aircraft.

    Schlieren imaging reveals shock waves due to air density gradient and the accompanying change in refractive index. This typically requires the use of fairly complex optics and a bright light source, and until recently most of the available schlieren imagery of airplanes was obtained from scale model testing in wind tunnels. Acquiring schlieren images of an aircraft in flight is much more challenging. Ground-based systems, using the sun as a light source, have produced good results but because of the distances involved did not have the desired spatial resolution to resolve small-scale shock structures near the aircraft.

    More recently, synthetic schlieren techniques have been developed based on image processing methods. One, called background oriented schlieren (BOS), has been particularly successful in wind tunnel tests. First, researchers obtain an image of a speckled background pattern. Next, they collect a series of images of an object in supersonic flow in front of the same pattern. Shock waves are deduced from distortions of the background pattern resulting from the change in refractive index due to density gradients. This method requires very simple optics and a variety of background patterns, including natural ones, may be used. The complexity with this method is in the image processing and not the hardware or positioning, thus making BOS an attractive candidate for obtaining high-spatial-resolution imaging of shock waves in flight.

    In April 2011 the first phase of air-to-air flight-testing at Armstrong, dubbed AirBOS 1, showed positive results and proved the feasibility of using the BOS technique for imaging supersonic shock waves created by a NASA F-18. A high-speed camera on the underside of a NASA Beechcraft B200 King Air captured 109 frames per second while the supersonic target aircraft passed several thousand feet underneath in straight-and-level flight at speeds up to Mach 1.09 (Mach 1 is the speed of sound, which varies with altitude, but is about 768 mph at sea level). Researchers acquired imagery with a relatively simple system consisting of a laptop with a frame grabber and using natural desert vegetation as the speckled background pattern, a method the team dubbed “Tumbleweed Tech.”

    “Air-to-air schlieren is an important flight-test technique for locating and characterizing, with high spatial resolution, shock waves emanating from supersonic vehicles,” said Dan Banks, Armstrong’s principal investigator on the project. “It allows us to see the shock wave geometry in the real atmosphere as the target aircraft flies through temperature and humidity gradients that cannot be duplicated in wind tunnels.”

    “After much planning and a little luck we were able to acquire in-flight images and process the data, achieving results the first time out,” said J.T. Heineck, the NASA Ames principal investigator who originally proposed the idea of using the background oriented air-to-air technique. Ed Schairer, Heineck’s colleague at Ames, where a provisional copyright for AirBOS technology and related flow visualization applications has been filed, wrote the code with which these images were processed. This technique shows not only shock waves but all density changes including vortices and engine plume effects. Future work may include imaging subsonic aircraft flow fields.

    2
    A T-38C from the Air Force Test Pilot School served as a target for NASA’s schlieren imaging system. Credits: U.S. Air Force Photo

    The next step was to advance the technology, optimize it wherever possible, and determine the feasibility of using AirBOS to obtain imagery beyond the top-down view. The second AirBOS campaign conducted flights in September and October 2014 at Armstrong, and involved both NASA F-18 and F-15 aircraft as targets. For this series, Heineck designed an imaging system with higher resolution and faster frame rate cameras in order to acquire more images per pass and then average the results from each image.

    NASA technicians installed the two state-of-the-art high-definition, high-speed cameras in the King Air in addition to the original AirBOS equipment. Images from the new cameras represented a dramatic improvement over those produced by the original system. The use of different lens and altitude combinations and knife-edge aircraft maneuvers by the pilot of the target aircraft provided the opportunity to obtain side-on images.

    Researchers continued to refine and improve techniques during the AirBOS 3 series in February 2015. Supersonic target aircraft included a NASA F-15 anda T-38C from the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards. Air Force test pilots Maj. Jonathan Orso and Maj. Jeremy Vanderhal spent several weeks working with NASA to plan the T-38 flights and determine how to precisely align the jet’s flight path beneath that of the B200 to capture the schlieren images.

    Synchronizing the flight paths of the supersonic T-38 and subsonic King Air required complex integration of the airplanes’ navigation systems to ensure that both would be properly positioned over the background target area.

    “Safely coordinating two very dissimilar aircraft, operating in close proximity and with a rapid closure rate required a total team effort between NASA, the 412th Test Wing, and TPS,” Orso said.

    To obtain detailed images, Orso and Vanderhal had to fly the T-38 directly underneath the King Air. According to Vanderhal, “These passes posed a unique safety and technical challenge due to the small window of time during which the camera could view the target aircraft.”

    Following each flight the AirBOS team used NASA-developed image processing software to remove the desert background and reveal rough shock wave images. Next, researchers combined and averaged multiple frames to produce clean and clear images of the shock waves.

    The AirBOS effort was funded by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and managed by the Commercial Supersonic Technology (CST) project in the directorate’s Advanced Air Vehicle Program. CST Project goals include providing research and leadership to enable the development of a new generation of supersonic civil transport aircraft. The project’s near term objective is to develop the tools and integrated concepts that will enable demonstration of overland supersonic flight with acceptable sonic boom impacts. The current regulatory prohibition against flight that produces a sonic boom over populated areas is viewed as the principal barrier to future supersonic civil aviation.

    “It is hoped that the AirBOS images can be used to validate or improve current design techniques,” said Brett Pauer, CST project support manager at Armstrong, “In addition, this research technique may be used to validate design models of future prototype and demonstrator low-boom aircraft.”

    According to Tom Jones, CST Project’s associate project manager for flight, “The end goal is to facilitate the ability for a new speed regime and open a new commercial market for civil transportation.”

    See the full article here.

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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.

     
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