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  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on November 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Two centaur missions proposed to NASA’s Discovery program", , , , , Proposed Centaurus mission, Proposed Chimera mission, Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Two centaur missions proposed to NASA’s Discovery program” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    November 22nd, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Artist’s depiction of Chiron, the largest known centaur, surrounded by a ring. Image Credit: European Southern Observatory

    Two separate proposals to study centaurs have been submitted for the latest round of NASA’s Discovery missions. The Discovery program funds solar system exploration missions in the $1 billion range, including launch and flight costs.

    Once thought to be asteroid-comet hybrids, centaurs, which are icy planetesimals that orbit between Jupiter and Neptune, are now recognized as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) that were recently perturbed and scattered inward into the region of the gas and ice giant planets. Once in this region, they are perturbed by the giant planets and either expelled from the solar system, thrown back into the Kuiper Belt, or captured into the orbits of Jupiter-family comets.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    The latter occurs sometime between several hundred thousand and several million years after the planetesimals enter the giant planets’ region–a relatively short time in astronomical scales.

    Nearly 20 proposals were submitted to NASA’s Discovery program in response to a December 2018 Announcement of Opportunity (AO) by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Discovery missions, which complement larger missions, seek answers regarding the formation and evolution of the solar system, the conditions under which life emerged on Earth, and both the hazards faced by and resources needed for human space exploration.

    Titled Centaurus and Chimera, the two proposed centaur missions are very different from one another. Centaurus, whose principal investigator is Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, is a flyby mission that would visit several centaurs. Chimera, whose principal investigator is Walter Harris of the University of Arizona‘s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, is an orbiter that would study one centaur, Centaur 29P/Schwassman-Wachmann 1 (SW1) in detail.

    SW1, along with Chiron, the first centaur discovered and largest one known, are among Centaurus‘s flyby targets.

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    This image, created via a stack of 20 separate photos, shows comet SW1 after it experienced an outburst. The image on the left was processed to show the various jets emitted during the outburst. Image Credit: By Juan lacruz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

    “Working closely with deputy PI Kelsi Singer, our science team, and JPL mission designers, we have found a really unusual trajectory that lets us explore a series of targets of different sizes,” Stern emphasized.

    Both Centaurus and Chimera will be solar-powered, thanks to new technology that makes it possible for solar panels to operate beyond the orbit of Saturn. That technology was first tested on NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, when that spacecraft was turned partially away from the Sun.

    The ability to use solar panels at such a great distance allows NASA to save plutonium for use in much more distant missions.

    “Centaurus is a non-nuclear Discovery proposal to make the first reconnaissance of centaurs–escaped Scattered Disk KBOs–and other primitive bodies, via a series of reconnaissance flybys,” according to a poster presentation about the mission presented by Singer at the American Astronomical Society‘s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) 51st Annual Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in September of this year.

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    Poster presented to 51st DPS Meeting outlining proposed Centaurus mission. Image Credit: Kelsi Singer, SwRI

    Onboard the spacecraft, should the mission be selected, will be a suite of imagers, both color and panchromatic; multiple spectrometers, which will study objects’ surface geology and composition, atmospheres, and any detected satellites or rings.

    “In total, the Centaurus payload involves four experiments, all with direct lineage to instruments in flight and in build for other missions,” Singer noted.

    Chimera, should it be chosen, will orbit SW1 for at least two years and possibly longer, if the mission is extended. It will enter a close orbit around the centaur to monitor its activity, map its surface characteristics, observe surface changes over time, and monitor outbursts up close. To accomplish these tasks, the spacecraft will be equipped with visible cameras, including one with three filters, which will search for specific features within the coma; thermal cameras, which will measure temperature changes on SW1’s surface; a mass spectrometer, which will study gas composition, and an infrared spectral imager that will identify the composition of both the coma and surface.

    The latter instrument will also look for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water, and minerals.

    “Centaurs are a source population for comets moving inward from beyond Neptune in chaotic orbits. They drift in and bounce around chaotically for a few million to a few tens of millions of years. Twenty-five to 30 percent wind up scattered into the inner solar system, where they become short-period Jupiter-family comets,” Harris stated.

    “The big question is, how do we relate what these objects were (KBOs) with what they become? The answer is the centaur–an intermediate state.”

    SW1 was discovered in 1922, eight years before Pluto was found, and was the first object other than a planet found with an orbit entirely beyond Jupiter. It has been observed undergoing regular outbursts, making it the most active small body in the outer solar system. Scientists estimate it has a 70 percent chance of becoming a Jupiter-family comet within the next 10,000 years.

    Next month, four of the Discovery mission proposals will be selected to move on to the next phase, a detailed concept study, which must be submitted by November 2020. Scientists and space engineers selected by NASA will review these studies, rate them, and select two for flight some time in 2021.

    Flight dates for both missions, should they be chosen, based on favorable planetary alignments will be either 2025-2026 or 2028-2029.

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    This GIF depicts SW1 brightening during a September 2018 outburst. Image Credit: Alphonse Diepvens, Belgium

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:51 am on November 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA funds study of possible Pluto orbiter", , , , , , National Academy Planetary Decadal Study, Planetary Science Decadal Survey, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NASA funds study of possible Pluto orbiter” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    November 4th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Artist’s rendering a Pluto orbiter flying in front of Pluto’s large moon Charon. Image Credit: Ron Miller for Astronomy magazine

    NASA is funding a study by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to explore the feasibility, nature, and cost of a return mission to Pluto, this time with an orbiter.

    The study comes four years after the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, revealing it to be a stunningly beautiful and complex world.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    However, because that mission was a fast flyby, only one of Pluto’s hemispheres was mapped in high resolution. Data collected was limited to conditions of that particular day rather than observations of seasonal and geological changes over time. Just 40 percent of Pluto and Charon were mapped in high resolution, and no close approaches were made to the system’s four small moons.

    One of 10 studies NASA has approved in anticipation of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a document issued once every decade by the National Academy of Sciences outlining priorities for planetary science missions, the orbiter proposal will focus on “the important attributes, feasibility, and cost of a possible Pluto future orbiter mission.

    SwRI conducted its own internal study of a potential Pluto orbiter in 2018, led by New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. which addressed both spacecraft design, science instruments, launch vehicle, and chemical propulsion the mission would need.

    A major study finding was that the mission could save fuel by using close flybys of Pluto and Charon as gravity assists. Such maneuvers were conducted by the Cassini mission via Titan flybys and would significantly reduce the fuel the spacecraft would have to carry upon launch.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

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    An enhanced-color image of Pluto’s large moon Charon. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

    Even with the use of this maneuver, an orbiter would weigh about five times as much as New Horizons because it would have to carry enough fuel to brake at Pluto and enter orbit.

    Following the New Horizons flyby, scientists debated whether to return to Pluto with an orbiter or visit other dwarf planets and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) with flyby missions.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    SwRI’s 2018 study confirms a single spacecraft could orbit the Pluto system for two years, then use a gravity assist from Charon to propel it to a second dwarf planet as well as a small KBO similar to Ultima Thule, New Horizons‘ second flyby target.

    “This is groundbreaking. Previously, NASA and the planetary science community thought the next step in Kuiper Belt exploration would be to choose between ‘going deep’ in the study of Pluto and its moons or ‘going broad’ by examining smaller Kuiper Belt Objects and another dwarf planet for comparison to Pluto. The planetary science community debated which was the right next step. Our studies show you can do both in a single mission: it’s a game changer,” Stern emphasized.

    According to Tiffany Finley, a software specialist at SwRI‘s Space Science and Engineering Division, who took part in the 2018 study, an orbiter could make five or more flybys of each one of Pluto’s small moons, study Charon up close, inspect both Pluto’s equatorial and polar regions, and sample Pluto’s atmosphere.

    Like NASA’s Dawn mission, which orbited both dwarf planet Ceres and protoplanet Vesta, a Pluto orbiter could use xenon ion propulsion to travel to a second target and enter orbit around it.

    NASA/DLR Dawn Spacecraft (2007-2018)

    The orbiter would need a much faster communication system than New Horizons, which took 16 months to return all the data it collected to Earth. That means a much higher storage volume than New Horizons‘ 16 GBs of storage and both a transmitter and dish antenna that are 10 times more powerful than those New Horizons carried. Both the technology and software required for these already exists.

    Ideally, the orbiter would send data back to Earth approximately every 15 to 30 days.

    SwRI‘s study, which envisions launching in the late 2020s or early 2030s, also proposes the spacecraft be equipped with reaction wheels that would enable it to regularly conduct pointing maneuvers at various targets.

    Goals for an orbiter outlined in the 2018 study include mapping all of Pluto and Charon in high resolution, using radar to determine the depth of Pluto’s glaciers, studying its atmosphere using a mass spectrometer, identifying the compounds on the surface and in the atmosphere, and using a thermal mapper to learn what is powering the glaciers and whether Pluto hosts any active ice volcanoes. Additionally, a magnetometer would determine whether Pluto’s core is still active while lidar would map those areas near Pluto’s poles that are in permanent shadow.

    Radio tracking will allow scientists to answer the question of whether Pluto contains a subsurface ocean of liquid water, which would make it one of the solar system’s growing numbers of ocean worlds, such as Europa and Enceladus, that could potentially host microbial life.

    Upon completion, the new, NASA-funded study will be submitted to the National Academy Planetary Decadal Study, which begins next year. The results of all Decadal Survey studies will be published in 2022.

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    Look back image of Pluto’s atmospheric hazes, surface ice mountains, and plains, taken 15 minutes after closet approach. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:31 pm on August 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Administrator Says Pluto Is Still a Planet And Things Are Getting Heated, , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Second group of names approved for features on Pluto” and Defense of Pluto’s Status as a planet 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    August 26th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    A composite of images collected by New Horizons’ instruments during the spacecraft’s July 2015 Pluto flyby, this annotated map shows the newly-approved names in yellow and the ones approved in 2017 in white. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Ross Beyer

    A second set of names for features on Pluto, already used informally by members of NASA’s New Horizons mission, has received formal approval by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization that names celestial objects and their features.

    Submitted by the New Horizons mission, these 14 names honor pioneering explorers on Earth, space missions, scientists and engineers who have studied Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and underworld mythology. Like the first set of 14 names for various features on Pluto’s surface, which were approved in 2017, all of these came from a 2015 public naming campaign organized jointly by the New Horizons mission, the SETI Institute, and the IAU.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft


    That campaign, titled “Our Pluto,” established a list of themes for names to be assigned to features on Pluto, Charon, and the system’s four small moons in advance of the July 2015 Pluto flyby. Themes for surface features on Pluto included names for the underworld from various world mythologies; gods, goddesses, and dwarfs associated with the underworld; heroes and other explorers of the underworld; writers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt; and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

    Participants could vote for names from a list of nominations suggested by the organizers or nominate a name of their choosing under the established categories.

    ____________________________________________________

    From Science Alert
    NASA Administrator Says Pluto Is Still a Planet, And Things Are Getting Heated
    26 AUG 2019
    MICHELLE STARR

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    Pluto. The Hindu

    NASA Administrator Says Pluto Is Still a Planet, And Things Are Getting Heated.

    Saturday 24 August 2019 marked a vexing anniversary for planetary scientists. It was 13 years to the day that Pluto’s official definition changed – what was once numbered among the planets of the Solar System was now but a humble dwarf planet.

    But not everyone agreed with the International Astronomical Union’s ruling – and now NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has added his voice to the chorus declaring support for Pluto’s membership in the Solar System Planet Club.

    “Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet,” he said during a tour of the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building at the University of Colorado Boulder.

    “You can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learnt it, and I’m committed to it.”

    Now, this doesn’t officially change anything, and his reasoning is a little facile – having learnt something one way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, thank you geocentrism. It’s an off-the-cuff lighthearted remark, and that’s fine.

    But it just so happens that planetary scientists have been banging the Pluto planet drum for years, and their reasons are a little more considered. Actually, a lot more.

    When the IAU removed Pluto from the list of what had been nine planets in the Solar System in August 2006, the move was a corollary of its official definitions of planets and dwarf planets.

    Before that, there had been no official definitions of these objects, which created problems when astronomer Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology and colleagues discovered an object that seemed to be bigger than Pluto. (This object was later designated a dwarf planet, and named Eris, after the Greek goddess of strife and discord.)

    The difference between a planet and a dwarf planet that changed Pluto’s status? Pluto – hanging out as it does in the Kuiper Belt asteroid field – has not cleared “the neighbourhood around its orbit” of other rocks.

    This helped to resolve the perceived problem of other objects around the same size of Pluto, of which there are potentially hundreds. If Pluto was in the planet club, what was keeping the rest of the riff-raff out?

    Planetary scientist Alan Stern, leader of NASA’s New Horizon’s mission, has been vocal about his disappointment with the decision to de-planet Pluto since it was made.

    “My conclusion is that the IAU definition is not only unworkable and unteachable, but so scientifically flawed and internally contradictory that it cannot be strongly defended against claims of scientific sloppiness, “ir-rigor,” and cogent classification,” he wrote in September 2006.

    “The New Horizons project, like a growing number of the public, and many hundreds if not thousands of professional research astronomers and planetary scientists, will not recognise the IAU’s planet definition resolution of Aug. 24, 2006.”

    And so he has not. In fact, earlier this year, he debated Ron Ekers of the IAU, defending Pluto’s planet status.


    2:15:16

    It’s not just that only 424 of around 9,000 IAU members voted on the resolution, nor that hundreds of planetary scientists immediately petitioned against it.

    It’s also that Pluto has its own multilayered atmosphere, organic compounds, weather, moons.

    It has landscapes – rocky mountain ranges and wide plains. It has avalanches, maybe plutoquakes, maybe even liquid oceans. And that the definition based on orbital clearing has no historical merit.

    And even if it did, one could argue that other planets haven’t cleared their neighbourhoods either – there are a lot of asteroids hanging around both Earth and Jupiter’s orbits (although not nearly as many as the Kuiper Belt.)

    Scientists last year argued that a planet should be defined as an object that has become large enough to become a sphere.

    “It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body,” explained planetary physicist Philip Metzger of the University of Central Florida.

    So far, the IAU has shown no signs of backing down, but neither do Pluto’s supporters. Perhaps Bridenstine joining Team Pluto will renew the fight. And we, for one, stand by to welcome our hundreds of new planetary pals.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on August 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA teaming up with commercial companies for return to the Moon", Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NASA teaming up with commercial companies for return to the Moon” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    August 5th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    NASA has issued a request for proposals for the space agency’s new Artemis Program. Image Credit: NASA

    To achieve the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024, NASA announced it is teaming up with commercial companies to develop new technologies for landing on and taking off from the lunar surface.

    On July 30, the space agency issued a public call for commercial companies to build both small and medium-sized lunar landers and rovers capable of bringing science experiments and power sources to the Moon as part of its new Artemis program. The project seeks to land astronauts, including one or more women, on various regions of the lunar surface, including its South Pole. Nine companies have already signed on to a program known as the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

    “Our commercial partners are helping us to advance lunar science in an unprecedented way. As we enable broader opportunities for for commercial providers through CLPS, we’re enlarging our capabilities to do novel measurements and technology development scientists have long wanted to do at the Moon,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    In October 2018, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate issued an Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) seeking private companies to contract with on the many components of future space missions. These include advanced communication, navigation, and avionics; advanced materials for rockets and spacecraft; entry, descent, and landing technologies; in-space manufacturing and assembly of equipment; power systems, including solar cells; propulsion, and other exploration technologies.

    Through a public-private collaboration program known as Swamp Works, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is partnering with both SpaceX and Lockheed Martin to make Artemis a reality. With SpaceX, KSC hopes to develop the technology needed to vertically land rockets on the Moon. This could be difficult because of potential interaction between plumes generated by rocket engines and lunar soil, known as regolith.

    “Missions to the lunar surface present challenges from rocket engine plume effects as they interact with the regolith surface to eject high-velocity dust particles and rocks,” explained Rob Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects development at KSC‘s Exploration Research and Technology Programs. “To mitigate the damage to equipment during landings and takeoff, we’ll work on technologies such as launch and landing pads, and blast protection berms or walls to make operations on the Moon sustainable and safe for NASA and all of our partners. These types of risk mitigations become exponentially more important as landers increase in size, and Kennedy‘s Swamp Works is at the forefront of developing new technological solutions for this based on related computer modeling tools and testing.”

    NASA hopes that in working together, KSC‘s Swamp Works program and SpaceX can develop technologies capable of landing astronauts on both the Moon and Mars, Mueller emphasized.

    KSC‘s partnership with Lockheed Martin seeks to grow plants in space autonomously with the help of robotics. If successful, this could function as a food source for astronauts on future deep space missions. Bryan Onate, chief of KSC‘s Life Sciences and Utilization Office, said the public-private partnership already has a team of engineers, scientists, interns, and other contractors working on the project.

    “Exploring beyond low-Earth orbit will require long-duration stays on the Moon and eventually Mars, meaning we are focused on providing plant growth systems that will supplement and sustain the crews’ nutrition and implement autonomous operations as required. So we are excited to be taking part in this collaborative opportunity, which will develop new technology to enable future missions.”

    NASA hopes to reduce both the cost and the amount of time needed to develop new technologies for Artemis and for subsequent long-term crewed space missions by working together with commercial spaceflight companies.

    “The Artemis program integrates our science and exploration goals, and we are using our commercial partners to help meet those goals with an innovative and cost-effective approach. The ability to land heavier payloads on the lunar surface is a service that NASA has a key interest in. We’re looking forward to innovative proposals and possibly more partners to advance what we’ve already started with CLPS,” emphasized Steve Clarke, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration in science.

    Thirteen commercial companies have been contracted with through the ACO for a total of 19 public-private partnerships.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on July 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mars 2020 rover, , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “I have the power! Mars 2020 rover completes critical milestone” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 29th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Does this power system make my butt look big? While this likely isn’t what the Mars 2020 rover was thinking when this photo was taken, the robot is getting closer to taking flight. Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic


    NASA Mars Rover 2020

    With just one year to go before the Mars 2020 rover’s scheduled launch, work is commencing on the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) that will serve as the rover’s power source.

    Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, approved this next stage of the rover’s construction on July 24. As the first robotic spacecraft equipped with technology capable of selecting its own landing site, Mars 2020 is viewed by NASA as paving the way for crewed space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

    Construction of the rover, which viewers can now watch live online thanks to a camera installed in the clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is proceeding on target. All of its interior parts have now been built except for the highly complex Adaptive Caching Assembly, which has a total of 3,000 parts, including seven motors.

    “The progression of the Mars 2020 rover project is on schedule. The decision to begin fueling the MMRTG is another important milestone in keeping to our timetable for a July 2020 launch,” Zerbuchen emphasized.

    After launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 17, 2020, when Earth and Mars are in ideal positions relative to one another for the trip, the rover is scheduled to land in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, using a sky crane descent landing system. Favorable alignments of Earth and Mars every two years reduce the amount of power and therefore cost needed for the journey.

    Mars 2020‘s design and landing system are based on those used on the Curiosity rover, which touched down inside Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012 and is still functioning nearly seven years later.

    NASA/Mars Curiosity Rover

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:44 pm on July 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Conference keeps focus on Pluto following New Horizons flyby” 

    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 23rd, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    Image Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

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    Three years after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gave humankind our first close-up views of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, scientists are still revealing the wonders of these incredible worlds in the outer Solar System. Marking the anniversary of New Horizons’ historic flight through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, mission scientists released the highest-resolution color images of Pluto and Charon. This image was taken as New Horizons zipped toward Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015, from a range of 22,025 miles (35,445) kilometers. This single color MVIC scan includes no data from other New Horizons imagers or instruments added. The striking features on Pluto are clearly visible, including the bright expanse of Pluto’s icy, nitrogen-and-methane rich “heart,” Sputnik Planitia.
    These natural-color images result from refined calibration of data gathered by New Horizons’ color Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The processing creates images that would approximate the colors that the human eye would perceive, bringing them closer to “true color” than the images released near the encounter.
    This image was taken as New Horizons zipped toward Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015, from a range of 22,025 miles (35,445) kilometers. This single color MVIC scan includes no data from other New Horizons imagers or instruments added. The striking features on Pluto are clearly visible, including the bright expanse of Pluto’s icy, nitrogen-and-methane rich “heart,” Sputnik Planitia.
    Date 18 July 2018
    NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Alex Parker

    A four-day science conference organized by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), Universities Space Research Association (USRA), and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) held July 14-18 focused on findings obtained by the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew by the Pluto system in 2015 and Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule in 2019.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Titled The Pluto System after New Horizons, the conference, which featured presentations by many planetary scientists, addressed Pluto’s geology, atmosphere, orbital dynamics, and system origin as well as the nature of the double-lobed Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) and the radiation environment in the Kuiper Belt as measured by the spacecraft.

    It included poster sessions on topics such as the topography of Pluto and Charon, stellar occultations by Pluto in 2017 and 2018, composition of the early solar nebula based on the findings at Ultima Thule, computer simulations based on data returned by New Horizons‘ seven science instruments, and numerous related topics.

    Held at JHUAPL‘s Kossiakoff Center Kossiakoff Center, the conference also included discussions of followup observations from the ground as well as a possible return to the Pluto system with an orbiter. According to New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado (SwRI), if an orbiter is sent, it is likely to launch in the 2030s and arrive at Pluto during the 2040s.

    The conference was a followup to a similar Pluto Science Conference held in July 2013, at which time planetary scientists used both data collected during ground-based observations and via computer models to anticipate what New Horizons would find during its 2015 Pluto flyby. That conference concluded with the announcement of a post-flyby conference then planned for the summer of 2017. A subsequent two-year delay enabled participants to incorporate data from the Ultima Thule flyby as well as data about the Kuiper Belt environment collected by the probe.

    Noting the recent 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Kevin Schindler of the Lowell Observatory used the example of the Moon to describe the sequential stages of exploration required to learn about a celestial object. While the Moon has been observed since ancient times, Pluto is not visible to the naked eye and therefore has been studied for less than a century, he stated.

    2
    The conference’s topics detailed continued study of Pluto and its family of natural satellites. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben

    “If we are to comprehensively characterize Pluto, and by extension, any other planetary body, we must continue the quest for knowledge with continued multi-stage exploration.”

    Stern pointed out that due to Pluto’s 6.38-day-long rotation, New Horizons was able to image only one of its hemispheres, the “near” or “encounter” side, in high resolution. Pluto’s far side could be imaged only in low resolution because it was photographed at a greater distance, so scientists are uncertain as to whether that side is as heterogeneous as the near side is.

    Pluto’s diverse geology is most evident on the near side, which features a variety of terrains including dunes, cryovolcanoes, mountains of water ice, bladed terrain, and the young, geologically active left side of its heart feature, known as Sputnik Planitia. Its surface hosts volatile ices and complex organics known as tholins, produced by the interaction of sunlight with surface methane.

    The European Southern Observatory‘s (ESO) European Extremely Large Telescope, scheduled for construction during the 2020s, will be able to image Pluto at about the same resolution as New Horizons did at the far side.

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    While ground-based observations can and will be used to monitor changes in the planet’s color and composition, ultimately, “We need to go back with an orbiter,” Stern emphasized.

    At the 2013 conference, many scientists predicted Pluto would resemble Neptune’s large moon Triton, which likely orbited the Sun directly before being captured into the giant planet’s orbit. Yet ground-based observations of both worlds with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope revealed Pluto’s atmosphere may be more like that of Saturn’s moon Titan.

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    While Pluto’s upper atmosphere contains high levels of hydrogen cyanide (HCN), Triton’s atmosphere shows only a weak HCN signal. Pluto’s atmosphere also has abundant methane while Triton’s does not.

    Kirby Runyon of Johns Hopkins University‘s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences noted that New Horizons‘ findings, along with the discovery of nearly 4,000 exoplanets over the last 20 plus years, indicate pedagogy of the solar system needs to change from memorization of a short list of planet names to a focus on a larger, more complex solar system with inner, middle, and outer zones.

    Links to abstracts of all the presentations are available for reading on the conference’s Program and Abstracts website. Conference presentations and discussions will be the subject of a book, also titled The Pluto System After New Horizons, scheduled to be published in 2020 as part of the University of Arizona Space Science Series.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on July 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Complex organic molecules have been discovered in the plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Saturn’s moon Enceladus has conditions that could support microbial life” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 4th, 2018 [Just found this]
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    Scientists didn’t know why Enceladus was the brightest world in the solar system, or how it related to Saturn’s E ring. Cassini found that both the fresh coating on its surface, and icy material in the E ring originate from vents connected to a global subsurface saltwater ocean that might host hydrothermal vents. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    Complex organic molecules have been discovered in the plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The data transmitted back to Earth by the Cassini Saturn orbiter, which ended its service above the ringed world on Sept. 16, 2017.

    Located in the moon’s south polar region, the plumes are made up of ice-covered materials that contain complex organic compounds. Hydrothermal vents beneath the moon’s surface mix up materials from its core, Enceladus’ subsurface ocean and transport the solution upward in the forms of vapor and ice grains.

    Smaller, simpler organic compounds were already detected in the plumes years ago by Cassini. However, this is the first time complex organic molecules, which are made up of hundreds of atoms, have been found on Enceladus. These molecules are rarely seen beyond Earth.

    The presence of liquid water, hydrothermal vents, and complex organic molecules make the moon’s subsurface ocean potentially habitable for life.

    2
    Hydrothermal activity in Enceladus’ core and the rise of organic-rich bubbles. Image Credit: ESA; F. Postberg et al (2018)

    Bubbles of gas rising up within the ocean could be transporting these complex molecules from the moon’s porous core to the ocean’s surface just beneath its icy shell. Through cracks in the vents, these bubbles scatter the organic material, some of which is released into space.

    Complex organic molecules are produced by both biological and complex chemical processes and can also transported by meteorites, so their discovery is not proof that Enceladus harbors life.

    Frank Postberg and Nozair Khawaja of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who led the study of Cassini‘s data and confirmed the presence of the complex organic molecules, continue to study the composition of the ice and heavy molecules found in Enceladus’s plumes.

    “In my opinion, the fragments we found are of hydrothermal origin; in the high pressures and warm temperatures we expect there, it is possible that complex organic molecules can arise,” Postberg said.

    A similar process occurs on Earth, where hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans generate complex organic molecules. Microbial life has been found in some of these vents on Earth, which may have played a role in the start of life on our planet.

    A paper on the study has been published in the journal Nature.

    “Continuing studies of Cassini data will help us unravel the mysteries of this intriguing ocean world,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory via an agency-issued release.

    Cassini, a collaborative project between NASA, ESA and (ASI). Launched on October 15,1997 atop a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket, the mission had spent almost twenty years (19 years and 335 days) in space. The spacecraft spent some 13 years orbiting Saturn and its moons and deployed a lander, Huygens, the only current vehicle to be placed on a world in the outer solar system.

    4
    Cassini in orbit above the gas giant Saturn. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:36 pm on June 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Rocket Lab’s Electron launches seven small satellites from New Zealand, Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Rocket Lab’s Electron launches seven small satellites from New Zealand” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    June 29th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    The “Make It Rain” Electron rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 1 at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 UTC), on Saturday 29 June 2019. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

    Rocket Lab, a private American company that manufactures and launches small satellites, put seven satellites via its Electron vehicle during a launch from New Zealand.

    Liftoff occurred at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 GMT) on Saturday, June 29. The mission had launch dates of June 27 and 28 but was pushed back to the twenty-ninth. Each day between June 27 and July 10 Rocket Lab had a two-hour launch window to get the vehicle off the pad.

    The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand a site that could become very busy in the coming days. According to Rocket Lab: Rocket Lab’s next mission is yet to be announced, but is scheduled for lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in the coming weeks. Rocket Lab’s manifest is booked with monthly launches for the remainder of 2019, scaling to a launch every two weeks in 2020.

    Nicknamed “Make it Rain” after Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries’, rain-drenched home, Saturday’s launch was the seventh for Rocket Lab‘s Electron launch vehicle and the third to take flight this year.

    Following liftoff and separation of the rocket’s first stage, the satellites were delivered into an elliptical orbit by Electron’s second stage about 56 minutes after the rocket had left the pad. The rocket’s Kick Stage ignited, carrying the payloads into a circular orbit. Once that is accomplished the Kick Stage fell back to Earth and burned up in its atmosphere.

    As noted, the mission is being launched on behalf of Spaceflight Industries, a commercial company that books and manages low-cost satellite launches and ride shares for private companies, non-profits, and governments, with the goal of making space more accessible. According to Spaceflight Now, the payloads launched on this latest mission include two Prometheus nano-satellites for US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the BlackSky Global 3 commercial Earth observation satellite, two SpaceBEE data relay satellites on behalf of Swarm Technologies, a technology demonstration CubeSat named ACRUX 1 for Australia’s Melbourne Space Program, and a seventh, unidentified satellite.

    Initially conceived in 2013, Electron is designed to launch small satellites rapidly, reliably, and affordably. According to Rocket Lab, “We’ve designed Electron to be built and launched with unprecedented frequency, while providing the smoothest ride and most precise deployment to orbit.” Its “Kick Stage” is built to bring satellites to very precise orbits, then de-orbit without leaving any parts in space.

    “Congratulations to the dedicated teams behind the payloads on this mission, and also to our team for another flawless Electron launch,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “It’s a privilege to provide tailored and reliable access to space for small satellites like these, giving each one a smooth ride to orbit and precise deployment, even in a rideshare arrangement.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on June 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , COSMIC-2 satellite, , NOAA to launch six weather satellites later this month, Spaceflight Insider, Taiwan National Space Organization, The small satellites will be operated from Taiwan   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NOAA to launch six weather satellites later this month” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    June 18th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    Artist’s depiction of the COSMIC-2 satellite on orbit. Image Credit: NOAA

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to launch six remote-sensing micro-satellites next week, which will monitor weather in space and on Earth beginning approximately seven months after launch.

    A joint endeavor among NOAA, the Taiwan National Space Organization (NSPO), the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), the project is named the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate or COSMIC-2. It is the successor to COSMIC, a system of weather-monitoring satellites launched in 2006.

    Known as FORMOSAT-7 in Taiwan, the mission will feature six satellites in orbits near Earth’s equator. Approximately the size of a kitchen oven, each satellite will be equipped with three science instruments, which will study temperature and humidity in the tropics and sub-tropics, the regions on Earth with the most moisture. This distinguishes them from the satellites used in the first COSMIC mission, which orbited near the planet’s poles.

    The science instruments will measure the density, temperature, pressure, and moisture in Earth’s atmosphere as well as electron density and space weather conditions in the ionosphere, the ionized region of Earth’s upper atmosphere, which extends 50 to 600 miles (80 to 1,000 km) above the planet’s surface.

    2
    Artist’s Rendering demonstration Radio Occultation Technique. Image Credit: The NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

    Data collected by the science instruments will be used in NOAA computer models to predict weather conditions around the world as well as solar storms.

    “This latest generation of COSMIC satellites will continue to build on the successes of the program. The COSMIC satellites keep scientists and forecasters informed of minute changes in the atmosphere and space, with this latest batch of satellites ensuring that this critical data is collected from the poles to the tropics,” emphasized Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. NOAA is a project of the US Department of Commerce.

    Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, noted, “COSMIC-2, in concert with the infrared and microwave sounding instruments carried on polar-orbiting satellites operated by NOAA and its US and international partners, will help provide a complete set of global data for use in NOAA‘s operational weather prediction models.”

    COSMIC-2 will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on June 24 at the earliest. Following launch, the small satellites will be operated from Taiwan and will undergo a variety of tests expected to take approximately seven months before they begin collecting data.

    Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA‘s National Weather Service (NWS), explained, “COSMIC-2 will gather information about the vertical temperature and humidity of the atmosphere in the tropics, which hold most of the moisture that drives global weather patterns. The high quality and large number of observations from the COSMIC-2 data stream will improve the accuracy of our weather forecast model outputs for our national and global areas of responsibility.”

    The six satellites will use a new technique known as radio occultation to measure the bending of signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) as those signals pass through Earth’s atmosphere. Studying bent signals provides scientists with important information about the atmosphere’s pressure, temperature, and moisture level, which will lead to better weather forecasting.


    Video courtesy of NOAA SciJinks

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:58 am on May 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Data shows Jupiter’s magnetic field changes over time", , , , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Data shows Jupiter’s magnetic field changes over time” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    May 21st, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    An illustration of Jupiter’s magnetic field at a single moment in time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard/Moore et al.

    Jupiter’s internal magnetic field undergoes changes over time, NASA’s Juno orbiter confirmed after recent science flybys of the giant planet.

    NASA/Juno

    The discovery is the first ever detection of internal magnetic field changes in a planet, known as secular variation, beyond Earth. According to NASA, Juno mission scientists arrived at their conclusion by studying 40 years of Jupiter data collected by several missions, including Pioneers 10 and 11, Voyager 1, Ulysses, and Juno.

    NASA Pioneer 10


    NASA Pioneer 11


    NASA/Voyager 1


    NASA/ESA Ulysses

    Magnetic fields must be studied and measured from a close vantage point. Equipped with a magnetometer, which can map a magnetic field in three dimensions, Juno accomplished this in its first eight science flybys of the giant planet, yielding data that helped scientists produce a new model of Jupiter’s magnetic field.

    “Secular variation has been on the wish list of planetary scientists for decades,” said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, in a NASA news release. “This discovery could only take place due to Juno’s extremely accurate science instruments and the unique nature of Juno’s orbit, which carries it low over the planet as it travels from pole to pole.”

    By studying data collected during the various missions to Jupiter, beginning with the Pioneers, scientists discovered that small magnetic field changes occurred over time, likely caused by the planet’s atmospheric winds, which penetrate as far as 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) into the planet’s interior, where gases are transformed into very conductive liquid metal, cutting through and stretching the magnetic field.

    The biggest magnetic field changes occurred in a powerful magnetic area near Jupiter’s equator, known as the Great Blue Spot. Unlike the planet’s well-known Great Red Spot, the Great Blue Spot cannot be seen with the naked eye. Juno scientist Kimee Moore of Harvard University suspects this one magnetic “hot spot” could be responsible for all magnetic field changes within the planet.

    “It is incredible that one narrow magnetic hot spot, the Great Blue Spot, could be responsible for almost all of Jupiter’s secular variation, but the numbers bear it out,” Moore said, adding future science flybys would focus on creating a planet-wide map of these changes.

    The findings of the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, are expected to help scientists better understand not only Jupiter’s interior structure and atmospheric dynamics, but also those of Earth.

    Launched in June 2005, Juno traveled 1.74 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers) before entering into a polar orbit around Jupiter in July 2016. The initial plan was for the spacecraft to move from a 53-day orbit to a closer one of 14 days, but that was scrapped after a problem with helium valves sent it into safe mode in October of that year.

    According to the revised mission, Juno was to conduct 12 close science flybys before the end of its prime mission in July 2018. One month before that deadline, NASA extended the mission to July 2021, increasing the number of flybys.

    4
    Juno arrived in orbit above Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Since that time, the spacecraft has revolutionized humanity’s knowledge of the gas giant. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider.

    The polar orbit science flybys were planned to protect Juno from the giant planet’s radiation, which could destroy its electronic instruments and solar panels. After speeding around the planet and getting to a “perijove” (the closest part of an orbit around Jupiter) of only about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers), the spacecraft’s trajectory takes it out to an “apojove” (the farthest part of an orbit around Jupiter) of roughly 5 million miles (8.1 million kilometers).

    The first spacecraft to make repeated close flybys of Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops, Juno captured stunning images of storms and cloud swirls in the planet’s atmosphere using its color JunoCam camera. One of its first findings was that the giant planet’s poles are covered by dense storms the size of the Earth. Another was that the planet’s iconic belts and zones, especially the one closest to Jupiter’s equator, penetrate far into the planet.

    Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in July 2017, where it imaged tangled masses of clouds weaving around one another and found that the storm penetrates approximately 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet’s atmosphere. Analysis of JunoCam’s photos of the Great Red Spot will help scientists better understand the phenomenon’s evolution over time.

    6
    Enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by Juno. This image was produced by Jason Major, a “citizen scientist” who used data from the JunoCam instrument on the spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Jason Major

    Using its ultraviolet spectrograph and energetic-particle detector instruments, Juno observed powerful auroras over the planet’s poles. While the auroras are aligned with Jupiter’s magnetic field and are between 10 and 30 times more powerful than auroras on Earth, they are not always visible. Furthermore, the mechanism that powers Jupiter’s auroras is significantly different from that which powers auroras on Earth, a phenomenon that continues to puzzle scientists.

    With data collected by Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), mission scientists created a 3D infrared movie depicting the powerful cyclones and anti-cyclones over the poles, which power the planet’s magnetic field. JIRAM detected infrared light originating within the planet and successfully studied the weather as far as 45 miles (70 kilometers) beneath the cloud tops.

    Juno also detected powerful lighting in Jupiter’s highly-charged atmosphere. While lightning on Earth is most common near the equator, on Jupiter, it occurs mostly at the poles.

    The three-year mission extension is expected to enable the probe to provide answers to questions generated by its initial discoveries, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said last year.

    “With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world,” Zurbuchen said.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
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