Archive for October, 2015

Curiosity Mars rover used its Front Hazcam Right B camera to take this image on Sol 1134, October 15, 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mars rover used its Front Hazcam Right B camera to take this image on Sol 1134, October 15, 2015.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

The Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1136 operations.

Due to a Deep Space Network upload command issue, some activities at week’s end were delayed and the rover spent a day resting and recharging, readying itself for weekend science duties.

Scheduled work includes a full drill hole on the “Greenhorn” target, explains Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on October 15, 2015, Sol 1134. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on October 15, 2015, Sol 1134.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity is acquiring several ChemCam and Mastcam observations on the targets “Nisku,” “Skull Creek,” “Hawk Creek,” and “Opeche” to investigate the variability in silica associated with these fracture zones, Edgar reports.

“We’ll also take several Mastcam images to look for changes in fine-grained deposits to evaluate local winds,” Edgar adds.

Previously, a Sol 1134 mini-start hole on “Pilgrim” went well.

This Sol 1134 image shows the mini-start hole on “Pilgrim” taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on October 15, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This Sol 1134 image shows the mini-start hole on “Pilgrim” taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on October 15, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Also on the schedule for that Sol was a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite atmospheric observation and a targeted science block.

“The goal of the SAM activity is to look for methane, one Mars year after the previous high detections. So we’ll let SAM take a big whiff to see if we can detect anything,” Edgar notes.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launches skyward on Oct. 8, 2015 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Also deployed were 13 CubeSats. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kyla Gifford

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launches skyward on Oct. 8, 2015 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Also deployed were 13 CubeSats.
Credit: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kyla Gifford

A CubeSat recently released in Earth orbit that was to demonstrate high speed optical transmission of data from Earth orbit has run into trouble.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) satellite was built and managed by The Aerospace Corporation, funded through NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses CubeSats to test new types of technology in Earth orbit. Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses CubeSats to test new types of technology in Earth orbit.
Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center

OCSD was among thirteen NASA and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)-sponsored CubeSats that were launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on October 8 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The booster hurled into orbit a classified NROL-55 spacecraft.

All CubeSats were flown on the NRO’s Government Rideshare Advanced Concepts Experiment (GRACE), which is an auxiliary payload aboard the NROL-55 mission.

Source of the anomaly

The OCSD carries a compact 6 Watt laser to demonstrate high speed optical transmission of data from Earth orbit to the ground.

“After the CubeSat launched last Thursday, initial contacts and checkout of the satellite went well,” said Richard Welle, Director of the Microsatellite Systems Department at The Aerospace Corporation.

Last weekend, during extensive software upgrades, Welle told Inside Outer Space that the small satellite went through one of its normal reboot sequences in the middle of a software change in the attitude-control system (ACS) processor.

“When the satellite restarted, the ACS processor not only booted into a mode that disabled that processor altogether, it also limited the performance of several other processors. We have reproduced the anomaly in the ground unit, and understand the source of the anomaly,” Welle said.

Beam steering

Is the anomaly solvable?

“At this time, it does not appear that the problem can be fixed in the satellite currently flying,” Welle responded.

According to a NASA/Ames Research Center October 13 statement: “The OCSD satellite is communicating by radio with the ground, but the attitude control system must function properly in order to demonstrate the optical communications system. NASA is discussing the issue with Aerospace as they investigate the problem.”

CubeSats are equipped to evaluate optical laser communications and close proximity maneuvering in Earth orbit. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

CubeSats are equipped to evaluate optical laser communications and close proximity maneuvering in Earth orbit.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

The OCSD’s mission was to assess the ability to precisely point itself as it demonstrates data transfer by laser. That onboard laser is hard‐mounted to the spacecraft and beam steering is accomplished through precision pointing of the spacecraft as a whole.

Second OCSD mission

The bursts of laser data from the satellite were to be received high atop Mt. Wilson in California, north of Pasadena, at The Aerospace Corporation’s Mt. Wilson Optical Communications and Atmospheric Measurements (MOCAM) station. It houses a 12-inch (30‐centimeter) diameter Cassegrain telescope outfitted with a photodiode detector.

The second OCSD mission — using two satellites — is slated for launch early in 2016. Lessons learned from the earlier flight are to be rolled into the second mission. But along with laser communications testing, the dual CubeSats are also to perform proximity operations.

Each OCSD CubeSat weighs just 5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) and measures about 4 inches x 4 inches x 6.7 inches (10 centimeters x 10 centimeters x 17 centimeters).

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image of recurring slope lineae in Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris. Arrows point out tops and bottoms of a few lineae. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image of recurring slope lineae in Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris. Arrows point out tops and bottoms of a few lineae.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The revelation that dark streaks flowing downhill on Mars are likely signs of liquid water on the red planet have sparked debate on how best to investigate them.

Dubbed Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), the new RSL findings may well bolster the odds that life is alive and well today on Mars. Moreover, RSL might be a literal draw for future human explorers as those sites could lead to underground aquifers on the planet.

Look, but do not touch? NASA’s Curiosity rover is on the prowl within Gale Crater/Mt. Sharp area that appears to have Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Look, but do not touch? NASA’s Curiosity rover is on the prowl within Gale Crater/Mt. Sharp area that appears to have Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Evidence of running water on the surface of Mars has many implications. One contentious issue is safely surveying RSL up-close and not corrupting these features with Earth-transported bacteria – a planetary protection issue.

For my new Space.com story on these fascinating features, go to:

Mars Water Discovery Sparks Exploration Debate

by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist

October 16, 2015 07:30am ET

http://www.space.com/30840-mars-water-life-search-debate.html

Location of four candidate landing sites for Europe’s ExoMars 2018 mission. Later this month, scientists and engineers will meet to choose which two, of four possible landing sites for the ExoMars 2018 mission, should be retained as candidates.  Credit: ESA/CartoDB

Location of four candidate landing sites for Europe’s ExoMars 2018 mission. Later this month, scientists and engineers will meet to choose which two, of four possible landing sites for the ExoMars 2018 mission, should be retained as candidates.
Credit: ESA/CartoDB

At month’s end, there’s a winnowing down of landing sites for Europe’s ExoMars 2018 mission.

There are now four sites under discussion: Mawrth Vallis, Oxia Planum, Hypanis Vallis and Aram Dorsum.

These landing sites are all located relatively close to the Martian equator and to each other. All sites show evidence of having been influenced by water in the past, with large exposures of ancient rocks now accessible at the surface.

Final two sites

Two of the four candidate sites will be downselected October 20-21 for continued analysis. The final decision regarding which of these two sites will be the primary landing site and which the backup will be made during 2017.

ESA's ExoMars Rover Credit: ESA

ESA’s ExoMars Rover
Credit: ESA

Keep in mind that the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars is a joint two-mission effort between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

— The Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module — known as Schiaparelli — will be launched in March 2016, arriving at Mars seven months later.

— The ExoMars rover and surface platform will depart in 2018, with touchdown on Mars in 2019.

Search underground

The ExoMars rover will search for evidence of Martian life, past or present, in an area with ancient rocks where liquid water was once abundant.

A drill on the rover is being designed to extract samples from up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the surface. Given that the surface of Mars is considered hostile to living organism, the search underground has more of a chance of finding preserved evidence, according to ESA.

The drill’s main function is to penetrate the soil, acquire a core sample, extract it and deliver it to the inlet port of the Rover Payload Module. In that module the sample will be distributed, processed and analyzed by the Analytical Laboratory Drawer.

Go to this interactive map visualization tool that shows the candidate landing sites for ESA’s ExoMars rover:

http://nmanaud.github.io/whereonmars/

 

Credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech

Credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech

 

The NASA Curiosity Mars rover is dumping and “thwacking” away on the Red Planet, explains Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Sol 1133 on Mars involved the rover dumping the “Big Sky” sample and “thwacking” CHIMRA (the Collection and Handling for in-Situ Martian Rock Analysis) to clean out any remnants of the sample.

This action was taken in preparation for the next drill sample, Edgar says, that will likely be the Greenhorn” target in today’s plan. In addition to these arm activities, the plan also included several ChemCam and Mastcam observations of “Greenhorn” and “Gallatin Pass” to assess chemical variations across a fracture.

Meanwhile, a new Curiosity selfie has been released showing the robot at “Big Sky.”

In addition, a set of new research papers has been issued via the Oct. 13, 2015 issue of Science magazine:

Deposition, exhumation, and paleoclimate of an ancient lake deposit, Gale crater, Mars

A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars

These can be viewed here:

http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/science/researchpapers/

 

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

Just in time for the upcoming holidays!

The high-roller Neiman Marcus Christmas Book includes the opportunity to be a part of a World View test flight.

World View is offering edge of your seat, edge of space travel via high-altitude balloon.

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

 

“World View offers a gentle, comfortable, and life-changing travel experience to the edge of space for private citizens,” explains the Tucson, Arizona-based company.

Fantasy gift

The exclusive World View package is featured as “Fantasy Gift” in the Iconic Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Credit: Neiman Marcus

Credit: Neiman Marcus

The annual Neiman Marcus book includes products for the ultimate wish list, from exquisite “His and Hers” gifts to highly anticipated luxury automobiles.

Two-part adventure

For $90,000, the up-and-going, two-part adventure begins in 2016 with a behind the scenes invitation to a World View test flight.

“In 2017, you and five companions will experience 360 degree views of Earth as a high-altitude balloon lifts your luxury pressurized capsule 100,000 feet above our planet,” the catalog explains.

This package also includes luxurious accommodations at the Miraval Resort in Tucson, Arizona. Each package comes with a private tour of Biosphere 2 with an original “biospherian” member and now World View CEO, Jane Poynter.

In-flight bar, bathroom

Passengers will experience multiple hours of flight and have access to wireless internet, an in-flight bar and a lavatory.

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

“These modern accommodations are possible thanks to World View’s high-altitude balloon technology, which allows for a smooth and gentle journey without extreme g-forces from rockets,” explains World View.

With the purchase of the World View Exploration at the Edge of Space, Neiman Marcus will donate $1,500 to The Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation. Gift limited to ten Neiman Marcus customers.

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information, visit:

http://www.worldviewexperience.com

You can peruse this special offer in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book at:

http://www.neimanmarcus.com/christmasbook/fantasy.jsp?cid=CBF15_O5645&cidShots=m,a,b&r=cat24050744&rdesc=The%20Christmas%20Book&rparams=xpage%3D39

Contemplating a future on Mars? Credit: The Martian, 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

Contemplating a future on Mars?
Credit: The Martian, 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

Stephen Petranek’s new book is titled How We’ll Live on Mars, issued by TED Books.

But as far as moving to Mars…you better pack a shovel, the author suggests.

One of the main problems is that the thinner Martian atmosphere ensures that the surface of Mars gets pelted with dangerous levels of radiation day after day.

Petranek discusses this problem in a recently issued video, and also outlines other strategies for not dying a painful death on Mars.

The posting comes via “Big Think” – a knowledge forum.

For this video and other related items go to:

http://bigthink.com/videos/stephen-petranek-on-how-to-survive-the-radiation-on-mars

nasas-journey-to-mars-vertical

The U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing on Friday, October 9th focused on the impact of the president’s budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations.

Witnesses discussed NASA’s plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration’s budget request affects these programs.

Doug Cooke (left) and Dan Dumbacher testify before House Subcommittee on Space. Credit: Subcommittee on Space

Doug Cooke (left) and Dan Dumbacher testify before House Subcommittee on Space.
Credit: Subcommittee on Space

The hearing took place a day after release of NASA’s Journey to Mars report which contained no budget, schedule, or deadlines.

 

Testifying at the hearing:

— Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions; Former Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems, NASA

Cooke’s testimony is available at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-WState-DCooke-20151009.pdf

— Dan Dumbacher, Professor of Engineering Practice, Purdue University; Former Deputy Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA

Dumbacher’s testimony is available at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-WState-DDumbacher-20151009.pdf

NOTE: Archived video of the hearing is available on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtoUE3dJ-mLUo5dwGs7hXOw

Also there’s a detailed charter/backgrounder on deep space exploration issues available at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-20151009-SD001.pdf

 

UPDATE:

From David Smith, lead scientist for E-MIST, to Inside Outer Space:

Yes it was a perfect flight, thanks for checking in. Payload worked
as we needed it to, and the gondola was recovered quickly (it’s back at Ft
Sumner already) – we didn’t get a 24 hour float but knew beforehand that was out of reach due to weather conditions.  The float time (8 hrs 20 min) was more than sufficient
for us. Looking forward to analyzing the samples soon!

David

Is the 5th time the charm?

After a string of weather delays, the Exposing Microorganisms in the Stratosphere (E-MIST) 2015 Flight Mission has a good chance of a balloon liftoff this morning.

“Very good sign… high probability of launch this morning,” E-MIST Principal Investigator, David J. Smith at NASA’s Ames Research Center told Inside Outer Space.

E-MIST mounted to the balloon gondola on Sept. 13, 2015 at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. The big red arrow is pointing to E-MIST. Credit: NASA

E-MIST mounted to the balloon gondola on Sept. 13, 2015 at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. The big red arrow is pointing to E-MIST.
Credit: NASA

That payload will be onboard the Long-Duration Balloon (LDB) Test Flight II, departing from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.

Mars-like conditions

On the E-MIST science flight, researchers will monitor bacterial survival in the Mars analog environment to help NASA predict — and prevent — microbial contamination of the Red Planet by exploring spacecraft.

Earth’s stratosphere mimics key surface conditions on Mars. The air is thin, cold, dry, and irradiated.

The payload will transport known quantities of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, a highly-resilient bacterial strain originally isolated from a spacecraft assembly facility, to the stratosphere for up to 24 hours.

Pre-launch photo looks down on the E-MIST payload from the top of the balloon gondola at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. Several instruments/sensors and four sample-holding canisters can be seen on the front face of the payload. Credit: NASA

Pre-launch photo looks down on the E-MIST payload from the top of the balloon gondola at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. Several instruments/sensors and four sample-holding canisters can be seen on the front face of the payload.
Credit: NASA

 

 

 

The upcoming sendoff into the stratosphere will mark the second flight of the E-MIST hardware — the first full science mission using the system — is from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Electron micrograph of spores of the bacterium Bacillus pumilus on the E-MIST hardware. Credit: NASA

Electron micrograph of spores of the bacterium Bacillus pumilus on the E-MIST hardware.
Credit: NASA

 

 

 

 

Watch the flight online!

During the experiment, the public can watch the progress of the flight unfold by following the links to Fort Sumner Operations from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility website at:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nas-csbf-operations

Also, you can go to:

http://towerfts.csbf.nasa.gov/

For video on the launch day: click “Near Real Time Video” under “Fort Sumner Operations.” Then click on “Fort Sumner UStream Video Feed.”

For real-time payload position information on the launch day: click “CSBF Test Flight II” listed under the section “Fall 2015 Flights Below.”

Credit: Christina Korp

Credit: Christina Korp

 

Attention: All would-be Mars explorers! World Space Week supporters too.

Want to get the word(s) out on getting to the Red Planet?

There’s a Limited Edition of this Buzz Aldrin collectible Tee-shirt. Sweatshirts are also available.

They are only available to order until Oct 19th.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds support the ShareSpace Foundation which addresses science literacy by igniting children’s passion for science, technology, engineering, arts and math…STEAM,” adds Aldrin.

For more information, go to:

https://represent.com/buzz

Griffith Observatory Event