Archive for July, 2018

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2117, July 21, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2117 duties.

According to Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland, the robot made “great progress” across the “Vera Rubin Ridge” toward the site of our next drilling attempt at “Sgurr of Eigg.”

Weekend plan

A weekend plan has Curiosity collecting more data about the ridge materials around the rover, and the sky above the Mars machinery.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2116, July 20, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

This is to be followed by Curiosity embarking on a drive of roughly 40 feet (12 meters) to Sgurr of Eigg, Minitti adds.

“We drove back into the Torridon quadrangle, so the target names once again have Scottish flavor,” Minitti notes.

Bedrock science

The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) has shot three targets, each with a different characteristic.

“Ben Stack” is a representative laminated bedrock target.

“Ben Avon” is bedrock with small nodular features throughout it.

“Ben Lawers” includes a thin, resistant layer jutting out above the laminated bedrock surrounding it.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will also analyze a representative bedrock target, “Walsay,” but for reasons beyond just the normal chemical characterization of a target.

Calibration activity

Minitti explains that APXS will analyze Walsay at four different distances – from touching the bedrock surface to hovering 3 centimeters above it – to refine how distance to the target affects APXS data.

“There are instances when the bedrock is rough enough that APXS cannot be placed directly in contact with a desired target. By conducting this calibration activity at Walsay, we will be better able to understand and interpret APXS data acquired in just such a situation,” Minitti notes.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sky-high monitoring

“The dust storm continues to envelop Curiosity, so our plan includes observations aimed at monitoring the amount of dust in the atmosphere at both early morning and midday times,” Minitti reports. “We planned a dust devil survey, and a pair of cloud movies aimed at the horizon and at the zenith. ChemCam also took aim at the sky with a passive spectral observation to monitor the aerosols and trace gases in the atmosphere.”

After the drive on Sol 2119, Minitti adds, “the rover will unstow her arm before imaging the workspace, providing the team with an unobstructed view of our next drill attempt site. Hopefully, we will be able to hit the ground running with our drill plan on Monday!”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) produced on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

The personal collection of Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the Moon, will be presented in a series of auctions beginning November 1-2, 2018 by Heritage Auctions.

The Armstrong Family Collection features never-before-seen artifacts from his momentous lunar landing to private mementos – including pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers flight that Armstrong took with him to the Moon, a gold pin from Armstrong’s Gemini VIII mission, and historic correspondence about the planning that went into the Apollo 11 Moon mission.

Historical items

“There will be flown items, autographed items and items of historical significance,” said Mark Armstrong, son of the historic moonwalker. “There will be items that make you think, items that make you laugh and items that make you scratch your head.”

Fragment-of-Wright-Brothers-Flyer-Propeller-from-Armstrong-Family-Collection
Image credit-CAG.jpg

The auctions will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions has scheduled three auctions for the collection, the first time these personal items have been offered for sale: November 1-2, 2018; May 9-10, 2019; and November 2019.

For more information, go to:

https://www.ha.com/

Credit: CNSA

 

 

 

Today is “Moon Day” that commemorates the first human landing on the Moon by America on July 20, 1969.

To mark the occasion, China Plus/Xinhua has published a Moon Day special that salutes China’s burgeoning lunar exploration program. China Plus is the official English website of China Radio International.

 

 

 

To view this informative look, go to:

http://chinaplus.cri.cn/news/china/9/20180720/159762.html

China’s robotic lunar exploration program started in 2004. It is named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e.

Credit: CNSA

 

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo acquired on Sol 2116, July 20, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2116 duties.

Reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist for the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona: “The Sol 2115 wheel imaging went well, and we received the images needed to plan a drive back to ‘Sgurr of Eigg,’ near the Sol 1999 rover position.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image acquired on Sol 2116, July 20, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On the plan is a drive of over 160 feet (50 meters) during Sol 2116, along with time for continued atmospheric and other scientific observations.

Autonomous exploration

Before the drive, Herkenhoff adds, the Right Mastcam will image the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) target selected by Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software on Sol 2115 and Navcam will monitor the opacity of the atmosphere.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After the drive and the standard post-drive imaging needed to plan weekend activities, Mastcam will measure the atmospheric opacity and ChemCam will observe another target selected by AEGIS.

Measuring dust and wind

Early in the morning of Sol 2117, Mastcam and Navcam will again monitor opacity, and Navcam will look for clouds overhead and near the horizon to measure wind velocity.

“Earth and Mars are getting closer to each other this month, and by the end of this month Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been since 2003! Mars is visible low in the southeast after evening twilight,” Herkenhoff advises. If you have a good telescope, you can monitor the progress of the global dust storm that is being intensely studied from spacecraft orbiting Mars as well as by Curiosity.

New road map

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Meanwhile, a new Curiosity rover location map for Sol 2115 has been issued.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2115 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (July 19, 2018).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up.

From Sol 2108 to Sol 2115, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 3.89 feet (1.19 meters).

Since touching down in Bradbury Landing in August 2012, Curiosity has driven 12.05 miles (19.39 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: The Space Foundation

The Space Foundation today released the findings of its publication The Space Report 2018: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity.

The findings in the 2018 report revealed that in 2017, the global space economy totaled $383.5 billion worldwide. Also, during 2017:

  • Seven countries/agencies spent more than $1 billion on space
  • The U.S. share of global governmental space spending was 57 percent
  • There was a 7 percent increase in the number of orbital launch attempts worldwide
  • The U.S. share of global orbital launch activities was 33 percent
  • There was a 100 percent increase in the total number of spacecraft deployed and a 200 percent increase in the number of commercial spacecraft deployed
  • The U.S. share of global spacecraft deployed was 65 percent

For more information on The Space Report 2018: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, go to:

https://www.thespacereport.org/

China’s Zhongxing-9A is a possible satellite to apply new in-orbit satellite transport vehicle technology, extending the lifetime of the telecommunications spacecraft. Credit: CCTV/Screengrab

 

Select Chinese satellites are to get a re-boost according to China’s Science and Technology Daily. The vehicle would use a robotic arm to dock with the spacecraft, and then carry the satellite to maintain its original orbit.

Simpler, efficient option

The vehicle is being developed by an academy affiliated to the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, noted today by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Hu Di, the chief designer of the vehicle, said compared with foreign research that focuses on refueling satellites that have run out of fuel, their option is much simpler and efficient, according to Xinhua.

Candidate satellite

The satellite transport vehicle will reportedly take about two years to complete.

One Chinese satellite is listed to possibly be boosted by the carrier craft.

Last year, China’s communications satellite Zhongxing-9A failed to enter the preset orbit after launch.

Ground controllers were able to nudge that spacecraft to a correct orbit – but that space maneuvering took two weeks and used large gulps of fuel, shortening the satellite’s working life.

Orbit adjustments

Zhongxing-9A communications satellite (Chinasat-9A was launched by a Long March-3B rocket on June 18, 2017, but abnormal performance during the third phase failed to deliver the satellite as planned. After conducting 10 orbit adjustments with its onboard thrusters, Zhongxing-9A reach its preset orbit.

Zhongxing-9A is the first Chinese-made satellite for live radio and television broadcasts.

Hu’s team has listed Zhongxing-9A as a potential satellite on which to apply the new in-orbit satellite transport vehicle technology.

Go to this China Central Television video showing launch and final positioning of Zhongxing-9A at:

https://youtu.be/DZtg2DLNR3c

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2115 duties with a priority to image the rover’s wheels. Acquisition of those images is needed to plan a drive back to the Sol 1999 location, where the robot may start another drilling campaign.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, reports that the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photos of the wheels taken on Sol 2114 with the dust cover closed show that there is enough dust on the cover to make it difficult to see the wheels.

So a different approach to wheel imaging was planned for Sol 2115.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image acquired on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Left side looks

To minimize the risk of dust contamination of MAHLI’s optics while the cover is open, MAHLI will image only the wheels on the left side of the rover from above the wheels – keeping MAHLI pointing downward while the dust cover is open.

The wheels on the right side of the rover will be imaged by the left Mastcam rather than MAHLI.

Next drive

“Then the rover will turn in place to allow imaging in the direction of the next drive, toward the southwest,” Herkenhoff adds. “After acquiring the standard post-drive data, Mastcam will observe the Sun and crater rim to continue the monitoring of the dust opacity over Gale Crater.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image acquired on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

These observations will be repeated twice early in the morning on Sol 2116 to look for short-term changes in opacity.

 

In addition, the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will use the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software to autonomously select a bedrock target for a 3×3 Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) raster, Herkenhoff concludes.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image acquired on Sol 2115, July 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle successfully flew today, a step closer to providing pay-for-ticket human space travel on suborbital treks.

Exhilarating ride

As posted by Blue Origin: “During this mission, known as Mission 9 (M9), the escape motor was fired shortly after booster separation. The Crew Capsule was pushed hard by the escape test and we stressed the rocket to test that astronauts can get away from an anomaly at any time during flight. The mission was a success for both the booster and capsule. Most importantly, astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing.”

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

“This isn’t the first time we’ve done this type of extreme testing on New Shepard. In October of 2012, we simulated a booster failure on the launch pad and had a successful escape. Then in October of 2016, we simulated a booster failure in-flight at Max Q, which is the most physically strenuous point in the flight for the rocket, and had a completely successful escape of the capsule.”

“This test on M9 allowed us to finally characterize escape motor performance in the near-vacuum of space and guarantee that we can safely return our astronauts in any phase of flight.”

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

Customers

On today’s Mission 9, a third round of payload customers from commercial companies, universities and space agencies shared the cabin with Blue Origin’s Mannequin Skywalker for their flight to

Here is a selection of customers that flew on Mission 9:

Schmitt Space Communicator Xperimental (SC1-x) by Solstar (Santa Fe, NM), developed with private funding and with support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. On New Shepard Mission 8, Solstar demonstrated the first commercial WiFi in space. On this reflight, they will take advantage of the Crew Capsule’s high altitude escape and continue testing WiFi access throughout the flight.

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

GAGa (Granular Anisotropic Gases) is from Otto-von-Guericke University (Magdeburg, Germany) with end-to-end service provider OLYMPIASPACE (Darmstadt, Germany) and funding from the German space agency, DLR. The GAGa payload investigates the statistics of granular gases, dilute collections of solid grains that interact by random collisions. Data from GAGa on New Shepard Mission 9 will help validate existing theoretical models and contribute to understanding the dynamics of related systems like avalanches and cosmic dust clouds.

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2) is from NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX). SFEM-2 was first flown on Mission 8 of New Shepard, and will collect additional data on Mission 9. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration.

Condensed Droplet Experiment for NASA in Sub-Orbital Spaceflight (ConDENSS) from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. ConDENSS will examine the behavior of small droplets of water in order to support the development of small and efficient heat transfer systems for spaceflight. These systems, called phase change heat transfer systems, provide more uniform surface temperatures and higher power capacities.

APL Electromagnetic Field Experiment by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. This experiment marks the first flight of the JANUS 2.1 platform with sensors to monitor magnetic fields and ambient pressure inside the vehicle. Previous versions of JANUS were flown on New Shepard Missions 6 and 7.

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

Vibration Isolation Platform Data Logger by Controlled Dynamics, funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. VIP DL is a technology demo for an active stabilization platform that aims to allow the most sensitive payloads flying on New Shepard to be isolated from ambient vibrations, allowing for even higher precision microgravity studies.

mu Space-1 by mu Space Corporation (Bangkok, Thailand). The first of Blue Origin’s New Glenn customers to purchase a slot on New Shepard, mu Space’s payload includes an assortment of scientific and medical items, several textile materials they plan to use on their future space suit and apparel, and other special articles for their community partners.

Credit: Blue Origin/Screengrab

 

Blue Origin “Fly My Stuff” is tagged as a special addition to the Mission 9 payload manifest and is a suite of payloads from Blue Origin employees as a part of the group’s internal “Fly My Stuff” program.

Rover drill checkup. Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2113, July 17, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is engaged in Sol 2114 duties, finishing up at the Voyageurs drill site.

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan in Dearborn: “After our attempt to drill the Voyageurs target did not reach sufficient depth due to the impressive hardness of the rock, the team is beginning to finish up its activities at this location before heading a bit further uphill to find a more suitable (i.e., softer) drill target.”

Hardest yet observed

Salvatore notes that all evidence suggests that this rock target is one of the hardest yet observed in Gale crater, a property that may be indicative of this entire section of the Vera Rubin Ridge.

“To a geologist, variations in rock hardness could indicate several different physical and chemical properties about a rock,” Salvatore adds. “It is important for us to further characterize and understand why this rock unit is so much harder than the underlying rocks within the Murray formation.”

Voyageurs drill site. Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2113, July 17, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Formation mechanisms

Salvatore speculates, could this increased hardness be related to changes in water chemistry as the sedimentary rocks were being deposited? Or, could this increased hardness be due to subsequent cementation as iron-rich water was injected into the previously deposited sedimentary rocks?

“In order to address these possible formation mechanisms (and countless others), we must continue to gather data on the physical, chemical, and mineralogical properties of this portion of the Vera Rubin Ridge,” Salvatore explains.

New plans

A new set of Curiosity activities contain a combination of scientific investigations and engineering activities.

The plan starts with a short imaging science block where Mastcam will be used to acquire images of the surrounding landscape to search for short-term changes to the surface, including sand migration and changes to dust cover.

The robot’s Navcam will also be used to investigate the atmospheric dust content and to search for nearby dust devils.

Following this block of observations, Curiosity will use the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) high-resolution camera to investigate the shallow Voyageurs drill hole and to image the rover wheels with its dust cover closed (to avoid dirtying the camera lens).

Drill hole documentation

“After a short nap and a data uplink to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passes overhead,” Salvatore says that Curiosity is slated to embark on another block of science activities. This second suite will include Mastcam images of the dusty atmosphere, a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) chemical analysis of the Voyageurs drill hole, a LIBS measurements of the ChemCam calibration target, and a follow-up Mastcam documentation image of the drill hole.

Laser shots. Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2113, July 17, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

This will conclude the sol 2114 science activities.

Deluge of discussions

The team first had to deal with the realization that the drill activities at the Voyageurs target did not penetrate deep enough into the target to acquire materials for analysis onboard the rover.

“While disappointing, the information gathered about the rock properties and drill activities led to a deluge of productive scientific discussions about how to proceed and what these observations tell us about the geologic environment that Curiosity is investigating,” Salvatore reports.

Scientists and engineers can collectively turn a “frustrating sigh into a gasp of excitement” as researchers think about next observations and what more they have to learn about this interesting and foreign environment, Salvatore concludes.

Rocketeer Jeff Bezos and his commercial rocket firm, Blue Origin.
Credit: Blue Origin

 

Launch tomorrow of the New Shepard is slated for 9:00 am CT / 14:00 UTC. Live webcast begins at T-20 minutes on http://BlueOrigin.com

On Mission 9 a third round of payload customers from commercial companies, universities and space agencies will share the cabin with Blue Origin’s Mannequin Skywalker for their flight to space.

Ready for re-flight – Blue Origin’s Mannequin Skywalker
Credit: Blue Origin/Screen Grab

Customers

Here is a selection of customers slated to fly on Mission 9:

Schmitt Space Communicator Xperimental (SC1-x) by Solstar (Santa Fe, NM), developed with private funding and with support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. On New Shepard Mission 8, Solstar demonstrated the first commercial WiFi in space. On this reflight, they will take advantage of the Crew Capsule’s high altitude escape and continue testing WiFi access throughout the flight.

GAGa (Granular Anisotropic Gases) is from Otto-von-Guericke University (Magdeburg, Germany) with end-to-end service provider OLYMPIASPACE (Darmstadt, Germany) and funding from the German space agency, DLR. The GAGa payload investigates the statistics of granular gases, dilute collections of solid grains that interact by random collisions. Data from GAGa on New Shepard Mission 9 will help validate existing theoretical models and contribute to understanding the dynamics of related systems like avalanches and cosmic dust clouds.

Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2) is from NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX). SFEM-2 was first flown on Mission 8 of New Shepard, and will collect additional data on Mission 9. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration.

Condensed Droplet Experiment for NASA in Sub-Orbital Spaceflight (ConDENSS) from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. ConDENSS will examine the behavior of small droplets of water in order to support the development of small and efficient heat transfer systems for spaceflight. These systems, called phase change heat transfer systems, provide more uniform surface temperatures and higher power capacities.

APL Electromagnetic Field Experiment by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. This experiment marks the first flight of the JANUS 2.1 platform with sensors to monitor magnetic fields and ambient pressure inside the vehicle. Previous versions of JANUS were flown on New Shepard Missions 6 and 7.

Vibration Isolation Platform Data Logger by Controlled Dynamics, funded through NASA Flight Opportunities Program. VIP DL is a technology demo for an active stabilization platform that aims to allow the most sensitive payloads flying on New Shepard to be isolated from ambient vibrations, allowing for even higher precision microgravity studies.

mu Space-1 by mu Space Corporation (Bangkok, Thailand). The first of Blue Origin’s New Glenn customers to purchase a slot on New Shepard, mu Space’s payload includes an assortment of scientific and medical items, several textile materials they plan to use on their future space suit and apparel, and other special articles for their community partners.

Blue Origin “Fly My Stuff” is tagged as a special addition to the Mission 9 payload manifest and is a suite of payloads from Blue Origin employees as a part of the group’s internal “Fly My Stuff” program.

Blue Origin’s crew capsule – a suborbital six-seater craft.
Credit: Blue Origin

Griffith Observatory Event