Archive for July, 2018

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo taken on Sol 2121, July 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2122 tasks.

Reports Rachel Kronyak, planetary geologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the science team has selected a new drill target, “Ailsa Craig,” and spent time triaging the target with the rover’s contact science instruments: the Dust Removal Tool, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2121, July 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drill time

The current plan spells out two sols of Curiosity work: Sol 2122 is devoted to drilling the target Ailsa Craig.

“We’ll collect some complementary observations to document our drilling activities,” Kronyak adds, using the robot’s Mastcam, MAHLI, and the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) cameras.


Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) shows prepping of new drill site. Photo produced on Sol 2121, July 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Recharging

“We’ll spend most of Sol 2123 recharging, but we also managed to squeeze in a few additional science observations,” Kronyak notes, including two ChemCam Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) analyses on nearby bedrock targets “Tolsta Head” and “Appin.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image of dust busting brushes. Photo taken on Sol 2121, July 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We’ll also use Mastcam to document two nearby crater features named “Taconite” and “Peterhead.” Finally, we’ll conduct some standard atmospheric tau and crater rim observations,” Kronyak concludes.

 

Destination Mars – Putting American Boots on the Surface of the Red Planet!

 

This July 25 hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness focused on NASA’s exploration priorities and is the first in a series of hearings in anticipation of a future NASA authorization legislation.

Floating to the top of questioning, Moon first, Mars second…or Red Planet priority as #1 objective?

Witnesses/written testimony

Mr. Tory Bruno, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Launch Alliance

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/32b2c5c0-e47b-4a8b-bab2-fba678d59ec2/68DD9659E8345D48D132E5038A1E06B9.mr.-tory-bruno-testimony.pdf

Mr. Chris Carberry, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Explore Mars. Inc.

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/acd5ddb5-542e-474b-a78c-20565ddee853/2928178B732DF6458D7115B695FD508A.mr.-chris-carberry-testimony.pdf

Dr. Dava Newman, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics, Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Harvard-MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/55e50b50-73a2-47df-ae2b-b096647f1272/BC7DAB444AC8E4018B87D9A87A079EBB.dr.-dava-newman-testimony.pdf

Dr. Peggy A. Whitson, former NASA Astronaut

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/89837e3f-8a7e-48b3-b90b-a7b6db44ac3b/7D297CE283C547436739448FBAC13163.dr.-peggy-whitson-testimony.pdf

Video of hearing starts at: 1:24:40

Go to archived hearing at:

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=75B8CE46-D9AC-4B0E-B2C0-FA540D2C00D1

Also, Commerce Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement is available at:

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?Id=75B8CE46-D9AC-4B0E-B2C0-FA540D2C00D1&Statement_id=8C310FD1-6CF4-4C8A-A582-CE787A28578D

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2121, July 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2121 tasks.

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland, Mars dealt scientists a winning hand, yielding a sufficiently flat parking space after a recent short bump that allows Curiosity to proceed with a plan to drill in an area of the “Vera Rubin Ridge.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2120, July 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Our current parking spot does not exhibit as strong a hematite signal from orbit as the site of our last drill attempt,” Minitti notes, “but it still importantly provides an opportunity to sample the ‘Pettegrove Point’ member of the Vera Rubin Ridge.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2120, July 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Drill target

The focus of late has been almost solely on characterizing the drill target, melodiously named “Ailsa Craig,” using the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) after brushing it with the rover’s Dust Removal Tool.

“The rover will also place the drill in contact with the target and push into it to test the target’s stability for drilling,” Minitti adds. If luck holds, Curiosity will soon attempt new drilling activities.

“The science team managed to squeeze one observation unrelated to drilling into the plan…a single image of the sky to monitor the dust in the atmosphere,” Minitti concludes.

New road map

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

Meanwhile, a new Curiosity traverse map through Sol 2120 has been issued.

The map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2120 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (July 24, 2018).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2119 to Sol 2120, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 6.52 feet (1.99 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.10 miles (19.47 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 acquired on Sol 2120, July 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2120, July 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2120 tasks.

Reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist for NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California: “A weekend drive completed successfully and we have our next intended drill target attempt in the rover workspace.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2120, July 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pitch and roll

However, Fraeman adds, a problem has cropped up. The combination of the rover’s pitch and roll makes future delivery of a drilled sample to the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite via the new feed extended sample transfer (FEST) method impossible in the robot’s current orientation.

The plan has the rover making a “scooch” to put it in a more favorable position for drill sample delivery activities, Fraeman explains.

This small bump pushes Curiosity into a good drill position.

“We also managed to get some science in before the bump,” Fraeman points out.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2119, July 23, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Gauging dust fall

The plan calls for use of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to photograph “Sgurr of Eigg,” a contact science target from almost 120 sols ago. Doing so allows scientists to gauge how much dust has deposited on it since the rover used its Dust Removal Tool (DRT) on the target.

Also planned Fraeman adds, is taking Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) passive spectra from another familiar target, “Appin,” and then a Mastcam multispectral observation of both Sgurr of Eigg and Appin.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 2119, July 23, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

“We’ll finish out the morning science block with a Navcam dust devil survey and get some additional environmental science monitoring in the afternoon, including a tau observation and image of the crater rim to the north,” Fraeman concludes.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, provides an overview of the space agency’s history and future plans.
Credit: CSIS/Screengrab

The Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held an impressive gathering of past NASA leaders to discuss the space agency’s 60th anniversary – and future plans including the lunar gateway concept.

The discussion held on Monday, July 23, featured new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined in a panel conversation with two of his predecessors: Sean O’Keefe and Charlie Bolden.

Bridenstine, joined in a panel conversation with two of his predecessors: Sean O’Keefe and Charlie Bolden.
Credit: CSIS/Screengrab

Bridenstine provided an overview of the agency’s future while honoring its decades-long history. The Administrator’s address by a panel discussion led by Todd Harrison, Director of Aerospace Security Project and Senior Fellow of the CSIS International Security Program.

To view a video of the event — starts at 36:48 – go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4605&v=uVrDHxyIf4M

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this Moon image on Dec. 7, 1992, on its way to explore the Jupiter system in 1995-1997. Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

 

Two space researchers are suggesting that, while Earth’s Moon is uninhabitable today, there could have been life on its surface in the distant past.

They suggest that two early windows of habitability for Earth’s Moon might have been sufficient to support simple lifeform: shortly after the Moon formed from a debris disk 4 billion years ago and again during a peak in lunar volcanic activity around 3.5 billion years ago.

During both periods, the Moon was spewing out large quantities of superheated volatile gases, including water vapor, from its interior. This outgassing could have formed pools of liquid water on the lunar surface and an atmosphere dense enough to keep it there for millions of years.

That prospect has been outlined by astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch at the Technical University in Berlin, Germany and adjunct professor at Washington State University, along with Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at the University of London.

Sensitive analyses

The study is online today in the journal Astrobiology and draws on results from recent space missions and sensitive analyses of lunar rock and soil samples that show the Moon is not as dry as previously thought.

Credit: NASA

In 2009-2010, an international team of scientists discovered hundreds of millions of metric tons of water ice on the Moon. Additionally, there is strong evidence of a large amount of water in the lunar mantle that is thought to have been deposited very early on in the Moon’s formation, Schulze-Makuch and Crawford point out.

The early Moon is also likely to have been protected by a magnetic field that could have shielded lifeforms on the surface from deadly solar winds.

Cyanobacteria touchdown

The earliest evidence for life on Earth comes from fossilized cyanobacteria that are 3.5-3.8 billion years old. During this time, the solar system was dominated by frequent and giant meteorite impacts. It is possible that meteorites containing simple organisms like cyanobacteria, the researchers suggest, could have been blasted off the surface of the Earth and landed on the Moon.

“It looks very much like the Moon was habitable at this time,” Schulze-Makuch said in a press statement. “There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the Moon until the surface became dry and dead.”

International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

Future research

Whatever the case, determining if life arose on the Moon or was transported from elsewhere can only be addressed by an aggressive future program of lunar exploration, the researchers add. A promising line of inquiry for any future space missions would be to obtain samples from deposits from the period of heightened volcanic activity to see if they contained water or other possible markers of life.

Also, experiments could be conducted in simulated lunar environments on Earth and on the International Space Station to see if microorganisms can survive under the environmental conditions predicted to have existed on the early Moon.

To view the research — Was There an Early Habitability Window for Earth’s Moon? — go to:

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2018.1844#

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

Griffith Observatory Event