Archive for June, 2020

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo of Bloodstone Hill, taken on Sol 2795, June 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now conducting Sol 2798 tasks and has reached the 14.0 mile (22.53 kilometers) mark since landing in August 2012.

Following a recent drive, Curiosity has wheeled closer to “Bloodstone Hill.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2796, June 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perfect spot

Another scheduled drive of the rover is to put it in a perfect spot to conduct contact science in the upcoming weekend plan with arm instruments – the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), the Dust Removal Tool (DRT), and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2796, June 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity was scheduled to utilize a suite of remote sensing observations to document its surroundings as it approached Bloodstone Hill.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2796, June 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

Nodular-rich bedrock

On the first sol of a recently scripted plan, Mars scientists filled a science block with three Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) targets: two nodular-rich bedrock targets (“Dry Harbour” and “Embra”) and bedrock target “Ormiston.”

“Following ChemCam, we’ll document Dry Harbour and Ormiston with a single Mastcam documentation image since the targets are in close proximity to one another,” Kronyak adds. “We’ll document the Embra target as part of a larger mosaic to investigate a nearby trough feature. We also planned for a large Mastcam stereo mosaic to capture our view of Bloodstone Hill from our current parking spot. Following our science block, Curiosity will drive the last leg to Bloodstone Hill and collect post-drive images to document our new surroundings.”

Auto-identify

On the second sol of a recently scripted plan, ChemCam was set to collect data on three targets at its new location.

“ChemCam is able to do this using its Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) mode,” Kronyak points out. “The AEGIS software allows the rover to automatically identify targets near the rover and collect geochemical data. Having these three additional ChemCam targets will bolster our geochemical dataset at Bloodstone Hill.”

Road map

A new rover road map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2793 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (June 15, 2020).

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 2790 to Sol 2793, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 155.23 feet (47.31 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 14.0 miles (22.53 kilometers).

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

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2796, June 18, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 2796, June 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: The Planetary Society

One year after launching into space, The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft has completed its primary mission phase and is embarking on an extended mission starting next week, dedicated to further advancing solar sailing technology.

LightSail 2 remains healthy, except for a few minor problems.

According to The Planetary Society’s website, images show one of the tape measure-like sail booms has buckled, and an analysis of shadows from the spacecraft’s solar panels shows that one panel is not fully deployed.

Credit: The Planetary Society

However, these issues have not greatly impacted LightSail 2’s solar sailing performance.

The LightSail 2 extended mission begins on June 25, 2020.

Extended mission

The goals of the extended mission include:

— Continue to tune LightSail 2’s solar sail performance

— Learn more about solar sailing operation through the study of various operational refinements and orbital evolution in response to sail control

— Continue taking pictures for public outreach and engineering analyses, including to study sail, boom, and spacecraft evolution

— Implement deorbit studies of sail dynamics with the sail acting as a drag sail

— Test a ground-based fault protection algorithm being developed by Purdue University Ph.D. student Justin Mansell

— Continue to share information about the mission and what we are learning from it with the technical community and the public, through peer-reviewed journal articles, conference presentations, direct contact with future solar sailing missions, web articles, and social media.

Credit: The Planetary Society

Participation opportunity

You’re invited to join CEO Bill Nye and the LightSail 2 mission team to celebrate the end of LightSail 2’s primary mission and the beginning of extended operations.

To participate on Thursday, June 25, 2020, register here at:

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5749726040769866253

For more information on LightSail 2, go to:

https://www.planetary.org/explore/projects/lightsail-solar-sailing/

The U.S. Secretary for Defense has released the Defense Space Strategy, which identifies how Department of Defense will advance spacepower to be able to compete, deter and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is embarking on the most significant transformation in the history of the U.S. national security space program.

Space is now a distinct warfighting domain, demanding enterprise-wide changes to policies, strategies, operations, investments, capabilities, and expertise for a new strategic environment. This strategy identifies how DoD will advance spacepower to enable the Department to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

For the summary of this report, go to:

https://media.defense.gov/2020/Jun/17/2002317391/-1/-1/1/2020_DEFENSE_SPACE_STRATEGY_SUMMARY.PDF?source=GovDelivery

Also, a fact sheet is available at:

https://media.defense.gov/2020/Jun/17/2002317392/-1/-1/1/2020_DEFENSE_SPACE_STRATEGY_FACTSHEET.PDF?source=GovDelivery

China’s champion – long duration Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

China’s lunar rover Yutu-2 and Chang’e-4 lander autonomously came back to life on June 15, and entered their 19th lunar day of activity on the farside of the Moon.  A day on the Moon lasts as long as 29.5 Earth days.

China’s Chang’e-4 lander as viewed by Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Since the Chang’e-4 probe made the first-ever soft landing within the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin in early January 2019, it has been working for nearly a year and a half, and continues to relay new images of the lunar surface.

Movement of the Chang’e 4 rover, Yutu-2, captured in NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC images.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Crater examination

According to the China Global Television Network (CGTV), based on the data obtained on the 17th lunar day, the Yutu-2 science team identified a nearby crater for examination.

With a small diameter of about 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) and a depth of not more than 8 inches (20 centimeters), the crater was found at about 10 feet (3 meters) southwest of the current position of the 6-wheeled Yutu-2 lunar rover.

Credit: CNAS/CLEP

There are reflective materials in the center of the crater, which is obviously different from the brightness of the surrounding lunar soil, according to a Xinhua news report.

 

Deep space control stations

In order to provide communications support for China’s first Mars exploration mission, the two deep-space observation and control stations in Jiamusi and Kashi, China, were officially completed on June 13 after over a month’s transformation.

Communications have returned to normal and continue to support Yutu-2, according to China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP).

Scientific discoveries

According to China Central Television (CCTV), the lunar probe and rover have accomplished a series of important scientific discoveries.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screen grab

The rover’s Lunar Penetrating Radar was used to study the geological structure with a depth of over 130 feet (40 meters), unveiling the secrets buried under the surface of the farside of the Moon, enriching understanding of the history of celestial collisions and volcanic activities and shedding new light on the geological evolution of the Moon.

Scientists also analyzed the data of the infrared imaging spectrometer on Yutu-2 and revealed the material composition on the Moon’s farside, verifying that the lunar mantle is rich in olivine, which deepens the understanding of the formation and evolution of the Moon.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Marching northwest

Explains Shen Zhenrong, chief designer of the Yutu-2 rover: “This rover will mainly work on a course to the northwest during this lunar day. First it will explore a plot of lunar soil in which scientists are interested, mainly using infrared imaging spectrometer and panoramic camera. Then it will continue marching toward northwest.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Wu Xueying, deputy chief designer of Yutu-2 rover adds: “Suppose you land on the nearside, it’s simply a plain. But if you go to the farside, it would be like entering high mountains in valleys.”

Rough terrains

Scientifically speaking, Shen says, the rover is expected to go for environments featuring relatively rich geological terrains, which is to say rough terrains. They might offer richer geological information, hence more scientific findings. But from an engineering perspective, considering the safety of the rover, it might be safer to choose a route that is relatively smoother, with flatter slope and fewer rocks.”

Yutu-2 rover (Jade Rabbit-2).
Credit: CNAS/CLEP

“Each step it makes involves a local planning, which is done according to the images of the surroundings formed by the camera carried by rover itself, then transmitted back to the ground where 3D images are restored. Then we map out a relatively safe path based on the rover’s traveling capability,” Shen notes.

Go to this CCTV news agency video detailing China’s Chang’e-4 mission at:

https://youtu.be/1C0-_MVjBDM

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2793, June 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2795 tasks.

Bloodstone Hill – Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 2793, June 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Reports Kristen Bennett, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona:

“A few months ago, Curiosity drove up on top of the ‘Greenheugh pediment’ to investigate the capping unit that is visible on top. After Curiosity drove off the pediment, the rover has been driving along the base of the pediment scarp and is about to reach the eastern edge. An interesting feature that is located at the eastern edge of the pediment is called ‘Bloodstone Hill’ – a light-toned mound that the team has been observing in long distance images for the entire mission.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image acquired on Sol 2793, June 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Questions raised

Bennett adds that Bloodstone Hill was even visible from Curiosity’s landing site!

“This light-toned mound is located right at the edge of the pediment, although it does not appear to have the pediment capping unit on top. Bloodstone Hill caught the team’s attention because it is so bright, which raises many questions,” Bennett explains.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2794, June 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Is it bright because it is covered in dust…a different mineralogy…a different alteration history?

“Now Curiosity is approaching Bloodstone Hill, and we can start answering some of these questions,” Bennett says.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2793, June 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Multispectral mosaic

A new plan has as the main event a long drive that will place Curiosity close to the base of Bloodstone Hill.

Another important piece of the plan is the Mastcam multispectral mosaic that will be taken of Bloodstone Hill.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2794, June 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“As we approach this feature,” Bennett continues, “the team is gathering more data that will help us plan our investigation at this location. Multispectral observations can help identify variations in color and/or mineralogy across the outcrop. If the multispectral mosaic reveals any interesting variations, we can target those areas once we arrive at Bloodstone Hill.”

Nodule-rich bedrock

Additionally, several other Mastcam observations in the plan will document fractures or troughs between bedrock patches as well as the contact between the pediment capping unit and the strata below.

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

The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also target “Earlish” to investigate the chemistry of nodule-rich bedrock in this area.

Lastly, a Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image will be taken after the drive to document the terrain underneath the rover, Bennett concludes.

New road map

A newly issued map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2790 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (June 12, 2020).

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 2788 to Sol 2790, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 308.42 feet (94.01 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 13.97 miles (22.48 kilometers).

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

Credit: DOD photo illustration

All the emergency preparedness activities now underway due to the coronavirus – do they offer insight into our readiness for an incoming near Earth object impactor?

Experts have held tabletop exercises to help coordinate responses to potential strikes by dangerous asteroids and comets. (Image credit: The Aerospace Corporation, via NASA/FEMA)

I contacted several asteroid experts as well as an authority on emergency preparedness for advice on how best to handle the storm before the calm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to my new Space.com story:

How the coronavirus pandemic can help us prepare for an asteroid impact

Go to:

https://www.space.com/asteroid-impact-coronavirus-pandemic-lessons.html

 

Date: Thursday, June 18, 2020

Time: 11:00 AM EST; 5 PM CEST

Space Café -Special – this is a For All Moonkind and SpaceWatch.Global’s webinar featuring global space experts on special topics.

Join the conversation about race with diverse perspectives from within and outside the US space community.

More equal future

Hosted by Michelle Hanlon, co-founder of For All Moonkind and Co-Director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, this conversation on Race in Space features:

Jarard Williams: a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law will share his research in a presentation entitled “The Dark Star: Black Representation in Space.”

Yvette Butler: who is joining the law faculty at the University of Mississippi this summer will consider recent events, discuss how we got here, and more importantly, how to engage in the present moment to both assure a more equal future and prevent the extension of racism with humans into space.

Kevin Myrick: Co-Founder of Synergy Moon, an official Google Lunar Xprize team, will talk about how space can help race relations and promote equality and justice.

Specific actions

Each panelist will suggest specific actions that can be taken by individuals to combat systemic racism. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.

For All Moonkind is working to build the foundation upon which successful and sustainable human communities may thrive in space, starting with a recognition of human heritage in space, and a reconfirmation of all human rights in space.

SpaceWatch.Global is a Switzerland-based digital magazine and portal for those interested in space and the far reaching impact of the space sector.

This Space Café WebTalk will be conducted in English.

For free registration, go to:

https://www.eventbrite.ch/e/space-cafe-race-in-space-a-conversation-about-equality-and-civil-rights-tickets-108619525926?aff=erelexpmlt&mc_cid=e0e0d79308&mc_eid=526f2f82cf

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2791, June 12, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2792 duties.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2791, June 12, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Reports Michelle Minitti, a planetary geologist at Framework in Silver Spring, Maryland: “Akin to a road trip where you want to make good time but do not want to miss the notable sights along the way, Curiosity is fitting in scientific sightseeing along her drive east toward sulfate-bearing horizons identified in Mt. Sharp long before Curiosity started exploring Gale crater in 2012.”

 

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2791, June 12, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Stop-worthy attraction

The stop-worthy attraction on Sol 2790, Minitti adds, was an apparent landslide, which littered the slopes up to the “Greenheugh pediment” with a variety of dark gray blocks from that bedrock layer.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo acquired on Sol 2790, June 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo acquired on Sol 2790, June 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo acquired on Sol 2790, June 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo acquired on Sol 2790, June 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo acquired on Sol 2790, June 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“To learn more about how the pediment, and the bedrock it once covered, eroded through time, the team planned two Mastcam mosaics from the base of the landslide,” Minitti explains. “One large mosaic will cover the landslide itself, dubbed ‘Munlochy,’ and the second, smaller mosaic will capture ‘Cowie Harbour,’ layered outcrops on lower flanks of a butte that was once connected to the Greenheugh pediment.”

Pebble-lined troughs

The plan also scheduled Mastcam to image a collection of large blocks (“Yamspath Law”) sitting among pebble-lined troughs dividing the bedrock of this part of the Glen Torridon region, further contributing to the investigation of how the terrain the rover is driving on evolved to the state the robot finds it today.

With all of the Mastcam imaging, there was only time for one Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) raster on the target “Muness,” one of the dark gray blocks brought downhill by the landslide.

“Fortunately, we knew we got additional chemistry data from the bedrock covered by the landslide in the two post-drive automated ChemCam rasters from the previous plan,” Minitti notes.

Sand patch

“We will get two more such automated ChemCam rasters after our next drive, which will take us slightly north around a sand patch that stands in our way of direct progress east,” Minitti points out.

“Before and after the drive, we will acquire numerous images and movies of the skies above us to monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere and look for clouds and dust devils,” Minitti concludes.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New road map

Meanwhile, a new rover road map shows the route driven by Curiosity through the 2788 Martian day, or sol, of the robot’s mission on Mars (June 10, 2020).

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 2786 to Sol 2788, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 273.85 feet (83.47 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 13.91 miles (22.38 kilometers).

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

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image pinpoints Curiosity rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

 

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE image. Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

The return capsule of the trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship was opened in Beijing recently, with the interior arrangements now being shown to the public.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The craft landed safely on May 8 at the Dongfeng landing site and is designed for transportation of both astronauts and cargo.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The right side of the vehicle carried nearly 1,000 pieces of supplies to verify the spaceship’s cargo capacity. The left side of the craft was configured as a living area for astronauts, with a folding table and a toilet.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Split design

“The entire work area for astronauts in the future will not include the racks and cargo bags on the right side which were designed for test this time,” said Tian Zheng, deputy chief designer of the general assembly of the new-generation manned test spaceship under the China Academy of Space Technology.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“The space inside is about 13 cubic meters,” Tian explained, “which is larger than that of previous ones. According to our plan, it’s big enough for six to seven astronauts.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Cargo

The cargo onboard China’s new-generation spacecraft prototype was revealed during a ceremony held by the China Manned Space Engineering Office and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The spacecraft transported scientific experiments, seeds, Chinese herbal medicine, the national flags of Pakistan and Argentina, and some youth science test items.

The spacecraft was launched by a Long March-5B launch vehicle from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Wenchang, Hainan Province, China, on May 5, 2020.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

On orbit, the capsule was used for China’s first on-orbit leakage and collision detection experiment and to test 3D printing in space.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Independently developed by China, the 3D printer automatically completed the task of printing two samples, a hive-shaped part and a logo of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), during space flight, confirming the scientific research purpose of 3D printing composite materials in a microgravity environment.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

A special film material was used to achieve a strong adhesion with composite interface. Even when it bore a huge impact while the capsule returned, the sample part and the substrate remained firmly bonded.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to the research and development team, the 3D printing system, its work process was entirely automatically controlled, achieved several technological breakthroughs.

“The completion of 3D printing in space is actually to achieve space manufacturing. We are the first to use a continuous filament reinforced composite material, principally because the composite material is the main load-bearing structure material of the spacecraft,” explains Chen Yi, deputy head technologist, space 3D printing system project, China Academy of Space Technology Corporation (CAST), China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

Chen Yi, deputy head technologist, space 3D printing system project, China Academy of Space Technology Corporation (CAST), China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The researchers will further compare and analyze the samples printed in space and on Earth, evaluating the molding quality of 3D printing in space. “The completion of 3D printing in space is actually to achieve space manufacturing. We are the first to use a continuous filament reinforced composite material, principally because the composite material is the main load-bearing structure material of the spacecraft,” adds Chen.

To view the China Central Television (CCTV) video showing the split design of China’s new-generation manned spaceship, go to:

https://youtu.be/KTuISu2rij0

Also go to this Inside China’s new crewed spacecraft video at:

https://youtu.be/2qtqsNpCtPQ

Griffin lander deploys NASA VIPER.
Credit: Astrobotics

 

Astrobotic has been selected by NASA to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the south pole of the Moon in 2023.

The private company, will provide an end-to-end delivery for VIPER on board the company’s Griffin lunar lander through a $199.5 million contract awarded under the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS.

VIPER on the prowl.
Credit: NASA

 

VIPER is a mobile robot that will go to the south pole of the Moon to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, Mars — and beyond.

VIPER hardware being tested.
Credit: NASA/JSC

 

 

 

Resource mapping

VIPER represents the first resource mapping mission on another celestial body. 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Astrobotic will be responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its lander, launch from Earth, and landing in a polar region on the Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video at:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/astrobotic-assets/Astrobotic_Griffin_Surface_01.mp4