Archive for March, 2019

The laser retro-reflector array itself before being installed on the Beresheet Moon lander.
Credit: SpaceIL/Courtesy Xiaoli Sun/GSFC

 

An Israeli spacecraft is headed for the Moon, slated to touch down in April within Mare Serenitatis on the northern hemisphere of the Moon. Onboard is an experiment — smaller than a computer mouse — that could enable spot-on touch downs of future robotic and human-carrying landers.

NASA experiment after installation (the array is mounted on the top of the spacecraft, lower left, at about 7 o’clock position).
Credit: SpaceIL/Courtesy Xiaoli Sun/GSFC

 

 

 

 

For more information, go to my new Space.com story at:

NASA’s Piggyback Experiment on Israeli Moon Lander Could Aid Future Lunar Touchdowns

By Leonard David

https://www.space.com/israel-moon-lander-nasa-instrument.html

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo taken on Sol 2363, March 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is just wrapping up Sol 2363 duties.

New imagery shows the robot making tracks and performing a variety of science tasks.

Laser shots across target. Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2363, March 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2362, March 30, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2361, March 29, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2361, March 29, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 2361, March 29, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Right B image acquired on Sol 2363, March 31, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

Recurrent Slope Linae on the Palikir Crater walls on Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

New research suggests deep groundwater on Mars could still be active and creating surface streams in some near-equatorial areas on the planet.

Once again, scientists point to the planet’s recurring slope linea – RSL for short – that are akin to dried, short streams of water that appear on some crater walls.

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 new work suggests that the source of RSL could be natural discharge along geological structures from briny aquifers within the Red Planet’s cryosphere.

University of Southern California (USC) research scientist, Essam Heggy and co-author Abotalib Z. Abotalib, a postdoctoral research associate at USC, studied the characteristics of the planet’s RSL. Their research findings are presented in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“We suggest that deep groundwater occasionally surfaces on Mars in present-day conditions,” the scientists note in their paper.

Alternative hypothesis

Previously, scientists put forward the idea that these features were affiliated with surface water flow or close subsurface water flow, said Heggy, who added that the new research suggests that may not be true.

“We propose an alternative hypothesis that they originate from a deep pressurized groundwater source which comes to the surface moving upward along ground cracks,” Heggy explains in a USC press statement.

Features called recurrent slope lineae (RSL) have been spotted on some Martian slopes in warmer months. Some scientists think RSL could be seasonal flows of salty water. Red arrows point out one 0.75-mile-long (2 kilometers) RSL in this image taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Desert hydrology

Abotalib, the paper’s first author, noted that their research in desert hydrology helped lead to this conclusion.

“We have seen the same mechanisms in the North African Sahara and in the Arabian Peninsula, and it helped us explore the same mechanism on Mars,” Abotalib explains.

The two scientists concluded that fractures within some of Mars’ craters enabled water springs to rise up to the surface as a result of pressure deep below. These springs leaked onto the surface, generating the sharp and distinct linear features found on the walls of those craters.

Wanted: deep-probing

The new study suggests that the groundwater that is the source of these water flows could be at depths starting at 2, 460 feet (750 meters) deep.

Heggy adds that such depth requires consideration of more deep-probing techniques to look for the source of this groundwater versus looking for shallow sources of water.

The paper — A deep groundwater origin for recurring slope linea on Mars — is the first Mars paper by the newly created water research center at USC. The work is funded under the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program and is available here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0327-5

Image of China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover taken by Chang’e-4 lander.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

According to the China National Space Administration, the country’s lunar rover — Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2 — has woken up from its third lunar night on the farside of the Moon and resumed its scientific exploration mission.

Making tracks. China’s Yutu-2 robot.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

The rover woke itself up at 8:28 p.m. on Friday and re-established communications with the Queqiao relay satellite.

Lunar work days

As of March 13, the rover had completed three lunar days of work, traveling 535 feet (163 meters) before switching to sleep mode.

China’s Chang’e-4 mission landed on January 3 within Von Kármán crater, located in the southern hemisphere on the farside of the Moon.

Sustaining scientific mission

The nearly 300-pound (135-kilogram) Jade Rabbit-2 is the first ever rover to drive on the lunar farside, and is the lightest rover ever sent to the moon.

According to Chinese space engineers, the rover has surpassed its expected design life.

Rover technicians are working to ensure that the machinery will be able to continue its lunar exploration mission and sustain collection of scientific data.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2361, March 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just begun Sol 2362 duties.

“We are continuing to find interesting new things in Glen Torridon,” reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California.

Fraeman points to new imagery on target “Stonebriggs.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) acquired on Sol 2356, March 24, 2019. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We’ve seen round and smooth clasts before,” Fraeman adds, “but this area really stands out in how densely the clasts are packed together. Were these pebbles rounded by water during transport over a long distance? Or are they wind polished concretions similar to what we saw back on sol 1806…or something completely different? There is a lot to talk about within the science team!”

Recently, Curiosity’s workspace looked more typical of what scientists have been seeing over the last few weeks.

Curiosity MAHLI image acquired on Sol 2361, March 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On the move

A new plan called for the rover to continue driving towards an area researchers hope to drill.

Before that drive, the scheduled called for Curiosity on sol 2361 to collect Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) data on a target named “Ardmillan,” followed by Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observations of Ardmillan, “Uyea,” “Torry,” and “Eorsa.”

Image taken during Phobos transit of Sun as seen by Curiosity Mastcam Right on Sol 2359, March 27, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Nearby outcrops

Fraeman points out: “We will also image nearby outcrops with apparent sedimentary structures named ‘Scolty Hill,’ ‘Midlothian,’ and ‘Dunans,’ as well as some sandy features named ‘Glamis.’”

“Finally, we take a full filter Mastcam observation of the nearby dark rock, ‘Eorsa,’ that we almost drove to last sol,” Fraeman concludes. On sol 2362, the plan calls for taking a video of Phobos transiting the sun and a few ChemCam Autonomous Exploration for Gathering of Increased Science (AEGIS) software observations.

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

Traverse map

Meanwhile, a Curiosity traverse map through Sol 2359 shows the route driven by the wheeled robot through the 2359 Martian day, or sol, Mars (March 27, 2019).

This map through the 2359 Martian day, or sol, shows the rover’s mission on Mars as of March 27, 2019.

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 2357 to Sol 2359, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 90.63 feet (27.63 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.66 miles (20.38 kilometers).

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

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2361, March 29, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Team SEArch+/Apis Cor won first place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The unique shape of their habitat allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure. Light enters through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top.
Credits: Team SEArch+/Apis Cor
Credits: Mars Incubator

Living styles on Mars!

SEArch+/Apis Cor of New York won first place in Phase 3: Level 4 in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. This team focuses on regolith construction to provide radiation shielding and physical protection.

The competition for this stage challenged teams to use modeling software to create a full-scale habitat design. This level built upon an earlier stage that required 60 percent design completion; for this round, submissions were 100 percent complete.

Credit: Team Zopherus

Architectural layout

Entries were scored on architectural layout, programming, efficient use of interior space, and the 3D-printing scalability and constructability of the habitat. Teams also prepared short videos providing insight into their design as well as miniature 3D-printed models that came apart to showcase the interior design. Points were also awarded for aesthetic representation and realism.

NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge aims to further the progression of sustainable shelters that will someday occupy the Moon, Mars or beyond by pushing citizen inventors to develop new technologies capable of additively manufacturing a habitat using indigenous resources with, or without, recyclable materials.

Partnerships

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is managed through a partnership with NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University.

Bradley has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar, Bechtel and Brick & Mortar Ventures to administer the competition. NASA’s Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Credit: Mars Incubator

 

 

 

 

Winners all

SEArch+/Apis Cor of New York won first place in Phase 3: Level 4 in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. This team focuses on regolith construction to provide radiation shielding and physical protection.

Go to video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4pxp5AGeNE&feature=youtu.be

Team Zopherus from Rogers, Arkansas won second place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team’s design would be constructed by an autonomous roving printer that prints a structure and then moves on to the next site.

Go to video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TLnCOCVicE&feature=youtu.be

The virtual design from team Mars Incubator of New Haven, Connecticut won third place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team is a collection of engineers and artists.

Go to video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHxO-zmqdLM&feature=youtu.be

For information about the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/3DPHab

 

Credit: GAO

SPACE ACQUISITIONS: DOD Faces Significant Challenges as it Seeks to Accelerate Space Programs and Address Threat.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) many major Department of Defense (DOD) space programs exceed their budgets and are late. For instance, the cost of a satellite communications system has grown 117% and its first launch was delayed more than 3.5 years.

Today, as DOD is simultaneously undertaking major acquisitions to replenish missile warning, communications, navigation, and weather satellites, it faces:

Growing threats to satellites including cyber attacks and space debris

  • Major proposed space leadership changes
  • Funding and acquisition workforce challenges

For a look at this new GAO report, go to:

https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697998.pdf

The platform destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the next ExoMars mission being shipped to Europe for final assembly and testing.
Credit: Roscosmos

Europe’s ExoMars 2020 hardware is moving forward.

ExoMars is a joint endeavor between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s Roscosmos, with landing on the Red Planet set for 2021.

Essential to the undertaking is the “Kazachok” landing platform of the ExoMars 2020 mission, manufactured and assembled at Russia’s NPO Lavochkin.

Kazachok means “little Cossack.”

Testing of the hardware is taking place at TASinI, an Italian company. TASinI will carry out work on the final assembly and testing of the landing module.

Unpacking the platform that is destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the next ExoMars mission in Turin, Italy.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space

Lightning discharges?

While the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosalind Franklin rover explores its surroundings at the landing site, Oxia Planum, a Czech-made electromagnetic wave analyzer on the Kazachok platform will scan for electromagnetic frequencies that are typical of lightning discharges.

A magnetometer named MAIGRET, developed by Russia will incorporate the Czech Republic’s Wave Analyzer Module (WAM).

ExoMars electromagnetic sensor (structural model). Credit: Institute of Scientific Instruments CAS, Brno, Czechia–I. Vlcek

Researchers want to investigate the existence of lightning discharges on Mars by measuring fluctuations in the electromagnetic field within the range of audible frequencies. Other observations have shown that lightning exists on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but Mars is still unknown.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover and Russia’s stationary surface platform in background.
Credit:
ESA/ATG medialab

Platform duties

In addition to listening for lightning, the platform will also study the climate, atmosphere, radiation, and the possible presence of subsurface water ice in the landing site and surrounding areas.

The ExoMars 2020 mission is the second stage of the largest joint project of the Roscosmos State Corporation and ESA for the study of the surface and the subsurface layer of Mars in close proximity to the landing site, conducting geological research and searching for traces of the possible existence of life on the planet.

Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council, held March 26th in Huntsville, Alabama.
Screengrab: Inside Outer Space

“Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the Moon in the 20th Century, so too will be — we’d be the first nation to return astronauts to the Moon in the 21st century,” explained Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council, held March 26th in Huntsville, Alabama.

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS

Watchword: Urgency

“Urgency must be our watchword.  Failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the Moon in the next five years is not an option,” Pence said.

Vice President Pence asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to accelerate the agency’s lunar exploration plans during the National Space Council meeting.

Credit: NASA

In addition to targeting a human landing on the Moon in 2024, the council also discussed creating a new Moon to Mars Mission Directorate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

Go to these documents released by the White House:

President Donald J. Trump Is Boldly Putting Americans Back on the Moon

Issued on: March 26, 2019

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-boldly-putting-americans-back-moon/

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council, Huntsville, Alabama

Issued on: March 26, 2019

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-fifth-meeting-national-space-council-huntsville-al/

Also, go to these National Space Council videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQkoFuNWXg8&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxvFsqevSdw&feature=youtu.be

To read NASA Administrator Statement on Return to Moon in Next Five Years, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-administrator-statement-on-return-to-moon-in-next-five-years

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2358, March 25, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just started performing Sol 2359 duties.

“At the start of Sol 2359, Curiosity found herself parked in front of some layered bedrock outcrops, a rarity in the rubbly landscapes that we’ve explored so far in the clay-bearing unit,” reports Vivian Sun, a planetary geologist at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“We were constrained by power in today’s plan, but managed to make use of every available minute for science,” Sun adds.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2357, March 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Detailed texture

As part of routine documentation of the chemical and textural variations in this region, the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will be making observations of “Rutherglen” to measure composition and detailed texture.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2357, March 24, 2019. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also measure the composition of “Woodland Bay,” another bedrock exposure in the workspace.

 

Outcrop layering and structure

“We will also take a couple of Mastcam mosaics – one of the entire workspace to get a better look at the outcrop layering and structure, and to bring color to the tonal variations in the Navcam images,” Sun explains. Another Mastcam mosaic will be of “Goosander,” an aeolian bedform that also shows tonal variations.

Sun notes that discussions are underway where Curiosity will next drive.

Float rock – a meteroite? Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2357, March 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Driving options

“One tempting option was to drive to a lone float rock,” Sun says. “We wondered what could this be – a meteorite, or a remnant of a higher, eroded unit?”

Float rock – lonely meteorite in the distance? Navcam Left B Sol 2357 March 24, 2019
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Another option was to drive to a nearby area that seems to contain subtle ridges.

“Given the prevalence of ridges and similar features in the clay-bearing unit, we decided that it was important to drive to the ridges and set ourselves up for contact science on these features,” Sun points out.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image acquired on Sol 2358, March 25, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Phobos transit

“From our future location, we will also have the opportunity to image that float rock as well as a nearby butte. To facilitate these future observations, we added a post-drive Mastcam workspace mosaic so that we will have color imagery to assist in targeting in the next plan,” Sun reports.

Finally, after a drive of approximately 98 feet (30 meters) to the small ridges, Curiosity will make observations of a Phobos transit and a Mastcam tau, followed by ChemCam Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS.

AEGIS observations are designed to autonomously shoot ChemCam targets after driving to a new location, Sun concludes.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2357, March 24, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Griffith Observatory Event