Greetings fellow astrophiles,
The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:
NASA Prepares For First Interplanetary CubeSats On Agency’s Next Mission To Mars
RELEASE 15-122 (Click here for the full article) – 12 June 2015
When NASA launches its next mission on the journey to Mars – a stationary lander in 2016 – the flight will include two CubeSats. This will be the first time CubeSats have flown in deep space. If this flyby demonstration is successful, the technology will provide NASA the ability to quickly transmit status information about the main spacecraft after it lands on Mars.
The twin communications-relay CubeSats, being built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, constitute a technology demonstration called Mars Cube One (MarCO). CubeSats are a class of spacecraft based on a standardized small size and modular use of off-the-shelf technologies. Many have been made by university students, and dozens have been launched into Earth orbit using extra payload mass available on launches of larger spacecraft.
The basic CubeSat unit is a box roughly 4 inches (10 centimeters) square. Larger CubeSats are multiples of that unit. MarCO’s design is a six-unit CubeSat – about the size of a briefcase — with a stowed size of about 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters).
For information about MarCO, visit: www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/marco
For information about InSight, visit: www.nasa.gov/insight
Learn more about NASA’s journey to Mars at: www.nasa.gov/content/journey-to-mars-overview
NASA, UN Photo Competition Highlights Why Space Matters On Earth
RELEASE 15-129 (Click here for the full article) – 16 June 2015
NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have launched a global photography competition to highlight how the vantage point of space helps us better understand our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future by aiding sustainable development on Earth.
To highlight the role of space-based science and technologies and their applications on Earth, NASA and UNOOSA are inviting the public to submit photos depicting why space matters to us all in our daily lives. To participate, post a picture and description on Instagram using the hashtag #whyspacematters and tagging @UNOOSA.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is three months into a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, will announce the winning photo each month by posting it from his Instagram account @StationCDRKelly.
For more information about the International Space Station and its crews and research, visit: www.nasa.gov/station
All Systems Go For NASA’s Mission To Jupiter Moon Europa
RELEASE 15-130 (Click here for the full article) – 17 June 2015
Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.
NASA’s mission concept — to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability — has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.
“Today we’re taking an exciting step from concept to mission, in our quest to find signs of life beyond Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Observations of Europa have provided us with tantalizing clues over the last two decades, and the time has come to seek answers to one of humanity’s most profound questions.”
NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter in the late 1990s produced strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath its frozen crust. If proven to exist, this global ocean could hold more than twice as much water as Earth. With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa may have the ingredients needed to support simple organisms.
For more information about NASA’s mission to Europa, visit: www.nasa.gov/europa
Veteran NASA Spacecraft Nears 60,000th Lap Around Mars, No Pit Stops
RELEASE 15-134 (Click here for the full article) – 19 June 2015
Named after the bestselling novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke, Odyssey began orbiting Mars almost 14 years ago, on Oct. 23, 2001. On Dec. 15, 2010, it became the longest-operating spacecraft ever sent to Mars, and continues to hold that record today.
Odyssey, which discovered widespread water ice just beneath the surface of the Red Planet, is still going strong today, serving as a key communications relay for NASA’s Mars rovers and making continued contributions to planetary science.
For more information about Odyssey, visit: mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey
NASA’s Chandra Captures X-Ray Echoes Pinpointing Distant Neutron Star
RELEASE 15-137 (Click here for the full article) – 23 June 2015
Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered the largest and brightest set of rings from X-ray light echoes ever observed. These extraordinary rings, produced by an intense flare from a neutron star, provide astronomers a rare chance to determine how far across the Milky Way galaxy the star is from Earth.
The rings appear as circles around Circinus X-1, a double star system in the plane of our galaxy containing a neutron star, the dense remnant of a massive star pulverized in a supernova explosion. The neutron star is in orbit with another massive star, and is shrouded by thick clouds of interstellar gas and dust. Circinus X-1 is also the source of a surprisingly powerful jet of high-energy particles.
“It’s really hard to get accurate distance measurements in astronomy and we only have a handful of methods,” said Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who led the study. “But just as bats use sonar to triangulate their location, we can use the X-rays from Circinus X-1 to figure out exactly where it is.”
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: www.nasa.gov/chandra
For an interactive image, podcast, and video about these findings, visit: chandra.si.edu