Tag Archives: Red Planet

NASA Space Place – Twenty Years Ago on Mars…

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in July, 2017.

By Linda Hermans-Killiam

2013february2_spaceplaceOn July 4, 1997, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars. It landed in an ancient flood plain that is now dry and covered with rocks. Pathfinder’s mission was to study the Martian climate, atmosphere and geology. At the same time, the mission was also testing lots of new technologies.

For example, the Pathfinder mission tried a brand-new way of landing on Mars. After speeding into the Martian atmosphere, Pathfinder used a parachute to slow down and drift toward the surface of the Red Planet. Before landing, Pathfinder inflated huge airbags around itself. The spacecraft released its parachute and dropped to the ground, bouncing on its airbags about 15 times. After Pathfinder came to a stop, the airbags deflated.

Before Pathfinder, spacecraft had to use lots of fuel to slow down for a safe landing on another planet. Pathfinder’s airbags allowed engineers to use and store less fuel for the landing. This made the mission less expensive. After seeing the successful Pathfinder landing, future missions used this airbag technique, too!

Pathfinder had two parts: a lander that stayed in one place, and a wheeled rover that could move around. The Pathfinder lander had special instruments to study Martian weather. These instruments measured air temperature, pressure and winds. The measurements helped us better understand the climate of Mars.

The lander also had a camera for taking images of the Martian landscape. The lander sent back more than 16,000 pictures of Mars. Its last signal was sent to Earth on Sept. 27, 1997. The Pathfinder lander was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station. Carl Sagan was a well-known astronomer and science educator.

Pathfinder also carried the very first rover to Mars. This remotely-controlled rover was about the size of a microwave oven and was called Sojourner. It was named to honor Sojourner Truth, who fought for African-American and women’s rights. Two days after Pathfinder landed, Sojourner rolled onto the surface of Mars. Sojourner gathered data on Martian rocks and soil. The rover also carried cameras. In the three months that Sojourner operated on Mars, the rover took more than 550 photos!

Pathfinder helped us learn how to better design missions to Mars. It gave us valuable new information on the Martian climate and surface. Together, these things helped lay the groundwork for future missions to Mars.

Learn more about the Sojourner rover at the NASA Space Place: https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/mars-sojourner

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Caption: The Mars Pathfinder lander took this photo of its small rover, called Sojourner. Here, Sojourner is investigating a rock on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 5 July – 20 July 2016

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 announcements from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to: hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft In Orbit Around Mighty Jupiter

RELEASE 16-071 (Click here for the full article) – 5 July 2016

After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53 p.m. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT) Monday, July 4.

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

More information on the Juno mission is available at: www.nasa.gov/juno

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: facebook.com/NASAJuno twitter.com/NASAJuno

NASA Flights To Track Greenhouse Gases Across Eastern US

RELEASE 16-072 (Click here for the full article) – 6 July 2016

actamerica_c130_photoThis month, NASA begins an airborne experiment to improve scientists’ understanding of the sources of two powerful greenhouse gases and how they cycle into and out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric Carbon and Transport–America, or ACT-America, is a multi-year airborne campaign that will measure concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in relation to weather systems. The study will gather real-time measurements from research aircraft and ground stations to improve the ability to detect and quantify the surface sources and sinks of the gases.

For more information about ACT-America, go to: act-america.larc.nasa.gov

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: www.nasa.gov/earth

NASA’s Next Mars Rover Progresses Toward 2020 Launch

RELEASE 16-072 (Click here for the full article) – 15 July 2016

m2020-rover-cadAfter an extensive review process and passing a major development milestone, NASA is ready to proceed with final design and construction of its next Mars rover, currently targeted to launch in the summer of 2020 and arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. Throughout its investigation, it will collect samples of soil and rock and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission.

“The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars – to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.”

For more information about Mars 2020, visit: mars.nasa.gov/mars2020

NASA’s Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study Of Earth-Sized Exoplanets

RELEASE 16-076 (Click here for the full article) – 20 July 2016

hubble-trappistUsing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the first search for atmospheres around temperate, Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system and found indications that increase the chances of habitability on two exoplanets.

Specifically, they discovered that the exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, approximately 40 light-years away, are unlikely to have puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres usually found on gaseous worlds.

“The lack of a smothering hydrogen-helium envelope increases the chances for habitability on these planets,” said team member Nikole Lewis of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. “If they had a significant hydrogen-helium envelope, there is no chance that either one of them could potentially support life because the dense atmosphere would act like a greenhouse.”

Julien de Wit of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, led a team of scientists to observe the planets in near-infrared light using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. They used spectroscopy to decode the light and reveal clues to the chemical makeup of an atmosphere. While the content of the atmospheres is unknown and will have to await further observations, the low concentration of hydrogen and helium has scientists excited about the implications.

For imaged and more information about Hubble, visit: nasa.gov/hubble & hubblesite.org/news/2016/27

NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts

RELEASE 16-079 (Click here for the full article) – 20 July 2016

iss036e006520NASA is joining with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars.

Work under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by NASA’s Human Research Program, begins Oct. 1.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes. The NASA Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a “bench-to-spaceflight” model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications. The goal of the research is to produce promising new approaches, treatments, countermeasures or technologies that have practical application to spaceflight.

For more information on NASA’s Human Research Program, go to: www.nasa.gov/hrp

For more information about NASA’s Journey to Mars, visit: www.nasa.gov/journeytomars

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 8 June – 11 June 2015

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:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA Selects Eight Projects for 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge

RELEASE 15-114 (Click here for the full article) – 8 June 2015

2015june16_15_114NASA is working with eight U.S. universities on new technology projects for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars, as part of the 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.

The challenge, which is led by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation, has teams designing systems, concepts and technologies that will help improve NASA’s exploration capabilities and provide undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in technology development.

“These strategic collaborations lower the barrier for university students to assist NASA in bridging gaps and increasing our knowledge in architectural design trades, capabilities and technology risk reduction related to exploration activities that will eventually take humans farther into space than ever before,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division.

For more information about previous challenges and current challenge requirements, visit: go.nasa.gov/x-hab and www.spacegrant.org/xhab/

For information about NASA and its programs, visit: www.nasa.gov

NASA Spacecraft Detects Impact Glass On Surface Of Mars

RELEASE 15-118 (Click here for the full article) – 8 June 2015

2015june16_15_118NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.

During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass here on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina. Schultz suggested that similar processes might preserve signs of life on Mars, if they were present at the time of an impact.

Fellow Brown researchers Kevin Cannon and Jack Mustard, building on the previous research, detail their data about Martian impact glass in a report now online in the journal Geology.

For more information about CRISM, visit: crism.jhuapl.edu/

For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit: www.nasa.gov/mro

NASA Releases Detailed Global Climate Change Projections

RELEASE 15-115 (Click here for the full article) – 9 June 2015

2015june16_15_115NASA has released data showing how temperature and rainfall patterns worldwide may change through the year 2100 because of growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

The dataset, which is available to the public, shows projected changes worldwide on a regional level in response to different scenarios of increasing carbon dioxide simulated by 21 climate models. The high-resolution data, which can be viewed on a daily timescale at the scale of individual cities and towns, will help scientists and planners conduct climate risk assessments to better understand local and global effects of hazards, such as severe drought, floods, heat waves and losses in agriculture productivity.

“NASA is in the business of taking what we’ve learned about our planet from space and creating new products that help us all safeguard our future,” said Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist. “With this new global dataset, people around the world have a valuable new tool to use in planning how to cope with a warming planet.”

Additional information about the new NASA climate projection dataset is available at: nex.nasa.gov/nex/projects/1356/

The dataset is available for download at: cds.nccs.nasa.gov/nex-gddp/

OpenNEX information and training materials are available at: nex.nasa.gov/opennex

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: www.nasa.gov/earth

NASA Hosts Media For Update On Asteroid Grand Challenge, Robotics Tour

RELEASE M15-091 (Click here for the full article) – 11 June 2015

2015june16_m15_091aMedia and social media are invited to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland Tuesday, June 16 for an update on the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge and the robotic systems that will be used on asteroid exploration missions.

To attend Tuesday’s 9:30 a.m. EDT event, reporters and social media representatives must pre-register with Dewayne Washington of NASA Goddard Public Affairs at dewayne.a.washington@nasa.gov or 301-286-0040 by 3 p.m. Monday, June 15.

In addition to an update on the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, participants will hear from Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO), and tour the facilities newest lab, dubbed The Cauldron. The SSCO is developing robotic systems for the agency’s Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission (ARRM) and other NASA missions using space robotics.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope Detects ‘Sunscreen’ Layer On Distant Planet

RELEASE 15-121 (Click here for the full article) – 11 June 2015

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected a stratosphere, one of the primary layers of Earth’s atmosphere, on a massive and blazing-hot exoplanet known as WASP-33b.

The presence of a stratosphere can provide clues about the composition of a planet and how it formed. This atmospheric layer includes molecules that absorb ultraviolet and visible light, acting as a kind of “sunscreen” for the planet it surrounds. Until now, scientists were uncertain whether these molecules would be found in the atmospheres of large, extremely hot planets in other star systems.

These findings will appear in the June 12 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

“Some of these planets are so hot in their upper atmospheres, they’re essentially boiling off into space,” said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a co-author of the study. “At these temperatures, we don’t necessarily expect to find an atmosphere that has molecules that can lead to these multilayered structures.”

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble