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Explore 14 alien worlds (and Earth) with NASA’s whimsical travel posters – Los Angeles Times

Feb. 22, 2017

Its never too early to plan your trip to space, at least according to the folks at NASA.

To travel toalien worlds, humans would need light-speed technology or have millions of years to spare to fly by jumbo jet. In the meantime, we can imagine our extraterrestrial dream vacation thanks to a team ofdesigners atNASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

With a set of 15 downloadable travel posters, we can follow in the footsteps of NASAs Voyager mission and experience the thrill of a gravity assist, explore alien oceans on Earthlike moons or travel far beyond the reaches of our solar system to intriguing and mysterious exoplanets. The latest additionpromises a planet-hopping adventure to the TRAPPIST-1 system, a newly described set of Earth-sized exoplanetsthat scientists say are promising candidates in the search for life.

Theres also a poster promoting Earth as a destination, reminding the weary space traveler that theres no place like our warm, watery, breathable home.

We can already explore Earth every day, but its nice to have a place we call home in the universe.

Follow in the footsteps of the 1977 Voyager mission for a grand tour of the solar system. The twin spacecrafts revealed new details about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as they used each planets gravity to propel them farther into space, called a gravity assist.

Though were not sure how pleasant Venus would be to visit, given its toxic atmosphere and lead-melting heat, it would offer a fine view of the Mercury transit, when the small planet appears as a black dot crossing the suns face.

By the time humans land on Mars, well already have a rich history of exploring the Red Planet. This poster takes a nostalgic look at some of NASAs previous missions to Mars, including rovers, space probes and satellites.

Jupiters auroras create the best light show in the solar system, with northern and southern lights that are hundreds of times more powerful than the ones seen on Earth.

Enceladus, Saturns tiny moon, helped create the planets E-ring with its icy jets. Cassini missions also found evidence of a global ocean and the first signs of hydrothermal activity on another world, putting the moon toward the top of the list of places that might support life beyond Earth.

Saturns largest moon is one of the most planet-like in the solar system. Come for the views of liquid ethane and methane lakes, and stay for the (possible) cryo-volcanoes of cold liquid water.

Dive underneath Europas icy surface and into its ocean of salty liquid water. Who knows what might be living down there? A NASA mission to the Jupiter moon could find out in the 2020s.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. With an equatorial diameter of 600 miles, its the closest dwarf planet to the sun.

If youre looking for an extended getaway, consider 51 Pegasi b a journey of about 50 light-years. Just 4.2 Earth days constitutes a year on the exoplanet.

For thrill-seekers: Exoplanet HD 40307g has eight times the gravitational pull of Earth. Scientists arent sure whether to classify it as a super-Earth or mini-Neptune, as they arent sure whether it has a rocky surface or one buried beneath gas and ice.

Kepler-186f could be quite Earthlike: Its the right size and it orbits within the habitable zone of its star. But the star is much cooler and redder than our sun, meaning Kepler-186fs plant life would boast a color palette very different from the green on Earth.

You could be like Luke Skywalker on Kepler-16b and gaze off toward its two setting suns, just like the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars films. Travelers beware: The exoplanet also could be a gas giant like Saturn instead of having the rocky surface seen here.

The rogue planet PSO J318.5-22 wanders alone in the galaxy, free from the orbit of a parent star. So its always night and the party never ends.

The fourth planet from an dim red star, TRAPPIST-1e, could be covered in liquid water and is in perpetual twilight. With its nearby sister planets lighting up the sky, a new adventure is just a planet hop away.

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Explore 14 alien worlds (and Earth) with NASA’s whimsical travel posters – Los Angeles Times

NASA satellite photos show effects of California rain – CNN

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says strong atmospheric rivers can transport 7.5 to 15 times the average water flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River. These flowing columns of condensed water vapor produce “significant levels of rain and snow,” and can account for 30-50% of the Pacific Coast’s rain and snow.

Atmospheric rivers are usually 250-375 miles wide.

Satellite photos published by NASA show how rain caused by California’s most recent atmospheric river is carrying sediment through waterways and dumping it into the Pacific Ocean.

The brown Pacific water indicates sediment-rich areas; teal-ish Pacific water indicates the sediment mixing with the ocean’s saltwater.

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NASA satellite photos show effects of California rain – CNN

Syria, Marine Le Pen, NASA: Your Thursday Briefing – New York Times


New York Times
Syria, Marine Le Pen, NASA: Your Thursday Briefing
New York Times
Newly released emails show that Mr. Trump's top environmental official, Scott Pruitt, worked closely with major oil and gas companies and political groups to roll back environmental regulations when he was Oklahoma's attorney general.

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Syria, Marine Le Pen, NASA: Your Thursday Briefing – New York Times

Big Data: Why NASA Can Now Visualize Its Lessons Learned – Forbes


Forbes
Big Data: Why NASA Can Now Visualize Its Lessons Learned
Forbes
NASA's Lessons Learned database is a vast, constantly updated collection knowledge and experience from past missions, which it relies on for planning future projects and expeditions into space. With detailed information from every mission going back as

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Big Data: Why NASA Can Now Visualize Its Lessons Learned – Forbes

An inside look at the differences between life at NASA and SpaceX – BGR

When Elon Musk sets his sights on an industry, he does so with purpose and with the intention of completely turning said industry on its head. While most people are readily familiar with Musks efforts at Tesla, the groundbreaking work being done by SpaceX, Musks other company, has only recently started to attract attention from the mainstream.

To be sure, Elon Musk was bold for thinking that Tesla could revolutionize the auto industry. That said, Musks plans to enter the aerospace industry with SpaceX and compete with and work alongside NASA wasnt just bold, it was downright crazy. And yet, both of Musks ventures continue to amass greater success with each passing year.

Earlier this month, we stumbled across a thread on Quora asking if its better for engineers to work at NASA or SpaceX. Of course, the question itself was a bit misleading because its not as if one company is superior to the other. Without question, some of the smartest minds on the planet can be found at both. Still, there are a number of interesting differences between the work environment at NASA and SpaceX that are worth highlighting.

Tackling this issue, an engineer named Andre Lavoie who has spent significant time at both companies details a number of fascinating differences between life at NASA and SpaceX.

Not surprisingly, the fact that NASA is a government agency, as opposed to a private company like SpaceX, impacts the work environment in both positive and negative ways. While Lavoie points out that the work-life balance at NASA is a positive, the work there can sometimes be encumbered by an institutional aversion to risk and predictably slow-moving bureaucracy.

Projects can start with much fanfare and then be cancelled. Repeatedly. Maybe this is because there are many worthy things that should be studied but funds are always limited. It can be rewarding because you have more opportunity to really dig in and understand things and learn. Your job is very secure, even when budgets get cut or you yourself dont succeed.

As for life at SpaceX, the work environment there, not surprisingly sounds awfully similar to a forward-thinking start-up, albeit on steroids.

In contrast, Space X is a product company. It designs, builds, sells and launches rockets. Your job there is to make that happen no matter what. Nobody gives up. Failure is acceptable, to a point. Risk taking is expected, but stupidity and recklessness is punished unceremoniously. You just get fired. There is no job security. Schedule is critical because as a privately funded company if it fails to succeed before the money runs out then its game over. The sense of urgency is huge. At Space X you can have plenty of responsibility even if you have little experience. This is great if you are energetic, resourceful and work obsessively. If not you will probably fall behind and then your days will be numbered.

Lavoies full answer, along with the full thread is well worth digesting in its entirety. You can check it out over here.

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An inside look at the differences between life at NASA and SpaceX – BGR

Watch live as NASA reveals a new exoplanet discovery at 1PM – BGR

NASAs been finding all kind of cool things out in the depths of space recently, but today the agency is poised to announce something big. NASA will be presenting a new discovery live to the world at 1:00 PM EST, and theyll be live streaming the entire news conference online. You can watch the entire event right here.

Theres only been small hints at exactly what the discovery is all about, but NASA has noted that its related to a discovery beyond our solar system. That means exoplanets planets outside of our own little celestial neighborhood are likely the main focus. Researchers have already made many exoplanet discoveries in recent months, finding Super Earths and Hot Jupiters by the handful, so if NASA thinks its new discovery is worthy of a press conference of its own, it must be pretty important.

According to Space.com, the conference will feature a total of five speakers, all of whom have job titles that confirm well be hearing a lot of big words that we barely understand. The presser will feature:

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; Michal Gillon, astronomer at the University of Lige in Belgium; Sean Carey, manager of NASAs Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena; Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore; and Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The full report on NASAs finding will be made available in the journal Nature at the same time as the press conference, so there will undoubtedly be plenty of juicy details to sink your scientific teeth into even after the news is out.

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Watch live as NASA reveals a new exoplanet discovery at 1PM – BGR

Watch NASA’s big exoplanet announcement live at 1PM ET – The Verge

At 1PM ET, NASA will be announcing a new exciting discovery about planets that orbit stars outside our Solar System. The space agency will have a number of panelists on hand for the announcement, including Sean Carey the manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech and Sara Seager a notable expert in the study of exoplanets from MIT.

People are encouraged to ask questions to the panelists through Twitter, using the hashtag #askNASA, and if you have even more questions once the announcement is over, there will be a followup Reddit AMA at 3PM ET. We can answer one question for you now though: its not aliens. (It never is.) Still, the discovery promises to be super cool and could help with our search for extraterrestrial life moving forward.

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Watch NASA’s big exoplanet announcement live at 1PM ET – The Verge

NASA’s longshot bet on a revolutionary rocket may be about to pay off – Ars Technica

Franklin Chang-Daz peers into the vacuum chamber during a test firing.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

A view of the plasma plume during a test firing.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Franklin Chang-Daz.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Loading the VASIMR engine into the vacuum chamber.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Where the plasma comes out of the rocket engine.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

The VASIMR engine and the exterior of the vacuum chamber.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Exterior view of the vacuum chamber.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Installing cryopumps inside the vacuum chamber.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Setup of the VASIMR engine (VX 200SS) inside the vacuum chamber during tests. The rocket is at left, and the area of the plume is shown by the purple outline.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

HOUSTONFranklin Chang-Daz bounds up a handful of stairs and peers through a porthole cut into the side of a silver, tanker-truck-sized vacuum chamber. Inside, a blueish-purple light shines, unchanging and constant, like a bright flashlight. It looks kind of boring, Chang-Daz admits. But that plume is 3.5 million degrees. If you stuck your hand in that, it would be very bad.

Truth be told, the plume does not look impressive at all. And yet the engine firing within the vacuum chamber is potentially revolutionary for two simple reasons: first, unlike gas-guzzling conventional rocket engines, it requires little fuel. And second, this engine might one day push spacecraft to velocities sufficient enough to open the Solar System to human exploration.

This has long been the promise of Chang-Dazs plasma-based VASIMR rocket engine. From a theoretical physics standpoint, the rocket has always seemed a reasonable proposition: generate a plasma, excite it, and then push it out a nozzle at high speed. But what about the real-world engineering of actually building such an enginemanaging the plasma and its thermal properties, then successfully firing it for a long period of time? That has proven challenging, and it has led many to doubt the engines practicality.

Sure, the naysayers say, Chang-Daz is a wonderful fellow. Hard worker. Brilliant guy. And at a time when the national discourse assails the value of Spanish-speaking immigrants, his story offers a powerful counter to that narrative. Speaking almost no English at the time, he immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica in 1969 to finish high school. Chang-Daz then earned a doctoral degree in plasma physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later, as an astronaut, Chang-Daz flew seven Space Shuttle missions, tying Jerry Ross record for most spaceflights by anyone, ever.

All the while, from his first days at Johnson Space Center when he installed an early Internet connection to work with data from his Boston-based plasma physics lab, Chang-Daz nurtured dreams of linking his science background with his career as a flier. Slowly, he developed the theory of a plasma rocket and began to build prototypes. All along, the critics whispered it just wasnt feasible.

NASA

Only, now it just might be. As part of a program to develop the next generation of in-space propulsion systems, NASA awarded Chang-Dazs company, Ad Astra, a three-year, $9 million contract in 2015. This unlocked an opportunity long awaiteda chance to prove the doubters wrong. Naturally,it won’t be easy. Ad Astra must fire its plasma rocket for 100 hours, at a power level of 100 kilowatts, next year.

This February, the company has worked about halfway through that contract, and Ars has been keeping tabs on progress in the lab. So far, the immigrant from Costa Rica seems to be holding up his end of the bargain. NASA gave the company a sterling review after the first year of the agreement. Still, there is a ways to go.During a visit this month,the VASIMR engine fired at 100kW for 10 seconds and 50kW for one minute.

The rocket engine starts with a neutral gas as a feedstock for plasma, in this case argon. The first stage of the rocket ionizes the argon and turns it into a relatively cold plasma. The engine then injects the plasma into the second stage, the booster, where it is subjected to a physics phenomenon known as ion cyclotron resonance heating. Essentially, the booster uses a radio frequency that excites the ions, swinging them back and forth.

As the ions resonate and gain more energy, they are spun up into a stream of superheated plasma. This stream then passes through a corkscrew-shaped nozzle and is accelerated out of the back of the rocket, producing a thrust.

Such an engine design offers a couple of key benefits over most existing propulsion technology. Perhaps most notably, unlike chemical rockets, the plasma rocket operates on electricity. As it flies through space, therefore, it does not need massive fuel tanks or a huge reservoir of liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Instead, the rocket just needs some solar panels.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

The Sun powers both the production of plasma and the booster exciting the plasma, andthe extent to which it does either can be shifted. When a spacecraft needs more thrust, more power can be put into making plasma. This process uses more propellant, but it provides thethrust needed to moveout of a gravity well, such as Earth orbit. Later, when the vehicle is moving quickly, more power can be shifted to the booster, providing a higher specific impulse and greater fuel economy.

Its like shifting gears in a car, Chang-Daz explained. The engine doesnt change. But if you want to climb a hill, you put more of your engine power into torque and less into rpm, so you climb the hill, slowly, but youre able to climb. And when youre going on a freeway, flat and straight, you upshift. Youre not going to go to Mars in first gear. Thats the problem. Its why we run out of gas going to Mars with a chemical engine.

Another benefit of the engine’sdesign is that the plasma remains confined within a magnetic field, inside the engine, throughout the burn. In practical terms, this should greatly reduce the wear and tear on the enginewhich is useful if youre designing a spacecraft to eventually fly people around the entire Solar System.

Listing image by Ad Astra Rocket Company

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NASA’s longshot bet on a revolutionary rocket may be about to pay off – Ars Technica

Nasa announces discovery of seven Earth-sized planets video report – The Guardian

Nasa announced the discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a star called Trappist-1, about 39 light years away, on Wednesday. The find has widely excited the astronomy community because of its implications in the hunt for alien life beyond the solar system. Three of the planets in the Trappist-1 system are in the habitable zone near the star and so could have water on their surfaces

Thrilling discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby star

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Nasa announces discovery of seven Earth-sized planets video report – The Guardian

NASA to Unveil New Exoplanet Discovery Tomorrow – Space.com

This artist’s concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of a star that is similar to our sun.

NASA is holding a news conference tomorrow (Feb. 22) to discuss “new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets,” according to a statement from the agency.

The news conference begins at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT). No other specifics about the “new findings” have been made public, but “details are embargoed by the journal Nature” until 1 p.m. EST, according to the statement.

The news conference will feature five speakers: Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; Michal Gillon, astronomer at the University of Lige in Belgium; Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena; Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore; and Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sara Seageris a leading exoplanet scientist who, among other things, is working on the problem of how to identify bio signatures in exoplanet atmospheres. The Space Telescope Science Institute is an astronomical research center as well as the mission operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope.

Following the news conference, the five scientists will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything(AMA) session at 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), in which members of the public can pose questions to the scientists via a Reddit message board.

You can watch the webcast of tomorrow’s news conference live on NASA TVor right here on Space.com.

Follow Calla Cofield@callacofield.Follow us@Spacedotcom,FacebookandGoogle+. Original article onSpace.com.

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NASA to Unveil New Exoplanet Discovery Tomorrow – Space.com

NASA set to make major exoplanet announcement – Fox News

NASA will make a major announcement related to exoplanets at a press conference at the agencys headquarters in Washington, DC Wednesday.

In a press release sent out Monday, NASA said that its press event will address a discovery beyond our solar system. The press conference, it added will present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington will participate in the briefing, along with experts from MIT, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and NASAs Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC.

ASTRONOMERS DISCOVER 60 NEW WORLDS, FIND ‘SUPER EARTH’

Details of the findings are embargoed by the journal Nature until 1 p.m. EST, according to NASA.

CNET said that it had seen the research in an article published Monday, adding that while we can’t share details yet, let’s just say it could very easily provide us with new settings for many future works of science fiction.

Exoplanets have certainly been in the spotlight recently.

NEW NEIGHBOR: SCIENTISTS DISCOVER CLOSEST HABITABLE EXOPLANET

Last week an international team of astronomers announced the discovery of 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earths solar system, including a rocky super Earth.

The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114.

One planet in particular, Gliese 411b, has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a hot super Earth with a rocky surface, Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun, according to the U.K.s University of Hertfordshire, which participated in the research. Gliese 411b (also known as GJ 411b or Lalande 21185) orbits the star Gliese 411 (or GJ 411).

‘SUPERFLARES’ LIKELY MADE PROXIMA B UNINHABITABLE LONG AGO

Gliese 411 and Gliese 411b are located 8 light years from earth. A light year, which measures distance in space, equals 6 trillion miles.

By way of comparison, the recently-discovered Earth-like planet Proxima b, which orbits the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, is about 4 light years from Earth. A red dwarf is a relatively cool small star.

Proxima Centauri is the star closest to Earth outside of our solar system. Scientists announced the discovery of Proxima b last year, noting that the planet is 1.3 times the size of Earth. Depending on the conditions there, Proxima b could potentially support life, according to experts.

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NASA set to make major exoplanet announcement – Fox News

The NASA Rocket Scientist Leaving Mars for Politics – The Atlantic

A few Fridays ago, Tracy Van Houten drove to a registrars office to pick up the paperwork she would need to run for Congress. Doing so would mean giving up her role as an aerospace engineer at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratorya dream job that she had held for 13 years. Her plan was to pick up the papers, think about them over the weekend, and make a decision afterwards.

Sitting outside the building, she wavered, and decided to call her senators to voice her opposition against Betsy DeVosthe since-confirmed nominee for Secretary of Education. She got a busy tone. She tried again. Another busy tone. It was at the fifth one that I thought: Okay, I need to get to Washington and get a seat at the table, she says. That motivated me to get into the building and get on with it.

Van Houten is now officially running to represent the 34th Congressional District of California in the U.S. House. The seats former occupant, Xavier Becerra, was appointed as attorney general of California last December, and 23 candidates are now vying to replace him in a special election, to be held in April. The roster includes experienced politicians, activists, and lawyers. Van Houten, who is something of a wildcard, is the only rocket scientist.

Shortly after joining the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), she became the lead systems engineer on Team Xa crack team of engineers devoted to designing plans for innovative space missions. We designed every kind of space vehicle you could think of, designed to go to every space destination out there, she says. That led her to work on the Mars Curiosity Rover, as part of a group that checked if everything was working, so we could hand the keys to the science team. Shes now working on a similar rover that should land on Mars in 2020. I had intended to be there to the end, she says. But if her candidacy is successful, shell be abandoning Mars for Capitol Hill.

I spoke to Van Houten about her political ambitions. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Ed Yong: Why run for Congress?

Tracy Van Houten: Its been several years in the making. I love my job at the JPL, but Ive been feeling this calling, that something bigger was needed from me. I was hoping to make a run for the California state legislature in 2018 or 2020and then Trump was elected. And his first weeks in office brought executive order after executive order, and horrendous cabinet nominee after horrendous cabinet nominee. When this special election opened up, I thought I must accelerate my plans and do this now. Ive been very involved with my community and the Society of Women Engineers and public schools here. I realized that everything Ive been doing in my life has been leading to this point.

Yong: Tell me more about that path. What was the first step?

Van Houten: I did an engineering elective in high school, and although I was one of just two girls out of 40, I had the highest grades in the class. I loved the design process, and I always had this infatuation with space. So when I was 15, I became singularly focused on getting to JPL. I decided thats where I wanted to work. For the next several years, if I met anyone with any association with JPL, I would collect their business cards and write little notes saying: This persons uncles bosss niece knows someone who works at JPL. By my senior year in college, I had a notebook with 200 business cards, and I just carpet-bombed the network. And it worked.

Yong: So, youre in the job youve worked toward for years, you help to explore other worlds, and you are literally a rocket scientist. And youre given that up for a life in politics?

Van Houten: Everything Ive done so far in my career has been to study the big questions about the universe. And right now, that doesnt feel big enough. That contribution feels so pitiful when our rights and environment and families are on the line.

You need to have a seat at the table. The only way well change Washington is if we change the people who we send there. Engineers make up less than 2 percent of Congress, and I believe that if Im elected, Id be the first ever woman engineer in Congress. Its shocking to me that in 2017, that would be a novelty. So, part of this is about inspiring the next wave of young women, moms, and those with in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds to run. Ive been a mentor for a long time and I can see in the faces of my mentees how deeply this election has affected them. I feel that this is the right response.

Yong: What specifically have you done to inspire the next wave of women in STEM?

Van Houten: At JPL, I have mentored nearly 40 summer students and early-career hires. They havent all been women, but certainly well over half have been. For the last two years, Ive been part of a team whose specific mission is to go to womens organizations and recruit women to JPL. Im also a life member of the Society of Women Engineers, and was a leader of that organization in college. Out of college, I helped to develop a program within the organization that identified and trained future leaders in engineering. That program has been in existence for 11 years now, and has graduated hundreds of women engineers. [Van Houten also won an Emerging Leader Award from the Society of Women Engineers in 2016.]

Yong: Speaking of which, have you seen Hidden Figures?

Van Houten: Yes! Theres also another book I love called Rise of the Rocket Girls, about female computers at the JPL.

Ive very aware of sexism throughout our industry, although my own experience at JPL has been a very positive one. Ive had to push back on minor things, like being given secretarial duties. Part of why I love Mars 2020 is that we have a huge team of phenomenal women, a lot of whom are in leadership positions. But the proportion of women in engineering is still just 14 percent. Its 19 percent in Congress, so if and when I get there, Im going to feel surrounded by women.

Yong: I note that, unlike other scientists and engineers who have expressed interest in running for office, science doesnt form the core part of your platform. Youre also taking specific stances on education, public transit, social justice, and affordable housing.

Van Houten: When Trump was elected, the thing that I was singularly most fearful about was the irreversible damage that could be done to our environment. But Im definitely not just doing this because of science. Ive spent my whole life trying to help people. Ive been a big supporter of public schools so I felt sick watching Betsy DeVos get confirmed. Ive stood for the rights of the LGBTQ community for a long time; in my early 20s, I protested and quit a job that I loved because of their discriminatory policies. And I come from a long line of strong women. My grandmother was a small business owner in San Diego, and she fought for civil rights there. She had a way of bringing warring groups together at the table to make positive change, and that has always been a guiding light in my life.

I think that the challenges in my district come down to affordable housing, making our public transportation system work, and water issues. Every time it rains, all that water goes flooding down our streets, into the Los Angeles River, and into the ocean. This isnt sustainable; we need to find a way to store our water appropriately. These are all areas where being an engineer will really help.

Yong: Recent debates about the March for Science have shown that many scientists still feel that science should be above politics. Would you disagree?

Van Houten: I agree that ideally, our STEM workforce should be focused on solving the problems of the world. I think all of us would probably much prefer to stay in our own domains and make change there. But unfortunately, thats not working for us very well. We cant say that science doesnt have a place in politics. Politics has dragged us in.

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The NASA Rocket Scientist Leaving Mars for Politics – The Atlantic

NASA Considers Increasing Station Crew Size – Aviation Week

The scheduled liftoff of Russia’s 66th Progress resupply mission to the International Space Station early Feb. 22 promises to stoke activities both aboard the six-person orbiting science lab as well as among ground-based managers and support personnel, including recently initiated discussions that could increase staffing in the station’s U.S. segment from three to four astronauts. As a consequence, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, or possibly European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut …

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NASA Considers Increasing Station Crew Size – Aviation Week

NASA’s Juno Probe Will Keep Its Distance From Jupiter – Seeker

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will remain in its present 53-day orbit around Jupiter due to a possible problem with the spacecraft’s engine.

Scientists had hoped to tighten Juno’s orbit so that it circles around Jupiter every 14 days. But a braking burn of Juno’s engine, planned for last October, was canceled after two helium check valves, which are part of the plumbing for the spacecraft’s main engine, did not operate as expected when the propulsion system was pressurized.

“Telemetry from the spacecraft indicated that it took several minutes for the valves to open, while it took only a few seconds during past main engine firings,” NASA said in a status report Friday.

Engineers spent the next several months studying the problem, but in the end NASA decided it wasn’t worth the risk since Juno can accomplish its mission objectives without changing its orbit.

RELATED: Juno Looks Into a Fierce Jupiter Storm During Dramatic Orbital Dive

“We looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” project manager Rick Nybakken, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

“The bottom line is a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives,” he said.

“The science will be just as spectacular as with our original plan,” added lead researcher Scott Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Juno, which reached Jupiter on July 4, makes its key science measurements when it passes closest to the planet, whether that happens every 14 days or every 53.

“The worst-case scenario is I have to be patient and get the science slowly,” Bolton said after the engine problem surfaced in October.

With the spacecraft healthy, managers likely will request funding from NASA to extend the mission, which currently is due to end on July 31, 2018, after what will now be a total of 12 close approaches for science.

Bolton pointed out that with Juno traveling farther away from Jupiter, it will spend less time near the planet’s killer radiation belts, perhaps prolonging its life.

RELATED: Juno Successfully Buzzes Jupiter’s Clouds for the Third Time

“This is significant because radiation has been the main life-limiting factor for Juno,” Bolton said.

On close approach, Juno soars some 2,600 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops. Data collected during the flybys will help scientists figure out how much water the planet contains, a key piece of information for determining how and where the solar system’s largest planet formed.

Image: NASA’s Juno spacecraft soared directly over Jupiter’s south pole when JunoCam acquired this image on Feb. 2, 2017, from an altitude of about 62,800 miles (101,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. This image was processed by citizen scientist John Landino. This enhanced color version highlights the bright high clouds and numerous meandering oval storms. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/John Landino

WATCH VIDEO: Juno Has Arrived At Jupiter! Now What?

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NASA’s Juno Probe Will Keep Its Distance From Jupiter – Seeker

NASA’s audacious Europa missions are getting closer to reality – The Planetary Society (blog)

Posted by Jason Davis

21-02-2017 15:43 CST

Topics: Europa, Europa lander, Europa Clipper

NASA is boldly going to Europahopefully.

Two separate missions to send a flyby spacecraft and lander to Jupiter’s ocean-harboring moon are steadily gaining steam. Today, NASA said the flyby craft, internally dubbed the Europa Clipper, has officially entered the preliminary design phase, having cleared a program milestone called Key Decision Point B. The lander also took another step toward reality earlier this month, when a team of scientists formally delivered a report laying out the mission’s science goals and some overall engineering concepts.

Together, the missions would attempt to discover whether Europa is habitable, and directly search for signs of lifesomething NASA hasn’t done since the Viking missions to Mars in the mid-1970s.

Neither mission is fully funded. And even in a best-case scenario, the lander mission wouldn’t touch down on Europa until 2031 or 2032, meaning it could be 15 years before we know whether something is swimming under Europa’s icy crust. Will the wait pay off? I spoke with two experts about this audacious pair of spacecraft, and looked into what needs to happen to make them a reality.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The first thing I learned about the Europa Clipper is that the spacecraft’s name is more than a mere nod to the romantic sailing ships of yesteryearit’s an apt description of how the mission works.

The radiation environment around Jupiter is hard on spacecraft, due to the planet’s large magnetic field, which traps charged particles from the sun. Rather than orbiting Europa in the heart of that radiation, the Clipper will fly around Jupiter in large, egg-shaped orbits that are mostly outside the harmful radiation belts. Over the course of two to three years, the Clipper will dive into the radiation 45 times, whizzing past Europa to gather data before the spacecraft then, as Dipak Srinivasan puts it, “gets out of Dodge.”

Srinivasan is the RF telecommunications lead for Clipper at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He told me the spacecraft will behave like an ancient sailing ship speeding between trade stops. After a Europa flyby, the Clipper will spend about three weeks in safe harbor beyond Jupiter’s radiation, transmitting science data back to Earth. Srinivasan said these signals serve double duty: Not only do they carry mission data, ground controllers measure their Doppler shifts to pinpoint the spacecraft’s location.

The Clipper mission’s goal is to assess whether Europa is habitable.

“We really want to understand the composition of Europa’s interior and exterior, and see whether that composition is commensurate with what we think is required for life,” Srinivasan said.

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon. Its surface is an icy shell 25 kilometers thick, sitting atop an ocean about 100 kilometers deep that contains twice as much water as our own. Scientists suspect the ocean is salty, and stays liquefied because of the immense tidal forces exerted by mighty Jupiter.

“Wherever there’s water on Earth, there’s life,” said Srinivasan. “Given the fact that there is liquid water on Europa, and the fact that it’s been there for billions of years, makes it one of the likeliest places for life in our solar system.”

During each flyby, the Clipper will scan Europa with an array of science instruments. There’s an ice-penetrating radar, a magnetometer to measure the ocean’s salinity, and a thermal camera to look for warm spots near the surface. Other instruments will examine plumes of saltwater that may periodically spray into space. Cameras aboard the Clipper will deliver views of the surface in resolutions down to a meter per pixel; our best views of Europa so far come from the Galileo mission, and have a maximum resolution of 6 meters per pixel.

The mission is being jointly developed between the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It’s kind of neat,” Srinivasan said. “You have an all-star cast of people across both institutions, both of which have significant deep space experience. You’re kind of pulling from a really, large bench and you’re coming up with really clever solutions on how to make this work.”

NASA / JPL-Caltech

In June 2016, NASA convened a science definition team, or SDT, to investigate what kind of questions a lander could answer on the surface of Europa. The SDT was also tasked with defining some of the lander’s high-level engineering and instrument requirements.

Earlier this month, the SDT released its 264-page report, with this grin-inducing quote on page six:

“Europa may hold the clues to one of NASA’s long standing goalsto determine whether or not we are alone in the universe. The highest-level science goal of the mission presented here is to search for evidence of life on Europa.”

The implications of that goalwhich was set by officials at NASA headquartersare stunning. The agency has not directly searched for life on another world since the Viking missions to Mars in the mid-1970s. The dual Viking landers contained three biological experiments that tried to metabolize soil samples. The results were inconclusive, and in the decades since, there has been a lot of debate on how to go about detecting extraterrestrial lie.

Deciding how a Europa lander would search for life was “a little surreal,” said Sarah Hrst, a planetary scientist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University who served on the SDT.

“Would this be life? What is life? It’s not a conversation I normally have on a daily basis,” she told me.

For guidance, the team included experts familiar with subglacial lakes in Antarctica, and scientists who study extremophilesorganisms that thrive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.

The Europa lander would collect five, 7-cubic-centimeter surface samples, scraped from 10 centimeters below the surface. The samples would be analyzed with a suite of instruments, including a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer to detect organics, a microscope system to look for microbial cells, and an ultraviolet spectrometer to characterize possible organic material.

It would likely take a combination of measurements, said Hrst, to conclude life might be present.

“As far as we know, right now there’s not one measurement where you say, ‘Okay, if we measure that, then there’s life,'” she said.

Since the lander’s samples would only come from 10 centimeters below Europa’s radiation-flooded surface, what are the chances of finding anything alive?

Hrst said reconnaissance work by the Clipper spacecraft might yield younger sections of ice that have been bombarded by less radiation. Additionally, not all areas of the moon are irradiated at the same level. Europa, like Earth’s moon, is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces Jupiter.

And even if the lander scoops up some life that, as Hrst puts it, is “no longer intact,” there might be leftover chemical footprints showing something was once there.

“Even samples that have been highly radiation-processed on Earth still retain chemical signatures that you could interpret as a evidence of life,” she said.

NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk

NASA officials say the Clipper mission is still on track for a mid-2022 launch.

Using a powerful boost from NASA’s new heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, the Clipper would fly directly to Jupiter and arrive in 2025. Without SLS, the journey would take five years longer, and require flybys of Venus and Earth to reach the right trajectory.

Flying past Venus means flying closer to the Sun. Flying closer to the Sun means extra heat shielding. And extra heat shielding means a heavier spacecraft. Though Congress has ordered NASA to use SLS for both the Clipper and lander missions, the agency is still keeping the extra heat shielding in the Clipper’s design for nowjust in case anything derails development of the yet-to-be-flown rocket.

Without SLS, the lander as currently designed might not be able to fly at all, according to the SDT report. That’s because the spacecraft will be heavy. In addition to the lander itself, there are three other components: a carrier and relay stage, a de-orbit stage, and a descent stage. Officials aren’t publicly saying how heavy the entire package might be, but it would currently require a deep space thruster burn and Earth gravity assist to put it on the correct path to Jupitereven with the added boost from SLS. The earliest the lander would launch is 2024 or 2025, putting it at Jupiter around 2030.

Once in orbit around Jupiter, the lander spacecraft would spend 18 months slowly spiraling inward to Europa, swinging past Callisto and Ganymede on the way. At Europa, the carrier and relay orbiter would separate and act as a data relay satellite. The Clipper, ideally still operating in an extended mission, would be used as a backup relay. The lander would not have the capability to talk to Earth on its own.

Remember the Curiosity spacecraft’s seven minutes of terror, during which it plunged to the Martian surface in a harrowing process known as entry, descent and landing, or EDL? Since Europa has no atmosphere, and the descent begins in orbit, a new acronym is in play: DDL, which stands for de-orbit, descent and landing.

First, the de-orbit stage will pull the descent stage and lander out of orbit. As the thruster-powered descent stage approaches the surface, it will perform the same skycrane maneuver that deposited Curiosity onto Mars, where a tether lowers the lander. The descent stage then cuts loose and flys away for an intentional crash-landing.

Once the lander is safely on the surface, scientists will have to work fast to gather their data. The spacecraft is powered only by a 45-kilowatt-hour battery designed to last between 20 to 40 days. Why not find a way to stay longer? Because the carrier relay orbiter, which will be bathed in Jupiter’s radiation, is expected to fail in just a single month.

Federal fiscal year 2017 began back on October 1, 2016, but Congress has not yet passed a 2017 budget. As of now, with the notable exception of Orion and the Space Launch System, NASA is operating under 2016 funding levels.

In 2016, Congress earmarked $175 million for the Clipper mission. In proposed 2017 spending bills, the House allocated $260 million to be used for both the Clipper and lander, while the Senate did not mention the missions at all. One source I spoke with said NASA is internally estimating a cost of $2 billion for the Clipper alone, and that doesn’t include the cost of the Space Launch System, which could have have a price tag between $500 million and $1 billion, according to statements by various NASA officials.

That means that despite the progress, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before humanity gets a chance to search for life on Europa. But NASA missions have endured far worse; look no further than the 16-year struggle to get the New Horizons mission to Pluto on the launchpad.

And in this case, the end result could be a confirmation of life beyond Earth.

“Just imagine if that ends up being the case,” Srinivasan said. “That’s transformative, to be able to say that we lived in a time when that discovery was made.”

Or read more blog entries about: Europa, Europa lander, Europa Clipper

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NASA’s audacious Europa missions are getting closer to reality – The Planetary Society (blog)

NASA considers astronauts for moon mission – CBS News

A SpaceX cargo ship called Dragon is on its way to the International Space Station after a historic launch this weekend in Florida. This latest launch comes as NASA is considering a new mission for its astronauts, CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan reports.

With the roar of its engines, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketblasted off Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center. Minutes later, the rocket returned to earth a triumph SpaceX founder Elon Musk captioned on social media with the phrase: Baby came back.

Baby came back

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:05am PST

Sundays launch was the first time a privately-owned spacecraft has taken off fromNASAs historic launch pad 39A, which once launched Apollo astronauts to the moon. Its a site whose place in history might soon be revived under a plan to return astronauts to the moon and possibly Mars.

The SpaceX launch came just days after NASA said it was considering putting astronauts onboard a mission to orbit the moon, called EM-1. In a letter obtained by CBS News, NASAs acting administrator told employees last week the agency was on the verge of even greater discoveries and that it was exploring the possibility of adding a crew to the mission.

That would be a departure from what previous administrations have considered the next step in space exploration: Mars.

I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense to bring the moon back into the equation of building up the capability and using it as a training base before we head off on our much more challenging trip to Mars, astronomer Derrick Pitts said.

Now if all goes according to plan with the current SpaceX mission, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with the International Space Station early Wednesday, where it will deliver over 5,500 pounds of equipment, supplies and science gear.

2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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NASA considers astronauts for moon mission – CBS News

NASA aims to measure vital snow data from satellites – ABC News

Instrument-laden aircraft are surveying the Colorado high country this month as scientists search for better ways to measure how much water is locked up in the world’s mountain snows water that sustains a substantial share of the global population.

A NASA-led experiment called SnowEx is using five aircraft to test 10 sensors that might one day be used to monitor snow from satellites. The goal: Find the ideal combination to overcome multiple obstacles, including how to analyze snow hidden beneath forest canopies.

“It would be, I would say, a monumental leap in our ability to forecast water supply if we had this kind of information,” said Noah Molotch, a member of the science team for the experiment.

One-sixth of the world’s population gets most of its fresh water from snow that melts and runs into waterways, said Ed Kim, a NASA researcher and lead scientist for SnowEx. “Right there, it’s hugely important for people,” he said.

Snow has other consequences for society as well, including floods, droughts and even political stability when water is scarce, Kim said.

The key to predicting how much water will pour out of mountain snows each spring is a measurement called snow water equivalent. The global average is 30 percent of snow depth, Kim said 10 inches of snow melts down to 3 inches of water.

But a single mountain snowbank contains multiple layers with different snow water equivalents, making measurement difficult. The layers were dropped by successive storms with different moisture contents, and then lingered under different weather conditions before the next storm covered them.

A further complication: At times during the winter, some snow melts, so water will flow through the interior of the snowbank, distorting or absorbing signals from remote sensors.

No single instrument can overcome all the obstacles.

“We have these different sensing techniques. Each one works to a certain degree,” Kim said. “What’s the optimal combination?”

Two SnowEx sensors will measure snow depth: Radar and LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging. LIDAR uses laser pulses to measure distance.

Four sensors will measure snow density: three other types of radar, plus a passive microwave instrument, which detects how much of the Earth’s natural microwave radiation the snow is blocking.

Two thermal infrared sensors will measure temperature.

A hyperspectral imager and a multispectral imager will measure how much sunlight the snow is reflecting, which helps determine how fast it will melt.

Aircraft will take the instruments on multiple passes over two areas in western Colorado, Grand Mesa and Senator Beck Basin. Ground crews will also analyze the snow to verify how accurate the instruments are.

One key technology used to predict snow runoff in the American West is the Snow Telemetry Network, or SNOTEL, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

More than 800 automated SNOTEL ground stations scattered across the West measure the depth and weight of the snow, the temperature and other data and transmit them to a central database. Federal agencies use SNOTEL to produce daily state-by-state reports and maps on how the current snow water equivalent compares to the long-term average.

Water utilities, farmers, public safety agencies and wildland firefighters track the updates closely to help predict how much drinking and irrigation water will be available in the spring and whether they will face floods or fire-inducing droughts.

SNOTEL collects data from individual points, but the “holy grail of mountain hydrology” is a way to estimate the distribution of snow water equivalent across broad mountain landscapes, said Molotch, who is also director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Water, Earth Science and Technology.

SnowEx could be a step toward that, he said.

Government agencies that forecast the spring runoff say satellite data on snow water equivalent would help them, although they base their predictions on multiple sources of information, including rain, temperature and current river flows.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, one of 13 National Weather Service centers that predict floods or river shortages nationwide, uses some NASA satellite data now, hydrologist Paul Miller said.

Satellite images show how much of the region has snow cover and how much dust is on the snow, he said. Dusty snow is darker, so it absorbs more heat and melts faster.

Snow water equivalent data from satellites “would be another source of information that we could look toward as guidance,” Miller said. “It would definitely be something we would monitor and we would explore.”

Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/dan%20elliott.

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NASA aims to measure vital snow data from satellites – ABC News

Congress Slashes Funding For NASA’s Global Warming Research – Daily Caller

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The U.S. Senate passed legislation recently cutting funding for NASAs global warming research.

The House is expected to pass the bill, and President Trump will likely sign it. Supporters say itre-balances NASAs budget back toward space exploration and away from global warming and earth science research. Republicans plan to end the more than $2 billion NASA spends on its Earth Science Mission Directorate.

By rebalancing, Id like for more funds to go into space exploration; were not going to zero out earth sciences, Texas Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, told E&E News. Id like for us to remember what our priorities are, and there are another dozen agencies that study earth science and climate change, and they can continue to do that.

NASAs spending on earthand global warming scienceincreased by 63 percent over the last eight years, making it the largest and fastest growing budget of any NASA science program. The agency now spends more on environmental research than many of its other science functions, including astrophysics and space technology. Those programs only get $781.5 million and $826.7 million, respectively.

We only have one agency that engages in space exploration, and they need every dollar they can muster for space exploration, Smith continued.

Trump tapped former Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Walker as a senior adviser to his NASA transition team a man who thinks NASA should do less politically correct environmental monitoring and more space exploration.

NASA should be focused primarily on deep-space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies, Walker and Peter Navarro, another senior adviser to the Trump campaign, wrote in an October opinion piece. Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASAs focus and goal.

Republicans arent the only ones looking to cut environmental science spending.

Experts blame President Obama for delaying plans to send astronauts to Mars until 2030. As early as 2007, then-Sen. Obama called for delaying the Constellation program to replace NASAs Space Shuttles for five years in order to pay for his education program.

A crewed Mars mission remains two decades away, Alexandra Witze, a columnist at the science magazine Nature, wrote in Nature News. Its schedule is constrained by the funding available to develop the necessary hardware a new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to sustain astronauts in deep space.

That is almost exactly the situation NASA was in eight years ago, bar one detail: Obama ditched the Moon as a first stop for astronauts on their way to Mars, Witze wrote.

Even global warming alarmist Bill Nye the Science Guy, whos also the CEO of the Planetary Society, has criticized Obamas attempts to cut NASAs space exploration and planetary science programs in favor of global warming. NASAs planetary science program has previously held car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain funding.

Follow Andrew on Twitter

Send tips to andrew@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Congress Slashes Funding For NASA’s Global Warming Research – Daily Caller

NASA extends trial of steerable robo-stunt kite parachute – The Register

NASA will soon be testing high-altitude parachute systems that let astroboffins land valuable scientific research payloads from altitudes of 60,000 feet.

The technique, using parafoils cellular aerofoils of the same sort used to make high-performance stunt kites will, so NASA hopes, allow it to recover scientific instruments used for high-altitude data gathering experiments without chasing balloons across vast tracts of America.

Instead of sending payloads up on research balloons and hoping the weather doesn’t blow them too far off course, the parafoil method allows for payloads to be released from the balloon at around 60,000ft and then be steered back to earth for an “automatic precision landing”.

The system, under evaluation by the American space agency since 2013, is the brainchild of Airborne Systems of New Jersey. The latest test programme will take the aerofoils right up to their full design altitude.

An earlier document [PDF] reveals that some flight testing up to 55,000ft has already taken place.

Other edge-of-space technologies selected by NASA for high-altitude demonstrations include: a system for monitoring how live cells react to rocket launches; an automated solar cell calibration system; a system for carrying out Parkinson’s research on protein solution in the zero-G environment of space; and a system for compressing soil and pebbles (regolith) in zero gravity to see what happens to them.

“These selections allow companies and academia to demonstrate technologies of interest to NASA in a much more realistic environment than what they could get in ground-based simulation facilities,” said Stephan Ord, technology manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities programme, in a canned statement. “This is a valuable platform for NASA to mature cutting-edge technologies that have the potential of supporting future agency mission needs.”

Being able to drop a payload from 60,000ft on to a defined point is a great leap forward from the current situation where it’s a best guess as to where the payload lands, as long-time Reg readers will recall from the early LOHAN tests in Spain.

The use of a steerable aerofoil parachute to bring the payloads back to earth is also a neat and logical extension of stunt kite technology.

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NASA extends trial of steerable robo-stunt kite parachute – The Register

60000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist – Phys.Org

February 20, 2017 Scientists from NASA have found a microbe, said to have survived inside crystals for up to 60,000 years, which they believe could prove the existence of living organisms inother extreme environments, like planets and the moon

NASA scientists have discovered living microorganisms trapped inside crystals for as long as 60,000 years in a mine in Mexico.

These strange ancient microbes have apparently evolved so they can survive on a diet of sulfite, manganese and copper oxide, said Penelope Boston of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in a presentation over the weekend at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet,” she said.

They were discovered in the Naica mine, a working lead, zinc and silver mine in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The mine is famous for its huge crystals, some as long as 50 feet (15 meters).

The discovery has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but it has led Boston to believe that living organisms may also have survived in the extreme environments of other planets and moons in our solar system.

She said about 100 different kinds of microorganismsmost of them bacteriahave been found locked in Naica crystals for periods ranging from 10,000 to 60,000 years.

Ninety percent of them have never been observed before now, she said.

The discovery of these ultra-hardy microorganisms has been a windfall for researchers but also a source of concern for astrobiologists thinking about bringing back samples collected on space missions in the solar system.

The extreme conditions under which these microbes have survived raises the possibility that dangerous extraterrestrial organisms could accidentally hitch a ride to Earth on a returning spaceship.

Astrobiologists also worry about the risk that Earth organisms could contaminate other planets in the course of missions to places like Mars, which has already been visited by several US robots.

NASA sterilizes its spacecraft and equipment before launching them into space. But there is always a risk that ultra-resistant microorganisms will survive.

“How do we ensure that life-detection missions are going to detect true Mars life or life from icy worlds rather than our life?” asked Boston.

The concerns are not new. During the Apollo missions of the 1960s and ’70s, astronauts returning from the moon were quarantined.

The microorganisms found in the Naica mine are not even the oldest discovered to date.

Several years ago scientists reported finding microbes in ice and salt that were up to 500,000 years old.

Explore further: Biologists find weird cave life that may be 50,000 years old

2017 AFP

In a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

Scientists have a constructed a new database of the diversity in an enzyme that is used by microorganisms to metabolize sulfur.

(Phys.org)A team of researchers working deep in a mine in Canada has found water samples that date back approximately 2 billion years, breaking the record of oldest discovered water on the surface of the Earth by approximately …

Recently, a team of astrobiologists from the EU funded MASE (Mars Analogues for Space Exploration) project descended 1.1 kilometers below Earth’s surface to the Mars-like environment of the Boulby Mine in the UK looking for …

They live several kilometers under the surface of the earth, need no light or oxygen and can only be seen in a microscope. By sequencing genomes of a newly discovered group of microbes, the Hadesarchaea, an international …

The US space agency NASA on Wednesday announced two unmanned missions to asteroids designed to study one of the earliest eras in the history of the solar system.

Gene editing, which has raised ethical concerns due to its capacity to alter human DNA, is being considered in the United States as a tool for improving livestock, experts say.

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered that the chromosome responsible for the social organisation of colonies of the highly invasive fire ant is likely to have evolved via a single event rather …

Forest elephant populations in one of Central Africa’s largest and most important preserves have declined between 78 percent and 81 percent because of poaching, a new Duke University-led study finds.

The winter habits of Britain’s basking sharks have been revealed for the first time.

What looks like a caterpillar chewing on a leaf or a beetle consuming fruit is likely a three-way battle that benefits most, if not all of the players involved, according to a Penn State entomologist.

By tagging individual bumblebees with microchips, biologists have gained insights into the daily life of a colony of bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) in unprecedented detail. The team found that while most bees are generalists …

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60000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist – Phys.Org


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