Big asteroid to whiz by Earth this month, NASA says don’t worry – ABC Action News

(CNN) — A large asteroid is hurtling toward Earth — but there’s no need to duck and cover.

The space rock, known by the very dull name of 2014 JO25 will safely fly by Earth on April 19, according to NASA. The chances of it pounding our planet and leaving us for the dead? Zero, experts say.

“Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size,” NASA said in a statement.

What size are we talking about? Measurements taken by NASA’s NEOWISE space probe indicate the asteroid is about 2,000 feet (650 meters) in size. That’s about 670 yards (613 meters), or about the length of six NFL football fields.

And how close is “very close”? NASA says this rock will come about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Earth. That’s about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The moon, by the way, is about 239,000 miles (384,400 kilometers) from Earth.

While several small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth a few times a week, this is the closest by any known asteroid of this size or bigger in 13 years — since asteroid Toutatis in 2004, according to the space agency.

Can you see asteroid 2014 JO25? Well, maybe. This asteroid has a reflective surface and you might be able to see it with a telescope.

“The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19,” NASA said.

If you don’t have your own telescope, you can watch the asteroid online.

Astronomers discovered 2014 J025 three years ago (you guessed it in 2014). This will be its closest encounter with Earth for the last 400 years. NASA said telescopes around the world will be trained on it during the flyby to try to learn more about it.

“Radar observations are planned at NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and the resulting radar images could reveal surface details as small as a few meters,” NASA said.

If you head out to try to spot the asteroid, you might also want to check out comet PanSTARRS (C/2015 ER61). It also is making its closest approach to Earth — coming about 109 million miles (175 million kilometers) from the planet. NASA said it’s visible in the dawn sky with binoculars or a small telescope.

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Big asteroid to whiz by Earth this month, NASA says don’t worry – ABC Action News

Veteran NASA spacewoman getting 3 extra months in orbit – Arizona Daily Sun

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) The world’s oldest and most experienced spacewoman is getting three extra months in orbit.

NASA announced Wednesday that astronaut Peggy Whitson will remain on the International Space Station until September. The 57-year-old astronaut arrived last November and was supposed to return to Earth in June. But under an agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, she’ll stay another three months and take advantage of an empty seat on a Soyuz capsule in the fall.

This mission her third will now last close to 10 months. Scientists are eager to monitor any changes to her body, to add to the knowledge gained from retired astronaut Scott Kelly’s recent one-year flight.

The two men she flew up with in November France’s Thomas Pesquet and Russia’s Oleg Novitskiy will return in June without her.

Whitson has already spent more time in space than any other woman, counting all her missions, and just last week set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman, with eight.

This weekend, she’ll take over as space station commander, her second time at the job.

And on April 24, she’ll set a new U.S. record for most accumulated time in space. That NASA record 534 days is currently held by former space station resident Jeffrey Williams.

Whitson welcomed Wednesday’s news.

“I love being up here,” she said in a statement. “Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.”

NASA’s space station program director, Kirk Shireman, said Whitson’s skill and experience make her “an incredible asset” up there, and her extra time will be put to good use.

There will be a return seat for Whitson in September because the Soyuz due to launch later this month will carry up one American and one Russian, one person fewer than usual. Russia is temporarily cutting back to two station residents. With Whitson’s extended stay, the orbiting outpost will continue to have a full crew of six.

Whitson, a biochemist who grew up on a farm in Iowa, became an astronaut in 1996. She served as NASA’s chief astronaut from 2009 to 2012, the only woman to ever hold the job.

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Veteran NASA spacewoman getting 3 extra months in orbit – Arizona Daily Sun

Photos of Jupiter From NASA Spacecraft, Both Near and Far – New York Times

New York Times
Photos of Jupiter From NASA Spacecraft, Both Near and Far
New York Times
NASA is getting new looks at Jupiter, from close up and far away. Its Juno spacecraft made its fifth just-above-the-cloud-tops dive of Jupiter on March 27, its eight instruments gathering data on the planet's interior as it accelerated to 129,000 miles
NASA releases new close-ups of JupiterNBC4i.com
21 Amazing Photos of Jupiter Just Sent Back to Earth by NASA's $1 Billion Juno ProbeObserver
NASA's Hubble takes close-up portrait of Jupiter NASA/Goddard Space Flight CenterEurekAlert (press release)
Daily Mail –WBXH –SpaceCoastDaily.com –NASA
all 118 news articles »

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Photos of Jupiter From NASA Spacecraft, Both Near and Far – New York Times

NASA unveiled new plans for getting humans to Mars, and hardly anyone noticed – The Planetary Society (blog)

Jason Davis April7,2017

Last week, NASA did something many have demanded it do since the Space Launch System was unveiled in 2011: Provide more details on how the agency will send humans to Mars.

During two presentations to the NASA Advisory Council, associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier showed off the latest designs for a small, Moon-orbiting space station and a larger, reusable transport ship to carry astronauts to Mars and back.

It’s NASA’s most concrete plan yet for sending humans back into deep space. But beyond a smattering of articles, hardly anyone noticed.

That’s probably okay with Gerstenmaier. Wary of being buffeted by political winds, NASA treads lightly these daysat least, publicly. Advisory Council meetings aren’t really promoted, and the agency isn’t exactly shouting the plan from the rooftops, beyond a single article that appeared on March 28.

Back in 2014, I described NASA’s deep space exploration plans like this:

Three years later, the game continues. While NASA works to keep its stakeholders happy and navigate potential changes ordered by the Trump administration, Bill Gerstenmaier and the agency’s human exploration directorate are busy getting the Space Launch System and Orion ready for a test flight next year. That means it’s time to get serious about the next steps.

“There’s now a sense of urgency,” Gerstenmaier said last week. “The hope is we’ve created enough of a framework that folks can see that there’s a real plan worth executing. But also, it’s not so defined that it if some piece changes, the entire plan gets thrown away and we start all over again.”


NASA’s Obama-era “Journey to Mars” slogan has largely been replaced with a more generalized mandate to expand human presence into deep space, which includes Mars. The agency still plans to spend the 2020s learning how to live and work in lunar orbit, before starting trips to Mars in the 2030s. The most noticeable change seems to be a strong emphasis on making sure international and commercial partners have lots of opportunities to participate, and leverage NASA’s cislunar presence for their own programs.

That cislunar presence is modestly named “Phase 1,” the core of which is a small space station called the Deep Space Gateway, or DSG.

To say the DSG is a miniature International Space Station isn’t quite accurate. It isn’t meant to be continually staffed; with Orion docked, it only supports a crew of four for 42 days. The DSG has a propulsion module, habitation module, and possibly an airlock for spacewalks. It will likely have an updated version of the beloved Canadarm, and possibly an advanced glass cupola offering 360-degree views of the Moon and Earth.

The DSG would be assembled by 2025, over the course of three SLS flightseach of which will launch with a crewed Orion capsule. NASA would rely on commercial or international partners for resupply flights, and a final SLS mission to bring up the airlock is notionally scheduled for 2026.

Building the DSG will allow NASA to practice pulling off complex deep space rendezvous, while learning to live and work where a quick return to Earth is not possible.

Another key component of the DSG is a 40-kilowatt solar-electric propulsion system. That’s an order of magnitude more powerful than any SEP system operating today.

The SEP system allows the DSG to transition between an always-in-sunlight halo orbit to other orbits that could be useful for other applications, including lunar landings. That could make the new outpost an attractive destination.

“Anyone can come and use this vehicle,” Gerstenmaier said. “Both the commercial side, and international partners.”

Whether or not the DSG could transition all the way to low-lunar orbit remains to be seen, due to the large change in velocity required, as well as differing power and thermal requirements caused by transiting in and out of sunlight each orbit.

“Those requirements for low-lunar orbit may be so expensive they’re not worth putting in this vehicle,” said Gerstenmaier. “We’ll trade what the science community wants, and what the other partners want, and determine whether we want to add that capability.”


Once phase 1 is complete, NASA will move onto phase 2, during which the DSG becomes a lunar port of call for a large crew vehicle called the Deep Space Transport, or DST.

The DST supports a crew of four for 1,000 days at a time. Between each trip, it will be resupplied, refurbished and refueled at the DSG. NASA expects it to be long-lived enough for a total of three round trips to Mars.

The vehicle could be Skylab-esque in volume. International Space Station modules like Unity have a diameter of 4.3 meters. Skylab, essentially the size of a Saturn V rocket’s upper stage, was 6.6 meters widewide enough to allow astronauts to float in the center without touching the walls. SLS has a fairing diameter of 8.4 meters, and NASA says the DST will take “full advantage of the large volumes and mass that can be launched by the SLS rocket.”

The DST is heavy, tooNASApredicts a mass of 41 metric tons, without supplies. A single SLS cargo flight would carry it to lunar orbit in 2027.

“There’s really no (other) vehicle today, or even planned, that can launch 41 metric tons (to the Moon) in one piece,” Gerstenmaier said. “We think that that is the minimum size for this Mars-class transport.”

The closest contender is SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon Heavy launcher. The rocket is advertised as being able to heave 64 metric tons into low-Earth orbit, but there is no reliable public estimate on how much mass it can send to the Moon. (An article by Universe Today last year suggested 13 metric tons, which is the same capability SpaceX is projecting for Mars.)

NASA’s all-in-one-launch approach for the Deep Space Transport actually resembles SpaceX’s far-flung plan to send a million people to Mars.

That plan envisions launching 100 people into Earth orbit atop a behemoth rocket powered by 42 engines. SpaceX, having no on-orbit assembly experience, doesn’t seem to be interested in smaller rockets and numerous launches. NASA, despite having almost 20 years of experience with the ISS, isn’t favoring that approach either.

In NASA’s case, Gerstenmaier said the single-launch approach saves weight, since assembling multiple components requires extra berthing ports and internal hatches. The agency also has the Space Launch System at its disposal, and likely wants to avoid the cost of a multi-mission assembly project.

After receiving supplies and equipment at the DSG, the DST would be ready to fly. In 2029, a crew would climb aboard for a one-year shakedown cruise, during which the DST would fly on its own in lunar orbit. Assuming everything goes smoothly, the DST would return to the DSG (still following the acronyms?) for refueling and supplies, before embarking on its first crewed flight to Mars orbit in 2033.

The journey might involve a Venus gravity assist, in which case the chosen crewmemberswould get to see the clouds of Venus and volcanoes of Mars all in the same tripwith their own eyes.

Shortly after President Trump signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk let it be known on Twitter he wasn’t happy:

We can infer that by “existing programs,” Musk meant SLS and Orion. Based on his conversations with Trump, he may have been hoping for a large-scale space policy shift in SpaceX’s favor, away from traditional contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Meanwhile, another SpaceX competitor, United Launch Alliance, spent this past week promoting its “Cislunar 1000” vision at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. The vision calls for a 1,000-person-strong, self-sustaining space economy on and around the Moon by 2045. Someburgeoning entrepreneursand international space agencies are on board with the notion, and the idea has at least some political supporttypically centered around alarm over China’s lunar ambitions.

All of this would seem to put NASA at the center of a complicated tug-of-war between traditional and NewSpace firms, and the Moon and Mars.

If that’s the case, Gerstenmaier’s current approach could prove to be nothing short of genius. The DSG plants at least the seeds of a cislunar economy: it will rely on commercial and international resupply services, it offers a waypoint in deep space, and it opens up lunar surface opportunities.

In the meantime, SpaceX and NASA might end up making more strides toward Mars together. During last week’s Advisory Council meeting, Gerstenmaier reiterated the agency’s partnership with SpaceX on its Red Dragon project, which could yield critical advances in entry, descent and landing technologies. NASA also has years of experience operating rovers on the Martian surface, a small fleet of reconnaissance orbiters, and the Deep Space Network at its disposal.

Maybe the situation isn’t as bad as Musk thinks.

“There’s nothing this agency cannot do,” Gerstenmaier said. “If you can give us a clear direction, and give us reasonable resources, this agency and its contractor base will accomplish what you want.”

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NASA unveiled new plans for getting humans to Mars, and hardly anyone noticed – The Planetary Society (blog)

NASA funds ideas from science fiction – GeekWire

A scene from the 2012 movie John Carter shows an airship engaged in a Martian battle. The NASA-backed concept for a Martian airship isnt quite as ambitious. ( 2011 Disney / John Carter ERB, Inc.)

Truth can be stranger than fiction, but it shouldnt be strange to hear that NASA spends millions of dollars on efforts to turn science-fiction concepts into true technologies.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC, has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for almost 20 years. It started out as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, modeled after the Pentagons DARPA think tank.

NIACs latest crop of 22 tech projects was announced this week, and they include a few conceptsthat were virtually ripped from the headlines of science fictions pulp magazines. Here are our favorite five:

Flying airships of Mars: The idea of sending airships floating through the Red Planets skies dates back to Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels of the early 20th century.

One big problem: Mars actual atmosphere is so thin that an airship would have to maintain a vacuum to become buoyant.Thats exactly what Georgia Techs John-Paul Clarke intends to do with an experimental double-shelled, reinforced vacuum airship.

Maybe he should call it an airless-ship.

Bioengineered bugs for Mars: To transform the Red Planet from a cold, lifeless world to something greener, astronauts lay down a layer of bioengineered algae in the 2000 movie Red Planet.

Berkeleys Adam Arkin and his colleagues plan to look into bioengineering strains of a type of bacteriaknown as Pseudomonas stutzeri, with the aim of detoxifying the perchlorate in Martian soil and enriching it with ammonia. Thatll make it easier for Mars settlers to grow potatoes, like fictional astronaut Mark Watney did in The Martian.

Solar gravitational lens: Earthlings figure out how to use the suns gravitational field to focus light rays from the Milky Way galaxys distant frontiers in Existence, a novel by David Brin.

Slava Turyshev of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory will look intohow a robotic probe sent to the far reaches of the solar system could actually use the sun as a gravitational lens to detect and study life on Earthlike planets up to 100 light-years away.

Artificial gravity: How do astronauts in space operas ranging from Star Trek to The Expanse keep their feet on the floor as the walk around their interplanetary spaceships? Its challenging enough for real-life astronauts to keep their muscles and bones healthy in the zero-G conditions on the International Space Station.

Jason Gruber of Medical Solutions Group and his colleagues want to develop an unorthodox method to give astronauts a dose of artificial gravity during long-duration space missions: Their Turbolift system is basically an elevator that lifts and drops an astronaut for one-second bouts of 1G acceleration. The experience is likely to be analogous to bouncing mildly on a trampoline, Gruber says.

Fusion thrusters: Until the warp drive is invented, propulsion fueled by nuclear fusion is about the best we can do. Fusionpower plants are built intofleets of fictional spaceships, including Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the starship Avalon in Passengers.

SeveralNIAC projects will look into fusion power and other unorthodox propulsion technologies: Check out the concepts from Michael LaPointe at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center, Raymond Sedwick at the University of Maryland, John Brophy at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory andHeidi Fearn at the Space Studies Institute.

Check NASAs website for thefull list of 15 Phase I projects, including ideas for asteroid-mining robots and solar-surfing probes.

Each of the Phase I projects is slated to receive up to $125,000 for a nine-month feasibility study. If those studies are successful, the teams can apply for Phase II grants, worth as much as $500,000, that are meant to support follow-up studies for two years.

NASA says five Phase II projects have been selected for the class of 2017:

NASA selects NIACprojects through a peer-review process that evaluates innovativeness and technical viability. The program is designed to support technologies in the early stages of development. Most of them are expected to require at least 10more years of development before theyre incorporated into a NASA mission.

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NASA funds ideas from science fiction – GeekWire

You Can Help NASA Prove the Existence of Planet 9 | Mental Floss – Mental Floss

Do you enjoy astronomy? Do you have a bit of free time to help comb through over 200,000 images of the entire celestial sky to see if you can catch a glimpse of a theorized ninth planet? NASA may have an attractive offer for you.

The space agency has funded an initiative dubbed Backyard Worlds to recruit citizen scientists to assist them in evaluating this massive photo library and hopefully make new cosmic discoveries. Using data collected from their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, Backyard Worlds allows volunteers to examine images for hints of Planet 9a world thought to be around the size of Neptune that would help explain recognized irregularities in orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt. Researchers at Caltech first presented evidence of the planet’s existence in 2016.

Why doesnt NASA just use computers? In this instance, the human eye is superior. Image software has trouble distinguishing the movements of distant stars and image artifacts from celestial objects relevant to the search.

Roughly 33,000 people have joined the effort since its launch in February and have already identified candidates for brown dwarf statussometimes known as failed stars that are bigger than planets. For now, Planet 9 itself remains elusivebut perhapsnot for long. A similar citizen science project in Australia using images taken by the SkyMappertelescope recently turned up four potential candidates.

[h/t Vocativ]

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You Can Help NASA Prove the Existence of Planet 9 | Mental Floss – Mental Floss

Here’s how and when NASA will finally destroy Cassini – ScienceAlert

For nearly three decades, researchers have worked to design, build, launch, and operate an unprecedented mission to explore Saturn.

Called Cassini-Huygens – or Cassini for short – the goldennuclear-powered spacecraftlaunched in October 1997, fell into orbit around the gas giant in July 2004, and has been documenting the planet and its dizzying variety of moons ever since.

But all good things must come to an end. And for NASA’s US$3.26 billion probe, that day is Friday, 15 September, 2017.

During a press conferenceheld by the US space agency on April 4, researchers explained why they’re killing off their cherished spacecraft with what they call the ‘Grand Finale’.

The manoeuvre will use up the fleeting reserves of Cassini’s fuel, putting it on a collision course with Saturn.

“Cassini’s own discoveries were its demise,” said Earl Maize, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who manages the Cassini mission.

Maize was referring to a warm, saltwateroceanthat Cassini found hiding beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, a large moon of Saturn that spews water into space.

NASA’s probe flew through thesecurtain-like jets of vapour and icein October 2015, ‘tasted’ the material, and indirectly discovered the subsurface ocean’s composition – and it’s one that may support alien life.

“We cannot risk an inadvertent contact with that pristine body,” Maize said.

“Cassini has got to be put safely away. And since we wanted to stay at Saturn, the only choice was to destroy it in some controlled fashion.”

However, Maize and a collaboration of researchers from 19 nations aren’t going to let their plucky probe go down without a fight.

They plan to squeeze every last byte of data they can from the robot, right up until Cassini turns into a brilliant radioactive comet above the swirling storms of Saturn.

‘We’re going in, and we’re not coming out’

Long before Cassini began orbiting Saturn in 2004, mission managers carefully plotted out its orbits to squeeze in as many flybys of the gas giant planet, its moons, and its expansive icy rings as possible.

Their goal: get lots ofchances to recordunprecedented new images, gravitational data, and magnetic readings without putting the spacecraft into harm’s way or burning up too much of its limited propellant.

But after 13 years of operation at nearly 1 billion miles (1.45 billion kilometres) away from Earth, Cassini’s tank is running close to empty.

“We’re coming to the end. As it runs out of fuel, the things it can do are quite limited – until we decided on a new approach,” Jim Green, the leader of NASA’s planetary science program, said during the press conference.

NASA could have propelled Cassini to some other planet – perhaps Uranus or Neptune. But in 2010, mission managers decided to keep itaround Saturn, reasoning they could squeeze more science out of the mission there.

However, this effectively doomed the spacecraft to a fiery death.

Cassini’s death spiral will officially begin on April 22, 2017.

That’s when it will, for the last time, fly by Titan: an icy moon of Saturn that’s bigger than our own, has a thick atmosphere, seas of liquid methane, and even rain.

Titan’s gravity will slingshot Cassini over Saturn, above the planet’s atmosphere, and – on April 26 – through a narrow void between the planet and the innermost edge of its rings.

“That last ‘kiss goodbye’ will put Cassini into Saturn,” Maize said. “This is a roller coaster ride. We’re going in, and we are not coming out – it’s a one-way trip.”

Cassini’s science-packed finale

The void between Saturn and its rings is about 1,200 miles (1930 kilometres) wide, or roughly the distance from northern Washington state to the southern tip of California.

“As we’re skimming close to the planet, we’ll have the best views ever of the poles of the planet,” Linda Spilker, a Cassini project scientist and a planetary scientist at NASA JPL, said during the press briefing.

“We’ll see the giant hurricanes at the north and south poles.”

During its final orbits above Saturn, Cassini will get its closest-ever views of the hexagon-shaped feature of Saturn’s north pole, which Spilker said is “two Earthdiametersacross” yet poorly understood.

“Perhaps by getting close with Cassini, we’ll answer the question, ‘What keeps the hexagon there in this particular shape?'” she said.

Spilker said Cassini will also photograph the auroras of Saturn’s poles, measure how massive the planet’s rings are, ‘taste’ the icy material they’re made of, and even probe deep below its thick clouds to see how big its rocky core is.

Sensitive magnetic and gravitational measurements that Cassini couldn’t make before may also answer lingering questions about the internal structure of Saturn, including how big its rocky core is, plus how fast a shell ofmetallic hydrogenaround it spins.

“How fast is Saturn rotating?” Spilker asked. “If there’s just a slight tilt to the magnetic field, then it will wobble around and give us the length of a day.”

Hours before it takes its final plunge on September 15, 2017, Cassini will beam back its last batch of images – then prepare for the end.

The fiery end of a long-time robotic friend

Cassini is a 2.78-ton robot with delicate instruments that was not designed to ram into icy ring material at 70,000 mph (112,000 km/h). It also wasn’t made to plunge into the thick atmosphere of a gas giant and live to tell the tale.

Nevertheless, scientists behind the mission say they are going to do their best to shield its instruments from damage and keep the data flowing until the moment it dies.

They will do this primarily by using the cone-shaped primary antenna as a shield to protect cameras, magnetometers, and more.

“If we get surprised, well, we’ve got a bunch of contingency plans We’ll milk the best out of this,” Maize said.

He added that even if icy bits take out Cassini’s ability to talk to Earth, the spacecraft “will still finish out exactly where we planned, but we’ll have a little less science than we hoped for.”

When Cassini begins its final plunge, it will use its last propellant to fight atmospheric drag and keep the antenna pointed at Earth.

During that time, it will ‘taste’ the composition of Saturn’s atmosphere as it descends into the gases, broadcasting its readings in real-time back to satellite dishes on Earth.

But the measurements won’t last long.

“It will break apart, it will melt, it will vaporise, and it will become a very part of the planet it left Earth 20 years ago to explore,” Maize said.

While members of the Cassini team said they’re looking forward to the Grand Finale, they weren’t without remorse.

“It’s really going to be hard to say goodbye to this plucky, capable little spacecraft that has returned all of this great science,” Spilker said.

We’ve flown together a long time.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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Here’s how and when NASA will finally destroy Cassini – ScienceAlert

The First NASA Plan Under Trump Will Kill The International Space Station – BuzzFeed News

Astronauts David Wolf (left) and Piers Sellers on an ISS spacewalk in 2002. NASA / JSC / Via images.nasa.gov

ID: 10830191

NASA hopes to go to Mars in the next two decades, and will kill its share of the popular International Space Station in order to pay for the trip.

Thats the plan NASAs head of human spaceflight William Gerstenmaier rolled out last week. It includes building a vehicle an armored canister shorter than a school bus and about twice as wide called the Deep Space Getaway that will circle four astronauts around the moon by 2025. Then, by about 2033, the astronauts will close the hatch of another spacecraft, the Deep Space Transport, fire its softly purring electric motors, and depart on a years-long trip around Mars, and perhaps fly by Venus, too.

To pay for the plan, NASA in 2024 would axe its $3 billion yearly upkeep of the ISS, which since 1998 has hosted 226 people (seven of them tourists), set records for continuous space habitation, and starred in a viral video of a Canadian astronaut. The agency will also pass on another costly proposed program: sending astronauts to land on the moon.

We are starting to look at the 2020s and I think we are teed up to do some great things, acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said on Thursday at the space agencys advisory committee meeting.

The plan is tentative until President Trump appoints a new head of NASA. Some rumors have pointed to Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, a fan of moon bases, and former NASA official Scott Pace, who told BuzzFeed News by email, I think this is very worthwhile proposal. It remains to be seen what the Congress will do, however.

The Trump administration has already nixed the Obama-era plan for NASA astronauts to visit and retrieve an asteroid, the unloved object of the agencys desire for the last six years.

I dont think there is any doubt that the Trump administration wants to do something big in space.

ID: 10830830

I dont think there is any doubt that the Trump administration wants to do something big in space, historian John Logsdon, author of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, told BuzzFeed News. The question is whether or not that is what NASA has been planning for the last few years.

Adopting the Mars flyby mission would keep costs within NASAs $8.5 billion human spaceflight budget (hopefully with an increase with inflation, Gerstenmaier said) for the next two decades. And it would make clear that dreams of another Apollo moon landing bonanza for NASA, where a president makes a bold call for exploration and then dumps tax dollars on the space agency, are over.

All NASA has to do is convince Congress and the public that it needs to cut the cord from the ISS, which cost NASA $75 billion between 1998 and 2011, and is flying some 251 miles overhead.

The plan is the inevitable culmination of NASAs longstanding obsession with going to Mars (dating back to at least the 1950s, when Werner von Braun sold the idea to Walt Disney Show watchers), colliding with multiple presidents lacking any interest in paying for it, while not wanting to say so.

If we are going to get to orbit Mars in the first half of this century, NASA has to stop paying for the space station, Logsdon said. The space agency has been flirting with ditching the space station for more than last two years, he noted.

Things are looking, if not good, then not bad for NASA under Donald Trump. While other science agencies were handed hefty cuts in his proposed 2018 budget (with the National Institutes of Health slated to take a 20% whack, for example, and the Environmental Protection Agency a 31% sledgehammering that would fire a third of its workers), the space agency escaped with a 1% proposed cut, which acting administrator Lightfoot seemed grateful for.

Trump praised NASA in a weekly address in March, calling for new discoveries, and signed a bill that tells NASA to keep building its jumbo Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, scheduled for a first trial next year.

The new Mars plan depends on the SLS: It will take three launches of the rocket and its Orion space capsule by 2025 to launch the Deep Space Gateway vehicle into orbit around the moon. The construction job would finally give the SLS the $23 billion rocket to nowhere built in the politically potent space-center states of Mississippi and Alabama somewhere to go.

The new head of NASA, whoever it is, will have to decide whether to approve the plan within about a year, Logsdon noted. Travel from Earth to Mars depends on an alignment of the planets, windows that open only every 26 months when the two planets come closest. It will take nine SLS launches to build the gateway, assemble a Mars spacecraft, and send it on its way loaded with astronauts. Aligning all those launches and windows takes a lot of planning.

In between now and then, NASA will also have to develop electric rockets to ship people to Mars and perfect life support for astronauts to survive intense radiation storms and lack of gravity. A Jet Propulsion Laboratory report estimated that a minimal mission might take 570 days. That makes rockets with continuous low thrust attractive they are more efficient than standard rockets, and they can harvest electric power from two large solar-cell wings that will unfold from the Mars spacecraft to save fuel. Ideally, they would cut the travel time to Mars in half, with transit taking only four months.

Back on Earth, meanwhile, a February tornado with winds higher than 135 miles per hour and later rainstorms have already delayed assembly of the first SLS rocket in Mississippi, and some observers expect its first uncrewed test launch will slip to 2019. That would start the NASA deep space plan off with a delay.

The eventual Mars trip needs to be exciting enough that it warrants the funding, but not so exciting that it takes so much money that well never get it, Gerstenmaier said at last weeks advisory committee meeting.

That rules out landing on Mars but leaves financial room for an astronaut flyby. An Aerospace Corporation analysis of a minimal Mars trip included in a September report from Jet Propulsion Lab engineers vouched for the reasonable costs of a mission like the one advanced last week, as long as NASAs budget increases with inflation.

We could promise a lot more, but the budget reality I see doesnt allow for that, Gerstenmaier said then. Were not going to get a budget increase, were going to stay flat line.

Departure for Mars from orbiting lunar base. NASA

ID: 10826023

The new plan is an incremental and logical step to get ready for Mars, Penn State aerospace engineering professor David Spencer told BuzzFeed News. When you look at European explorers, they didnt sail for America right away, they explored around the coast of Africa to get used to long voyages first. Its sort of the same idea.

One advantage of orbiting the moon first is that tests of those fancy electric motors could move its orbit up, down, and sideways in a way that makes the most sense for launching a Mars mission from it. If water hides in polar craters on the moon, as some observations suggest, bringing it back to a lunar orbiter would take less energy than shipping water from Earth to the moon, Spencer added.

Not everyone thinks the idea is so terrific, however.

We do not need a base camp in lunar orbit to go to Mars. We do not need a base camp in lunar orbit to go to the Moon, Mars Society President Robert Zubrin told BuzzFeed News by email. We do not need a base camp in lunar orbit for any purpose other than to spend money on a lunar base camp.

Zubrin suggested that the Deep Space Gateway is basically a way to justify spending money to build the SLS, which is expected to cost $2 billion a year to launch and maintain, more than not only Elon Musks SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, but also other heavy rockets under development. If NASA goes ahead with the lunar orbiter, he predicts, it will delay a mission to Mars by a decade or more. He also questioned the ethics of testing radiation safety on astronauts in lunar orbit.

Astronauts should be explorers, not guinea pigs, said Zubrin.

Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut who logged five missions aboard the ISS and is the interim chair of the advisory panel, also expressed doubt that the ISS would fold shop as quickly as NASA hopes, either sold off to a private company or disassembled and de-orbited, scattering burnt debris across the Indian Ocean.

I expect it would be more gradual, he said, with his committee suggesting that the ISSs life support tests might need to continue until 2028. That could leave NASA in a box, with money spent on the ISS continuously delaying its trip to Mars.

It also could paralyze NASAs European partners, Logsdon said, whose own missions will be influenced by whether the ISS sticks around. Anything NASA does in deep space will require international cooperation, he said.

Meanwhile, the private sector might get there first. SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a Trump adviser, has proposed sending people directly to Mars starting in 2023. He is also collaborating with NASA to land an empty crew capsule on Mars, the Red Dragon mission, with one of the first launches of his Falcon Heavy spacecraft, a cheaper competitor to the SLS, next year.

It wont happen, but could you imagine if Trump named Elon to head NASA? said Logsdon. That would certainly take NASA in a new direction.

Other perspectives on this story


“mars should really be a multi-national goal.”

A tough one. Tradeoff: International cooperation for soft plan that will absolutely get delayed and go over budget.

Mars is a waste of money and a death sentence. You can colonize the moon for hundreds of times less and be able to use it as an asteroid collection base.

They need to just end NASA ! I’m tired of my tax dollars going to them ( 20 billion $$$ this year alone from tax payers ) just for them to give us pictures

We dont need Mars. Save earth instead

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The First NASA Plan Under Trump Will Kill The International Space Station – BuzzFeed News

NASA’s NEOWISE Mission Spies One Comet, Maybe Two

NASA’s NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects traveling through our neighborhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. Another–definitely a comet–might be seen with binoculars through next week.

An object called 2016 WF9 was detected by the NEOWISE project on Nov. 27, 2016. It’s in an orbit that takes it on a scenic tour of our solar system. At its farthest distance from the sun, it approaches Jupiter’s orbit. Over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, it travels inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it swings just inside Earth’s own orbit. After that, it heads back toward the outer solar system. Objects in these types of orbits have multiple possible origins; it might once have been a comet, or it could have strayed from a population of dark objects in the main asteroid belt.

2016 WF9 will approach Earth’s orbit on Feb. 25, 2017. At a distance of nearly 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) from Earth, this pass will not bring it particularly close. The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future.

A different object, discovered by NEOWISE a month earlier, is more clearly a comet, releasing dust as it nears the sun. This comet, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, “has a good chance of becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can’t be sure because a comet’s brightness is notoriously unpredictable,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

As seen from the northern hemisphere during the first week of 2017, comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will be in the southeastern sky shortly before dawn. It is moving farther south each day and it will reach its closest point to the sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, on Jan. 14, before heading back out to the outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years. While it will be visible to skywatchers at Earth, it is not considered a threat to our planet either.

NEOWISE is the asteroid-and-comet-hunting portion of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. After discovering more than 34,000 asteroids during its original mission, NEOWISE was brought out of hibernation in December of 2013 to find and learn more about asteroids and comets that could pose an impact hazard to Earth. If 2016 WF9 turns out to be a comet, it would be the 10th discovered since reactivation. If it turns out to be an asteroid, it would be the 100th discovered since reactivation.

What NEOWISE scientists do know is that 2016 WF9 is relatively large: roughly 0.3 to 0.6 mile (0.5 to 1 kilometer) across.

It is also rather dark, reflecting only a few percent of the light that falls on its surface. This body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet.

“2016 WF9 could have cometary origins,” said Deputy Principal Investigator James “Gerbs” Bauer at JPL. “This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) absorb most of the light that falls on them and re-emit that energy at infrared wavelengths. This enables NEOWISE’s infrared detectors to study both dark and light-colored NEOs with nearly equal clarity and sensitivity.

“These are quite dark objects,” said NEOWISE team member Joseph Masiero, “Think of new asphalt on streets; these objects would look like charcoal, or in some cases are even darker than that.”

NEOWISE data have been used to measure the size of each near-Earth object it observes. Thirty-one asteroids that NEOWISE has discovered pass within about 20 lunar distances from Earth’s orbit, and 19 are more than 460 feet (140 meters) in size but reflect less than 10 percent of the sunlight that falls on them.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has completed its seventh year in space after being launched on Dec. 14, 2009.

Data from the NEOWISE mission are available on a website for the public and scientific community to use. A guide to the NEOWISE data release, data access instructions and supporting documentation are available at:


Access to the NEOWISE data products is available via the on-line and API services of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive.

A list of peer-reviewed papers using the NEOWISE data is available at:


News Media Contact

Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown NASA Headquarters, Washington 202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726 laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov / dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov



NASA’s NEOWISE Mission Spies One Comet, Maybe Two

New NASA radar technique finds lost lunar spacecraft – Science Daily

Science Daily
New NASA radar technique finds lost lunar spacecraft
Science Daily
DSS-14 is NASA's 70-meter (230-foot) antenna located at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. It is known as the "Mars Antenna" as it was first to receive signals from the first spacecraft to closely observe Mars, Mariner 4, …
NASA finds lunar spacecraft that vanished 8 years agoWGN-TV
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New NASA radar technique finds lost lunar spacecraft – Science Daily

Trump, with NASA, has a new rocket and spaceship. Where’s he going to go? – Washington Post

NEW ORLEANS NASA is building a jumbo rocket. Its called the Space Launch System, or simply the SLS. The core stage of the SLS is slowly materializing in a sprawling facility on the north bank of the Mississippi River. Technicians are welding up a storm and have completed the largest component a liquid hydrogen fuel tank thats 133 feet from nose to tail and looks like a shiny metallic zeppelin.

This is our big boy, said NASA engineer Stephen C. Doering, dwarfed by the tank resting on cradles in a high bay.

NASA has a complicated way of building rockets that funnels money to multiple states in the southeastern United States. The SLS program is based in Alabama, at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Engine tests will be done in Mississippi, at the Stennis Space Center. The final stacking of the rocket and the launch will be from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the Kennedy Space Center.

Construction of the core stage is handled here in Louisiana, at the Michoud Assembly Facility, which covers the equivalent of 31 football fields. The vast structure survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and then a direct hit from a tornado earlier this year.

But the new rocket will have to survive the unpredictable crosswinds of Washington.

President Trump is now in charge of the space program, and no one in Washington seems to have a clear idea whats going to happen next. Trump has expressed interest in President John F. Kennedys vow in 1961 to put American astronauts on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Thus everyone expects Trump to try to create a Kennedy moment.

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing is coming up in two years. For NASA, and the entire space industry, thats a huge anniversary and suddenly everyone seems to be talking about moon missions.

President George W. Bush wanted U.S. boots on the moon by 2020. President Barack Obama killed the Bush program, saying wed been there and done that. But with Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House, the moon looms larger in the sky.

Last month, in his address to Congress, Trump made a single, enigmatic comment about space: American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Did that mean the moon? Mars?

Trump hasnt nominated anyone yet to lead NASA, nor has he picked a science adviser. He is expected to issue an executive order re-forming the long-disbanded National Space Council, which would be headed by Vice President Pence and oversee civilian and military space programs.

In the meantime, civil servants at NASA headquarters are reexamining the current human spaceflight schedule to see whether theres a way to do something dramatic before the end of Trumps term.

The first SLS launch, penciled in for late next year, will also be the first time it is paired with the new Orion crew capsule. No one will be aboard. Its a shakedown cruise to test the hardware and life support equipment. Instead of live astronauts, mannequins will serve as the crew.

But last month, NASAs acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, asked his team to look at the feasibility of adding astronauts to the first test flight. The feasibility study should be complete within weeks.

And then theres Elon Musk.

Musk, the founder and chief engineer of SpaceX, has met at least four times with Trump or his aides recently. Last month, in what appeared to be a hastily called teleconference with reporters, Musk announced that he intends to send two tourists next year on a figure-eight joy ride past the moon and back to Earth.

He did not identify the tourists, saying only that they were wealthy people who know each other and have already put down deposits. Musk said that he could do the moon flyby with his own new rocket, still under development, called the Falcon Heavy.

Another wrinkle: Musk told reporters that SpaceX would be willing to bump the rich tourists from that first flight and let NASA astronauts take their place.

There are reasons to view such a scenario as extremely unlikely. Powerful people in the space world would be unhappy to see Musk and SpaceX steal any thunder from the SLS and Orion. Huge aerospace corporations, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have contracts for this hardware.

The Alabama factor comes into play. The SLS is based at NASA Marshall, in Huntsville, the historic center of American rocketry. The Trump administration has a number of influential Alabamians, starting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Two former Sessions senate staffers, Stephen Miller and Rick Dearborn, work in the White House.

There are practical issues, too: Musk has a reputation for overpromising on timelines. SpaceX has never launched anyone into space. The Falcon Heavy has never flown. Moreover, NASA officials would be unlikely to embrace a SpaceX moon flyby unless it clearly fit into the agencys long-term plans for deep-space exploration.

What does Elon want to do with this is it just a one-off tourist flight? said NASAs top official for human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, in an interview with The Washington Post. I dont see it as advancing human presence in the solar system.

At the annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium this week in Greenbelt, Md., a student from Purdue University asked a panel of space experts a pointed question: Whats harder in spaceflight, the technical engineering or the political engineering?

Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, which represents aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, found that one easy to answer:

Political engineering is always more challenging.

* * *

Things were so much simpler in the 1960s. The United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War and racing to the moon in government-owned rockets. The United States won that race, planted a flag, left bootprints.

NASA today is faced with basic questions of destination, hardware and motivation. China has a growing space program but does not seem in a hurry to put astronauts on the moon, so theres no indication that a space race is heating up. NASA and Russia work shoulder to shoulder on the International Space Station.

Six years after NASA retired the space shuttle, the agency relies on Russian spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to and from orbit. SpaceX and Boeing have contracts to take astronauts to the International Space Station, but the first flights are probably a couple years away. In the meantime, NASA is building the SLS and Orion for deep space exploration.

In the 2020s, that would mean astronauts orbiting the moon but not going to the lunar surface. The most ambitious such mission would last a full year and function as a trial run for the much more daunting trip to Mars. Gerstenmaier, questioned this week by an audience member at the Goddard Symposium, said he would not rule out a landing on the moon but did not think it was necessary for NASAs long-term Mars ambitions.

Gerstenmaier is a civil servant who has survived many strategic pivots at NASA. In his brief remarks at the rostrum this week, he said the SLS will only launch about once a year, which he said is not often enough for a compelling space program. He showed a graphic with government-owned rockets like the SLS lined up next to private rockets like SpaceXs Falcon Heavy and Blue Origins New Glenn. I love every one of these rockets, he said.

But NASAs steady-as-she-goes, methodical way of operating has been criticized by outsiders as overly slow and cautious. The current manifest for the SLS envisions several years between the first two flights.

Newt Gingrich, for one, has seen enough. Gingrich is a space buff who has consulted with Trump in an unofficial capacity. When Gingrich ran for president in 2012, he spoke of his dream of a moon base. He even cited one of his old ideas: that Americans in a moon colony could achieve statehood.

The answer is to open the system up to competition, establish prizes, take risk, and dream big, Gingrich said in an email to The Post.

He added, The key is to liberate space from government monopoly and maximize the inventive entrepreneurial spirit of the Wright brothers, Edison, Ford and other classic Americans.

The SLS is an old-fashioned rocket in many ways. NASA fully owns the rocket. It oversees every aspect of the rockets design and operation. Its being built by the prime contractor, Boeing, under a traditional cost-plus contract that offers little incentive to do hold down the cost. The booster is also disposable.

All that exquisitely welded metal in the giant tank at Michoud will wind up at the bottom of the ocean. Thats an expensive way to do business. The cost of a single launch of the SLS could be in the vicinity of $1 billion.

SpaceX and Blue Origin the space start-up owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos (who also owns The Post) have emphasized reusability. The two companies have built boosters that can land softly back on land or on a platform at sea.

Musk has said he wants to launch the first humans to the surface of Mars in 2024. He envisions gigantic spaceships that could carry 100 people at a time. The goal is to create cities on Mars so that the Martian civilization can be independent and self-sustaining, and humanity will be a multi-planet species.

Humans are Earthlings, however: Any mission to Mars would take many months and human bones deteriorate in weightless environments. Space is shot through with radiation, particularly beyond the Earths protective magnetic field. No country has ever landed anything on Mars heavier than a rover. The atmosphere is too thin to be of much help in slowing down a vehicle deploying parachutes, but its thick enough to cause turbulence and overheating.

Bezos is less focused on Mars, but he has repeatedly said he wants to see millions of people living and working in space. He would like industrial activity moved off-planet to help protect Earths natural environment. Blue Origin has circulated a white paper describing how it would like to provide cargo delivery service as soon as 2020 for a (still hypothetical) NASA lunar base.

We should make American Space Great Again, Gingrich said in the email to The Post. Done properly we can be on the moon in President Trumps first term and orbiting Mars by the end of his second term.

Gerstenmaier is preaching cooperation: None of us can do it alone, he said at the Greenbelt symposium.

It is not a race to the moon between NASA and the private sector, said Dittmar, whose coalition is funded by the big aerospace companies.

But it feels like a race, somehow. At the very least, everyone is suddenly in a hurry. Gerstenmaier talked about an urgency to NASAs activities. Thats because, even without Trump channeling Kennedy, NASA has a serious plan to blast people back to the vicinity of the moon sometime in 2021, 2022, Gerstenmaier said. Thats not that far away.

If the plan holds, the big fuel tank at Michoud, plus another, smaller tank for liquid oxygen, and some other Michoud-created hardware, will wind up in Florida, at the Cape, as part of a stack of components forming a complete, full-fledged rocket thats taller than the Statue of Liberty.

At that point it will simply need a destination.

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Trump, with NASA, has a new rocket and spaceship. Where’s he going to go? – Washington Post

NASA offers first look at planet-rich Trappist-1 star system – Engadget

Why rush to offer such a rough look? As with the raw info, it’s all in the name of research. NASA explains that this data gives scientists an “early look” so that they can shape their research proposals for further investigations that start next winter. They’ll have a better sense of what they want to look for. Fully calibrated data will be available in May, NASA says, so don’t despair if you’re hoping for more polished material.

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NASA offers first look at planet-rich Trappist-1 star system – Engadget

NASA moving ahead with plans for cislunar human outpost – SpaceNews

A Lockheed Martin concept of a cislunar outpost that could support future human missions to the moon or elsewhere. Credit: Lockheed Martin

GREENBELT, Md. Despite uncertainty about potential policy changes, NASA is pressing ahead with plans for a cislunar gateway outpost for future human missions, with decisions about how to develop it expected in the coming months.

Speaking at the American Astronautical Societys Goddard Memorial Symposium here March 8, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said he was studying concepts for launching the first elements of the proposed outpost as secondary payloads on early flights of the Space Launch System.

Theres starting to be a sense of urgency about selecting what to fly on those initial SLS missions to support development of the cislunar outpost, he said. Weve really got to start making some decisions about what that cargo is.

The outpost will be a collection of habitation, cargo and other modules that could support crews working in lunar orbit or elsewhere in cislunar space for extended periods. Orion spacecraft would ferry astronauts to and from the outpost, where they could test technologies and perform other work needed to support NASAs long-term plans for human missions to Mars in the 2030s.

Gerstenmaier said development of the outpost could begin with the second and third SLS missions, EM-2 and -3, which will be the first flights of the SLS to use the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). That version of the SLS will have the ability to carry secondary payloads weighing up to several thousand kilograms within the rockets Universal Stage Adapter, an area between the EUS and Orion spacecraft.

Current schedules call for the launch of EM-2 as soon as 2021, which Gerstenmaier said pushes NASA to make decisions soon on what element of the outpost, if any, to fly on that launch. Weve really got to start making some decisions about what that cargo is, whom we partner with and how we build the equipment, he said. Youre going to see us, over the next several months, starting to make some pretty crisp decisions about what goes on those flights.

EM-1 and the moon

A wild card in those plans is the ongoing study of putting a crew on the first SLS/Orion mission, EM-1. That mission is currently scheduled to launch in late 2018 without a crew, but if NASA does decide to place astronauts on that mission, it would likely slip until 2019, pushing back EM-2 and later missions.

Gerstenmaier, in an interview after his conference presentation, said putting a crew on EM-1 could open up new possibilities for EM-2 and later missions. It makes EM-2 be more of an aggressive mission, and we can do more with the cargo thats behind the Orion capsule on that flight, he said.

Gerstenmaier and others cautioned that no decision had been made about flying crew on EM-1, as the study was ongoing. We realize the challenges associated with that. Thats not an easy task to do, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in remarks at the conference earlier the same day. I expect to hear pretty soon in terms what we could do.

The idea of the study had its roots in the potential for other delays in EM-1. Chris Shank, who led the NASA landing team for the incoming Trump administration late last year, said on a conference panel that Gerstenmaier informed him at a meeting that the service module for that mission, being provided by the European Space Agency, could be delivered several months late.

We asked, if given more time, if there are some additional things that you could do with the mission, Shank said. That led to consideration of flying crew on the mission. As part of the transition, there were no preconceived conclusions. This is genuinely a study on how to get the best bang for the buck.

Whether or not NASA decides to fly a crew on EM-1, theres widespread speculation in the space community that the Trump administration might redirect NASAs human spaceflight efforts towards lunar missions, including a human return to the lunar surface. Industry officials, though, said that a cislunar gateway would still be useful for human missions to the surface of the moon.

I would argue that none of it becomes obsolete. This was intended to be a first step, or an outpost regardless of ultimate destination, said Matt Duggan, exploration manager at Boeing, during a March 9 conference panel.

Boeing is one of six companies that received contracts in August from NASA as part of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, program. The contracts call on the companies to develop designs for habitat modules that could be used on future cislunar habitats.

Some of the companies, like Boeing, have also developed more comprehensive cislunar outpost designs, which Duggan said takes into account their potential use supporting lunar landing missions, originally by international partners and not NASA. We may be talking more now about a U.S. trip to the surface of moon, he said, but an international trip to the surface of the moon has always been in the trade space.

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NASA moving ahead with plans for cislunar human outpost – SpaceNews

Meet ‘Europa Clipper’: NASA Mission to Icy Jupiter Moon Officially Named – Space.com

Artist’s illustration of NASAs Europa Clipper spacecraft, which will perform multiple flybys of the ocean-harboring Jupiter moon.

NASA’s upcoming mission to Jupiter’s ocean-harboring moon Europa finally has an official name,and it’s the one we’ve been calling it all along.

The $2 billion mission which will launch in the 2020s to assess Europa’s potential to host life is called Europa Clipper, which has long been its informal moniker, NASA officials announced Thursday (March 9).

The name is a nod to the fast, three-masted sailing vessels known as clippers, which delivered a variety of goods around the world in the 19th century, NASA officials said.

“In the grand tradition of these classic ships, the Europa Clipper spacecraft would sail past Europa at a rapid cadence, as frequently as every two weeks, providing many opportunities to investigate the moon up close,” they wrote in a statement Thursday. “The prime mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.”

Astrobiologists regard the 1,900-mile-wide (3,100 kilometers) Europa, along with the Saturn satellite Enceladus, as one of the solar system’s best bets to host extraterrestrial life. Both moons harbor oceans of liquid water beneath their icy shells. And both of these oceans are thought to be in contact with the rocky mantle below, making possible a lot of interesting chemical reactions, researchers have said.

The solar-powered Europa Clipper probe will set up shop in Jupiter orbit. During the Europa flybys, the spacecraft will use a variety of instruments to study the moon’s ice shell and ocean, with the overall aim of assessing Europa’s ability to support life as we know it.

In late 2015, Congress ordered NASA to develop a surface component for the Europa mission as well. The space agency is now studying the best ways to do that. The current vision calls for a stationary lander that would launch separately from the Clipper probe. Once it reached Europa, the lander would use three science instruments to search for signs of life in the ice just beneath the surface.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter@michaeldwallandGoogle+.Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookor Google+. Originally published onSpace.com.

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Meet ‘Europa Clipper’: NASA Mission to Icy Jupiter Moon Officially Named – Space.com

NASA stunned by incredible photo near Saturn – Morning Ticker

This astonishing photo of a cosmic body orbiting Saturn is prompting some to call it a “space ravioli.”

A new photograph has just been released by researchers using NASAs Cassini spacecraft near Saturn, and its getting the attention of many in the space community. This picture of the tiny, elusive moon Pan orbiting Saturn is prompting some to call it a space ravioli, and its the best picture weve yet gotten of this odd looking moon just 22 miles in diameter.

The images were taken back on March 7 after Cassini zoomed past the moon from a distance of just 15,268 miles. It is one of more than 60 moons that orbit Saturn, with many of them being quite small and irregularly shaped like Pan. Iapetus, for example, has drawn comparisons to a giant walnut because of its equatorial ridge, and Mimas has been likened to the Death Star because of a massive crater.

These many diverse moons are of huge interest to the scientific community. The giant moon Titan, for example, is the only other known cosmic body in our solar system other than Earth with stable bodies of liquid, although hydrocarbons rather than water make up these oceans. And Enceladus has been proposed a possible place where life could exist under because of its oceans underneath an icy crust.

NASA says on its website: Pan, the innermost of Saturns known moons, has a mean radius of 8.8 miles (14.1 km) and orbits 83,000 miles (134,000 km) away from Saturn, within the Encke Gap of Saturns A-ring. As it orbits Saturn every 13.8 hours, it acts as a shepherd moon and is responsible for keeping the Encke Gap open. The gap is a 200 mile (325 km) opening in Saturns A ring.

Pan creates stripes, called wakes, in the ring material on either side of it. Since ring particles closer to Saturn than Pan move faster in their orbits, these particles pass the moon and receive a gravitational kick from Pan as they do. This kick causes waves to develop in the gap and also throughout the ring, extending hundreds of miles into the rings. These waves intersect downstream to create the wakes, places where ring material has bunched up in an orderly manner thanks to Pans gravitational kick.

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NASA stunned by incredible photo near Saturn – Morning Ticker

NASA finds lunar spacecraft that vanished 8 years ago – myfox8.com

NASA finds lunar spacecraft that vanished 8 years ago
We have been able to detect NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO] and the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar, said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion …
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NASA finds lunar spacecraft that vanished 8 years ago – myfox8.com

NASA just captured a stunning sight near Saturn – BABW News

Scientists have just used NASAs Cassini spacecraft to take pictures of what everyone is calling space ravioli: Saturns moon Pan. The images were taken on March 7 during a flyby when it came with 15,268 miles of the moon, which is a mere 22 miles wide and is one of Saturns smallest moons.

Its the closest images ever taken of Pan, and they will help scientists understand the shape and geology of this cosmic body, NASA said in a statement. Saturn has more than 60 moons, and many of them are quite small like Pan with an odd shape. For example, Iapetus has a weird oblong shape due to an equatorial ridge, drawing comparisons to a walnut. And a huge crater in the moon Mimas makes it look like the death star.

Saturns moons fascinate scientists, and for many diverse reasons. Scientists want to take a closer look at the giant moon Titan, which is the only other cosmic body in the solar system other than Earth to have stable bodies of liquid on its surface, although the liquid is from hydrocarbons not water. And then theres Enceladus, which may hold an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface that scientists think may harbor life.

The statement from NASA follows below.

These raw, unprocessed images of Saturns tiny moon, Pan, were taken on March 7, 2017, by NASAs Cassini spacecraft. The flyby had a close-approach distance of 24,572 kilometers (15,268 miles).

These images are the closest images ever taken of Pan and will help to characterize its shape and geology.

Additional raw images from Cassini are available at NASAs website.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for the agencys Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Caltech in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Pan is seen in this color view as it sweeps through the Encke Gap with its attendant ringlets.

Pan, the innermost of Saturns known moons, has a mean radius of 8.8 miles (14.1 km) and orbits 83,000 miles (134,000 km) away from Saturn, within the Encke Gap of Saturns A-ring. As it orbits Saturn every 13.8 hours, it acts as a shepherd moon and is responsible for keeping the Encke Gap open. The gap is a 200 mile (325 km) opening in Saturns A ring.

Pan creates stripes, called wakes, in the ring material on either side of it. Since ring particles closer to Saturn than Pan move faster in their orbits, these particles pass the moon and receive a gravitational kick from Pan as they do. This kick causes waves to develop in the gap and also throughout the ring, extending hundreds of miles into the rings. These waves intersect downstream to create the wakes, places where ring material has bunched up in an orderly manner thanks to Pans gravitational kick.

Pan, like Saturns moon Atlas, has a prominent equatorial ridge that gives it a distinctive flying saucer shape.

Discovery Pan was discovered by M.R. Showalter in 1990 using images taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft nine years earlier.

How Pan Got its Name Moons of Saturn were originally named for Greco-Roman Titans and descendants of the Titans. But as many new moons were discovered scientists began selecting names from more mythologies, including Gallic, Inuit and Norse stories.

Pan, a satyr (a creature resembling a man with the hind legs and hooves of a goat), is a Greek god of nature and the forest.

Here is what Wikipedia says about Pan.

The existence of a moon in the Encke Gap was first predicted by Jeffrey N. Cuzzi and Jeffrey D. Scargle in 1985, based on wavy edges of the gap which indicated a gravitational disturbance.[4] In 1986 Showalter et al. inferred its orbit and mass by modeling its gravitational wake. They arrived at a very precise prediction of 133,603 10 km for the semi-major axis and a mass of 5101012 Saturn masses, and inferred that there was only a single moon within the Encke gap.[5] The actual semi-major axis differs by 19 km and the actual mass is 8.61012 of Saturns.

The moon was later found within 1 of the predicted position. The search was undertaken by considering all Voyager 2 images and using a computer calculation to predict whether the moon would be visible under sufficiently favorable conditions in each one. Every qualifying Voyager 2 image with resolution better than ~50 km/pixel shows Pan clearly. In all, it appears in eleven Voyager 2 images.

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NASA just captured a stunning sight near Saturn – BABW News

NASA Celebrates International Women’s Day with New Virtual Tour – Space.com

A group photo featuring some of NASA’s female astronauts adorns the agency’s Twitter page today (March 8), in celebration of International Women’s Day.

America’s space agency is celebrating International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month in multiple ways.

At the top of NASA’s Twitter page today is a group photograph of 17 women who have served as astronauts for the agency, including four members of NASA’s newest astronaut class, astronaut Peggy Whitson who is currently on the International Space Station (she appears on the screen behind the other women), and some former astronauts who have now serve other roles with the agency.

NASA also released a new virtual-reality tour starring several women who work in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) within the agency. The tour is part of a collaboration between NASA and Google to create free virtual field trips for teachers and educators. [Lego to Make ‘Women of NASA’ Minifigs, Including Sally Ride, Katherine Johnson]

The NASA Modern Figures virtual tour is available via the Google Expeditions mobile app, which requires a smartphone and a VR viewing apparatus, such as Google Cardboard. Unlike a regular video, the VR experience lets viewers look around at the various NASA locations.

Tracy Drain, deputy chief engineer for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, takes viewers on a tour of the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory via NASA’s Modern Figures career expedition, available on the free Google Expeditions mobile app.

One of the stars of the tour is Tracy Drain, deputy chief engineer for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, who takes viewers on a tour of the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, according to a statement from the agency. The facility is home to the Deep Space Communications Network, the hub of communications with robots exploring various corners of the solar system. It is also where NASA staff assisted the Mars Curiosity Rover down to the surface of the Red Planet.

The rest of the tour “gives students a three-dimensional experience in a 100,000-square-foot aircraft hangar, simulated Martian landscape, space flight operations facility, and other fascinating locations where these women work as materials scientists, launch directors, software engineers, and in other STEM fields,” according to the statement.

“Modern Figures” is a reference to a NASA project called “From Hidden Figures to Modern Figures,” which is a dedicated section on NASA’s website featuring biographies of the three women at the center of the Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures.” The movie was based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” (William Morrow, 2016). The book and subsequent film told the stories of three African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1960s and contributed to NASA’s early human spaceflight program. The Modern Figures web page features videos and information that highlight the diversity of people who work or have worked at NASA.

The new Modern Figures virtual tour is part of the Google Expeditions series. Additional Google Expeditions offer 3D virtual tours of the International Space Station and the surface of Mars.

In NASA’s Modern Figures career expedition, Christina Diaz, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, brings viewers to the Mars Yard at JPL where she develops instruments for Mars rovers such as NASA’s Curiosity rover. The virtual tour is available on the free Google Expeditions mobile app.

“The Google Expeditions partnership supports NASA’s mission to inspire and attract kids into STEM studies and careers by providing opportunities for students to virtually step out of the classroom and experience NASA careers, missions and locations in space without leaving their desks,” the statement said.

The NASA home page also published this historical photo featuring six women scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, taken in 1959. (Langley was also the setting of the “Hidden Figures” book and movie.)

You can learn more about the women of NASA via the agency’s Women@NASA website, which includes video interviews with over 60 women who work at the agency in various capacities.

Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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NASA Celebrates International Women’s Day with New Virtual Tour – Space.com

Education Landsat Science – landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov

Landsat Education offers a wide range of resources, including Landsat images, animations, K-14 classroom exercises, data tutorials, fact sheets, and more.

We encourage you to contact us with your questions and feedback and to share your ideas about using Landsat for learning and teaching.

Additionally, NASAWavelength.org is a digital collection of NASA Earth and space science resources for educators of all levels from elementary to college, to out-of-school programs. These resources, developed through funding of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD), have undergone a peer-review process through which educators and scientists ensure the content is accurate and useful in an educational setting. Use NASA Wavelength to quickly and easily locate resources, create your own collections within NASA Wavelength, connect them to other websites using atom feeds, and even share resources through social media.

How people use Landsat; understanding Landsat; how to get data; multimedia

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Education Landsat Science – landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov