Space & Planetary Science: July 2012 Archives

Note from James Green, Director Planetary Science, NASA on Mars Curiosity Rover Landing

"One week from today, our community will be forever changed, one way or the other, no matter what. The landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover at Gale Crater occurs at 1:31 AM (Eastern Time) and it will be a history event. Curiosity is our latest flagship mission and it demands all of our attention. This feat represents the most difficult entry, descent, and landing (what is known as EDL) of a planetary science rover ever attempted, anywhere. As you may already know, the historical success rate at the planet Mars is only 40%. Although our landing percentage odds are higher (100%), successful landing with an unproven, next generation, landing system...well, that will be a white-knuckle- experience to say the least."

NASA Mars Odyssey Repositioned to Relay Mars Science Laboratory Landing Data

"NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted its orbital location to be in a better position to provide prompt confirmation of the August landing of the Curiosity rover. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft carrying Curiosity can send limited information directly to Earth as it enters Mars' atmosphere. Before the landing, Earth will set below the Martian horizon from the descending spacecraft's perspective, ending that direct route of communication. Odyssey will help to speed up the indirect communication process."

NASA's retreat from Mars, Opinion, USA Today

"While the Obama administration is the one lowering the priority of Mars exploration, presidents going back to Richard Nixon have all reduced their funding of NASA, relative to other federal programs."

Letter: NASA's Mars program remains strong, John Gunsfled, USA Today

"While we have great respect for Marc Kaufman's expertise as a space journalist, his Wednesday Forum piece, "NASA's retreat from Mars" leaves a false impression. ... Far from retreating, we're advancing our best talents toward exploring the Red Planet with Curiosity and forging the path for future human Mars exploration."

Comparing Moon Boulders: Lunar Orbiter (1967) Vs LRO (2012)

"[Left] image taken on 11 August 1967 by Lunar Orbiter 5 [Right] Image taken of the same location by LRO in 2012. Lighting angles for both images are almost identical. When looking at higher resolution imagery it is obvious that the dynamic range of the LOIRP-retrieved Lunar Orbiter image is comparable to that presented in the LRO image - especially in bright regions. When comparing LOIRP-retrieved imagery with USGS previously scanned versions of the same image the increase in resolution and dynamic range is even more pronounced."

NASA's Mars rover may be in for blind landing, Reuters

"NASA's new Mars rover is heading for a risky do-or-die touchdown next month to assess conditions for life on the planet, but the U.S. space agency may not know for hours whether it arrived safely, managers said on Monday."

NASA's Car-sized Rover Nears Daring Landing on Mars

"Those seven minutes are the most challenging part of this entire mission," said Pete Theisinger, JPL's MSL project manager. "For the landing to succeed, hundreds of events will need to go right, many with split-second timing and all controlled autonomously by the spacecraft. We've done all we can think of to succeed. We expect to get Curiosity safely onto the ground, but there is no guarantee. The risks are real."

Keith's note: Funny how NASA never bothers to include minor details in these press releases such as having a satellite failure impede its ability to monitor the landing of Curiosity. So this whole "7 minutes of terror" campaign that NASA has been mounting for the MSL landing is probably inaccurate and may be much longer than "7 minutes".

Three Weeks Before Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars, SpaceRef (With video of the news conference)

Solar storm incoming: Federal agencies provide inconsistent, confusing information, Washington Post

"If NOAA's right, and the ensuing geomagnetic storm is minor, it's no big deal. It means the high latitudes could be treated to some brilliant auroras over the weekend with few, if any, negative effects on earth-orbiting satellites or the power grid. On the other hand, if NASA's right, and the geomagnetic storm is strong to severe, Earth-orbiting satellites could get disoriented and the electrical grid, according to NOAA, could experience "widespread voltage control problems" among other issues. Aurora could be seen as far south as Alabama and northern California."

Keith's note: As for who has more accurate information: Well, NASA has something that NOAA does not: a goofy official mascot for the Solar Dynamics Observatory - a rubberized version of a chicken corpse in a NASA flight suit named "Camilla" (identical to what you see in a slaughterhouse) who often tweets odd things such as:

this: "After two Slurpees I always get sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia - which is actually a fascinating sensation." ; this: "Timmy - how about we go to the Milano Fashion Week together? We'd steal the show!"; This: "Well, real Emmentaler must have holes! The rest of our cheese should not.", and this: "I usually don't take my clothes off until Return of the Jedi... ;-)"

NASA spends money flying this rubber chicken and its handler around - and yet PAO and SMD seem to have little if any contol over what the rubber chicken says. Often times it posts things that NASA PAO or SMD do not post - so a lot of people are getting their NASA space weather news from a dead chicken. Maybe this is why there is some difference between NOAA and NASA. If this is how an official NASA mission mascot spends scarce agency resources then I think I will take my space weather advice from NOAA - they are poultry-free.

Solar activity alerts are available on Twitter via @spaceweather.

Keith's note: Early this morning the @NewHorizons twitter posted "RT @AlanStern: Just announced: Pluto has new company-- We've discovered a 5th moon using the Hubble Space Telescope!". Why did the New Horizons PI get totally out ahead of everyone - his own team, NASA, STScI, even the IAU?

A NASA spacecraft, operated using NASA funds, was used to observe the target for another NASA mission, and discovered a new moon billions of miles away. Yet when I asked for the official press release early this morning, NASA PAO was unaware of this discovery. No press release has yet to be issued by NASA, STScI, JHU, or SwRI (I sent a request to all of them hours ago). Apparently NASA-funded discoveries can now be announced by anyone - in any fashion they so desire - without giving NASA a heads-up. Yet another example as to how NASA SMD PAO is in need of a tune up.

Keith's 12:00 pm update: Scientists at SwRI even gave one publication advance notice of the discovery even though SwRI refuses to respond to a media request for a press release sent hours ago. Meanwhile, STScI posted a release at 11:30 am but have not even bothered to send it out to the media - posting at NASA.gov only occurred a short while ago - again with no media notice.

According to an email from J.D. Harrington at NASA PAO: "The Institute posted a news release, Goddard posted a web feature, and HQ put it on the NASA home page promptly at 11:30 a.m. after confirming the IAU circular announcing the finding was published. We didn't want to get out in front of them. It's also been heavily promoted on our social media forums..." The initial Tweet was posted at 3:39 am - but not by NASA. NASA waited 6 hours. Isn't this just a just a little odd - that NASA has to go use an IAU circular to confirm things discovered with its own spacecraft? Who informed the IAU? Aren't the people who make these discoveries using NASA hardware required to inform the agency of things like this? Guess not.

And of course if you try to actually read the IAU circular (IAUC 9253) about this discovery made using NASA funds - you can't - at least not without a user name or password.

Simulated Space 'Terror' Offers NASA an Online Following, New York Times

"As part of the educational program for the James Webb Space Telescope, the planned successor to Hubble that has been troubled by delays and cost overruns, NASA created a game in which players create their own space telescope, but to underwhelming reviews. "Too bad this game is not totally realistic so as to let people play with schedule and cost," wrote Keith Cowing, a frequent critic of the space agency, on his Web site NASAWatch.com. "This way they'd REALLY learn how NASA satellites are built (or not built)."

Build It Yourself: Satellite! Game, NASA


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from July 2012.

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