Space & Planetary Science: May 2013 Archives

NASA Discusses Curiosity Radiation FIndings

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (18:30 UTC) Thursday, May 30, to present new findings from the Mars Science Laboratory Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) aboard the rover Curiosity."

Diurnal Variations of Energetic Particle Radiation Dose Measured by the Mars Science Laboratory Radiation Assessment Detector, adsabs.harvard.edu

"Further, we show that the variation in the E dose rate is very likely due to the variation of column mass, as measured by the pressure sensor on the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), driven by the thermal tide. While changes in dose were expected from changes in altitude or season, the discovery of a diurnal variation was not anticipated, although it should have been reasonably expected in hindsight."

MSL-RAD Radiation Environment Measurements, adsabs.harvard.edu

"RAD's cruise measurements are a unique data set that provide a reasonable simulation of what might be encountered by a human crew headed for Mars or for some other destination in deep space. RAD successfully operated for 220 days of the 253 day journey to Mars."

The Radiation Environment on the Martian Surface and during MSL's Cruise to Mars, adsabs.harvard.edu

"Even with the level of shielding inside MSL, these solar energetic particle events contributed significantly to the cumulative dose and dose equivalent. Finally, we will present the first-ever measurements of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars."

Kepler Mission Manager Update

"The operations staff at Ball Aerospace did a wonderful job at developing and implementing PRS. As a result, the spacecraft is not in an emergency condition, and work can be conducted at a more deliberate pace. For the next week or so, we will contact the spacecraft on a daily basis to ensure PRS continues to operate as expected."

The PI's Perspective: Encounter Planning Accelerates, JHUAPL

"We've now largely completed that work and presented the results to both an independent, NASA-appointed technical review team, led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Keyur Patel, and then to senior executives at NASA Headquarters. Both groups have concurred with our findings..."

Keith's note: I would have posted this news earlier but both SwRI and JHUAPL simply refuse to place me on their media distribution lists (yes, I have asked more than once). In addition, NASA SMD has not issued anything on this either. That is not surprising given their foot dragging in response to my last request on this topic.

NASA Finally Responds To Simple Questions About the New Horizons Mission to Pluto (January 2013) earlier post

"Three months ago I asked the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) some simple questions regarding possible changes to the New Horizons encounter with Pluto based on recent data indicating debris in the region. I was told that I'd get a prompt reply. SMD PAO finally got around to responding to me today after three months of silence. One would think that these answers would be simple to provide - and based on standard mission operating procedures. Guess not."

Will NASA Have To 'Bail Out' On Close Pluto Encounter?, (October 2012)

Bright Explosion on the Moon, NASA Science News

"The 40 kg meteoroid measuring 0.3 to 0.4 meters wide hit the Moon traveling 56,000 mph.  The resulting explosion1 packed as much punch as 5 tons of TNT."

Keith's note: C'mon guys. Pick one system of measurement and stick with it - or show both systems for all measurements.

Oh yes, then there's this statement: "U.S. Space Exploration Policy eventually calls for extended astronaut stays on the lunar surface."

Huh? Has the author (Tony Phillips) been reading the news lately? NASA is not sending people to the Moon again per White House policy.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 to Sail Past Earth 9 Times Larger than Cruise Ship

"On May 31, 2013, asteroid 1998 QE2 will sail serenely past Earth, getting no closer than about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. And while QE2 is not of much interest to those astronomers and scientists on the lookout for hazardous asteroids, it is of interest to those who dabble in radar astronomy and have a 230-foot (70-meter) -- or larger -- radar telescope at their disposal."

Keith's note: NASA PAO just loves to make puns with their press release headlines. The asteroid was not actually named after the QE2. Given that the popular impression of cruise ships these days is that they are disease-ridden floating toilets, I suppose someone will inevitably connect recent news about Earth's water coming from asteroids (meteorites) and a giant cruise ship in space and ...

Keith's 10:03 am EDT note: Kepler is in safe mode again. Studies are under way. While Kepler's main mission may now be at an end, there is still a lot of life left in the spacecraft. Stay tuned.

Kepler has a telescope with 0.95 meter aperture and a wide field of view. It is in an Earth-following, heliocentric orbit. Although its fine pointing ability may no longer be available, the spacecraft still has other potential uses. One obvious use is NEO (asteroid) detection. Ideas?

NASA Hosts Kepler Spacecraft Status Teleconference Today

"NASA will host a news teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT, today, May 15, to discuss the status of the agency's Kepler Space Telescope."

Keith's 1:25 pm EDT update: The Kepler spacecraft has entered Safe Mode yet again. It is unlikely that the spacecraft will be able to resume its original extrasolar planet detection mission. NASA has uploaded Point Rest State software to the spacecraft. The Kepler spacecraft is currenty stable in Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode. In this mode it has several months of fuel available. If the spacecraft can be put into Point Rest State then the spacecraft has several years of remaining fuel. Post-prime mission options for use of the spacecraft are being pursued including NEO detection.

Keith's 4:25 pm EDT update: The New York Times (who claimed credit via Twitter for breaking the story 6 hours after it was broken here on NASA Watch) claims that Kepler is "crippled". When asked if he agreed with this characterization, SMD AA John Grunsfeld called this "odd" and said that he did not agree that Kepler is "crippled" given that there are still options and other science that can be done.

NASA Kepler Mission Manager Update 15 May 2013

"With the failure of a second reaction wheel, it's unlikely that the spacecraft will be able to return to the high pointing accuracy that enables its high-precision photometry. However, no decision has been made to end data collection."

Stormy Space Weather

Three X-class Solar Flares in 24 Hours

The sun emitted a third significant solar flare in under 24 hours, peaking at 9:11 p.m. EDT on May 13, 2013. This flare is classified as an X3.2 flare. This is the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the two X-class flares that occurred earlier in the 24-hour period.

Activity Continues On the Sun

"Solar activity continued on May 14, 2013, as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT."

NASA Operating Plan for FY 2013 to Target Planetary Overall, Cuts Research and Completed Missions, Planetary Exploration Newsletter

"In his FY13 budget request, President Obama proposed the NASA Planetary budget be cut by more than 20% from its FY12 level (From $1.5B to less than $1.2B). Under the initial Continuing Resolutions covering the first half of the fiscal year, the Administration chose to operate NASA Planetary at this reduced level. Congress restored more than $222M of the President's cut in its FY13 appropriation passed on March 21 and signed into law by the President. Congress's action is now being reversed by NASA and others in the Administration through the preferential application of rescission and sequestration cuts of more than 15% to the NASA Planetary Science budget."

Planetary Scientists Casting Doubt on Feasibility of Plan to Corral Asteroid, Science (paywall - sorry)

"Asteroid scientists are also a bit miffed that NASA left them out of its planning. They had heard presentations on the concept, but "we just couldn't take it seriously," [Mark] Sykes says. By early February, after realizing that NASA was indeed taking it seriously, he offered headquarters the services of its Small Bodies Assessment Group to help evaluate the idea. He got no response. NASA's Green says that "this is just the start. We will get them more involved." Although it falls outside their expertise, asteroid scientists have one more complaint about NASA's latest plan. The whole point of astronauts going to an asteroid had been to gain experience for long-duration missions far from home, such as a trip to Mars. But "if you bring the asteroid to the astronauts instead of the other way around," Harris says, "you really aren't sending humans into deep space, or for that matter cutting any new ground over ... circling the Earth in the [International Space Station]." So other missions would be needed to gain the necessary deep-space expertise."


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