Space & Planetary Science: July 2013 Archives

Small Bodies Assessment Group FIndings

"While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-Rex, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission). Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate."

NASA Completes First Internal Review of Concepts for Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA

"In preparation for fiscal year 2014, a mission formulation review on Tuesday brought together NASA leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission.

"At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who chaired the review at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "The agency's science, technology and human exploration teams are working together to better understand near Earth asteroids, including ones potentially hazardous to our planet; demonstrate new technologies; and to send humans farther from home than ever before. I was extremely proud of the teams and the progress they have made so far. I look forward to integrating the inputs as we develop the mission concept further."

NASA Response to NASA Advisory Council Recommendations from April 2013 (Includes PDF), NASA

"Dear. Sr. Squyres:

Enclosed are NASA's responses to the nine recommendations from the NASA Advisory Council meeting held April 24-25, 2013, at NASA Headquarters. Please do not hesitate to contact me if the Council would like further background on the responses. I appreciate the Council's thoughtful consideration leading to the recommendations and welcome its continued findings, recommendations, and advice concerning the U.S. civil space program.

Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Administrator"

NASA X-ray Telescope Observes Planet Passing in Front of its Star for the First Time, NASA

"For the first time since exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the sun, were discovered almost 20 years ago, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star.

An advantageous alignment of a planet and its parent star in the system HD 189733, which is 63 light-years from Earth, enabled NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM Newton Observatory to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet transited the star."

NASA Welcomes New Chief Scientist, NASA

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named planetary geologist Ellen Stofan the agency's chief scientist, effective Aug. 25.

The appointment marks Stofan's return to NASA. From 1991 through 2000, she held a number of senior scientist positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., including chief scientist for NASA's New Millennium Program, deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus, and experiment scientist for SIR-C, an instrument that provided radar images of Earth on two shuttle flights in 1994."

NASA and Korean Space Agency Discuss Space Cooperation, NASA

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Seung Jo Kim, met in Washington Monday to discuss collaboration in aeronautics research and space exploration, including KARI's robotic lunar mission and NASA's asteroid initiative.

Bolden and Kim also discussed NASA's plans for a new asteroid initiative, previously announced in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. Kim welcomed the chance to discuss opportunities for collaboration."

NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Meeting 29-31 Jul 2013, NASA

"The meeting will be open to the public up to the capacity of the room. This meeting is also available telephonically and by WebEx."

--Subcommittee Reports
--Program Status
--2013 Science Plan

IRIS First Light

New NASA Telescope Offers a First Glimpse of the Sun's Mysterious Atmosphere [Watch], NASA

"NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft has captured its first observations of a region of the sun that is now possible to observe in detail: the lowest layers of the sun's atmosphere.

The first images from IRIS show the solar interface region in unprecedented detail. They reveal dynamic magnetic structures and flows of material in the sun's atmosphere and hint at tremendous amounts of energy transfer through this little-understood region. These features may help power the sun's dynamic million-degree atmosphere and drive the solar wind that streams out to fill the entire solar system.

"With this grand opening of the telescope door and first observations from IRIS we've opened a new window into the energetics of the sun's atmosphere," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The mission is a great example of a successful partnership for science between government, industry, academia, and international institutions. We look forward to the new insights IRIS will provide."

NASA Discusses First IRIS Solar Images in Media Teleconference, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT today to present the first images from NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), which was launched June 27 on a mission to study the sun."

The panelists for the briefing are:

-- John Grunsfeld, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
-- S. Pete Worden, director, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.
-- Gary Kushner, IRIS project manager, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.
-- Bart DePontieu, IRIS science lead, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.

- Supporting information will be available online just before the briefing at: http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth

- You can listen to audio here.


Hubble Finds New Moon Orbiting Neptune, NASA

"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the distant blue-green planet Neptune, the 14th known to be circling the giant planet.

The moon, designated S/2004 N 1, is estimated to be no more than 12 miles across, making it the smallest known moon in the Neptunian system. It is so small and dim that it is roughly 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. It even escaped detection by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew past Neptune in 1989 and surveyed the planet's system of moons and rings."

Hubble Spots Blue Planet [With Video], NASA/ESA/STSCI

"Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have, for the first time, determined the true color of a planet orbiting another star. If seen up close this planet, known as HD 189733b, would be a deep cobalt blue, reminiscent of Earth's color as seen from space.

But that's where the similarities end. This "deep blue dot" is a huge gas giant orbiting very close to its host star. The planet's atmosphere is scorching with a temperature of over 1000 degrees Celsius, and it rains glass, sideways, in howling 7000 kilometre-per-hour winds."

NASA Satellite Provides First View of the Solar System's Tail [Watch], NASA

"Like a comet, the solar system has a tail. NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has for the first time mapped out the structure of this tail, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover. Scientists describe the tail, called the heliotail, based on the first three years of IBEX imagery in a paper published in the July 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal."


Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover, NASA

- Report of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (PDF), NASA

- Appendices (PDF)

- Audio of today's teleconference (MP3)

"The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) has outlined a mission concept for a science-focused, highly mobile rover to explore and investigate in detail a site on Mars that likely was once habitable. The SDT-preferred mission concept employs new in situ scientific instrumentation in order to seek signs of past life (had it been there), select and store a compelling suite of samples in a returnable cache, and demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration of Mars. The mission concept fully addresses the requirements specified by NASA in the SDT charter while also ensuring alignment with the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey for Planetary Science (Visions and Voyages, 2011).

Key features of the integrated science mission concept include:
- Broad and rigorous in situ science, including seeking biosignatures
- Acquiring a diverse set of samples intended to address a range of Mars science questions and storing them in a cache for potential return to Earth at a later time
- Improved landing technology to allow unprecedented access to scientifically compelling geological sites
- Collection of critical data needed to plan for eventual human missions to the martian surface
- Maximizing engineering heritage from NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission to constrain costs
"

NASA Discusses Mars 2020 Plans in July 9 Teleconference, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 9 to provide details about a report that will help define science objectives for the agency's next Mars rover.

The report, prepared by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) NASA appointed in January, is an early, crucial step in developing the mission and the rover's prime science objectives."

NASA Hosts July 10 Online Media Briefing on Solar System Finding, NASA

"NASA will host its first Google+ Hangout news briefing at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 10, on a new finding from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission.

The briefing will be shown live on YouTube, NASA Television and the agency's website. Journalists may participate in the briefing and ask questions by phone by contacting Steve Cole at 202-358-0918 or stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov with their affiliation by 10 a.m. July 10."

Marc's note: I'm all for holding a news briefing by Google+ Hangout but why not allow questions using the Hangout features?

NASA OIG: NASA's Efforts to Maximize Research on the International Space Station,

"The OIG found that although NASA has made progress towards maximizing the research capabilities of the ISS, opportunities exist for increased utilization. NASA uses three main data points to assess utilization of ISS research capabilities: average weekly crew time dedicated to research activities, number of investigations, and use of allocated space for research. While no one measure provides a complete picture of the utilization rate, NASA has generally increased the level of activity for each metric since completion of ISS assembly in 2011.

Further progress in maximizing Station research capabilities largely hinges on two factors: the ability of CASIS to attract sufficient interest and funding from private users and the availability of reliable transportation to and from the Station for crew and cargo."

Significant Titan Flyby Happening on July 10th, NASA

"For the Radar instrument, one of the most significant Titan fly-bys of the extended Solstice mission occurs July 10. Measurements from this flyby, combined with data from the previous flyby, will allow scientists to produce stereo images of lakes.

Inbound, the imaging science subsystem (ISS) will acquire a mosaic of high northern latitudes on Titan's leading hemisphere, approaching northern summer. This area of Titan's surface has only recently been well observed and each new flyby adds significantly to our data set."

Some Hope for Kepler

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Preparing for Recovery, NASA

"The engineering team has devised initial tests for the recovery attempt and is checking them on the spacecraft test bed at the Ball Aerospace facility in Boulder, Colo. The team anticipates that exploratory commanding of Kepler's reaction wheels will commence mid-to-late July. The Kepler spacecraft will remain in PRS until and during the tests.

Later this month, an update to the data processing pipeline software will be deployed. Called SOC 9.1, this enhancement has been underway for several months and is in the final stages of verification and validation. This software release provides additional refinements to better tease out small planet signatures from the four years of Kepler data. It will also decrease the frequency of false positives."

Related: NASA To Attempt To Revive Stricken Kepler Telescope in July, Space News

"I think the general feeling is that the odds are not good. We might see a wheel spin, but I suspect that it will not spin freely, that there will be noise on it -- vibrations -- which would not make the science happy," Charlie Sobeck, deputy project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center, told SpaceNews."

Marc's note: According to the Space News article they will work on wheel 4 first and then 2. Let's hope they beat the odds and some remote engineering does the trick.

Comet ISON Brings Holiday Fireworks [Watch], NASA

"This July Fourth, the solar system is showing off some fireworks of its own. Superficially resembling a skyrocket, comet ISON is hurtling toward the sun presently at a whopping 48,000 mph.

Its swift motion is captured in this time-lapse movie made from a sequence of pictures taken May 8, 2013, by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. At the time the images were taken, the comet was 403 million miles from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The movie shows a sequence of Hubble observations taken over a 43-minute span and compresses this into just five seconds. The comet travels 34,000 miles in this brief video, or 7 percent of the distance between Earth and the moon. The deep-space visitor streaks silently against the background stars.
"

Space Station Changes its Position for Solar Science, NASA

"The sun lightens our world and enlightens our scientists as they look to our closest star for a better understanding of solar activity and what it means for our planet. Unique data from solar studies help researchers build on their knowledge of the Earth's atmosphere and climate change. June 30 marked the second time the International Space Station literally went out of its way to accommodate this research by providing a better viewing opportunity to meet Solar facility science objectives."


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