Space & Planetary Science: October 2014 Archives

STEREO Behind Spacecraft Experiencing Communication Problems (Updated with NASA Comments)

"Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. The cause of the anomaly is not yet known, though a sensor anomaly in the guidance and control system is suspected. Attempts to recover the spacecraft are continuing."

Letter From Clive Neal to NASA Inspector General Regarding NASA SMD Mission Extension Process Report

"I am writing this open letter with regard to the Inspector General Report No. IG-15- 001 (hereafter "IG-Report") regarding the Science Mission Directorate's (SMD) Mission Extension Process that was released on 9 October of this year. In this report you highlighted the Planetary Science Division (PSD) for particular criticism because of its non-standardized approach to evaluating mission extensions. Having been part of the PSD 2012 Senior Review, and chair of the GRAIL and the PSD 2014 Senior Reviews, I feel I must respond to note some errors and misunderstandings within the IG report. It is my opinion that the proposed recommendations could have a serious deleterious impact on the effectiveness of planetary science missions."

OIG Finds Major Flaws in Planetary Science Division Mission Extension Process, earier post

Sun's stroke keeps Kepler online, Nature

"Wiemer had fashioned a crutch for Kepler using the only resource available: sunlight. Positioned so that its long side faces the Sun, the spacecraft leans against the pressure created by the onslaught of photons and balances using its two good wheels. With this approach, the team hoped to get within a factor of ten of Kepler's original performance -- but with additional software refinements, NASA's Kepler project manager Charlie Sobeck says that it is better than that, more like a factor of two or three. Wiemer thinks that further tweaks will close the gap entirely. One limitation of the K2 mission is that Kepler must keep the Sun side-on as it orbits, forcing the telescope to switch its field of view roughly every 80 days. This is not enough time to hunt for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, but it does let K2 track other celestial bodies such as clusters of newly-formed stars."

Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program, scientists warn, The Guardian

"The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned. The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding. "It's a real worry," Bradley Tucker, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) and University of California Berkeley, told Guardian Australia. "There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn't know about it."

Siding Spring survey

All Three NASA Mars Orbiters Healthy After Comet Flyby

"All three NASA orbiters around Mars confirmed their healthy status Sunday after each took shelter behind Mars during a period of risk from dust released by a passing comet. Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter all are part of a campaign to study comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring and possible effects on the Martian atmosphere from gases and dust released by the comet. The comet sped past Mars today much closer than any other know comet flyby of a planet."

- NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near
- NASA's MAVEN Studies Passing Comet and Its Effects
- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Studies Comet Flyby

NASA OIG: The Science Mission Directorate's Mission Extension Process

"We concluded SMD's Astrophysics, Earth Science, and Heliophysics Divisions conducted Senior Reviews that included all eligible projects and provided budgetary and programmatic guidance for these missions for up to 5 fiscal years (FY). In contrast, we found the Planetary Science Division's Senior Review process focused too narrowly on the short term and unnecessarily excluded some projects. Furthermore, the Division had no documented rationale for extended mission budget guidelines. In our judgment, these shortcomings impair the Planetary Science Division's ability to inform its budget formulation process and ensure the effectiveness and transparency of its Senior Review process."


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