Space & Planetary Science: October 2016 Archives

Keith's note: NASA PAO offered news media a chance to ask questions of Thomas Zurbuchen, the new Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator. The audio of that event should be online shortly.

NASA Watch Question: "I have heard you mention massive things such as the Webb Space Telescope and tiny things like cubesats in the same sentence. You mentioned National Academy and White House initiatives for cubesats and Decadal designations for larger things. There is a vast gap there. The vast majority of taxpayers really do not understand what huge things like Webb do other than take pictures. But small cheap things like cubesats - something that they can hold in their hands do make that connection. Is there a use for cubesats other than strictly the doing science - perhaps EPO (education and public outreach)? Given that at least one presidential candidate has speculated about filling potholes as being more important than NASA how do you bring the potential of space research within the reach of the rest of America? Maybe start with cubesats? Any school in America can build and launch a cubesat from ISS for just over $100,000 - that's $10 from every person in a small community of 10,000 people. That's bake sale and car wash sort of funding levels. Aren't we already at the point where massive disruption that you have mentioned is now possible and that you are able to be that agent of change?"

Thomas Zurbuchen's Answer (transcribed live): "NASA activities are a range of investments and sizes. Not one size fits all. Take Hubble - with all its challenges and initial drawbacks - budgetary, performance - it is one of the most impactful tools we have ever launched especially when measured by Noble Prizes and brand recognition. How many of us have a Hubble image as a screen saver? I do. For that to happen it takes size. The Earth science program is not going to be done for the size of a cubesat. But we are looking at making data buys. We do make technology and innovation grants - even smaller amounts than cubesats - small investments that can allow many flowers to bloom. Cubesats are interesting because there is a commercial sector that is growing because of attitude of players in the market space. I have talked about the value of inspiration that comes from building something and putting it into space. Id like to enable careers for students. I see value at both ends of the spectrum and its hard to play them against each other."

Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars Viewed From Orbit

"This Oct. 25, 2016, image shows the area where the European Space Agency's Schiaparelli test lander reached the surface of Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where components of the spacecraft hit the ground. It is the first view of the site from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter taken after the Oct. 19, 2016, landing event. The Schiaparelli test lander was one component of ESA's ExoMars 2016 project, which placed the Trace Gas Orbiter into orbit around Mars on the same arrival date."

Making 3D Images With Hubble and Webb Space Telescopes

"The two most powerful optical/IR telescopes in history -- NASA's Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes -- will be in space at the same time. We have a unique opportunity to leverage the 1.5 million kilometer separation between the two telescopic nodal points to obtain simultaneously captured stereoscopic images of asteroids, comets, moons and planets in our Solar System. Given the recent resurgence in stereo-3D movies and the recent emergence of VR-enabled mobile devices, these stereoscopic images provide a unique opportunity to engage the public with unprecedented views of various Solar System objects."

Schiaparelli Crash Site Located From Orbit

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA's ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module. Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis."

Juno Enters Safe Mode And Then Regains Normal Operations

"NASA's Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday, Oct. 18 at about 10:47 p.m. PDT (Oct. 19 at 1:47 a.m. EDT). Early indications are a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft's onboard computer. The spacecraft acted as expected during the transition into safe mode, restarted successfully and is healthy. High-rate data has been restored and the spacecraft is conducting flight software diagnostics. All instruments are off and the planned science data collection for today's close flyby of Jupiter (perijove 2), did not occur."

Engine Problems Delay Juno Engine Burn at Jupiter, SpaceRef

"Telemetry indicates that two helium check valves that play an important role in the firing of the spacecraft's main engine did not operate as expected during a command sequence that was initiated yesterday," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The valves should have opened in a few seconds, but it took several minutes. We need to better understand this issue before moving forward with a burn of the main engine."

NASA's Juno Team to Discuss Jupiter Mission Status, Latest Science Results, NASA

"Team members of NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter will discuss the latest science results, an amateur imaging processing campaign, and the recent decision to postpone a scheduled burn of its main engine, during a media briefing at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 19."

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Initiate Section 106 Consultation for Proposed Changes to Green Bank Observatory Operations, Green Bank, West Virginia and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings and Comment Period, NSF

"The NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Division of Astronomical Sciences, through a series of academic community-based reviews, has identified the need to divest several facilities from its portfolio. This would allow NSF to retain the balance of capabilities needed to deliver the best performance on emerging and key science technology of the present decade and beyond. In 2012, NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences' (AST's) portfolio review committee recommended divestment of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) from the AST portfolio."

Green Bank Observatory Inaugurated

"Formerly a cornerstone of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the Green Bank Observatory [] is now a fully-fledged, independent astronomical and educational facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), operated under a cooperative agreement with Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI)."

Looking for Schiaparelli At Wharton Ridge

"On Wednesday 19 October the ExoMars Schiaparelli module will land on Mars at 10:48 am EDT. There is a chance that Opportunity may see it on the horizon as it descends. The name of this location on the rim of Endeavour crater was initially announced a week or so ago. "Wharton Ridge" is named after Robert A. Wharton."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, earlier post

Upcoming Space News

China to launch manned space mission Shenzhou 11 on Monday

"China will launch a two-man space mission, Shenzhou 11, on Monday, officials with the space program said, taking the country closer to its ambition of setting up a permanent manned space station by 2022. After Monday's launch at 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, the astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where they will spend about a month."

Schiaparelli Released From Trace Gas Orbiter and Begins Its Descent to Mars

"Today, three days before gravity will ensure the arrival of ExoMars 2016 at Mars, the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent & landing demonstrator Module separated from the TGO orbiter and is now en route on a ballistic trajectory to reach the Red Planet, enter its atmosphere and land softly in an area close to the equator known as Meridiani Planum."

Antares OA-5 Launch Delayed to October 17, 2016

"Today's launch of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process."

Keith's note: I will be on BBC World News live tonight at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm 11:15 pm EDT to discuss these three mission events.

More Problems For Arecibo

Arecibo Observatory hit with discrimination lawsuit, Nature

"Two former researchers at the troubled Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have filed a lawsuit claiming that illegal discrimination and retaliation led to their dismissal. James Richardson and Elizabeth Sternke are suing the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), which oversees radio astronomy and planetary science at Arecibo, and the observatory's deputy director, Joan Schmelz -- a prominent advocate for women in astronomy. ... The EEOC ultimately found evidence of discrimination and that Sternke and Richardson were terminated in retaliation for their complaints, according to documents provided by the researchers' lawyer. In their lawsuit, filed on 4 October in the US District Court in Puerto Rico, Richardson and Sternke are seeking more than US$20 million in back pay and damages."

National Astronomical Observatories of China, Breakthrough Initiatives Launch Global Collaboration in Search for Intelligent life in the Universe

"The National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) is joining forces with the Breakthrough Initiatives to launch a coordinated search for evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth Using some of the world's most powerful telescopes. NAOC's brand-new FAST telescope - the world's largest filled-aperture radio receiver - will join the Breakthrough Listen program at Green Bank Telescope in the US and the Parkes Observatory in Australia, and together the organization's will exchange observing plans, search methods and data - including the rapid sharing of promising new signals for additional observation and analysis. The two parties are also planning a series of meetings and conferences to refine search strategies, data analyses and results. At a signing ceremony at NAOC headquarters in Beijing, the collaboration was announced via a joint statement by Prof. Jun Yan, Director General of NAOC, and Pete Worden, Chairman of Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of Breakthrough Initiatives. They looked forward to "a long and productive scientific collaboration," and invited scientists around the world to join in "one of humanity's greatest quests."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, SpaceRef

"Today I learned that a feature on the surface of Mars has been named after a friend of mine. This was not unexpected since I knew that his name was in the queue waiting for just the right feature to be discovered by the Opportunity rover. "Wharton Ridge" is named after Robert A. Wharton (Bob). Bob was born a few years before me in 1951 and died unexpectedly in 2012. I worked with Bob at the old Life Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters in the late 1980s."

NASA rethinks approach to Mars exploration, Nature

"This broadening context prompted Watzin to propose the new way of operating Mars missions. "I'm not trying to fix something that's broken," he said. "I'm trying to open the door to a larger level of collaboration and participation than we have today, looking to the fact that we're going to have a larger pool of stakeholders involved in our missions." Under the new, facility-based approach, scientists would propose investigations using one or more instruments on a future spacecraft. NASA would award observing time to specific proposals, much as telescope allocation committees parcel out time on their mountaintops. This would be different than the current approach where instruments are proposed, built and operated by individual teams of scientists."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from October 2016.

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