Space & Planetary Science: February 2019 Archives

NASA Selects Experiments for Possible Lunar Flights in 2019

"NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of this year, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency's long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars. NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon."

NASA Administrator Statement on Israeli Moon Mission

"In July, I was in Israel and was very impressed with their commitment to expanding their role in the world's space community. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger international partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond. There are terrific opportunities awaiting Israel and all of us in advancing the space frontier."

Keith's note: I asked former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe what his thoughts were today as Opportunity ended its mission on Mars:

"The Mars Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - missions were stunning achievements that exceeded expectations beyond anyone's imagination. Over the span of 15 years, for a program designed to last no more than six months, the MER team's scientific and engineering achievements have informed our understanding of Mars to pave the way for future exploration. They started operations at a critical moment in the wake of the Columbia shuttle tragedy and after a series of missions to Mars with little success. As the chapters of NASA history continue to be written, the MER program will be remembered as a moment that restored our resolve to explore space beyond our own planet.

Charles Elachi and Steve Squyres are the heroes of MER in my book. Both were routinely deployed to convince dubious decision makers on Capitol Hill that the engineering project was sound, the scientific mission was well considered and the probability for success was higher than the mission failures that preceded. Their credibility and expertise made very Doubting Thomas a convert. After the Rovers landed, Steve proved to be the go-to guy to explain to television audiences around the globe exactly what we were looking for on the Red Planet. Today it's treated as "Truth according to Squyres" thanks to his capacity to bring the science to life for all of us who are pedestrians."

I also had a chance to ask Steve Squyres about the twin rovers and their place in the pantheon of human exploration:

Opportunity

NASA's Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End

"It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration."

NASA to Share Results of Effort to Recover Mars Opportunity Rover

"NASA will discuss the status of its Mars Exploration Rover(MER) Opportunity in a media briefing at 2 p.m. EST (11 a.m. PST) Wednesday, Feb. 13, from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The briefing will air live on NASA Television, the agency's website and YouTube. The briefing will follow NASA's last planned attempts to communicate with Opportunity late Tuesday evening. The solar-powered rover last communicated with Earth June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm was blanketing the Red Planet."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, earlier post

"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. ... Bob would have been in his element on Mars. He was perfectly suited for it. When we do send people to Mars they will truly be following in his footsteps. In the tradition of polar explorers Bob's colleagues waited until just the right place revealed itself to them. As Opportunity made its way down into Endeavour Crater via Bitterroot Valley to Spirit Mound it passed Wharton Ridge."

Girl with Dreams Names Mars Rovers 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity'

"Twin robotic geologists NASA is sending to Mars will embody in their newly chosen names -- Spirit and Opportunity -- two cherished attributes that guide humans to explore. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and 9-year-old Sofi Collis, who wrote the winning essay in a naming contest, unveiled the names this morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "Now, thanks to Sofi Collis, our third grade explorer-to-be from Scottsdale, Ariz., we have names for the rovers that are extremely worthy of the bold mission they are about to undertake," O'Keefe said."

Keith's note: At a 2003 press event at NASA HQ I asked NASA Science AA Ed Weiler what would happen if some martian wind blew the dust off of the solar panels and the Mars Rovers had some extra time to do things. He thought my question was silly. Silly me.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from February 2019.

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