Space & Planetary Science: March 2020 Archives

NASA JPL Internal Email: Creating the Future of Planetary Science, NASA JPL

"Today, the Mars Exploration Directorate and the Solar System Exploration Directorate are integrating to form the new Planetary Science Directorate (4X). This new organization comes at a critical time as the nature of NASA's planetary science efforts continues to expand and the next decade's blueprint has yet to be written. This new organization is designed to improve our alignment and communications with NASA HQ and our partner organizations, improve the integration & communication of our priorities and challenges across the Lab, and strengthen our collaboration and interactions with the planetary science community."

NASA JPL Internal Memo: Creating the Future of Planetary Science (with JPL Planetary Science Directorate leadership assignments), NASA JPL

"Since the fall, we have been assessing options to best position the Lab to execute its future in planetary science. Effective today, the Mars Exploration Directorate and the Solar System Exploration Directorate are integrating to form the new Planetary Science Directorate (4X). This organizational change is designed to improve alignment and communications with NASA HQ and our partner organizations, improve the integration & communication of our priorities and challenges across the Lab, and strengthen our collaboration and interactions with the planetary science community. We will team with other organizations across the Lab in development of a strong, diverse and inclusive personnel pipeline for the future roles in the Directorate and across the Lab. We will learn from each other and be an even greater force for discovery going forward."

NAS Space Science Week 2020 Events March 31-April 1

"During Space Science Week, five committees meet simultaneously to discuss recent advances in their fields, hear from federal agencies about upcoming projects, and plan future work. We invite you to tune in remotely for the open sessions of these meetings, which will take place on March 31-April 1, 2020."

NASA Science Division Updates to the Community, NASA

"The NASA Science Division Directors will provide community updates on Tuesday, March 31, when they address the discipline committees of the National Academies' Space Studies Board (SSB) during Space Science Week 2020. During the updates, the Science Division Directors will discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for NASA Science and other Division specific updates of NASA's science programs."

NASA Science Mission Directorate Virtual Town Hall 2020

"The leadership of SMD recognizes that the COVID-19 epidemic has placed tremendous strain on all of us and our families, disrupting our lives and putting new hurdles in the way of accomplishing our professional goals. Our first priority is the safety of everyone who works on NASA missions and funded research and SMD leadership is committed to doing all it can to support our community. I want to thank all of you for your patience and hard work as we transition to this new normal.

We know that progress on funded research may slow and in some cases even stop due to necessary telework and lack of access to facilities and labs, the closing of public schools and daycare facilities for our children, the transition of teaching activities to on-line classes, and other family obligations. SMD understands this potential outcome of the current epidemic response and will work with the research community and its institutions to mitigate any impacts and to make plans, when possible, for a way forward. This situation will undoubtedly cause some inefficiencies, but we continue to be supportive of any research that can be done remotely."

ExoMars to Take Off for the Red Planet in 2022, not 2020

"In the frame of a dedicated meeting, ESA and Roscosmos heads Jan W├Ârner and Dmitry Rogozin agreed that further tests to the spacecraft with the final hardware and software are needed. In addition, the parties had to recognise that the final phase of ExoMars activities are compromised by the general aggravation of the epidemiological situation in European countries."

Nancy Evans

"Nancy Liggett Evans 11/22/1937 - 1/17/2020 was born to M. Margaret and Dr. Robert Samuel Liggett in Denver Colorado. She was married to E. Wayne Bamford bearing a daughter Megan Ann. She was later married to William J. Evans of Denver. Moving to California in the 70's, she was employed in planetary exploration at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA headquarters and the California Institute of Technology. Known as the "mother" of the Planetary Data System; she later enabled the digitization of the Lunar orbiter images. However, the work of her lifetime was the development, documentation and practice of veterinary acupuncture. She was working on a book about this subject, but it was not completed. She is remembered by her daughter Megan, son in law Mike Flynn, her sister Margaret Ann and many friends and acquaintances."

Image: From 2008: Lunar Orbiter Program Manager Lee Scherer and Nancy Evans in front of the restored and operational FR-900 tape drive used to retrieve Lunar Orbiter images. There was not a dry eye in the house when they both visited. Link

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos, Wired

"When they learned through a Usenet group that former NASA employee Nancy Evans might have both the tapes and the super-rare Ampex FR-900 drives needed to read them, they jumped into action. They drove to Los Angeles, where the refrigerator-sized drives were being stored in a backyard shed surrounded by chickens. At the same time, they retrieved the tapes from a storage unit in nearby Moorpark, and things gradually began to take shape. Funding the project out of pocket at first, they were consumed with figuring out how to release the images trapped in the tapes."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/earthise.old.new.med.2.jpg

Keith's note: Nancy Evans saw the undiscovered value in the Lunar Orbiter tapes when no one else did. NASA usually likes new, shiny things - not old, dusty things. Nancy put her money where her mouth was and fought to save these tapes as best she could - as well as the drives needed to read them. As a result the world now has an archive of ultra-high lunar imagery from the mid-1960s which can often exceed contemporary imagery and can be used to study changes in the lunar surface over the span of half a century. That imagery is now online in the Planetary Data System - which Nancy lead the development of - where it belongs, along side data from other NASA missions.

Sometimes being a true space pioneer can be as simple as not throwing things out when you are told to throw them out. History is an inexhaustible resource for new discoveries. Nancy Evans did a diving catch and saved some of that NASA history. NASA would do well to take a fresh look at its old data. Who knows what lies within that data awaiting discovery.

Ad Astra Nancy.

- Memorial information (21 March 2022).
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, official (archived) website
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, Wikipedia
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Online Data Volumes, NASA PDS

Virginia Middle School Student Names NASA's Next Mars Rover

"NASA's next Mars rover has a new name -- Perseverance. The name was announced Thursday by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Zurbuchen was at the school to congratulate seventh grader Alexander Mather, who submitted the winning entry to the agency's "Name the Rover" essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory. "Alex's entry captured the spirit of exploration," said Zurbuchen. "Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it's going to make amazing discoveries. It's already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today -- processing for launch. Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they're going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can't wait to see that nameplate on Mars."

Keith's note: I had a chance to ask a question at the Mars 2020/Perseverance media telecon: "it was good to hear the word Astrobiology and Mars 2020 in the same sentence since this is an overt Astrobiology mission. Astrobiology is an emergent discipline for the 21st Century that the Artemis Generation will be studying as they prepare for careers studying Mars. The word "Astrobiology" is used elsewhere by NASA, and is in the title of innumerable high school and university classes and text books around the world. Is NASA going to use the Mars 2020 mission to enhance the visibility of its Astrobiology program? We humans are going to have as many as 4 rovers on Mars doing Astrobiology in the near future. This is unprecedented. Are there any plans to have coordination of public outreach for the 4 rovers that will soon be doing Astrobiology research on Mars - again as something to inspire the Artemis Generation?"

Lori Glaze replied "We intend to use Mars 2020 to bring visibility to Astrobiology as a discipline and a focus of this mission. We'll also use Dragonfly and Europa Clipper to highlight Astrobiology as well." She added that it is going to be a fantastic international year on Mars with 4 rovers and we are looking to bringing more focus on the partners and cooperation on Mars.

When asked of it is OK to call Perseverance by the nickname "Percy" Thomas Zurbuchen said it was just fine and that this sort of personalization is part of the way that people will identify with the mission.

NASA Approves Development of Universe-Studying, Planet-Finding Mission

"The FY2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act funds the WFIRST program through September 2020. The FY2021 budget request proposes to terminate funding for the WFIRST mission and focus on the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope, now planned for launch in March 2021. The Administration is not ready to proceed with another multi-billion-dollar telescope until Webb has been successfully launched and deployed."

FY 2021 Budget, OMB

"Consistent with prior budgets, the Budget provides no funding for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope".

White House Wants To Kill WFIRST - Again (2019), earlier post

"The Budget proposes to terminate the WFIRST mission and instead focus on completing the delayed James Webb Space Telescope."

AAS Officials Concerned with Proposed Cancellation of WFIRST, (2018), earlier post

"Sharing alarm voiced by other scientists, leaders of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are expressing grave concern over the administration's proposed cuts to NASA's astrophysics budget and the abrupt cancellation of theWide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)."

More posts on WFIRST


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from March 2020.

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