NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover peers out toward Ulysses crater, ejecta rocks, and Martian plains beyond from her Endeavour crater rim location on Sept. 18, 2014. Notice dramatic wheel tracks (right) as rover ascends steep crater slopes. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3787, Sept. 18, 2014 and colorized.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
She’s the rover that just won’t quit!
Opportunity remains hard at work today after more than 3,800 continuous Sols (days) of operation on the utterly inhospitable surface of the alien world we call Mars as an emissary from Earth.
Despite recent recurring episodes of “amnesia” ascribed to her advanced age, NASA’s long-lived Red Planet rover Opportunity is pressing on toward a scientific goldmine as she traverses southward along the ridgeline of the enormous Martian crater named Endeavour she’s been exploring for the past three years. See view from current location in our photo mosaic above showing dramatic wheel tracks as rover ascends steep crater slopes.
Continue reading Opportunity Mars Rover Presses On Toward Rich Science Targets Despite Episodic Amnesia
Image Credit: NASA / Boeing / Sierra Nevada / AmericaSpace
It was just last week that NASA issued a “stop work” order, pursuant to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) on Sept. 26, instructing both Boeing and SpaceX to stop performance of their newly awarded Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Today, however, the space agency has decided to exercise their “statutory authority” and press on with the CCtCap contracts despite SNC’s protest with the GAO.
Continue reading NASA Proceeding With Boeing and SpaceX CCtCap Contracts Despite Sierra Nevada’s GAO Protest
The X-37B during post-landing operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base after landing in 2010. Personnel in SCAPE suits (Self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble) are seen here conducting initial checks on the vehicle and ensuring the area is safe. Photo Credit: USAF
On Dec. 11, 2012, ULA launched the third mission to deliver a secretive and controversial U.S. Air Force “mini-shuttle” into orbit as part of the Air Force’s X-37B program. The vehicle, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (or OTV), has been on orbit (as far as we know) ever since, and this week NASA announced that the last two remaining space shuttle orbiter processing facilities (or OPFs) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will now be used to process the reusable unmanned space plane for its future missions.
Continue reading KSC’s Remaining Shuttle Processing Hangars Will Support Secretive Air Force X-37B Program
An artist’s rendering of December’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) test, which will take the Orion capsule 3,600 miles into space. Image Credit: NASA
As NASA gears up for its historic Dec. 4 Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) flight that will test the Orion space capsule’s systems, the agency announced it had installed the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS). In addition, a large “shake table” was delivered to Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility at the Plum Brook Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, last week, which will simulate the conditions the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) will experience during a launch aboard what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). These developments come during a time when great excitement builds as the EFT-1 launch date approaches.
Continue reading Launch Abort System Installed and Preps for Shake Tests Being Made as Orion Gears Up for Launch
Jets are blasting from the active neck of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in this four-image photo mosaic comprising images taken on 26 September 2014 by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft at a distance of 26.3 kilometers (16 miles) from the center of the comet. See the montage ot four individual navcam images below. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
A spectacle of erupting jets are blasting away from the clearly active neck of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in stunning new imagery captured by Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft as it swoops in ever closer to this bizarre remnant from the formation of our Solar System.
Continue reading Spectacular Jets Erupting From Rosetta’s Active Comet
U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman and his German crewmate Alexander Gerst added their names to the ongoing tally of veteran spacewalkers with today’s EVA-27. Photo Credit: NASA
For the first time in more than two decades, two first-time spacefarers embarked together on their first career spacewalks, wearing U.S.-built Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), when NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Germany’s Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, 7 October. The two men departed the Quest airlock a little later than intended, at 8:30 a.m. EDT, but worked swiftly and remained ahead of the timeline, moving a failed pump module from a temporary to long-term storage location, replacing a failed camera light, and installing a new Relay Assembly to provide power redundancy for the railroad-like Mobile Transporter (MT), along which the 57.7-foot (17.4-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm traverses between its various work sites. At the controls of the “Big Arm” for EVA-27 was fellow Expedition 41 astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who served as the “Intravehicular” (IV) crewman, working from the multi-windowed cupola.
Continue reading Rookie Spacewalkers Complete Multiple Tasks With Finesse on EVA-27
View from Cassini of the huge polar vortex cloud over Titan’s south pole. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON
Titan is the only moon in the Solar System known to have a dense atmosphere, and while similar to Earth’s atmosphere in some ways, such as being rich in nitrogen, it also holds surprises for planetary scientists. Analysis of data from Cassini of a huge cloud which hovers over the moon’s south pole shows that it is both toxic and colder than expected.
Continue reading Giant Cloud at Titan’s South Pole Is Toxic and Freezing Cold
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (left) and Chairman K. Radhakrishnan of the Indian Space Research Organisation signing documents in Toronto on Sept. 30, 2014, to launch a joint Earth-observing satellite mission and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars. Image and Caption Credit: NASA
Last week, at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), K. Radhakrishnan, signed two documents to begin what will be a landmark partnership between the United States and India to collaborate on future missions to study Earth and explore Mars. The charter sets up a NASA-ISRO Mars Working Group which will investigate strong cooperation between the United States and India, and it also included a signed agreement to define each agency’s role in the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, which is currently aiming for a 2020 launch.
Continue reading NASA Partners With India for Future Earth Science and Mars Exploration Missions
Reid Wiseman (left) and Alexander Gerst will make their first spacewalk together on Tuesday, 7 October. Photo Credit: NASA
Expedition 41 astronauts Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA) will step outside the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow (Tuesday, 7 October) for 6.5 hours to move a failed ammonia cooling pump module from temporary to long-term storage and install a new Relay Assembly to provide power redundancy for the railroad-like Mobile Transporter (MT), along which the 57.7-foot-long (17.4-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm traverses between its various work sites. Tuesday’s EVA-27 will be followed on Wednesday, 15 October, by EVA-28—featuring Wiseman and Expedition 41 crewmate Barry “Butch” Wilmore—to replace a Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU) on the starboard truss, following its failure back in May, as well as relocating external cameras in support of next year’s arrival of the first International Docking Adapters (IDAs) for the long-awaited Commercial Crew vehicles.
Continue reading Stowage of Failed Pump Module Highlights US Spacewalk on Tuesday
Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, an expansive flat basaltic basin that covers approximately 17 percent of the Moon’s near side, is surrounded by a series of linear gravitational anomalies (shown in red), as revealed by NASA’s GRAIL spacecraft. These anomalies indicate that the large basin was formed by volcanic processes rather than an asteroid impact, according to a new study. Image Credit: Kopernik Observatory/NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/Goddard Space Flight Center
It’s one of the most prominent features on the surface of our natural satellite, readily identifiable by anyone who has ever looked up at a Full Moon: a series of dark patches that create the illusion of a human face that smiles back at the us. The dark areas that create this pareidolic image of the so-called “Man in the Moon” however, in reality compose a vast 3,000-km-wide (1,860-mile) “mare,” or “sea,” called Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, an expansive flat basaltic basin that covers approximately 17 percent of the Moon’s near side, filled with solidified magma that welled up from the Moon’s interior billions of years ago. It was long thought that its flat plains constituted an ancient impact basin that was probably formed when a giant asteroid slammed onto the lunar surface during the Late Heavy Bombardment, a period of cataclysmic asteroid collisions early in the history of the Solar System. Yet a recently published research based on data from NASA’s GRAIL mission is casting doubt on this long-held hypothesis, while providing new evidence which indicate that Oceanus Procellarum was likely formed by internal geologic processes instead.
Continue reading New Study Points to Alternative Origin for the ‘Man in the Moon’