NASA

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Alex
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Our telescopes on Earth and in space may one day welcome a new companion: a massive telescope on the moon. What's extra clever about the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope idea is that the LCRT would use an existing crater on the moon's far side.

On Wednesday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the LCRT is receiving $500,000 in Phase II funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program. While the LCRT isn't an official NASA mission yet, the funding round is a vote of confidence in the idea.

Last year, the LCRT earned $125,000 in Phase I funding to explore the concept of sending robots to the moon's far side to build a telescope out of wire mesh suspended in a crater. The moon is a tempting place to locate a telescope because it could shield the device from Earth's radio signals and it wouldn't have to contend with an atmosphere.

"The LCRT's primary objective would be to measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the cosmic Dark Ages -- a period that lasted for a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, but before the first stars blinked into existence," JPL said in a statement.

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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity keeps pushing the aerial exploration envelope.

The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper lifted off from the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater today at 10:49 a.m. EDT (1449 GMT), kicking off its fourth flight on the Red Planet.

Ingenuity achieved all of its main technology-demonstrating goals on flights one through three — which occurred on April 19, April 22 and April 25 — so the helicopter's handlers let it off the leash today. Ingenuity covered 872 feet (266 meters) of ground and reached a top speed of 8 mph (13 kph) during the 117-second jaunt, NASA officials said.

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The second-ever Mars helicopter flight is in the books.

NASA's little Ingenuity helicopter took to the skies above Mars' Jezero Crater again early this morning (April 22), just three days after making history with the first powered, controlled flight on a world beyond Earth.

Monday's landmark 39-second debut flight was a straight up-and-down trip that took Ingenuity just 10 feet (3 meters) off Jezero's dusty floor. The helicopter team pushed the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) rotorcraft a little harder during today's 52-second sortie, which lifted off at 5:33 a.m. EDT (0933 GMT).

"Go big or go home! The Mars Helicopter successfully completed its 2nd flight, capturing this image with its black-and-white navigation camera," officials with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California wrote on Twitter. "It also reached new milestones of a higher altitude, a longer hover and lateral flying."

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NASA has chosen SpaceX to build spacecraft that will take humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program wrapped up in 1972 — first reported by The Washington Post. The agency announced SpaceX had won the contract for the Artemis lunar lander at a press conference this afternoon. The company beat out Blue Origin (which teamed up with key aerospace players like Lockheed Martin) and defense contractor Dynetics to win the $2.9 billion contract. It was previously expected that NASA would select two of the companies.

NASA tends to pick multiple contractors for its key programs to promote competition and to ensure there are several options in case a provider can't make good on its proposal. It chose all three for the initial step of the contract last year but it has decided to go all in on SpaceX.

The company pitched its Starship for the Artemis missions. Although SpaceX has been encountering problems with the reusable spacecraft during testing (all of the prototypes have crashed and/or exploded thus far), NASA seems confident the company can get it right. SpaceX is still planning to take Starship into orbit later this year. The agency also explained that the reusable nature of the Starship factored into its decision.

The contract is a major victory for SpaceX. It's already working with NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with the next mission scheduled for April 22nd.

When the Artemis program spun up under the Trump administration, the goal was to take astronauts back to the Moon in 2024, but the timeline for the project is under review. NASA doesn't currently have the funding it needs to make the mission happen by 2024 either.

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This artist's concept is of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the nearby star Epsilon Eridani. Located 10.5 light-years away, it is the closest known exoplanet to our solar system. The planet is in an elliptical orbit that carries it as close to the star as Earth is from the Sun, and as far from the star as Jupiter is from the Sun.

Epsilon Eridandi is a young star, only 800 million years old. It is still surrounded by a disk of dust that extends 20 billion miles from the star. The disk appears as a linear sheet of reflecting dust in this view because it is seen edge-on from the planet's orbit, which is in the same plane as the dust disk.

The planet's rings and satellites are purely hypothetical in this view, but plausible. As a gas giant, the planet is uninhabitable for life as we know it. However, any moons might have conditions suitable for life.

Astronomers determined the planet's mass and orbital tilt in 2006 by using Hubble to measure the unseen planet's gravitational pull on the star as it slowly moved across the sky. Evidence for the planet first appeared in 2000 when astronomers measured a telltale wobble in the star.

Source: nasa.gov

Alex
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For decades, scientists have speculated about what may have happened to all the water on Mars, which is believed to have been a substantially wetter planet eons ago. Some water can be found frozen in the Martian polar ice caps, but new research indicates there's also a shocking amount of water in Mars. The discovery could have a major impact on developing plans to harvest water for a future human presence on the red planet.

It's been largely presumed that as Mars' ancient atmosphere was gradually sucked out into space, much of its surface water went with it. But a new NASA-backed study suggests a significant portion of all that Martian moisture is still on the planet, trapped in its crust.

"Atmospheric escape doesn't fully explain the data that we have for how much water actually once existed on Mars," Caltech Ph.D. candidate Eva Scheller said in a statement. Scheller is lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Science.

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NASA's Perseverance rover has recorded the first audio clips captured on the surface of Mars, beaming back to Earth guttural sounds of wind gusting on the red planet.

The first-of-its-kind audio was released Monday, along with extraordinary new video footage of the rover as it descended and landed last Thursday. The images are among the most sophisticated yet taken of Mars, and offer never-before-seen views of the rover approaching its landing site.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the new images and audio are "the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit."

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A new satellite image has captured the stunning white peaks of two volcanoes on the Big Island in Hawaii, which have experienced their second-most extensive snow coverage since current records began.

The high-resolution image — snapped on Feb. 6 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) onboard the Landsat-8 satellite — shows the striking contrast between the snow-covered peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and the surrounding volcanic rock.

The OLI, is a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, and the new image was recently released by NASA's Earth Observatory.

Snow and Hawaii may seem like an oxymoron, but the frozen precipitation falls in Hawaii quite a lot. The volcanic peaks of the dormant Mauna Kea and active Mauna Loa — both over 13,600 feet (4,200 meters) above sea leve, with Mauna Kea being taller by just 125 feet (38 m) — receive at least a light dusting every year, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

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A new study found that electrons can reach ultra-relativistic energies for very special conditions in the magnetosphere when space is devoid of plasma.

Recent measurements from NASA's Van Allen Probes spacecraft showed that electrons can reach ultra-relativistic energies flying at almost the speed of light. Hayley Allison, Yuri Shprits and collaborators from the German Research Centre for Geosciences have revealed under which conditions such strong accelerations occur. They had already demonstrated in 2020 that during solar storm plasma waves play a crucial role for that. However, it was previously unclear why such high electron energies are not achieved in all solar storms. In the journal Science Advances, Allison, Shprits and colleagues now show that extreme depletions of the background plasma density are crucial.

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