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Entries in NASA (40)

Saturday
Jul272013

NASA to Launch Cargo Craft 

NASA(SPACE) -- An unpiloted cargo craft is scheduled to deliver nearly three tons of food, fuel, supplies and experimental hardware Saturday to the International Space Station.

NASA is launching the cargo craft, the ISS Progress 52, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft is expected to reach the space station in approximately six hours, after orbiting the earth four times.

The ISS Progress 52 will provide the vital supplies to the six crew members currently aboard the International Space Station.

ABCNews.com will livestream the spacecraft's launch and arrival at the Pris docking station.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb202013

Mars Curiosity Drills Into Red Planet

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- Mars Curiosity has another scientific first under its belt.

The Mini Cooper-sized rover successfully collected a tiny sample of powder – enough to fill a tablespoon – as it drilled into a Mars rock earlier this month, scientists said Wednesday.

“This is the first time any rover has drilled into a rock to collect a sample anywhere but on Earth,” said Louise Jandura, an engineer on the Curiosity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Mars Curiosity mission is designed to look for signs that life once existed – or might still exist – on Mars.

When the rock sample is analyzed by Curiosity’s onboard laboratory in coming days, the results will be beamed back to eager scientists on Earth.

The team is already excited because of signs in Martian geology suggesting the rocks formed in liquid water, a fundamental requirement for life as we know it.

“The rocks in this area have a really rich geological history, and they have the potential to give us information about multiple interactions between water and rock,” said Joel Hurowitz, a Curiosity sampling scientist at NASA JPL.

Photos of the drill site show the traditional rust-colored Martian soil has been brushed away, revealing a moon-gray-colored rock underneath.

“It’s better to have a gray color than a red color,” said John Grotzinger, Curiosity’s chief scientist.

Oxidation that turns the soil rust-red destroys organic compounds, Grotzinger explained. Any signs of past life would be more likely protected in the deeper grayish-rock, but Grotzinger said it’s still like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“It’s still an accident of fate to preserve organics,” Grotzinger said on a conference call with reporters.

Curiosity touched down on the red planet in August.

The 2.5-inch hole was drilled Feb. 8 into a rock dubbed “John Klein,” after a deputy project manager who died in 2011.

The $2.5 billion rover will eventually begin driving toward the base of a three-mile-high mountain known as Mt. Sharp.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec132012

Not Happening: NASA Debunks Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We’ll never know if they were wrong.

NASA has quietly published a web video explaining why the world will not come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.

The date of its release, Dec. 11, was no mistake, even if doomsayers would likely call it one last act of earthly hubris. NASA uploaded the four-minute “ScienceCasts” explainer, titled “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday,” (the video begins from Dec. 22) in an effort to answer hundreds of calls and emails they receive daily. It also has a dedicated website that’s received at least 4.6 million visitors — people asking if the Maya prophecy is coming true and what they should do about it.

 

“If there was anything out there, like a planet headed for Earth," said NASA astrobiologist David Morrison, it would already be one of the brightest objects in the sky,” the narrator explains in a cheerfully pedantic voice. “Everybody on Earth could see it. You don’t need to ask the government, just go out and look. It’s not there.”

(Note: Still not convinced? Consider this: Even if the Maya, a declining Mesoamerican civilization wiped almost entirely off the map by 17th century Spanish conquistadors, are to be trusted with this kind of high-stakes stuff, scientists agree that reports concerning their prediction of our collective demise have been greatly exaggerated, if not fabricated. Anthropologists say the Mayan calendar was cyclical, and frequently restarted without ending.)

As for rumors about solar flares and reports the sun is reaching the “max of its 11-year solar cycle,” well, that’s all true. But NASA calls is it the “wimpiest cycle” of the past 50 years.

Anyway, “the sun has been flaring for billions of years and it has never, once, destroyed the world.”

Dwayne Brown, a senior public affairs officer at NASA, said the space agency felt a sense of duty as the date neared. People have been calling in to headquarters “who want to do harm to their families” in an effort to protect them from the unknown horrors expected to arrive with the Maya apocalypse, he said.

“As the attention on the issue is growing,” the video’s producer and director Michael Brody said, “we didn’t want the rumors growing…. The idea is to take a straight, stoic, standard [scientific] look… and give it a hook.”

“You’re the smart guys, you know what’s up in space,” Brown said, his way of distilling public sentiment toward NASA.  “Well, we do!”

And what they know is quite simple. The world might end on a Friday, but it won’t be tomorrow or the one after. Most scientists agree we have about five billion years of battery life, in the form of the sun, to go before the time comes to get nervous.

Brown’s best advice: “Let’s take it day-by-day.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct122012

Mars Rover Discovers Earth-Like Rock

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Curiosity rover surprised NASA engineers with the first Martian rock it examined. Scientists expected to find a rock similar to the ones seen on previous missions to Mars. But instead, they found a rock with a composition seen in many rocks on Earth.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in a NASA statement Friday. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”

According to NASA, rocks on Earth with a similar composition usually come from processes in the planet’s mantle and result from crystallization of water-rich magma at an elevated pressure.

As NASA said in a statement, rock compositions are important because they “tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.” Researchers hope that the discovery of varied rock composition on Mars will give insight into the planet's past.

The rock is around the size of a football and is shaped like a pyramid.  It has been nicknamed “Jake Matijevic,” after a mission engineer who recently died.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct102012

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Bright Object on Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(NEW YORK) -- During NASA’s Curiosity rover’s first scoop of Mars’ surface, the robot discovered more than just soil.

An image taken by Curiosity’s right Mast Camera (Mastcam) shows a small, bright object near the rover.  This was the first use of the scoop on the rover’s robotic arm, NASA said in a press release.

NASA is investigating what exactly the bright object is, but they believe it may be a piece of the rover itself.  They will not scoop anymore soil or use the arm until they determine what the shiny object is.

The image was taken on Oct. 7, the rover’s 61st day on Mars.  The rover is part of a two-year, $2.5 billion project to look for signs that Mars could once have had the chemical resources needed to support microbial life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep052012

Space Station Saved By a Toothbrush?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A $100 billion space station saved by a simple $3 toothbrush? It was the brainstorm of astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihido Hoshide and NASA engineers on the ground to use the toothbrush as a tool to clean a bolt that gave them so much trouble during a marathon 8-hour spacewalk last week.

They were trying to replace an electrical switching unit, but on Thursday they couldn't bolt it to the outside of the station.

What to do if there is no hardware store in the neighborhood and the next supply ship is months away? Build it yourself -- so they attached a simple toothbrush to a metal pole and voila! They were able to clean out the bolt's socket and finish the job.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

‘Curiosity’ Transmits will.i.am Song From Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- Making its interplanetary debut, Black Eyed Peas artist will.i.am’s “Reach for the Stars” became the first song to be broadcast to Earth from the Red Planet.  NASA’s rover “Curiosity” transmitted the piece on Tuesday from the Martian surface to an audience of students at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

An orchestral piece, the song was inspired by the artist’s passion for technology and space exploration and was part of a larger effort to encourage science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education.

“Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back,” will.i.am said in a statement.

will.i.am was on hand at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to witness the Curiosity rover landing on Aug. 6.  After “Reach for the Stars” made its successful debut, he discussed why he chose an orchestral piece.

“I didn’t want to do a song that was done on a computer, I wanted to show human collaboration and have an orchestra there and something that would be timeless and translated into different cultures — not have a hip-hop beat or a dance beat,” he told the assembled students at the JPL.

It’s not the first time NASA has sent music deep into the cosmos.  In 2008, the space agency beamed the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into space to commemorate its 40th anniversary.  In 1977, golden records that included music by Beethoven, Mozart and Stravinsky were placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft on the remote chance they could be discovered by intelligent civilizations.

Proceeds from “Reach for the Stars,” which costs $1.29 on iTunes, will be used to help bring science-focused schools to inner cities, according to will.i.am’s Twitter account.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Mars Rover Sends Stunning New Shots from the Red Planet

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Mars rover Curiosity has sent some spectacular new images to Earth, giving a detailed view of the landing site in Mars Gale Crater and the surface of the Red Planet.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), mission control for the project, put them together in a giant mosaic.

“The mosaic, which stretches about 29,000 pixels across by 7,000 pixels high, includes 130 images taken on Aug. 8 and an additional 10 images taken on Aug. 19,” said JPL.

The images have been combined to provide a 360-degree panoramic view of the landing site, including the 3.4-mile high Mount Sharp. Exploring Mount Sharp is one of Curiosity’s primary objectives, largely because previous spacecraft in orbit spotted evidence of possible past exposure to liquid water at the mountain’s base.

The Rover also made history by sending the first audio recording of a human voice from Mars to Earth. The voice was that of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who congratulated the mission team on its success in getting the rover to Mars. In the recording, Bolden said, “Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not-too-distant future.”

Curiosity landed on Gale Crater on Mars on Aug. 5. It is set to explore the crater over the next two years, looking, among other things, for evidence to determine whether the planet could have ever supported life. The rover, with a $2.5 billion budget, is equipped with an array of instruments to aid in its quest, including a rock-cutting laser and an onboard chemistry lab.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Mars Rover Curiosity to Take First Test Drive

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Mars rover Curiosity, which landed on the Martian surface on the night of Aug. 5, is about to take its first baby steps -- or test drive, or whatever your preferred metaphor is -- on the way to exploring the terrain around it.

Overnight, U.S. time, mission engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said they plan to send Curiosity the computer commands to send it on its first short trip.  If everything works, it will move forward three meters (about 10 feet), turn right 90 degrees, and then back up a little bit.

That’s it.  But the longest journey begins with a single step.  Ultimately, NASA said it hopes the rover will be able to travel more than 100 yards per day over at least a two-year period, probing the Martian landscape for signs that it might once have been a home to microbial life.

“You will definitely see tracks,” said Mike Watkins, the mission manager, in a teleconference.  The first drive will tell controllers the rover’s six wheels are working properly, that it can turn in place as designed, and that it’s ready to move on later this week.

The test drive should last about half an hour.  It should take place in mid-afternoon, Mars time, when it’s warmest and the rover’s parts don’t have to be heated up.  NASA hopes there will be no surprises.

“We want to park it in a place we’ve imaged with our stereo cameras,” said Watkins, “just to make sure there’s nothing there.”

Controllers said they will be more bold over time.  The rover is in good shape so far after its nail-biter of a landing (recall the references to “seven minutes of terror” NASA promised) though a small wind detector is damaged.

Meanwhile, it’s almost summer-like at Gale Crater, where Curiosity put down.  Engineers reported the soil around the rover reached an afternoon high temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit on a recent Martian day, then dropped overnight to 131 degrees below zero.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug062012

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Lands Successfully on Planet

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Curiosity Rover has landed on the surface of the red planet following an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey.  NASA says it received a signal from the rover after a plunge through the Martian atmosphere described as "seven minutes of terror."

A chorus of cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory just after 1:30 a.m. EDT Monday when it was confirmed the rover had landed successfully.

"Touchdown confirmed," said engineer Allen Chen.  "We're safe on Mars."

Minutes later, Curiosity beamed back the first pictures from the surface showing its wheel and its shadow -- cast by the afternoon sun -- giving earthlings their first glimpse of a touchdown on another world.

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Mars Curiosity is NASA's latest and boldest attempt yet to go where robots -- but no man -- have gone before.  Before this mission -- formally known as the Mars Science Laboratory -- the U.S., Russia, Japan and Europe had sent 40 spacecraft to explore the fourth planet from the sun since the space age began.  Twenty-six had failed.

Curiosity, an intrepid chemistry set on wheels, packed with cameras and gadgets galore, was designed to look for signs that life once existed on Mars -- signs that Mars could once have had the chemical resources needed to support microbial life.  This could mean potential sources of water, food and energy that could someday support visiting humans from Earth.

The landing had been dubbed "Seven Minutes of Terror" by the engineers who figured out the best way to land.  Adam Steltzner, team leader for the entry, descent and landing of Curiosity, said that as the ship was in the planning stages and then heading to Mars, he found himself waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about the sequence of events that would have to go perfectly.

"The big trick is you are going 13,000 miles an hour," he said.  "You slam into the Martian atmosphere and you want to gracefully get the spacecraft down sitting quietly on the surface on her wheels, and all of that takes different changes in the configuration of the vehicle, 79 events that must occur."

Curiosity was set to land when Mars was 154 million miles from Earth.  It weighed 5,293 pounds on Earth -- the size of a small car and much bigger than the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which were cushioned by airbags when they landed in 2004.  

Engineers quickly figured out that airbags would burst if they were tried on Curiosity.  So they designed it to be lowered to the Martian surface by a heat shield, then a parachute, then retro-rockets, and finally a sky crane -- something that had never tried before -- and that's what made this so scary for them.  Just one slip would mean $2.5 billion down the drain.

Now that the rover is safely on Mars, NASA hopes it will explore the planet for one Martian year, which is about 22 months on Earth.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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