Category NASA

NASA Mars Spacecraft Ready for Orbit Insertion

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles. Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 9:50 p.m. EDT. “So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”

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NASA Investigating the Martian Atmosphere

The Martian surface bears ample evidence of flowing water in its youth, from crater lakes and riverbeds to minerals that only form in water. But today Mars is cold and dry, and scientists think that the loss of Mars’ water may have been caused by the loss of its early atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volaile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, will be the first spacecraft devoted to studying the Red Planet’s atmosphere, in an effort to understand how the Martian climate has changed over time.

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Sparks Fly as NASA Pushes the Limits of 3-D Printing Technology

NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector –a highly complex part that sends propellant into the engine — with design features that took advantage of 3-D printing. To make the parts, the design was entered into the 3-D printer’s computer. The printer then built each part by layering metal powder and fusing it together with a laser, a process known as selective laser melting.

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Late Summer M5 Solar Flare (video)

On Aug. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

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NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Witnesses Asteroid Smashup

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013. “We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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Space Station Crew Discusses Life in Space with California Students (video)

During a NASA in-flight educational event on August 27, International Space Station, Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman talked about their day-to-day activities with students at the Elliot Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove, California. Swanson, who launched to the station in late March, will return to Earth on Sept. 10, U.S. time, while Wiseman, who arrived on the station in late May, will remain in orbit until November.

 

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NASA Completes Key Review of World’s Most Powerful Rocket in Support of Journey to Mars

NASA officials Wednesday announced they have completed a rigorous review of the Space Launch System (SLS) — the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars — and approved the program’s progression from formulation to development, something no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the agency built the space shuttle.

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NASA Completes Successful Battery of Tests on Composite Cryotank

NASA has completed a complex series of tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace industry much closer to designing, building, and flying lightweight, composite tanks on rockets. “This is one of NASA’s major technology accomplishments for 2014,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Technology. “This is the type of technology that can improve competitiveness for the entire U.S. launch industry, not to mention other industries that want to replace heavy metal components with lightweight composites. These tests, and others we have conducted this year on landing technologies for Mars vehicles, show how technology development is the key to driving exploration.”

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Crosses Neptune Orbit En Route to Historic Pluto Encounter

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015.The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit — nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth — in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons’ milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989.

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Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows

NASA research shows Earth’s atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide. Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012.

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