Incoming! SpaceX Falcon 9 Stage Heads for Crash on the Moon

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The Moon is set to gain one more crater. A leftover SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage will impact the lunar surface in early March, marking the first time that a human-made debris item unintentionally reaches our natural satellite.

In 2015 the Falcon 9 placed NOAA’s DSCOVR climate observatory around the L1 Lagrange point, one of five such gravitationally-stable points between Earth and the Sun. Having reached L1, around 1.5 million km from Earth, the mission’s upper stage ended up pointed away from Earth into interplanetary space.

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Swarm and Cluster Get to the Bottom of Geomagnetic Storms

The magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on every day life. The field can be thought of as a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The notion of living in a bubble is usually associated with negative connotations, but all life on Earth is dependent on the safe bubble created by our magnetic field. Understanding how the field is generated, how it protects us and how it sometimes gives way to charged particles from the solar wind is not just a matter of scientific interest, but also a matter of safety. Using information from ESA’s Cluster and Swarm missions along with measurements from the ground, scientists have, for the first time, been able to confirm that curiously named bursty bulk flows are directly connected to abrupt changes in the magnetic field near Earth’s surface, which can cause damage to pipelines and electrical power lines.

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ESA’s Solar Orbiter to Make Agency’s Riskiest Flyby

Artist’s impression of Solar Orbiter making a flyby at Earth. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

In brief

PARIS (ESA PR) — The chance that ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will encounter space debris during its upcoming Earth flyby is very, very low. However, the risk is not zero and is greater than any other flyby ESA has performed. That there is this risk at all highlights the mess we’ve made of space – and why we need to take action to clean up after ourselves.

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Small Satellite, Big Questions: CuPID CubeSat Will Get New Perspective on Sun-Earth Boundary

In April 2021, Connor O’Brien and Emil Atz complete “vibration testing” of CuPID to ensure it can withstand the space environment. (Credits: Brian Walsh)

By Alison Gold
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — When you help build a satellite the size of a shoebox, you learn pretty much everything about it, says Emil Atz, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. You learn how to write a proposal to fund it, how to place the screws that hold it together, how to test each instrument to ensure it functions properly.

And then you learn how to say goodbye.

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NASA Joins White House National Climate Task Force

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As a leading agency observing and understanding environmental changes to Earth, NASA has joined the National Climate Task Force. President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 27, which initially outlined details of the task force.

The administration’s climate agenda outlines putting climate at the center of the country’s foreign policy and national security and encourages a governmentwide approach to climate change.

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2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows

Globally, 2020 was the hottest year on record, effectively tying 2016, the previous record. Overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Temperatures are increasing due to human activities, specifically emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Lori Perkins/Kathryn Mersmann)

NEW YORK (NASA PR) — Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record.

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NASA Approves Heliophysics Missions to Explore Sun, Earth’s Aurora

From the International Space Station’s orbit 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia, this nighttime photograph captures the aurora australis, or “southern lights.” Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 crew ship is in the foreground and Progress 72 resupply ship in the background. (Credits: NASA)

ASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has approved two heliophysics missions to explore the Sun and the system that drives space weather near Earth. Together, NASA’s contribution to the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, or EZIE, will help us understand the Sun and Earth as an interconnected system.

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NOAA Launches Crowdsourcing Competition for Better Forecasting of Magnetic Field with DrivenData and HeroX

$30K in Prizes for Improvements of Current Models to Provide Advance Warning of Geomagnetic Storms and Reduce Errors in Navigation Systems

Boulder, Colorado — December 15, 2020 — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the NASA Tournament Lab today announced its crowdsourcing challenge, “MagNet: Model the Geomagnetic Field”. The challenge, which is being implemented by DrivenData and HeroX, seeks to mitigate the impact of geomagnetic storms on navigation systems through improved forecasting by increasing the accuracy in real-time magnetic field modeling and reducing errors in the magnetic navigation systems. 

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Solar Superstorms of the Past Help NASA Scientists Understand Risks for Satellites

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — At the edge of space, the ever-growing fleet of satellites in low-Earth orbit are locked in a constant, precarious battle with friction. 

These satellites orbit in a normally quiet region hundreds of miles above the surface, at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Usually, the satellites only feel a gentle push due to the headwinds of the rarified air there, but extreme storms from the Sun can change Earth’s atmosphere enough to pull a satellite farther off orbit in one day than they’d normally experience in a year.

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Trump Administration Releases Science and Technology Accomplishments from First Term White House

Credit: Matt Wade

OSTP Showcases S&T Wins That Changed the World Over the Past Four Years

WASHINGTON (OSTP PR) — The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today released “Advancing America’s Global Leadership in Science and Technology, Trump Administration Highlights: 2017-2020.” The document is a selection of significant investments, accomplishments, policies, and other actions undertaken by President Trump to advance science and technology.

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SpaceX Wins $109.4 Million Contract to Launch NASA Satellites on Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, which includes four secondary payloads.

IMAP will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a magnetic barrier surrounding our solar system. This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with winds from other stars. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.

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Hayabusa2 to Visit Rapidly Spinning Asteroid in Extended Mission

Hayabusa2 spacecraft at asteroid 1998 KY26. (Credit: Auburn University, JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

JAXA has selected a second asteroid for Hayabusa2 to explore after the spacecraft completes its primary mission to Ryugu in December. But, it’s not going to be an easy destination to reach.

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ExoMars Finds New Gas Signatures in the Martian Atmosphere

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted new gas signatures at Mars. These unlock new secrets about the martian atmosphere, and will enable a more accurate determination of whether there is methane, a gas associated with biological or geological activity, at the planet.

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has been studying the Red Planet from orbit for over two years. The mission aims to understand the mixture of gases that make up the martian atmosphere, with a special focus on the mystery surrounding the presence of methane there.

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Scientists Provide New Explanation for the Far Side of the Moon’s Strange Asymmetry

The composition of the Moon’s near side is oddly different from that of its far side, and scientists think they finally understand why. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

TOKYO (Earth-Life Science Institute PR) — Earth’s Moon has a ‘near side’ that is perpetually Earth-facing and a ‘far side’, which always faces away from Earth. The composition of the Moon’s near side is oddly different from its far side, and scientists think they finally understand why.

The Earth-Moon system’s history remains mysterious. Scientists believe the two formed when a Mars-sized body collided with the proto-Earth. Earth ended up being the larger daughter of this collision and retained enough heat to become tectonically active. The Moon, being smaller, likely cooled down faster and geologically ‘froze’. The apparent early dynamism of the Moon challenges this idea.

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Rocket Lab Launches 12th Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying five small satellites from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on Saturday.

The booster’s kick stage with the spacecraft aboard successfully separated from the second stage. The kick stage is now deploying the satellites into their planned orbits.

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