NASA Extends Deep Space Atomic Clock Mission

A technology demonstration called the Deep Space Atomic Clock could enable far-flung probes to get around using a navigation system similar to the GPS-based system we use on Earth. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — As the time when NASA will begin sending humans back to the Moon draws closer, crewed trips to Mars are an enticing next step. But future space explorers will need new tools when traveling to such distant destinations. The Deep Space Atomic Clock mission is testing a new navigation technology that could be used by both human and robotic explorers making their way around the Red Planet and other deep space destinations.

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JPL’s Terrain-Relative Navigation Technology Set to Launch on Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

NASA Press Release

The Technology

Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) enables pin-point landing and large hazard avoidance for crewed and robotic lander vehicles. A camera captures images during vehicle descent, which are subsequently matched to orbital maps stored onboard the lander. Matching images to multiple known terrain features enables automated determination of the lander’s position relative to the terrain.

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How NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Reach the Red Planet’s Surface

In this video clip, an engineer observes as a test of the Mars Helicopter Delivery System at Lockheed Martin Space in Denver on April 2019. (Credits: Lockheed Martin Space)

The small craft will seek to prove that powered, controlled flight is possible on another planet. But just getting it onto the surface of Mars will take a whole lot of ingenuity.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will travel with the Perseverance rover through 314 million miles (505 million kilometers) of interplanetary space to get to Mars. But for the team working on the first experimental flight test on another planet, engineering the final 5 inches (13 centimeters) of the journey has been among the most challenging of all. To safely navigate those 5 inches — the distance Ingenuity will travel from where it’s stowed on the rover to the surface of Mars — they came up with the ingenious Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

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Proposed NASA Mission Would Visit Neptune’s Curious Moon Triton

This global color mosaic of Neptune’s moon Triton was taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech NASA/JPL/USGS)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Neptune’s strange moon Triton three decades ago, it wrote a planetary science cliffhanger.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to have flown past Neptune, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. The views were as stunning as they were puzzling, revealing massive, dark plumes of icy material spraying out from Triton‘s surface. But how? Images showed that the icy landscape was young and had been resurfaced over and over with fresh material. But what material, and from where?

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The Launch Is Approaching for NASA’s Next Mars Rover, Perseverance

In a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Red Planet’s surface has been visited by eight NASA spacecraft. The ninth will be the first that includes gathering Mars samples for future return to Earth. 

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is just over a month from its July 20 targeted launch date. The rover’s astrobiology mission will seek signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate key technologies to help prepare for future robotic and human exploration. And the rover will do all that while collecting the first samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for return to Earth by a set of future missions.

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New International Ocean Satellite Completes Testing

Mission team members perform acoustic tests of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in a chamber outfitted with giant speakers that blast the spacecraft with sound. This is to ensure that the high decibels associated with liftoff won’t damage the spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

A team of engineers in the U.S. and Europe subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft to a battery of trials to ready it for liftoff later this year.


Once the state-of-the-art Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches in November, it will collect the most accurate data yet on sea level – a key indicator of how Earth’s warming climate is affecting the oceans, weather and coastlines. But first, engineers need to ensure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of launch and of operating in the harsh environment of space. That’s where meticulous testing comes in.

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NASA’s Mars Rover Drivers Need Your Help

Three images from the tool called AI4Mars show different kinds of Martian terrain as seen by NASA’s Curiosity rover. By drawing borders around terrain features and assigning one of four labels to them, you can help train an algorithm that will automatically identify terrain types for Curiosity’s rover planners. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — You may be able to help NASA’s Curiosity rover drivers better navigate Mars. Using the online tool AI4Mars to label terrain features in pictures downloaded from the Red Planet, you can train an artificial intelligence algorithm to automatically read the landscape.

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NASA’s Cold Atom Lab Produces Fifth State of Matter on Space Station

This artist’s illustration shows six finely tuned lasers being used to slow down atoms inside NASA’s Cold Atom Lab, which chills atoms to almost absolute zero. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — This month marks 25 years since scientists first produced a fifth state of matter, which has extraordinary properties totally unlike solids, liquids, gases and plasmas. The achievement garnered a Nobel Prize and changed physics.

A new study in the journal Nature builds on that legacy. In July 2018, NASA’s Cold Atom Lab  became the first facility to produce that fifth state of matter, called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), in Earth orbit.

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Launcher Adds to its Team with SpaceX & JPL Veterans

A rendering of Launcher’s engine test stand that will be built at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (Credit: Launcher)

BROOKLYN, NY (Launcher PR) — We are excited to announce that NASA JPL & SpaceX veterans Kevin Watson and Rich Petras have joined Launcher to lead and start our avionics team. Kevin will head the team as Head of Avionics. Rich Petras has joined as Head of Avionics Software as part of Kevin’s team.

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Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Pay $10 Million to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Older Employees Were Laid Off in Favor of Retaining and Recruiting Younger Employees, Federal Agency Charged

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today the settlement of an age discrimination lawsuit against Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The laboratory has agreed to pay $10 million, along with injunctive relief, in order to reach an early resolution of the suit.

According to the EEOC, JPL systemically laid off employees over the age of 40 in favor of retaining younger employees. The complaint also alleges that older employees were passed over for rehire in favor of less qualified, younger employees.

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Three New Views of Mars’ Moon Phobos

Six views of the Martian moon Phobos captured by NASA’s Odyssey orbiter as of March 2020. The orbiter’s THEMIS camera is used to measure temperature variations that suggest what kind of material the moon is made of. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/NAU)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Three new views of the Martian moon Phobos have been captured by NASA’s Odyssey orbiter. Taken this past winter and this spring, they capture the moon as it drifts into and out of Mars’ shadow.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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The Extraordinary Sample-Gathering System of NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover

The first samples from the Moon were collected by two astronauts. The first samples collected for eventual return to Earth from Mars will take three robots aboard the Perseverance rover working as one. Together, they make up the mission’s Sample Caching System detailed in this video. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The samples Apollo 11 brought back to Earth from the Moon were humanity’s first from another celestial body. NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission will collect the first samples from another planet (the red one) for return to Earth by subsequent missions. In place of astronauts, the Perseverance rover will rely on the most complex, capable and cleanest mechanism ever to be sent into space, the Sample Caching System.

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Eight US Manufacturers Selected to Make NASA COVID-19 Ventilator

Some of the dozens of engineers involved in creating a ventilator prototype specially targeted to coronavirus disease patients at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After receiving more than 100 applications, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California has selected eight U.S. manufacturers to make a new ventilator tailored for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

The prototype, which was created by JPL engineers in just 37 days, received an Emergency Use Authorization  from the Food and Drug Administration on April 30.

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The Detective Aboard NASA’s Perseverance Rover

As seen in this artist’s concept, the SHERLOC instrument is located on the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mars is a long way from 221B Baker Street, but one of fiction’s best-known detectives will be represented on the Red Planet after NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down on Feb. 18, 2021. SHERLOC, an instrument on the end of the rover’s robotic arm, will hunt for sand-grain-sized clues in Martian rocks while working in tandem with WATSON, a camera that will take close-up pictures of rock textures. Together, they will study rock surfaces, mapping out the presence of certain minerals and organic molecules, which are the carbon-based building blocks of life on Earth.

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