NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following a thorough evaluation, NASA has extended the planetary science missions of eight of its spacecraft due to their scientific productivity and potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The missions – Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, OSIRIS-REx, and New Horizons – have been selected for continuation, assuming their spacecraft remain healthy. Most of the missions will be extended for three years; however, OSIRIS-REx will be continued for nine years in order to reach a new destination, and InSight will be continued until the end of 2022, unless the spacecraft’s electrical power allows for longer operations.

(more…)

Fifty Years Later, Curators Unveil One of Last Sealed Apollo Samples

The Apollo 17 core sample 73001 processing team in front of the newly opened sample at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. From left, Charis Krysher, Andrea Mosie, Juliane Gross and Ryan Zeigler. (Credits: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Like a time capsule that was sealed for posterity, one of the last unopened Apollo-era lunar samples collected during Apollo 17 has been opened under the careful direction of lunar sample processors and curators in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This precious and well-preserved sample will serve as a narrow window into the permanent, geological record of Earth’s closest celestial neighbor – the Moon.

(more…)

NASA TV to Air DART Prelaunch Activities, Launch

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft at Didymos. (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s first planetary defense test mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The mission will help determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course. DART’s target asteroid is not a threat to Earth.

DART is scheduled to launch no earlier than 1:20 a.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 24 (10:20 p.m. PST Tuesday, Nov. 23) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

(more…)

NASA’s Juno: Science Results Offer First 3D View of Jupiter Atmosphere

Jupiter’s banded appearance is created by the cloud-forming “weather layer.” This composite image shows views of Jupiter in (left to right) infrared and visible light taken by the Gemini North telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, respectively. [Credits: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley) et al.]

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — New findings from NASA’s Juno probe orbiting Jupiter provide a fuller picture of how the planet’s distinctive and colorful atmospheric features offer clues about the unseen processes below its clouds. The results highlight the inner workings of the belts and zones of clouds encircling Jupiter, as well as its polar cyclones and even the Great Red Spot.

(more…)

NASA to Announce Landing Site for Artemis Lunar Robotic Rover

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley invites members of the news media to a media teleconference Monday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. PDT, to announce the lunar landing site for the agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. Ames manages the VIPER mission, and leads the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations, and flight software.

The rover will be delivered to the Moon’s surface in late 2023 under the Artemis program and part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.

(more…)

SwRI Awarded Lunar Lander Investigation Contract

This photograph of a nearly full Moon was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft at a point above 70 degrees east longitude. Mare Crisium, the circular, dark-colored area near the center, is near the eastern edge of the Moon as viewed from Earth. (Credits: NASA)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 21, 2021 (Southwest Research Institute PR) — To advance understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has selected three new lunar investigations, including a payload suite led by Southwest Research Institute. The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) is one of two packages that will land on the far side of the Moon, a first for the agency, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative.

(more…)

Then There Were 3: NASA to Collaborate on ESA’s New Venus Mission

Artist rendering of ESA’s EnVision spacecraft. (Credits: European Space Agency/Paris Observatory/VR2Planets)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On June 10, 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the selection of EnVision as its newest medium-class science mission. EnVision will make detailed observations of Venus to understand its history and especially understand the connections between the atmosphere and geologic processes. As a key partner in the mission, NASA provides the Synthetic Aperture Radar, called Venae, to make high resolution measurements of the planet’s surface features. 

(more…)

NASA Rover to Search for Water, Other Resources on Moon

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As part of the Artemis program, NASA is planning to send its first mobile robot to the Moon in late 2023 in search of ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. Data from the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, would help the agency map resources at the lunar South Pole that could one day be harvested for long-term human exploration at the Moon. 

(more…)

Touchdown! NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Safely Lands on Red Planet

A low-resolution image of the Perseverance rover’s landing site taken by an engineering camera. Dust stirred up by the landing partially obscures the terrain. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world touched down on Mars Thursday, after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometers). Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).

(more…)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Plans for May Asteroid Departure

Captured by the spacecraft’s SamCam camera on Oct. 22, 2020, this series of three images shows that the sampler head on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is full of rocks and dust collected from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. They show also that some of these particles are slowly escaping the sampler head. Analysis by the OSIRIS-REx team suggests that bits of material are passing through small gaps where the head’s mylar flap is slightly wedged open. The mylar flap (the black bulge on the left inside the ring) is designed to keep the collected material locked inside, and these unsealed areas appear to be caused by larger rocks that didn’t fully pass through the flap. Based on available imagery, the team suspects there is plentiful sample inside the head, and is on a path to stow the sample as quickly as possible. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On May 10, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will say farewell to asteroid Bennu and begin its journey back to Earth. During its Oct. 20, 2020, sample collection event, the spacecraft collected a substantial amount of material from Bennu’s surface, likely exceeding the mission’s requirement of 2 ounces (60 grams). The spacecraft is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

(more…)

NASA’s Juno Mission Expands Into the Future

This view from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft shows two storms merging. The two white ovals seen within the orange-colored band left of center are anticyclonic storms – that is, storms that rotate counterclockwise. The image was taken on Dec. 26, 2019. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik, © CC BY)

The spacecraft, which has been gathering data on the gas giant since July 2016, will become an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The agency’s most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life. This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons – with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter’s most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

(more…)

NASA Extends Juno & InSight Planetary Missions

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, the agency’s quest to seek answers about our solar system and beyond continues to inform those efforts and generate new discoveries. The agency has extended the missions of two spacecraft, following an external review of their scientific productivity.

The missions — Juno and InSight — have each increased our understanding of our solar system, as well as spurred new sets of diverse questions. 

(more…)

NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar Surface

Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Producing maps to locate ice or water trapped in rock at the Moon’s surface, Lunar Trailblazer will help support NASA’s efforts to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

(more…)

NASA to Broadcast OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Collection Activities

The Nightingale Crater on asteroid Bennu is the primary sample collection site for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx’s mission. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will broadcast coverage of a first for the agency as its Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission attempts to collect a sample of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6:12 p.m. EDT.

Live coverage of the spacecraft’s descent to the asteroid’s surface for its “Touch-And-Go,” or TAG, maneuver, which will be managed by Lockheed Martin Space near Denver, will begin at 5 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

(more…)