NASA is With You When You Fly, Even on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — According to the 1958 law that established NASA, where the first “A” in NASA stands for aeronautics, the agency is charged with solving the problems of flight within the atmosphere.

But the law doesn’t say which planet’s atmosphere.

In that spirit, when the decision was made to add a small helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet, experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California looked to the agency’s finest aeronautical innovators on this planet for help.

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Mars InSight Lander’s ‘Mole’ Pauses Digging

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12, 2019. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s Mars InSight lander has a probe designed to dig up to 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and measure heat coming from inside the planet. After beginning to hammer itself into the soil on Thursday, Feb. 28, the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) probe — part of an instrument called the Heat and Physical Properties Package, or HP3 — got about three-fourths of the way out of its housing structure before stopping. No significant progress was seen after a second bout of hammering on Saturday, March 2. Data suggests the probe, known as a “mole,” is at a 15-degree tilt.

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Geologic Evidence for Extensive Ground Water System on Mars

Artist’s impression of Mars Express. The background image is based on an actual image of Mars taken by the spacecraft’s high resolution stereo camera. Image credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

UTRECHT, The Netherlands (Utrecht University PR) — Utrecht University geologist Francesco Salese studied 24 low-lying areas distributed around the northern hemisphere of Mars. Satellite images have provided evidence of large volumes of simultaneous ground water activity connecting the areas. Salese has also found remains of deltas and coastlines on the planet’s surface. “These are strong indications that water was once present in these dried-up basins. There is no evidence that they had been filled from the surface, so upwelling ground water is the only remaining explanation. The deltas are all located at approximately the same elevation, so we are probably dealing with a ground water reservoir that spans the entire planet.”

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NASA InSight Lander Deploys DLR ‘Mole’ on Surface of Mars

DLR Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) on the surface of Mars. (Credit: NASA)
  • HP³ experiment is now in a stable position approximately 1.5 metres away from the lander
  • Heat flow from the interior of Mars will be investigated
  • Operational planning for the DLR instrument is currently underway

COLOGNE (DLR PR) — It stands vertically on flat ground, ready for its historic mission. At 19:18 CET on 12 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) or ‘Mole’ was deployed on the Martian surface using the NASA InSight mission’s robotic arm. In the coming weeks, the remote controlled penetrometer is expected to make space history by becoming the first probe to reach a depth of up to five metres in the Martian subsurface. Its goal is to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the subsurface and thus determine the heat flow from the interior of Mars. The heat flow gives researchers indications about the thermal activity of the Red Planet. This can provide insights into the evolution of the Martian interior, whether it still has a hot liquid core, and what makes Earth so special in comparison.

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InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service

The white east- and west-facing booms — called Temperature and Wind for InSight, or TWINS — on the deck of NASA’s InSight lander belong to its suite of weather sensors. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — No matter how cold your winter has been, it’s probably not as chilly as Mars. Check for yourself: Starting today, the public can get a daily weather report from NASA’s InSight lander.

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Blue Origin, Masten Vehicles Drive the Highway to Space

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off in July 2018 carrying five NASA-supported technologies to flight test in space. (Credit: Blue Origin)

A fledgling industry of rocket and balloon companies is taking science and technology experiments into space-like environments.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — At the edge of space, in the upper reaches of the stratosphere, extremely cold, near-vacuum conditions can be an ideal proving ground for space-related science and technology experiments.

“Earth’s atmosphere can interfere with the ability to do certain types of research, and at this height, you’re above a large majority of it,” says Andrew Antonio, director of marketing at World View, a Tucson, Arizona–based company that sends research and other high-altitude balloons into the space-like stratosphere, which he says offers an affordable environment for some space-related research.

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NASA to Advance Unique 3D Printed Sensor Technology

Technologist Mahmooda Sultana holds an early iteration of an autonomous multifunctional sensor platform, which could benefit all of NASA’s major scientific disciplines and efforts to send humans to the Moon and Mars. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

A NASA technologist is taking miniaturization to the extreme.

Mahmooda Sultana won funding to advance a potentially revolutionary, nanomaterial-based detector platform. The technology is capable of sensing everything from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature, and then transmitting that data via a wireless antenna — all from the same self-contained platform that measures just two-by-three-inches in size.

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NASA’s InSight Prepares to Take Mars’ Temperature

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has placed its second instrument on the Martian surface. New images confirm that the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, was successfully deployed on Feb. 12 about 3 feet (1 meter) from InSight’s seismometer, which the lander recently covered with a protective shield. HP3measures heat moving through Mars’ subsurface and can help scientists figure out how much energy it takes to build a rocky world.

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Collier Trophy Nominees Include Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, NASA MarsCO Project

The curvature of the Earth from SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON, DC (NAA PR)  – The National Aeronautic Association announced today that 11
aviation and space achievements will compete for the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy. For 107 years, the Collier Trophy has been the benchmark of aerospace achievement. Awarded annually “… for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America,” it has been bestowed upon some of the most important projects, programs, individuals, and accomplishments in history.

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Taking a Look Back at Opportunity’s Record-Setting Mission

The tracks of Opportunity on Mars. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

In this image from 2010, Opportunity used its navigation camera for this northward view of tracks the rover left on a drive from one energy-favorable position on a sand ripple to another. The rover team called this strategy “hopping from lily pad to lily pad.”

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.

Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit’s mission ended in 2011.

From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.

NASA’s Record-Setting Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End

The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust stormblanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

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Beyond Mars, the Mini MarCO Spacecraft Fall Silent

Mars as seen from the MarCO-B satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Before the pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft known collectively as MarCO launched last year, their success was measured by survival: If they were able to operate in deep space at all, they would be pushing the limits of experimental technology.

Now well past Mars, the daring twins seem to have reached their limit. It’s been over a month since engineers have heard from MarCO, which followed NASA’s InSight to the Red Planet. At this time, the mission team considers it unlikely they’ll be heard from again.

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InSight’s Seismometer Now Has a Cozy Shelter on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield on Feb. 2 (Sol 66). The shield covers InSight’s seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL_Caltech PR) — For the past several weeks, NASA’s InSight lander has been making adjustments to the seismometer it set on the Martian surface on Dec. 19. Now it’s reached another milestone by placing a domed shield over the seismometer to help the instrument collect accurate data. The seismometer will give scientists their first look at the deep interior of the Red Planet, helping them understand how it and other rocky planets are formed.

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‘Mars Buggy’ Curiosity Measures a Mountain’s Gravity

Mount Sharp (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Apollo 17 astronauts drove a moon buggy across the lunar surface in 1972, measuring gravity with a special instrument. There are no astronauts on Mars, but a group of clever researchers realized they have just the tools for similar experiments with the Martian buggy they’re operating.

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