NASA’s Perseverance Rover Bringing 3D-Printed Metal Parts to Mars

This video clip shows a 3D printing technique where a printer head scans over each layer of a part, blowing metal powder which is melted by a laser. It’s one of several ways parts are 3D printed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but was not used to create the parts aboard the Perseverance rover.

For hobbyists and makers, 3D printing expands creative possibilities; for specialized engineers, it’s also key to next-generation spacecraft design.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — If you want to see science fiction at work, visit a modern machine shop, where 3D printers create materials in just about any shape you can imagine. NASA is exploring the technique – known as additive manufacturing when used by specialized engineers – to build rocket engines as well as potential  outposts on the Moon and Mars. Nearer in the future is a different milestone: NASA’s  Perseverance rover, which lands on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, carries 11 metal parts made with 3D printing.

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This Transforming Rover Can Explore the Toughest Terrain

The DuAxel rover is seen here participating in field tests in the Mojave Desert. The four-wheeled rover is composed of two Axel robots. One part anchors itself in place while the other uses a tether to explore otherwise inaccessible terrain. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J.D. Gammell)

Made of a pair of two-wheeled vehicles, NASA’s DuAxel is designed to descend crater sides and near-vertical cliffs on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A rover trundles over rocky terrain, its four metal wheels clattering along until they encounter a seemingly insurmountable hazard: a steep slope. Down below is a potential trove of science targets. With a typical rover, the operators would need to find another target, but this is DuAxel, a robot built for situations exactly like this.

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NASA InSight’s ‘Mole’ Is Out of Sight

NASA’s InSight retracted its robotic arm on Oct. 3, 2020, revealing where the spike-like “mole” is trying to burrow into Mars. The copper-colored ribbon attached to the mole has sensors to measure the planet’s heat flow. In the coming months, the arm will scrape and tamp down soil on top of the mole to help it dig. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Now that the heat probe is just below the Martian surface, InSight’s arm will scoop some additional soil on top to help it keep digging so it can take Mars’ temperature.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander continues working to get its “mole” – a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) pile driver and heat probe – deep below the surface of Mars. A camera on InSight’s arm recently took images of the now partially filled-in “mole hole,” showing only the device’s science tether protruding from the ground.

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HeroX Helps NASA Advance Lunar Exploration with a Miniaturized Payload Prototype Challenge

Credit: HeroX

Crowdsourcing Competition Enters Second Phase with NASA Seeking Prototype Payloads, Offering $800K in Total Development Funds & Prizes

HOUSTON, October 15, 2020 (HeroX PR) — HeroX , the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Honey I Built the NASA Payload, The
Sequel” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The challenge seeks to develop miniature payload prototypes that can be sent to the Moon to help fill gaps in lunar knowledge. Lunar resources are potentially abounding, and these prototypes can also help discover some of these key resources scientists think might be on the Moon.

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A “Flight” Over Jupiter

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — This video uses images from NASA’s Juno mission to recreate what it might have looked like to ride along with the Juno spacecraft as it performed its 27th close flyby of Jupiter on June 2, 2020.

During the closest approach of this pass, the Juno spacecraft came within approximately 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) of Jupiter’s cloud tops. At that point, Jupiter’s powerful gravity accelerated the spacecraft to tremendous speed – about 130,000 mph (209,000 kilometers per hour) relative to the planet.

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created the video using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam instrument. The sequence combines 41 JunoCam still images digitally projected onto a sphere, with a virtual “camera” providing views of Jupiter from different angles as the spacecraft speeds by.

The original JunoCam images were taken on June 2, 2020, between 2:47 a.m. PDT (5:47 a.m. EDT) and 4:25 a.m. PDT (7:25 a.m. EDT).

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. More information about NASA citizen science can be found at  https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience and https://www.nasa.gov/solve/opportunities/citizenscience.

More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and  https://missionjuno.swri.edu.

Image credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY
Music by Vangelis

General Atomics Receives Contract Extension for NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock Mission

A glimpse of the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the middle bay of the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

SAN DIEGO, CA, (Oct. 6, 2020) — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it has received a contract extension for a second year of operations of their Orbital Test Bed (OTB) spacecraft supporting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Deep Space  Atomic Clock (DSAC) mission. GA-EMS will continue to provide operations support services from GA-EMS’ spacecraft development and mission operations facilities in Colorado through August 2021. 

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NASA’s New Mars Rover Is Ready for Space Lasers

Visible both in the inset photograph on the upper left and near the center of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover in this illustration is the palm-size dome called the Laser Retroreflector Array (LaRA). In the distant future, laser-equipped Mars orbiters could use such a reflector for scientific studies. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Perseverance is one of a few Mars spacecraft carrying laser retroreflectors. The devices could provide new science and safer Mars landings in the future.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they brought devices with them called retroreflectors, which are essentially small arrays of mirrors. The plan was for scientists on Earth to aim lasers at them and calculate the time it took for the beams to return. This provided exceptionally precise measurements of the Moon’s orbit and shape, including how it changed slightly based on Earth’s gravitational pull.

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MethaneSAT Completes Critical Design Review, Moves into Production Phase

MethaneSAT (Credit: EDF)

Sensors and spacecraft exceed mission performance goals; flow of precision measurements will open up new opportunities to track and reduce potent greenhouse emissions

SAN FRANCISCO (EDF PR) –MethaneSAT has reached an important new milestone with completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) phase for both the mission’s remote sensing instrument and the spacecraft platform “bus” that will provide power and maneuvering, and transmit the vast stream of data from the high resolution sensors to ground stations. Completion of the CDR means that MethaneSAT is now entering the production stage with a design that exceeds anticipated capabilities.

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First Mode Secures $1.8M Contract to Deliver Hardware for Use on NASA Psyche Spacecraft’s Journey to the Asteroid Belt

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

SEATTLE, September 9, 2020 (First Mode PR) — First Mode, a design, engineering, and technology development firm, today announced it has been awarded a subcontract from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build flight hardware for use on the NASA Psyche spacecraft. The firm-fixed price subcontract has a value of approximately $1.8 million and is expected to last through June 2021.

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Primary Mirror for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope Completed

The Roman Space Telescope’s primary mirror reflects an American flag. Its surface is figured to a level hundreds of times finer than a typical household mirror. (Credits: L3Harris Technologies)

By Ashley Balzer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope’s primary mirror, which will collect and focus light from cosmic objects near and far, has been completed. Using this mirror, Roman will capture stunning space vistas with a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble images.

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New Gears Can Withstand Impact, Freezing Temperatures During Lunar Missions

Andrew Kennett (left) watches as Dominic Aldi (right) uses liquid nitrogen to cool a motor integrated bulk metallic glass gearbox prior to shock testing it. The motor and gearbox are inside the frosty metal “bucket” that contains the liquid nitrogen. The tooling, including the “bucket” is designed to be mounted both vertically (shown) and horizontally on the cube for testing the motor and gearbox in three orientations. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Many exploration destinations in our solar system are frigid and require hardware that can withstand the extreme cold. During NASA’s Artemis missions, temperatures at the Moon’s South Pole will drop drastically during the lunar night. Farther into the solar system, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, temperatures never rise above -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-162 degrees Celsius) at the equator.

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The Moon Is Rusting, and Researchers Want to Know Why

The Moon as viewed by NASA’s Mariner 10 in 1973, well before research would find signs of rust on the airless surface. (Credits: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University)

While our Moon is airless, research indicates the presence of hematite, a form of rust that normally requires oxygen and water. That has scientists puzzled.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mars has long been known for its rust. Iron on its surface, combined with water and oxygen from the ancient past, give the Red Planet its hue. But scientists were recently surprised to find evidence that our airless Moon has rust on it as well.

A new paper in Science Advances reviews data from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, which  discovered water ice and mapped out a variety of minerals while surveying the Moon’s surface in 2008.

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Brazilian Partnership to Begin Producing NASA-Designed COVID-19 Ventilator

This image shows the ventilator prototype for coronavirus disease patients designed and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency has approved the commercial manufacture of VITAL, a breathing device designed specifically to address the needs of coronavirus patients.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In late April, NASA announced the development of Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL), a ventilator prototype designed specifically to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, 28 manufacturers around the world have been licensed to make the device. Now one of those licensees is preparing to begin production in Brazil.

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SDL to Provide SmallSat Constellation for NASA Solar Mission

NORTH LOGAN, Utah, August 21, 2020 — The Space Dynamics Laboratory announced today that it has been awarded a contract by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build six spacecraft for NASA’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment mission, known as SunRISE. The contract value was not disclosed.

SunRISE is led by principal investigator Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and managed by JPL in Pasadena, California. It is scheduled to launch as a hosted rideshare with a commercial satellite in 2023.

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Unveiling Rogue Planets With NASA’s Roman Space Telescope

High-resolution illustration of the Roman spacecraft against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Ashley Balzer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — New simulations show that NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be able to reveal myriad rogue planets – freely floating bodies that drift through our galaxy untethered to a star. Studying these island worlds will help us understand more about how planetary systems form, evolve, and break apart.

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