“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”
Posts tagged NASA
Earth as seen from the Moon during the total eclipse on 21 August 2017. The shadow of the Moon is centered over Hopkinsville, Kentucky (18:25:30.386 UTC or 1:25:30 pm Central Daylight Time in Kentucky; E1257979198R, NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).
Large area WAC mosaic illustrating reflectance differences due to 30° change in view angle from the center of a WAC frame to each edge (no photometric correction). Mosaic composed of ~30 WAC orbital image strips [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
A huge payoff from the longevity of the LRO mission is the repeat coverage obtained by the LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC). The WAC has a very wide field-of-view (FOV), 90° in monochrome mode and 60° in multispectral mode, hence its name. On the one hand, the wide FOV enables orbit-to-orbit stereo, which allowed LROC team members at the DLR to create the unprecedented 100 meter scale near-global (0° to 360° longitude and 80°S to 80°N latitude) topographic map of the Moon (the GLD100)!
Seven Worlds for TRAPPIST-1
Seven worlds orbit the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, a mere 40 light-years away. In May 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) announced the discovery of three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Just announced, additional confirmations and discoveries by the Spitzer Space Telescope and supporting ESO ground-based telescopes have increased the number of known planets to seven. The TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely all rocky and similar in size to Earth, the largest treasure trove of terrestrial planets ever detected around a single star. Because they orbit very close to their faint, tiny star they could also have regions where surface temperatures allow for the presence of liquid water, a key ingredient for life. Their tantalizing proximity to Earth makes them prime candidates for future telescopic explorations of the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets. All seven worlds appear in this artist’s illustration, an imagined view from a fictionally powerful telescope near planet Earth. Planet sizes and relative positions are drawn to scale for the Spitzer observations. The system’s inner planets are transiting their dim, red, nearly Jupiter-sized parent star.
As humanity continues to excel in going beyond human abilities through technology, the victory comes with a price: American photographer Roland Miller travels to abandoned places once found useful by the space exploration organization NASA and the U.S. Army and collects their remnants as memories.
There was a time when even NASA didn’t know if humans could eat in the microgravity environment of space. Thankfully for the future of long-term crewed missions, John Glenn proved that it was indeed possible when he ate applesauce from an aluminum tube while orbiting the Earth in 1962.
Since then, the research conducted at our Space Food Systems Laboratory at Johnson Space Center has resulted in improved taste, variety and packaging of foods intended for space travel. Current-day astronauts are now given a standard menu of over 200 approved food and drink items months before launch, allowing them to plan their daily meals far in advance.
So, with such a variety of foods to choose from, what does the typical astronaut eat in a day? Here is an example from the International Space Station standard menu:
Sounds tasty, right?
However, these are only suggestions for astronauts, so they still have some choice over what they ultimately eat. Many astronauts, including Tim Kopra, combine different ingredients for meals.
Others plan to eat special foods for the holidays. Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren did just that on Thanksgiving last year when they ate smoked turkey, candied yams, corn and potatoes au gratin.
Another key factor that influences what astronauts eat is the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are delivered via resupply spacecrafts. When these foods arrive to the space station, they must be eaten quickly before they spoil. Astronaut Tim Peake doesn’t seem to mind.
Nutrition is important to help counteract some of the effects spaceflight have on the body, such as bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular degradation, impairment of immune function, neurovestibular changes and vision changes.
“Nutrition is vital to the mission,” Scott M. Smith, Ph.D., manager for NASA’s Nutritional Biochemistry Lab said. “Without proper nutrition for the astronauts, the mission will fail. It’s that simple.”
We work hard to help astronauts feel less homesick by providing them with food that not only reminds them of life back on Earth, but is also nutritious and healthy.
Here are some unusual space food inventions that are no longer in use:
- Gelatin-coated sandwich and cookie cubes
- Compressed bacon squares
- Freeze dried ice cream
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10 Images to Celebrate the Historic Exploration of the Pluto System
One year ago, our New Horizons mission made history by exploring Pluto and its moons – giving humankind our first close-up look at this fascinating world on the frontier of our solar system.
Since those amazing days in July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft has transmitted numerous images and many other kinds of data home for scientists and the public alike to study, analyze, and just plain love. From Pluto’s iconic “heart” and sweeping ice-mountain vistas to its flowing glaciers and dramatic blue skies, it’s hard to pick just one favorite picture. So the mission team has picked 10 – and in no special order, placed them here.
Click the titles for more information about each image. You’ve seen nine of them before, and the team added a 10th favorite, also sure to become one of New Horizons’ “greatest hits.”
In the northern region of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum, swirl-shaped patterns of light and dark suggest that a surface layer of exotic ices has flowed around obstacles and into depressions, much like glaciers on Earth.
This dramatic image from our New Horizons spacecraft shows the dark, rugged highlands known as Krun Macula (lower right), which border a section of Pluto’s icy plains.
Pluto’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan.
At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. Many New Horizons scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they’re finding a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more.
Our New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere.
The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial red terrain. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale.
A moment’s study reveals surface features that appear to be texturally ‘snakeskin’-like, owing to their north-south oriented scaly raised relief. A digital elevation model created by the New Horizons’ geology shows that these bladed structures have typical relief of about 550 yards (500 meters). Their relative spacing of about 3-5 kilometers makes them some of the steepest features seen on Pluto.
This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless—possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.
One of Pluto’s most identifiable features, Cthulhu (pronounced kuh-THU-lu) stretches nearly halfway around Pluto’s equator, starting from the west of the great nitrogen ice plains known as Sputnik Planum. Measuring approximately 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) long and 450 miles (750 kilometers) wide, Cthulhu is a bit larger than the state of Alaska.
Colorful Composition Maps of Pluto
The powerful instruments on New Horizons not only gave scientists insight on what Pluto looked like, their data also confirmed (or, in many cases, dispelled) their ideas of what Pluto was made of. These compositional maps – assembled using data from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) component of the Ralph instrument – indicate the regions rich in ices of methane (CH4), nitrogen (N2) and carbon monoxide (CO), and, of course, water ice (H2O).
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Scientists have long known that Jupiter is noisy: The planet produces intense radio storms powered by interactions between the planet and its moons, not to mention the wild gases at play on the planet itself. But they didn’t realize that Juno’s entry into Jupiter’s orbit would produce such complex data. “While this transition from the solar wind into the magnetosphere was predicted to occur at some point in time,” the agency writes in the blog post, “the structure of the boundary between those two regions proved to be unexpectedly complex, with different instruments reporting unusual signatures both before and after the nominal crossing.”
A NASA-led team of scientists has developed the first-ever method for detecting the presence of different types of underground forest fungi from space, information that may help researchers predict how climate change will alter forest habitats.
Image from a simulation of two black holes merging and the resulting emission of gravitational radiation, published by NASA in 2012.
“EPIC maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates, providing scientific observations of ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols in the atmosphere. Once EPIC begins regular observations next month, the camera will provide a series of Earth images allowing study of daily variations over the entire globe. About twice a year the camera will capture the moon and Earth together as the orbit of DSCOVR crosses the orbital plane of the moon.”
The Nonhuman Autonomous Space Agency
This is the first image ever taken from the surface of Mars of an overcast sky. Featured are stratus clouds coming from the northeast at about 15 miles per hour (6.7 meters/second) at an approximate height of ten miles (16 kilometers) above the surface. The “you are here” notation marks where Earth was situated in the sky at the time the image was taken. Scientists had hoped to see Earth in this image, but the cloudy conditions prevented a clear viewing. Similar images will be taken in the future with the hope of capturing a view of Earth. From Mars, Earth would appear as a tiny blue dot similar to how a star would appear to an earthbound observer. Pathfinders’ imaging system will not be able to resolve Earths’ moon. The clouds consist of water ice condensed on reddish dust particles suspended in the atmosphere. Clouds on Mars are sometimes localized and can sometimes cover entire regions, but have not yet been observed to cover the entire planet. The image was taken about an hour and forty minutes before sunrise by the Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) on Sol 16 at about ten degrees up from the eastern Martian horizon. (via http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/MPF/science/clouds.html )
A trip to Mars, with its invisible technology and vast, unprecedented distance from home, could estrange or alienate a crew to an unprecedented degree. Such a distance could produce an entirely new kind of boredom, impossible to imagine on Earth.
The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, a group of NASA scientists, contractors, students and volunteers, is finally bringing to life an idea that has been discussed and debated for decades. They will try to grow arabidopsis, basil, sunflowers, and turnips in coffee-can-sized aluminum cylinders that will serve as plant habitats. But these are no ordinary containers – they’re packed to the brim with cameras, sensors, and electronics that will allow the team to receive image broadcasts of the plants as they grow. These habitats will have to be able to successfully regulate their own temperature, water intake, and power supply in order to brave the harsh lunar climate.
Ambient noise of the International Space Station
That’s the sort of hard-headedness that I used to love about NASA - the idea that humans, if they just kept plugging away, could figure stuff out - and that other humans - astronauts and test pilots - would stake their very lives on it. Not this hand-wringing by deniers that argue we can’t figure anything out, we can’t afford to do anything, it’s all a vast hoax, and we shouldn’t try. A far cry from the can-do of NASA. How could guys that once put their very lives in the hands of science be so dumb about it as they get old?