vendredi 27 mai 2016

Falcon 9 successfully delivered THAICOM 8 to a Super Synchronous Transfer Orbit

SpaceX - Falcon 9 / THAICOM 8 patch

May 27, 2016

Falcon 9 / THAICOM 8 launch

Falcon 9 successfully delivered THAICOM 8 to a Super Synchronous Transfer Orbit, with a high orbit of 91,000km, and the first stage landed on our Of Course I Still Love You droneship in the Atlantic.

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Launch & Landing of 25th SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket with Thaicom 8

SpaceX have successfully launched the 25th Falcon 9 rocket since the inaugural flight in 2010 at 21:39 UTC, 17:39 Local time May 27th 2016 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida carrying the Thaicom 8 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 First Stage for Thaicom 8 Lands Successfully

SpaceX have successfully landed their 4th Falcon 9 first stage, the 3rd to land on the ocean barge out in the Atlantic ocean.

THAICOM 8 satellite

This first stage launched the Thaicom 8 communications satellite into orbit on the 25th launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9.

For more information about SpaceX, visit: http://www.spacex.com/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Günter Space Page.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Looks at Winds in Developing Tropical Cyclone


















NASA - ISS-RapidScat Mission logo / NOAA & NASA - GOES Mission logo.

May 27, 2016

91L - North Atlantic Ocean

The low pressure area located between Bermuda and the Bahamas, designated as System 91L became a little better defined today. NASA's RapidScat analyzed the system's winds, and NOAA's GOES-East satellite provided a visible look at the developing system.


Graphic above: On May 26 at 0100 UTC RapidScat saw strongest sustained surface winds northeast of the center in System 91L, the developing tropical cyclone, at a rate near 21 meters per second (46.9 mph/75.6 kph). Image Credits: NASA JPL/ Doug Tyler.

RapidScat is a scatterometer instrument that flies aboard the International Space Station. It measures surface wind speeds and direction over open waters of oceans. On May 26 at 0100 UTC  (May 25 at 9 p.m. EDT) RapidScat saw strongest sustained surface winds northeast of the center in System 91L, the developing tropical cyclone, at a rate near 21 meters per second (46.9 mph/75.6 kph). Images from RapidScat data are made into images at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California where the mission is managed.


Animation above: A video camera on the International Space Station captured this view of the the ISS-Rapid Scatterometer, or RapidScat. Animation Credit: NASA.

At 7:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 27, 2016, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted that the shower activity was showing signs of organization, and the circulation had become a little better defined overnight. NHC noted "Environmental conditions are generally conducive for a tropical or subtropical cyclone to form later today or Saturday while this system moves west-northwestward to northwestward toward the southeastern United States coast.


Image above: NOAA's GOES-East satellite captured this daytime view of developing System 91L between the Bahamas and Bermuda on Friday, May 27 at 1430 UTC (10:30 a.m. EDT). Image Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

NOAA's GOES-East satellite captured a daytime (visible) view of developing System 91L between the Bahamas and Bermuda on Friday, May 27 at 1430 UTC (10:30 a.m. EDT). The image showed the circulation of the low with thunderstorms wrapping around from the northern to the southeastern quadrant. NOAA manages the GOES-East satellite and the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland uses the satellite data to create images and animations.

 NOAA's GOES-East satellite. Image Credits: NOAA/NASA

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the NHC cautioned that all interests along the southeast coast from Georgia through North Carolina should monitor the progress of this low pressure area.

NHC noted that System 91L has a high chance, 90 percent, of becoming a tropical depression. When it does it would be designated Tropical Depression 2, since the first depression of the season actually formed in January and grew into Hurricane Alex. If System 91L strengthens enough to become a tropical storm, it would be named Bonnie.

For updated forecasts, visit: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov.

NASA - ISS-RapidScat: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/iss-rapidscat/

Images (mentioned), Graphic (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Rob Gutro.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Giant Tsunamis Battered the Coastlines of an Early Martian Ocean











NASA logo.

May 27, 2016

New NASA-funded research indicates that giant tsunamis played a fundamental role in forming Martian coastal terrain, removing much of the controversy that for decades shrouded the hypothesis that oceans existed early in Mars’ history.

“Imagine a huge wall of red water the size of a high-rise building moving towards you at the speed of a jetliner,” said J. Alexis P. Rodriguez, former NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and senior research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “That could be a fair way to picture it in your mind.”

It is now widely accepted by the Mars research community that approximately 3.4 billion years ago, an extremely cold and dry desert existed at the surface of Mars, while enormous subsurface aquifers overlain by ice-rich permafrost retained most of the water on the Red Planet. Researchers think that, at that time in the planet’s history, several large aquifers catastrophically ruptured, carving large outflow channels and flooding Mars’ northern plains to form an ocean. However, an apparent lack of definite shoreline features made this uncertain. This new research shows that the shorelines exist below the present surface and were modified and buried by two mega-tsunami events.


Image above: View of a boulder-rich surface deposited by the older tsunami. These were then eroded by channels produced as the tsunami water returned to the ocean elevation level (white arrow shows flow return direction). Yellow bars are 10 meters. Image Credits: Alexis Rodriguez.

“We were surprised to find that the older and younger tsunami deposits look so different,” said Rodriguez. “The older tsunami washed ashore and deposited enormous volumes of debris, and evidence for the water hurtling back into the ocean is represented in widespread ‘backwash.’”

Following the formation of the ocean, and in the absence of widespread river systems that could have refilled it, its coastline receded to a lower elevation. The research documents two mega-tsunami events – giant waves that may have formed as a result of impacts slamming into Mars’ ocean.

“We think that after the ocean shoreline receded to a lower elevation – which likely resulted during a period of extreme climatic cooling lasting several million years – the younger tsunami occurred with enormous waves freezing as it washed over the frozen Martian landscape. The waves froze rapidly, even before they had a chance to flow back into the ocean,” Rodriguez said.

A key implication of the study is that the tsunami deposits can be used to reconstruct the evolution of the Martian climate during the lifetime of the ocean, and the younger deposits likely contain ice remnants from the ancient ocean itself. From a bystander’s viewpoint, if Mars was also covered by red dust then, as it is today, the ocean might have looked red while the particles settled to the bottom.


Image above: Left: Color-coded digital elevation model of the study area showing the two proposed shoreline levels of an early Mars ocean that existed approximately 3.4 billion years ago. Right: Areas covered by the documented tsunami events extending from these shorelines. Image Credits: Alexis Rodriguez.

“The tsunami deposits likely contain rocks and sediments from the ocean floor that were picked up and transported landward by the enormous waves,” said Virginia Gulick, senior research scientist at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames, and a co-author on the paper. “Tsunami deposits are similar to flood deposits except that they are moving in the reverse – landward – direction.”

The researchers believe the ocean floor might have provided habitable environments, if the ocean persisted long enough. ”On Earth, tsunami deposits contain a significant mud or fine-grained component; on Mars, this finer-grained component could have preserved physical or chemical evidence of past microbial activity, if it existed,” said Gulick. “If there were habitable environments, then biosignatures also could have been preserved in the large boulders visible in the older flow deposits.”

The research was conducted using visible and thermal images, combined with digital topography from Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the Mars Global Surveyor. The research team was supported by the NASA Postdoctoral Program, NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, NASA’s MRO HiRISE and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Mars: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

Ames Research Center: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/home/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Darryl Waller.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Hubble Gets in on a Galactic Gathering












NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

May 27, 2016


Nearly as deep as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, this incredible image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of colorful galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). This vibrant view of the early universe was captured as part of the Frontier Fields campaign, which aims to investigate galaxy clusters in more detail than ever before, and to explore some of the most distant galaxies in the universe.

Galaxy clusters are massive. They can have a tremendous impact on their surroundings, with their immense gravity warping and amplifying the light from more distant objects. This phenomenon, known as gravitational lensing, can help astronomers to see galaxies that would otherwise be too faint, aiding our hunt for residents of the primordial universe.

MACS J1149.5+2223 is a galaxy cluster located approximately five billion light-years away. In 2012, it helped astronomers uncover one of the most distant galaxies ever discovered. Light from the young galaxy, magnified 15 times by the galaxy cluster, first shone when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was a mere 500 million years old — just 3.6 percent of its current age!

In 2014 and 2015, MACS J1149.5+2223 was observed as part of the Frontier Fields campaign. While one of Hubble’s cameras observed the galaxy cluster itself, another simultaneously captured the spectacular scene pictured above, of an “unremarkable” patch of space. Referred to as a parallel field, this image — when compared to other similar fields — will help astronomers understand how the universe looks in different directions.

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Hubble orbiting Earth

Related links:

Hubble Ultra Deep Field: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2014/27/

Frontier Fields campaign: http://frontierfields.org/

Related article:

NASA Telescopes Spy Ultra-Distant Galaxy Amidst Cosmic 'Dark Ages'
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2012/09/nasa-telescopes-spy-ultra-distant.html

For images and more information about Hubble Space Telescope, visit:

    https://www.spacetelescope.org/
    http://hubblesite.org/
    http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

Image, video,  credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt/Text credits: ESA/NASA/Rob Garner.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life












ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

27 May 2016

Ingredients regarded as crucial for the origin of life on Earth have been discovered at the comet that ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been probing for almost two years.

They include the amino acid glycine, which is commonly found in proteins, and phosphorus, a key component of DNA and cell membranes.

 Rosetta’s comet

Scientists have long debated the important possibility that water and organic molecules were brought by asteroids and comets to the young Earth after it cooled following its formation, providing some of the key building blocks for the emergence of life.

While some comets and asteroids are already known to have water with a composition like that of Earth’s oceans, Rosetta found a significant difference at its comet – fuelling the debate on their role in the origin of Earth’s water.

But new results reveal that comets nevertheless had the potential to deliver ingredients critical to establish life as we know it.

Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life

Amino acids are biologically important organic compounds containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, and form the basis of proteins.

Hints of the simplest amino acid, glycine, were found in samples returned to Earth in 2006 from Comet Wild-2 by NASA’s Stardust mission. However, possible terrestrial contamination of the dust samples made the analysis extremely difficult.

Now, Rosetta has made direct, repeated detections of glycine in the fuzzy atmosphere or ‘coma’ of its comet.

“This is the first unambiguous detection of glycine at a comet,” says Kathrin Altwegg, principal investigator of the ROSINA instrument that made the measurements, and lead author of the paper published in Science Advances today.

“At the same time, we also detected certain other organic molecules that can be precursors to glycine, hinting at the possible ways in which it may have formed.”

The measurements were made before the comet reached its closest point to the Sun – perihelion – in August 2015 in its 6.5 year orbit.

The first detection was made in October 2014 while Rosetta was just 10 km from the comet. The next occasion was during a flyby in March 2015, when it was 30–15 km from the nucleus.

Glycine was also seen on other occasions associated with outbursts from the comet in the month leading up to perihelion, when Rosetta was more than 200 km from the nucleus but surrounded by a lot of dust.

“We see a strong link between glycine and dust, suggesting that it is probably released perhaps with other volatiles from the icy mantles of the dust grains once they have warmed up in the coma,” says Kathrin.

Glycine turns into gas only when it reaches temperatures just below 150°C, meaning that usually little is released from the comet’s surface or subsurface because of the low temperatures. This accounts for the fact that Rosetta does not always detect it.

Rosetta and Comet 67P artwork

“Glycine is the only amino acid that is known to be able to form without liquid water, and the fact we see it with the precursor molecules and dust suggests it is formed within interstellar icy dust grains or by the ultraviolet irradiation of ice, before becoming bound up and conserved in the comet for billions of years,” adds Kathrin.

Another exciting detection made by Rosetta and described in the paper is of phosphorus, a key element in all known living organisms. For example, it is found in the structural framework of DNA and in cell membranes, and it is used in transporting chemical energy within cells for metabolism.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the chemistry on early Earth and there is of course a huge evolutionary gap to fill between the delivery of these ingredients via cometary impacts and life taking hold,” says co-author Hervé Cottin.

“But the important point is that comets have not really changed in 4.5 billion years: they grant us direct access to some of the ingredients that likely ended up in the prebiotic soup that eventually resulted in the origin of life on Earth.”

“The multitude of organic molecules already identified by Rosetta, now joined by the exciting confirmation of fundamental ingredients like glycine and phosphorous, confirms our idea that comets have the potential to deliver key molecules for prebiotic chemistry,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

“Demonstrating that comets are reservoirs of primitive material in the Solar System and vessels that could have transported these vital ingredients to Earth, is one of the key goals of the Rosetta mission, and we are delighted with this result.”

Notes for Editors:

“Prebiotic chemicals – amino acid and phosphorus – in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko”, by K. Altwegg et al is published in the journal Science Advances: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/5/e1600285

Related links:

Comet viewer tool: http://sci.esa.int/comet-viewer/

Where is Rosetta?: http://sci.esa.int/where_is_rosetta/

For more information about Rosetta mission, visit: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

Rosetta overview: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta_overview

Rosetta in depth: http://sci.esa.int/rosetta

Text, Credits: ESA/Markus Bauer/Matt Taylor/University of Bern/Kathrin Altwegg/Université Paris Est Créteil et Université Paris Diderot, UMR 7583 CNRS, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace/Hervé Cottin. Images: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0; data: Altwegg et al. (2016).

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Crosses Jupiter/Sun Gravitational Boundary












NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

May 27, 2016

Since its launch five years ago, there have been three forces tugging at NASA's Juno spacecraft as it speeds through the solar system. The sun, Earth and Jupiter have all been influential -- a gravitational trifecta of sorts. At times, Earth was close enough to be the frontrunner. More recently, the sun has had the most clout when it comes to Juno's trajectory. Today, it can be reported that Jupiter is now in the gravitational driver's seat, and the basketball court-sized spacecraft is not looking back.

"Today the gravitational influence of Jupiter is neck and neck with that of the sun," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "As of tomorrow, and for the rest of the mission, we project Jupiter's gravity will dominate as the trajectory-perturbing effects by other celestial bodies are reduced to insignificant roles."


Image above: This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Juno was launched on Aug. 5, 2011. On July 4 of this year, it will perform a Jupiter orbit insertion maneuver -- a 35-minute burn of its main engine, which will impart a mean change in velocity of 1,212 mph (542 meters per second) on the spacecraft. Once in orbit, the spacecraft will circle the Jovian world 37 times, skimming to within 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops. During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The mythical god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife -- the goddess Juno -- was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Juno visit these sites:

http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/DC Agle.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

New Horizons' Best Close-Up of Pluto's Surface












NASA - New Horizons Mission logo.

May 27, 2016

Image right: This mosaic strip – extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 – now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. (click on the image to zoom in for maximum detail). Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

This is the most detailed view of Pluto’s terrain you’ll see for a very long time. This mosaic strip – extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 – now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. (Be sure to zoom in for maximum detail.) With a resolution of about 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel, the mosaic affords New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain on Pluto, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them. 

 “This new image product is just magnetic,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “It makes me want to go back on another mission to Pluto and get high-resolution images like these across the entire surface.”

The view extends from the “limb” of Pluto at the top of the strip, almost to the “terminator” (or day/night line) in the southeast of the encounter hemisphere, seen below. The width of the strip ranges from more than 55 miles (90 kilometers) at its northern end to about 45 miles (75 kilometers) at its southern point. The perspective changes greatly along the strip: at its northern end, the view looks out horizontally across the surface, while at its southern end, the view looks straight down onto the surface.

video
New Horizons' Extreme Close-Up of Pluto’s Surface (no audio)

Video above: This mosaic strip – extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 – now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. Note: video is silent/no audio. Video Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

This movie moves down the mosaic from top to bottom, offering new views of many of Pluto’s distinct landscapes along the way. Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of “washboard” terrain, chaotic and angular mountain ranges, cellular plains, coarsely “pitted” areas of sublimating nitrogen ice, zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below, and dark mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits.

The pictures in the mosaic were obtained by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) approximately 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach.

For more information about New Horizons, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 26 mai 2016

NASA’s SDO Peers Into Huge Coronal Hole












NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

May 26, 2016

This imagery of the sun captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory from May 17-19, 2016, shows a giant dark area on the star's upper half, known as a coronal hole. Coronal holes are low-density regions of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona. Because they contain little solar material, they have lower temperatures and thus appear much darker than their surroundings. Coronal holes are visible in certain types of extreme ultraviolet light, which is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in purple for easy viewing.

Animation Credits: NASA/SDO

These coronal holes are important to understanding the space environment around Earth through which our technology and astronauts travel. Coronal holes are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere. While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, without looping back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere.

For more information about Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html

Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center/Karen C. Fox and Steele Hill.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Radar Finds Ice Age Record in Mars' Polar Cap












NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

May 26, 2016

Scientists using radar data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found a record of the most recent Martian ice age recorded in the planet's north polar ice cap.

The new results agree with previous models that indicate a glacial period ended about 400,000 years ago, as well as predictions about how much ice would have been accumulated at the poles since then.


Image above:Climatic cycles of ice and dust build the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year, and periodically whittle down their size when the climate changes. This image is a simulated 3-D perspective view, created from image data taken by the THEMIS instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk.

The results, published in the May 27 issue of the journal Science, help refine models of the Red Planet's past and future climate by allowing scientists to determine how ice moves between the poles and mid-latitudes, and in what volumes.

Mars has bright polar caps of ice that are easily visible from telescopes on Earth. A seasonal cover of carbon-dioxide ice and snow is observed to advance and retreat over the poles during the Martian year. During summertime in the planet's north, the remaining northern polar cap is all water ice; the southern cap is water ice as well, but remains covered by a relatively thin layer of carbon dioxide ice even in southern summertime.

But Mars also undergoes variations in its tilt and the shape of its orbit over hundreds of thousands of years. These changes cause substantial shifts in the planet's climate, including ice ages. Earth has similar, but less variable, phases called Milankovitch cycles.

Scientists use data from MRO's Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARAD) to produce images called radargrams that are like vertical slices though the layers of ice and dust that comprise the Martian polar ice deposits. For the new study, researchers analyzed hundreds of such images to look for variations in the layer properties.


Image above: By analyzing radar images like the one at top of this montage, scientists discovered evidence for a past ice age in the northern polar ice cap of Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sapienza University of Rome.

The researchers identified a boundary in the ice that extends across the entire north polar cap. Above the boundary, the layers accumulated very quickly and uniformly, compared with the layers below them.

"The layers in the upper few hundred meters display features that indicate a period of erosion, followed by a period of rapid accumulation that is still occurring today," said planetary scientist Isaac Smith, the study's lead author. Smith led the work while at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, but is now at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

On Earth, ice ages take hold when the polar regions and high latitudes become cooler than average for thousands of years, causing glaciers to grow toward the mid-latitudes. In contrast, the Martian variety occurs when -- as a result of the planet's increased tilt -- its poles become warmer than lower latitudes. During these periods, the polar caps retreat and water vapor migrates toward the equator, forming ground ice and glaciers at mid-latitudes. As the warm polar period ends, polar ice begins accumulating again, while ice is lost from mid-latitudes. This retreat and regrowth of polar ice is exactly what Smith and colleagues see in the record revealed by the SHARAD radar images.

An increase in polar ice following a mid-latitude ice age is also expected from climate models that show how ice moves around based on Mars' orbital properties, especially its tilt. These models predict the last Martian ice age ended about 400,000 years ago, as the poles began to cool relative to the equator. Models suggest that since then, the polar deposits would have thickened by about 980 feet (300 meters).

The upper unit identified by Smith and colleagues reaches a maximum thickness of 1,050 feet (320 meters) across the polar cap, which is equivalent to a 2-foot-thick (60-centimeter-thick) global layer of ice. That is essentially the same as model predictions made by other researchers in 2003 and 2007.

"This suggests that we have indeed identified the record of the most recent Martian glacial period and the regrowth of the polar ice since then. Using these measurements, we can improve our understanding of how much water is moving between the poles and other latitudes, helping to improve our understanding of the Martian climate," Smith said.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

After 10 years in orbit, Mars Reconnaissance and its six science instruments are still in excellent shape. "The longevity of the mission has enabled more thorough and improved radar coverage of the Martian poles," said Richard Zurek, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Our long life in orbit and powerful 3-D analysis tools are allowing scientists to unravel Mars' past climate history."

The Italian Space Agency provided the SHARAD instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Sapienza University of Rome leads its operations. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the orbiter and supports its operations.

For more information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Guy Webster, Written by Preston Dyches.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 25 mai 2016

NASA Scientists Explain the Art of Creating Digital Hurricanes











NASA logo.

May 25, 2016

Every day, scientists at NASA work on creating better hurricanes – on a computer screen. At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a team of scientists spends its days incorporating millions of atmospheric observations, sophisticated graphic tools and lines of computer code to create computer models simulating the weather and climate conditions responsible for hurricanes. Scientists use these models to study the complex environment and structure of tropical storms and hurricanes.

Getting the simulations right has huge societal implications, which is why one Goddard scientist chose this line of work.


Image above: NASA tropical meteorologists Oreste Reale and Marangelly Fuentes pose with a hyperwall display of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office's simulation of a hurricane. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Deb McCallum.

“Freshwater floods, often caused by hurricanes, are the number one cause of death by natural disasters in the world, even above earthquakes and volcanoes,” tropical meteorologist Oreste Reale with Goddard’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) said. “Seeing how the research we do could have an impact on these things is very rewarding.”

Improved models can lead to better prediction and warning for these natural disasters, mitigating loss of life and property.

Getting to the point of being able to accurately study hurricanes using computer models, however, is not easy. Because hurricanes are such complex storm systems, capturing their full nature in detail using a computer simulation is far from simple.

“We need to add complexity all the time and nobody here is afraid of doing that,” Reale said. “You don’t want a simple solution. If it’s simple, chances are it’s not true.”

Adding complexity can include updating the models, incorporating data from new satellites, replacing old satellites and more.

video
Hurricane Forecasts Rely on Modeling the Past

Video above: Improving hurricane forecasts means testing historical storms with today's sophisticated models and supercomputers. NASA and NOAA work together in gathering ground and satellite observations, as well as experimenting with research forecast models. As a result of this collaboration, model resolution has increased, and scientists are discovering more about the processes that occur within these powerful storms. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is a joint NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission that measures all forms of precipitation around the globe. GPM's Microwave Imager, or GMI, has proven useful in seeing beneath the swirling clouds and into the structure of tropical cyclones. The information gathered by GPM and other missions will be used to improve forecast models. Music: Chris White, "Afterglow". Video Credits: NASA Goddard/Ryan Fitzgibbons.

 Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core satellite. Image Credits: NASA/JAXA

Reale and his colleague, Goddard tropical meteorologist Marangelly Fuentes, have more than 25 years’ combined experience looking at modeled storms. In fact, Fuentes was Reale’s student intern while she was earning her doctorate degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. They belong to a team in the GMAO whose goal is to assess whether new data types are used efficiently in computer models, and to ensure that changes and updates improve the performance of models and their data assimilation systems compared to previous versions. Data assimilation refers to the process through which data or observations are incorporated into an existing model.

“Mostly I look at tropical forecasting and the analysis of tropical cyclones in the models, so we monitor how the different models are performing with tropical storms,” Fuentes said.

This includes comparing the performance of GMAO’s weather and climate models with others in the U.S. and around the world. Fuentes looks at current versions of the GMAO model and compares them with newer, updated versions in development. By comparing the results of newer simulations on past, well-known storms, she can verify if the updated model version will be more effective at predicting the track and intensity of future storms.

“We are able to use cases like Hurricane Katrina to run tests and show us how we can improve, or how this new change affected the forecast or the analysis of the storm system,” Fuentes said.

The closer the results are to the actual behavior of the storm, the more accurate the model.

Fuentes has worked extensively on the intensity prediction of Hurricane Katrina. Weather models in 2005 – the year Katrina struck the Gulf Coast with devastating results – predicted that the storm’s pressure would reach as low as 955 millibars, significantly underestimating how low Katrina’s atmospheric pressure would get, and therefore the storm’s intensity. Observed data show that pressure in Hurricane Katrina’s eye reached a minimum of 902 millibars, one of the 10 lowest pressure readings on record for an Atlantic hurricane. The most modern model produced by the GMAO, which Fuentes has been analyzing, can produce a model of Katrina’s pressure much closer to the actual observed levels from 2005.

Changes to these predictions are caused by improvements in data assimilation and model resolution, made possible by increased computer processing power. Improving the resolution of the model works similarly to increasing the resolution of a photo. The more pixels, or dots of color, in a square inch of a photo, the higher the resolution. High-resolution photos appear sharper and capture more detail than their low-resolution counterparts. Likewise, higher-resolution models produce more detailed simulations of hurricanes, giving researchers a better understanding of their behavior.

"In the model we basically transform Earth’s atmosphere into little 'cubes' and in each cube the fundamental equations controlling motion, energy and continuity of the atmosphere are solved," Reale said. "The smaller the size of the cube, the more realistic the representation of the atmosphere."

Reale said that high model resolution is a critical factor in capturing hurricanes accurately. Luckily, there has been much improvement to model resolution in the past 10 years.

In 2005, the record year of 27 named tropical storms or hurricanes in the Atlantic, the size of the “cubes” in GMAO’s model was about 31 miles (50 km). Today, the resolution is three to four times higher at about 8 miles (12.5 km), giving scientists a much clearer and more detailed look at the state of the atmosphere.

Of course, Reale said, there’s still work to be done. "There's no such thing as perfect in research and science, but there is certainly a big improvement for the intensity that contemporary models could predict if they had to face a situation like that again," he said.

Reale believes this is the team to do it. “I feel that I’m part of an organization that is extremely successful in facing many different aspects of science,” he said. “There are people from all over the world, and I’m sure that whatever question or issue I may have, there’s someone who knows the answer in this building. I can tap into the knowledge and experience of so many people.”

Fuentes and Reale are part of the GMAO, which consists of more than 150 people, all working on different aspects of the Earth-atmosphere-ocean-ice system. NASA collaborates closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that releases official forecasts to the public, to improve our understanding of hurricanes. Reale is also the principal investigator on a funded NASA project to improve hurricane intensity prediction through a better use of data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) onboard the NASA Aqua satellite.

Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

Related links:

Since Katrina: NASA Advances Storm Models, Science: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/since-katrina-nasa-advances-storm-models-science

Global Modeling and Assimilation Office: http://gmao.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ashley Morrow.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

SolarImpulse - Bertrand Piccard has reached the Gate of New York City











SolarImpulse - Around The World patch.

May 25, 2016


Bertrand Piccard landed at the gate of New York City in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania at 12:49 AM UTC, 2:49 AM CET on May 26th and 9:49 PM EDT on May 25th. After the brief incident with the mobile hangar in Dayton, Ohio, Bertrand’s takeoff was postponed by a day to make sure the plane had no damages and was safe to fly. The Ground Crew checked the plane for damages while the Mission Engineers in Monaco found another weather window to fly on May 25th. When the plane was declared safe, Bertrand could finally takeoff to Lehigh Valley!


This leads us to our final flight in the United States: the flyover of the Statue of Liberty and a landing at JFK, where Bertrand Piccard will get ready for the Atlantic Crossing. While Bertrand flew Si2 to Pennsylvania, André Borschberg began preparing the Ground Crew for his landing in Lehigh Valley International Airport.


Bertrand Piccard completed this 16 hour and 47 minute flight, arriving earlier than scheduled above Lehigh Valley International Airport, Pennsylvania. He crossed a total distance of 750 kilometers, flying across Ohio, briefly touching West Virginia, and crossing Pennsylvania to land at the airport close to Allentown.

video
Solar Impulse Airplane - Leg 13 - Flight Dayton to Lehigh Valley

Related article:

Solarimpulse - Flight to Lehigh Valley Postponed
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/05/solarimpulse-flight-to-lehigh-valley.html

For more information about SolarImpulse Around The World, visit: http://blog.solarimpulse.com/

Images, Video, Text, Credit: SolarImpulse.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Orbital ATK Advocates Cislunar Outpost as America's Next Step in Human Space Exploration









Orbital ATK logo.

May 25, 2016

Former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson Proposes Four-Person Crew-Tended Lunar-Orbit Habitat to Be in Place by 2020

Company’s Flight-Proven Cygnus Spacecraft Could be Used as a Building-Block Habitat Leading to Lunar Research and Mars Exploration

Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today advocated for a manned lunar-orbit outpost as America’s next step in human space exploration.

During testimony this afternoon to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space, Frank Culbertson, President of the company’s Space Systems Group, said, “A lunar-orbit habitat will extend America’s leadership in space to the cislunar domain. A robust program to build, launch and operate this initial outpost would be built on NASA’s and our international partners’ experience gained in long-duration human space flight on the International Space Station and would make use of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion deep-space transportation system.”

Orbital ATK was recently selected by NASA to study an initial version of a cislunar habitat that could evolve over time to a much larger research platform with many of the capabilities required for a human mission to Mars. These studies fall under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep-space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human space flight missions in the “proving ground” of cislunar space, the region from Earth orbit that extends beyond the moon.

Orbital ATK Lunar hab

During his testimony, Mr. Culbertson emphasized that Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is a strong candidate to be used as a habitat building block for the cislunar outpost and eventually to help achieve NASA’s goal of human exploration of Mars.

“The experience gained in the cislunar proving ground will lead directly to longer mission durations in deep space and eventually enable a manned mission to Mars,” Culbertson said. “But, in order to increase stay times in cislunar space and accommodate a range of technology demonstrations and scientific experiments, additional habitation space and consumables are necessary. A very good starting point for the design of a cislunar habitat is our flexible, human-rated Cygnus spacecraft which incorporates the knowledge gained from delivering cargo to the ISS.”

The initial habitat concept includes pre-positioning a Cygnus-derived module in lunar orbit using a commercial launch vehicle in 2020, to be ready for a first visit by astronauts on the inaugural crewed flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2021.  Additional habitat and research modules would expand the outpost following delivery by Orion/SLS and other launch systems in the 2022-2025 period.

This concept would serve a dual purpose:  to establish the first elements of cislunar infrastructure to enable expanded exploration of the Moon in the 2020s, and to also provide a platform for technology research and demonstration needed to enable human flights to Mars in the 2030s.  NASA, the European Space Agency and other international partners also could use the evolving outpost as a staging base and safe haven for lunar landing expeditions and robotic surface operations.

Orbital ATK Mars hab

“Since many aspects of operations in deep space are as yet untested, confidence must be developed through repeated flights to, and relatively long-duration missions in, cislunar space,” Culbertson said. “Orbital ATK continues to operate our Cygnus cargo logistics vehicle as a flagship product, so we are ready to quickly and affordably implement an initial Cygnus-derived habitat in cislunar space within three years of a go-ahead.”

Orbital ATK has already expanded the capabilities of Cygnus beyond its core cargo delivery function. The spacecraft is serving as a research platform capable of hosting technology risk-reduction demonstrations to enable deep-space exploration as part of existing cargo delivery missions to the ISS. The first technology demonstration, Spacecraft Fire Experiment-1 (SAFFIRE-1) designed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center, is currently in-orbit aboard the OA-6 Cygnus. Following Cygnus’ departure from the ISS next month, the largest man-made fire ever in space will be ignited in the Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module, which will enable NASA to investigate fire detection, advanced fire extinguishing methods, and post-fire clean up in a space environment. 

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and in several international locations. For more information, visit http://www.orbitalatk.com.

Images, Text, Credits: Orbital ATK/Vicki Cox.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Researchers to Test How Solids Dissolve in Space to Design Better Tablets and Pills on Earth












ISS - International Space Station logo.

May 25, 2016

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Anyone who has been sick before knows you want relief as quickly as possible. An investigation soon taking place aboard the International Space Station could help bring that relief by improving design of tablets used to deliver medicine into the human body. The Hard to Wet Surfaces research looks at liquid-solid interactions and how certain pharmaceuticals dissolve, which may lead to more potent and effective medicines in space and on Earth.

Dissolving a solid such as a medicine tablet involves two key factors: wettability and float effect.

“Wettability is how well a liquid spreads over the surface of a solid,” said principal investigator Richard Cope, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering and is the associate engineering advisor at Eli Lilly and Company. “Float effect refers to how solids that are less dense float on the surface of a liquid.”


Image above: Mini-tablets used in the investigation of wettability and float effect.
Image Credit: Eli Lilly.

Both factors commonly play a role in how quickly and how well a solid dissolves on Earth, and the goal of this research is to better understand each by separating their effects in microgravity.

Differences in density become negligible in microgravity, so researchers expect float effect to essentially disappear.

“We hypothesize that tablets that float on Earth will dissolve more quickly in microgravity because they will not float in space. More of the surface will be in contact with the liquid,” said Alison Campbell, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and is a senior research scientist at Lilly.

How microgravity may affect wettability is more of an unknown. But with many pharmaceutical ingredients considered “hard to wet,” understanding microgravity’s effect on this characteristic is important in the fundamental approach to dissolving these substances.

“This work is foundational,” said Kenneth Savin, who holds a doctorate in organic chemistry and is an advisor in Lilly’s clinical innovation group. “We’re looking at a basic property – how to get a solid to dissolve.”


Image above: A specially designed syringe fills the vials during setup of the investigation. Image Credit: Zin Technologies.

Tablets and pills that don’t dissolve easily might slow a drug’s release into the body, but wettability’s role in drug performance is not well understood. Results will help guide ingredient choices for future pharmaceutical formulations, improving delivery to a drug’s intended target.

“Looking forward, we don’t know if this particular experiment will lead to sweeping changes,” said Campbell. “But it is all about building a foundation of knowledge so we can develop a better product.”

Some medications seem to be less effective when taken in space. Understanding whether microgravity changes the way solids dissolve also may help explain this phenomenon.


Image above: The experiment module provides a field of view of six mixing vials at a time. Image Credit: Zin Technologies.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, helped the researchers from Lilly prepare their investigation for launch.

“The liquid-solid interface is an important concept to understand,” said Jonathan Volk, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering and is the CASIS commercial innovation manager. “We hope this is just the first in this kind of work.”

CASIS will continue to support the investigation by helping to maximize use of data and to develop future experiments.

In the future, thanks to tiny tablets that went to space, better ones could show up in our medicine cabinets here on Earth.

Related links:

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Space Station Research and Technology: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS): http://www.iss-casis.org/About/AboutCASIS.aspx#sthash.qCUKeQe6.dpuf

The Hard to Wet Surfaces research: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2275.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Johnson Space Center/Kristine Rainey/International Space Station Program Office/Melissa Gaskill.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Will Have a Map for That












NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

May 25, 2016

On Sept. 8, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch for terra incognita: the unknown surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. Like expeditions of old, OSIRIS-REx’s mission includes mapping the exotic terrain it explores.

Bennu is part of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system and is pristine enough to hold clues to that very early history. OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer – will study Bennu in detail and collect a sample to send to Earth for in-depth analysis. The mission also will investigate how pressure from sunlight influences the path of this traveling asteroid.

“I like to say the first thing any explorer does upon reaching a new land is to start making maps,” said Ed Beshore, deputy principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona in Tucson.


Image above: The mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu is one of the science goals of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, and an integral part of spacecraft operations. The spacecraft will spend a year surveying Bennu before collecting a sample that will be returned to Earth for analysis. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

For OSIRIS-REx, mapping is mission-critical. It’s one of the primary science goals and an integral part of spacecraft operations. The spacecraft will spend a year flying in close proximity to Bennu – its five instruments imaging the asteroid, documenting its lumpy shape, and surveying its chemical and physical properties.

This information will be used to produce four top-level maps for identifying the site where sample will be collected. These maps will indicate which sites are scientifically most valuable, where the spacecraft can touch the asteroid safely, where navigation can deliver the spacecraft, and where there is enough loose rock that can be collected.

About a dozen potential sampling sites will be chosen to start. Once this list has been winnowed down, reconnaissance maps will provide detailed views of the few remaining candidates. Later, after the sampling is done, the team will refine some maps to provide context for laboratory analysis of the material and to aid future studies of asteroids.

“Each map will pull together different kinds of data to answer an independent question,” said Lucy Lim, OSIRIS-REx assistant project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

One top-level map will deal with the safety of the spacecraft. The team has to make sure OSIRIS-REx won’t encounter hazards as it approaches Bennu and executes its touch-and-go – or TAG – maneuver. A mechanical arm that functions like a pogo stick will be extended from the spacecraft. The spacecraft will slowly approach the asteroid until the sample head at the end of the arm “kisses” the surface. Then, OSIRIS-REx will move away from the asteroid.

The target area for TAG will be a circle that measures 164 feet (50 meters) across.

“We have to be able to say with a high degree of confidence that the spacecraft will be safe if it touches the surface anywhere within that circle,” said David Lorenz, OSIRIS-REx TAG lead at Goddard.

To determine that, the team will look at the tilt of the landscape, temperature readings, and whether plumes of material are coming off the asteroid. Another consideration will be the amount of light reflected by the surface. That’s important because OSIRIS-REx will bounce laser signals off the surface. If an area is too dark, there won’t be enough return signal; an area that’s too bright will blind the detector.

Hazards such as large boulders and steep cliffs will be identified at a different stage.

Another top-level map will address the ability to deliver OSIRIS-REx to its target. This is primarily a navigation question: Can the spacecraft be brought to a target site at the correct speed? (Both vertical speed and sideways speed matter.) If not, the spacecraft will be in danger of crashing or tipping over in a so-called stubbed-toe scenario.

Bennu’s mass makes navigating a particular challenge. The asteroid will be one of the smallest objects ever visited by a planetary spacecraft. Bennu has very little gravity – so little that pressure from sunlight on OSIRIS-REx will almost equal the force of Bennu’s gravity. To stay in orbit, the spacecraft will have to remain within a mile and a half (about 2.4 kilometers) of Bennu. Any farther than that, and the pressure from sunlight will push it away from the asteroid.

“The bottom line is that we’re paying a lot more attention to modeling very small accelerations, such as those exerted by solar radiation pressure, than previous missions have had to do,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics system manager at Goddard.

The third of these maps will determine where the right kind of surface material is located. The sample head, which looks like a big automotive air filter, can take in dirt, dust and bits of gravel measuring less than three-fourths of an inch (2 centimeters). At least 2 ounces (60 grams) of material needs to be collected, but the sample head can hold up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms).

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard

“Our goal is to maximize the amount of sample for OSIRIS-REx,” said Kevin Walsh, an OSIRIS-REx co-investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “We have tested the sample head in the lab and know how it performs, and we will hunt for the right sort of environment on Bennu.”

To find that, the team will look at images, tilt measurements and thermal information, which reveals how the material on the surface stores and releases heat. Coarser, rockier grains will absorb more heat from the sun and give it off slowly during the asteroid’s night. Fine-grained particles will lose heat very quickly once they are out of the sunlight.

The fourth top-level map will evaluate the scientific value of the surface on Bennu. From remote observations, the team assumes that Bennu should contain water and organic – or carbon-rich – material, but they don’t know yet how this material is distributed across the surface.

“Some of the most interesting sites will be those that offer fresh material – perhaps exposed by an impact, a crack or plume activity like comets have – and those with diverse material,” said Keiko Nakamura-Messenger, OSIRIS-REx sample site scientist and the deputy lead for curation at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We also believe the coldest place has higher science value, because that is where organics are likely to be better preserved.”

To figure this out, the team will look at geological features, mineralogy, chemical composition and temperature.

All of these maps will be built on a 3-D shape model of Bennu. The team is already using a preliminary shape model, produced from radar observations of the asteroid. But a new shape model with much higher resolution will be made once OSIRIS-REx surveys Bennu.

“The shape model is the framework – the one piece every map needs to have,” said Eric Palmer, an OSIRIS-REx collaborator at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. “It also provides a way of correcting scientific observations so that you can make apples-to-apples comparisons.”

The team has two ways of deriving the detailed shape of Bennu. One is to make precise measurements of the round-trip distance from the spacecraft to the asteroid using the on-board laser altimeter. The other is the so-called shape-by-shading technique – or stereophotoclinometry – which deduces the 3-D lay of the land from multiple images taken from different angles under a range of lighting conditions.

Beshore pointed out one more reason to put all this effort into mapping. “These maps of Bennu are going to be beautiful,” he said.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Launch management is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For more information on OSIRIS-REx visit: http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex and http://www.asteroidmission.org

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Elizabeth Zubritsky/Karl Hille.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Station Gets Ready to Expand BEAM

ISS - International Space Station patch.

May 25, 2016


Image above: This dual view of BEAM shows the expanded external (left) and internal configurations. Images Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.

The final preparations are under way for Thursday morning’s expansion of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) from the Tranquility module. Back on Earth, a veteran cosmonaut and a pair of first time space flyers are getting ready for their mission in June.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams performed leak checks and installed hardware to monitor and support BEAM expansion set to begin Thursday at 6:10 a.m. EDT (10:10 a.m. UTC). The expansion could potentially start earlier. NASA Television will broadcast the expansion activities live beginning at 5:30 a.m. Crew entry into BEAM, which has an expanded habitable volume of 565 cubic feet (16 cubic meters), is planned for June 2.


Image above: Artist's concept of Beam berthed to ISS at port node 3. Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.

A new trio of International Space Station crew members is in Russia ready for final qualification exams for a mission set for launch June 24. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin will command the new Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi. The Expedition 48-49 crew members are scheduled for a four-month stay aboard the orbital lab.

The crew orbiting in space now explored working with detailed tasks and interacting with touch-based computer screens for the Fine Motor Skills study. They continued stowing gear after completing the Rodent Research-3 bone and muscle atrophy experiment. Other experiments today looked at Earth photography techniques, interactions between space crews and teams on the ground as well as more eye checks.

Related links:

BEAM expansion: http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-televises-hosts-events-for-deployment-of-first-expandable-habitat-on-0

Expedition 48-49 crew members: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/future.html

Fine Motor Skills study: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1767.html

Rodent Research-3 bone and muscle atrophy experiment: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1722.html

Bigelow Aerospace: http://bigelowaerospace.com/beam/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch