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  • Workshop Held at the LPI Will Examine Asteroid Initiative Ideas
    s spin nudge it away from a path toward Earth take samples to return to Earth and create activities to heighten public awareness of not only the threat asteroids pose but the valuable resources and scientific benefits they may offer This rich set of innovative ideas gathered from all over the world provides us with a great deal of information to factor into our plans moving forward said Robert Lightfoot Associate Administrator for NASA We re making great progress on formulating this mission and we look forward to discussing further the responses we received to the RFI These ideas were submitted by industry universities international organizations and the public NASA s selection process involved agency scientists engineers and mission planners who are formulating details of the asteroid initiative NASA s RFI was the first opportunity for industry and other potential partners to offer ideas for the asteroid initiative A workshop to examine and synthesize the 96 highly rated ideas will be held September 30 through October 2 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute The workshop will feature discussions by experts from inside and outside NASA The other approximately 300 ideas which were not selected for examination may be fed into

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/asteroid_initiative/ (2016-02-15)
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  • LADEE Lights Up the East Coast
    Lincoln Memorial in Washington to watch LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit the Moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long standing unknowns and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well The LADEE spacecraft s modular common spacecraft bus or body is an innovative way of transitioning away from custom designs and toward multiuse designs and assembly line production which could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development just as the Ford Model T did for automobiles NASA s Ames Research Center designed developed built and tested the spacecraft During technical checkouts conducted after launch the LADEE spacecraft commanded itself to shut down the reaction wheels used to position and stabilize the spacecraft According to the LADEE mission operations team at NASA s Ames Research Center this was determined to be the result of fault protection limits put in place prior to launch to safeguard the reaction wheels The limits that caused the powering off of the wheels soon after activation were disabled and reaction wheel fault protection was selectively reenabled The reactions wheels have been successfully

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/ladee/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Ends Attempts to Fully Recover Kepler Spacecraft, Potential New Missions Considered
    range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of a planet might be suitable for liquid water As scientists analyze previously collected data the Kepler team also is looking into whether the space telescope can conduct a different type of science program including an exoplanet search using the remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters Kepler has made extraordinary discoveries in finding exoplanets including several super Earths in the habitable zone said John Grunsfeld associate administrator for NASA s Science Mission Directorate in Washington Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon On August 8 engineers conducted a system level performance test to evaluate Kepler s current capabilities They determined that wheel 2 which failed last year can no longer provide the precision pointing necessary for science data collection The spacecraft was returned to its point rest state which is a stable configuration where Kepler uses thrusters to control its pointing with minimal fuel use At the beginning of our mission no one knew if Earth sized planets were abundant in the galaxy If they were rare we might be alone said William Borucki Kepler science principal investigator at NASA s Ames Research Center Now at the completion of Kepler observations the data holds the answer to the question that inspired the mission Are Earths in the habitable zone of stars like our Sun common or rare An engineering study will be conducted on the modifications required to manage science operations with the spacecraft using a combination of its remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters for spacecraft attitude control Informed by contributions from the broader science community in response to the call for scientific white papers announced August 2 the Kepler

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/kepler/082313/ (2016-02-15)
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  • New Space Roadmap Released
    driving goal of human exploration of Mars Asteroid Next and Moon Next Building on this work the 2013 roadmap includes a single reference mission scenario that reflects the importance of a stepwise evolution of critical capabilities that are necessary for executing increasingly complex missions to multiple destinations leading to human exploration of Mars Lunar Vicinity Surface Missions As spelled out in the just released report using planned and conceptual capabilities the ISECG Mission Scenario identifies a set of missions in the lunar vicinity and on the lunar surface that advance readiness for human Mars missions after 2030 Extended duration crew missions in the lunar vicinity and missions to an easily accessible asteroid will enable discoveries and allow demonstration of the transportation habitation robotic servicing and other key systems on which long duration missions into deep space must rely As cited in the report Human missions to the lunar surface will allow critical demonstrations of planetary exploration capabilities and techniques while pursuing the highest priority lunar science objectives ISECG Observations In a conclusion section several observations are made In order to build a sustainable human space exploration endeavor that lasts decades agency leaders should maintain a focus on delivering value to the public With the goal of enabling several partners to contribute critical capabilities to future human missions agencies note that near term collaborative missions on the International Space Station in the lunar vicinity on the lunar surface and robotic missions may be used to simulate and better inform preparations for future international missions to Mars New mission concepts such as human assisted sample return and tele presence should be further explored increasing understanding of the important role of humans in space for achieving common goals Robotic science missions provide an important technique for obtaining the data needed to prepare for

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/global_exploration_roadmap/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Hubble Finds New Neptune Moon
    flew by Neptune in 1989 and surveyed the planet s system of moons and rings Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View California discovered the moon on July 1 while studying the faint ring arcs of Neptune The moons and arcs orbit very quickly so we had to devise a way to follow their motion in order to bring out the details of the system he said It s the same reason a sports photographer tracks a running athlete the athlete stays in focus but the background blurs On a whim Showalter extended his analysis outward to regions well beyond the ring system and noticed an extra white dot about 65 400 miles from Neptune located between the orbits of the moons Larissa and Proteus Showalter next analyzed over 150 archival Neptune photographs taken by Hubble from 2004 to 2009 The same white dot appeared over and over again He then plotted a circular orbit for the moon which completes one revolution around Neptune every 23 hours The moon designated S 2004 N 1 is so small and dim that it is roughly one hundred million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/hubble/072613/ (2016-02-15)
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  • WISE Finds Mysterious Centaurs May Be Comets
    Bauer of NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bauer is lead author of a paper published online July 22 in the Astrophysical Journal Our data point to a cometary origin for most of the objects suggesting they are coming from deeper out in the solar system Cometary origin means an object likely is made from the same material as a comet may have been an active comet in the past and may be active again in the future The findings come from the largest infrared survey to date of centaurs and their more distant cousins called scattered disk objects NEOWISE the asteroid hunting portion of the WISE mission gathered infrared images of 52 centaurs and scattered disk objects Fifteen of the 52 are new discoveries Centaurs and scattered disk objects orbit in an unstable belt Ultimately gravity from the giant planets will fling them either closer to the Sun or farther away from their current locations Although astronomers previously observed some centaurs with dusty halos a common feature of outgassing comets and NASA s Spitzer Space Telescope also found some evidence for comets in the group they had not been able to estimate the numbers of comets and asteroids Infrared data from NEOWISE provided information on the objects albedos or reflectivity to help astronomers sort the population NEOWISE can tell whether a centaur has a matte and dark surface or a shiny one that reflects more light The puzzle pieces fell into place when astronomers combined the albedo information with what was already known about the colors of the objects Visible light observations have shown centaurs generally to be either blue gray or reddish in hue A blue gray object could be an asteroid or comet NEOWISE showed that most of the blue gray objects are dark a telltale sign of

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/wise/072613/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover
    open competition for the payload and science instruments They will be placed on a rover similar to Curiosity which landed on Mars last year Using Curiosity s design will help minimize mission costs and risks and deliver a rover that can accomplish the mission objectives The 2020 mission proposed by the Science Definition Team would build upon the accomplishments of Curiosity and other Mars missions The Spirit and Opportunity rovers along with several orbiters found evidence Mars has a watery history Curiosity recently confirmed that past environmental conditions on Mars could have supported living microbes According to the Science Definition Team looking for signs of past life is the next logical step The team s report details how the rover would use its instruments for visual mineralogical and chemical analysis down to microscopic scale to understand the environment around its landing site and identify biosignatures or features in the rocks and soil that could have been formed biologically The Mars 2020 mission concept does not presume that life ever existed on Mars said Jack Mustard chairman of the Science Definition Team and a professor at the Geological Sciences at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island However given the recent Curiosity findings past martian life seems possible and we should begin the difficult endeavor of seeking the signs of life No matter what we learn we would make significant progress in understanding the circumstances of early life existing on Earth and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life The measurements needed to explore a site on Mars to interpret ancient habitability and the potential for preserved biosignatures are identical to those needed to select and cache samples for future return to Earth The Science Definition Team is proposing the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and soil

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mars2020/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Mars Water-Ice Clouds are Key to Odd Thermal Rhythm
    is being published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters Global oscillations of wind temperature and pressure repeating each day or fraction of a day are called atmospheric tides In contrast to ocean tides they are driven by variation in heating between day and night Earth has atmospheric tides too but the ones on Earth produce little temperature difference in the lower atmosphere away from the ground On Mars which has only about 1 as much atmosphere as Earth they dominate short term temperature variations throughout the atmosphere Tides that go up and down once per day are called diurnal The twice a day ones are called semi diurnal The semi diurnal pattern on Mars was first seen in the 1970s but until now it had been thought to appear just in dusty seasons related to sunlight warming dust in the atmosphere We were surprised to find this strong twice a day structure in the temperatures of the non dusty Mars atmosphere Kleinboehl said While the diurnal tide as a dominant temperature response to the day night cycle of solar heating on Mars has been known for decades the discovery of a persistent semi diurnal response even outside of major dust storms was quite unexpected and caused us to wonder what drove this response He and his four co authors found the answer in the water ice clouds of Mars The martian atmosphere has water ice clouds for most of the year Clouds in the equatorial region between about 6 and 19 miles 10 30 kilometers above the surface of Mars absorb infrared light emitted from the surface during daytime These are relatively transparent clouds like thin cirrus clouds on Earth Still the absorption by these clouds is enough to heat the middle atmosphere each day The observed semi diurnal temperature

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mro/070813/ (2016-02-15)
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