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  • Spacecraft Tandem Provide New Views of Venus
    orbital geometry of Venus Express when MESSENGER skimmed past Venus on June 5 meant that the two spacecraft were not at the same location with respect to the surface of the planet at the exact same time MESSENGER made its closest approach at a distance of about 338 km from the planet over the planetary coordinates 12 25 S and 165 E on the nightside of the planet Meanwhile Venus Express was behind the horizon almost right above the South Pole at about 35 000 km from Venus So how could they make true joint observations of the same regions and phenomena Scientists came up with a highly creative solution The scientists used a computer simulation based on real atmospheric data about Venus obtained from previous ground and space observations Knowing the speed of the local winds which depend both on the altitude and the latitude they were able to predict where a particular set of clouds would be at a given point in time For their observation the Venus Express scientists selected a cloud that moving west by about 90 longitude every day was visible to Venus Express and would be in view of MESSENGER 12 hours later at

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/messenger/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Dust Storm Situation on Mars Improves; Spirit Resumes Using Robotic Arm
    three months the rovers have been facing perhaps their biggest challenge Since June a series of severe martian summer dust storms has affected both Opportunity and Spirit The dust in the martian atmosphere over Opportunity has blocked 99 of direct sunlight to the rover leaving only the limited diffuse sky light to power it Scientists feared the storms might continue for weeks If the sunlight had been further cut back for an extended period the rovers would not have been able to generate enough power to keep themselves warm and operate at all even in a near dormant state The rovers use electric heaters to keep some of their vital core electronics from becoming too cold NASA engineers have been taking proactive measures to protect the rovers including suspending driving and science observations Energy production from solar arrays increased to 295 watt hours on Spirit s 1276th martian day or sol which ended early Aug 6 and to 243 watt hours on Opportunity s sol 1255 which ended midday on Aug 5 The solar panels generate electricity from sunlight The dust storms had cut daily output as low as 261 watt hours on Spirit and 128 watt hours on Opportunity in recent weeks compared with levels above 700 watt hours per sol before the current series of storms began One hundred watt hours is what it takes to run a 100 watt bulb for one hour The increased output from the solar panels although slight has allowed Opportunity to fully charge its batteries and Spirit to bring its batteries to nearly full charge Also the temperature of the core electronics module on Opportunity which was of concern when it fell to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit minus 37 Celsius last week has increased to minus 28 1 degrees Fahrenheit minus 33

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/spirit/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Spacecraft Heads for Polar Region on Mars
    and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson The spacecraft established communications with its ground team via the Goldstone California antenna station of NASA s Deep Space Network at 7 02 a m Eastern Time after separating from the third stage of the launch vehicle The launch team did a spectacular job getting us on the way said Barry Goldstein Phoenix project manager at NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Our trajectory is still being evaluated in detail however we are well within expected limits for a successful journey to the Red Planet We are all thrilled Phoenix will be the first mission to touch water ice on Mars Its robotic arm will dig to an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the surface The mission will study the history of the water in the ice monitor weather of the polar region and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life Water is central to every type of study we will conduct on Mars Smith said The Phoenix Mars Mission is the first of NASA s competitively proposed and selected Mars Scout missions supplementing the agency s core Mars Exploration Program whose theme is follow the water The University of Arizona was selected to lead the mission in August 2003 and is the first public university to lead a Mars exploration mission Phoenix uses the main body of a lander originally made for a 2001 mission that was cancelled before launch During the past year we have run Phoenix through a rigorous testing regimen said Ed Sedivy Phoenix spacecraft program manager for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Denver which built the spacecraft The testing approach runs the spacecraft and integrated instruments through actual mission sequences allowing us to asses the entire system

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/phoenix/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Digital Archive Casts New Light on Apollo-Era Moon Pictures
    new digital archive created through a collaboration between Arizona State University and NASA is making available on the Internet high resolution scans of original Apollo flight films These startling images will be accessible to both researchers and the general public to browse or download at apollo sese asu edu The Moon images filmed by astronauts during NASA s Apollo program have never been seen in high resolution detail by the public or even by most lunar scientists The new digital scanning project at ASU will use the original Apollo flight films Previous scanning projects have been limited in scope and none have used the original films that came back from the Moon Mark Robinson professor of geological sciences in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University is the lead scientist on the project It s appropriate as the Moon has long been a focus in his career In grade school Robinson avidly followed the Apollo missions and after becoming a scientist he worked on Clementine a robotic moon mission in 1994 Today Robinson is the principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera or LROC a suite of three separate high resolution imagers onboard NASA s

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/digital_archive/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA and ESA Sign Agreements for Future Cooperation
    to learn about the chemistry and evolution of objects in our universe The telescope will operate well outside Earth s atmosphere at a spot in space called the second Lagrangian point L2 located 1 million miles or four times farther than the Moon s orbit in the direction opposite the Sun From this location the observatory is expected to revolutionize our view of the cosmos as Hubble has According to the agreement NASA is responsible for the overall management and operation of the JWST mission and will build the spacecraft the telescope and the platform that will house the instruments ESA will provide an Ariane 5 ECA rocket for the telescope s launch NASA also will provide a major instrument the Near Infrared Camera through the University of Arizona Tucson ESA will provide the Near Infrared Spectrograph operating over similar wavelengths NASA will provide the instrument s detectors which will measure the wavelengths of light emanating from the stars being observed NASA also will provide the microshutters which are used to select which star in the field of view will be observed by the detectors The third instrument on board is the Mid Infrared Instrument It is being built through a consortium of nationally funded European institutions which are responsible for the instrument s optical assembly and NASA with coordination through ESA Canada will provide the fourth instrument on board the Fine Guidance Sensor Tuneable Filter Imager The signing of this agreement on JWST based on a long standing and consolidated cooperation between ESA and NASA will make history once more said Dordain In particular we are very proud to use Ariane 5 to put this great observatory into space We re delighted to have ESA s participation on the James Webb Space Telescope said Griffin The tremendous scientific success

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/nasa_esa/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA, 13 Space Agencies Release Exploration Strategy Framework
    plans This coordination mechanism will play a key role in helping to identify gaps overlaps and synergies in the space exploration plans of participating agencies The framework document is an important step in an evolving process toward a comprehensive global approach to space exploration Although the document is nonbinding its contents are consistent with ongoing bilateral and multilateral discussions that NASA intends to lead to cooperative agreements for specific projects

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/global_ex/framework/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Mars Rover Spirit Unearths Surprise Evidence of Wetter Past
    Spirit has found for water at Gusev said Albert Yen a geochemist at NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory One possible origin for the silica could have been interaction of soil with acid vapors produced by volcanic activity in the presence of water Another could have been from water in a hot spring environment The latest discovery adds compelling new evidence for ancient conditions that might have been favorable for life according to members of the rover science team David Des Marais an astrobiologist at NASA s Ames Research Center said What s so exciting is that this could tell us about environments that have similarities to places on Earth that are clement for organisms Spirit and its twin rover Opportunity completed their original three month prime missions in April 2004 Both are still operating although showing signs of age One of Spirit s six wheels no longer rotates so it leaves a deep track as it drags through soil That churning has exposed several patches of bright soil leading to some of Spirit s biggest discoveries at Gusev including this recent discovery Doug McCuistion director of NASA s Mars Exploration Program said This unexpected new discovery is a reminder that Spirit and Opportunity are still doing cutting edge exploration more than three years into their extended missions It also reinforces the fact that significant amounts of water were present in Mars past which continues to spur the hope that we can show that Mars was once habitable and possibly supported life The newly discovered patch of soil has been given the informal name Gertrude Weise after a player in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League according to Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St Louis deputy principal investigator for the rovers We ve looked at dozens of disturbed soil

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mars_rover/6_5_07/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Finds Extremely Hot Planet, Makes First Exoplanet Weather Map
    known transiting planet which means that it crosses in front and behind its star when viewed from Earth It races around its star every 2 2 days Spitzer measured the infrared light coming from the planet as it circled around its star revealing its different faces These infrared measurements comprising about a quarter of a million data points were then assembled into pole to pole strips and ultimately used to map the temperature of the entire surface of the cloudy giant planet The observations reveal that temperatures on this balmy world are fairly even ranging from 1200 F on the dark side to 1700 F on the sunlit side HD 189733b and all other hot Jupiters are believed to be tidally locked like our Moon so one side of the planet always faces the star Since the planet s overall temperature variation is mild scientists believe winds must be spreading the heat from its permanently sunlit side around to its dark side Such winds might rage across the surface at up to 6000 mph The jet streams on Earth travel at 200 mph These hot Jupiter exoplanets are blasted by 20 000 times more energy per second than Jupiter said co author David Charbonneau also of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Now we can see how these planets deal with all that energy Also HD 189733b has a warm spot 30 east of high noon or the point directly below the star In other words if the high noon point were in Seattle the warm spot would be in Chicago Assuming the planet is tidally locked to its parent star this implies that fierce winds are blowing eastward In the second Spitzer study astronomers led by Joseph Harrington of the University of Central Florida in Orlando discovered that HD

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