<p><img width="700" height="432" src="" class="attachment-single size-single wp-post-image" alt="The deployment of the Mars 2020 rover will be the next step in their &quot;Journey to Mars&quot;. Credit: NASA" /></p> <p>NASA's <a href="">Mars Exploration Program</a> has accomplished some truly spectacular things in the past few decades. Officially launched in 1992, this program has been focused on three major goals: characterizing the climate and geology of Mars, looking for signs of past life, and preparing the way for human crews to explore the planet.</p> <p>And in the coming years, the Mars 2020 rover will be deployed to the Red Planet and become the latest in a long line of robotic rovers sent to the surface. In a recent press release, NASA announced that it has awarded the launch services contract for the mission to <a href="">United Launch Alliance</a> (ULA) - the makers of the <a href="">Atlas V</a> rocket.</p> <p>The mission is scheduled to launch in July of 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, at a point when <a href="">Earth and Mars are at opposition</a>. At this time, the planets will be on the same side of the Sun and making their closest approach to each other in four years, being just 62.1 million km (38.6 million miles) part.</p> <p>Following in the footsteps of the <a href=""><em>Curiosity</em></a>, <a href=""><em>Opportunity</em></a> and<a href=""> <em>Spirit</em></a> rovers, the goal of Mars 2020 mission is to  determine the habitability of the Martian environment and search for signs of ancient Martian life. This will include taking samples of soil and rock to learn more about Mars' "watery past".</p> <p>But whereas these and other members of the Mars Exploration Program were searching for evidence that Mars once had liquid water on its surface and a denser atmosphere (i.e. signs that life <em>could</em> have existed), the Mars 2020 mission will attempt to find actual evidence of ancient microbial life.</p> <p>The design of the rover also incorporates several successful features of <em>Curiosity</em>. For instance, the entire landing system (which incorporates a <a href="">sky crane</a> and heat shield) and the rover's chassis have been recreated using leftover parts that were originally intended for <em>Curiosity</em>.</p> <p>There's also the rover's radioisotope thermoelectric generator - i.e. the nuclear motor - which was also originally intended as a backup part for <i>Curiosity. </i>But it will also have several upgraded instrument on board that allow for a new guidance and control technique. Known as "Terrain Relative Navigation", this new landing method allows for greater maneuverability during descent.</p> <p>Another new feature is the rover's drill system, which will collect core samples and store them in sealed tubes. These tubes will then be left in a "cache" on the surface, where they will be retrieved by future missions and brought back to Earth - which will constitute the first sample-return mission from the Red Planet.</p> <p>In this respect, Mars 2020 will help pave the way for a crewed mission to the Red Planet, which NASA hopes to mount sometime in the 2030s. The probe will also conduct numerous studies designed to improve landing techniques and assess the planet's natural resources and hazards, as well as coming up with methods to allow astronauts to live off the environment.</p> <p>In terms of hazards, the probe will be looking at Martian weather patterns, dust storms, and other potential environmental conditions that will affect human astronauts living and working on the surface. It will also test out a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere and identifying sources of subsurface water (as a source of drinking water, oxygen, and hydrogen fuel).</p> <p>As NASA stated in their <a href="">press release</a>, the Mars 2020 mission will "offer opportunities to deploy new capabilities developed through investments by NASA's Space Technology Program and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, as well as contributions from international partners."</p> <p>They also emphasized the opportunities to learn ho future human explorers could rely on in-situ resource utilization as a way of reducing the amount of materials needed to be shipped - which will not only cut down on launch costs but ensure that future missions to the planet are more self-reliant.</p> <p>The total cost for NASA to launch Mars 2020 is approximately $243 million. This assessment includes the cost of launch services, processing costs for the spacecraft and its power source, launch vehicle integration and tracking, data and telemetry support.</p> <p>The use of spare parts has also meant reduced expenditure on the overall mission. In total, the Mars 2020 rover and its launch will cost and estimated $2.1 billion USD, which represents a significant savings over previous missions like the <a href="">Mars Science Laboratory</a> - which cost a total of $2.5 billion USD.</p> <p>Between now and 2020, NASA also intends to launch the <a href="">Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport</a> (InSight) lander mission, which is currently targeted for 2018. This and the Mars 2020 rover will be the latest in a long line of orbiters, rovers and landers that are seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Red Planet and prepare it for human visitors!</p> <p><em>Further Reading: <a href="">NASA</a></em>, <a href=""><em>Mars 2020 Rover</em></a></p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">NASA Goes With Atlas V To Launch Mars 2020 Rover</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Universe Today</a>.</p>
<p><img width="700" height="432" src="" class="attachment-single size-single wp-post-image" alt="Jupiter&#039;s north polar region is coming into view as NASA&#039;s Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS" /></p> <p><a href="">NASA’s JUNO spacecraft</a> successfully swooped over the Jovian cloud tops today, Saturday, Aug. 27, gathering its first up close images and science <a href="">observations of the 'King of the Planets'</a> since <a href="">braking into orbit on America’s Independence Day</a>.</p> <p>Saturdays’ close encounter with Jupiter soaring over its north pole was the first of <a href="">36 planned orbital flyby’s by Juno</a> during the scheduled 20 month long prime mission.</p> <p>“Soarin' over #Jupiter. My 1st up-close look of the gas-giant world was a success!” the probe tweeted today post-flyby.</p> <p>NASA released Juno’s first up-close image taken by the JunoCam visible light camera just hours later - as seen above. </p> <p><a href="">Juno was speeding</a> at some 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) during the time of Saturday’s closest approach at 9:44 a.m. EDT (6:44 a.m. PDT 13:44 UTC) over the north polar region. </p> <p>It passed merely 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above the turbulent clouds of the biggest planet in our solar system during its initial 53.5 day polar elliptical capture orbit.</p> <p>And apparently everything proceeded as the science and engineering team leading the mission to the gas giant had planned.</p> <p>"Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement.</p> <p>Indeed Saturday’s encounter will count as the closest of the entire prime mission. It also marks the first time that the entire suite of nine state-of-the-art science instruments had been turned on to gather the totally unique observations of Jupiter’s interior and exterior environment. </p> <p>"We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a statement. </p> <p>"This is our first opportunity to really take a close-up look at the king of our solar system and begin to figure out how he works." </p> <p>Additional up-close high resolution imagery of the Jovian atmosphere, swirling cloud tops and north and south poles snapped by JunoCam will be released in the coming weeks, perhaps as soon as next week.</p> <p>"We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world," said Bolton. </p> <p>"It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us."</p> <p>The prime mission is scheduled to end in February of 2018 with a suicide plunge into the Jovian atmosphere to prevent any possible contamination with Jupiter’s potentially habitable moons such as Europa and Ganymede.</p> <p>"No other spacecraft has ever orbited Jupiter this closely, or over the poles in this fashion," said Steve Levin, Juno project scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This is our first opportunity and there are bound to be surprises. We need to take our time to make sure our conclusions are correct." </p> <p>The team did release an approach image taken by JunoCam on Aug. 23 when the spacecraft was 2.8 million miles (4.4 million kilometers) from the gas giant planet on the inbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit.</p> <p>One additional long period orbit is planned. The main engine will fire again in October to reduce the orbit to the 14 day science orbit. </p> <p>The solar powered probe will collect unparalleled new data that will unveil the hidden inner secrets of Jupiter’s origin and evolution as it peers “beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.”</p> <p><a href="">The $1.1 Billion Juno was launched on Aug. 5, 2011</a> from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida atop the most powerful version of the Atlas V rocket augmented by 5 solid rocket boosters and built by United Launch Alliance (ULA). That same <a href="">Atlas V 551 version recently launched MUOS-5 for the US Navy</a> on June 24.</p> <p>The Juno spacecraft was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin in Denver. </p> <p>The last NASA spacecraft to orbit Jupiter was Galileo in 1995. It explored the Jovian system until 2003.</p> <p>In the final weeks of the approach before Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI), JunoCam captured dramatic views of Jupiter and all four of the Galilean Moons moons -- Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.</p> <p>At the post JOI briefing at JPL on July 5, these were combined into a spectacular JunoCam time-lapse movie released by Bolton and NASA.</p> <p>Watch and be mesmerized -“for humanity, our first real glimpse of celestial harmonic motion” says Bolton. </p> <p></p> <p><em>Video caption: NASA's Juno spacecraft captured a unique time-lapse movie of the Galilean satellites in motion about Jupiter. The movie begins on June 12th with Juno 10 million miles from Jupiter, and ends on June 29th, 3 million miles distant. The innermost moon is volcanic Io; next in line is the ice-crusted ocean world Europa, followed by massive Ganymede, and finally, heavily cratered Callisto. Galileo observed these moons to change position with respect to Jupiter over the course of a few nights. From this observation he realized that the moons were orbiting mighty Jupiter, a truth that forever changed humanity's understanding of our place in the cosmos. Earth was not the center of the Universe. For the first time in history, we look upon these moons as they orbit Jupiter and share in Galileo’s revelation. This is the motion of nature's harmony. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS</em></p> <p>Stay tuned here for <a href="">Ken's</a> continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. </p> <p><a href="">Ken Kremer</a></p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">JUNO Transmits First Up-Close Look Soarin&#8217; over Jupiter</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Universe Today</a>.</p> reporter Calla Cofield travels to Hawaii to see six crew members on a mock Mars mission come back to Earth.
After twelve months living in a habitat on the rocky slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, having limited contact with the outside world, six crew members for the HI-SEAS program will return to civilization today.
Middletown, Conn. (UPI) Aug 25, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> Recent observations made by Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA, suggest larger stars host significant carbon monoxide gas reservoirs. ALMA astronomers were surprised by the finding. The larger the star, researchers hypothesized, the more likely radiation could have burned away any accumulated gas. When scientists looked at the debris disks surrounding 24 star syst
Zurich, Switzerland (UPI) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> The fastest electronic devices currently send information at speeds of several gigahertz, a billion oscillations per second. Some fiber-optic cables feature frequencies approaching a terahertz, a thousand billion oscillations. But the need for speed is neverending, and researchers are beginning to experiment with how technology might move information-carrying electrons even faster. The
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately.
Washington (AFP) Aug 27, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> NASA's Juno space probe on Saturday was set to pass the closest it will get to the planet Jupiter during the main phase of its planned mission to the gas giant, the US space agency's officials said. Juno was to swing within some 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of the solar system's largest planet, the closest any spacecraft has passed, traveling at 130,000 miles per hour (208,000 kilometers p
Plainsboro NJ (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility - or "bottle" - that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical tokamaks, compact machines that are shaped like cored apples, compared with the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. The spherical design produces high-pressure p
Thief River Falls MN (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) of Thief River Falls, Minn. today announced a collaboration agreement with Northrop Grumman Corporation as part of the continuing support of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) efforts in the Red River Valley area of North Dakota and Minnesota, Northrop Grumman Corporation will donate the use of equipment related to the Bat Unmanned Aircraft System. The
Brooklyn NY (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> With the outsourcing of microchip design and fabrication worldwide, a $350 billion business, bad actors along the supply chain have many opportunities to install malicious circuitry in chips. These "Trojan horses" look harmless but can allow attackers to sabotage healthcare devices; public infrastructure; and financial, military, or government electronics. Siddharth Garg, an assistant prof
Melbourne, Australia (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> World-first research has found technical problems rather than operator errors are behind the majority of drone accidents, leading to a call for further safeguards for the industry. Researchers Dr Graham Wild and Dr Glenn Baxter from RMIT University's School of Engineering, along with John Murray from Edith Cowan University, completed the first examination of more than 150 reported civil in
Woodland Hills CA (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract from OHB System AG to supply the space inertial reference system for Germany's SARah satellite-based radar reconnaissance system. Northrop Grumman will supply its Scalable Space Inertial Reference Unit-L (Scalable SIRU-L) for sensor pointing/stabilization and attitude control on the SARah satellite-based radar reconnaissance system. This c
Denver CO (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> NOAA's newest weather satellite, GOES-R, left its Colorado home where it was built and is now in Florida where it will undergo preparations for a Nov. 4 launch. Monday, Lockheed Martin shipped the next-generation satellite aboard an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo transport plane to its Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. The first of four next-generation geostati
Tempe AZ (SPX) Aug 26, 2016<br/> <img src="" hspace=5 vspace=2 align=right border=0 width=160 height=128> We can hear them now... A new ground tracking station featuring a 10-foot diameter dish at Arizona State University's Tempe campus will allow researchers to communicate with satellites. Installed on the roof of the School of Earth and Space Exploration building this summer, the station will be able to relay information with spacecraft in low Earth orbit, and maybe farther, according to Jim


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