'Sprained Ankle': Opportunity Rover Sends Back New Panorama from Above Ancient Gully

A portion of the new panorama showing the region just above Perseverance Valley, which is just below the crater rim. A broad notch in the rim, at right, is where water may have once flowed down through the rim and into the crater below. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

NASA’s Opportunity rover has been busy examining the entranceway to Perseverance Valley, a long, shallow gully-like channel on the rim on Endeavour Crater which was likely created by flowing water millions or billions of years ago. This feature has been a major target of interest for mission scientists since, if confirmed, this would be the first such gully seen up close by any rover. A new panoramic image just released shows the view on the crater rim just above the valley itself, which includes a possible “spillway” where water once flowed over the rim and into the crater down below.

Continue reading ‘Sprained Ankle’: Opportunity Rover Sends Back New Panorama from Above Ancient Gully

Lockheed's Prototype Habitat Plans for NASA's Lunar Orbiting Deep Space Gateway

Artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. Orion will serve as the habitat’s command deck in early missions, providing critical communications, life support and navigation to guide long-duration missions. Credits: Lockheed Martin

Last summer, NASA selected six companies to develop prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats for future crews flying missions on Orion. Lockheed Martin was one of them, and this week the company released some details on plans for their full-scale prototype, which they hope to complete over the next 18 months.

Continue reading Lockheed’s Prototype Habitat Plans for NASA’s Lunar Orbiting Deep Space Gateway

Remembering Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact on Jupiter, 23 Years Ago This Week

View of Jupiter from the Hubble Space Telescope after the impact of one of the largest fragments from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994. Photo Credit: NASA/STScI

Jupiter has been in the news a lot lately, with the Juno spacecraft continuing to send back stunning new images of the largest planet in the Solar System, including close-ups of the Great Red Spot. But something else happened at this time 23 years ago which captured astronomers’ and the public’s attention – a huge explosion in Jupiter’s atmosphere as a comet broke apart and the fragments collided with the planet, plummeting into the deep, thick atmosphere. The impacts and resulting “scars” were observed by telescopes around the world.

Continue reading Remembering Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s Impact on Jupiter, 23 Years Ago This Week

Agencies Join Forces for Orion Crew Egress Testing in Gulf of Mexico

When astronauts return to Earth from destinations beyond the moon in NASA’s Orion spacecraft and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, they’ll still need to safely get out of the spacecraft and back on dry land. Using the waters off the coast of Galveston, Texas, a NASA and Department of Defense team recently tested Orion exit procedures in a variety of scenarios. Credit: NASA

A joint team from NASA’s Orion and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs, along with the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force, spent July 10-14 practicing crew egress procedures off Galveston, Texas to get astronauts out of the deep space crew capsule after splashing down under parachutes in the Pacific Ocean on return from their missions beginning in the mid 2020s.

Continue reading Agencies Join Forces for Orion Crew Egress Testing in Gulf of Mexico

Fly Over Pluto and Charon for Second Anniversary of New Horizons' Historic Visit

Pluto is a world of wonders, with vast glaciers and plains of nitrogen ice, mountains of water ice capped with methane snow, ancient rivers and lakes of liquid nitrogen, massive “ice spikes” reaching 500 meters tall (similar to Penitentes on Earth but much larger), a possible subsurface ocean and a hazy blue atmosphere. Photo Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

It was two years ago today that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft became the first-ever probe to visit Pluto in the cold, outer fringes of the Solar System. To help celebrate the occasion, NASA has posted a new video of the epic flyby, when the spacecraft soared over the tall mountains and vast icy plains of this small but active world.

Continue reading Fly Over Pluto and Charon for Second Anniversary of New Horizons’ Historic Visit

Juno Reveals Solar System's Largest Storm Like Never Seen Before

One of the first new images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/SwRI/Kevin M. Gill

Last Monday, July 10, NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot for the first time, providing the closest views ever of this gigantic storm system which is much larger than Earth in size. While the science data collected has been streaming back to Earth, what most people have been waiting for of course are the images. The first ones had been expected around Friday this week, but they actually became available today – and as anticipated, they are fantastic!

Continue reading Juno Reveals Solar System’s Largest Storm Like Never Seen Before

Cassini’s Latest Dive Through Saturn's Rings Reveals Spectacular Detail


Recent spectacular image from Cassini where Saturn’s shadow can be seen projected onto the finely detailed rings. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has now successfully completed its 12th ring crossing at Saturn, and is now well past the halfway point of the Grand Finale phase of its mission. Each ring crossing, with now only 10 left, brings Cassini closer to its inevitable end in September, when the spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s turbulent atmosphere to meet its fiery fate.

Continue reading Cassini’s Latest Dive Through Saturn’s Rings Reveals Spectacular Detail

SOFIA Intercepts Shadow of New Horizons' Next Flyby Target 4 Billion Miles Away

NASA’s airborne observatory, SOFIA, was in the right place at the right time on July 10 to study the environment around a distant Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, which is the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA

July 14, 2015, marks the first day where humanity completed the first reconnaissance of every “planet” in our solar system, when NASA’s $728 million, piano-sized 1,000 pound New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, cruising less than 8,000 miles over the surface of Pluto and putting its seven high-tech science instruments into overdrive as it cruised by at 31,000 mph, fulfilling its destiny after a 9.5 year journey across 3 billion miles – some 32 times further from the sun than the Earth is.

It wasn’t long after, that NASA aimed the spacecraft for its next target, which lies 1 billion miles beyond Pluto; over 4 billion miles from home. 

Continue reading SOFIA Intercepts Shadow of New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target 4 Billion Miles Away

'No More Wheelies' Software Gives Curiosity Better Traction on Different Rocks

View of two of the raised treads (grousers) on the left middle wheel of the Curiosity rover which recently broke, including the one seen partially detached at the top of the wheel. NASA has now developed a new algorithm that adjusts the rover’s wheels speed depending on the rocks it’s climbing, to minimize wear on the wheels. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A true marvel of engineering, NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been exploring Gale Crater on Mars now for nearly five years, revealing different eras of the planet’s geological history in the various rocks and terrain it covers while learning to locate environments that can, or did, or could have supported life.

The question it set out to answer—was Mars ever habitable at some point in its history—was answered with a resounding yes several years ago by the rover, when it drilled into rocks and discovered key chemical ingredients for life. But in that time, its solid aluminum wheels have taken quite a beating.

Continue reading ‘No More Wheelies’ Software Gives Curiosity Better Traction on Different Rocks

Third Time's a Charm as SpaceX Launches 10th Mission of 2017 with Intelsat 35e

SpaceX successfully launches its tenth Upgraded Falcon 9 of 2017 at 7:38 p.m. EDT on 5 July 2017. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

SpaceX and Pad 39A established another record this evening (Wednesday, 5 July), as the personal-best-beating tenth Upgraded Falcon 9 of 2017 roared into space and the historic, Apollo-era complex saw its second launch in only 12 days. The 230-foot-tall (70-meter) booster lifted off at 7:38 p.m. EDT, right on the opening of a 58-minute “window” and successfully delivered the Intelsat 35e high-throughput communications satellite into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Wednesday’s successful launch came after a pair of disappointing scrubs on Sunday and Monday, both automatically commanded at T-9 seconds. Following the second scrub, SpaceX elected to return to Upgraded Falcon 9 to a horizontal configuration for attention, standing down for a couple of days to prepare for a third launch attempt. Due to the heavyweight nature of the payload—which tips the scales at around 14,770 pounds (6,700 kg)—no attempt to land the Upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage on either the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) or Landing Zone (LZ)-1 was made on this mission.

Continue reading Third Time’s a Charm as SpaceX Launches 10th Mission of 2017 with Intelsat 35e