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Latest Mars Photo Shows Curiosity’s Tracks From Space


NASA’s newest Mars rover Curiosity is taking its first tentative drives across the Martian surface and leaving tracks that have been spotted all the way from space in a spectacular photo snapped by an orbiting spacecraft.

The newview of Curiosity’s tracks from space was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and released today. It shows the rover as a bright, boxy vehicle at the end of two tracks that create a single zig-zag pattern in the Martian surface.

Another photo from the MRO spacecraft spotted the car-size Curiosity rover’s parachute and protective backshell, which were jettisoned by the rover during its Aug. 5 landing. A previous photo by MRO taken on Curiosity’s actual landing day captured an image of theMars rover hanging from its parachute.

Scientists used the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on the MRO spacecraft to take the new photos, which have created a buzz among the Curiosity rover’s science team.

“The HiRISE camera on MRO continues to take amazing photographs of Mars, and of us on Mars,” said Mike Watkins, Curiosity mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a briefing today.

The photo of Curiosity also includes the rover’s landing spot and shows the scorch marks left behind by the rockets on the sky crane that lowered the rover to the Martian surface.

“It’s a great image of where we stand relative to the touchdown point now,” Watkins said.

This isn’t the first time the MRO spacecraft has captured views of rovers on Mars. The orbiter repeatedly observed NASA’s smaller Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity as they explored the Martian surface following their own landings in January 2004. The Spirit rover’s mission was declared over last year, but Opportunity continues to rover across the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum.

The Mars rover Curiosity took its first drive on Mars on Aug. 22 and completed its longest drive, a 100-foot trek, on Sept. 4. So far, the rover has driven a total of 358 feet on Mars, but is actually just 69 feet away from its landing site due to the turns the rover has performed along the way.

Mission scientists have also tested the rover’s mast-mounted cameras and laser, which is used to study the composition of Martian rocks, and are preparing a weeklong set of tests to calibrate Curiosity’s instrument-tipped robotic arm.

NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover is designed to spend the next two years exploring the vast Gale Crater on Mars to determine if the area could have once supported microbial life. Mission scientists also plan to send the rover up Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising up from the center of the crater.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/06/nasa-photo-curiosity-tracks/

Astronauts Will Have Thanksgiving Feast in Space


Turkey and all the trimmings are a staple for Americans on Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t have to change for Americans in space.

Astronaut food has come a long way from the early days of human spaceflight, and crewmembers on the International Space Station these days can enjoy many Turkey Day traditions, such as cornbread stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cherry blueberry cobbler, and, of course, turkey itself.

This year, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, commander of the space station’s Expedition 34 mission, will celebrate with his Russian crewmates Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy.

“Thanksgiving is not a holiday that the Russians celebrate, but we have found that on orbit the crewmembers celebrate each others’ holidays,” said Vickie Kloeris, manager of the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “They will take part in Kevin Ford’s celebration of Thanksgiving, just as American crewmembers will take part in some of the Russian holidays.”

The space station’s Thanksgiving delicacies will come in somewhat different forms than what may be on most holiday tables, though. Space food falls into two categories: freeze-dried (just add water) or thermostabilized (comes in a pouch). And all food sent to the space station has to meet certain microbiological requirements and have a sufficient shelf life.

For example, the cornbread dressing on offer is a replacement for the traditional bread-based stuffing that many people are used to. However, break makes too many crumbs that float around in all directions in weightlessness and are difficult to clean up.

Still, the current Thanksgiving menu is a huge improvement over what earlier space travelers had available.

“If you want to go all the way back to Mercury and Gemini, there were no holiday meals back then,” Kloeris told SPACE.com. “All you had was cube foods and tube foods. We’ve definitely expanded greatly the amount of traditional items that we have made available for holiday times, and that only makes sense because when we started having crewmembers stay on space station long term, we knew every year we’d be hitting Thanksgiving and Christmas with somebody.”

In addition to the standard holiday menu items, each astronaut gets a certain number of “bonus containers” to pack whatever particular foods they’d like, provided they meet the basic requirements. Most pack off-the-shelf products like cookies and other treats.

“We have crewmembers who take icing in tubs and cookies, and they’ll ice them at Christmas time,” Kloeris said. “We’ve even had crewmembers take food coloring so they could color the icing.”

The importance of having traditional holiday foods varies from crewmember to crewmember, she said. “That’s always evident when they go to plan their bonus containers. You immediately know who has the strongest ties to holiday food because they’ll be the first ones to bring up the fact that, ‘Hey, I’m going to be up there at Christmas.'”

Each of the holiday foods that are provided by NASA have made it through a thorough vetting process.

It starts with a basic recipe for, say, cherry blueberry cobbler. Then the NASA food scientists modify the recipe so that it can be packed in pouches, which is similar to canning. After that, they test its texture, color, and taste.

“When it goes through the thermostabilizing process, the chemistry of the food changes quite a bit,” Kloeris said. “Often what happens is we’ll take a formulation and we’ll try it afterwards, and it’s like, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.'”

The scientists often have to go through many iterations of a recipe, including scaling it up so it still tastes good if made in large batches, before a food is ready for orbit. And some recipes just never quite make it.

“We tried for a while to come up with thermostabilized cheesecake, and we just flat gave up on it,” Kloeris said. “The color changes we got were just too severe. Not everything works.”

But other foods that are stereotypically associated with space are actually rarely eaten there.

“The freeze-dried ice cream actually only flew once” on an Apollo mission, when a crewmember requested it, Kloeris said. “It’s more like hard cotton candy. Certainly if [astronauts] wanted to request that they could, but that’s not something that adults want. Kids like it; they sell it at the gift shop.”

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/21/astronauts-thanksgiving-space/

Hubble Telescope Image Reveals a Cross Section of the Cosmos


An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history.
Image: NASA, ESA

A new photo from NASA’s Hubble space telescope captures a variety of celestial objects both near and far, providing a glimpse of many different stages of cosmic history all at once.

The Hubble image, released April 17, is a 14-hour exposure that shows objects about 1 billion times fainter than the naked eye can make out, researchers said. Most of the galaxies visible in the photo lie less than 5 billion light-years away, but some objects are much more distant.

For example, the photo shows a quasar located 9 billion light-years from Earth, meaning it has taken about two-thirds of the universe’s history for the object’s light to reach Hubble. (The Big Bang that created the universe occurred 13.8 billion years ago.)

The most luminous objects in the universe, quasars are incredibly bright galactic cores powered by supermassive black holes that contain millions of times more mass than the sun.

The light from the distant quasar in the Hubble photo is being bent and amplified by a galaxy cluster that lies closer to Earth along the line of sight from this planet — a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. This cluster, known as CLASS B1608+656, is visible as a small loop near the center of the image.

CLASS B1608+656 isn’t the only lensing object in the new photo, which combines observations in visible and infrared light.

Two galaxies — dubbed Fred and Ginger, but more formally known as ACS J160919+6532 and ACS J160910+6532, respectively — are also warping spacetime enough to distort the light emitted by objects behind them, researchers said.

Both Fred and Ginger appear close to CLASS B1608+656 in the Hubble photo. But only Fred is actually close to the cluster, researchers said; Ginger is much nearer to Earth.

The Hubble image is new to the general public but not to scientists, who have studied it extensively over the years. It was spotted by Adam Kill during the 2012 Hubble’s Hidden Treasures competition, which invited contestants to identify the most interesting and beautiful Hubble photos that a wide audience has yet to see.

The iconic Hubble Space Telescope, a joint effort involving NASA and the European Space Agency, launched in April 1990. Astronauts repaired and upgraded the orbiting instrument five times over the years using the now-grounded space shuttle, sharpening Hubble’s vision considerably.

Officials have said they plan to operate Hubble through at least 2020. That would allow some scientific overlap with the telescope’s successor, NASA’s $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is currently scheduled to launch in 2018.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/04/22/hubble-telescope-universe/

Incredible NASA Animation Shows A Black Hole Destroying A Star

The vast cosmic events that go on in space can sometimes be hard to picture in your mind, even with the most vivid imagination and understanding. Thankfully, NASA has released a video demonstrating just one of those colossal clashes of the universe.

The video is an artist’s rendition of a “tidal disruption.” This is when a star strays into the path of a black hole and is ripped apart, causing stellar debris to fling out. The event also creates a flare of X-ray radiation which, if we’re lucky, we can register.NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer and ESA/NASAs XMM-Newton even collected information on a tidal disruption caused by a supermassive black hole late last year, in an event namedASASSN-14li.

NASA used this eventto test theoretical models about how black holes affect their environments, as well as create illustrations of what events such as tidal disruptions might look like.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/ever-wondered-what-black-hole-destroying-star-looks

NASA Releases Most Detailed Map Of The Oceans Yet

The bottom of the ocean is a mysterious place. We probably know the surface of Mars better than areas in the Atlantic and the Pacific. But we now have our best look at the seafloor yet, thanks to the NASA Earth Observatory.

The researchers looked at gravitational anomalies to produce a detailed analysis of underwater features, and by doing this were able to spot anythinglarger than 5 kilometers (3 miles).

The paper was published in Science last year, and the data was used to create small maps that are even available on Google Earth. Themap gives the first comprehensive look at the entire data set showing the diversity and complexity of the depths of Earths oceans.

This section of the map shows part of theAtlantic Ocean. Red areas are mountains and ridges, blue areas are canyons and trenches.NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens

Traditionally, ocean floor maps are made using sonar. However, ships are small compared to the big blue sea, and this kind of technique is only good for limited portions of the seabed. It is expensive and time consuming, and it isbelievedthis is why only about 5 percentof the ocean floors have been explored.

Instead, the team behind the new research used satellites to precisely measure the gravitational field of our planet. An underwater mountain would have a slightly stronger pull (appearing red in the map),and a submarine canyon would have a weaker gravitational field (blue in the map).

This technique has already been employed to look at another invisible area of the planet; by measuring gravity, researchers were able to observe the geological formations present in Antarctica beneath the thick sheet of ice.

The measurements were taken by the NASA-CNES Jason-1 satellite as well as using ESAs CryoSat-2 and data from missions in the 1980s and ’90s. The data was combined through computer analysis and the map released by the NASA Earth Observatory is the most extensive map of the ocean floor ever made.

This map will further improve our understanding of plate tectonics and evolution of the ocean, as well as giving targets for more precise sonar investigations.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/nasa-releases-most-detailed-map-ocean-yet

Yo-Yo Tricks In Space

Having the amazing opportunity to work in space is many scientists dream. And one of the best parts of being in space is the fun parts! Like experimenting with toys from Earth, such as the yo-yo. 

Since the physics are different in space, the yo-yo behaves differently, causing the tricks to have new outcomes. 

 just published this video NASA Astronaut Don Pettit showing us some cool new and classic yo-yo tricks in space that has started to trend. 


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/08/10/yo-yo-tricks-in-space/

Space Shuttle Endeavour’s LA Landing Delayed to Friday


Space shuttle Endeavour’s highly anticipated arrival in Los Angeles has been deferred by a day.

The retired spacecraft, which will be ferried on top of NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 jet, was originally targeted to land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Sept. 20. Destined for display at the California Science Center (CSC), Endeavour, riding piggyback atop the SCA, is now scheduled to touch down on Friday at about 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT; 1800 GMT).

“The decision to reschedule the flight was made Monday in coordination with the science center to ensure a safe flight for Endeavour and the SCA,” NASA announced in a statement.

The one-day delay stems from NASA having to postpone Endeavour’s departure from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a result of a low pressure weather front and its associated thunderstorms posing a threat to the ferry flight during its first leg to Houston. The carrier aircraft had been set to takeoff from Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility on Monday morning, but was delayed twice, first to Tuesday and then Wednesday.

“Weather predictions are favorable on Wednesday for the flight path between Houston and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,” the space agency said.

Endeavour’s last liftoff from Florida and the final ferry flight of the shuttle era is now targeted to begin on Wednesday (Sept. 19) at sunrise, at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT).

[Gallery: Shuttle Endeavour Rolled Out Atop Aircraft]

Delaying the shuttle’s Los Angeles arrival to Friday offered NASA the leeway to resume its plans to conduct several low flyovers and stopovers at many of its facilities spread across the southern and western regions of the country.

After taking off from Kennedy on the same runway where Endeavour made its 25th and final return from space in June 2011, the shuttle and SCA duo will perform a flyover of Florida’s Space Coast, including Kennedy, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base.

The aircraft and spacecraft will then fly west and conduct low level passes of the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where NASA tested the orbiters’ engines and built space shuttle external tanks, respectively. As the ferry flight arrives over the Gulf Coast area, the SCA will fly low passes over the Houston area before touching down at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The Texas Gulf Coast region flyover is scheduled to occur between about 9 – 10:30 a.m. CDT (10 – 11:30 a.m. EDT, or 1400-1530 GMT). Landing at Ellington is scheduled for approximately 10:45 a.m. (11:45 a.m. EDT; 1545 GMT). Endeavour and the SCA will spend the night in Houston.

At sunrise on Sept. 20, the aircraft and shuttle will depart Ellington, make a refueling stop at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas, and conduct low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., and the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before landing around mid-day at Dryden.

On the morning of Sept. 21, the SCA and Endeavour will take off one last time from Dryden and perform a low-level flyover of Northern California, passing near NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field and various landmarks in multiple cities, including Sacramento and San Francisco. The aircraft will also fly over many Los Angeles landmarks before arriving at LAX.

Once on the ground and following a ceremony welcoming Endeavour to Los Angeles, the shuttle will be removed from the SCA and spend a few weeks at a United Airlines hangar undergoing preparations for transport and display. Endeavour will then travel through the streets of Inglewood and Los Angeles on a two-day, 12-mile (19-kilometer) road trip from the airport to the science center, arriving on the evening of Oct. 13.

Beginning Oct. 30, the shuttle will debut on display in the science center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, beginning its new educational mission to commemorate past achievements in space and inspire the next generations of explorers.

Go to shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA’s retired space shuttles.

Image courtesy offotopedia.com

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/19/shuttle-endeavour-los-angeles/

Super-Realistic Simulator Lands NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars


As NASA’s Curiosity rover gets closer to its early Monday morning landing on Mars, the agency has released a spectacular simulator that will take you through every detail of the complicated landing procedure.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft, officially called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), will land on the Red Planet at 1:30 A.M. Eastern Time on August 5.

The remarkable web-based interactive animation lets you see precisely where in space the 1-ton, $2.5 billion Mars rover is located at this moment, or using Preview Mode, you can jump forward and backward in time, speeding up events so you can see each aspect of the flight and landing. That includes the last step, which lowers the unusually heavy rover using an incredible “sky crane.”

During the “seven minutes of terror,” NASA‘s way of explaining the Rube-Goldbergian process of landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, it won’t be possible to watch the Mars landing live because of the 14-minute communications delay between Mars and Earth. But an interactive animation of the landing will be viewable in real time in this simulator as it happens early Monday morning.

In the meantime, we’ve been having lots of fun playing with this simulator, going forward and backward in time, dragging the mouse to change camera angles, and even looking back at a tiny Earth, way off in the distance.

Try it yourself — and pay close attention to those “seven minutes of terror,” the most complicated landing sequence ever attempted. While you’re at it, keep your fingers crossed at 1:30 A.M. Eastern time on Monday morning, because key NASA officials are saying there’s a lot riding on this landing. Doug McQuiston, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program calls it “the most significant event in the history of planetary exploration.”

Lead scientist for the mission, John Grotzinger, told Space.com, “I think if we are fatal on landing, that will have a very negative influence.” He added, “It’s going to force people to look back and ask if it’s possible to achieve these very complex, more demanding missions from a technological perspective. How can you talk about sample-return if you can’t do MSL [Mars Science Laboratory] first?”

Good luck, NASA. Do you think the spacecraft will land on Mars successfully?

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/04/simulator-mars-curiosity-rover/

Curiosity Rover Makes First Foursquare Check-in on Mars


Curiosity is NASA’s most digitally savvy rover yet. She tweets regularly, posts her pictures and now she is the first Foursquare user to ever check in on Mars.

Curiosity’s first check-in was today at the Gale Crater, where she made her first landing on the night of Aug. 5. Located on the equator of Mars, the Gale Crater is home to the 3-mile high Mount Sharp and is Curiosity’s primary target as it holds billions of years of Martian history.

Curiosity will continue to check in and share updates throughout her 23-month expedition.

“Like any great trip, you want to share with your friends back home, so that is why the rover is sharing check-ins and tips from her amazing trip,” says Stephanie L. Smith, who is part of the three-woman team that runs Curiosity’s social media.

Since Curiosity is the first to post from the Red Planet, she will regularly give travel tips for future space tourists.

“Mars is cold, dry and rocky. Extra moisturizer and sturdy shoes would be a good idea, plus oxygen for those of you who breathe,” she posted along with a snapshot of the desert-like landscape.

Curiosity’s next check-in will be from Rocknest, another point within the Gale Crater where the rover will be parked for the next two weeks to conduct various experiments.

“We’ll start getting to more specific locations within the crater,” says Veronica McGregor, social media manager at NASA. “We may not do daily check-ins for each drive, but we will be able to do check-ins and tips for locations after we name them.”

Curiosity’s Foursquare tips will be a mix of science and humor. “We’re having fun with these tips,” says NASA social media specialist Courtney O’Connor. “We have to consider things like atmosphere, temperature and things we don’t normally think about on Earth. We have to put ourselves into her point of view. You have to get into character.”

So far, the rover has checked in two times today. She only has one more check-in until she becomes mayor of Gale Crater — an honor that, McGregor says, is well-deserved.

“If anyone should be mayor, it’s that rover.”

Bonus: Mars Curiosity’s First Tracks

Could Russian Sanctions Restrict US Access To The International Space Station?

The U.S. has made it very clear that it does not agree with the way that Russia has behaved towards Ukraine, and last month NASA cut-off contact with Russia except for ISS related matters. This week, the U.S. went one step further and imposed sanctions that deny export licenses for any high-tech items that might be used to aid Russian military capabilities. Since Russia is reliant on imports from the West, this could jeopardize Russia’s plan to launch five commercial satellites this year.  

This has royally ticked off the Russian government, to say the least, and they have now started to retaliate by threatening to prevent the U.S. from utilizing Russian space shuttles. In a Twitter rant, Rogozin wrote “The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry… We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions.” He then added that the U.S. should start to use a trampoline to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

Jokes aside- is this a serious threat toward the astronauts that are currently on board the ISS? Unfortunately the U.S. is dependent on Russian shuttles to get astronauts to the ISS, but given that it pays Russia a whopping $60 million per astronaut and Russia are lacking in funds at the moment, it seems likely that this is an empty threat. They’re shortly due a pay-out of $457.9 million from the U.S. for their services so far, which is an incredible amount of money to throw down the drain.

Two private American companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, are also hoping to be able to send astronauts to the ISS soon; therefore it seems unwise to make rash decisions that could badly backfire on Russia later down the line.

It’s incredibly unlikely that these threats will lead to the astronauts currently on board the ISS becoming “stranded” in space as some newspapers have suggested, so there is no need for panic just yet. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/could-russian-sanctions-restrict-us-access-international-space-station