Category: mars

Space is a global frontier. That’s why we partner with nations all around the world to further the advancement of science and to push the boundaries of human exploration. With international collaboration, we have sent space telescopes to observe distant galaxies, established a sustainable, orbiting laboratory 254 miles above our planet’s surface and more! As we look forward to the next giant leaps in space exploration with our Artemis lunar exploration program, we will continue to go forth with international partnerships!

Teamwork makes the dream work. Here are a few of our notable collaborations:

Artemis Program

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Our Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Using innovative technologies and international partnerships, we will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

During these missions, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The European Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, will serve as the spacecraft’s powerhouse and supply it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water in space.

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The Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, will be a home base for astronauts to maintain frequent and sustainable crewed missions to the lunar surface. With the help of a coalition of nations, this new spaceship will be assembled in space and built within the next decade.

Gateway already has far-reaching international support, with 14 space agencies agreeing on its importance in expanding humanity’s presence on the Moon, Mars and deeper into the solar system.

International Space Station

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The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted. Launched in 1998 and involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating countries of the European Space Agency — the ISS has been the epitome of global cooperation for the benefit of humankind. The largest space station ever constructed, the orbital laboratory continues to bring together international flight crews, globally distributed launches, operations, training, engineering and the world’s scientific research community.

Hubble Space Telescope 

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The Hubble Space Telescope, one of our greatest windows into worlds light-years away, was built with contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA).

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ESA provided the original Faint Object Camera and solar panels, and continues to provide science operations support for the telescope. 

Deep Space Network

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The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international array of giant radio antennas that span the world, with stations in the United States, Australia and Spain. The three facilities are equidistant approximately one-third of the way around the world from one another – to permit constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates. The network supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and a few that orbit Earth. It also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe!

Mars Missions 

Information gathered today by robots on Mars will help get humans to the Red Planet in the not-too-distant future. Many of our Martian rovers – both past, present and future – are the products of a coalition of science teams distributed around the globe. Here are a few notable ones:

Curiosity Mars Rover 

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  • France: ChemCam, the rover’s laser instrument that can analyze rocks from more than 20 feet away
  • Russia: DAN, which looks for subsurface water and water locked in minerals
  • Spain: REMS, the rover’s weather station

InSight Mars Lander

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  • France with contributions from Switzerland: SEIS, the first seismometer on the surface of another planet
  • Germany: HP3, the heatflow probe that will help us understand the interior structure of Mars
  • Spain: APSS, the lander’s weather station

Mars 2020 Rover

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  • Norway: RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar
  • France: SuperCam, the laser instrument for remote science
  • Spain: MEDA, the rover’s weather station

Space-Analog Astronaut Training

We partner with space agencies around the globe on space-analog missions. Analog missions are field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments. They take astronauts to space-like environments to prepare as international teams for near-term and future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the Moon.

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The European Space Agency hosts the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) mission. The two week training prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work safely and effectively in an environment where safety is critical. The mission is designed to foster skills such as communication, problem solving, decision-making and team dynamics.

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We host our own analog mission, underwater! The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project sends international teams of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for up to three weeks. Here, “aquanauts” as we call them, simulate living on a spacecraft and test spacewalk techniques for future space missions in hostile environments.

International Astronautical Congress 

So, whether we’re collaborating as a science team around the globe, or shoulder-to-shoulder on a spacewalk, we are committed to working together with international partners for the benefit of all humanity! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how the global space industry works together, check out our coverage of the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) happening this week in Washington, D.C. IAC is a yearly gathering in which all space players meet to talk about the advancements and progress in exploration.

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Astronaut out! Thank you for all the amazing questions.

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What popular film is the closest to reality for you?

How could your research in diseases help missions to the Moon, Mars and other places in our solar system?

3, 2, 1 LIFTOFF! Astronaut Kate Rubins is here answering your questions during this Tumblr Answer Time. Tune in and enjoy. 🚀👩‍🚀

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More than 45 years since humans last set foot on the lunar surface, we’re going back to the Moon and getting ready for Mars. The Artemis program will send the first woman and next man to walk on the surface of the Moon by 2024, establish sustainable lunar exploration and pave the way for future missions deeper into the solar system.

Getting There

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Our powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft a quarter million miles from Earth to lunar orbit. The spacecraft is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather hours.

Lunar Outpost

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Astronauts will dock Orion at our new lunar outpost that will orbit the Moon called the Gateway. This small spaceship will serve as a temporary home and office for astronauts in orbit between missions to the surface of the Moon. It will provide us and our partners access to the entire surface of the Moon, including places we’ve never been before like the lunar South Pole. Even before our first trip to Mars, astronauts will use the Gateway to train for life far away from Earth, and we will use it to practice moving a spaceship in different orbits in deep space.

Expeditions to the Moon

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The crew will board a human landing system docked to the Gateway to take expeditions down to the surface of the Moon. We have proposed using a three-stage landing system, with a transfer vehicle to take crew to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to land safely on the surface, and an ascent element to take them back to the Gateway. 

Return to Earth

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Astronauts will ultimately return to Earth aboard the Orion spacecraft. Orion will enter the Earth’s atmosphere traveling at 25,000 miles per hour, will slow to 300 mph, then parachutes will deploy to slow the spacecraft to approximately 20 mph before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Red Planet 

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We will establish sustainable lunar exploration within the next decade, and from there, we will prepare for our next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars!

Discover more about our plans to go to the Moon and on to Mars:
https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

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As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing, remember that many Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first person on the Moon, were test pilots who flew experimental planes for NASA in our earliest days. Since long before we landed on the Moon, aeronautics has been a key piece of our mission.

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The U.S. founded the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), our predecessor, in 1914. NACA, collaborating with the U.S. Air Force, pioneered the X-1 aircraft, the first crewed plane to achieve supersonic speeds. NACA was largely responsible for turning the slow, cloth-and-wood biplanes of the early 1900s into the sleek, powerful jets of today.

When NACA was absorbed by the newly formed NASA in 1958, we continued NACA’s mission, propelling American innovation in aviation. Today, our portfolio of aeronautics missions and new flight technologies is as robust as ever. Below are seven of our innovations flying out of the lab and into the air, getting you gate-to-gate safely and on time while transforming aviation into an economic engine!

1. X-59 QueSST

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Our X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) flies faster than the speed of sound without the window-shattering sonic boom. This innovation may kick off a new generation of quiet, supersonic planes that can fly over land without disturbing those below. Once adopted, QueSST’s technologies could drastically reduce the time it takes to fly across the U.S. and even to other countries worldwide!

2. X-57 Maxwell 

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Our X-57 Maxwell will be the first all-electric X-plane, demonstrating the benefits distributed electric propulsion may have for future aviation. The Maxwell is named for Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who is known for his theories on electricity and electromagnetism. The name is also a play on words because, as X-57 engineer Nick Borer said, “It has the maximum number of propellers.”

3. Airborne Science

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Our airborne science program provides Earth scientists and astrophysicists with the unique insights that can be gleaned from the air and above the clouds. By flying aircraft with Earth science instruments and advanced telescopes, we can gather high resolution data about our changing Earth and the stars above. Airborne science outreach specialist (and champion aerobatics pilot) Susan Bell highlights Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments Experiment – Air Quality (FIREX-AQ), a joint mission with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“FIREX-AQ will investigate the impact of wildfires and agricultural fires on air quality,” Susan said. “Living in the Western U.S., I witness firsthand the impact that smoke can have on the communities we live in and up in the air as a pilot.”

4. Search and Rescue

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Our Search and Rescue (SAR) office serves as the technology development arm of the international satellite-aided search and rescue program, Cospas-Sarsat. Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration adopted SAR’s guidance regarding the testing and installation of the NASA-developed beacons required for planes. These recommendations will greatly improve aviation beacon performance and, ultimately, save more lives.

SAR developed the recommendations through crash test research at our Langley Research Center’s gantry in Hampton, Virginia, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trained for the Apollo Moon landing!

5. MADCAT

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Our Mission Adaptive Digital Composite Aerostructure Technologies (MADCAT) team at our Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley uses strong, lightweight carbon fiber composites to design airplane wings that can adapt on the fly. The composite materials are used to create “blocks,” modular units that can be arranged in repeating lattice patterns — the same crisscrossing patterns you might see in a garden fence!

6. RVLT

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Our Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) project leverages the agency’s aeronautics expertise to advance vertical flight capabilities in the U.S. The RVLT project helps design and test innovative new vehicle designs, like aircraft that can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane. Additionally, the project uses computer models of the complex airflow surrounding whirring rotors to design vehicles that make less noise!

7. Moon to Mars

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We’re with you when you fly — even on Mars! The 1958 law that established the agency charged us with solving the problems of flight within the atmosphere… but it didn’t say WHICH atmosphere. We’re applying our aeronautics expertise to the thin atmosphere of Mars, developing technologies that will enable flight on the Red Planet. In fact, a small, robotic helicopter will accompany the Mars 2020 rover, becoming the first heavier-than-air vehicle to fly on — err, above — Mars!

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As Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot onto another world on July 20, 1969, lunar dust collected on the boots of his spacesuit. He peered through the gold coating of his visor and looked out across the surface of the Moon, an entirely different landscape than he was used to.

Now, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, you can experience the boots that stepped in Moon dust and the visor that saw the moonscape up close. Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing is on display for the first time in 13 years in its new display case in the Wright Brothers & the Invention of the Aerial Age Gallery of the National Air and Space Museum.

This week, you can also watch us salute our Apollo 50th heroes and look forward to our next giant leap for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Tune in to a special two-hour live NASA Television broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, July 19. Watch the program at www.nasa.gov/live.

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As the Apollo 11 mission lifted off on the Saturn V rocket, propelling humanity to the surface of the Moon for the very first time, members of the team inside Launch Control Center watched through a window.

The room was crowded with men in white shirts and dark ties, watching attentively as the rocket thrust into the sky. But among them sat one woman, seated to the left of center in the third row in the image below. In fact, this was the only woman in the launch firing room for the Apollo 11 liftoff.

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This is JoAnn Morgan, the instrumentation controller for Apollo 11. Today, this is what Morgan is most known for. But her career at NASA spanned over 45 years, and she continued to break ceiling after ceiling for women involved with the space program.

“It was just meant to be for me to be in the launching business,” she says. “I’ve got rocket fuel in my blood.”

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Morgan was inspired to join the human spaceflight program when Explorer 1 was launched into space in 1958, the first satellite to do so from the United States. Explorer 1 was instrumental in discovering what has become known as the Van Allen radiation belt. 

“I thought to myself, this is profound knowledge that concerns everyone on our planet,” she says. “This is an important discovery, and I want to be a part of this team. I was compelled to do it because of the new knowledge, the opportunity for new knowledge.”

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The opportunity came when Morgan spotted an advertisement for two open positions with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. The ad listed two Engineer’s Aide positions available for two students over the summer.

 “Thank God it said ‘students’ and not ‘boys’” says Morgan, “otherwise I wouldn’t have applied.”

After Morgan got the position, the program was quickly rolled into a brand-new space exploration agency called NASA. Dr. Kurt Debus, the first director of Kennedy Space Center (KSC), looked at Morgan’s coursework and provided Morgan with a pathway to certification. She was later certified as a Measurement and Instrumentation Engineer and a Data Systems Engineer.

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There was a seemingly infinite amount of obstacles that Morgan was forced to overcome — everything from obscene phone calls at her station to needing a security guard to clear out the men’s only restroom.

“You have to realize that everywhere I went — if I went to a procedure review, if I went to a post-test critique, almost every single part of my daily work — I’d be the only woman in the room,” reflects Morgan. “I had a sense of loneliness in a way, but on the other side of that coin, I wanted to do the best job I could.”

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To be the instrumentation controller in the launch room for the Apollo 11 liftoff was as huge as a deal as it sounds. For Morgan, to be present at that pivotal point in history was ground-breaking: “It was very validating. It absolutely made my career.”

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Much like the Saturn V rocket, Morgan’s career took off. She was the first NASA woman to win a Sloan Fellowship, which she used to earn a Master of Science degree in management from Stanford University in California. When she returned to NASA, she became a divisions chief of the Computer Systems division.

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From there, Morgan excelled in many other roles, including deputy of Expendable Launch Vehicles, director of Payload Projects Management and director of Safety and Mission Assurance. She was one of the last two people who verified the space shuttle was ready to launch and the first woman at KSC to serve in an executive position, associate director of the center.

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To this day, Morgan is still one of the most decorated women at KSC. Her numerous awards and recognitions include an achievement award for her work during the activation of Apollo Launch Complex 39, four exceptional service medals and two outstanding leadership medals. In 1995, she was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

After serving as the director of External Relations and Business Development, she retired from NASA in August 2003.

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Today, people are reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, looking back on photos of the only woman in the launch firing room and remembering Morgan as an emblem of inspiration for women in STEM. However, Morgan’s takeaway message is to not look at those photos in admiration, but in determination to see those photos “depart from our culture.”

“I look at that picture of the firing room where I’m the only woman. And I hope all the pictures now that show people working on the missions to the Moon and onto Mars, in rooms like Mission Control or Launch Control or wherever — that there will always be several women. I hope that photos like the ones I’m in don’t exist anymore.”

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Image Credit: NOAA

Earth’s ocean has been the backdrop for ancient epics, tales of fictional fish and numerous scientific discoveries. It was, and will always be, a significant piece of the Earth’s story. Most of the ocean is unexplored– about 95% of this underwater realm is unseen by human eyes (NOAA). There is only one global Ocean. In fact, the ocean represents over 70% of the Earth’s surface and contains 96.5% of the Earth’s water.

We and the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research work together alongside organizations like the Schmidt Ocean Institute and Ocean Exploration Trust to better understand our oceans and its processes. While space may be the final frontier, understanding our own planet helps scientists as they explore space and study how our universe came to be.

On #WorldOceansDay let’s explore how Earth’s ocean informs our research throughout the solar system.

Earth and Exoplanets

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“In interpreting what we see elsewhere in the solar system and universe, we always compare with phenomena that we already know of on Earth…We work from the familiar toward the unknown.” – Norman Kuring, NASA Goddard

We know of only one living planet: our own. As we move to the next stage in the search for alien life, the effort will require the expertise of scientists of all disciplines. However, the knowledge and tools NASA has developed to study life on Earth will also be one of the greatest assets to the quest.

The photo above shows what Earth would look like at a resolution of 3 pixels, the same that exoplanet-discovering missions would see. What should we look for, in the search of other planets like our own? What are the unmistakable signs of life, even if it comes in a form we don’t fully understand? Liquid water; every cell we know of – even bacteria around deep-sea vents that exist without sunlight – requires water.

Phytoplankton (Algae) Bloom vs. Atmosphere of Jupiter

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Jupiter’s storms are mesmerizing in their beauty, captured in many gorgeous photos throughout the decades from missions like Voyager 1 and Juno. The ethereal swirls of Jupiter are the result of fluids in motion on a rotating body, which might come as a surprise, since its atmosphere is made of gas!

The eddies in Jupiter’s clouds appear very similar to those found in Earth’s ocean, like in the phytoplankton (or algae) bloom in the Baltic Sea, pictured above. The bloom was swept up in a vortex, just a part of how the ocean moves heat, carbon, and nutrients around the planet. Blooms like this, however, are not all beauty – they create “dead zones” in the areas where they grow, blooming and decaying at such a high rate that they consume all the oxygen in the water around them.

Arctic Sea Ice and Europa Ice Crust

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While the Arctic (North Pole) and the Antarctic (South Pole) are “polar opposites,” there is one huge difference between the North and South Poles– land mass. The Arctic is ocean surrounded by land, while the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean. The North Pole  is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice.

By studying this sea ice, scientists can research its impact on Earth system and even formation processes on other bodies like Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter. For example, it is possible that the reddish surface features on Europa’s ice may have communicated with a global subsurface ocean layer during or after their formation. 

Aquanauts and Astronauts

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As new missions are being developed, scientists are using Earth as a testbed. Just as prototypes for our Mars rovers made their trial runs on Earth’s deserts, researchers are testing both hypotheses and technology on our oceans and extreme environments.

NEEMO, our Extreme Environment Mission Operations project, is an analog mission that sends groups of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station located off the Florida Keys, 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface. Much like space, the undersea world is a hostile, alien place for humans to live. NEEMO crew members, known as aquanauts, experience some of the same challenges there that they would on a distant asteroid, planet or moon.

Deep-sea Robotic Exploration and Space Robotic Exploration

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Video credit: Deep Sea Robotics/Schmidt Ocean Institute and Mars Curiosity rover/NASA

From mapping the seafloor through bathymetry to collecting samples on the surface of Mars, researchers are utilizing new technologies more than ever to explore. Satellite and robotic technology allow us to explore where humans may not be able to– yet. They teach us valuable lessons about the extreme and changing environments, science, as well as provide a platform to test new technologies.

Mars Delta/Jezero Crater and Dvina River Delta, Arkhangelsk, Russia

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River deltas, the point where a river meets the ocean, are sites of rich sediment and incredible biodiversity. The nutrients that rivers carry to the coastlines make a fertile place for fish and shellfish to lay their eggs.

The Jezero crater on Mars (pictured in false-color on the right) has been selected as the Mars2020 landing site, and has a structure that looks much like a river delta here on Earth! Pictures from our Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show eroded ancient deposits of transported sediment long since hardened into interweaving, curved ridges of layered rock. This is one of many hints that Mars was once covered in an ancient ocean that had more water than the Arctic Ocean. Studying these deltas on Earth helps us spot them on other planets, and learning about the ocean that was once on Mars informs how our own formed.

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