Category: planet

10 Things to Know: Massive Dust Storm on Mars

Massive Martian dust storms have been challenging—and enticing—scientists for decades. Here’s the scoop on Martian dust:

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1: Challenging Opportunity

Our Opportunity rover is facing one of the greatest challenges of its 14 ½ year mission on the surface of Mars–a massive dust storm that has turned day to night. Opportunity is currently hunkered down on Mars near the center of a storm bigger than North America and Russia combined. The dust-induced darkness means the solar-powered rover can’t recharge its batteries.

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2: One Tough Robot

This isn’t the first time Opportunity has had to wait out a massive storm. In 2007, a monthlong series of severe storms filled the Martian skies with dust. Power levels reached critical lows, but engineers nursed the rover back to health when sunlight returned.

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3: Windswept

Martian breezes proved a saving grace for the solar-powered Mars rovers in the past, sweeping away accumulated dust and enabling rovers to recharge and get back to science. This is Opportunity in 2014. The image on the left is from January 2014. The image on the right in March 2014.

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4: Dusty Disappointment

Back in 1971, scientists were eager for their first orbital views of Mars. But when Mariner 9 arrived in orbit, the Red Planet was engulfed by a global dust storm that hid most of the surface for a month. When the dust settled, geologists got detailed views of the Martian surface, including the first glimpses of ancient riverbeds carved into the dry and dusty landscape.

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5: Dramatic License

As bad as the massive storm sounds, Mars isn’t capable of generating the strong winds that stranded actor Matt Damon’s character on the Red Planet in the movie The Martian. Mars’ atmosphere is too thin and winds are more breezy than brutal. The chore of cleaning dusty solar panels to maintain power levels, however, could be a very real job for future human explorers.

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6: Semi-Regular Visitors

Scientists know to expect big dust storms on Mars, but the rapid development of the current one is surprising. Decades of Mars observations show a pattern of regional dust storms arising in northern spring and summer. In most Martian years, nearly twice as long as Earth years, the storms dissipate. But we’ve seen global dust storms in 1971, 1977, 1982, 1994, 2001 and 2007. The current storm season could last into 2019.

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7: Science in the Dust

Dust is hard on machines, but can be a boon to science. A study of the 2007 storm published earlier this year suggests such storms play a role in the ongoing process of gas escaping from the top of Mars’ atmosphere. That process long ago transformed wetter, warmer ancient Mars into today’s arid, frozen planet. Three of our orbiters, the Curiosity rover and international partners are already in position to study the 2018 storm.

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8: Adjusting InSight

Mission controllers for Mars InSight lander–due to land on Mars in November–will be closely monitoring the storm in case the spacecraft’s landing parameters need to be adjusted for safety. 

Once on the Red Planet, InSight will use sophisticated geophysical instruments to delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: Its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

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9: Martian Weather Report

One saving grace of dust storms is that they can actually limit the extreme temperature swings experienced on the Martian surface. The same swirling dust that blocks out sunlight also absorbs heat, raising the ambient temperature surrounding Opportunity.

Track the storm and check the weather on Mars anytime.

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10: Dust: Not Just a Martian Thing

A dust storm in the Sahara can change the skies in Miami and temperatures in the North Atlantic. Earth scientists keep close watch on our home planet’s dust storms, which can darken skies and alter Earth’s climate patterns.

Read the full web version of this article HERE

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9 Ocean Facts You Likely Don’t Know, but Shoul…

Earth is a place dominated by water, mainly oceans. It’s also a place our researchers study to understand life. Trillions of gallons of water flow freely across the surface of our blue-green planet. Ocean’s vibrant ecosystems impact our lives in many ways. 

In celebration of World Oceans Day, here are a few things you might not know about these complex waterways.

1. Why is the ocean blue? 

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The way light is absorbed and scattered throughout the ocean determines which colors it takes on. Red, orange, yellow,and green light are absorbed quickly beneath the surface, leaving blue light to be scattered and reflected back. This causes us to see various blue and violet hues.

2. Want a good fishing spot? 

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Follow the phytoplankton! These small plant-like organisms are the beginning of the food web for most of the ocean. As phytoplankton grow and multiply, they are eaten by zooplankton, small fish and other animals. Larger animals then eat the smaller ones. The fishing industry identifies good spots by using ocean color images to locate areas rich in phytoplankton. Phytoplankton, as revealed by ocean color, frequently show scientists where ocean currents provide nutrients for plant growth.

3. The ocean is many colors. 

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When we look at the ocean from space, we see many different shades of blue. Using instruments that are more sensitive than the human eye, we can measure carefully the fantastic array of colors of the ocean. Different colors may reveal the presence and amount of phytoplankton, sediments and dissolved organic matter.

4. The ocean can be a dark place. 

About 70 percent of the planet is ocean, with an average depth of more than 12,400 feet. Given that light doesn’t penetrate much deeper than 330 feet below the water’s surface (in the clearest water), most of our planet is in a perpetual state of darkness. Although dark, this part of the ocean still supports many forms of life, some of which are fed by sinking phytoplankton

5. We study all aspects of ocean life. 

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Instruments on satellites in space, hundreds of kilometers above us, can measure many things about the sea: surface winds, sea surface temperature, water color, wave height, and height of the ocean surface.

6. In a gallon of average sea water, there is about ½ cup of salt. 

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The amount of salt varies depending on location. The Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, for instance. Most of the salt in the ocean is the same kind of salt we put on our food: sodium chloride.

7. A single drop of sea water is teeming with life.  

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It will most likely have millions (yes, millions!) of bacteria and viruses, thousands of phytoplankton cells, and even some fish eggs, baby crabs, and small worms. 

8. Where does Earth store freshwater? 

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Just 3.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh—that is, with few salts in it. You can find Earth’s freshwater in our lakes, rivers, and streams, but don’t forget groundwater and glaciers. Over 68 percent of Earth’s freshwater is locked up in ice and glaciers. And another 30 percent is in groundwater. 

9. Phytoplankton are the “lungs of the ocean”.

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Just like forests are considered the “lungs of the earth”, phytoplankton is known for providing the same service in the ocean! They consume carbon dioxide, dissolved in the sunlit portion of the ocean, and produce about half of the world’s oxygen. 

Want to learn more about how we study the ocean? Follow @NASAEarth on twitter.

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Two Steps Forward in the Search for Life on Ma…

We haven’t found aliens but we are a little further along in our search for life on Mars thanks to two recent discoveries from our Curiosity Rover.

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We detected organic molecules at the harsh surface of Mars! And what’s important about this is we now have a lot more certainty that there’s organic molecules preserved at the surface of Mars. We didn’t know that before.

One of the discoveries is we found organic molecules just beneath the surface of Mars in 3 billion-year-old sedimentary rocks.

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Second, we’ve found seasonal variations in methane levels in the atmosphere over 3 Mars years (nearly 6 Earth years). These two discoveries increase the chances that the record of habitability and potential life has been preserved on the Red Planet despite extremely harsh conditions on the surface.

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Both discoveries were made by our chem lab that rides aboard the Curiosity rover on Mars.

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Here’s an image from when we installed the SAM lab on the rover. SAM stands for “Sample Analysis at Mars” and SAM did two things on Mars for this discovery.

One – it tested Martian rocks. After the arm selects a sample of pulverized rock, it heats up that sample and sends that gas into the chamber, where the electron stream breaks up the chemicals so they can be analyzed.

What SAM found are fragments of large organic molecules preserved in ancient rocks which we think come from the bottom of an ancient Martian lake. These organic molecules are made up of carbon and hydrogen, and can include other elements like nitrogen and oxygen. That’s a possible indicator of ancient life…although non-biological processes can make organic molecules, too.

The other action SAM did was ‘sniff’ the air.

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When it did that, it detected methane in the air. And for the first time, we saw a repeatable pattern of methane in the Martian atmosphere. The methane peaked in the warm, summer months, and then dropped in the cooler, winter months.

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On Earth, 90 percent of methane is produced by biology, so we have to consider the possibility that Martian methane could be produced by life under the surface. But it also could be produced by non-biological sources. Right now, we don’t know, so we need to keep studying the Mars!

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One of our upcoming Martian missions is the InSight lander. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that our Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

Read the full release on today’s announcement HERE

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Cracking Earth’s Carbon Puzzle

It’s a scientific conundrum with huge implications for our future: How will our planet react to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

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Carbon – an essential building block for life – does not stay in one place or take only one form. Carbon, both from natural and human-caused sources, moves within and among the atmosphere, ocean and land. 

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We’ve been a trailblazer in using space-based and airborne sensors to observe and quantify carbon in the atmosphere and throughout the land and ocean, working with many U.S. and international partners.

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Our Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is making unprecedented, accurate global measurements of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and providing unique information on associated natural processes.

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ABoVE, our multi-year field campaign in Alaska and Canada is investigating how changes in Arctic ecosystems such as boreal forests in a warming climate result in changes to the balance of carbon moving between the atmosphere and land.

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This August we’re embarking on an ocean expedition with the National Science Foundation to the northeast Pacific called EXPORTS that will help scientists develop the capability to better predict how carbon in the ocean moves, which could change as Earth’s climate changes. 

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ECOSTRESS is slated to launch this summer to the International Space Station to make the first-ever measurements of plant water use and vegetation stress on land – providing key insights into how plants link Earth’s global carbon cycle with its water cycle.

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Later this year, ECOSTRESS will be joined on the space station by GEDI, which will use a space borne laser to help estimate how much carbon is locked in forests and how that quantity changes over time.

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In early 2019, the OCO-3 instrument is scheduled to launch to the space station to complement OCO-2 observations and allow scientists to probe the daily cycle of carbon dioxide exchange processes over much of the Earth.

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And still in the early stages of development is the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCarb) satellite, planned to launch in the early 2020s. GeoCarb will collect 10 million observations a day of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide.

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Our emphasis on carbon cycle science and the development of new carbon-monitoring tools is expected to remain a top priority for years to come. READ MORE.

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10 Ways to BBQ on an Alien World

There are over 3,700 planets in our galaxy. Many of them orbit stars outside our solar system, these are known as exoplanets. Spend a summer weekend barbecuing it up on any of these alien worlds.

(WARNING: Don’t try any of this on Earth—except the last one.)

1. Lava World

Janssen aka 55 Cancri e

Hang your steak on a fishing pole and dangle your meat over the boiling pools of lava on this possible magma world. Try two to three minutes on each side to get an ashy feast of deliciousness.

2. Hot Jupiter

Dimidium aka 51 Pegasi b

Set your grill to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit (982 degrees Celsius) or hop onto the first exoplanet discovered and get a perfect char on your hot dogs. By the time your dogs are done, it’ll be New Year’s Eve, because a year on this planet is only four days long.

3. Super Earth

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Super air fry your duck on this Super Earth, as you skydive in the intense gravity of a planet twice as massive as Earth. Why are you air frying a duck? We don’t know. Why are you skydiving on an exoplanet? We’re not judging.

4. Lightning Neptune

HAT-P-11b

I’ve got steaks, they’re multiplying/and I’m looooosing control. Cause the power this planet is supplying/is electrifying!

Sear your tuna to perfection in the lightning strikes that could flash across the stormy skies of this Neptune-like planet named HAT-P-11b.

5. Red Earth

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Tired of all that meat? Try a multi-colored salad with the vibrant plants that could grow under the red sun of this Earth-sized planet. But it could also be a lifeless rock, so BYOB (bring your own barbecue).

6. Inferno World

Kepler-70b

Don’t take too long to prep your vegetables for the grill! The hottest planet on record will flash-incinerate your veggies in seconds!

7. Egg-shaped

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Picture this: You are pressure cooking your chicken on a hot gas giant in the shape of an egg. And you’re under pressure to cook fast, because this gas giant is being pulled apart by its nearby star.

8. Two suns

Kepler-16b

Evenly cook your ribs in a dual convection oven under the dual stars of this “Tatooine.” Kick back and watch your two shadows grow in the fading light of a double sunset.

9. Takeout

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Order in for a staycation in our own solar system. The smell of rotten eggs rising from the clouds of sulfuric acid and choking carbon dioxide will put you off cooking, so get that meal to go.

10. Take a Breath

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Sometimes the best vacations are the ones you take at home. Flip your burgers on the only planet where you can breathe the atmosphere.

Grill us on Twitter and tell us how bad our jokes are.

Read the full version of this week’s ‘Solar System: 10 Things to Know’ Article HERE.

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Celebrating the Earth (Off the Earth!)

To find the perfect perch for Earth observation research, just look up – about 240 miles up. The International Space Station serves as an optimal platform for studying our dynamic planet, where spectacular views support science.

With currently active instruments and facilities like High Definition Earth Viewing, Crew Earth Observations, Lightning Imaging Sensor, SAGE-III and Meteor, researchers on the ground are able to use the station’s unique (and useful!) vantage point to track Earth’s weather patterns, obtain images documenting changes on the planet’s surface, understand the origin of meteors falling towards Earth, and better understand the atmosphere.

The space station’s 90-minute orbit allows it to cover 90% of the Earth’s populated surfaces. That means we are able to study A LOT of that big blue marble.

Let’s talk a little about how the space station serves as a platform for Earth observation:

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Each day, as the space station passes over regions of the Earth, crew members photograph the area below as a part of the Crew Earth Observations Facility investigation, one of the longest-running experiments on the orbiting laboratory. Crew members are able to photograph large-scale weather events like the recent Hurricane Harvey from the space station’s Cupola. These little science postcards from space can be used by researchers and the public to learn more about our home planet.

Want to see a picture of your hometown from space? Search for it in the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth (GAPE).

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The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment streams live video of Earth for online viewing. This investigation not only provides hours and hours of footage of the Earth below, but also demonstrates how the technology holds up against the harsh environment of space. High school students helped design some of the cameras’ components, through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student teams perform most of the HDEV operation. (Whoa! Check out HUNCH and STEM on Station for more opportunities for student involvement!)

Useful for weather forecasting, hurricane monitoring, and observations of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño, RapidScat used radar pulses reflected off the ocean to measure wind speed and direction over the ocean.

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RapidScat completed its successful two-year mission, outlasting its original decommission date before suffering a power loss. Although RapidScat is no longer transmitting data back to Earth, the station hosts many other Earth-observation tools the Cyclone Intensity Measurements from the ISS (CyMISS) an experiment that seeks to develop detailed information on tropical storm structure to better estimate storm intensity, which will help government agencies to better prepare communities for impending natural disasters; and the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a previously-flown lidar instrument which measured atmospheric profiles of aerosols and clouds to better understand their properties and interactions, as well as provided data useful to improving climate change models.

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Learn more about RapidScat’s mission conclusion HERE! Take a look at CATS mission data HERE!

Watch more inspiring videos and learn about how we’re capturing the beauty of Earth HERE.

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Crew members are able to photograph large-scale weather events like the recent Hurricane Harvey from the space station’s Cupola. These little science postcards from space can be used by researchers and the public to learn more about our home planet.

Plants in space!

Future long-duration missions into the solar system will require a fresh food supply to supplement crew diets, which means growing crops in space. Growing food in such a harsh environment also teaches us a little bit about growing in harsh environments here on Earth.

Here are a few plant-based investigations currently happening aboard the orbiting laboratory:

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Veggie is a chamber on the space station that helps scientists grow, harvest and study different space crops. This experiment is called VEG-03D and they’ve been able to grow six rounds of crops so far.

SpaceX’s 13th Commercial Resupply vehicle carried many valuable items to the orbiting laboratory, including Plant Gravity Perception, an investigation that uses the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) to simulate gravity to help plants grow its roots downward, and shoots upwards. The shoots need to face upwards, towards the light, so they can absorb sunlight and nutrients. Without this, plants wouldn’t know which way to grow. Yikes!

Learn more about Plant Gravity Perception HERE!

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The Advanced Plant Habitat is a large chamber that supports commercial and fundamental plant research for at least one year of continuous use. A great feature to this habitat is that the astronauts can view the plant’s progress through a window on the door.

Whether astronauts are taking pictures of the planet or growing crops in space, all science aboard the space station plants seeds for a better life on Earth. Biology investigations directly grow our knowledge of agricultural techniques for harsh environments and imagery from space can give us a clearer idea of our planet’s health and emerging weather patterns.

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10 Things: Journey to the Center of Mars

May the fifth be with you because history is about to be made: As early as May 5, 2018, we’re set to launch Mars InSight, the very first mission to study the deep interior of Mars. We’ve been roaming the surface of Mars for a while now, but when InSight lands on Nov. 26, 2018, we’re going in for a deeper look. Below, 10 things to know as we head to the heart of Mars.

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Coverage of prelaunch and launch activities begins Thursday, May 3, on NASA Television and our homepage.

1. What’s in a name? 

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“Insight” is to see the inner nature of something, and the InSight lander—a.k.a. Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport—will do just that. InSight will take the “vital signs” of Mars: its pulse (seismology), temperature (heat flow) and reflexes (radio science). It will be the first thorough check-up since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago.

2. Marsquakes. 

You read that right: earthquakes, except on Mars. Scientists have seen a lot of evidence suggesting Mars has quakes, and InSight will try to detect marsquakes for the first time. By studying how seismic waves pass through the different layers of the planet (the crust, mantle and core), scientists can deduce the depths of these layers and what they’re made of. In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars.

Want to know more? Check out this one-minute video.

3. More than Mars. 

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InSight is a Mars mission, but it’s also so much more than that. By studying the deep interior of Mars, we hope to learn how other rocky planets form. Earth and Mars were molded from the same primordial stuff more than 4.5 billion years ago, but then became quite different. Why didn’t they share the same fate? When it comes to rocky planets, we’ve only studied one in great detail: Earth. By comparing Earth’s interior to that of Mars, InSight’s team hopes to better understand our solar system. What they learn might even aid the search for Earth-like planets outside our solar system, narrowing down which ones might be able to support life.

4. Robot testing. 

InSight looks a bit like an oversized crane game: When it lands on Mars this November, its robotic arm will be used to grasp and move objects on another planet for the first time. And like any crane game, practice makes it easier to capture the prize.

Want to see what a Mars robot test lab is like? Take a 360 tour.

5. The gang’s all here. 

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InSight will be traveling with a number of instruments, from cameras and antennas to the heat flow probe. Get up close and personal with each one in our instrument profiles.

6. Trifecta. 

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InSight has three major parts that make up the spacecraft: Cruise Stage; Entry, Descent, and Landing System; and the Lander. Find out what each one does here.

7. Solar wings. 

Mars has weak sunlight because of its long distance from the Sun and a dusty, thin atmosphere. So InSight’s fan-like solar panels were specially designed to power InSight in this environment for at least one Martian year, or two Earth years.

8. Clues in the crust. 

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Our scientists have found evidence that Mars’ crust is not as dense as previously thought, a clue that could help researchers better understand the Red Planet’s interior structure and evolution. “The crust is the end-result of everything that happened during a planet’s history, so a lower density could have important implications about Mars’ formation and evolution,” said Sander Goossens of our Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

9. Passengers. 

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InSight won’t be flying solo—it will have two microchips on board inscribed with more than 2.4 million names submitted by the public. “It’s a fun way for the public to feel personally invested in the mission,” said Bruce Banerdt of our Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the mission’s principal investigator. “We’re happy to have them along for the ride.”

10. Tiny CubeSats, huge firsts. 

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The rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth will also launch a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These suitcase-sized CubeSats will fly on their own path to Mars behindInSight. Their goal is to test new miniaturized deep space communication equipment and, if the MarCOs make it to Mars, may relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. This will be a first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

Check out the full version of ‘Solar System: 10 Thing to Know This Week’ HERE

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Earth: Your Home, Our Mission

We pioneer and support an amazing range of advanced technologies and tools to help us better understand our home planet, the solar system and far beyond.

Here are 5 ways our tech improves life here on Earth…

1. Eyes in the Sky Spot Fires on the Ground

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Our Earth observing satellites enable conservation groups to spot and monitor fires across vast rainforests, helping them protect our planet on Earth Day and every day.

2. Helping Tractors Drive Themselves

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There has been a lot of talk about self-driving cars, but farmers have already been making good use of self-driving tractors for more than a decade – due in part to a partnership between John Deere and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Growing food sustainably requires smart technology – our GPS correction algorithms help self-driving tractors steer with precision, cutting down on water and fertilizer waste. 

3. Turning Smartphones into Satellites

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On Earth Day (and every day), we get nonstop “Earth selfies” thanks to Planet Labs’ small satellites, inspired by smartphones and created by a team at our Ames Research Center. The high res imagery helps conservation efforts worldwide.

4. Early Flood Warnings

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Monsoons, perhaps the least understood and most erratic weather pattern in the United States, bring rain vital to agriculture and ecosystems, but also threaten lives and property. Severe flash-flooding is common. Roads are washed out. Miles away from the cloudburst, dry gulches become raging torrents in seconds. The storms are often accompanied by driving winds, hail and barrages of lightning.

We are working to get better forecasting information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Our satellites can track moisture in the air – helping forecasters provide an early warning of flash floods from monsoons.

5. Watching the World’s Water

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Around the world, agriculture is by far the biggest user of freshwater. Thanks in part to infrared imagery from Landsat, operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), we can now map, in real time, how much water a field is using, helping conserve that precious resource.

We use the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. Our observations of Earth’s complex natural environment are critical to understanding how our planet’s natural resources and climate are changing now and could change in the future.

Join the celebration online by using #NASA4Earth

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Earth from Afar

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11

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This week we’re celebrating Earth Day 2018 with some of our favorite images of Earth from afar…

At 7.2 million Miles…and 4 Billion Miles

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Voyager famously captured two unique views of our homeworld from afar. One image, taken in 1977 from a distance of 7.3 million miles (11.7 million kilometers) (above), showed the full Earth and full Moon in a single frame for the first time in history. The second (below), taken in 1990 as part of a “family portrait of our solar system from 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers), shows Earth as a tiny blue speck in a ray of sunlight.” This is the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image immortalized by Carl Sagan.

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“This was our willingness to see the Earth as a one-pixel object in a far greater cosmos,” Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan said of the image. “It’s that humility that science gives us. That weans us from our childhood need to be the center of things. And Voyager gave us that image of the Earth that is so heart tugging because you can’t look at that image and not think of how fragile, how fragile our world is. How much we have in common with everyone with whom we share it; our relationship, our relatedness, to everyone on this tiny pixel.“

A Bright Flashlight in a Dark Sea of Stars

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Our Kepler mission captured Earth’s image as it slipped past at a distance of 94 million miles (151 million kilometers). The reflection was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

Hello and Goodbye

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This beautiful shot of Earth as a dot beneath Saturn’s rings was taken in 2013 as thousands of humans on Earth waved at the exact moment the spacecraft pointed its cameras at our home world. Then, in 2017, Cassini caught this final view of Earth between Saturn’s rings as the spacecraft spiraled in for its Grand Finale at Saturn.

‘Simply Stunning’

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The image is simply stunning. The image of the Earth evokes the famous ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17…which also showed Africa prominently in the picture.“ -Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.

Goodbye—for now—at 19,000 mph

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As part of an engineering test, our OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of Earth and the Moon in January 2018 from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.6 million kilometers). When the camera acquired the image, the spacecraft was moving away from our home planet at a speed of 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 kilometers per second). Earth is the largest, brightest spot in the center of the image, with the smaller, dimmer Moon appearing to the right. Several constellations are also visible in the surrounding space.

The View from Mars

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A human observer with normal vision, standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the Moon as two distinct, bright "evening stars.”

Moon Photobomb

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“This image from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the Moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth in 2015. It provides a view of the far side of the Moon, which is never directly visible to us here on Earth. “I found this perspective profoundly moving and only through our satellite views could this have been shared.” – Michael Freilich, Director of our Earth Science Division.

Eight Days Out

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Eight days after its final encounter with Earththe second of two gravitational assists from Earth that helped boost the spacecraft to Jupiterthe Galileo spacecraft looked back and captured this remarkable view of our planet and its Moon. The image was taken from a distance of about 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers).

A Slice of Life

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Earth from about 393,000 miles (633,000 kilometers) away, as seen by the European Space Agency’s comet-bound Rosetta spacecraft during its third and final swingby of our home planet in 2009.

So Long Earth

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The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of our home planet on Aug. 2, 2005.

Earth Science: Taking a Closer Look

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Our home planet is a beautiful, dynamic place. Our view from Earth orbit sees a planet at change. Check out more images of our beautiful Earth here.

Join Our Earth Day Celebration!

We pioneer and supports an amazing range of advanced technologies and tools to help scientists and environmental specialists better understand and protect our home planet – from space lasers to virtual reality, small satellites and smartphone apps. 

To celebrate Earth Day 2018, April 22, we are highlighting many of these innovative technologies and the amazing applications behind them.

Learn more about our Earth Day plans HERE

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