Category: space

NASA Science Show & Tell

This week, we’re at one of the biggest science conferences in the country, where our scientists are presenting new results from our missions and projects. It’s called the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting.

Here are a few of the things we shared this week…

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The Sun

A few months into its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe has already flown far closer to the Sun than any spacecraft has ever gone. The data from this visit to the Sun has just started to come back to Earth, and scientists are hard at work on their analysis.

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Parker Solar Probe sent us this new view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona. The image was taken by the mission’s WISPR instrument on Nov. 8, 2018, and shows a coronal streamer seen over the east limb of the Sun. Coronal streamers are structures of solar material within the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, that usually overlie regions of increased solar activity. The fine structure of the streamer is very clear, with at least two rays visible. Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun’s surface when this image was taken. The bright object near the center of the image is Mercury, and the dark spots are a result of background correction.

Hurricane Maria

Using a satellite view of human lights, our scientists watched the lights go out in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. They could see the slow return of electricity to the island, and track how rural and mountainous regions took longer to regain power.

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In the spring, a team of scientists flew a plane over Puerto Rico’s forests, using a laser instrument to measure how trees were damaged and how the overall structure of the forests had changed.

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Earth’s Ice

Our scientists who study Antarctica saw some surprising changes to East Antarctica. Until now, most of the continent’s melting has been on the peninsula and West Antarctica, but our scientists have seen glaciers in East Antarctica lose lots of ice in the last few years.

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Our ICESat-2 team showed some of their brand new data. From the changing height of Antarctic ice to lagoons off the coast of Mexico, the little satellite has spent its first few months measuring our planet in 3D. The laser pulses even see individual ocean waves, in this graph.

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Scientists are using our satellite data to track Adélie penguin populations, by using an unusual proxy – pictures of their poop! Penguins are too small to be seen by satellites, but they can see large amounts of their poop (which is pink!) and use that as a proxy for penguin populations.

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Asteroid Bennu

Our OSIRIS-REx mission recently arrived at its destination, asteroid Bennu. On approach, data from the spacecraft’s spectrometers revealed chemical signatures of water trapped in clay minerals.  While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding indicates that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid.

We also released a new, detailed shape model of Bennu, which is very similar to our ground-based observations of Bennu’s shape. This is a boon to ground-based radar astronomy since this is our first validation of the accuracy of the method for an asteroid! One change from the original shape model is the size of the large boulder near Bennu’s south pole, nicknamed “Benben.” The boulder is much bigger than we thought and overall, the quantity of boulders on the surface is higher than expected. Now the team will make further observations at closer ranges to more accurately assess where a sample can be taken on Bennu to later be returned to Earth.

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Jupiter

The Juno mission celebrated it’s 16th science pass of #Jupiter, marking the halfway point in data collection of the prime mission. Over the second half of the prime mission — science flybys 17 through 32 — the spacecraft will split the difference, flying exactly halfway between each previous orbit. This will provide coverage of the planet every 11.25 degrees of longitude, providing a more detailed picture of what makes the whole of Jupiter tick.

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Mars

The Mars 2020 team had a workshop to discuss the newly announced landing site for our next rover on the Red Planet. The landing site…Jezero Crater! The goal of Mars 2020 is to learn whether life ever existed on Mars. It’s too cold and dry for life to exist on the Martian surface today. But after Jezero Crater formed billions of years ago, water filled it to form a deep lake about the same size as Lake Tahoe. Eventually, as Mars’ climate changed, Lake Jezero dried up. And surface water disappeared from the planet.

Interstellar Space

Humanity now has two interstellar ambassadors. On Nov. 5, 2018, our Voyager 2 spacecraft left the heliosphere — the bubble of the Sun’s magnetic influence formed by the solar wind. It’s only the second-ever human-made object to enter interstellar space, following its twin, Voyager 1, that left the heliosphere in 2012.

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Scientists are especially excited to keep receiving data from Voyager 2, because — unlike Voyager 1 — its plasma science instrument is still working. That means we’ll learn brand-new information about what fills the space between the stars.

Learn more about NASA Science at science.nasa.gov

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In 2013, researchers published a shape model o…

In 2013, researchers published a shape model of asteroid Bennu based on years of observations from Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory. Their model depicted a rough diamond shape. Five years later, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has reached the asteroid, and data obtained from spacecraft’s cameras corroborate those ground-based telescopic observations of Bennu. 

The original model closely predicted the asteroid’s actual shape, with Bennu’s diameter, rotation rate, inclination and overall shape presented almost exactly as projected! This video shows the new shape model created using data from OSIRIS-REx’s approach to the asteroid.

One outlier from the predicted shape model is the size of the large boulder near Bennu’s south pole. The ground-based shape model calculated it to be at least 33 feet (10 meters) in height. Preliminary calculations show that the boulder is closer to 164 feet (50 meters) in height, with a width of approximately 180 feet (55 meters).

Also during the approach phase, OSIRIS-REx revealed water locked inside the clays that make up Bennu. The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study. Get all the details about this discovery HERE.

Learn more about OSIRIS-REx’s journey at nasa.gov/osirisrex

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For the second time in history, a human-made o…

For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. Our Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

Comparing data from different instruments aboard the trailblazing spacecraft, mission scientists determined the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on Nov. 5. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. Its twin, Voyager 1, crossed this boundary in 2012, but Voyager 2 carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space.

Voyager 2 now is slightly more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth. Mission operators still can communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters this new phase of its journey, but information – moving at the speed of light – takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

Read more at https://go.nasa.gov/2QG2s16 or follow along with the mission @NASAVoyager on Twitter.

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The Shrinking Aral Sea

The Aral Sea was once the
fourth-largest lake in the world. Fed primarily by snowmelt and precipitation
flowing down from faraway mountains, it was a temperate oasis in an arid
region. But in the 1960s, the Soviet Union diverted two major rivers to
irrigate farmland, cutting off the inland sea from its source. As the Aral Sea
dried up, fisheries collapsed, as did the communities that depended on them.
The remaining water supply became increasingly salty and polluted with runoff
from agricultural plots. Loss of the Aral Sea’s water influenced regional
climate, making the winters even colder and the summers much hotter.

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While seasonal rains still
bring water to the Aral Sea, the lake is roughly one-tenth of its original size.
These satellite images show how the Aral Sea and its surrounding landscape has
changed over the past few decades.

For more details about these
images, read the full stories here: https://go.nasa.gov/2PqJ1ot

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Space Telescope Gets to Work

Our latest space telescope,
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April. This
week, planet hunters worldwide received all the data from the first two months
of its planet search. This view, from four cameras on TESS, shows just one
region of Earth’s southern sky.

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The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captured
this strip of stars and galaxies in the southern sky during one 30-minute
period in August. Created by combining the view from all four of its cameras, TESS
images will be used to discover new exoplanets. Notable features in this swath
include the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and a globular cluster called NGC
104. The brightest stars, Beta Gruis and R Doradus, saturated an entire column
of camera detector pixels on the satellite’s second and fourth cameras.

Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS

The data in the images from TESS will soon lead to discoveries of
planets beyond our solar system – exoplanets. (We’re at 3,848 so far!)

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But first, all that data (about 27 gigabytes a day) needs to be
processed. And where do space telescopes like TESS get their data cleaned up?
At the Star Wash, of course!

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TESS sends about 10 billion pixels of data to Earth
at a time. A supercomputer at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley processes the raw
data, turning those pixels into measures of a star’s brightness.

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And that brightness? THAT’S HOW WE FIND PLANETS! A dip in a star’s
brightness can reveal an orbiting exoplanet in transit.

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TESS will spend a year studying our southern sky, then will turn
and survey our northern sky for another year. Eventually, the space telescope
will observe 85 percent of Earth’s sky, including 200,000 of the brightest and
closest stars to Earth.

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Dark Matter 101: Looking for the missing mass

Here’s the deal — here at NASA we share all
kinds of amazing images of planets,
stars,
galaxies, astronauts,
other humans,
and such, but those photos can only capture part of what’s out there. Every
image only shows ordinary matter (scientists sometimes call it baryonic
matter), which is stuff made from protons, neutrons and electrons. The problem
astronomers have is that most of the
matter in the universe is not ordinary matter – it’s a mysterious substance called dark matter.  

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What
is dark matter
? We don’t really know.
That’s not to say we don’t know anything about it – we can see its effects on
ordinary matter. We’ve been getting clues about what it is and what it is not
for decades. However, it’s hard to pinpoint its exact nature when it doesn’t
emit light our telescopes can see. 

Misbehaving
galaxies

The first hint that we might be missing
something came in the 1930s when astronomers noticed that the visible matter in
some clusters of galaxies wasn’t enough to hold the cluster together. The
galaxies were moving so fast that they should have gone zinging out of the
cluster before too long (astronomically speaking), leaving no cluster behind.

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Simulation credit: ESO/L. Calçada

It turns out, there’s a similar problem with individual galaxies.
In the 1960s and 70s, astronomers mapped out how fast the stars in a galaxy
were moving relative to its center. The outer parts of every single spiral
galaxy the scientists looked at were traveling so fast that they should have
been flying apart.

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Something was missing – a lot of it!

In
order to explain how galaxies moved in clusters and stars moved in individual
galaxies, they needed more matter than scientists could see. And not just a little more matter. A lot … a lot, a lot. Astronomers
call this missing mass “dark matter”
— “dark” because we don’t know
what it is. There would need to be five times as much dark matter as ordinary
matter to solve the problem.  

Holding
things together

Dark matter keeps galaxies and galaxy clusters
from coming apart at the seams, which means dark matter experiences gravity
the same way we do
.

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In addition to holding things together, it
distorts space like any other mass. Sometimes we see distant
galaxies whose light has been bent around massive objects
on its way
to us. This makes the galaxies appear stretched out or contorted. These distortions provide another measurement of dark
matter
.

Undiscovered
particles?

There have been a number of theories over the
past several decades about what dark matter could be; for example, could dark
matter be black holes and neutron stars – dead stars that aren’t shining anymore?
However, most of the theories have been disproven. Currently, a leading class
of candidates involves an as-yet-undiscovered type of elementary particle
called WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.

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Theorists have envisioned a range of WIMP
types and what happens when they collide with each other. Two possibilities are
that the WIMPS could mutually annihilate, or they could produce an
intermediate, quickly decaying particle. In both cases, the collision would end
with the production of gamma rays — the most energetic form of light — within the detection range of our Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Tantalizing
evidence close to home

A few years ago, researchers took a look at
Fermi data from near the center of our galaxy and subtracted out the gamma rays
produced by known sources. There was a left-over gamma-ray signal, which could be consistent with some forms of dark matter.

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While it was an exciting finding, the case is
not yet closed because lots of things at the center of the galaxy make gamma
rays. It’s going to take multiple sightings using other experiments and looking
at other astronomical objects to know
for sure if this excess is from dark matter.

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In the meantime, Fermi will continue the search, as it has over its 10 years
in space. Learn
more about Fermi and how we’ve been celebrating its first decade in space.

Make
sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.  

Human Research, Robotic Refueling, Crystallogr…

New
science is headed to the International Space Station aboard
the SpaceX Dragon.

Investigations
on this flight include a test of robotic technology for refueling spacecraft, a
project to map the world’s forests and two student studies inspired by Marvel’s
“Guardians of the Galaxy” series.

Learn
more about the science heading into low-Earth orbit:

The
forest is strong with this one: GEDI studies Earth’s forests in 3D

The Global Ecosystem
Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) is an instrument to measure and map Earth’s
tropical and temperate forests in 3D.

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The Jedi knights may help
protect a galaxy far, far away, but our GEDI
will help us study and understand forest changes right here on Earth.

Robotic
refueling in space

What’s cooler than cool? Cryogenic propellants,
or ice-cold spacecraft fuel! Our Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will demonstrate technologies for storing and
transferring these special liquids. By establishing ways to replenish this fuel
supply in space, RRM3 could help spacecraft live
longer and journey farther
.

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The mission’s techniques could even be applied
to potential lunar gas stations at the Moon, or refueling
rockets departing from Mars.

Staying
strong in space

The
Molecular Muscle investigation examines the
molecular causes of muscle abnormalities from spaceflight in C. elgans, a
roundworm and model organism.

This
study could give researchers a better understanding of why muscles deteriorate
in microgravity so they can improve methods to help crew members maintain their
strength in space.

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Investigation
studies space-grown crystals for protection against radiation

Perfect Crystals is a study to learn more about an
antioxidant protein called manganese superoxide dismutase that protects the
body from the effects of radiation and some harmful chemicals.

The
station’s microgravity environment allows researchers to grow more perfectly
ordered crystals of the proteins. These crystals are brought back to Earth and
studied in detail to learn more about how the manganese superoxide dismutase
works. Understanding how this protein functions may aid researchers in
developing techniques to reduce the threat of radiation exposure to astronauts
as well as prevent and treat some kinds of cancers on Earth.

Satellite
deployment reaching new heights with SlingShot

SlingShot
is a new, cost-effective commercial satellite deployment system that will be
tested for the first time.

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SlingShot
hardware, two small CubeSats, and a hosted payload will be carried to the
station inside SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and installed on a Cygnus spacecraft
already docked to the orbiting laboratory. Later, Cygnus will depart station
and fly to a pre-determined altitude to release the satellites and interact
with the hosted payload.

Investigation
studies accelerated aging in microgravity

Spaceflight
appears to accelerate aging in both humans and mice. Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) is a study to understand the physiology of
aging and the role it plays on the progression of disease in humans. This
investigation could provide a better understanding of how aging changes the
body, which may lead to new therapies for related conditions experienced by
astronauts in space and people on Earth.

Guardians
of the space station: Student contest flies to orbiting lab

The
MARVEL ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Space Station Challenge is a joint project between
the U.S. National Laboratory and Marvel Entertainment featuring two winning
experiments from a contest for American teenage students. For the contest,
students were asked to submit microgravity experiment concepts that related to
the Rocket and Groot characters from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic
book series.

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Team
Rocket: Staying Healthy in Space

If
an astronaut suffers a broken tooth or lost filling in space, they need a
reliable and easy way to fix it. This experiment investigates how well a dental
glue activated by ultraviolet light would work in microgravity. Researchers
will evaluate the use of the glue by treating simulated broken teeth and
testing them aboard the station.

Team
Groot: Aeroponic Farming in Microgravity

This
experiment explores an alternative method for watering plants in the absence of
gravity using a misting device to deliver water to the plant roots and an air
pump to blow excess water away. Results from this experiment may enable humans
to grow fruits and vegetables in microgravity, and eliminate a major obstacle
for long-term spaceflight.

These
investigation join hundreds of others currently happening aboard the station.
For more info, follow @ISS_Research!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com 

Launching Rockets from the Top of the World 🚀

Over the next 14 months, our scientists will join a group of
international researchers to explore a special region — Earth’s northern polar
cusp, one of just two places on our planet where particles from the Sun have
direct access to our atmosphere.

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Earth is surrounded by a giant magnetic bubble known as a magnetosphere,
which protects our planet from the hot, electrically charged stream of
particles from the Sun known as the solar wind. The northern and southern polar
cusps are two holes in this protection — here, Earth’s magnetic field lines
funnel the solar wind downwards, concentrating its energy before injecting it
into Earth’s atmosphere, where it mixes and collides with particles of Earthly
origin.

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The cusp is the only place where dayside auroras
are found — a special version of northern and southern lights, visible when the
Sun is out and formed by a different process than the more familiar nighttime
aurora. That’s what makes this region so interesting for scientists to study: The
more we learn about auroras, the more we understand about the fundamental
processes that drive near-Earth space — including those processes that disrupt
our technology and endanger our astronauts.

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Photo credit: Violaene
Kaeser

The teams working on the Grand
Challenge Initiative — Cusp
will fly sounding rockets from two
Norwegian rocket ranges that fall under the cusp for a short time each day. Sounding
rockets
are sub-orbital rockets that shoot up into space for a few
minutes before falling back to Earth, giving them access to Earth’s atmosphere
between 30 and 800 miles above the surface. Cheaper and faster to develop than
large satellite missions, sounding rockets often carry the latest scientific
instruments on their first-ever flights, allowing for unmatched speed in the
turnaround from design to implementation.

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Each sounding rocket mission will study a different aspect
of Earth’s upper atmosphere and its connection to the Sun and particles in
space. Here’s a look at the nine missions coming up.

1. VISIONS-2 (Visualizing
Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2) — December 2018

The cusp isn’t just the inroad into our atmosphere — it’s a
two-way street. Counteracting the influx of particles from the Sun is a process
called atmospheric escape, in which Earthly particles acquire enough energy to
escape into space. Of all
the particles that escape Earth’s atmosphere, there’s one that presents a
particular mystery: oxygen.

At 16 times the mass of hydrogen, oxygen should be too heavy
to escape Earth’s gravity. But scientists have found singly ionized oxygen in
near-Earth space, which suggests that it came from Earth. The two VISIONS-2 rockets,
led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will create
maps of the oxygen outflow in the cusp, tracking where these heavy ions are and
how they’re moving to provide a hint at how they escape.

2. TRICE-2 (Twin
Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics 2) — December 2018

If the cusp is like a funnel, then magnetic reconnection is
what turns on the faucet. When the solar wind collides with Earth’s magnetic
field, magnetic reconnection breaks open the previously closed magnetic field
lines, allowing some solar wind particles to stream into Earth’s atmosphere
through the cusp.

But researchers have noticed that the stream of particles
coming in isn’t smooth: instead, it has abrupt breaks in it. Is magnetic
reconnection turning on and off? Or is the solar wind shooting in from
different locations? TRICE-2, led by the University of Iowa in Iowa City, will
fly two separate rockets through a single magnetic field line in the cusp, to
help distinguish these possibilities. If reconnection sputters on and off over
time, then the two rockets should get quite different measurements, like noting
how it feels to run your finger back and forth under a faucet that is being
turned on and off. If instead reconnection happens consistently in multiple
locations — like having ten different faucets, all running constantly — then the
two rockets should have similar measurements whenever they pass through the
same locations.

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Magnetic reconnection is a process by which magnetic field
lines explosively realign  

3. CAPER-2 (Cusp
Alfvén and Plasma Electrodynamics Rocket) — January 2019

The CAPER-2 rocket, led by Dartmouth College in Hanover, New
Hampshire, will examine how fast-moving electrons — particles that can trigger
aurora — get up to such high speeds. The team will zero in on the role that
Alfvén waves, a special kind of low-frequency wave that oscillates along
magnetic field lines, play in accelerating auroral electrons.

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An illustration of rippling Alfvén waves

4. G-CHASER (Grand
Challenge Student Rocket) — January 2019

G-CHASER is made up entirely of student researchers from universities
in the United States, Norway and Japan, many of whom are flying their
experiments for the first time. The mission, led by the Colorado Space
Grant Consortium at the University of Colorado Boulder,
is a collaboration between seven different student-led missions,
providing a unique opportunity for students to design, test and ultimately fly
their experiment from start to finish. The students involved in the mission —
mostly undergraduates but including some graduate teams — are responsible for
all aspects of the mission, from developing the initial idea, to securing the
funding, to making sure it passes all the tests before flight.

5 & 6. AZURE (Auroral
Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) and CHI
(Cusp Heating Investigation) — April & November/December 2019

When the aurora shine, they don’t just emit light — they
also release thermal and kinetic energy into the atmosphere. Some of this
energy escapes back into space, but some of it stays with us. Which way this
balance tips depends, in part, on the winds in the cusp. AZURE, led by Clemson
University in South Carolina, will measure the vertical winds that swish energy
and particles around within the auroral oval, the larger ring around the pole
where the aurora are most common.

Later that year, the same team will launch the CHI mission, using a
methodology similar to AZURE to measure the flow of charged and neutral gases
inside the cusp. The goal is to better understand how particles, flowing in
horizontal and vertical directions, interact with each other to produce heating
and acceleration.

7. C-REX-2 (Cusp-Region
Experiment) — November 2019

The cusp is a place where strange physics happens, producing
some anomalies in the physical structure of the atmosphere that can make our
technology go haywire. For satellites that pass through the cusp, density
increases act like potholes, shaking up their orbits. Scientists don’t
currently understand what causes these density increases, but they have some
clues. C-REX-2, led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, aims to figure out
which variables — wind, temperature or ion velocity — are responsible.

8. ICI-5
(Investigation of Cusp Irregularities-5) — December 2019

Recent research has uncovered mysterious hot patches of
turbulent plasma inside the auroral region that rain energetic particles
towards Earth. GPS signals become garbled as they pass through these turbulent
plasma patches, affecting so many of today’s technologies that depend on them. ICI-5,
led by the University of Oslo, will launch into the cusp to take measurements
from inside these hot patches. To measure their structure as several scales,
the rocket will eject 12 daughter payloads in concentric squares which will
achieve a variety of different separations.

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9. JAXA’s SS-520-3
mission
— January 2020

Exploring the phenomenon of atmospheric escape, the Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency’s SS-520-3 mission will fly 500 miles high over
the cusp to take measurements of the electrostatic waves that heat ions up and
get them moving fast enough to escape Earth.

For updates on the Grand Challenge Initiative and other
sounding rocket flights, visit nasa.gov/soundingrockets
or follow along with NASA Wallops and NASA heliophysics on Twitter and
Facebook.

@NASA_Wallops | NASA’s Wallops Flight
Facility
| @NASASun | NASA Sun
Science

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These 9 Companies Could Help Us Send the Next …

We sent the first humans to land on the Moon in 1969. Since then, only of 12 men have stepped foot on the lunar surface – but we left robotic explorers behind to continue gathering science data. And now, we’re preparing to return. Establishing a sustained presence on and near the Moon will help us learn to live off of our home planet and prepare for travel to Mars.

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To help establish ourselves on and near the Moon, we are working with a few select American companies. We will buy space on commercial robotic landers, along with other customers, to deliver our payloads to the lunar surface. We’re even developing lunar instruments and tools that will fly on missions as early as 2019!

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Through partnerships with American companies, we are leading a flexible and sustainable approach to deep space missions. These early commercial delivery missions will also help inform new space systems we build to send humans to the Moon in the next decade. Involving American companies and stimulating the space market with these new opportunities to send science instruments and new technologies to deep space will be similar to how we use companies like Northrop Grumman and SpaceX to send cargo to the International Space Station now. These selected companies will provide a rocket and cargo space on their robotic landers for us (and others!) to send science and technology to our nearest neighbor.

So who are these companies that will get to ferry science instruments and new technologies to the Moon?

Here’s a digital “catalogue” of the organizations and their spacecraft that will be available for lunar services over the next decade:

Astrobotic Technology, Inc.

Pittsburg, PA

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Deep Space Systems

Littleton, CO

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Firefly Aerospace, Inc.

Cedar Park, TX

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Intuitive Machines, LLC

Houston, TX

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Lockheed Martin Space

Littleton, CO

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Masten Space Systems, Inc.

Mojave, CA

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Moon Express, Inc.

Cape Canaveral, FL

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Orbit Beyond, Inc.

Edison, NJ

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Draper, Inc.

Cambridge, MA

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We are thrilled to be working with these companies to enable us to investigate the Moon in new ways. In order to expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth, we need to return to the Moon before we go to Mars.

The Moon helps us to learn how to live and work on another planetary body while being only three days away from home – instead of several months. The Moon also holds enormous potential for testing new technologies, like prospecting for water ice and turning it into drinking water, oxygen and rocket fuel. Plus, there’s so much science to be done!

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The Moon can help us understand the early history of the solar system, how planets migrated to their current formation and much more. Understanding how the Earth-Moon system formed is difficult because those ancient rocks no longer exist here on Earth. They have been recycled by plate tectonics, but the Moon still has rocks that date back to the time of its formation! It’s like traveling to a cosmic time machine!

Join us on this exciting journey as we expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth.

Learn more about the Moon and all the surprises it may hold: https://moon.nasa.gov

Find out more about today’s announcement HERE.

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Small Businesses Help Us Explore Space!

Earlier this month,
Congress introduced a
resolution
officially recognizing Nov. 24, 2018 as Small Business Saturday “to
increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses and the
impact of locally owned small businesses on the economy of the United States.”

This annual American
Express campaign
began on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2010 to support
“local places that make our communities strong.”

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For 60
years, we have supported and partnered with
small businesses
across the country to pioneer the future of space exploration, scientific discovery and
aeronautics research.

Our Small Business Innovative
Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program
funds the research, development and
demonstration of innovative technologies that help address space exploration
challenges and have significant potential for commercialization. In 2018, our
program awarded 555 contracts to small businesses for a total of $180.1
million.

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NASA works with small
business Nanocomp Technologies Inc. of Merrimack, New Hampshire, to advance
manufacturing of carbon nanotube composite materials.

Our investments in small businesses help equip future
missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond by advancing our science and technology
capabilities. They also benefit the U.S. economy. The SBIR/STTR program’s 2017 Economic
Impact Report
indicated
a $2.74 return for every dollar spent on awards—money well spent!

Small businesses
also contribute to scientific advances for the International Space Station as
well as here on Earth. Pancopia, Inc. in Hampton, Virginia, developed
an innovative, high-performance water recycling system
to remove high levels of organic carbon and
nitrogen in wastewater. Recycling water in space saves money on resupply and
enables more Earth-independence and self-reliance. With the help of an SBIR
award, Pancopia is also working on a similar system for public wastewater that
has the potential to cut treatment expenses to less than half the current
costs.

image

Small businesses
also contribute to scientific advances for the International Space Station as
well as here on Earth. Pancopia, Inc. in Hampton, Virginia, developed
an innovative, high-performance water recycling system
to remove high levels of organic carbon and
nitrogen in wastewater. Recycling water in space saves money on resupply and
enables more Earth-independence and self-reliance. With the help of an SBIR
award, Pancopia is also working on a similar system for public wastewater that
has the potential to cut treatment expenses to less than half the current
costs.

image

When NASA went to the private sector to develop deformable
mirror technology—a key component of starlight-blocking instruments—a
small business in Berkeley, California
, applied for research and development funding through
SBIR to design extra-precision, segmented mirrors. This innovative approach for
a small deformable mirror made up of many tiny hexagonal segments enables
advanced control when paired with other optics.

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Data collected by a
telescope using the Iris AO deformable mirror can be used to determine if the
target investigated in space is an exoplanet based on its orbit, and if the
exoplanet has atmosphere using color spectrum imaging analysis. The Iris AO technology
is currently being refined and prepared for inclusion in a future exoplanet
mission.

Does your small
business have a big idea? Your next opportunity to join our SBIR/STTR program
starts on Jan. 7, 2019, when our next solicitation opens. We’ll be seeking
new innovative ideas from small businesses and research institutions for
research, development and demonstration of innovative technologies. Go to
https://www.nasa.sbir.gov/ to learn more.

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