Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Observe the Moon

This photograph shows the Laser Ranging Facility at the Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The observatory helps NASA keep track of orbiting satellites. In this image, the lower of the two green beams is from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's dedicated tracker. The other laser originates from another ground system at the facility. Both beams are pointed at the moon -- specifically at LRO in orbit around the moon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cassini Gazes at Veiled Titan

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will swing high over Saturn's moon Titan on Friday, Sept. 24, taking a long, sustained look at the hazy moon. At closest approach, Cassini will fly within 8,175 kilometers (5,080 miles) above the hazy moon's surface. This flyby is the first in a series of high-altitude Titan flybys for Cassini over the next year and a half.

Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer instrument will be probing Titan's stratosphere to learn more about its vertical structure as the seasons change. Equinox, when the sun shone directly over the equator, occurred in August 2009, and the northern hemisphere is now in spring.

Another instrument, the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, will be mapping an equatorial region known as Belet at a resolution of 5 kilometers (3 miles) per pixel. This mosaic will complement the mosaics that were obtained in earlier Titan flybys in January and April. This spectrometer will also look for clouds at northern mid-latitudes and near the poles.

Cassin's visible-light imaging cameras will also be taking images of Titan's trailing hemisphere, or the side that faces backward as Titan orbits around Saturn. If Titan cooperates and has a cloudy day, scientists plan to analyze the images for cloud patterns.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Orbiter Resumes Science Observations

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resumed observing Mars with its science instruments on Sept. 18, recovering from an unplanned reboot of its computer three days earlier.

The reboot put the orbiter into a precautionary standby called "safe mode" on Sept. 15. The event appears to have been similar to one the orbiter last experienced on Aug. 26, 2009. For 10 months prior to this latest reboot, the spacecraft operated normally, making science observations and returning data.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at Mars since 2006, has met the mission's science goals and returned more data than all other Mars missions combined. It completed its primary science phase of operations in November 2008, but continues to observe Mars both for science and for support of future missions that will land on Mars.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Cassini Captures a Divine Dione

Cruising past Saturn's moon Dione this past weekend, NASA's Cassini spacecraft got its best look yet at the north polar region of this small, icy moon and returned stark raw images of the fractured, cratered surface.

The new images also show new views of the long, bright canyon ice walls, which scientists working with NASA's Voyager spacecraft called "wispy terrain" in the early 1980s. These ice walls thread along the surface of the moon's trailing hemisphere and cut across craters.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

More raw images of Dione are available at .

More information about the Cassini-Huygens mission is at and .

Monday, September 06, 2010

ATHLETE Rover Steps Up to Long Desert Trek

The ATHLETE rover, currently under development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is in the Arizona desert this month to participate in NASA's Research and Technology Studies, also known as Desert RATS. The desert tests offer a chance for a NASA-led team of engineers, astronauts and scientists from across the country to test concepts for future missions.

To see a video of ATHLETE at the 2010 Desert RATS visit:

NASA will demonstrate a variety of hardware during this year's test, including:

-- All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorers (ATHLETE): two heavy-lift rover platforms that allow a habitat, or other large items, to go where the action is.
-- Space Exploration Vehicles: two rovers astronauts could live in for seven days at a time.
-- Habitat Demonstration Unit/Pressurized Excursion Module: a simulated habitat where the rovers can dock to allow the crew room to perform experiments or deal with medical issues.
-- Portable Communications Terminal: a rapidly deployable communications station.
-- Centaur 2: a four-wheeled possible transportation method for NASA Robonaut 2.
-- Portable Utility Pallets: mobile charging stations for equipment.
-- A suite of new geology sample collection tools, including a self-contained GeoLab glove box for conducting in-field analysis of various collected rock samples.

The public was involved in test preparation by helping NASA decide what areas should be explored. NASA posted several possibilities online and allowed members of the public to vote on the most promising locations. Several thousand ballots were cast and 67 percent favored a location that appeared to be home of several overlapping lava flows.

NASA centers involved in the Desert RATS tests include Johnson Space Center in Houston; Langley Research Center in Va.; JPL; Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama; and NASA Headquarters in Washington.

In addition, professors and students from various universities, as well as the Canadian Space Agency, are participating in the Desert RATS field tests.

For more information about NASA's field tests and to follow Desert RATS on various social media sites, visit: