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Reaching New Frontiers in Science Supported by Public Participation


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Reaching New Frontiers in Science Supported by Public Participation

Image representing a round star colorized with bands of purple and red against a black background with white stars
A brown dwarf roaming the Milky Way galaxy. Image by citizen scientist/artist William Pendrill.
Credit: William Pendrill

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate seeks knowledge and answers to profound questions that impact all people. Through competitions, challenges, crowdsourcing, and citizen science activities, NASA collaborates with the public to make scientific discoveries that help us better understand our planet and the space beyond. Multiple NASA science projects were supported through public participation in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022, spanning pursuits in astrophysics, Earth science, heliophysics,1 and more.

Astrophysics

NASA challenges in astrophysics seek to uncover new information about the origin, structure, evolution, and future of the universe, as well as other worlds outside our solar system.

Seeking potential planets in the backyard of our solar system, NASA invited the public to examine data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission to discern moving celestial bodies. Human eyes are needed for the task because anomalies in the images often fool image processing technologies. The WISE mission continues to collect data, and the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project is still ongoing. But the project has discovered so far more than 3500 brown dwarfs (balls of gas too small to be considered stars), and one notable citizen scientist himself found 34 ultracool brown dwarfs with companions, now published in The Astronomical Journal.

To understand stars better, a citizen science project called Disk Detective 2.0 was launched in 2020 to evaluate disks, or belts, of material around stars. The original 2014 project resulted in the discovery of the longest-lived disks that form planets—dubbed “Peter Pan” disks—as well as the discovery of the youngest nearby disk around a brown dwarf. The relaunch offered a new batch of 150,000 stars in infrared wavelengths from NASA’s WISE mission and other data. As of May 2023, more than 12,000 volunteers had contributed to the project and 14 of those co-authored scientific papers based on their findings.

The Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE) is a concept for a mission that would combine a ground-based telescope with a space-based starshade to enable better views of exoplanets from Earth.  
The Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE) is a concept for a mission that would combine a ground-based telescope with a space-based starshade to enable better views of exoplanets from Earth.  
As part of early-stage study of this concept, NASA invited the public to develop 3D computer models of a lightweight starshade. Requirements for the starshade design included compact packaging, successful deployment in orbit, and a low-mass structure capable of maintaining its shape and alignment using as little spacecraft fuel as possible. The Ultralight Starshade Structural Design Challenge received 60 entries, and the top five shared a $7,000 prize. First place combined inflatable tubes for compression structures and cables for tension.  

Artist rendering of a gold starsahde fully deployed in space.
The Ultralight Starshade Structural Design Challenge asked participants to develop a lightweight starshade structure that could be used as part of the Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE) concept

Earth Science

One goal of NASA’s Earth science pursuits is to map the connections between Earth’s vital processes and the climate effects of natural and human-caused changes. Multiple competitions are aiding our understanding of these interconnected systems.

A worldwide program called Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) has brought educators and students together since 1995, promoting science and learning about the environment. As one of the partner organizations for the program, NASA sponsored the NASA GLOBE Trees Challenge 2022: Trees in a Changing Climate to gather tree height observations. The data collected is compared with space-based observation systems to track tree height and growth rate as an indicator of ecosystem health. Volunteers from around the world have amassed more than 4,700 tree-height observations from over 1,500 locations in 50 countries.

A similar data-gathering effort—the Cooperative Open Online Landslide Repository (COOLR)—utilizes a web-based platform developed by NASA to share reports of landslides. The repository’s data is validating a model in development at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland, the Landslide Hazard Assessment for Situational Awareness (LHASA), to map areas of potential landslide hazard in real-time. LHASA incorporates landslide inventories from people around the world in a machine-learning framework to estimate the relative probability of landslide occurrence.

To develop more accurate air quality data products from NASA satellite missions, a public competition called NASA Airathon: Predict Air Quality2 asked participants to develop algorithms for estimating daily levels of surface-level air pollutants on Earth. Using NASA satellite data, model outputs, and ground measurements, the public estimated daily levels of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) across urban areas in the U.S., India, and Taiwan—all of which have readily available satellite data. The contest generated more than 1,200 submissions from over 1,000 participants and awarded $25,000 in prizes.

A coral reef in American Samoa, one of the locations where researchers from the Laboratory for Advanced Sensing went on deployment to collect data using fluid-lensing instruments.
The ocean: it’s Earth’s largest ecosystem and the habitat for coral – one of the planet’s most unique and oldest life forms.

While the concept for an iPad game called NeMO-Net could be applied to the search for life across the universe, the current application is assessing the health of coral reefs. Players help NASA classify coral reefs by painting 3D and 2D images of coral captured using the NASA FluidCam instrument, the highest-resolution remote sensing benthic imaging technology capable of removing ocean wave distortion. Data from the painted images feeds into NASA NeMO-Net, the first neural multi-modal observation and training network for global coral reef assessment. With 43,000 unique downloads of the game, there have been 71,000 classifications, of which 56,400 have been reviewed and confirmed by NASA.

Planetary Science

NASA’s spacecraft, which arrived at Jupiter in 2016, continues to explore the planet and its satellites with a suite of scientific instruments and a camera called JunoCam. The camera takes visible frequency images of Jupiter’s polar regions and its moons.  Via the project website, citizen scientists create images from the raw JunoCam data and post their creations on the Juno website and social media platforms. Early during the prime mission, the project engaged with the public in an online voting campaign to plan image-taking during orbital passes around Jupiter (“perijoves”), but the effort was abandoned after the transition to the 53 day–orbit mission due to unfavorable evolution of the approach geometry.

Ideally, when a space rover lands on Mars, it will know where it is safe to drive, land, sleep, and hibernate—without any guidance from a human operator. An early step in developing this capability, AI4Mars, invited the public to label images of Mars terrain taken by the Curiosity rover. The goal is to train a machine learning algorithm to improve the rover’s ability to identify and avoid hazardous terrain, which is essential for autonomous exploration. Over 16,000 volunteers completed more than 632,000 classifications, and a model developed using the data has a total accuracy of 91%.

A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater.
A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater. Self-portraits are created using images taken by Curiosity’s Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA22486

Another ideal capability for a Mars rover is independent analysis of data to avoid the tedious process of data transmission from Mars to Earth and back. In the Mars Spectrometry: Detect Evidence for Past Habitability challenge, NASA engaged the public to build a model to automatically analyze mass spectrometry data from rock and soil samples. Out of 656 entries, a software engineer from Brisbane, Australia, won $15,000 for first place. The second-place winner from the United States received $7,500, and the third-place winner from India won $5,000.

Biological and Physical Sciences

One of the aims of biological science research at NASA is to understand how biological systems acclimate to spaceflight environments. 

A unique classroom-based citizen science program called Growing Beyond Earth advances NASA’s research on growing plants in space. In its seventh year, the NASA program provides all the materials needed for the experiments. In total, more than 40,000 participating students and teachers have contributed hundreds of thousands of data points and tested 180 varieties of edible plants. As a result of their efforts, four types of vegetables were grown by NASA off-Earth, and two varieties have been successfully grown on the International Space Station.

Heliophysics

NASA studies the Sun and its effects on Earth and the solar system—or heliophysics—to increase understanding of how the universe works, how to protect technology and astronauts in space, and how stars contribute to the habitability of planets throughout the universe.

SOHO captured this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun’s north pole on July 18, 2013.
SOHO captured this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun’s north pole on July 18, 2013.

To enable better discovery and tracking of sungrazing comets—the large but faint objects made of dust and ice in close orbit of the Sun—NASA held the NASA SOHO Comet Search. Over $55,000 in prizes was awarded to solutions to reduce background noise in data recorded by the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO), one of the instruments on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. Hundreds of participants from around the world devised artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches, which led to the discovery of two previously unidentified comets, including a difficult-to-detect non-group comet.

The preliminary results we’re already seeing come out of this challenge highlight the value of the open science movement.

Katie Baynes

Katie Baynes

NASA's Deputy Chief Science Data Officer

Space Apps 2021

In its tenth year, NASA’s 2021 International Space Apps Challenge took place in 320 locations across 162 countries or territories. The hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, technologists, and innovators around the world offered 28 different topics to solve using open data from NASA and others. This year’s winners included an app for homeowners to simplify data from NASA’s Prediction of Worldwide Renewable Energy Resources (POWER) web services portal to help make solar panel purchasing decisions and encourage solar energy use. Another winning app detects, quantifies, follows, and projects the movement of plastic debris in the ocean with high accuracy.

Endnotes

[1] https://science.nasa.gov/about-us/smd-vision

[2] https://drivendata.co/blog/nasa-airathon-winners

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Last Updated
Nov 07, 2023

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      Aerosols
      Myungje Choi [UMD, Baltimore County (UMBC)] presented an update on the EPIC V3 Multi-Angle Implementation of Atmospheric Correction (MAIAC) algorithm to optimize smoke aerosol models and the inversion process. The retrieved smoke/dust properties showed an improved agreement with long-term, ground-based Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) measurements of solar spectral absorption (SSA) and with aerosol layer height (ALH) measurements from the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Projection (CALIOP) on the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) mission. (Update: As of the publication of this summary, both CALIPSO and CloudSat have ended operations.) Choi reported that between 60–90% of EPIC SSA retrievals are within ±0.03 of AERONET SSA measurements, and between 56–88% of EPIC ALH retrievals are within ±1km of CALIOP ALH retrievals. He explained that the improved algorithm effectively captures distinct smoke characteristics, e.g., the higher brown carbon (BrC) fraction from Canadian wildfires in 2023 and the higher black carbon (BC) fraction from agricultural fires over Mexico in June 2023.
      Sujung Go [UMBC] presented a global climatology analysis of major absorbing aerosol species, represented by BC and BrC in biomass burning smoke as well as hematite and goethite in mineral dust. The analysis is based on the V3 MAIAC EPIC dataset. Observed regional differences in BC vs. BrC concentrations have strong associations with known distributions of fuels and types of biomass burning (e.g., forest wildfire vs. agricultural burning) and with ALH retrievals linking injection heights with fire radiative power. Regional distributions of the mineral dust components have strong seasonality and agree well with known dust properties from published ground soil samples.
      Omar Torres [GSFC] reported on the upgrades of the EPIC near-UV aerosol (EPICAERUV) algorithm. The EPICAERUV algorithm’s diurnal cycle of aerosol optical depth compared to the time and space collocated AERONET observations at multiple sites around the world. The analysis shows remarkably close agreement between the two datasets. In addition, Torres presented the first results of an improved UV-VIS inversion algorithm that simultaneously retrieves aerosol layer height, optical depth, and single scattering albedo.
      Hiren Jethva [Morgan State University] discussed the unique product of absorbing aerosols above clouds (AAC) retrieved from EPIC near-UV observations between 340 and 388 nm. The validation analysis of the retrieved aerosol optical depth over clouds against airborne direct measurements from the NASA ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS (ORACLES) campaign revealed a robust agreement. EPIC’s unique capability of providing near-hourly observations offered an insight into the diurnal variations of regional cloud fraction and AAC over “hotspot” regions. A new and simple method of estimating direct radiative effects of absorbing aerosols above clouds provided a multiyear timeseries dataset, which is consistent with similar estimations from Aura–OMI.
      Jun Wang [University of Iowa] reported on the development and status of V1 of the L2 EPIC aerosol optical centroid height (AOCH) product – which is now publicly available through ASDC – and on improvements to the AOCH algorithm – which focus on the treatment of surface reflectance and aerosols models. He presented applications of this data product for both climate studies of Sahara dust layer height and air quality studies of surface particulate matter with diameter of 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5). In addition, Wang showed the comparisons of EPIC AOCH data product with those retrieved from TROPOMI and GEMS and discussed ongoing progress to reduce the AOCH data uncertainty that is estimated to be 0.5 km (0.3 mi) over the ocean and 0.8 km (0.5 mi) over land.
      Clouds
      Yuekui Yang [GSFC] explained the physical meaning of EPIC cloud effective pressure (CEP) in an “apples-to-apples” comparison with CEP measurements from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment 2 (GOME-2) on the European Operational Meteorology (MetOp) satellites. The results showed that the two products agreed well.
      Yaping Zhou [UMBC] showed how current EPIC O2 A-band and B-band use Moon calibrations due to lack of in-flight calibration and other comparable in-space instruments for absolute calibration. This approach is ineffective at detecting small changes in instrument response function (IRF). This study examined the O2 band’s calibration and stability using a unique South Pole location and Radiative Transfer Model (RTM) simulations with in situ soundings and surface spectral albedo and bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) measurements as input. The results indicate EPIC simulations are within 1% of observations for non-absorption bands, but large discrepancies exist for the O2 A-band (15.63%) and O2 B-band (5.76%). Sensitivity studies show the large discrepancies are unlikely caused by uncertainties in various input, but a small shift (-0.2–0.3 nm) of IRF could account for the model observation discrepancy. On the other hand, observed multiyear trends in O2 band ratios in the South Pole can be explained with orbital shift – which means the instrument is stable.
      Alfonso Delgado Bonal [UMBC] used the EPIC L2 cloud data to characterize the diurnal cycles of cloud optical thickness. To fully exploit the uniqueness of DSCOVR data, all clouds were separated in three groups depending on their optical thickness: thin (0–3), medium (3–10), and thick (3–25). Bonal explained that there is a predictable pattern for different latitudinal zones that reaches a maximum around noon local time – see Figure 2. It was also shown that that the median is a better measure of central tendency when describing cloud optical thickness.
      Figure 2. Daytime variability of the median liquid cloud optical thickness over the ocean for different seasons of the year derived using EPIC L2 data. The various colored curves represent data collected in different seasons of the year. The black curve represents the annual average – which is most useful for calculations of cloud optical thickness. Figure credit: Alfonso Delgado Bonal Elizabeth Berry [Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER)] reported on how coincident observations from EPIC and the Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) on CloudSat have been used to train a machine learning model to predict cloud vertical structure. A XGBoost decision tree model used input (e.g., EPIC L1B reflectance, L2 Cloud products, and background meteorology) to predict a binary cloud mask on 25 vertical levels. Berry discussed model performance, feature importance, and future improvements.
      Ocean
      Robert Frouin [Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California] discussed ocean surface radiation products from EPIC data. He reported that surface radiation products were developed to address science questions pertaining to biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nutrients, and oxygen as well as mixed-layer dynamics and circulation. These products include daily averaged downward planar and scalar irradiance and average cosine for total light just below the surface in the EPIC spectral bands centered on 317.5, 325, 340, 388, 443, 551, and 680 nm and integrated values over the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and UV-A spectral ranges. The PAR-integrated quantities were evaluated against in situ data collected at sites in the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Frouin and his colleagues have also developed, tested, and evaluated an autonomous system for collecting and transmitting continuously spectral UV and visible downward fluxes. 
      Vegetation
      Yuri Knyazikhin [Boston University] reported on the status of the Vegetation Earth System Data Record (VESDR) and discussed science with vegetation parameters. A new version of the VESDR software was delivered to NCCS and implemented for operational generation of the VESDR product. The new version passed tests of physics (e.g., various relationships between vegetation indices and vegetation parameters derived from the VESDR) and follow regularities reported in literature. Analysis of hotspot signatures derived from EPIC and from the Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) on Terra over forests in southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo reaffirms that long-term precipitation decline has had minimal impact on leaf area and leaf optical properties.
      Jan Pisek [University of Tartu/Tartu Observatory, Estonia] reported on the verification of the previously modeled link between the directional area scattering factor (DASF) from the EPIC VESDR product and foliage clumping with empirical data. The results suggest that DASF can be accurately derived from satellite observations and provide new evidence that the photon recollision probability theory concepts can be successfully applied even at a fairly coarse spatial resolution.
      Sun Glint
      Tamás Várnai [UMBC] discussed the EPIC Glint Product as well as impacts of sun glint off ice clouds on other EPIC data products – see Figure 3. The cloud glints come mostly from horizontally oriented ice crystals and have strong impact in EPIC cloud retrievals. Glints increase retrieved cloud fraction, the retrieved cloud optical depth, and cloud height. Várnai also reported that the EPIC glint product is now available at the ASDC. It is expected that glints yield additional new insights about the microphysical and radiative properties of ice clouds.
      Figure 3. EPIC image taken over Mexico on July 4, 2018. The red, white and blue spot over central Mexico is the result of Sun glint reflecting off high clouds containing ice crystals. EPIC is particularly well suited for studies of ice clouds that cause Sun glint, because unlike most other instruments, it uses a filter wheel to take images at multiple wavelengths, which means the image for each wavelength is obtained at a slightly different time. For example, it takes four minutes to cycle from red to blue. During that time, Earth moves by ~100 km (~62 mi) meaning each image will capture a slightly different scene. Brightness contrasts between images can be used to identify glint signals. Image credit: Tamas Vanai Alexander Kostinski [Michigan Technology University] reported on long-term changes and semi-permanent features, e.g., ocean glitter. They introduced pixel-pinned temporally and conditionally averaged reflectance images, uniquely suited to the EPIC observational circumstances. The preliminary resulting images (maps), averaged over months and conditioned on cover type (land, ocean, or clouds), show seasonal dependence at a glance (e.g., by an apparent extent of polar caps).
      More EPIC Science Results
      Guoyong Wen [Morgan State University] discussed spectral properties of the EPIC observations near backscattering, including four cases when the scattering angle reaches about 178° (only 2° from perfect backscattering). The enhancement addresses changes in scattering angle observed in 2020. (Scattering angle is a function of wavelength, because according to Mie scattering theory, the cloud scattering phase function in the glory region is wavelength dependent.) Radiative transfer calculations showed that the change in scattering angles has the largest impact on reflectance in the red and NIR channels at 680 nm and 780 nm and the smallest influence on reflectance in the UV channel at 388 nm – consistent with EPIC observations. The change of global average cloud amount also plays an important role in the reflectance enhancement.
      Nick Gorkavyi [SSAI] talked about future plans to deploy a wide-angle camera and a multislit spectrometer on the Moon’s surface for whole-Earth observations to complement EPIC observations. Gorkavyi explained that the apparent vibrational movement of Earth in the Moon’s sky complicates observations of Earth. This causes the center of Earth to move in the Moon’s sky in a rectangle, measuring 13.4° × 15.8° with a period of 6 years. 
      Jay Herman [UMBC] reported on EPIC O3 and trends from combining Nimbus 7/Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SBUV), the SBUV-2 series, and OMPS–Nadir Mapper (NM) data. (OMPS is made up of three instruments: a Nadir Mapper (NM), Nadir Profiler, and Limb Profiler. OMPS NM is a total ozone sensor). Herman compared EPIC O3 data to OMPS NM data, which showed good agreement (especially summer values) for moderate solar zenith angle (SZA). Comparison with long-term O3 time series (1978–2021) revealed that there were trends and latitude dependent O3 turn-around dates (1994–1998). Herman emphasized that global O3 models do not show this effect but rather have only a single turn-around date around 2000.
      Alexander Radkevich [LaRC] presented a poster that showed a comparative analysis of air quality monitoring by orbital and suborbital NASA missions using the DSCOVR EPIC O3 product as well as Pandora total O3 column retrievals. Comparison of the June 2023 total column O3 from EPIC data to the same periods in previous years revealed a significant – around 50 DU – increase of total O3 column in the areas impacted by the plume from 2023 Canadian wildfires.
      Conclusion
      At the end of the meeting Alexander Marshak, Jay Herman, and Adam Szabo discussed how to make the EPIC and NISTAR instruments more visible in the community. The EPIC website now allows visitors to observe daily fluctuations of aerosol index, cloud fraction, and the ocean surface – as observed from the “L1” point,  nearly one million miles away from Earth! More daily products, (e.g., cloud and aerosol height, total leaf area index, and sunlit leaf area index) will be added soon.
      The 2023 DSCOVR EPIC and NISTAR Science Team Meeting provided an opportunity to learn the status of DSCOVR’s Earth-observing instruments, EPIC and NISTAR, the status of recently released L2 data products, and the science results being achieved from the “L1” point. As more people use DSCOVR data worldwide, the ST hopes to hear from users and team members at its next meeting. The latest updates from the mission are found on the EPIC website. (UPDATE: The next DSCOVR EPIC and NISTAR STM will be held on October 16–18, 2024. Check the website for more details as the date approaches.)
      Alexander Marshak
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
      alexander.marshak@nasa.gov

      Adam Szabo
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
      adam.szabo@nasa.gov
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      2 min read
      Voyager 1 Returning Science Data From All Four Instruments
      An artist’s concept of the Voyager spacecraft. NASA/JPL-Caltech The spacecraft has resumed gathering information about interstellar space.
      NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is conducting normal science operations for the first time following a technical issue that arose in November 2023.
      The team partially resolved the issue in April when they prompted the spacecraft to begin returning engineering data, which includes information about the health and status of the spacecraft. On May 19, the mission team executed the second step of that repair process and beamed a command to the spacecraft to begin returning science data. Two of the four science instruments returned to their normal operating modes immediately. Two other instruments required some additional work, but now, all four are returning usable science data.  
      The four instruments study plasma waves, magnetic fields, and particles. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only spacecraft to directly sample interstellar space, which is the region outside the heliosphere — the protective bubble of magnetic fields and solar wind created by the Sun.
      While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is needed to clean up the effects of the issue. Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronize timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers so they can execute commands at the right time. The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records some data for the plasma wave instrument that is sent to Earth twice per year. (Most of the Voyagers’ science data is sent directly to Earth and not recorded.)
      Voyager 1 is more than 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, and Voyager 2 is more than 12 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) from the planet. The probes will mark 47 years of operations later this year. They are NASA’s longest-running and most-distant spacecraft. Both spacecraft flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 also flew past Uranus and Neptune.
      News Media Contact
      Calla Cofield
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      626-808-2469
      calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 Related Terms
      Heliophysics Jet Propulsion Laboratory Voyager 1 Explore More
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    • By NASA
      A collaboration between the MSFC Lightning Team, NOAA NESDIS, and the NASA ARSET (Applied Remote Sensing Training) team completed on 4/2/24 with the final installment of a three-part series focused on Lightning Observations and Applications. On 3/26/24, Part 1 was presented to an audience of people from around the globe focused on the background and history of lightning measurements. This presentation was given by Steven Goodman of Thunderbolt Technologies. Part 2 was titled” Overview of Current Lightning Data Products from Remote Sensing” and was given by MSFC Lightning lead Timothy Lang (ST11). This presentation focused a lot on NASA lightning missions, field campaigns, and data access and was given on 3/28/24. The final installment of the ARSET lightning series was given on 4/2/24 by Scott Rudlosky of NOAA NESDIS and Christopher Schultz (ST11) of MSFC. This third part focused specifically on the Geostationary Lightning Mapper and applications of the data for science, identify lightning hazards, and safety. The average total attendance was around 225 people per session. Schultz took a lead role in working with the ARSET team to identify the speakers, topics, and review materials for presentation. Each of the 6 sessions (2 per day per topic, 1.5 hours each session) were followed up with 10-15 questions from the audience. The ARSET team indicates that there is potential for additional lightning-based trainings going forward given the response to this first series.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      In early May, widespread flooding and landslides occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, leaving thousands of people without food, water, or electricity. In the following days, NASA teams provided data and imagery to help on-the-ground responders understand the disaster’s impacts and deploy aid.
      Building on this response and similar successes, on June 13, NASA announced a new system to support disaster response organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
      Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team in Adiyaman, Turkey (Türkiye), conducting rescue efforts in the wake of powerful earthquakes that struck the region in February 2023. NASA provided maps and data to support USAID and other regional partners during these earthquakes. USAID “When disasters strike, NASA is here to help — at home and around the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As challenges from extreme weather grow, so too does the value of NASA’s efforts to provide critical Earth observing data to disaster-response teams on the frontlines. We’ve done so for years. Now, through this system, we expand our capability to help power our U.S. government partners, international partners, and relief organizations across the globe as they take on disasters — and save lives.”
      The team behind NASA’s Disaster Response Coordination System gathers science, technology, data, and expertise from across the agency and provides it to emergency managers. The new system will be able to provide up-to-date information on fires, earthquakes, landslides, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme events.
      NASA Administrator Bill Nelson delivers remarks during an event launching a new Disaster Response Coordination System that will provide communities and organizations around the world with access to science and data to aid disaster response, Thursday, June 13, 2024, at the NASA Headquarters Mary W. Jackson Building in Washington. NASA/Bill Ingalls “The risk from climate-related hazards is increasing, making more people vulnerable to extreme events,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “This is particularly true for the 10% of the global population living in low-lying coastal regions who are vulnerable to storm surges, waves and tsunamis, and rapid erosion. NASA’s disaster system is designed to deliver trusted, actionable Earth science in ways and means that can be used immediately, to enable effective response to disasters and ultimately help save lives.”
      Agencies working with NASA include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Agency for International Development — as well as international organizations such as World Central Kitchen.
      “With this deliberate and structured approach, we can be even more effective in putting Earth science into action,” said Josh Barnes, at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Barnes manages the Disaster Response Coordination System.
      NASA Disasters Team Aiding Brazil
      When the floods and landslides ravaged parts of Brazil in May, officials from the U.S. Southern Command — working with the U.S. Space Force and Air Force, and regional partners — reached out to NASA for Earth-observing data.
      Image Before/After NASA’s response included maps of potential power outages from the Black Marble project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Disaster response coordinators at NASA Goddard also reviewed high-resolution optical data — from the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program — to map more than 4,000 landslides.
      Response coordinators from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Southern California, produced flood extent maps using data from the NASA and U.S. Geological Survey Landsat mission and from ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. Response coordinators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston also provided photographs of the flooding taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
      Building on Previous Work
      The Brazil event is just one of hundreds of responses NASA has supported over the past decade. The team aids decision-making for a wide range of natural hazards and disasters, from hurricanes and earthquakes to tsunamis and oil spills. 
      “NASA’s Disasters Program advances science for disaster resilience and develops accessible resources to help communities around the world make informed decisions for disaster planning,” said Shanna McClain, manager of NASA’s Disasters Program. “The new Disaster Response Coordination System significantly expands our efforts to bring the power of Earth science when responding to disasters.”
      For more information visit:
      https://disasters.nasa.gov/response
      By Jacob Reed
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 Editor Rob Garner Related Terms
      Ames Research Center Earth Extreme Weather Events Goddard Space Flight Center Jet Propulsion Laboratory Johnson Space Center Langley Research Center Marshall Space Flight Center Natural Disasters View the full article
    • By NASA
      5 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Perseverance captured this mosaic looking downstream of the dune-filled Neretva Vallis river channel on May 17. The channel fed Jezero Crater with fresh water billions of years ago.NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS Originally thought of as little more than a route clear of rover-slowing boulders, Neretva Vallis has provided a bounty of geologic options for the science team.   
      After detouring through a dune field to avoid wheel-rattling boulders, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover reached its latest area of scientific interest on June 9. The route change not only shortened the estimated drive time to reach that area — nicknamed “Bright Angel” — by several weeks, but also gave the science team an opportunity to find exciting geologic features in an ancient river channel.
      Perseverance is in the later stages of its fourth science campaign, looking for evidence of carbonate and olivine deposits in the “Margin Unit,” an area along the inside of Jezero Crater’s rim. Located at the base of the northern channel wall, Bright Angel features rocky light-toned outcrops that may represent either ancient rock exposed by river erosion or sediments that filled the channel. The team hopes to find rocks different from those in the carbonate-and-olivine-rich Margin Unit and gather more clues about Jezero’s history.
      Stitched together from 18 images taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover, this mosaic shows a boulder field on “Mount Washburn” on May 27. Intrigued by the diversity of textures and chemical composition in the light-toned boulder at center, the rover’s science team nicknamed the rock “Atoko Point.”NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS To get to Bright Angel, the rover drove on a ridge along the Neretva Vallis river channel, which billions of years ago carried a large amount of the water that flowed into Jezero Crater. “We started paralleling the channel in late January and were making pretty good progress, but then the boulders became bigger and more numerous,” said Evan Graser, Perseverance’s deputy strategic route planner lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “What had been drives averaging over a hundred meters per Martian day went down to only tens of meters. It was frustrating.”
      Channel Surfing
      In rough terrain, Evan and his team use rover imagery to plan drives of about 100 feet (30 meters) at a time. To go farther on any given Martian day, or sol, planners rely on Perseverance’s auto-navigation, or AutoNav, system to take over. But as the rocks became more plentiful, AutoNav would, more times than not, determine the going was not to its liking and stop, dimming the prospects of a timely arrival at Bright Angel. The team held out hope, however, knowing they might find success cutting across a quarter-mile (400-meter) dune field in the river channel.
      NASA’s Perseverance rover was traveling in the ancient Neretva Vallis river channel when it captured this view of an area of scientific interest named “Bright Angel” — the light-toned area in the distance at right — with one of its navigation cameras on June 6.NASA/JPL-Caltech “We had been eyeing the river channel just to the north as we went, hoping to find a section where the dunes were small and far enough apart for a rover to pass between — because dunes have been known to eat Mars rovers,” said Graser. “Perseverance also needed an entrance ramp we could safely travel down. When the imagery showed both, we made a beeline for it.”
      The Perseverance science team was also eager to travel through the ancient river channel because they wanted to investigate ancient Martian river processes.
      Rock Star
      With AutoNav helping guide the way on the channel floor, Perseverance covered the 656 feet (200 meters) to the first science stop in one sol. The target: “Mount Washburn,” a hill covered with intriguing boulders, some of a type never observed before on Mars.
      Superimposed on an image from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, this map shows Perseverance’s path between Jan. 21 and June 11. White dots indicate where the rover stopped after completing a traverse beside Neretva Vallis river channel. The pale blue line indicates the rover’s route inside the channel.NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona “The diversity of textures and compositions at Mount Washburn was an exciting discovery for the team, as these rocks represent a grab bag of geologic gifts brought down from the crater rim and potentially beyond,” said Brad Garczynski of Western Washington University in Bellingham, the co-lead of the current science campaign.“But among all these different rocks, there was one that really caught our attention.” They nicknamed it “Atoko Point.”
      Some 18 inches (45 centimeters) wide and 14 inches (35 centimeters) tall, the speckled, light-toned boulder stands out in a field of darker ones. Analysis by Perseverance’s SuperCam and Mastcam-Z instruments indicates that the rock is composed of the minerals pyroxene and feldspar. In terms of the size, shape, and arrangement of its mineral grains and crystals — and potentially its chemical composition — Atoko Point it is in a league of its own.
      Some Perseverance scientists speculate the minerals that make up Atoko Point were produced in a subsurface body of magma that is possibly exposed now on the crater rim. Others on the team wonder if the boulder had been created far beyond the walls of Jezero and transported there by the swift Martian waters eons ago. Either way, the team believes that while Atoko is the first of its kind they’ve seen, it won’t be the last.
      After leaving Mount Washburn, the rover headed 433 feet (132 meters) north to investigate the geology of “Tuff Cliff” before making the four-sol, 1,985-foot (605-meter) journey to Bright Angel. Perseverance is currently analyzing a rocky outcrop to assess whether a rock core sample should be collected.
      More About the Mission
      A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including caching samples that may contain signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
      Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
      The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
      NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by Caltech, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
      For more about Perseverance:
      https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
      News Media Contacts
      DC Agle
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      818-393-9011
      agle@jpl.nasa.gov
      Karen Fox / Charles Blue
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      301-286-6284 / 202-802-5345
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov
      2024-084
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      Details
      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 Related Terms
      Perseverance (Rover) Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Mars 2020 Mars Sample Return (MSR) The Solar System Explore More
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