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    • By NASA
      2 min read
      North Carolina Volunteers Work Toward Cleaner Well Water
      Road closure due to flooding. Volunteers helped NASA scientists predict where floods like these will contaminate well water. Image credit: Kelsey Pieper When the ground floods during a storm, floodwaters wash bacteria and other contaminants into private wells. But thanks to citizen scientists in North Carolina, we now know a bit more about how to deal with this problem. A new NASA-Funded study describes the contributions of these volunteers and how their work makes other disaster data more useful. 
      After Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services distributed sampling bottles to 754 private well users upon request.  They asked these volunteers to collect samples at their wellheads or outdoor taps. As expected, the rates of fecal contamination measured with help from the volunteers were almost 8 times higher than during routine conditions. 
      The new study compares the water quality measurements made by volunteers to predictions from various kinds of flood boundary maps made using data from NASA’s Landsat, Sentinel, and MODIS satellites. Turns out, the flood boundary maps are pretty good predictors—under certain conditions. Now we know how to better use them for this purpose in the future, thanks to help from citizen scientists!
      Contact your local health department and tell them you are interested in testing your own well water supply!
      Share








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    • By NASA
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      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge will conclude with a final competition, open to the public and media, this June in Huntsville, Alabama.NASA NASA will announce the winners of the final phase of its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge on Wednesday, June 12 at Alabama A&M University’s (AAMU) Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The challenge aims to develop new technologies that could support a sustained human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
      Media and the public are invited to watch the six finalists test their robots in live competitions. Opening remarks from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center leadership in Huntsville will begin at 8 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 11. Teams will compete from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day during the two-day event, with the winner announcement at 5 p.m. in a ceremony on June 12 at the Agribition Center.
      Media interested in covering the event should confirm their attendance with Jonathan Deal by 3 p.m. Monday, June 10, at jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov.
      Each team will focus on mastering two components during the two-day event: excavation and transportation. Six identically sized concrete slabs, measuring about 300 cubic feet, will be placed inside the arena for the finalists’ robots to dig. The slabs will have qualities like the icy regolith found in permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s South Pole. A gravity-offloading crane system will apply the counterweights on the excavating robots to simulate the one-sixth gravity experienced on the Moon.
      Each team will have one hour to dig as much material as possible or until they reach the payload capacity of their excavation robot. Up to three top-performing teams can test their solution inside one of NASA Marshall’s thermal vacuum chambers, which can simulate the temperature and vacuum conditions at the lunar South Pole.
      Outside the Agribition Center, challenge teams will take turns on a custom-built track outfitted with slopes, boulders, pebbles, rocks, and gravel to simulate the lunar surface. This volatile surface will stretch approximately 300 meters and include several twists and turns for more intermediate handling. Each team will get one hour on the track to deliver a payload and return to the starting point. Times, distances, and pitfalls will be recorded independently.
      After this event, the first-place winner will receive $1 million, and the second-place winner will receive $500,000.
      The awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Marshall YouTube and NASA Prize Facebook.
      Since 2020, competitors have worked to design, build, and test icy regolith excavation and transportation technologies for near-term lunar missions that address key operational elements and environmental constraints. The six finalists who succeeded in Phase 2: Level 2 of the challenge were announced in December 2023.
      On Earth, the mission architectures developed in this challenge aim to help guide machine design and operation concepts for future mining and excavation operations and equipment for decades.
      Located a few miles east of the AAMU campus, the Agribition (“agriculture” plus “exhibition”) Center is managed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with support from AAMU and its College of Agricultural, Life, and Natural Sciences.
      The Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge led by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, supported by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program led by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed at NASA Marshall. Ensemble Consultancy supports the management of competitors for this challenge.
      Learn more about Break the Ice.
      Jonathan Deal
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256-544-0034  
      jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov 
      Facebook logo @nasaprize @NASAPrize Instagram logo @nasaprize Share
      Details
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    • By NASA
      Accurate seasonal water supply forecasts are crucial for effective water resources management. Help the Bureau of Reclamation develop models to forecast the cumulative streamflow volume for sites across the Western United States.
      Government Agency: Bureau of Reclamation
      Award: $500,000
      Open Date: October 2023
      Close Date: July 2024
      For more information, visit: https://www.drivendata.org/competitions/group/reclamation-water-supply-forecast/
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Solid State Quantum Magnetometers—Seeking out water worlds from the quantum world
      Left: Jupiter’s moon Europa and its presumed interior. A thick ice shell covers a planetary saltwater ocean, presumed to hold twice as much water as Earth’s oceans. Right: Simulation of the ocean bending the magnetic field lines emitted by Jupiter that are close to Europa Image credit: C. Cochrane/ NASA/JPL-Caltech “Follow the water!”  The solar system is full of water in different states, from the Sun’s water vapor to the ice of Pluto and beyond. Water is not only linked to the possibility to sustain life, it is also interesting for its own geological properties and potential uses. For example, ice on the Moon and Mars could support human exploration. Comets that hit Earth may have deposited water on our planet. The icy comets and rings of Saturn reveal how solar systems change over time.
      Liquid water, however, has a special role in enabling life. Scientists have discovered indications that liquid water might exist on a number of moons orbiting our solar system’s gas and ice giants. The mantra of the astrobiology community is to “Follow the Water” to find life, so subsurface oceans on Jupiter’s Europa, Saturn’s Enceladus, and other moons are compelling targets for future missions.
      However, looking beneath the miles-thick ice crusts of these planetary bodies with conventional remote-sensing instruments, like cameras and radar, is challenging. Until we can send landers or rovers that drill or melt through the ice, we can use other techniques to track down these enormous, but elusive, water bodies. One method—Magnetometry—stands out since magnetic fields penetrate solid material and can therefore provide information about the interior of planet-sized bodies.
      Briny water conducts electricity; therefore, a saltwater ocean can function as a planet-sized electric circuit. The strong rotating magnetic field of the parent planet of an ocean world can induce an electric current in this “circuit,” which in turn disturbs and modifies the magnetic field near the ocean world under investigation. These magnetic field disturbances can be observed from a spacecraft and may indicate the presence of liquid water. For example, a distortion of Jupiter’s magnetic field in the vicinity of Europa was measured by the magnetometer on NASA’s Galileo mission, providing further evidence for the initial suspicions of a water ocean under that moon’s icy crust.
      The heart of optically pumped quantum magnetometers: a diamond crystal enriched with color centers. Unlike many other quantum systems, diamond and SiC solid state quantum color centers operate at room temperature and can be readily accessed electrically or optically. The bottom photo, filtering the laser light for the observer, shows the red-shifted emission response of the quantum system. This response is encoded with quantum spin information, and can be used to read environmental influences, such as temperature, pressure, electric and, most importantly for us, magnetic field properties. Image credit A. Gottscholl/ NASA/JPL-Caltech Solid-state quantum magnetometers are an upcoming instrument class promising to measure magnetic fields at competitive sensitivities, while offering lower size, weight, and power footprints. In addition, these instruments offer quantum benefits like self-calibration on spin-nuclear quantum interaction, which means that the magnetometer can compensate for drifts over time. This capability is especially important for decades-long missions to the outer ice-giants. Other solid-state quantum advantages include radiation resilience and an inherent ability to withstand very high/low temperatures.
      Solid-state quantum magnetometers leverage quantum color centers located in semiconductors such as diamond and silicon carbide. Color centers are defects in the crystal lattice—for example, a missing atom or a different atom replacing a crystal atom. In everyday life, color centers give crystals their color, but they can also be probed on the quantum level using modulated light. Due to their quantum spin properties these color centers are sensitive to environmental magnetic fields. As these color centers are exposed to varying magnetic fields, the changing quantum spin properties can be read electrically and/or optically, providing insight into the magnetic field properties and enabling us to detect the presence of water.
      Research teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are developing two magnetometers to measure spin properties from space. The incredibly simple but elegant SiCMAG (Silicon Carbide Magnetometer, Lead Dr. Corey J. Cochrane) instrument reads spin properties electrically, while the OPuS-MAGNM (optically pumped solid state quantum magnetometer, Lead Dr. Hannes Kraus) promises access to higher sensitivities through the addition of optics. Optically pumped here means that the quantum system is pumped with green (diamond) or deep red (silicon carbide) laser light, and the system’s response is read with a light detector.
      According to Dr. Kraus, “Novel quantum sensors not only enable new science, but also offer the chance to downscale former flagship-class instrumentation to a size and cost allowing flagship-class science on CubeSat-class platforms.”
      NASA has been funding solid state quantum magnetometer sensor research through its PICASSO (Planetary Instrument Concepts for the Advancement of Solar System Observations) program since 2016. A variety of domestic partners from industry and academia support this research, including NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the University of Iowa, Q-Cat LLC and QuantCAD LLC, as well as international partners such as Japan’s National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST Japan) and ETH Zurich, a public research university in Zurich, Switzerland.
      PI Dr. Kraus (left) and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Andreas Gottscholl (right) in the JPL Quantum Magnetometer lab, with the optically detected magnetic resonance (ODMR) spectrometer apparatus—a larger-scale stepping stone towards a miniaturized integrated magnetometer instrument—built by Dr. Gottscholl in the background. The optically pumped quantum sensor crystals (not visible here, as the sensor itself is only millimeters in size) are located in the concentric barrel-shaped four-layer µ-metal chamber, which is capable of shielding the Earth’s and other magnetic field disturbances by a factor of 100,000. Image Credit H. Kraus/ NASA/JPL-Caltech Acknowledgment: The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004).
      PROJECT LEAD
      Dr. Hannes Kraus, Dr. Corey Cochrane, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology
      SPONSORING ORGANIZATION
      Science Mission Directorate PICASSO, JPL R&D funding
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      Last Updated Jun 04, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      It’s not just rising air and water temperatures influencing the decades-long decline of Arctic sea ice. Clouds, aerosols, even the bumps and dips on the ice itself can play a role. To explore how these factors interact and impact sea ice melting, NASA is flying two aircraft equipped with scientific instruments over the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland this summer. The first flights of the field campaign, called ARCSIX (Arctic Radiation Cloud Aerosol Surface Interaction Experiment), successfully began taking measurements on May 28.
      Two NASA aircraft are taking coordinated measurements of clouds, aerosols and sea ice in the Arctic this summer as part of the ARCSIX field campaign. In this image from Thursday, May 30, NASA’s P-3 aircraft takes off from Pituffik Space Base in northwest Greenland behind the agency’s Gulfstream III aircraft.Credit: NASA/Dan Chirica “The ARCSIX mission aims to measure the evolution of the sea ice pack over the course of an entire summer,” said Patrick Taylor, deputy science lead with the campaign from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “There are many different factors that influence the sea ice. We’re measuring them to determine which were most important to melting ice this summer.”
      On a completely clear day over smooth sea ice, most sunlight would reflect back into the atmosphere, which is one way that sea ice cools the planet. But when the ice has ridges or darker melt ponds — or is dotted with pollutants — it can change the equation, increasing the amount of ice melt. In the atmosphere, cloudy conditions and drifting aerosols also impact the rate of melt.
      “An important goal of ARCSIX is to better understand the surface radiation budget — the energy interacting with the ice and the atmosphere,” said Rachel Tilling, a campaign scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      About 75 scientists, instrument operators, and flight crew are participating in ARCSIX’s two segments based out of Pituffik Space Base in northwest Greenland. The first three-week deployment, in May and June of this year, is timed to document the start of the ice melt season. The second deployment will occur in July and August to monitor late summer conditions and the start of the freeze-up period.
      “Scientists from three key disciplines came together for ARCSIX: sea ice surface researchers, aerosol researchers, and cloud researchers,” Tilling said. “Each of us has been working to understand the radiation budget in our specific area, but we’ve brought all three areas together for this campaign.”
      Two aircraft will fly over the Arctic during each deployment. NASA’s P-3 Orion aircraft from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, will fly below the clouds at times to document the surface properties of the ice and the amount of energy radiating off it. The team will also fly the aircraft through the clouds to sample aerosol particles, cloud optical properties, chemistry, and other atmospheric components.
      A Gulfstream III aircraft, managed by NASA Langley, will fly higher in the atmosphere to observe properties of the tops of the clouds, take profiles of the atmosphere above the ice, and add a perspective similar to that of orbiting satellites.
      The teams will also compare airborne data with satellite data. Satellite instruments like the Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer will provide additional information about clouds and aerosol particles, while the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 will provide insights into the ice topography below both satellites and aircraft.
      The aircraft will fly coordinated routes to take measurements of the atmosphere above ice in three-dimensional space, said Sebastian Schmidt, the mission’s science lead with the University of Colorado Boulder.
      “The area off the northern coast of Greenland can be considered the last bastion of multi-year sea ice, as the Arctic transitions to a seasonally ice-free ocean,” Schmidt said. “By observing here, we will gain insight into cloud-aerosol-sea ice-interaction processes of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Arctic — all while improving satellite-based remote sensing by comparing what we’re seeing with the airborne and satellite instruments.” 
      By Kate Ramsayer
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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