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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Images from the November 2023 flyby of asteroid Dinkinesh by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft show a trough on Dinkinesh where a large piece — about a quarter of the asteroid — suddenly shifted, a ridge, and a separate contact binary satellite (now known as Selam). Scientists say this complicated structure shows that Dinkinesh and Selam have significant internal strength and a complex, dynamic history.
      Panels a, b, and c each show stereographic image pairs of the asteroid Dinkinesh taken by the NASA Lucy Spacecraft’s L’LORRI Instrument in the minutes around closest approach on Nov. 1, 2023. The yellow and rose dots indicate the trough and ridge features, respectively. These images have been sharpened and processed to enhance contrast. Panel d shows a side view of Dinkinesh and its satellite Selam taken a few minutes after closest approach.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab “We want to understand the strengths of small bodies in our solar system because that’s critical for understanding how planets like Earth got here,” said Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator at the Boulder, Colorado, branch of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Basically, the planets formed when zillions of smaller objects orbiting the Sun, like asteroids, ran into each other. How objects behave when they hit each other, whether they break apart or stick together, has a lot to do with their strength and internal structure.” Levison is lead author of a paper on these observations published May 29 in Nature.
      On November 1, 2023, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flew by the main-belt asteroid Dinkinesh. Now, the mission has released pictures from Lucy’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager taken over a roughly three-hour period, providing the best views of the asteroid to date. During the flyby, Lucy discovered that Dinkinesh has a small moon, which the mission named “Selam,” a greeting in the Amharic language meaning “peace.” Lucy is the first mission designed to visit the Jupiter Trojans, two swarms of asteroids trapped in Jupiter’s orbit that may be “fossils” from the era of planet formation. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Download this video and more at: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/14596/ Researchers think that Dinkinesh is revealing its internal structure by how it has responded to stress. Over millions of years rotating in the sunlight, the tiny forces coming from the thermal radiation emitted from the asteroid’s warm surface generated a small torque that caused Dinkinesh to gradually rotate faster, building up centrifugal stresses until part of the asteroid shifted into a more elongated shape. This event likely caused debris to enter into a close orbit, which became the raw material that produced the ridge and satellite.
      Stereo movie of asteroid Dinkinesh from NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flyby on Nov. 1, 2023.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab/Brian May/Claudia Manzoni If Dinkinesh were much weaker, more like a fluid pile of sand, its particles would have gradually moved toward the equator and flown off into orbit as it spun faster. However, the images suggest that it was able to hold together longer, more like a rock, with more strength than a fluid, eventually giving way under stress and fragmenting into large pieces. (Although the amount of strength needed to fragment a small asteroid like Dinkinesh is miniscule compared to most rocks on Earth.)
      “The trough suggests an abrupt failure, more an earthquake with a gradual buildup of stress and then a sudden release, instead of a slow process like a sand dune forming,” said Keith Noll of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, project scientist for Lucy and a co-author of the paper.
      “These features tell us that Dinkinesh has some strength, and they let us do a little historical reconstruction to see how this asteroid evolved,” said Levison. “It broke, things moved apart and formed a disk of material during that failure, some of which rained back onto the surface to make the ridge.”
      The researchers think some of the material in the disk formed the moon Selam, which is actually two objects touching each other, a configuration called a contact binary. Details of how this unusual moon formed remain mysterious.
      Stereo movie of Selam from NASA’s Lucy spacecraft flyby on Nov. 1, 2023.NASA/GSFC/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL/NOIRLab/Brian May/Claudia Manzoni Dinkinesh and its satellite are the first two of 11 asteroids that Lucy’s team plans to explore over its 12-year journey. After skimming the inner edge of the main asteroid belt, Lucy is now heading back toward Earth for a gravity assist in December 2024. That close flyby will propel the spacecraft back through the main asteroid belt, where it will observe asteroid Donaldjohanson in 2025, and then on to the first of the encounters with the Trojan asteroids that lead and trail Jupiter in its orbit of the Sun beginning in 2027.
      Lucy’s principal investigator is based out of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of Southwest Research Institute, headquartered in San Antonio. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built and operates the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA’s Discovery Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
      For more information about NASA’s Lucy mission, visit:
      Last Updated May 29, 2024 EditorWilliam SteigerwaldContactWilliam Steigerwaldwilliam.a.steigerwald@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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      1 min read What are the Trojan Asteroids? We Asked a NASA Scientist
      What are the Trojan asteroids? These mysterious space rocks have been gravitationally trapped in Jupiter’s…
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      Article 10 years ago 13 min read NASA’s Lucy Mission: A Journey to the Young Solar System
      NASA’s Lucy spacecraft launched Oct. 16, 2021, on a 12-year journey to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
      Article 3 years ago View the full article
    • By NASA
      NASA’s X-59 quiet supersonic research aircraft sits on the apron outside Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility at dawn in Palmdale, California. The X-59 is the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission, which seeks to address one of the primary challenges to supersonic flight over land by making sonic booms quieter.Lockheed Martin Skunk Works NASA and Lockheed Martin formally debuted the agency’s X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft Friday. Using this one-of-a-kind experimental airplane, NASA aims to gather data that could revolutionize air travel, paving the way for a new generation of commercial aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound.
      “This is a major accomplishment made possible only through the hard work and ingenuity from NASA and the entire X-59 team,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “In just a few short years we’ve gone from an ambitious concept to reality. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time.”
      Melroy and other senior officials revealed the aircraft during a ceremony hosted by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works at its Palmdale, California facility.
      The X-59 is at the center of NASA’s Quesst mission, which focuses on providing data to help regulators reconsider rules that prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land. For 50 years, the U.S. and other nations have prohibited such flights because of the disturbance caused by loud, startling sonic booms on the communities below. The X-59 is expected to fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound, or 925 mph. Its design, shaping and technologies will allow the aircraft to achieve these speeds while generating a quieter sonic thump.
      “It’s thrilling to consider the level of ambition behind Quesst and its potential benefits,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for aeronautics research at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “NASA will share the data and technology we generate from this one-of-a-kind mission with regulators and with industry. By demonstrating the possibility of quiet commercial supersonic travel over land, we seek to open new commercial markets for U.S. companies and benefit travelers around the world.”
      With rollout complete, the Quesst team will shift to its next steps in preparation for first flight: integrated systems testing, engine runs, and taxi testing for the X-59.
      The aircraft is set to take off for the first time later this year, followed by its first quiet supersonic flight. The Quesst team will conduct several of the aircraft’s flight tests at Skunk Works before transferring it to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, which will serve as its base of operations.
      “Across both teams, talented, dedicated, and passionate scientists, engineers, and production artisans have collaborated to develop and produce this aircraft,” said John Clark, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “We’re honored to be a part of this journey to shape the future of supersonic travel over land alongside NASA and our suppliers.”
      Once NASA completes flight tests, the agency will fly the aircraft over several to-be-selected cities across the U.S., collecting input about the sound the X-59 generates and how people perceive it. NASA will provide that data to the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulators.
      The X-59 is a unique experimental airplane, not a prototype – its technologies are meant to inform future generations of quiet supersonic aircraft.
      At 99.7 feet long and 29.5 feet wide, the aircraft’s shape and the technological advancements it houses will make quiet supersonic flight possible. The X-59’s thin, tapered nose accounts for almost a third of its length and will break up the shock waves that would ordinarily result in a supersonic aircraft causing a sonic boom.
      Due to this configuration, the cockpit is located almost halfway down the length of the aircraft – and does not have a forward-facing window. Instead, the Quesst team developed the eXternal Vision System, a series of high-resolution cameras feeding a 4K monitor in the cockpit.
      The Quesst team also designed the aircraft with its engine mounted on top and gave it a smooth underside to help keep shockwaves from merging behind the aircraft and causing a sonic boom.
      For more information about Quesst, visit:
      Rob Margetta
      Headquarters, Washington
      Sasha Ellis
      Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
      Last Updated Jan 12, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Aeronautics Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Ames Research Center Armstrong Flight Research Center Commercial Supersonic Technology Glenn Research Center Integrated Aviation Systems Program Langley Research Center Low Boom Flight Demonstrator NASA Aircraft Quesst (X-59) Quesst: The Vehicle Supersonic Flight View the full article
    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Volunteers Worldwide Successfully Tracked NASA’s Artemis I Mission
      NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky In the year since NASA’s historic Artemis I mission successfully launched, the agency has been analyzing data from its approximately 25-day journey around the Moon and back to Earth, including data submitted from volunteers around the world as they tracked the uncrewed Orion spacecraft.
      The flight test, which launched on Nov. 16, 2022, atop the agency’s powerful SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, sent the Orion spacecraft nearly 270,000 miles beyond the Moon to test the integrated rocket and spacecraft for the first time before future crewed missions.
      NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program selected 18 participants to attempt to passively track the Orion spacecraft. The effort helped NASA gain a better understanding of external organizations’ tracking capabilities as it seeks to augment the agency’s capabilities for tracking future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
      Ten volunteers successfully tracked the Orion spacecraft during Artemis I’s uncrewed flight test to and from the Moon.
      The participants – ranging from international space agencies, academic institutions, commercial companies, nonprofits, and private citizens – attempted to receive Orion’s signal and use their respective ground antennas to passively track and measure changes in the radio waves transmitted by Orion. They took measurements during three phases of the mission: the spacecraft’s journey to the Moon, its orbit around the Moon, and the journey back to Earth.  
      We have spent the last few months really understanding what the data can mean for future Artemis or lunar tracking efforts.
      John Hudiburg
      SCaN Mission Integration and Commitment Manager
      “We were happy with the engagement and have spent the last few months really understanding what the data can mean for future Artemis or lunar tracking efforts,” said John Hudiburg, SCaN Mission Integration and Commitment Manager.
      Data collected from the participants was provided to Flight Dynamics Facility (FDF) analysts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for evaluation.
      “The public and industry sector’s response was very exciting,” said Flight Dynamics Facility liaison Juan Crenshaw. “It shows the worldwide interest in supporting the next era of human exploration. The Flight Dynamics Facility analysts found that the data showed promising results, with many of the participants successfully tracking Orion during its journey.”
      Sam Schrieber, Director of Goddard’s Flight Dynamics Facility sits on console at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the Artemis I launch on November 16, 2023. NASA To process the data, analysts combined it with operational data from NASA’s Deep Space Network and generated standard datasets that were easier to analyze. Analysts then compared this data against the actual Artemis I tracking data collected by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This comparison allowed analysts to identify any errors or trends in the data.  
      Some of the data submitted also revealed certain challenges. These challenges included differences in the implementation of Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) standards, formatting issues with the data, data quality issues. However, these challenges help NASA understand what information should be clarified for future tracking efforts.
      “NASA gained an understanding of the broader community’s capabilities, the participating organizations got to show what they can do in terms of tracking, and the Flight Dynamics Facility learned how to analyze unconventional external tracking data,” said Flight Dynamics Facility Deputy Operations Director Jason Laing. “Now, we can take the lessons learned and apply them to potential tracking opportunities for future missions.”
      SCaN serves as the program office for all of NASA’s space communications and navigation activities and supports the Artemis missions through both the Near Space Network and Deep Space Network. SCaN is a part of NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
      With Artemis missions, NASA is collaborating with commercial and international partners to explore the Moon for scientific discovery and technology advancement and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. The Moon missions will serve as training for how to live and work on another world as NASA prepares for human exploration of Mars.
      By Katrina Lee
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md
      Last Updated Nov 15, 2023 Editor Katherine S. Schauer Contact Katherine S. Schauerkatherine.s.schauer@nasa.gov Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Rocket Exhaust on the Moon: NASA Supercomputers Reveal Surface Effects
      Researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama produced a simulation of the Apollo 12 lander engine plumes interacting with the lunar surface. This animation depicts the last half-minute of descent before engine cut-off, showing the predicted forces exerted by plumes on a flat computational surface. Known as shear stress, this is the amount of lateral, or sideways, force applied over a set area, and it is the leading cause of erosion as fluids flow across a surface. Here, the fluctuating radial patterns show the intensity of predicted shear stress. Lower shear stress is dark purple, and higher shear stress is yellow. Patrick Moran, NASA Ames Research Center/Andrew Weaver, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Through Artemis, NASA plans to explore more of the Moon than ever before with human and robotic missions on the lunar surface. Because future landers will be larger and equipped with more powerful engines than the Apollo landers, mission risks associated with their operation during landing and liftoff is significantly greater. With the agency’s goal to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon, mission planners must understand how future landers interact with the lunar surface as they touch down in unexplored moonscapes.
      Landing on the Moon is tricky. When missions fly crew and payloads to the lunar surface, spacecraft control their descent by firing rocket engines to counteract the Moon’s gravitational pull. This happens in an extreme environment that’s hard to replicate and test on Earth, namely, a combination of low gravity, no atmosphere, and the unique properties of lunar regolith – the layer of fine, loose dust and rock on the Moon’s surface.
      Each time a spacecraft lands or lifts off, its engines blast supersonic plumes of hot gas toward the surface and the intense forces kick up dust and eject rocks or other debris at high speeds. This can cause hazards like visual obstructions and dust clouds that can interfere with navigation and science instrumentation ­or cause damage to the lander and other nearby hardware and structures. Additionally, the plumes can erode the surface under the lander. Although craters were not formed for Apollo-scale landers, it is unknown how much the larger landers being planned for upcoming Artemis missions will erode the surface and whether they will rapidly cause cratering in the landing zone, posing a risk to the lander’s stability and astronauts aboard. 
      To improve its understanding of plume-surface interactions (PSI), researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have developed new software tools to predict PSI environments for NASA projects and missions, including the Human Landing System, Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, and future Mars landers. These tools are already being used to predict cratering and visual obscuration on upcoming lunar missions and are helping NASA minimize risks to spacecraft and crew during future landed missions.
      The team at NASA Marshall recently produced a simulation of the Apollo 12 lander engine plumes interacting with the surface and the predicted erosion that closely matched what happened during landing. This animation depicts the last half-minute of descent before engine cut-off, showing the predicted forces exerted by plumes on a flat computational surface. Known as shear stress, this is the amount of lateral, or sideways, force applied over a set area, and it is the leading cause of erosion as fluids flow across a surface. Here, the fluctuating radial patterns show the intensity of predicted shear stress. Lower shear stress is dark purple, and higher shear stress is yellow. 
      These simulations were run on the Pleaides supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley over several weeks of runtime, generating terabytes of data. 
      NASA is showcasing 42 of the agency’s computational achievements at SC23, the international supercomputing conference, Nov. 12-17, 2023, in Denver, Colorado. For more technical information, visit: ​

      Used for this research, the framework for the Descent Interpolated Gas Granular Erosion Model (DIGGEM) was funded through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington, and by the Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studiesproject that is managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia also funded by STMD. The Loci/CHEM+DIGGEM code was further refined through direct support for flight projects within the Human Landing System program funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) in Washington as well as the Strategy and Architecture Office in ESDMD.

      For news media:
      Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should reach out to the NASA Ames newsroom.
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      /wp-content/plugins/nasa-blocks/assets/images/media/media-example-01.jpgThis landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScIView the full article
    • By NASA
      NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, T. Temim (Princeton University) The James Webb Space Telescope captures new details of the Crab Nebula, 6,500 light-years away, in this image released on Oct. 30, 2023. The Crab Nebula, the well-studied. While these remains of an exploded star have been well-studied by multiple observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s infrared sensitivity and resolution offer new clues into the makeup and origins of this scene.
       Thanks to Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), scientists were able to determine the composition of the material ejected from the explosion. The supernova remnant is comprised of several different components, including doubly ionized sulfur (represented in red-orange), ionized iron (blue), dust (yellow-white and green), and synchrotron emission (white). In this image, colors were assigned to different filters from Webb’s NIRCam and MIRI: blue (F162M), light blue (F480M), cyan (F560W), green (F1130W), orange (F1800W), and red (F2100W).
      Take a video tour of this image.
      Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, T. Temim (Princeton University)
      View the full article
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