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    • By NASA
      5 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA’s Perseverance rover viewed these dust devils swirling across the surface of Mars on July 20, 2021. Scientists want to study the air trapped in samples being collected in metal tubes by Perseverance. Those air samples could help them better understand the Martian atmosphere.NASA/JPL-Caltech Tucked away with each rock and soil sample collected by the agency’s Perseverance rover is a potential boon for atmospheric scientists.
      Atmospheric scientists get a little more excited with every rock core NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover seals in its titanium sample tubes, which are being gathered for eventual delivery to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. Twenty-four have been taken so far.
      Most of those samples consist of rock cores or regolith (broken rock and dust) that might reveal important information about the history of the planet and whether microbial life was present billions of years ago. But some scientists are just as thrilled at the prospect of studying the “headspace,” or air in the extra room around the rocky material, in the tubes.
      This image shows a rock core about the size of a piece of chalk in a sample tube housed within the drill of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Once the rover seals the tube, air will be trapped in the extra space in the tube — seen here in the small gap (called “headspace”) above the rock. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS A sealed tube containing a sample of the Martian surface collected by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is seen here, after being deposited with other tubes in a “sample depot.” Other filled sample tubes are stored within the rover.NASA/JPL-Caltech They want to learn more about the Martian atmosphere, which is composed mostly of carbon dioxide but could also include trace amounts of other gases that may have been around since the planet’s formation.
      “The air samples from Mars would tell us not just about the current climate and atmosphere, but how it’s changed over time,” said Brandi Carrier, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It will help us understand how climates different from our own evolve.”
      The Value of Headspace
      Among the samples that could be brought to Earth is one tube filled solely with gas deposited on the Martian surface as part of a sample depot. But far more of the gas in the rover’s collection is within the headspace of rock samples. These are unique because the gas will be interacting with rocky material inside the tubes for years before the samples can be opened and analyzed in laboratories on Earth. What scientists glean from them will lend insight into how much water vapor hovers near the Martian surface, one factor that determines why ice forms where it does on the planet and how Mars’ water cycle has evolved over time.
      Scientists also want a better understanding of trace gases in the air at Mars. Most scientifically tantalizing would be the detection of noble gases (such as neon, argon, and xenon), which are so nonreactive that they may have been around, unchanged in the atmosphere, since forming billions of years ago. If captured, those gases could reveal whether Mars started with an atmosphere. (Ancient Mars had a much thicker atmosphere than it does today, but scientists aren’t sure whether it was always there or whether it developed later). There are also big questions about how the planet’s ancient atmosphere compared with early Earth’s.
      The headspace would additionally provide a chance to assess the size and toxicity of dust particles — information that will help future astronauts on Mars.
      “The gas samples have a lot to offer Mars scientists,” said Justin Simon, a geochemist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, who is part of a group of over a dozen international experts that helps decide which samples the rover should collect. “Even scientists who don’t study Mars would be interested because it will shed light on how planets form and evolve.”
      Apollo’s Air Samples
      In 2021, a group of planetary researchers, including scientists from NASA, studied the air brought back from the Moon in a steel container by Apollo 17 astronauts some 50 years earlier.
      “People think of the Moon as airless, but it has a very tenuous atmosphere that interacts with the lunar surface rocks over time,” said Simon, who studies a variety of planetary samples at Johnson. “That includes noble gases leaking out of the Moon’s interior and collecting at the lunar surface.”
      The way Simon’s team extracted the gas for study is similar to what could be done with Perseverance’s air samples. First, they put the previously unopened container into an airtight enclosure. Then they pierced the steel with a needle to extract the gas into a cold trap — essentially a U-shaped pipe that extends into a liquid, like nitrogen, with a low freezing point. By changing the temperature of the liquid, scientists captured some of the gases with lower freezing points at the bottom of the cold trap.
      “There’s maybe 25 labs in the world that manipulate gas in this way,” Simon said. Besides being used to study the origin of planetary materials, this approach can be applied to gases from hot springs and those emitted from the walls of active volcanoes, he added.
      Of course, those sources provide much more gas than Perseverance has in its sample tubes. But if a single tube doesn’t carry enough gas for a particular experiment, Mars scientists could combine gases from multiple tubes to get a larger aggregate sample — one more way the headspace offers a bonus opportunity for science.
      More About the Mission
      A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover is also characterizing the planet’s geology and past climate, which paves the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
      For more about Perseverance:
      mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
      News Media Contacts
      Andrew Good
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      818-393-2433
      andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov
      Karen Fox / Charles Blue
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-285-1600 / 202-802-5345
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov
      2024-087
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      Details
      Last Updated Jun 20, 2024 Related Terms
      Perseverance (Rover) Astrobiology Jet Propulsion Laboratory Johnson Space Center Mars Mars 2020 Planetary Environments & Atmospheres Explore More
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    • By European Space Agency
      Image: Metallic Mars View the full article
    • By NASA
      Perseverance Perseverance Mission Overview Rover Components Where is Perseverance? Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Mission Updates Science Overview Science Objectives Science Instruments Science Highlights News and Features Multimedia Perseverance Raw Images Mars Resources Mars Exploration All Planets Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto & Dwarf Planets 2 min read
      Perseverance Finds Popcorn on Planet Mars
      Mars Perseverance Sol 1175 – Right Mastcam-Z Camera: A jumbled field of light toned rocks with unusual ‘popcorn’-like textures and abundant mineral veins. NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Right Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. This image was acquired on June 10, 2024 (Sol 1175) at the local mean solar time of 14:04:57. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU After months of driving, Perseverance has finally arrived at ‘Bright Angel’, discovering oddly textured rock unlike any the rover has seen before. The team now plans to drive up the slope to uncover the origin of this rock sequence and its relationship to the margin unit.
      Having completed a survey of the intriguing and diverse boulders at ‘Mount Washburn,’ the rover headed north, parking just in front of an exposure of layered light toned rock. This provided the team with our first close-up look of the rocks that make up the ‘Bright Angel’ exposure, so Perseverance stopped to acquire images, before driving west to a larger and more accessible outcrop where the rover will conduct detailed exploration.
      Perseverance arrived at the base of this outcrop on sol 1175, and geologists on the science team were mesmerized by the strange textures of the light toned rocks found there. These rocks are filled with sharp ridges that resemble the mineral veins found at the base of the fan, but there appears to be more of them here. Additionally, some rocks are densely packed with small spheres, and we’ve jokingly referred to this as a ‘popcorn’-like texture. Together, these features suggest that groundwater flowed through these rocks after they were laid down. Next, Perseverance will gradually ascend up the rock exposure, taking measurements as it goes. Over the weekend, the abrasion tool will be used to take a close-up look and acquire detailed chemical information using the instruments on the rover’s arm. With this data in hand, the team will decide whether or not to sample. Once our exploration at ‘Bright Angel’ is complete, we will drive south back across Neretva Vallis and explore a site called ‘Serpentine Rapids’.
      Written by Athanasios Klidaras, Ph.D. Student at Purdue University
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      Last Updated Jun 18, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      High school and collegiate student teams gathered just north of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to participate in the agency’s annual Student Launch competition April 13. Credits: NASA/Charles Beason Over 1,000 students from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico launched high-powered, amateur rockets on April 13, just north of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as part of the agency’s annual Student Launch competition.
      Teams of middle school, high school, college, and university students were tasked to design, build, and launch a rocket and scientific payload to an altitude between 4,000 and 6,000 feet, while making a successful landing and executing a scientific or engineering payload mission.
      “These bright students rise to a nine-month challenge that tests their skills in engineering, design, and teamwork,” said Kevin McGhaw, director of NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement Southeast Region. “They are the Artemis Generation, the future scientists, engineers, and innovators who will lead us into the future of space exploration.”
      NASA announced the University of Notre Dame is the overall winner of the agency’s 2024 Student Launch challenge, followed by Iowa State University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A complete list challenge winners can be found on the agency’s student launch web page.
      Each year NASA implements a new payload challenge to reflect relevant missions. This year’s payload challenge is inspired by the Artemis missions, which seek to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.
      The complete list of award winners are as follows:
      2024 Overall Winners
      First place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana Second place: Iowa State University, Ames Third place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte 3D Printing Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Tennessee Chattanooga Middle/High School Level:
      First place: First Baptist Church of Manchester, Manchester, Connecticut Altitude Award
      College Level:
      First place: Iowa State University, Ames Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Morris County 4-H, Califon, New Jersey Best-Looking Rocket Award:
      College Level:
      First place: New York University, Brooklyn, New York Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Notre Dame Academy High School, Los Angeles American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Reusable Launch Vehicle Innovative Payload Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Colorado Boulder Second place: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee Third place: Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Judge’s Choice Award:
      Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa Second place: Young Engineers in Action, LaPalma, California Third place: First Baptist Church of Manchester, Manchester, Connecticut Project Review Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Florida, Gainesville AIAA Reusable Launch Vehicle Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Florida, Gainesville Second place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Third place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana AIAA Rookie Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Colorado Boulder Safety Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana Second place: University of Florida, Gainesville Third place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Social Media Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Colorado Boulder Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Newark Memorial High School, Newark, California STEM Engagement Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana Second place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Third place: New York University, Brooklyn, New York Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Notre Dame Academy High School, Los Angeles, California Second place: Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa Third place: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia Service Academy Award:
      First place: United States Air Force Academy, USAF Academy, Colorado
      Vehicle Design Award:
      Middle/High School Level:
      First place: First Baptist Church of Manchester, Manchester, Connecticut Second place: Explorer Post 1010, Rockville, Maryland Third place: Plantation High School, Plantation, Florida Payload Design Award:
      Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Young Engineers in Action, LaPalma, California Second place: Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa Third place: Spring Grove Area High School, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania Student Launch is one of NASA’s nine Artemis Student Challenges, activities which connect student ingenuity with NASA’s work returning to the Moon under Artemis in preparation for human exploration of Mars.
      The competition is managed by Marshall’s Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM). Additional funding and support are provided by NASA’s OSTEM via the Next Gen STEM project, NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, Northrup Grumman, National Space Club Huntsville, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Association of Rocketry, Relativity Space, and Bastion Technologies.
      To watch the full virtual awards ceremony, please visit NASA Marshall’s YouTube channel.
      For more information about Student Launch, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/stem/studentlaunch/home/index.html
      For more information about other NASA challenges, please visit:
      https://stem.nasa.gov/artemis/
      Taylor Goodwin
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
      256.544.0034 
      taylor.goodwin@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 Related Terms
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      4 min read NASA Announces New System to Aid Disaster Response
      In early May, widespread flooding and landslides occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande…
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    • 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
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