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    • By NASA
      NASA’s VIPER – short for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover – sits assembled inside the cleanroom at the agency’s Johnson Space Center.Credit: NASA Following a comprehensive internal review, NASA announced Wednesday its intent to discontinue development of its VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) project.
      NASA stated cost increases, delays to the launch date, and the risks of future cost growth as the reasons to stand down on the mission. The rover was originally planned to launch in late 2023, but in 2022, NASA requested a launch delay to late 2024 to provide more time for preflight testing of the Astrobotic lander. Since that time, additional schedule and supply chain delays pushed VIPER’s readiness date to September 2025, and independently its CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) launch aboard Astrobotic’s Griffin lander also has been delayed to a similar time. Continuation of VIPER would result in an increased cost that threatens cancellation or disruption to other CLPS missions. NASA has notified Congress of the agency’s intent.
      “We are committed to studying and exploring the Moon for the benefit of humanity through the CLPS program,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The agency has an array of missions planned to look for ice and other resources on the Moon over the next five years. Our path forward will make maximum use of the technology and work that went into VIPER, while preserving critical funds to support our robust lunar portfolio.”
      Moving forward, NASA is planning to disassemble and reuse VIPER’s instruments and components for future Moon missions. Prior to disassembly, NASA will consider expressions of interest from U.S. industry and international partners by Thursday, Aug. 1, for use of the existing VIPER rover system at no cost to the government. Interested parties should contact HQ-CLPS-Payload@mail.nasa.gov after 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday, July 18. The project will conduct an orderly close out through spring 2025.
      Astrobotic will continue its Griffin Mission One within its contract with NASA, working toward a launch scheduled for no earlier than fall 2025. The landing without VIPER will provide a flight demonstration of the Griffin lander and its engines.
      NASA will pursue alternative methods to accomplish many of VIPER’s goals and verify the presence of ice at the lunar South Pole. A future CLPS delivery – the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) — scheduled to land at the South Pole during the fourth quarter of 2024, will search for water ice and carry out a resource utilization demonstration using a drill and mass spectrometer to measure the volatile content of subsurface materials.
      Additionally, future instruments as part of NASA’s crewed missions – for example, the Lunar Terrain Vehicle — will allow for mobile observations of volatiles across the south polar region, as well as provide access for astronauts to the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions for dedicated sample return campaigns. The agency will also use copies of three of VIPER’s four instruments for future Moon landings on separate flights.
      The VIPER rover was designed to search Earth’s Moon for ice and other potential resources – in support of NASA’s commitment to study the Moon and help unravel some of the greatest mysteries of our solar system. Through NASA’s lunar initiatives, including Artemis human missions and CLPS, NASA is exploring more of the Moon than ever before using highly trained astronauts, advanced robotics, U.S. commercial providers, and international partners.
      For more information about VIPER, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/viper
      -end-
      Karen Fox / Erin Morton
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600 / 202-805-9393
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / erin.morton@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jul 17, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Earth's Moon Science Mission Directorate View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      As climate change drives more frequent and severe weather events, the need for accurate and timely forecasting has never been more critical. And now, the next Meteosat Third Generation weather satellite has passed its environmental test campaign with flying colours, taking it a significant step closer to launch.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      5 Min Read Antarctic Sea Ice Near Historic Lows; Arctic Ice Continues Decline
      On Feb. 20, 2024, Antarctic sea ice officially reached its minimum extent for the year. This cycle of growth and melting occurs every year, with the ice reaching its smallest size during the Southern Hemisphere's summer. Credits: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Trent L. Schindler Sea ice at both the top and bottom of the planet continued its decline in 2024. In the waters around Antarctica, ice coverage shrank to near-historic lows for the third year in a row. The recurring loss hints at a long-term shift in conditions in the Southern Ocean, likely resulting from global climate change, according to scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Meanwhile, the 46-year trend of shrinking and thinning ice in the Arctic Ocean shows no sign of reversing.
      “Sea ice acts like a buffer between the ocean and the atmosphere,” said ice scientist Linette Boisvert of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Sea ice prevents much of the exchange of heat and moisture from the relatively warm ocean to the atmosphere above it.”
      Less ice coverage allows the ocean to warm the atmosphere over the poles, leading to more ice melting in a vicious cycle of rising temperatures.
      Historically, the area of sea ice surrounding the Antarctic continent has fluctuated dramatically from year to year while averages over decades have been relatively stable. In recent years, though, sea ice cover around Antarctica has plummeted.
      On Feb. 20, 2024, Antarctic sea ice officially reached its minimum extent for the year. This cycle of growth and melting occurs every year, with the ice reaching its smallest size during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this marks the second-lowest sea ice extent recorded by satellites, reflecting a trend of declining coverage over time.
      Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio
      Download this video in HD formats from https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/14538.
      “In 2016, we saw what some people are calling a regime shift,” said sea ice scientist Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “The Antarctic sea ice coverage dropped and has largely remained lower than normal. Over the past seven years, we’ve had three record lows.”
      This year, Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest annual extent on Feb. 20 with a total of 768,000 square miles (1.99 million square kilometers). That’s 30% below the 1981 to 2010 end-of-summer average. The difference in ice cover spans an area about the size of Texas. Sea ice extent is defined as the total area of the ocean in which the ice cover fraction is at least 15%.
      This year’s minimum is tied with February 2022 for the second lowest ice coverage around the Antarctic and close to the 2023 all-time low of 691,000 square miles (1.79 million square kilometers). With the latest ice retreat, this year marks the lowest three-year average for ice coverage observed around the Antarctic continent across more than four decades.
      The changes were observed in data collected with microwave sensors aboard the Nimbus-7 satellite, jointly operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with satellites in the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.
      NASA’s Earth Observatory: Antarctic Sea Ice at Near-Historic Lows Meanwhile, at the other end of the planet, the maximum winter ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean is consistent with an ongoing 46-year decline. Satellite images reveal that the total area of the Arctic Ocean covered in sea ice reached 6 million square miles (15.65 million square kilometers) on March 14. That’s 247,000 square miles (640,000 square kilometers) less ice than the average between 1981 and 2010. Overall, the maximum winter ice coverage in the Arctic has shrunk by an area equivalent to the size of Alaska since 1979.
      This year’s Arctic ice maximum is the 14th lowest on record. Complex weather patterns make it difficult to predict what will happen in any given year.
      The Arctic Ocean sea ice reached its annual maximum on March 14, continuing the long-term decline in ice at the poles.Chart by Lauren Dauphin/NASA Earth Observatory, using data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Shrinking ice makes Earth more susceptible to solar heating. “The sea ice and the snow on top of it are very reflective,” Boisvert said. “In the summer, if we have more sea ice, it reflects the Sun’s radiation and helps keep the planet cooler.”
      On the other hand, the exposed ocean is darker and readily absorbs solar radiation, capturing and retaining that energy and ultimately contributing to warming in the planet’s oceans and atmosphere. 
      Sea ice around the poles is more susceptible to the weather than it was a dozen years ago. Ice thickness measurements collected with laser altimeters aboard NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite show that less ice has managed to stick around through the warmer months. This means new ice must form from scratch each year, rather than building on old ice to make thicker layers. Thinner ice, in turn, is more prone to melting than multi-year accumulations.
      “The thought is that in a couple of decades, we’re going to have these essentially ice-free summers,” Boisvert said, with ice coverage reduced below 400,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) and most of the Arctic Ocean exposed to the Sun’s warming glare.
      It’s too soon to know whether recent sea ice lows at the South Pole point to a long-term change rather than a statistical fluctuation, but Meier believes long term declines are inevitable.
      “It’s only a matter of time,” he said. “After six, seven, eight years, it’s starting to look like maybe it’s happening. It’s just a question of whether there’s enough data to say for sure.”
      Reference: NSIDC Sea Ice Index Daily and Monthly Image Viewer By James Riordon
      NASA’s Earth Science News Team

      Media contact: Elizabeth Vlock
      NASA Headquarters
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      Last Updated Mar 25, 2024 EditorGoddard Digital TeamLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Earth Climate Change Goddard Space Flight Center Ice & Glaciers Sea Ice Explore More
      5 min read Arctic Sea Ice 6th Lowest on Record; Antarctic Sees Record Low Growth
      Arctic sea ice likely reached its annual minimum extent on September 19, 2023, making it…
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    • By NASA
      Full-duration RS-25 Engine Hot FireNASA/Danny Nowlin Full-duration RS-25 Engine Hot FireNASA/Danny Nowlin Full-duration RS-25 Engine Hot FireNASA/Danny Nowlin Full-duration RS-25 Engine Hot FireNASA/Danny Nowlin NASA conducted a full-duration RS-25 engine hot fire March 6, continuing a final round of certification testing for production of new engines to help power the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond. The full-duration test on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, marked the ninth in a scheduled 12-test series. Engineers are collecting test data to certify an updated engine production process, using innovative manufacturing techniques, for lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company. During the March 6 test, Operators fired the certification engine for 10 minutes (600 seconds), longer than the amount of time needed to help launch the SLS rocket and send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft into orbit. The test team also fired the engine at power levels between 80% and 113% to test performance in multiple scenarios. Four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters, launch NASA’s powerful SLS rocket, producing more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff for Artemis missions. Through Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all. RS-25 tests at NASA Stennis are conducted by a diverse team of operators from NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services, prime contractor for site facilities and operations.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      3 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA continued a critical test series for future flights of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket in support of the Artemis campaign on Jan. 17 with a full-duration hot fire of the RS-25 engine on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
      Data collected from the test series will be used to certify production of new RS-25 engines by lead contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, to help power the SLS rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond, beginning with Artemis V.
      Teams are evaluating the performance of several new engine components, including a nozzle, hydraulic actuators, flex ducts, and turbopumps. The current series is the second and final series to certify production of the upgraded engines. NASA completed an initial 12-test certification series with the upgraded components in June 2023.
      During the Jan. 17 test, operators followed a “test like you fly” approach, firing the engine for the same amount of time – almost eight-and-a-half minutes (500 seconds) – needed to launch SLS and at power levels ranging between 80% to 113%.
      The Jan. 17 test comes three months after the current series began in October. During three tests last fall, operators fired the engine for durations from 500 to 650 seconds. The longest planned test of the series occurred on Nov. 29 when crews gimbaled, or steered, the engine during an almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.
      Each SLS flight is powered by four RS-25 engines, firing simultaneously during launch and ascent to generate over 2 million pounds of thrust.
      The first four Artemis missions with SLS are using modified space shuttle main engines that can power up to 109% of their rated level. The newly produced RS-25 engines will power up to the 111% level to provide additional thrust. Testing to the 113% power level provides an added margin of operational safety.
      With the completion of the test campaign in 2024, all systems are expected to be “go” for production of 24 new RS-25 engines for missions beginning with Artemis V.
      Through Artemis, NASA will establish a long-term presence at the Moon for scientific exploration with commercial and international partners, learn how to live and work away from home, and prepare for future human exploration of Mars.

      Photo cutline (use the same cutline for all four images): NASA completed a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to the Moon and beyond as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Photo Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin

      For information about NASA’s Stennis Space Center, visit:
      Stennis Space Center – NASA
      -end-
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      Last Updated Jan 18, 2024 EditorNASA Stennis CommunicationsContactC. Lacy Thompsoncalvin.l.thompson@nasa.gov / (228) 688-3333LocationStennis Space Center Related Terms
      Stennis Space Center Marshall Space Flight Center Space Launch System (SLS) Explore More
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