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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:
      Karen Fox / Erin Morton
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600 / 202-805-9393
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / erin.morton@nasa.gov
      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 NASA
      Buzzing with bees, baby birds, and wildflowers, the rooftop garden atop building 12 at Johnson Space Center in Houston reflects NASA’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Originally constructed in 1963, the facility was transformed in 2012, incorporating energy-efficient features that earned it LEED Gold certification. The certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. Today, the building serves as a testament to NASA’s commitment to ecological innovation.  

      Nestled between the Mission Control Center and building 16, this hidden gem is part of a series of pioneering efforts at Johnson to demonstrate how even the most unexpected locations can become vibrant ecosystems. 
      Aerial views of Johnson Space Center’s rooftop garden. NASA/Bill Stafford Initiated by Joel Walker, director of Center Operations, and designed alongside NASA engineers, the rooftop garden exemplifies green architecture with integrated solar panels, an underfloor air distribution system, and wind turbines.  

      “It was something of an experiment to see what worked well and what we might use in future projects,” said Walker. 
      Native Texas Bluebonnet atop building 12 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Center Operations team leads sustainability efforts at Johnson, working across multiple directorates and teams. Together, they manage Johnson’s 1,600 acres, which host a diverse array of plants and wildlife.

      Building 12’s green roof provides benefits such as reduced potable water and energy usage, better stormwater management, protection from UV rays, and increased stability in high winds. This unique space provides an ideal environment for nesting birds and visiting pollinators and boasts a projected lifespan of 50 years, significantly longer than the 20 to 25 years typical of a conventional roof.  

      “I was genuinely surprised by the variety of native species thriving in our rooftop garden,” said Johnson’s wildlife biologist Strausser. “We’ve observed far more species than we ever anticipated, which is both fascinating and encouraging for our conservation efforts.” 
      Johnson team members meet on the building 12 rooftop to assess and monitor the plants. Initially, the project started with non-native ornamental plants that failed in the harsh Houston climate. Replanting the garden yielded mixed results until the team hand-scattered a blend of native grass seed and wildflowers. This method proved to be a successful, at a fraction of the cost estimated for professional planting. 

      “Sometimes the easiest way is the best!” said Walker. “It looks great now and is much more durable too.” 
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      Artificial intelligence technologies have achieved remarkable successes and continue to show their value as backbones in scientific research and real-world applications.
      ESA’s new Φsat-2 mission, launching in the coming weeks, will push the boundaries of AI for Earth observation – demonstrating the transformative potential of AI for space technology.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      3 Min Read July’s Night Sky Notes: A Hero, a Crown, and Possibly a Nova!
      Like shiny flakes sparkling in a snow globe, over 100,000 stars whirl within the globular cluster M13, one of the brightest star clusters visible from the Northern Hemisphere. Located 25,000 light-years from Earth with an apparent magnitude of 5.8, this glittering metropolis of stars in the constellation Hercules can be spotted with a pair of binoculars most easily in July. Credits:
      NASA by Vivan White of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
      High in the summer sky, the constellation Hercules acts as a centerpiece for late-night stargazers. At the center of Hercules is the “Keystone,” a near-perfect square shape between the bright stars Vega and Arcturus that is easy to recognize and can serve as a guidepost for some amazing sights. While not the brightest stars, the shape of the hero’s torso, like a smaller Orion, is nearly directly overhead after sunset. Along the edge of this square, you can find a most magnificent jewel – the Great Globular Cluster of Hercules, also known as Messier 13.
      Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules! Scan between Vega and Arcturus, near the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis. Once you find its stars, use binoculars or a telescope to hunt down the globular clusters M13 (and a smaller globular cluster M92). If you enjoy your views of these globular clusters, you’re in luck – look for another great globular, M3, near the constellation Boötes. Credit: Stellarium Globular clusters are a tight ball of very old stars, closer together than stars near us. These clusters orbit the center of our Milky Way like tight swarms of bees. One of the most famous short stories, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, imagines a civilization living on a planet within one of these star clusters. They are surrounded by so many stars so near that it is always daytime except for once every millennium, when a special alignment (including a solar eclipse) occurs, plunging their planet into darkness momentarily. The sudden night reveals so many stars that it drives the inhabitants mad.
      Back here on our home planet Earth, we are lucky enough to experience skies full of stars, a beautiful Moon, and regular eclipses. On a clear night this summer, take time to look up into the Keystone of Hercules and follow this sky chart to the Great Globular Cluster of Hercules. A pair of binoculars will show a faint, fuzzy patch, while a small telescope will resolve some of the stars in this globular cluster.
      A red giant star and white dwarf orbit each other in this animation of a nova similar to T Coronae Borealis. The red giant is a large sphere in shades of red, orange, and white, with the side facing the white dwarf the lightest shades. The white dwarf is hidden in a bright glow of white and yellows, which represent an accretion disk around the star. A stream of material, shown as a diffuse cloud of red, flows from the red giant to the white dwarf. When the red giant moves behind the white dwarf, a nova explosion on the white dwarf ignites, creating a ball of ejected nova material shown in pale orange. After the fog of material clears, a small white spot remains, indicating that the white dwarf has survived the explosion. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Bonus! Between Hercules and the ice-cream-cone-shaped Boötes constellation, you’ll find the small constellation Corona Borealis, shaped like the letter “C.” Astronomers around the world are watching T Coronae Borealis, also known as the “Blaze Star” in this constellation closely because it is predicted to go nova sometime this summer. There are only 5 known nova stars in the whole galaxy. It is a rare observable event and you can take part in the fun! The Astronomical League has issued a Special Observing Challenge that anyone can participate in. Just make a sketch of the constellation now (you won’t be able to see the nova) and then make another sketch once it goes nova.
      Tune into our mid-month article on the Night Sky Network page, as we prepare for the Perseids! Keep looking up!
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      Perseverance Perseverance Mission Overview Rover Components Mars Rock Samples Where is Perseverance? Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Mission Updates Science Overview Objectives Instruments Highlights Exploration Goals News and Features Multimedia Perseverance Raw Images Mars Resources Mars Missions Mars Sample Return Mars Perseverance Rover Mars Curiosity Rover MAVEN Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Odyssey More Mars Missions All Planets Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto & Dwarf Planets 2 min read
      Interesting Rock Textures Galore at Bright Angel
      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, or Martian day 1,175 of the Mars 2020 mission) at the local mean solar time of 14:04:57. Upon the rover’s arrival at Bright Angel, it was so exciting to see all the interesting features in the rocks of this interval! In particular, these rocks contain an abundance of veins and nodules. Veins are linear features containing mineral crystals that often form thin plates or sheets that cut through the rocks and across other veins. Veins are often more resistant to erosion than the rocks they are found in so they stand out in raised relief. Nodules are small, rounded protrusions in the rocks. Nodules are often sites of mineral formation distinct from the surrounding rock.
      Veins and nodules form when water flows through a rock, and minerals crystallize from this water in cracks and empty spaces within the rock. Features like this were previously observed by Perseverance during its exploration of the sedimentary rocks of the western fan, particularly during the “Fan Front Campaign” at Hogwallow Flats. However, these features have been sparse in the margin unit. The omnipresence of veins and nodules in the rocks of Bright Angel is truly striking. We hope to get more data on these interesting features over the next few weeks because they may signify intense water-rock interaction at this site!
      Written by Hemani Kalucha, Ph.D. student at Caltech

      Last Updated Jun 27, 2024 Related Terms
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