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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Collects First Mars Rock Sample


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      Move teams with NASA and Boeing, the SLS (Space Launch System) core stage lead contractor, position the massive rocket stage for NASA’s SLS rocket on special transporters to strategically guide the flight hardware the 1.3-mile distance from the factory floor onto the agency’s Pegasus barge on July 16. The core stage will be ferried to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket that will power NASA’s Artemis II mission. Pegasus is maintained at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. Credit: NASA NASA rolled out the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket’s core stage for the Artemis II test flight from its manufacturing facility in New Orleans on Tuesday for shipment to the agency’s spaceport in Florida. The rollout is key progress on the path to NASA’s first crewed mission to the Moon under the Artemis campaign.
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      “The delivery of the SLS core stage for Artemis II to Kennedy Space Center signals a shift from manufacturing to launch readiness as teams continue to make progress on hardware for all major elements for future SLS rockets,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “We are motivated by the success of Artemis I and focused on working toward the first crewed flight under Artemis.”
      After arrival at NASA Kennedy, the stage will undergo additional outfitting inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. Engineers then will join it with the segments that form the rocket’s twin solid rocket boosters. Adapters for the Moon rocket that connect it to the Orion spacecraft will be shipped to NASA Kennedy this fall, while the interim cryogenic propulsion stage is already in Florida. Engineers continue to prepare Orion, already at Kennedy, and exploration ground systems for launch and flight.
      All major structures for every SLS core stage are fully manufactured at NASA Michoud. Inside the factory, core stages and future exploration upper stages for the next evolution of SLS, called the Block 1B configuration, currently are in various phases of production for Artemis III, IV, and V. Beginning with Artemis III, to better optimize space at Michoud, Boeing, the SLS core stage prime contractor, will use space at NASA Kennedy for final assembly and outfitting activities.
      Building, assembling, and transporting the SLS core stage is a collaborative effort for NASA, Boeing, and lead RS-25 engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company. All 10 NASA centers contribute to its development with more than 1,100 companies across the United States contributing to its production. 
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      For more on NASA’s Artemis campaign, visit: 
      http://www.nasa.gov/artemis
      -end- 
      Madison Tuttle/Rachel Kraft
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600
      madison.e.tuttle@nasa.gov/rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov
      Corinne Beckinger 
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256-544-0034  
      corinne.m.beckinger@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jul 16, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis Artemis 2 Common Exploration Systems Development Division Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate Marshall Space Flight Center Michoud Assembly Facility View the full article
    • By NASA
      NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and senior NASA leaders conduct the first bilateral meeting with KASA’s administrator, Dr. Young-bin Yoon on Monday, July 15, 2024 in Busan, Korea. NASA/Amber Jacobson NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy conducted the first bilateral meeting on Monday with Dr. Young-bin Yoon, administrator of the newly established KASA (Korea AeroSpace Administration), which opened on May 27. The creation of KASA underscores the Republic of Korea’s commitment to advancing space exploration.
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      To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video
      In this time-lapse video of a test conducted at JPL in June 2023, an engineering model of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover places itself against a rock to collect data. NASA/JPL-Caltech Artificial intelligence is helping scientists to identify minerals within rocks studied by the Perseverance rover.
      Some scientists dream of exploring planets with “smart” spacecraft that know exactly what data to look for, where to find it, and how to analyze it. Although making that dream a reality will take time, advances made with NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover offer promising steps in that direction.
      For almost three years, the rover mission has been testing a form of artificial intelligence that seeks out minerals in the Red Planet’s rocks. This marks the first time AI has been used on Mars to make autonomous decisions based on real-time analysis of rock composition.
      PIXL, the white instrument at top left, is one of several science tools located on the end of the robotic arm aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. The Mars rover’s left navcam took the images that make up this composite on March 2, 2021NASA/JPL-Caltech The software supports PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), a spectrometer developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. By mapping the chemical composition of minerals across a rock’s surface, PIXL allows scientists to determine whether the rock formed in conditions that could have been supportive of microbial life in Mars’ ancient past.
      Called “adaptive sampling,” the software autonomously positions the instrument close to a rock target, then looks at PIXL’s scans of the target to find minerals worth examining more deeply. It’s all done in real time, without the rover talking to mission controllers back on Earth.
      “We use PIXL’s AI to home in on key science,” said the instrument’s principal investigator, Abigail Allwood of JPL. “Without it, you’d see a hint of something interesting in the data and then need to rescan the rock to study it more. This lets PIXL reach a conclusion without humans examining the data.”
      This image of a rock target nicknamed “Thunderbolt Peak” was created by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using PIXL, which determines the mineral composition of rocks by zapping them with X-rays. Each blue dot in the image represents a spot where an X-ray hit.NASA/JPL-Caltech/DTU/QUT Data from Perseverance’s instruments, including PIXL, helps scientists determine when to drill a core of rock and seal it in a titanium metal tube so that it, along with other high-priority samples, could be brought to Earth for further study as part of NASA’s Mars Sample Return campaign.
      Adaptive sampling is not the only application of AI on Mars. About 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from Perseverance is NASA’s Curiosity, which pioneered a form of AI that allows the rover to autonomously zap rocks with a laser based on their shape and color. Studying the gas that burns off after each laser zap reveals a rock’s chemical composition. Perseverance features this same ability, as well as a more advanced form of AI that enables it to navigate without specific direction from Earth. Both rovers still rely on dozens of engineers and scientists to plan each day’s set of hundreds of individual commands, but these digital smarts help both missions get more done in less time.
      “The idea behind PIXL’s adaptive sampling is to help scientists find the needle within a haystack of data, freeing up time and energy for them to focus on other things,” said Peter Lawson, who led the implementation of adaptive sampling before retiring from JPL. “Ultimately, it helps us gather the best science more quickly.”
      Using AI to Position PIXL
      AI assists PIXL in two ways. First, it positions the instrument just right once the instrument is in the vicinity of a rock target. Located at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm, the spectrometer sits on six tiny robotic legs, called a hexapod. PIXL’s camera repeatedly checks the distance between the instrument and a rock target to aid with positioning.
      Temperature swings on Mars are large enough that Perseverance’s arm will expand or contract a microscopic amount, which can throw off PIXL’s aim. The hexapod automatically adjusts the instrument to get it exceptionally close without coming into contact with the rock.
      “We have to make adjustments on the scale of micrometers to get the accuracy we need,” Allwood said. “It gets close enough to the rock to raise the hairs on the back of an engineer’s neck.”
      Making a Mineral Map
      Once PIXL is in position, another AI system gets the chance to shine. PIXL scans a postage-stamp-size area of a rock, firing an X-ray beam thousands of times to create a grid of microscopic dots. Each dot reveals information about the chemical composition of the minerals present.
      Minerals are crucial to answering key questions about Mars. Depending on the rock, scientists might be on the hunt for carbonates, which hide clues to how water may have formed the rock, or they may be looking for phosphates, which could have provided nutrients for microbes, if any were present in the Martian past.
      There’s no way for scientists to know ahead of time which of the hundreds of X-ray zaps will turn up a particular mineral, but when the instrument finds certain minerals, it can automatically stop to gather more data — an action called a “long dwell.” As the system improves through machine learning, the list of minerals on which PIXL can focus with a long dwell is growing.
      “PIXL is kind of a Swiss army knife in that it can be configured depending on what the scientists are looking for at a given time,” said JPL’s David Thompson, who helped develop the software. “Mars is a great place to test out AI since we have regular communications each day, giving us a chance to make tweaks along the way.”
      When future missions travel deeper into the solar system, they’ll be out of contact longer than missions currently are on Mars. That’s why there is strong interest in developing more autonomy for missions as they rove and conduct science for the benefit of humanity.
      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 will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
      Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
      The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare 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 / Alana Johnson
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600 / 202-358-1501
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov
      2024-099
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      Last Updated Jul 16, 2024 Related Terms
      Perseverance (Rover) Astrobiology High-Tech Computing Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Mars 2020 Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) Robotics Science-enabling Technology Explore More
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      This illustration of the large Quetzalpetlatl Corona located in Venus’ southern hemisphere depicts active volcanism and a subduction zone, where the foreground crust plunges into the planet’s interior. A new study suggests coronae reveal locations where active geology is shaping Venus’ surface. The stars above and on Earth aligned as an inspirational message and lyrics from the song “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by hip-hop artist Missy Elliott were beamed to Venus via NASA’s DSN (Deep Space Network). The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California sent the transmission at 10:05 a.m. PDT on Friday, July 12.
      As the largest and most sensitive telecommunication service of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program, DSN has an array of giant radio antennas that allow missions to track, send commands, and receive scientific data from spacecraft venturing to the Moon and beyond. To date, the system has transmitted only one other song into space, making the transmission of Elliott’s song a first for hip-hop and NASA.
      “Both space exploration and Missy Elliott’s art have been about pushing boundaries,” said Brittany Brown, director, Digital and Technology Division, Office of Communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington, who initially pitched ideas to Missy’s team to collaborate with the agency. “Missy has a track record of infusing space-centric storytelling and futuristic visuals in her music videos so the opportunity to collaborate on something out of this world is truly fitting.”
      The song traveled about 158 million miles (254 million kilometers) from Earth to Venus — the artist’s favorite planet. Transmitted at the speed of light, the radio frequency signal took nearly 14 minutes to reach the planet. The transmission was made by the 34-meter (112-foot) wide Deep Space Station 13 (DSS-13) radio dish antenna, located at the DSN’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, near Barstow in California. Coincidentally, the DSS-13 also is nicknamed Venus.
      Elliott’s music career started more than 30 years ago, and the DSN has been communicating with spacecraft for over 60 years. Now, thanks to the network, Elliott’s music has traveled far beyond her Earth-bound fans to a different world.  
      “I still can’t believe I’m going out of this world with NASA through the Deep Space Network when “The Rain” (Supa Dupa Fly) becomes the first ever hip-hop song to transmit to space!,” said Elliott. “I chose Venus because it symbolizes strength, beauty, and empowerment and I am so humbled to have the opportunity to share my art and my message with the universe!”
      Two NASA missions, selected in 2021, will explore Venus and send data back to Earth using the DSN. DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging), led out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is slated to launch no earlier than 2029. The VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy), launching no earlier than 2031, is lead out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. NASA and the DSN are also partnering with the European Space Agency’s Venus mission, Envision. A team at JPL is developing the spacecraft’s Venus Synthetic Aperture Radar (VenSAR).
      In continuous operations since 1963, NASA SCaN’s DSN is composed of three complexes spaced equidistant from each other — approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude — around the planet. The ground stations are in Goldstone in California, Madrid, and Canberra in Australia.
      The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for the SCaN program within the Space Operations Mission Directorate, based at NASA Headquarters.  
      For more information about NASA’s Deep Space Network, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/communicating-with-missions/dsn/
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      Last Updated Jul 15, 2024 Related Terms
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