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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Mapping the Red Planet with the Power of Open Science
      This image of Perseverance’s backshell sitting upright on the surface of Jezero Crater was collected from an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters) by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 26th flight at Mars on April 19, 2022. NASA/JPL-Caltech Mars rovers can only make exciting new discoveries thanks to human scientists making careful decisions about their next stop. The Mars 2020 mission is aimed at exploring the geology of Jezero Crater and seeking signs of ancient microbial life on Mars using the Perseverance rover. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California used novel mapping techniques to direct both the rover and the flights of the Ingenuity helicopter, which rode to Mars on Perseverance — and they did it all with open-source tools. 
      JPL mapping specialists Dr. Fred Calef III and Dr. Nathan Williams used geospatial analysis to help the scientific community and NASA science leadership select Jezero Crater as the landing site for Perseverance and Ingenuity. Before the vehicles arrived on Mars, they helped create maps of the terrain using data from orbiting satellites. 
      “Maps and images are a common language between different people — scientists, engineers, and management,” Williams said. “They help make sure everyone’s on the same page moving forward, in a united front to achieve the best science that we can.” 
      Maps and images are a common language between different people.
      Nathan Williams
      NASA JPL Geologist and Systems Engineer
      After the mission touched down on Mars in February 2021, the Ingenuity helicopter opportunistically scouted ahead to take photos. The team then generated more detailed maps from both rover and helicopter image data to help plan the Perseverance rover’s path and science investigations.
      To enable this full-scale mapping of Mars, Calef created the Multi-Mission Geographic Information System (MMGIS), an open-source web-based mapping interface. Online demos of the software, pre-loaded with Mars imagery taken from orbit, allow visitors to explore the paths of Perseverance, Ingenuity, and the Curiosity rover, a sister Mars mission that landed in 2012.
      This image of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at the rim of Belva Crater was taken by the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during the rotorcraft’s 51st flight on April 22, 2023. The rover is in the upper left of the image, parked at a light-toned rocky outcrop. NASA/JPL-Caltech The open nature of the software was key to the mission’s success. “We have people literally all over the world who are working on the mission, and we need to be able to give them fast and quick access to software and data,” Calef said.
      MMGIS aimed to help people understand the full scope of Martian geography. By combining images from orbit and augmenting with images from Perseverance and Ingenuity, the JPL team allows researchers to zoom in to see individual boulders and zoom out to see all of Mars. This variety of viewpoints gives the team a sense of scale and context to properly understand the landscape around the Perseverance rover, and how to optimally achieve their science goals within the available terrain.
      This image of an area the Mars Perseverance rover team calls “Faillefeu” was captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 13th flight at Mars on Sept. 4, 2021. Images of the geologic feature were taken at the request of the Mars Perseverance rover science team, which was considering visiting the geologic feature during the first science campaign. NASA/JPL-Caltech The impact of the tools developed by the JPL team went beyond the Mars 2020 mission. The team wanted their software to help other researchers easily visualize their data without needing to be data visualization experts themselves. Thanks to this open-source approach, other teams have now used MMGIS to map Earth and other planetary bodies.
      In keeping with this open philosophy, the images taken by Perseverance and Ingenuity over the course of the Mars 2020 mission are freely available to the public. By sharing these data with the rest of the world, the results from the mission can be used to educate, inspire, and enable further research.
      It’s being able to share data between people … getting a higher order of science.
      Fred Calef
      NASA JPL Geologist and Data Scientist
      As Mars scientists look to the future, with the Perseverance rover team deploying even more advanced tools powered by AI, open science will pave the way for further exploration. JPL is now working on designs for potential future Mars helicopters that are far more capable and complex than Ingenuity. Payload mass, flight range, and affordability are at the forefront of their minds.
      Existing open-source tools will help address those concerns. Not only are open-source applications free to use, but the large amount of collaboration in creating and testing them means that they’re often highly reliable.
      Ultimately, the JPL team views its work as part of the cycle of open science, using open tools to make its job easier while also developing new features in the tools for others to use in the future. “Every mission is contributing back to the other missions and future missions in terms of new tools and techniques to develop,” Calef said. “It’s not just you working on something. It’s being able to share data between people … getting a higher order of science.”
      By Lauren Leese 
      Web Content Strategist for the Office of the Chief Science Data Officer 
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      Last Updated Jun 27, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      Curiosity Navigation Curiosity Mission Overview Where is Curiosity? Mission Updates Science Overview Instruments Highlights Exploration Goals News and Features Multimedia Curiosity 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 3 min read
      Sols 4222-4224: A Particularly Prickly Power Puzzle
      This image was taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4219 (2024-06-19 02:22:26 UTC). Earth planning date: Friday, June 21, 2024
      All our patient waiting has been rewarded, as we were greeted with the news that our drill attempt of “Mammoth Lakes 2” was successful! You can see the drill hole in the image above, as well as the first place we attempted just to the left. The actual drilling is only the beginning – we want to see what it is we’ve drilled. We’re starting that process this weekend by using our laser spectrometer (LIBS) to check out the drill hole before delivering some of the drilled material to CheMin (the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction instrument) to do its own investigations.
      The next step in a drill campaign is usually to continue the analysis with SAM (the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite), which tends to be quite power hungry. As a result, we want to make sure we’re going into the next plan with enough power for that. That meant that even though we’ve got a lot of free time this weekend, with three sols and CheMin taking up only the first overnight, we needed to think carefully about how we used that free time. Sometimes, when the science teams deliver our plans, we’re overly optimistic. At times this optimism is rewarded, and we’re allowed to keep the extra science in the plan. Today we needed to strategize a bit more, and the midday science operations working group meeting (or SOWG, as it’s known) turned into a puzzle session, as we figured out what could move around and what we had to put aside for the time being.
      An unusual feature of this weekend’s plan was a series of short change-detection observations on “Walker Lake” and “Finch Lake,” targets we’ve looked at in past plans to see wind-driven movement of the Martian sand. These were peppered through the three sols of the plan, to see any changes during the course of a single sol. While these are relatively short observations – only a few minutes – we do have to wake the rover to take them, which eats into our power. Luckily, the science team had considered this, and classified the observations as high, middle, or low priority. This made it easy to take out the ones that were less important, to save a bit of power.
      Another power-saving strategy is considering carefully where observations go. A weekend plan almost always includes an “AM ENV Science Block” – dedicated time for morning observations of the environment and atmosphere. Usually, this block goes on the final sol of the plan, but we already had to wake up the morning of the first sol for CheMin to finish up its analysis. This meant we could move the morning ENV block to the first sol, and Curiosity got a bit more time to sleep in, at the end of the plan.
      Making changes like these meant not only that we were able to finish up the plan with enough power for Monday’s activities, but we were still able to fit in plenty of remote science. This included a number of mosaics from both Mastcam and ChemCam on past targets such as “Whitebark Pass” and “Quarry Peak.” We also had two new LIBS targets: “Broken Finger Peak” and “Shout of Relief Pass.” Aside from our morning block, ENV was able to sneak in a few more observations: a dust-devil movie, and a line-of-sight and tau to keep an eye on the changing dust levels in the atmosphere.
      Written by Alex Innanen, Atmospheric Scientist at York University
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      Last Updated Jun 21, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By Space Force
      Gen. Chance Saltzman underscored the importance of the U.S.-Australia strategic partnership in the era of Great Power Competition during a Royal Australian Air Force conference.

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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      NASA’s Tiny BurstCube Mission Launches to Study Cosmic Blasts
      BurstCube, shown in this artist’s concept, will orbit Earth as it hunts for short gamma-ray bursts. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab NASA’s BurstCube, a shoebox-sized satellite designed to study the universe’s most powerful explosions, is on its way to the International Space Station.
      The spacecraft travels aboard SpaceX’s 30th Commercial Resupply Services mission, which lifted off at 4:55 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 21, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. After arriving at the station, BurstCube will be unpacked and later released into orbit, where it will detect, locate, and study short gamma-ray bursts – brief flashes of high-energy light.
      “BurstCube may be small, but in addition to investigating these extreme events, it’s testing new technology and providing important experience for early career astronomers and aerospace engineers,” said Jeremy Perkins, BurstCube’s principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      The BurstCube satellite sits in its flight configuration in this photo taken in the Goddard CubeSat Lab in 2023. NASA/Sophia Roberts
      Download high-resolution images and videos of BurstCube.

      Short gamma-ray bursts usually occur after the collisions of neutron stars, the superdense remnants of massive stars that exploded in supernovae. The neutron stars can also emit gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time, as they spiral together.
      Astronomers are interested in studying gamma-ray bursts using both light and gravitational waves because each can teach them about different aspects of the event. This approach is part of a new way of understanding the cosmos called multimessenger astronomy.
      The collisions that create short gamma-ray bursts also produce heavy elements like gold and iodine, an essential ingredient for life as we know it.
      Currently, the only joint observation of gravitational waves and light from the same event – called GW170817 – was in 2017. It was a watershed moment in multimessenger astronomy, and the scientific community has been hoping and preparing for additional concurrent discoveries since.
      “BurstCube’s detectors are angled to allow us to detect and localize events over a wide area of the sky,” said Israel Martinez, research scientist and BurstCube team member at the University of Maryland, College Park and Goddard. “Our current gamma-ray missions can only see about 70% of the sky at any moment because Earth blocks their view. Increasing our coverage with satellites like BurstCube improves the odds we’ll catch more bursts coincident with gravitational wave detections.”
      BurstCube’s main instrument detects gamma rays with energies ranging from 50,000 to 1 million electron volts. (For comparison, visible light ranges between 2 and 3 electron volts.)
      When a gamma ray enters one of BurstCube’s four detectors, it encounters a cesium iodide layer called a scintillator, which converts it into visible light. The light then enters another layer, an array of 116 silicon photomultipliers, that converts it into a pulse of electrons, which is what BurstCube measures. For each gamma ray, the team sees one pulse in the instrument readout that provides the precise arrival time and energy. The angled detectors inform the team of the general direction of the event.
      BurstCube belongs to a class of spacecraft called CubeSats. These small satellites come in a range of standard sizes based on a cube measuring 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) across. CubeSats provide cost-effective access to space to facilitate groundbreaking science, test new technologies, and help educate the next generation of scientists and engineers in mission development, construction, and testing.
      Engineers attach BurstCube to the platform of a thermal vacuum chamber at Goddard ahead of testing. NASA/Sophia Roberts “We were able to order many of BurstCube’s parts, like solar panels and other off-the-shelf components, which are becoming standardized for CubeSats,” said Julie Cox, a BurstCube mechanical engineer at Goddard. “That allowed us to focus on the mission’s novel aspects, like the made-in-house components and the instrument, which will demonstrate how a new generation of miniaturized gamma-ray detectors work in space.”
      BurstCube is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It’s funded by the Science Mission Directorate’s Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. The BurstCube collaboration includes: the University of Alabama in Huntsville; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of the Virgin Islands; the Universities Space Research Association in Washington; the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington; and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
      By Jeanette Kazmierczak
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      (301) 286-1940
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Share








      Details
      Last Updated Mar 21, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      The Power to Explore 2024 logo pays homage to the upcoming total eclipse in the United States.NASA NASA selected 45 student essays as semifinalists of its 2024 Power to Explore Challenge, a national competition for K-12 students featuring the enabling power of radioisotopes. Contestants were challenged to explore how NASA has powered some of its most famous science missions and to dream up how their personal “superpower” would energize their success on their own radioisotope-powered science mission. The competition asked students to learn about Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS), “nuclear batteries” that NASA uses to explore the harshest, darkest, and dustiest parts of our solar system. RPS have enabled many spacecraft to conduct otherwise impossible missions in total darkness.
      In 250 words or less, students wrote about a mission of their own that would use these space power systems and described their own power to achieve their mission goals. The challenges of space exploration without solar power are especially relevant ahead of the United States’ upcoming April 8 total solar eclipse, which will offer a momentary glimpse into what life would be like without sunlight.
      We have been thrilled to read their creative RPS-powered mission concepts and have been inspired learning about their many ‘superpowers’ that make them the bright future of NASA – the Artemis Generation.
      Carl Sandifer
      Program Manager, Radioisotope Power Systems Program.
      The Power to Explore Challenge offered students the opportunity to learn more about these reliable power systems, celebrate their own strengths, and interact with NASA’s diverse workforce. This year’s contest received 1,787 submitted entries from 48 states and Puerto Rico.
      “It has been so exciting to see how many students across the nation have submitted essays to NASA’s Power to Explore Challenge,” said Carl Sandifer, program manager of the Radioisotope Power Systems Program at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “We have been thrilled to read their creative RPS-powered mission concepts and have been inspired learning about their many ‘superpowers’ that make them the bright future of NASA – the Artemis Generation.”
      Entries were split into three categories: grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Every student who submitted an entry received a digital certificate, and over 4,094 participants who signed up received an invitation to the Power Up virtual event. With NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Nicola Fox, NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems Program Manager Carl Sandifer, and Kim Rink of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
      Southern California, students learned about what powers the NASA workforce to dream big and work together to explore.
      Fifteen national semifinalists in each grade category (45 semifinalists total) have been selected. These participants also will receive a NASA RPS prize pack. Finalists for this challenge will be announced on April 8 in celebration of the total solar eclipse.
      Semifinalists: Grades K-4
      Maryam Asif, Sarasota, FL Thashvi Balaji, Riverview, FL Yavuz Bastug, Peckville, PA Claire Bennett, La Grange, NC Ada Brolan, Somerville, MA Joseph Brown, Huntsville, AL Ashwin Cohen, Washington, D.C. Adara George, Lithia, FL Katerine Leon, Long Beach, CA Rainie Lin, Lexington, KY Connor Personette, Lakeland, FL Yash Rajan, Issaquah, WA Camila Rymzo, Belmont, MA Arslan Soner, Columbia, SC Zachary Tolchin, Guilford, CT Semifinalists: Grades 5-8
      Nithilam Arivuchelvan, Short Hills, NJ Nandini Bandyopadhyay, Short Hills, NJ Cooper Basi, Rocklin, CA Joshua Cheng, Rockville, MD Kaitlyn Chu, Mercer Island, WA Mayson Howell, Troy, MO Dhiraj Javvadi, Louisville, KY Aadya Karthik, Redmond, WA Subham Maiti, Bloomington, MN Meadow McCarthy, Corvallis, OR Elianna Muthersbaugh, Bluffton, SC Archer Prentice, Koloa, HI Andrew Tavares, Bridgewater, MA Sara Wang, Henderson, NV Anna Yang, Austin, TX Semifinalists: Grades 9-12
      Sabrina Affany, Fresno, CA Alejandro Aguirre, Mission Viejo, CA Sai Meghana Chakka, Charlotte, NC Khushi Jain, San Jose, CA Aiden Johnson, Virginia Beach, VA Robert Kreidler, Cincinnati, OH Zoie Lawson, Tigard, OR Thomas Liu, Ridgewood, NJ Madeline Male, Fairway, KS Dang Khoi Pham, Westminster, CA Sofia Anna Reed-Gomes, Coral Gables, FL Ava Schmidt, Leavenworth, WA Madden Smith, Loveland, OH Kailey Thomas, Las Vegas, NV Warren Volles, Lyme, CT One of last year’s winners shared drawings with his essay.Courtesy of Pollack Family About the Challenge
      The challenge is funded by the Radioisotope Power Systems Program Office in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and administered by Future Engineers under the NASA Open Innovation Services 2 contract. This contract is managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, a part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing Program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

      Kristin Jansen
      NASA’s Glenn Research Center
      View the full article
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