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    • By NASA
      NASA is moving forward with ten studies to examine more affordable and faster methods of bringing samples from Mars’ surface back to Earth as part of the agency’s Mars Sample Return Program. As part of this effort, NASA will award a firm-fixed-price contract for up to $1.5 million to conduct 90-day studies to seven industry proposers.
      Additionally, NASA centers, CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory are producing studies. Once completed, NASA will assess all studies to consider alterations or enhancements to the Mars Sample Return architecture.
      “Mars Sample Return will be one of the most complex missions NASA has undertaken, and it is critical that we carry it out more quickly, with less risk, and at a lower cost,” said Nelson. “I’m excited to see the vision that these companies, centers and partners present as we look for fresh, exciting, and innovative ideas to uncover great cosmic secrets from the Red Planet.”
      Over the last quarter century, NASA has engaged in a systematic effort to determine the early history of Mars and how it can help us understand the formation and evolution of habitable worlds, including Earth. As part of that effort, Mars Sample Return has been a long-term goal of international planetary exploration for the past two decades. NASA’s Perseverance rover has been collecting samples for later collection and return to Earth since it landed on Mars in 2021.
      The following companies and proposals were selected from among those that responded to an April 15 request for proposals:
      Lockheed Martinin Littleton, Colorado: “Lockheed Martin Rapid Mission Design Studies for Mars Sample Return” SpaceX in Hawthorne, California: “Enabling Mars Sample Return With Starship” Aerojet Rocketdyne in Huntsville, Alabama: “A High-Performance Liquid Mars Ascent Vehicle, Using Highly Reliable and Mature Propulsion Technologies, to Improve Program Affordability and Schedule” Blue Origin in Monrovia, California: “Leveraging Artemis for Mars Sample Return” Quantum Space, in Rockville, Maryland: “Quantum Anchor Leg Mars Sample Return Study” Northrop Grumman in Elkton, Maryland: “High TRL MAV Propulsion Trades and Concept Design for MSR Rapid Mission Design” Whittinghill Aerospace in Camarillo, California: “A Rapid Design Study for the MSR Single Stage Mars Ascent Vehicle” NASA’s Mars Sample Return is a strategic partnership with ESA (the European Space Agency). Returning scientifically selected samples to Earth for study using the most sophisticated instruments around the world can revolutionize our understanding of Mars and would fulfill one of the highest priority solar system exploration goals as identified by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
      For more information on Mars Sample Return, visit:
      https://science.nasa.gov/mission/mars-sample-return/
      -end-
      Dewayne Washington
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600
      dewayne.a.washington@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 07, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters View the full article
    • By NASA
      Credit: NASA NASA released Tuesday the first episode of a new six-part podcast series for first-time space explorers to learn about the Sun. Ahead of the total solar eclipse in April, NASA’s Sun + Eclipse Series will focus on the sphere full of swirling magnetic fields and explosions of hot gases.
      New episodes will post every Tuesday through April 23. The first episode is available at:
      Sun Series: The Sun, Our Star – NASA
      On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. More than 32 million people will have the chance to witness, and a phenomenon the contiguous U.S. will not see again for 20 years.
      The series will delve into the cultural connections and historical significance of solar studies. Listeners can prepare firsthand for the solar eclipse with insight from NASA experts along the path of totality. The series offers insight into research from NASA scientists, firsthand accounts from “eclipse chasers”, and how the agency protects astronauts and spacecraft during solar activity.
      The series is part of NASA’s Curious Universe podcast. In each episode, hosts Padi Boyd and Jacob Pinter, bring listeners on science and space adventures. Explore the cosmos alongside astronauts, scientists, engineers, and other NASA experts in science, space exploration, and aeronautics.
      NASA’s Sun + Eclipse Series is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Soundcloud. Curious Universe is written and produced by a team at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      Discover more original NASA shows at:
      https://www.nasa.gov/podcasts
      -end-
      Melissa Howell
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-961-6602
      melissa.e.howell@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Mar 19, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Podcasts Eclipses Goddard Space Flight Center NASA Headquarters View the full article
    • By NASA
      6 min read
      NASA’s Webb, Hubble Telescopes Affirm Universe’s Expansion Rate, Puzzle Persists
      When you are trying to solve one of the biggest conundrums in cosmology, you should triple check your homework. The puzzle, called the “Hubble Tension,” is that the current rate of the expansion of the universe is faster than what astronomers expect it to be, based on the universe’s initial conditions and our present understanding of the universe’s evolution.
      Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and many other telescopes consistently find a number that does not match predictions based on observations from ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Planck mission. Does resolving this discrepancy require new physics? Or is it a result of measurement errors between the two different methods used to determine the rate of expansion of space?
      This image of NGC 5468, a galaxy located about 130 million light-years from Earth, combines data from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes. This is the farthest galaxy in which Hubble has identified Cepheid variable stars. These are important milepost markers for measuring the expansion rate of the universe. The distance calculated from Cepheids has been cross-correlated with a type Ia supernova in the galaxy. Type Ia supernovae are so bright they are used to measure cosmic distances far beyond the range of the Cepheids, extending measurements of the universe’s expansion rate deeper into space.
      Download this Image

      Hubble has been measuring the current rate of the universe’s expansion for 30 years, and astronomers want to eliminate any lingering doubt about its accuracy. Now, Hubble and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have tag-teamed to produce definitive measurements, furthering the case that something else – not measurement errors – is influencing the expansion rate.
      “With measurement errors negated, what remains is the real and exciting possibility we have misunderstood the universe,” said Adam Riess, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Riess holds a Nobel Prize for co-discovering the fact that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, due to a mysterious phenomenon now called “dark energy.”
      As a crosscheck, an initial Webb observation in 2023 confirmed that Hubble measurements of the expanding universe were accurate. However, hoping to relieve the Hubble Tension, some scientists speculated that unseen errors in the measurement may grow and become visible as we look deeper into the universe. In particular, stellar crowding could affect brightness measurements of more distant stars in a systematic way.
      The SH0ES (Supernova H0 for the Equation of State of Dark Energy) team, led by Riess, obtained additional observations with Webb of objects that are critical cosmic milepost markers, known as Cepheid variable stars, which now can be correlated with the Hubble data.
      “We’ve now spanned the whole range of what Hubble observed, and we can rule out a measurement error as the cause of the Hubble Tension with very high confidence,” Riess said.
      The team’s first few Webb observations in 2023 were successful in showing Hubble was on the right track in firmly establishing the fidelity of the first rungs of the so-called cosmic distance ladder.
      Astronomers use various methods to measure relative distances in the universe, depending upon the object being observed. Collectively these techniques are known as the cosmic distance ladder – each rung or measurement technique relies upon the previous step for calibration.
      But some astronomers suggested that, moving outward along the “second rung,” the cosmic distance ladder might get shaky if the Cepheid measurements become less accurate with distance. Such inaccuracies could occur because the light of a Cepheid could blend with that of an adjacent star – an effect that could become more pronounced with distance as stars crowd together and become harder to distinguish from one another.
      The observational challenge is that past Hubble images of these more distant Cepheid variables look more huddled and overlapping with neighboring stars at ever farther distances between us and their host galaxies, requiring careful accounting for this effect. Intervening dust further complicates the certainty of the measurements in visible light. Webb slices though the dust and naturally isolates the Cepheids from neighboring stars because its vision is sharper than Hubble’s at infrared wavelengths.
      At the center of these side-by-side images is a special class of star used as a milepost marker for measuring the universe’s rate of expansion – a Cepheid variable star. The two images are very pixelated because they are a very zoomed-in view of a distant galaxy. Each of the pixels represents one or more stars. The image from the James Webb Space Telescope is significantly sharper at near-infrared wavelengths than Hubble (which is primarily a visible-ultraviolet light telescope). By reducing the clutter with Webb’s crisper vision, the Cepheid stands out more clearly, eliminating any potential confusion. Webb was used to look at a sample of Cepheids and confirmed the accuracy of the previous Hubble observations that are fundamental to precisely measuring the universe’s expansion rate and age. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Adam G. Riess (JHU, STScI)
      Download this Image

      “Combining Webb and Hubble gives us the best of both worlds. We find that the Hubble measurements remain reliable as we climb farther along the cosmic distance ladder,” said Riess.
      The new Webb observations include five host galaxies of eight Type Ia supernovae containing a total of 1,000 Cepheids, and reach out to the farthest galaxy where Cepheids have been well measured – NGC 5468 – at a distance of 130 million light-years. “This spans the full range where we made measurements with Hubble. So, we’ve gone to the end of the second rung of the cosmic distance ladder,” said co-author Gagandeep Anand of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates the Webb and Hubble telescopes for NASA.
      Hubble and Webb’s further confirmation of the Hubble Tension sets up other observatories to possibly settle the mystery. NASA’s upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will do wide celestial surveys to study the influence of dark energy, the mysterious energy that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. ESA’s Euclid observatory, with NASA contributions, is pursuing a similar task.
      At present it’s as though the distance ladder observed by Hubble and Webb has firmly set an anchor point on one shoreline of a river, and the afterglow of the big bang observed by Planck’s measurement from the beginning of the universe is set firmly on the other side. How the universe’s expansion was changing in the billions of years between these two endpoints has yet to be directly observed. “We need to find out if we are missing something on how to connect the beginning of the universe and the present day,” said Riess.
      These finding were published in the February 6, 2024 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
      The Hubble Space Telescope has been operating for over three decades and continues to make ground-breaking discoveries that shape our fundamental understanding of the universe. Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. Goddard also conducts mission operations with Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble and Webb science operations for NASA.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
      More Webb News: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/latestnews/
      More Hubble News: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/hubble/hubble-news/
      More Webb Images: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/multimedia/images/
      More Hubble Images: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/hubble/multimedia/hubble-images/
      Webb Mission Page: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/
      Hubble Mission Page: https://science.nasa.gov/mission/hubble/
      Learn More

      Hubble Reaches New Milestone in Mystery of Universe’s Expansion Rate


      Mystery of the Universe’s Expansion Rate Widens With New Hubble Data


      NASA’s Hubble Extends Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Farther Into Space


      Discovering the Runaway Universe

      Media Contacts:
      Claire Andreoli – claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
      Laura Betz – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      Ray Villard, Christine Pulliam
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
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      Last Updated Mar 11, 2024 Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By European Space Agency
      Image: NGC 5468 – Cepheid host galaxy View the full article
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