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    • By NASA
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      Credit: NASA/Ryan Fitzgibbons What do you give to an ocean that has everything? This year, for National Ocean Month, NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite— is gifting us a unique look at our home planet. The visualizations created with data from the satellite, which launched on Feb. 8, are already enhancing the ways that we view our seas and skies. 
      The PACE satellite views our entire planet every day, returning data at a cadence that allows scientists to track and monitor the rapidly changing atmosphere and ocean, including cloud formation, aerosol movement, and differences in microscopic ocean life over time.
      The visualization starts with a view of swaths of Earth from PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument. The Ocean Color Instrument observes Earth in ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared light — over 200 wavelengths. With this level of detail, scientists can now, from space, regularly identify specific communities of phytoplankton — tiny organisms floating near the surface of the ocean that serve as the center of the marine food web. This is a major advance, as different types of phytoplankton play different roles in ocean ecosystems and health.
      PACE orbits Earth in this visualization, exposing a swath of true color imagery. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Zooming in, the visualization shows the ecosystems and surrounding atmosphere off the United States’ East Coast and The Bahamas on March 21. Like previous satellites, the Ocean Color Instrument can detect chlorophyll in the ocean, which indicates the presence and abundance of phytoplankton. The Ocean Color Instrument adds to this by allowing scientists to determine the types of phytoplankton present, such as the three different types of phytoplankton identified in the visualization.
      False color data visualization of phytoplankton (Picoeukaryotes and Prochlorococcus), as observed by PACE’s Ocean Color instrument (OCI).NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio The portion of the swirls in green indicate the presence of picoeukaryotes, organisms which are smaller than 0.3 micrometers in size — 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. In light blue are prochlorococcus, the smallest known organism to turn sunlight into energy (photosynthesis); they account for a major fraction of all photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean. The portion of the bloom in bright pink indicates synechococcus, a phytoplankton group that can color the water light pink when many are present in a small area.
      False color data visualization of phytoplankton (Picoeukaryotes and Synechococcus), as observed by PACE’s OCI instrument. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio These are just three of the thousands of types of phytoplankton, and just the start of what the Ocean Color Instrument will be able to identify.
      The PACE satellite’s two polarimeters, Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter #2 (HARP2) and Spectro-polarimeter for Planetary Exploration one (SPEXone), provide a unique view of Earth’s atmosphere, helping scientists learn more about clouds and small particles called aerosols. The polarimeters measure light that reflects off of these particles. By learning more about the interactions between clouds and aerosols, these data will ultimately help make climate models more accurate. Additionally, aerosols can degrade air quality, so monitoring their properties and movement is important for human health.
      Aerosols, as observed by PACE’s HARP2 and SPEXone instruments.NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio In the visualization, the large swath of HARP2 data shows the concentration of aerosols in the air for that particular day. These data — a measure of the light scattering and absorbing properties of aerosols — help scientists not only locate the aerosols, but identify the type. Near the coast, the aerosols are most likely smoke from fires in the U.S. southeast. Adding detail to the visualization and the science, the thin swath of SPEXone data furthers the information by showing the aerosol particle size.
      Over the next year, PACE scientists aim to create the first global maps of phytoplankton communities and glean new insights into how fisheries and aquatic resources are responding to Earth’s changing climate.
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      NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) spacecraft was specifically designed to study the invisible universe of Earth’s sea and sky from the vantage point of space. We’ve measured 4-6 colors of the rainbow for decades, which has enabled us to “see” phytoplankton from space through the lens of its primary photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll-a. PACE’s primary instrument is the first of its kind to measure all the colors of the rainbow, every day, everywhere. That means we can identify the type of phytoplankton behind the chlorophyll-a. Different types of phytoplankton have different effects on the food web, on water management, and on the climate, via their impact on the carbon cycle.NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio By Erica McNamee
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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      Last Updated Jun 07, 2024 EditorKate D. RamsayerContactErica McNameeerica.s.mcnamee@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      NASA’s Transform to Open Science (TOPS) initiative aims to transform agencies, organizations, and communities to an inclusive culture of open science. A set of TOPS Champions at selected NASA Centers have developed the open science curriculum that they will teach at Centers, conferences, science meetings, etc. A first TOPS meeting with all Center Champions was held at Kennedy Space Center 2/27-29/24. Plans for how to continue developing and teaching the Open Science curriculum were made during the meeting. A goal is set to teach the curriculum to 20,000 researchers.
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    • By NASA
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      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge will conclude with a final competition, open to the public and media, this June in Huntsville, Alabama.NASA NASA will announce the winners of the final phase of its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge on Wednesday, June 12 at Alabama A&M University’s (AAMU) Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The challenge aims to develop new technologies that could support a sustained human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
      Media and the public are invited to watch the six finalists test their robots in live competitions. Opening remarks from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center leadership in Huntsville will begin at 8 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 11. Teams will compete from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day during the two-day event, with the winner announcement at 5 p.m. in a ceremony on June 12 at the Agribition Center.
      Media interested in covering the event should confirm their attendance with Jonathan Deal by 3 p.m. Monday, June 10, at jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov.
      Each team will focus on mastering two components during the two-day event: excavation and transportation. Six identically sized concrete slabs, measuring about 300 cubic feet, will be placed inside the arena for the finalists’ robots to dig. The slabs will have qualities like the icy regolith found in permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s South Pole. A gravity-offloading crane system will apply the counterweights on the excavating robots to simulate the one-sixth gravity experienced on the Moon.
      Each team will have one hour to dig as much material as possible or until they reach the payload capacity of their excavation robot. Up to three top-performing teams can test their solution inside one of NASA Marshall’s thermal vacuum chambers, which can simulate the temperature and vacuum conditions at the lunar South Pole.
      Outside the Agribition Center, challenge teams will take turns on a custom-built track outfitted with slopes, boulders, pebbles, rocks, and gravel to simulate the lunar surface. This volatile surface will stretch approximately 300 meters and include several twists and turns for more intermediate handling. Each team will get one hour on the track to deliver a payload and return to the starting point. Times, distances, and pitfalls will be recorded independently.
      After this event, the first-place winner will receive $1 million, and the second-place winner will receive $500,000.
      The awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Marshall YouTube and NASA Prize Facebook.
      Since 2020, competitors have worked to design, build, and test icy regolith excavation and transportation technologies for near-term lunar missions that address key operational elements and environmental constraints. The six finalists who succeeded in Phase 2: Level 2 of the challenge were announced in December 2023.
      On Earth, the mission architectures developed in this challenge aim to help guide machine design and operation concepts for future mining and excavation operations and equipment for decades.
      Located a few miles east of the AAMU campus, the Agribition (“agriculture” plus “exhibition”) Center is managed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with support from AAMU and its College of Agricultural, Life, and Natural Sciences.
      The Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge led by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, supported by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program led by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed at NASA Marshall. Ensemble Consultancy supports the management of competitors for this challenge.
      Learn more about Break the Ice.
      Jonathan Deal
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256-544-0034  
      jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov 
      Facebook logo @nasaprize @NASAPrize Instagram logo @nasaprize Share
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