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      NASA, Intuitive Machines Moon Mission Update
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      On Feb. 22, 2024, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captures a wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 125 miles (200 km) uprange from the intended landing site, at approximately 6 miles (10 km) altitude. Credit: Intuitive Machines NASA and Intuitive Machines will co-host a televised news conference at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 28, from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to highlight the company’s first mission, known as IM-1.
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      The news conference will air on NASA+, NASA Television, and the agency’s website
      Learn how to stream NASA TV on a variety of platforms, including social media.
      Participants in the news conference include:
      Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator, Exploration, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters in Washington Sue Lederer, CLPS project scientist, NASA Johnson Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder, Intuitive Machines Tim Crain, chief technology officer and co-founder, Intuitive Machines Media interested in participating in person must RSVP no later than 11 a.m. on Feb. 28. To participate by telephone, media must RSVP no later than one hour before the start of the news conference. Submit either request to the NASA Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 or jsccommu@mail.nasa.gov. The agency’s media accreditation policy is online.
      For more information about the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/clps
      -end-
      Cheryl Warner / Karen Fox
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1100
      cheryl.m.warner@nasa.gov/ karen.c.fox@nasa.gov
      Nilufar Ramji / Laura Sorto
      Johnson Space Center, Houston
      281-483-5111
      nilufar.ramji@nasa.gov/ laura.g.sorto@nasa.gov
      Josh Marshall
      Intuitive Machines, Houston
      jmarshall@intuitivemachines.com
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    • By NASA
      5 Min Read The CUTE Mission: Innovative Design EnablesObservations of Extreme Exoplanets from a SmallPackage
      Fig 1: Artist’s concept of the CUTE mission on-orbit. CUTE has been operating in a 560 km sun-synchronous orbit since September 2021. Credits:
      NASA Of the approximately 5,500 exoplanets discovered to date, many have been found to orbit very close to their parent stars. These close-in planets provide a unique opportunity to observe in detail the phenomena critical to the development and evolution of our own solar system, including atmospheric mass loss and interactions with the host star. NASA’s Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) mission, launched in September 2021, employed a new design that enabled exploration of these processes using a small spacecraft for the first time. CUTE provides unique spectral diagnostics that trace the escaping atmospheres of close-in, ultra-hot, giant planets. In addition, CUTE’s dedicated mission architecture enables the survey duration required to characterize atmospheric structure and variability on these worlds.
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      Fig 2 – Image of the CUTE science instrument, including rectangular telescope and miniaturized spectrograph, mounted to the spacecraft bus. Credit: CUTE Team, University of Colorado This novel instrument design enables CUTE to measure NUV with similar precision as larger missions even in the more challenging thermal and pointing environment experienced by a CubeSat. In addition, the CUTE instrument’s NUV bandpass enables it to measure iron and magnesium ions from highly extended atmospheric layers that ground-based instruments cannot access. The CUTE science instrument is incorporated into a 6U Blue Canyon Technologies spacecraft bus that provides power, command and data handling, attitude control, and communications. This CubeSat platform enables CUTE to observe numerous transits of a given planet. The spectrogram from the CUTE instrument is recorded on a UV-optimized commercial off-the-shelf charge-coupled device (CCD), onboard data processing is performed, and data products are relayed to a ground station at the University of Colorado.
      Fig 3 –Graduate student Arika Egan (center) and electrical engineer Nicholas DeCicco (left) install CUTE into the LANDSAT-9 secondary payload dispenser at Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: CUTE Team, University of Colorado CUTE was launched as a secondary payload on NASA’s LANDSAT-9 mission on September 27, 2021 into a Sun-synchronous orbit with a 560 km apogee. CUTE deployed from the payload dispenser (Fig 2) approximately two hours after launch and then deployed its solar arrays. Spacecraft beacon signals were identified by the amateur radio community on the first orbit and communications were established with the ground station at the University of Colorado the following day. On-orbit commissioning of the spacecraft and instrument concluded in February 2022 and the mission has been conducting science operations since that time.
      As of February 2024, CUTE is actively acquiring science and calibration data (Fig 3), and has observed between 6 and 11 transits of seven different exoplanetary systems. Data downlink efficiency is the primary factor limiting the number of targets observed over the course of the mission. CUTE light curves and transit spectroscopy are revealing extended NUV atmospheres on some planets (Fig 4) and potential time variability in the atmospheric transmission spectra of others. For example, observations of the ultra-hot exoplanet, Jupiter WASP-189b, indicate a highly extended atmosphere. Magnesium ions are observed to be gravitationally unbound from the planet, which is evidence for active escape of heavy elements in this system. CUTE data are being archived by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI).
      Fig 4 – Flight data from CUTE showing raw CCD observations (top) and calibrated one-dimensional spectra (bottom). Image credit: France et al (2023) Fig 5 – CUTE NUV transit light curve of the ultra-hot exoplanet, Jupiter WASP-189b. This light curve was created from three separate transit visits to the planet. Image credit: Sreejith, et al (2023) CUTE successfully demonstrated the use of a non-circular telescope and miniature spectrograph design for small space missions, an approach that has been subsequently adopted by several NASA and international mission designs, including NASA’s new Monitoring Activity from Nearby sTars with uv Imaging and Spectroscopy (MANTIS) mission. CUTE’s demonstration of sub-1% NUV precision has shown that the precision achieved by large UV astronomy missions can also be achieved by a CubeSat. In addition, student training and early-career mentorship have been key ingredients to CUTE’s mission success. So far, over 20 early career students and professionals have trained and participated in CUTE activities—ranging from science to engineering to operations.
      PROJECT LEAD
      Professor Kevin France, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/University of Colorado
      SPONSORING ORGANIZATION
      Astrophysics Division Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program
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      Lee esta historia en español aquí.
      The International Space Station is a microgravity research lab hosting groundbreaking technology demonstrations and scientific investigations. More than 3,700 investigations conducted to date have generated roughly 500 research articles published in scientific journals. In 2023, the orbiting lab hosted more than 500 investigations.
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      This is Your Brain in Space
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      Improving Solar Materials
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      Understanding Bubbles in Foams
      A sample cell for the FOAM investigation on the space station.NASA Wet foams are dispersions of gas bubbles in a liquid matrix. An ESA investigation, FSL Soft Matter Dynamics or FOAM, examines coarsening, a thermodynamic process where large bubbles grow at the expense of smaller ones. Researchers determined the coarsening rates for various types of foams and found close agreement with theoretical predictions. A better understanding of foam properties could help scientists improve these substances for a variety of uses, including firefighting and water treatment in space and making detergents, food, and medicine on Earth.
      Answering Burning Questions
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      The Robot Hop
      An Astrobee robot performs a self-tossing maneuver on the space station.NASA Astrobatics tests robotic movement using hopping or self-toss maneuvers by the station’s Astrobee robots. In low gravity, robots could move faster, use less fuel, and cover otherwise impassable terrain with these maneuvers, expanding their orbital and planetary capabilities. Results verified the viability of the locomotion method and showed that it provides a greater range of distance. The work is a step toward autonomous robotic helpers in space and on other celestial bodies, potentially reducing the need to expose astronauts to risky environments.
      Melissa Gaskill
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      Johnson Space Center
      Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above.
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