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New strategy to keep pace with our changing world

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Fuelled largely by climate change, our planet is being subjected to environmental changes that are having an unprecedented global impact on humans, animals and plants. Shockingly, in certain locations these changes are occurring at a rate never before witnessed.

To keep pace with the challenges we face, ESA is embarking on a new Earth observation science strategy – and has reached out to the scientific community at this early stage in the process to help guide the Agency’s scientific agenda for the coming years.

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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Meet the Creators, Part 4: Two New 2024 Total Eclipse Posters
      Total solar eclipses reveal the Sun’s outer atmosphere – the corona – a white, wispy halo of solar material that flows out from around the Sun. This atmosphere is breathtaking as it glows in the sky for viewers on Earth, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon. In addition to revealing this normally hidden part of our Sun, the eclipse also darkens the sky, changes shadows, and cools the air. It can feel like living inside a piece of art.
      Artists have captured the magical appearance of eclipses for over a thousand years. For the upcoming total solar eclipse crossing North America on April 8, 2024, two artists have contributed new posters to NASA’s eclipse poster series.
      Dongjae “Krystofer” Kim
      Download the poster here. NASA/Dongjae “Krystofer” Kim Dongjae “Krystofer” Kim is a Senior Science Animator at the Conceptual Image Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design and a Master of Business Administration and Master of Arts from the Design Leadership program at the Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art and the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. He combines various art and design disciplines, including fine arts, graphic design, creative coding, animation, and design research to help tell NASA’s story.
      Where did you get inspiration for the eclipse poster?
      “I was contemplating how the eclipse is an event that is beyond human scale physically and chronologically. It will look differently outside of my myopic view from this planet and it will occur after I am gone for many years to come. With this perspective, I thought of how future space explorations with permanent settlements on the Moon will view this event. While searching for scientific references, I remembered a video piece by our own NASA Goddard media team ‘An EPIC View of the Moon’s Shadow During the June 10 Solar Eclipse’ in 2021 and used it as a visual reference.”
      What inspired you to become an artist?
      “My inspiration came via Pixar and Ghibli animated films and shows I watched as a child. Despite being a little dyslexic Korean kid, I was welcomed into the world of each story. I found it magical that artists could seemingly create everything from nothing or something fantastical from mundane ideas and objects. And I loved that art enables you to communicate your own ideas as well as learn about others creating common ground.”
      Want to explore this artwork more? An animated version of this poster is available to download.
      Genna Duberstein
      Download the poster here. NASA/Genna Duberstein Genna Duberstein is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated multimedia producer and graphic designer who specializes in both making and marketing content. Her work has been shown internationally, aired on PBS, and has been featured in many outlets, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, WIRED, The Atlantic, and National Geographic. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from American University and a Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University.
      Where did you get inspiration for the eclipse poster?
      “During the 2017 total solar eclipse, my parents sent me a picture of themselves, smiling in eclipse glasses and sitting on their front stoop with their dog. It was such a goofy, happy picture, I wanted to capture that same spirit for the poster. I have a dog of my own now – a goofy, happy American foxhound mix – and he proved to be the perfect model for the total eclipse poster. There’s no denying an eclipse can be an awe-inspiring event, but it can be just plain fun too!”
      What inspired you to become an artist?
      “I can’t help it! I’ve always made things, and I’ve been very fortunate to have had support along the way. My parents enrolled me in my first art class at four, and they encouraged me to submit work to art contests all through elementary and high school. Portfolio-based scholarships and commissioned portrait work helped me pay for college. To this day, I’m incredibly lucky to have had a career where I can be creative, and I am thankful for all the people who have made it possible.”
      Have an idea for how to put your own spin on this poster? This artwork is also available as a downloadable coloring sheet.
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      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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      Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA will conduct an RS-25 hot fire Friday, Feb. 23, moving one step closer to production of new engines that will help power the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
      Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, are set to begin the second half of a 12-test RS-25 certification series on the Fred Haise Test Stand, following installation of a second production nozzle on the engine.
      Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin The six remaining hot fires are part of the second, and final, test series collecting data to certify an updated engine production process, using innovative manufacturing techniques, for lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company.
      As NASA aims to establish a long-term presence on the Moon for scientific discovery and exploration, and prepare for future missions to Mars, new engines will incorporate dozens of improvements to make production more efficient and affordable while maintaining high performance and reliability.
      Four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters,  launch NASA’s powerful SLS rocket, producing more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff for Artemis  missions.
      During the seventh test of the 12-test series, operators plan to fire the certification engine for 550 seconds and up to a 113% power level.
      “NASA’s commitment to safety and ‘testing like you fly’ is on display as we plan to fire the engine beyond 500 seconds, which is the same amount of time the engines must fire to help launch the SLS rocket to space with astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft,” said Chip Ellis, project manager for RS-25 testing at Stennis.
      The Feb. 23 test features a second certification engine nozzle to allow engineers to gather additional performance data on the upgraded unit. The new nozzle was installed on the engine earlier this month while it remained at the test stand. Using specially adapted procedures and tools, the teams were able to swap out the nozzles with the engine in place.
      Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin In early February 2024, teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, completed an RS-25 nozzle remove-and-replace procedure as part of an ongoing hot fire series on the Fred Haise Test Stand. The new nozzle will allow engineers to collect and compare performance data on a second production unit. The RS-25 nozzle, which directs engine thrust, is the most labor-intensive component on the engine and the hardest to manufacture, said Shawn Buckley, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 nozzle integrated product team lead.
      Aerojet Rocketdyne has focused on streamlining the nozzle production process. Between manufacture of the first and second production units, the company reduced hands-on labor by 17%.
      “The nozzle is a work of machinery and work of art at the same time,” Buckley said. “Our team sees this nozzle as more than a piece of hardware. We see the role we play in the big picture as we return humans to the Moon.”
      With completion of the certification test series, all systems will be “go” to produce the first new RS-25 engines since the space shuttle era. NASA has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to produce 24 new RS-25 engines using the updated design for missions beginning with Artemis V. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 former space shuttle missions for use on Artemis missions I through IV.
      Through Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
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    • By European Space Agency
      Video: 00:15:00 Tracking ice lost from the world’s glaciers, ice sheets and frozen land shows that Earth is losing ice at an accelerating rate. Monitoring the cryosphere is crucial for assessing, predicting and adapting to climate change.
      The Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter (CRISTAL) mission will provide a full picture of the changes taking place in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world. It will carry – for the first time – a dual-frequency radar altimeter, and microwave radiometer, that will measure and monitor sea-ice thickness, overlying snow depth and ice-sheet elevations.
      These data will support maritime operations in the polar oceans and contribute to a better understanding of climate processes. CRISTAL will also support applications related to coastal and inland waters, as well as providing observations of ocean topography.
      CRISTAL is one of six Copernicus Sentinel Expansion missions that ESA is developing on behalf of the EU. The missions will expand the current capabilities of the Copernicus Space Component – the world’s biggest supplier of Earth observation data.
      This video features interviews with Kristof Gantois, CRISTAL Project Manager and Paolo Cipollini, CRISTAL Mission Scientist.
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      New observations from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft hint that the Kuiper Belt – the vast, distant outer zone of our solar system populated by hundreds of thousands of icy, rocky planetary building blocks – might stretch much farther out than we thought.
      Artist’s concept of a collision between two objects in the distant Kuiper Belt. Such collisions are a major source of dust in the belt, along with particles kicked up from Kuiper Belt objects being peppered by microscopic dust impactors from outside of the solar system.Credit: Dan Durda, FIAAA Speeding through the outer edges of the Kuiper Belt, almost 60 times farther from the Sun than Earth, the New Horizons Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC) instrument is detecting higher than expected levels of dust – the tiny frozen remnants of collisions between larger Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and particles kicked up from KBOs being peppered by microscopic dust impactors from outside of the solar system.
      The readings defy scientific models that the KBO population and density of dust should start to decline a billion miles inside that distance and contribute to a growing body of evidence that suggests the outer edge of the main Kuiper Belt could extend billions of miles farther than current estimates – or that there could even be a second belt beyond the one we already know.
      The results appear in the Feb. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
      “New Horizons is making the first direct measurements of interplanetary dust far beyond Neptune and Pluto, so every observation could lead to a discovery,” said Alex Doner, lead author of the paper and a physics graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder who serves as SDC lead. “The idea that we might have detected an extended Kuiper Belt — with a whole new population of objects colliding and producing more dust – offers another clue in solving the mysteries of the solar system’s most distant regions.”
      Designed and built by students at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder under the guidance of professional engineers, SDC has detected microscopic dust grains produced by collisions among asteroids, comets and Kuiper Belt objects all along New Horizons’ 5-billion-mile, 18-year journey across our solar system – which after launch in 2006 included historic flybys of Pluto in 2015 and the KBO Arrokoth in 2019. The first science instrument on a NASA planetary mission to be designed, built and “flown” by students, the SDC counts and measures the sizes of dust particles, producing information on the collision rates of such bodies in the outer solar system.
      The latest, surprising results were compiled over three years as New Horizons traveled from 45 to 55 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun – with one AU being the distance between Earth and Sun, about 93 million miles or 140 million kilometers.
      These readings come as New Horizons scientists, using observatories like the Japanese Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, have also discovered a number KBOs far beyond the traditional outer edge of the Kuiper Belt. This outer edge (where the density of objects starts to decline) was thought to be at about 50 AU, but new evidence suggests the belt may extend to 80 AU, or farther. 
      As telescope observations continue, Doner said, scientists are looking at other possible reasons for the high SDC dust readings. One possibility, perhaps less likely, is radiation pressure and other factors pushing dust created in the inner Kuiper Belt out past 50 AU. New Horizons could also have encountered shorter-lived ice particles that cannot reach the inner parts of the solar system and were not yet accounted for in the current models of the Kuiper Belt.
      “These new scientific results from New Horizons may be the first time that any spacecraft has discovered a new population of bodies in our solar system,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. “I can’t wait to see how much farther out these elevated Kuiper Belt dust levels go.”
      Now into its second extended mission, New Horizons is expected to have sufficient propellant and power to operate through the 2040s, at distances beyond 100 AU from the Sun. That far out, mission scientists say, the SDC could potentially even record the spacecraft’s transition into a region where interstellar particles dominate the dust environment. With complementary telescopic observations of the Kuiper Belt from Earth, New Horizons, as the only spacecraft operating in and collecting new information about the Kuiper Belt, has a unique opportunity to learn more about KBOs, dust sources and expanse of the belt, and interstellar dust and the dust disks around other stars.
      The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio and Boulder, Colorado, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Alan Stern and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
      Last Updated Feb 20, 2024 EditorBill Keeter Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      In 1994, a joint NASA and Department of Defense (DOD) mission called Clementine dramatically changed our view of the Moon. As the first U.S. mission to the Moon in more than two decades, Clementine’s primary objectives involved technology demonstrations to test lightweight component and sensor performance. The lightweight sensors aboard the spacecraft returned 1.6 million digital images, providing the first global multispectral and topographic maps of the Moon. Data from a radar instrument indicated that large quantities of water ice may lie in permanently shadowed craters at lunar south pole, while other polar regions may remain in near permanent sunlight. Although a technical problem prevented a planned flyby of an asteroid, Clementine’s study of the Moon proved that a technology demonstration mission can accomplish significant science.

      Left: The Clementine engineering model on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C. Image credit: courtesy NASM. Right: Schematic illustration showing Clementine’s major components and sensors.
      The DOD’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, renamed the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization in 1993, directed the Clementine project, formally called the Deep Space Program Science Experiment. The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., managed the mission design, spacecraft manufacture and test, launch vehicle integration, ground support, and flight operations. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California, provided the nine science instruments, including lightweight imaging cameras and ranging sensors. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Maryland, provided trajectory and mission planning support for the lunar phase, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provided trajectory and mission planning for the asteroid encounter and deep space communications and tracking through the Deep Space Network. Clementine’s primary planned mission involved the testing of new lightweight satellite technologies in the harsh deep space environment. As a secondary mission, Clementine would observe the Moon for two months using its multiple sensors, then leave lunar orbit and travel to 1620 Geographos, a 1.6-mile-long, elongated, stony asteroid. At a distance of 5.3 million miles from Earth, Clementine would fly within 62 miles of the near-Earth asteroid, returning images and data using its suite of sensors.

      Left: Technicians prepare Clementine for a test in an anechoic chamber prior to shipping to the launch site. Middle: Workers lower the payload shroud over Clementine already mounted on its Titan IIG launch vehicle. Right: Liftoff of Clementine from Vandenberg Air Force, now Space Force, Base in California.
      The initial idea behind a joint NASA/DOD technology demonstration mission began in 1990, with funding approved in March 1992 to NRL and LLNL to start design of Clementine and its sensors, respectively. In an incredibly short 22 months, the spacecraft completed design, build, and testing to prepare it for flight. Clementine launched on Jan. 25, 1994, from Space Launch Complex 4-West at Vandenberg Air Force, now Space Force, Base in California atop a Titan IIG rocket.

      Trajectory of Clementine from launch to lunar orbit insertion. Image credit: courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
      The spacecraft spent the next eight days in low Earth orbit checking out its systems. On Feb. 3, a solid rocket motor fired to place it on a lunar phasing loop trajectory that included two Earth flybys to gain enough energy to reach the Moon. During the first orbit, the spacecraft jettisoned the Interstage Adapter Subsystem that remained in a highly elliptical Earth orbit for three months collecting radiation data as it passed repeatedly through the Van Allen radiation belts. On Feb. 19, Clementine fired its own engine to place the spacecraft into a highly elliptical polar lunar orbit with an 8-hour period. A second burn two days later placed Clementine into its 5-hour mapping orbit. The first mapping cycle began on Feb. 26, lasting one month, and the second cycle ended on April 21, followed by special observations.

      Left: Composite image of the Moon’s south polar region. Middle left: Image of Crater Tycho. Middle right: Image of Crater Rydberg. Right: Composite image of the Moon’s north polar region.
      During the first month of mapping, the low point of Clementine’s orbit was over the southern hemisphere to enable higher resolution imagery and laser altimetry over the south polar regions. Clementine adjusted its orbit to place the low point over the northern hemisphere for the second month of mapping to image the north polar region at higher resolution. Clementine spent the final two weeks in orbit filling in any gaps and performing extra studies looking for ice in the north polar region. For 71 days and 297 lunar orbits, Clementine imaged the Moon, returning 1.6 million digital images, many at a resolution of 330 feet. It mapped the Moon’s entire surface including the polar regions at wavelengths from near ultraviolet through visible to far infrared. The laser altimetry provided the first global topographic map of the Moon. Similar data from Apollo missions only mapped the equatorial regions of the Moon that lay under the spacecraft’s orbital path. Radio tracking of the spacecraft refined our knowledge of the Moon’s gravity field. A finding with significant application to future exploration missions, Clementine found areas near the polar regions where significant amounts of water ice may exist in permanently shadowed crater floors. Conversely, Clementine found other regions near the poles that may remain in near perpetual sunlight, providing an abundant energy source for future explorers. The Dec. 16, 1994, issue of Science, Vol. 266, No. 5192, published early results from Clementine. The Clementine project team assembled a series of lessons learned from the mission to aid future spacecraft development and operations.

      Left: A global map of the Moon created from Clementine images. Right: A global topographic map of the Moon based on Clementine data.

      Left: Composite image of Earth taken by Clementine from lunar orbit. Middle left: Colorized image of the full Earth over the lunar north pole. Middle right: Color enhanced view of the Moon lit by Earth shine, the solar corona, and the planet Venus. Right: Color enhanced image of the Earthlit Moon, the solar corona, and the planets Saturn, Mars, and Mercury.
      Its Moon observation time over, Clementine left lunar orbit on May 5, heading for Geographos via two more Earth gravity-assist flybys. Unfortunately, two days later a computer glitch caused one of the spacecraft’s attitude control thrusters to misfire for 11 minutes, expending precious fuel and sending Clementine into an 80-rotations-per-minute spin. The problem would have significantly reduced data return from the asteroid flyby planned for August and managers decided to keep the spacecraft in an elliptical geocentric orbit. A power supply failure in June rendered Clementine’s telemetry unintelligible. On July 20, lunar gravity propelled the spacecraft into solar orbit and the mission officially ended on Aug. 8. Ground controllers briefly regained contact between Feb. 20 and May 10, 1995, but Clementine transmitted no useful data.
      Despite the loss of the Geographos flyby, Clementine left a lasting legacy. The mission demonstrated that a flight primarily designed as a technology demonstration can accomplished significant science. The data Clementine returned revolutionized our knowledge of lunar history and evolution. The discovery of the unique environments at the lunar poles, including the probability of large quantities of water ice in permanently shadowed regions there, changed the outlook for future scientific missions and human exploration. Subsequent science missions, such as NASA’s Lunar Prospector and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, China’s Chang’e spacecraft, and India’s Chandrayaan spacecraft, all built on the knowledge that Clementine first obtained. Current uncrewed missions target the lunar polar regions to add ground truth to the orbital observations, and NASA’s Artemis program intends to land the first woman and the first person of color in that region as a step toward sustainable lunar exploration.
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