There are many worlds and many systems of Universes existing all at the same time, all of them perishable.

— Anaximander 546 BC

NASA

Diamonds in the Sky

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Diamonds in the Sky


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The Great Carina Nebula

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The Great Carina Nebula


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Facing NGC 1232

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From our vantage point in the


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<p><a href="https://apod.nasa.gov/apod

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Not one, but two comets appeared near the Sun during


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The explosion is over, but the consequences continue.


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Something strange happened to this galaxy, but what?


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Watch Juno zoom past Jupiter.


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APOD - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 12:00pm

How does a total solar eclipse end?


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Work Underway on Large Cargo Landers for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 4:40pm
Early conceptual renderings of cargo variants of human lunar landing systems from NASA’s providers SpaceX, left, and Blue Origin, right. Both industry teams have been given authority to begin design work to provide large cargo landers capable of delivering up to 15 metric tons of cargo, such as a pressurized rover, to the Moon’s surface. SpaceX and Blue Origin

Under NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency and its partners will send large pieces of equipment to the lunar surface to enable long-term scientific exploration of the Moon for the benefit of all. NASA’s human landing system providers, SpaceX and Blue Origin, are beginning development of lunar landers for large cargo deliveries to support these needs.

NASA has contracted SpaceX and Blue Origin to provide landing systems to take astronauts to the Moon’s surface from lunar orbit, beginning with Artemis III. The agency has asked the two companies to develop cargo versions of their human lunar landers as an option under their existing contracts. These cargo variants are expected to land approximately 26,000 – 33,000 pounds (12 to 15 metric tons) of payload on the lunar surface and be in service no earlier than the Artemis VII mission.

“It’s essential that NASA has the capability to land not just astronauts, but large pieces of equipment, such as pressurized rovers, on the Moon for maximum return on science and exploration activities,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, Human Landing System Program Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Beginning this work now allows SpaceX and Blue Origin to leverage their respective human lander designs to provide cargo variants that NASA will need in the future.”

NASA expects the cargo versions of the companies’ landers to be modified versions of the human landing systems currently being developed for Artemis III, IV, and V. Modifications will include adjustments for payload interfaces and deployment mechanisms, and the cargo variants will not have human life support systems.

This initial work allows the companies to proceed with development for their cargo landers through a preliminary design review, the step that establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design. SpaceX is conducting its work under the NextSTEP Appendix H contract, and Blue Origin is conducting its work under NextSTEP Appendix P. NASA officially exercised the options under those contracts in November 2023 to begin work on the large cargo landers.

With Artemis, NASA will explore more of the Moon than ever before, learn how to live and work away from home, and prepare for future human missions to the Red Planet. Artemis requires the best of international space agencies, private industry, and academia to establish the infrastructure for long-term scientific research and exploration. NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, exploration ground systems, and Orion spacecraft, along with the human landing system, next-generation spacesuits and rovers, and Gateway lunar space station are the agency’s foundation for human exploration deep space.

For more information about Artemis, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/artemis

Categories: NASA

Slovenia Signs Artemis Accords, Joins Pursuit of Safer Space

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 3:21pm
Matevž Frangež, State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Tourism, and Sport signs the Artemis Accords on behalf of Slovenia with NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Ambassador Jamie L. Harpootlian, Rebecca Bresnik, Associate General Counsel for International and Space Law, and Slovenian Ambassador to the United States Iztok Mirošič standing behind. Credit: State Department

NASA and Slovenia affirmed their cooperation in future space endeavors on Friday as Slovenia became the 39th country to sign the Artemis Accords. The signing certified Slovenia’s commitment to pursue safe and sustainable exploration of space for the benefit of humanity and took place during a U.S.-Slovenia strategic dialogue in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Offices.

“NASA welcomes Slovenia to the Artemis Accords,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Today, the partnership between the United States and Slovenia crosses a new frontier. We live in a golden era of exploring the stars. That era will be written by nations that explore the cosmos openly, responsibly, and in peace.” 

State Secretary Matevž Frangež of the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism, and Sport signed the Accords on behalf of Slovenia, with James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, participating in the signing event.

“Slovenia joins the principles, values, and rules on the peaceful use of space as a common good of humanity,” Frangež said.

Rebecca Bresnik, Associate General Counsel for International and Space Law, served as the senior NASA official at the ceremony, along with her husband, Randy Bresnik, who is a NASA astronaut of Slovenian descent.

“We are delighted to welcome Slovenia to the Artemis Accords family,” said Ambassador Jamie Harpootlian, the U.S. ambassador to Slovenia “We recognize Slovenia as a rising leader in space. We look forward to taking our collaborations with Slovenia on science, technology, and innovation to new frontiers.”

In 2020, the United States and seven other countries established the Artemis Accords to establish guidelines for the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The Accords reinforce and implement key obligations in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. They also strengthen the commitment by the United States and signatory nations to the Registration Convention, the Rescue and Return Agreement, as well as best practices NASA and its partners support, including the public release of scientific data.

Learn more about the Artemis Accords at:

https://www.nasa.gov/artemis-accords

-end-

Lauren Low
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600
lauren.e.low@nasa.gov

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NASA Data Helps Beavers Build Back Streams

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:54pm

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) A beaver family nibbles on aspen branches just up Logan Canyon from Utah State University, in Spawn Creek, Utah. Credit: Sarah Koenigsberg

Humans aren’t the only mammals working to mitigate the effects of climate change in the Western United States. People there are also enlisting the aid of nature’s most prolific engineers – beavers. Using NASA-provided grants, two open-source programs from Boise State University in Idaho and Utah State University in Logan are making it possible for ranchers, land trust managers, nonprofits, and others to attract beavers to areas that need their help.

The Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT) created by Utah State University uses data from satellites built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to identify areas that need restoration and would benefit from beavers’ dam-building abilities. The Boise State University Mesic Resource Restoration Monitoring Aid (MRRMaid) program, which also uses satellite data, monitors the areas over time. Both efforts are also supported by NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science program and the agency’s Applied Sciences’ Ecological Conservation program.

Once a site is chosen, program staffers and landowners begin to take measures to attract beavers, or the teams may relocate them from other areas. Either way, once on site, these semiaquatic builders get to work building and maintaining dams to create the ponds. The ponds help to retain water, including runoff from snowmelt and rainstorms, that would otherwise rush through the area, causing erosion and degrading the surrounding ecosystems.

Over time, these new ponds raise the water table, support wetlands that attract more wildlife and fish, and restore native plants to the ecosystem. Beaver dams can help ranchers improve water availability on their property, supporting their operations.

NASA Landsat data helps Utah State University identify streams where beavers can be reintroduced to help improve an ecosystem. Boise State University also uses Landsat data to show just how much beavers help. The vegetation in this satellite image indicates where streams or creeks are flowing and reveals the benefits of beaver activity.Credit: NASA

In addition to being beautiful and supporting the local ecology, these moisture-rich environments can limit wildfire damage with a barrier of healthy vegetation resistant to burning. When human infrastructure is nearby, a built-in leak or other interventions by humans can be added to control the water level, preventing floods that cause property damage.

As a restoration site’s health improves, MRRMaid and BRAT use NASA satellite data to monitor those changes and analyze how the beavers benefit the ecosystem in drought-stricken areas. Community leaders can use this information and the living examples of restored sites to build new parks and recreational areas and plan future restoration projects with their furry collaborators.

Read More

For more information on beaver rewilding, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/missions/landsat/researchers-become-beaver-believers-after-measuring-the-impacts-of-rewilding/

Share Details Last Updated Apr 19, 2024 Related Terms Explore More 6 min read NASA Selects New Aircraft-Driven Studies of Earth and Climate Change

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Looking Beyond the Veil

NASA Image of the Day - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:46pm
This image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) of star-forming region NGC 604 shows how stellar winds from bright, hot young stars carve out cavities in surrounding gas and dust.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Looking Beyond the Veil

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:23pm
This image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) of star-forming region NGC 604 shows how stellar winds from bright, hot young stars carve out cavities in surrounding gas and dust.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

In this image released on March 9, 2024, the NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope gives us a more detailed view of a well-studied but still mysterious region, NGC 604. The most noticeable features are tendrils and clumps of emission that appear bright red, extending out from areas that look like clearings, or large bubbles in the nebula. Stellar winds from the brightest and hottest young stars have carved out these cavities, while ultraviolet radiation ionizes the surrounding gas. This ionized hydrogen appears as a white and blue ghostly glow.

Learn more about this image and another of the same region from Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument).

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Categories: NASA

NASA, FAA Partner to Develop New Wildland Fire Technologies 

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 12:47pm
Artist’s rendering of remotely piloted aircraft providing fire suppression, monitoring and communications capabilities during a wildland fire.NASA

NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have established a research transition team to guide the development of wildland fire technology. 

Wildland fires are occurring more frequently and at a larger scale than in past decades, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Emergency responders will need a broader set of technologies to prevent, monitor, and fight these growing fires more effectively. Under this Wildland Fire Airspace Operations research transition team, NASA and the FAA will develop concepts and test new technologies to improve airspace integration. 

Current aerial firefighting operations are limited to times when aircraft have clear visibility – otherwise pilots run the risk of flying into terrain or colliding with other aircraft. Drones could overcome this limitation by enabling responders to remotely monitor and suppress these fires during nighttime and low visibility conditions, such as periods of heavy smoke. However, advanced airspace management technologies are needed to enable these uncrewed aircraft to stay safely separated and allow aircraft operators to maintain situational awareness during wildland fire management response operations. 

Over the next four years, NASA’s Advanced Capabilities for Emergency Response Operations (ACERO) project, in collaboration with the FAA, will work to develop new airspace access and traffic management concepts and technologies to support wildland fire operations. These advancements will help inform a concept of operations for the future of wildland fire management under development by NASA and other government agencies. The team will test and validate uncrewed aircraft technologies for use by commercial industry and government agencies, paving the way for integrating them into future wildland fire operations.  

ACERO is led out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley under the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. 

Categories: NASA

Join NASA in Celebrating Earth Day 2024 by Sharing a #GlobalSelfie

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 11:00am

NASA invites you — and everyone else on the planet — to take part in a worldwide celebration of Earth Day with the agency’s #GlobalSelfie event. While NASA satellites constantly look at Earth from space, on Earth Day we’re asking you to step outside and take a picture of yourself in your corner of the world. Then post it to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie.

Bonus points if your #GlobalSelfie features your favorite body of water! About 71% of our Blue Marble is covered by water, and that water is one of the main reasons why Earth is like no other planet we’ve found in this solar system, or beyond.

Why #GlobalSelfie?


NASA astronauts brought home the first ever images of the whole planet from space. Now NASA satellites capture new images of Earth every second. With Earth-observing missions orbiting our home planet right now, and more set to launch this year, NASA studies Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans in all their complexity.

For Earth Day, we want everyone to share the planet from their point of view. Need an idea of what kind of picture to take? Get outside and show us mountains, parks, the sky, rivers, lakes – and you! Wherever you are, there’s your picture. 

How do I take part?

Post your photo to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Make it public so we can see, and celebrate #EarthDay with you!

Categories: NASA

NASA Selects New Aircraft-Driven Studies of Earth and Climate Change

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 10:45am
Earth (ESD)

5 min read

NASA Selects New Aircraft-Driven Studies of Earth and Climate Change

NASA has selected six new airborne missions that include domestic and international studies of fire-induced clouds, Arctic coastal change, air quality, landslide hazards, shrinking glaciers, and emissions from agricultural lands. NASA’s suite of airborne missions complement what scientists can see from orbit, measure from the ground, and simulate in computer models.  

Funded through the agency’s Earth Venture program, the missions center around the use of instruments mounted on aircraft to make measurements in finer detail—both in spatial resolution and shorter time scales—than can be made by many satellites. Competitively selected, the missions provide opportunities to supplement satellite observations and make innovative measurements.

“These missions will help us interpret what our current satellites are seeing from space and test new ideas and techniques for our upcoming Earth System Observatory,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “There is also a strong focus on actionable Earth science—gathering fundamental observations that have connections to our economy and societal decision-making and information needs.” 

NASA’s newest Earth Ventures missions include studies of how climate change is altering carbon emissions and water and ice flows across Arctic coastal regions. Credit: Landsat/USGS/NASA Earth Observatory

Roughly $120 million has been allotted for the six missions, which will deploy at various times from 2026 to 2029. Three lead investigators were chosen for each mission, with at least one required to be an early career scientist. Full staffing of the science teams and selection of complementary instruments will be competed in the coming months. These changes in the selection process were made to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the teams.  

“We are constantly looking to foster the growth of the next generation of scientists,” said Barry Lefer, the program manager who led the Earth Venture selection panels at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This round of missions will put an extra emphasis on bringing new people into mission planning and leadership.”

The six missions include:

Arctic coastal change

Maria Tzortziou of the City College of New York will lead a project to observe changes in river systems on the North Slope of Alaska. Known as FORTE (short for Arctic Coastlines–The Frontlines of Rapidly Transforming Ecosystems), the project will combine optical and radar measurements from planes, helicopters, boats, and drones to measure water flows and chemistry and observe how ecosystems respond to changing climate. The team will collaborate with indigenous communities to sustain observations over time.

Clouds created by fire In one of NASA’s newest Earth Ventures missions, researchers will investigate the conditions that lead to the formation of pyrocumulonimbus “fire clouds.” Extreme wildland fires can create their own weather and inject smoke into the stratosphere. Courtesy of David Peterson, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

In PYREX—the Pyrocumulonimbus Experiment—David Peterson of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington will lead a study of pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which form when wildfires burn hot enough to make their own weather. Flying over the western U.S. and Canada, researchers will examine the fire characteristics that produce pyrocumulonimbus, while exploring the mechanisms that lead these clouds to inject smoke into the stratosphere, where it can have climate effects.

Urban air pollution

James Crawford of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will lead HAMAQ (Hemispheric Airborne Measurements of Air Quality), a project that capitalizes on the recent launches of NASA’s TEMPO pollution-monitoring satellite instrument and comparable measurements made by Korean and European satellites. Over Mexico City and a U.S. city to be determined, scientists will investigate areas of poor air quality and test how satellite information can help improve ground-based forecasting and mitigation strategies.

Shifting weather, shifting lands

Climate change is leading to more extreme droughts and rainfall events that affect the stability of hillslopes and the soil and rock on them. Led by Alexander Handwerger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, LACCE (Landslide Climate Change Experiment) will combine airborne measurements with land-based sensors to track the way slopes and landslides are changing as water moves differently across the landscape.

Glacier retreat

John Holt of the University of Arizona will lead Snow4Flow, a project to quantify the retreat of glaciers and ice sheets in ways that can lead to better projections of land-ice change. In Alaska, southeastern Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, and Svalbard, the team will use microwave and high-frequency radar sounders to measure snow accumulation, ice melting, and changes in ice thickness and motion.

Agricultural emissions

While the burning of fossil fuels remains the leading source of carbon in our atmosphere, farmlands and ranchlands are also substantial sources of gas and particle emissions. In the NTERFAACE (Nitrogen and Carbon Terrestrial Fluxes: Agriculture, Atmospheric Composition, and Ecosystems) mission, led by Glenn Wolfe of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, researchers will measure the amount of greenhouse gases, nitrogen, and other pollutants that are emitted from agricultural lands across the United States.

The PYREX and Snow4Flow missions are funded at $30 million each, while the other four projects will each receive $15 million. These six investigations were selected from 42 proposals. The 2024 selections represent the fourth series of NASA Earth Venture investigations, which were first recommended by the National Research Council in 2007.  

For more on NASA Earth Science, visit: science.nasa.gov/earth

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Contact Michael Carlowicz michael.j.carlowicz@nasa.gov Location Goddard Space Flight Center

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Hubble Captures a Bright Galactic and Stellar Duo

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 9:58am

2 min read

Hubble Captures a Bright Galactic and Stellar Duo This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the barred spiral galaxy NGC 3783. ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. C. Bentz, D. J. V. Rosario 

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features NGC 3783, a bright barred spiral galaxy about 130 million light-years from Earth that also lends its name to the eponymous NGC 3783 galaxy group. Like galaxy clusters, galaxy groups are aggregates of gravitationally bound galaxies. Galaxy groups, however, are less massive and contain fewer members than galaxy clusters do: whereas galaxy clusters can contain hundreds or even thousands of constituent galaxies, galaxy groups do not typically include more than 50. The Milky Way is actually part of a galaxy group, known as the Local Group, which also holds two other large galaxies (Andromeda and the Triangulum galaxy), as well as several dozen satellite and dwarf galaxies. The NGC 3783 galaxy group contains 47 galaxies. It also seems to be at a fairly early stage of its evolution, making it an interesting object to study. 

While the focus of this image is the spiral galaxy NGC 3783, the eye is equally drawn to the very bright object in the lower right part of this image. This is the star HD 101274. The perspective in this image makes the star and the galaxy look like close companions, but this is an illusion. HD 101274 lies only about 1,530 light-years from Earth, it is about 85,000 times closer than NGC 3783. This explains how a single star can appear to outshine an entire galaxy! 

NGC 3783 is a type-1 Seyfert galaxy, which is a galaxy with a bright central region. Hubble captures it in incredible detail, from its glowing central bar to its narrow, winding arms and the dust threaded through them, thanks to five separate images taken in different wavelengths of light. In fact, the galactic center is so bright that it exhibits diffraction spikes, normally only seen on stars such as HD 101274.

Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)


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Claire Andreoli
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov

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Students Celebrate Rockets, Environment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 9:13am
Students from Andrew Jackson Middle School in Titusville, Florida, participate in an environmentally focused Earth Day briefing on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, inside the news auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The panelists from left to right are Messod Bendayan, NASA Communications; Kelly McCarthy, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, Bob Kline, Kennedy’s Environmental Assurance Branch; Spencer Davis, Kennedy’s Exploration Ground Systems; Kim King-Wrenn, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. NASA/Kim Shiflett

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, sustainability and preservation efforts here on Earth are as much of a priority as rocket launches, spacecraft, and the exploration of worlds beyond our own.

In celebration of Earth Day 2024, nearly 100 students from Andrew Jackson Middle School in Titusville, Florida, and a virtual audience of students across the country, attended NASA’s Next Gen STEM Earth Day panel at the NASA News Center’s John Holliman Auditorium and press site “bullpen.”  

On hand were NASA environmental and educational experts who discussed Kennedy’s unique role balancing space launch technology and protected habitat, the center’s new electric vehicle charging stations, and NASA’s Earthrise educational initiative that aims to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics literacy. 

Bob Kline, acting chief of Kennedy’s Environmental Assurance Branch, helped students learn about the importance of protecting the habitat that is refuge to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. NASA Kennedy shares a boundary with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore, which encompass over 140,000 acres of land, waters, and protected habitats.   

“Because we’re a wildlife refuge, it’s easy to think the launches would impact the wildlife, but it’s mostly the buildings that might get impacted by wildlife trying to live on them,” said Kline. “During renovations we’ve had to do special things to protect bats and other birds who live in roofs or under bridges. Everything we do, we’re very mindful of the animals, whether they’re endangered or not. We care about them deeply.” 

Panelist Kim King-Wrenn, a park ranger from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, echoed Kline’s message. She told students that the spaceport is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. 

Home to everything from the Florida scrub jay to endangered green sea turtles, King-Wrenn classifies Kennedy as the goldilocks of climate zones.  

“Right here is where the northern temperate zone and the southern, subtropical zones come together,” King-Wrenn said. “The more habitat diversity there is, the more diverse homes there are for more kinds of animals.”  

Students like 7th grader Zoe Oderman were fascinated by the coexistence of nature and technology across the spaceport. “The Vehicle Assembly Building was awesome, but I love that the beaches at Kennedy Space Center give turtles a place to lay their eggs, because other places in the area don’t,” Oderman said.  

Kennedy employee Spencer Davis discussed the installation of 56 electric vehicle charging stations during his time at the NASA Transportation Office on center. The new infrastructure helps support a fleet of electric government vehicles including the all-electric crew transport vehicles that will take Artemis astronauts from their crew quarters to the launch pad.  

Students from Andrew Jackson Middle School in Titusville, Florida, pose for a photo with one of the Artemis crew transportation vehicles in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. As part of NASA’s NextGen STEM project, the students joined others from across the country who participated virtually for an environmentally focused Earth Day briefing held inside Kennedy’s news auditorium to discuss how technology and science coexist with nature at the spaceport. NASA/Kim Shiflett

Later this summer, Davis and his team will be honored at the White House for these efforts to facilitate a future of zero carbon emission government vehicles and help save taxpayer money.  

“The big takeaway here is in order to charge up and drive one of Kennedy’s Chevrolet Bolts 100 miles, it only costs $2.80,” Davis said. “That’s basically the price of a soft drink.”  

The students also learned about Earthrise from panelist Kelly McCarthy, program specialist with NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.  

The NASA education initiative provides educators with access to monthly collections of resources aimed at increasing STEM literacy and understanding the importance of protecting our home planet.  

“Earthrise is a really good way to find out the most relevant and useful solutions-based resources that exist right now,” McCarthy said. 

Besides offering their expertise on sustainable practices as well as words of encouragement to the future stewards of our planet, the panelists inspired students to pursue STEM careers, including at Kennedy. 

“You can do anything you want to do out here, and if you really apply yourself you can get into any field,” Davis told the students. “Don’t be afraid to step outside the box. Don’t be afraid to do something completely different, even if it’s scary. Take every opportunity and seize the moment.”

The event was coordinated through the Next Gen STEM project in NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, which reaches students in schools and informal classrooms across the county.  

View NASA’s Next Gen STEM Earth Day Student Briefing here:

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AI for Earth: How NASA’s Artificial Intelligence and Open Science Efforts Combat Climate Change

NASA - Breaking News - Thu, 04/18/2024 - 5:06pm

4 min read

AI for Earth: How NASA’s Artificial Intelligence and Open Science Efforts Combat Climate Change Lights brighten the night sky in this image of Europe, including Poland, taken from the International Space Station. NASA

As extreme weather events increase around the world due to climate change, the need for further research into our warming planet has increased as well. For NASA, climate research involves not only conducting studies of these events, but also empowering outside researchers to do the same. The artificial intelligence (AI) efforts spearheaded by the agency offer a powerful tool to accomplish these goals.

In 2023, NASA teamed up with IBM Research to create an AI geospatial foundation model. Trained on vast amounts of NASA’s widely used Harmonized Landsat and Sentinel-2 (HLS) data, the model provides a base for a variety of AI-powered studies to tackle environmental challenges. In keeping with open science principles, the model is freely available for anyone to access.

Foundation models serve as a baseline from which scientists can develop a diverse set of applications, enabling powerful and efficient solutions. “Foundation models only know what things are represented in the data,” explained Manil Maskey, the data science lead at NASA’s Office of the Chief Science Data Officer (OCSDO). “It’s like a Swiss Army Knife—it can be used for multiple different things.”

Once a foundation model is created, it can be trained on a small amount of data to perform a specific task. To date, the Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concept Team (IMPACT) along with collaborators have demonstrated the geospatial foundation model’s capabilities by fine-tuning it to detect burn scars, to delineate flood water, and to classify crop and other land use categories.

Rectangular ponds for shrimp farming line the coast of northern Peru in this image captured on March 14, 2024 by the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9. NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin

Because of the computational resources required to create the initial foundation model, a partnership was necessary for success. In this case, NASA brought the data and scientific knowledge, while IBM brought the computing power and AI algorithm optimization expertise. The team’s shared commitment to making their research accessible through open science principles ensures that their model can be useful to as many researchers as possible.

“To build a foundation model at scale, we realized early on that it’s not feasible for one institution to build it,” Maskey said. “Everything we have done on our foundation models has been open to the public, all the way from pre-training data, code, best practices, model weights, fine-tuning training data, and publications. There’s transparency, so researchers can trace why certain things were used in terms of data or model architecture.”

Following on from the success of their geospatial foundation model, NASA and IBM Research are continuing their partnership to create a new, similar model for weather and climate studies. They are collaborating with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), NVIDIA, and several universities to bring this model to life.

This time, the main dataset will be the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2), a huge collection of atmospheric reanalysis data that spans from 1980 to the present day. Like the geospatial foundation model, the weather and climate model is being developed with an open science approach, and will be available to the public in the near future.

Covering all aspects of Earth science would take several foundation models trained on different types of datasets. However, Maskey believes those future models might someday be combined into one comprehensive model, leading to a “digital twin” of the Earth that would provide unparalleled analysis and predictions for all kinds of climate and environmental events.

Whatever innovations the future holds, NASA and IBM’s geospatial and climate foundation models will enable leaps in Earth science like never before. Though powerful AI tools will enhance researchers’ work, the team’s dedication to open science supercharges the possibilities for discovery by allowing anyone to put those tools into practice and pave the way for groundbreaking research to help better care for the planet.

For more information about open science at NASA, visit:
https://science.nasa.gov/open-science/

By Lauren Leese
Web Content Strategist for the Office of the Chief Science Data Officer

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Apr 19, 2024

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