Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

— Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law

NASA

OTPS seeks input from the lunar community to inform a framework for further work on non-interference of lunar activities

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 4:36pm

6 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) An artist’s rendering of astronauts working near NASA’s Artemis base camp, complete with a rover and RV.NASA Questionnaire responses due by June 7, 2024

NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) is asking members of the lunar community to respond to a new Lunar Non-Interference Questionnaire that will inform the development of a framework for further work on non-interference of lunar activities. There is no funding or solicitation expected to follow.

OTPS was created in November 2021 within the Office of the NASA Administrator to work transparently in collaboration across NASA and with the broader space community to provide NASA leadership with a trade space of data- and evidence-driven options to develop and shape NASA policy, strategy, and technology.

The purpose of the questionnaire 

As dozens of countries and private sector companies have expressed interest in establishing lunar operations by the end of the decade, including many in the South Pole region, it will be critical to determine how to minimize interference and contamination in lunar activities. Deconfliction has been identified as an area of further work in Section 11 of the Artemis Accords and will be an area of increasing importance as the number of commercial and international actors operating on the lunar surface grows. 

In 2016, the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group developed “The Lunar Exploration Roadmap: Exploring the Moon in the 21st Century: Themes, Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities, 2016”, which aimed to develop an “integrated and sustainable plan for lunar exploration.” The roadmap explored the prioritization of lunar science activities, and designated which science objectives could be adversely impacted by further lunar exploration. 

Although lunar interference and contamination concerns have been broadly identified and expanded beyond the initial findings of the 2016 report (e.g., plume surface interactions and dust, hazardous waste, propellant deposition from overflight, electromagnetic interference), there is not broad consensus in the lunar scientific or technical community on key questions such as how to understand the potential value of lunar sites, how to mitigate the impacts of interference or contamination at such sites, and how to determine the change in value of a lunar site should certain interference or contamination activities occur.

The data collected in this questionnaire will support NASA strategic decision-making on the protection needed for lunar activities. This questionnaire seeks feedback from the lunar community to determine the breadth of interference and contamination concerns and clarify community usage of the terms “interference,” “contamination,” and “deconfliction.” This questionnaire aims to contribute to the development of a framework for further deconfliction activity.

The questionnaire and how to submit responses

Please copy and paste the questions below into a searchable, unlocked Portable Document File (PDF) or Word (DocX) file with edit permissions enabled. Include electronic links to, or copies of, any comments containing references, studies, research, and other empirical data that are not widely published. Send the file via email to HQ-OTPS-Applications@nasa.gov with the subject line “Lunar Non-Interference” by Friday, June 7, 2024.

Questions
  • How do you define these terms?
    • Interference
    • Contamination
    • Deconfliction
  • Understanding the Potential Value of a Site
    • What attributes/characteristics are relevant to site selection in consideration of science objectives? Attributes may include time-sensitive orphysical characteristics, holds awaiting technology or science advancements, or other perspectives. Example scenarios are encouraged.
  • Impacting the Potential Value of a Site
    • What human or robotic actions/events may negatively impact the value of a lunar site? Such as chemical contamination, physical contact, hardware proximity (for example Apollo hardware causing localized ‘moon quakes’ due to heating and cooling differences vs surroundings), waste hazards, etc.
      • How do the impacts of those actions/events alter the value of a site (e.g., unusable for certain missions, usable for certain missions but not others)?
      • What detrimental impacts are permanent, temporary, or still unknown?
    • What data, models, or information is needed to inform the value? Such as how to understand where contaminants are going, what they are doing that impacts science, computational models validated with ground and flight data, etc.
  • Mitigation Mechanisms
    • What types of mitigation mechanisms exist to preserve the value of a site?
    • During what phases of operations are mitigation mechanisms needed? Examples include ascent/descent, overflight, traverse, contingency, experimental or construction phase, etc.
    • What technologies/capabilities need to be developed?
    • What types of communication and coordination efforts minimize concerns? Such as development/planned activity timelines for pre-coordination, operational timelines with time-critical communication mechanisms, list of materials, transparency, etc
Additional information and disclaimers

OTPS intends to use the responses to these questions to inform the development of a framework for future work. The use or inclusion of information in the development of any future OTPS work does not constitute endorsement of any entity, or any products, services, technologies, activities, or agency policy. The information contained in any future OTPS work will reflect solely the views and opinions of the authors.

Respondents are encouraged to provide information that is not constrained by limited or restricted data rights. No Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should be submitted with the response. Responses received will not be released in their submitted form outside of NASA. Anonymized information derived from the responses received (i.e., general information not attributable to any particular respondent) also may be shared within the government, but only as reasonably necessary and appropriate. Further, any anonymized, non-attributable information may also eventually be used to develop and refine the framework for future work on lunar non-interference, and therefore may be recognizable to one or more respondents. If respondents feel that proprietary or confidential/business-sensitive information is necessary for NASA’s informational purposes to be responsive to the questions presented below, and such information is provided and appropriately marked as such, NASA will not publicly disclose or disseminate it and will protect it in strict accordance with all applicable laws and agency policies. NASA will not disclose any specific feedback provided from one firm/respondent with any other interested entities.

Please note that NASA employees and its support contractors’ employees and/or their subcontractors working on behalf of NASA may review the responses. NASA contractors and subcontractors are governed by non-disclosure provisions in their applicable contracts and subcontracts, which protects the confidentiality of all information reviewed.

Respondents are solely responsible for all expenses associated with responses. Responses will not be returned, nor will respondents be contacted about their responses.

OTPS appreciates your participation and looks forward to your responses.

“The Lunar Exploration Roadmap: Exploring the Moon in the 21st Century: Themes, Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities, 2016,” Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, 2016 https://www.lpi.usra.edu/leag/LER-2016.pdf1

Share Details Last Updated May 08, 2024 EditorBill Keeter Related Terms
Categories: NASA

The Marshall Star for May 8, 2024

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 3:20pm
20 Min Read The Marshall Star for May 8, 2024 New Flag is in the Stars for Marshall’s Huntsville Operations Support Center

By Wayne Smith

A new flag is flying closer to the stars outside the Huntsville Operations Support Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center following a May 2 ceremony.

The white flag features a blue logo of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft and marks contributions from center team members toward the launch of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test, now targeted to launch no earlier than 5:16 p.m. CDT May 17. The flag-raising ceremony was held ahead of the planned launch of the spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Chris Chiesa, left, listens as Lisa McCollum, deputy manager of the Exploration & Transportation Development Office, talks about Chiesa’s recognition as part of the Commercial Crew Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center during the Starliner flag-raising ceremony May 2. NASA/Tyson Eason

The flight test will carry NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the International Space Station for about a week to test the Starliner spacecraft and its subsystems before NASA certifies the transportation system for rotational missions to the orbiting laboratory for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The flag raising has been a tradition for missions supported at Marshall’s Huntsville Operations Support Center, or HOSC, as well as a tradition within the Commercial Crew Program to celebrate the successful conclusion of NASA’s Agency Flight Readiness Review prior to launch. The ceremony was a joint effort between the Payload and Mission Operations Division (PMOD) and Commercial Crew Program team.

“The ceremony is special because it symbolizes the successful conclusion of NASA’s Flight Readiness Review, bringing us that much closer to flight,” said Maggie Freeman, a program analyst supporting the Launch Vehicle Systems Office within the Commercial Crew Program at Marshall. “It’s also a privilege to be able to honor some of our Marshall team members who have supported the mission.”

Brandyn Rolling, left, of the Payload Missions Operation Division at Marshall, listens as George Norris, deputy manager of the Payload & Mission Operations Division, talks about Rolling’s recognition during the Starliner flag-raising ceremony outside the Huntsville Operations Support Center on May 2. NASA/Tyson Eason

Chris Chiesa and Brandyn Rolling were honored during the ceremony and raised the Starliner flag after being introduced by Lisa McCollum, deputy manager for the Exploration & Transportation Development Office, and George Norris, deputy manager for the Payload & Mission Operations Division.

“We look for team members who have displayed excellence within their fields, demonstrating their commitment to the goals of the mission,” Freeman said. “Chris and Brandyn both are phenomenal examples of that sustained commitment to excellence.”

Chiesa is the NASA engine lead for the Starliner spacecraft for the Commercial Crew Program. Rolling represented PMOD and manages all of the HOSC’s visiting vehicle ground interfaces for NASA.

McCollum and Norris display the Starliner flag before it was raised outside the Huntsville Operations Support Center. NASA/Tyson Eason

“I feel tremendously fortunate to be surrounded by such an incredible team and to have the support of so many amazing engineers and managers across Marshall, Kennedy, and Johnson (space flight centers),” Chiesa said.

Said Rolling, “I am incredibly honored to be a part of this amazing PMOD team and am excited for the future of Boeing’s crewed flights with Starliner.”

The HOSC provides engineering and mission operations support for the space station, the Commercial Crew Program, and Artemis missions, as well as science and technology demonstration missions. The Payload Operations Integration Center within HOSC operates, plans, and coordinates the science experiments onboard the space station 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

The Starliner flag flies outside the Huntsville Operations Support Center.NASA/Tyson Eason

The Commercial Crew Program support team at Marshall provides crucial programmatic, engineering, and safety and mission assurance expertise for launch vehicles, spacecraft propulsion, and integrated vehicle performance.

Smith, a Media Fusion employee and the Marshall Star editor, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

› Back to Top

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test Targets New Launch Date

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test is now targeted to launch no earlier than 5:16 p.m. CDT May 17 to the International Space Station. Following a thorough data review completed May 7, ULA (United Launch Alliance) decided to replace a pressure regulation valve on the liquid oxygen tank on the Atlas V rocket’s Centaur upper stage.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop illuminated by spotlights sits on the launch pad of Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ahead of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test. It is the first Starliner mission to send astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA/Joel Kowsky

ULA planned to roll the rocket, with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, back to its Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 8 to begin the replacement. The ULA team will perform leak checks and functional checkouts in support of the next launch attempt.

The oscillating behavior of the valve during prelaunch operations, ultimately resulted in mission teams calling a launch scrub May 6. After the ground crews and astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams safely exited from Space Launch Complex-41, the ULA team successfully commanded the valve closed and the oscillations were temporarily dampened. The oscillations then re-occurred twice during fuel removal operations. After evaluating the valve history, data signatures from the launch attempt, and assessing the risks relative to continued use, the ULA team determined the valve exceeded its qualification and mission managers agreed to remove and replace the valve.

Mission managers discussed the details leading to the decision to scrub the May 6 launch opportunity during a news conference shortly after the scrub call at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Wilmore and Williams will remain in crew quarters at Kennedy in quarantine until the next launch opportunity. The duo will be the first to launch aboard Starliner to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

› Back to Top

Hi-C Rocket Experiment Achieves Never-Before-Seen Look at Solar Flares

By Jessica Barnett 

After months of preparation and years since its last flight, the upgraded High Resolution Coronal Imager Flare mission – Hi-C Flare, for short – took to the skies for a never-before-seen view of a solar flare.

The low-noise cameras – built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center – are part of a suite of state-of-the-art instruments on board the Black Brant IX sounding rocket that launched April 17 from Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. Using the new technology, investigators hoped to study the extreme energies involved with solar flares. The Hi-C Flare experiment mission was led by Marshall.

The High-Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, launches aboard a Black Brant IX sounding rocket April 17 at Poker Flat Research Range in Fairbanks, Alaska.NASA

“This is a pioneering campaign,” said Sabrina Savage, principal investigator at Marshall for Hi-C Flare. “Launching sounding rockets to observe the Sun to test new technologies optimized for flare observations has not even been an option until now.”

It was the third iteration of the Hi-C instrument to take flight, but its first flight with ride along instruments, including the COOL-AID (Coronal OverLapagram – Ancillary Imaging Diagnostics), CAPRI-SUN (high-CAdence low-energy Passband x-Ray detector with Integrated full-SUN field of view), and SSAXI (Swift Solar Activity X-ray Imager). Following a month of payload integration and testing in White Sands, New Mexico, investigators completed final launch site integration at the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska.

Each morning of the two-week launch campaign window, the team spent about five hours preparing the experiment for launch, followed by up to four hours of monitoring solar data for a flare that registers as C5-class or higher with duration longer than the rocket flight. The launch finally occurred on the penultimate day of the campaign window.

“The Sun was unusually quiet throughout the campaign despite numerous active regions,” Savage said. “Both teams were getting nervous that we would not launch, but we finally got a nice long-duration M-class flare right before the window closed.”

The Hi-C Flare mission launched at 2:14 p.m. AKDT, just one minute after the FOXSI-4 (Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager) mission led by the University of Minnesota. Once in air, sensors on the Hi-C Flare rocket pointed cameras toward the Sun and stabilized instrumentation. Then, a shutter door opened to allow the cameras to gather about five minutes of data before the door closed and the rocket fell back to Earth.

The rocket landed in the Alaskan tundra, where it remained until conditions were safe enough for the team to retrieve it and begin processing the collected data.

“For launches into the tundra, we have to wait a few days for the instrument to get back to us and then to be dried out enough to turn on,” Savage said. “It was an anxious few days, but the data are beautiful and were worth the wait.”

From left, Austin Bumbalough, Ken Kobayashi, Harlan Haight, Sabrina Savage, William Hogue, Jim Cecil, and Adam Kobelski, members of the Hi-C Flare team, gather after the payload was recovered and brought to Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. Hi-C Flare, equipped with Hi-C 3, COOL-AID, CAPRI-SUN, and SSAXI, launched into a solar flare as part of the first-ever solar flare sounding rocket campaign.NASA

Investigators weren’t just testing new technology, either. They also used a new algorithm to predict the behavior of a solar flare, allowing them to launch the rocket at the ideal time.

“To catch a flare in action is really hard, because you can’t predict them,” said Genevieve Vigil, technical and camera lead for Hi-C 3 and COOL-AID at Marshall. “We had to wait around for a solar flare to start going, then launch as it’s happening. No one has tried to do that before.”

Fortunately, their method was a success.

“We are still processing the data from all four instruments, but the data from Hi-C 3 and COOL-AID already look fantastic,” Savage said.

“The COOL-AID data is the first spectrally pure image in a hot spectral line that we know of,” said Amy Winebarger, project scientist at Marshall for Hi-C Flare.

The Hi-C experiment is led by Marshall in partnership with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. Launch support is provided at Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska by NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

Barnett, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

› Back to Top

NASA Technology Grants to Advance Moon to Mars Space Exploration

By Jessica Barnett 

NASA has awarded nearly $1.5 million to academic, non-profit, and business organizations to advance state-of-the-art technology that will play a key role in the agency’s return to the Moon under Artemis, as well as future missions to Mars.

Twenty-four projects from 21 organizations have been awarded under NASA’s Dual-Use Technology Development Cooperative Agreement Notices, or CANs. The awardees also will receive assistance from propulsion, space transportation, and science experts at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Brandon Aguiar, a graduate student at Florida International University, works to prepare a slurry containing a lunar regolith simulant, graphene nanoplatelets, and base resin for use in FIU’s ongoing study of the enhanced electrical conductivity of additively manufactured lunar regolith components involving graphene nanoplatelets.Credit: Florida International University

“The Dual-Use Technology Development Cooperative Agreement Notice enables NASA to collaboratively work with U.S. industry and academia to develop needed technologies,” said Daniel O’Neil, manager, NASA Marshall’s Technology Development Dual-Use CAN Program. “Products from these cooperative agreements support the closure of identified technology gaps and enable the development of components and systems for NASA’s Moon to Mars architecture.”

These innovative projects include ways to use lunar regolith for construction on the Moon’s surface, using smartphone video guidance sensors to fly robots on the International Space Station, identifying new battery materials, and improving a neutrino particle detector.

The following is a complete list of awardees:

  • Auburn University in Alabama
  • Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida
  • Florida International University in Miami
  • Fronius USA in Portage, Indiana
  • Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories in Tullahoma, Tennessee
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • Morgan State University in Baltimore
  • Nanoracks (Voyager Space) in Houston
  • Northwestern University in Chicago
  • Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio
  • Tethon 3D in Omaha, Nebraska
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • University of California in Irvine
  • University of Florida in Gainesville
  • University of Illinois in Chicago
  • University of North Texas in Denton
  • University of Tennessee in Knoxville
  • University of Tennessee Space Institute
  • Victory Solutions in Huntsville, Alabama
  • Wichita State University in Kansas

The Florida Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and the University of Alabama were awarded funding for two projects each.

Funding was available for organizations focused on supporting entrepreneurial research and innovation ideas that could advance the commercial space sector and benefit future NASA missions.

Applications are now open for the 2024 solicitation cycle.

Barnett, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

› Back to Top

IXPE General Observer Program Opens Doors to Global X-ray Astronomy

By Rick Smith

Launched in late 2021, the science activities for NASA’s IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) mission were directed by researchers at NASA and the Italian Space Agency through February 2024. Now, during the General Observer phase of the mission, IXPE’s observation program primarily is guided by the broader scientific community.

“We’re in the process of turning X-ray polarization into a standard part of the toolkit for X-ray astronomers around the globe,” said Philip Kaaret, IXPE principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “The response across the high-energy astrophysics community has been tremendous.”

IXPE will help researchers gain new understanding of the forces involved in a tidal disruption event, as seen in this artist’s illustration depicting what happens when a star passes fatally close to a supermassive black hole.NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA

The General Observer Program, which officially began in February, invites astrophysicists and space scientists around the world to propose exciting new investigations of black holes, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei, and other high-energy X-ray sources using the IXPE telescope.

In the spacecraft’s first two years of operation, NASA’s research partners included more than 175 scientists in 13 countries – and interest continues to swell. Proposed investigations submitted to date to the General Observer Program involve more than 1,400 researchers at 174 unique institutions in 30 countries.

“Our chief goal to enable every interested party to use, analyze, and interpret IXPE data,” said Kavitha Arur, program lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We want to maximize science outputs and cover the widest possible range of targets.”

In June 2023, NASA issued an open invitation to researchers to propose new IXPE missions and targets of observation. By the October 2023 deadline, the General Observer Program team had received 135 proposals for Cycle 1, covering the first year of the program. Each proposal was exhaustively peer-reviewed by NASA astrophysicists and associated experts in the field.

Researchers proposed studies based on the number of seconds of IXPE target observation they estimated they would need to obtain the data necessary to verify a hypothesis or model.

For Cycle 1, the team selected 39 proposals, totaling about 15 million seconds of total observation time. That figure will include some overlap among selected targets – and the targets selected included a few surprises.

“Some of the selected proposals were for types of targets we hadn’t previously considered, such as tidal disruption events,” Kaaret said. A tidal disruption event is when a star is pulled into a supermassive black hole and torn apart.

Cycle 1 researchers also will, for the first time, use IXPE to study a white dwarf, a stellar core remnant roughly the size of Earth but with a mass comparable to that of our Sun. That white dwarf is part of the binary system T Coronae Borealis, roughly 3,000 light years from our solar system. “T CrB,” as it’s known to astronomers, also includes an ancient red giant which emits a nova eruption every 80 years or so. It was last seen in 1946, and astronomers anticipate another eruption between now and September 2024. For stargazers on Earth, this nova will appear to be a star that wasn’t there before.

That wide window of time makes T CrB a “target of opportunity” for IXPE – an unpredictable wrinkle in the meticulously plotted Cycle 1 schedule. Such an event requires quick reaction on the part of the team to enable IXPE to point at it without a lot of advanced scheduling.

An artist’s illustration of the IXPE spacecraft in orbit, studying high-energy phenomena light-years from Earth.NASA

Allyn Tennant, who heads IXPE’s science operations center at Marshall, is tasked with mapping out IXPE’s timetable. He factors in the precise duration of each observation, the time needed to download its findings, and the necessary repositioning time between targets.

What does it take to execute such a complex plan? “A certain amount of thought, a certain amount of swearing, and a whole lot of replanning,” Tennant said.

“We started the program the first week of February and by late April, Allyn had already rescheduled the plan seven times,” Kaaret added. “It makes for some stressful weekends, but a lot of really exciting results come from these unanticipated events.”

IXPE spends about a week on each target, on average, so it’s not hard to schedule roughly 40 targets in a 52-week window, Tennant said – until one encounters those targets of opportunity. There’s also the challenge of managing the inflow of data from each observation. The brighter the target, the bigger the volume of incoming data that must be captured, verified, and distributed to the investigators.

The spacecraft’s busy schedule also factors in joint astronomical observations with other NASA instruments conducting their own orbiting science missions. Those joint efforts further extend the value of data gathered during IXPE’s General Observer Program studies but add another level of complexity when targets of opportunity call for reshuffling the schedule.

During Cycle 1 and Cycle 2, IXPE is teaming with NASA’s NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) X-ray observatory, which studies neutron stars, black holes, and other phenomena from its permanent vantage point aboard the International Space Station. In Cycle 2, beginning in February 2025, the program also will partner with NASA’s orbiting Swift and NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) imagers, which monitor gamma-ray bursts and high-energy cosmic X-ray events, respectively.

The growing interest in IXPE’s success led USRA’s Science and Technology Institute to announce the first IXPO (International X-ray Polarimetry Symposium), to be held in Huntsville on Sept. 16-19. Astronomers, engineers, and X-ray technologists are encouraged to attend.

View the complete list of selected IXPE Cycle 1 research proposals. Learn more about program guidelines for submitting Cycle 2 proposals.

IXPE, led by NASA Marshall, is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency. The Space & Mission Systems division of BAE Systems Inc., in Broomfield, Colorado, manages spacecraft operations together with the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder.

Smith, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions Inc. employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

› Back to Top

NASA Selects Students for Europa Clipper Intern Program

NASA has selected 40 undergraduate students for the first year of its Europa ICONS (Inspiring Clipper: Opportunities for Next-generation Scientists) internship program, supporting the agency’s Europa Clipper mission. Europa ICONS matches students with mentors from the mission’s science team for a 10-week program to conduct original scientific research on topics related to the mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. 

The program is planned to run every year until Europa Clipper completes its prime mission in 2034 and is open to applications from all U.S. undergraduate STEM majors, with preference given to students from non-high research activity universities and underserved institutions.

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft.NASA/JPL-Caltech

ICONS internships may be in-person at the mentor’s institution, virtual, or hybrid, depending on the research project and needs of the mentor and intern. As part of the program, students and mentors will convene for a two-day meeting at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The first Europa ICONS internship will run June 3 through Aug. 9.

The students selected for the Europa ICONS program in 2024 are:

  • Sarah Ruetschle, John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio
  • Cole Anderson, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Hamza Ouriour, Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston
  • Ethan Piacenti, Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois
  • Jared Bouck, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Kayla Blair, Northern Arizona University
  • Carly Davis, McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Matthew Perkins, Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado
  • Angela Zhang, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  • Arianna Rodriguez Ortiz, University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez
  • Beverly Malugin Ayala, University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez
  • Jeansel Johnson-Ayala, University of Puerto Rico–Rio Piedras 
  • Akemi Takeuchi, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Sofia Merchant-Dest, University of Maryland–University College in Adelphi
  • Gradon Robbins, University of Florida in Gainesville
  • Jason Sioeng, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Tyler Yuen, San Jose State University in San Jose, California
  • Dallin Nelson, Southern Utah University in Cedar City
  • Eric Stinemetz, University of Houston–Downtown
  • Lucas Nerbonne, Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont
  • Hope Jerris, Middlebury College
  • Jacob Dietrich, Indiana University, Southeast in New Albany
  • Jocelyn Mateo, Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio
  • Samuel Brown, San Diego Mesa College in San Diego
  • Madison Stanford, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles
  • Bryce McGimsey, Solano Community College in Fairfield, California
  • Noah Alayon, CUNY LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York
  • Trevor Erwin, University of Texas at Austin
  • Ava Frost, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts
  • Brianna Casey, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York
  • Fatima Mendoza, Texas Tech University in Lubbock
  • Daniel Voyles, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California
  • Swaroop Sathyanarayanan, Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta
  • Jay Patel, Louisiana State University College of Engineering in Baton Rouge
  • Juliane Keiper, Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Emori Long, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee
  • Scott Chang, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Hayden Ferrell, Arizona State University in Tempe
  • Isabella Musto, Denison University in Granville, Ohio
  • Elizabeth Kirby, College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina

The Europa Clipper mission’s three main science objectives are to determine the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and its surface interactions with the ocean below, to investigate its composition, and to characterize its geology. The mission’s detailed exploration of Europa will help scientists better understand the astrobiological potential for habitable worlds beyond our planet.

The Europa ICONS program is managed by the Planetary Science Division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and is part of a larger effort known as Clipper Next Gen, a decade-long strategy using the Europa Clipper mission to train and diversify the next generation of planetary scientists.

Managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, JPL leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. APL designed the main spacecraft body in collaboration with JPL and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center executes program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

› Back to Top

Hubble Views a Galaxy with a Voracious Black Hole

Bright, starry spiral arms surround an active galactic center in a new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy NGC 4951.

Located in the Virgo constellation, NGC 4951 is located roughly 50 million light-years away from Earth. It’s classified as a Seyfert galaxy, which means that it’s an extremely energetic type of galaxy with an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, Seyfert galaxies are unique from other sorts of AGNs because the galaxy itself can still be clearly seen – different types of AGNs are so bright that it’s nearly impossible to observe the actual galaxy that they reside within.

Bright, starry spiral arms surround an active galactic center in this new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy NGC 4951.NASA, ESA, and D. Thilker (The Johns Hopkins University); Image Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

AGNs like NGC 4951 are powered by supermassive black holes. As matter whirls into the black hole, it generates radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, making the AGN shine brightly.

Hubble helped prove that supermassive black holes exist at the core of almost every galaxy in our universe. Before the telescope launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990, astronomers only theorized about their existence. The mission verified their existence by observing the undeniable effects of black holes, like jets of material ejecting from black holes and disks of gas and dust revolving around those black holes at very high speeds.

These observations of NGC 4951 were taken to provide valuable data for astronomers studying how galaxies evolve, with a particular focus on the star formation process. Hubble gathered this information, which is being combined with observations with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to support a JWST Treasury program. Treasury programs collect observations that focus on the potential to solve multiple scientific problems with a single, coherent dataset and enable a variety of compelling scientific investigations.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was the lead field center for the design, development, and construction of the space telescope.

› Back to Top

Categories: NASA

Sulaiman Mountain Haze

NASA Image of the Day - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 1:56pm
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this oblique photograph of the Sulaiman Mountains in central Pakistan. The range resulted from the slow-motion collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates that began about 60 million years ago. Peaks rise to more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level in the northern portion of the mountain range, shown in this photograph.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Sulaiman Mountain Haze

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 1:43pm
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this oblique photograph of the Sulaiman Mountains in central Pakistan. The range resulted from the slow-motion collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates that began about 60 million years ago. Peaks rise to more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level in the northern portion of the mountain range, shown in this photograph.NASA

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this Dec. 17, 2023, photograph of the Sulaiman Mountains in central Pakistan. The Sulaiman Mountains form a natural barrier between the plateaus to the west and the Indus River Valley to the east. Winds blowing from the Indian Ocean and Indus floodplain carry moisture and particulates inland, causing a combination of haze, mist, and clouds to form on the windward side of the mountain range.

A unique attribute of astronaut photography of Earth is the crew member’s ability to highlight features of the landscape by taking photos from perspectives other than straight-down (nadir). This photo leverages an oblique view to highlight the ruggedness of the Sulaiman Mountains by accentuating shadows created by the topography.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NASA Earth Observatory (EO) has gathered 25 of their favorite images and data visualizations. Since EO’s launch on April 29, 1999, the site has hosted more than 18,000 image-driven stories, featuring everything from the newest satellite imagery to decades-long records of change.

Text Credit: Cadan Cummings

Image Credit: NASA

Categories: NASA

NASA’s Webb Hints at Possible Atmosphere Surrounding Rocky Exoplanet

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 11:00am
7 Min Read NASA’s Webb Hints at Possible Atmosphere Surrounding Rocky Exoplanet

This artist’s concept shows what the exoplanet 55 Cancri e could look like based on observations from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

Researchers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope may have detected atmospheric gases surrounding 55 Cancri e, a hot rocky exoplanet 41 light-years from Earth. This is the best evidence to date for the existence of any rocky planet atmosphere outside our solar system. 

Renyu Hu from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is lead author on a paper published today in Nature. “Webb is pushing the frontiers of exoplanet characterization to rocky planets,” Hu said. “It is truly enabling a new type of science.”

Super-Hot Super-Earth 55 Cancri e

55 Cancri e (image below, details/download),  also known as Janssen, is one of five known planets orbiting the Sun-like star 55 Cancri, in the constellation Cancer. With a diameter nearly twice that of Earth and density slightly greater, the planet is classified as a super-Earth: larger than Earth, smaller than Neptune, and likely similar in composition to the rocky planets in our solar system.

To describe 55 Cancri e as “rocky,” however, could leave the wrong impression. The planet orbits so close to its star (about 1.4 million miles, or one-twenty-fifth the distance between Mercury and the Sun) that its surface is likely to be molten – a bubbling ocean of magma. With such a tight orbit, the planet is also likely to be tidally locked, with a dayside that faces the star at all times and a nightside in perpetual darkness.

In spite of numerous observations since it was discovered to transit in 2011, the question of whether or not 55 Cancri e has an atmosphere – or even could have one given its high temperature and the continuous onslaught of stellar radiation and wind from its star – has gone unanswered.

“I’ve worked on this planet for more than a decade,” said Diana Dragomir, an exoplanet researcher at the University of New Mexico and co-author on the study. “It’s been really frustrating that none of the observations we’ve been getting have robustly solved these mysteries. I am thrilled that we’re finally getting some answers!”

Unlike the atmospheres of gas giant planets, which are relatively easy to spot (the first was detected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope more than two decades ago), thinner and denser atmospheres surrounding rocky planets have remained elusive.

Previous studies of 55 Cancri e using data from NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope suggested the presence of a substantial atmosphere rich in volatiles (molecules that occur in gas form on Earth) like oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. But researchers could not rule out another possibility: that the planet is bare, save for a tenuous shroud of vaporized rock, rich in elements like silicon, iron, aluminum, and calcium. “The planet is so hot that some of the molten rock should evaporate,” explained Hu.

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (Artist’s Concept) This artist’s concept shows what the exoplanet 55 Cancri e could look like based on observations from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and other observatories. Observations from Webb’s NIRCam and MIRI suggest that the planet may be surrounded by an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Researchers think the gases that make up the atmosphere could have bubbled out of an ocean of magma that is thought to cover the planet’s surface. Measuring Subtle Variations in Infrared Colors

To distinguish between the two possibilities, the team used Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) to measure 4- to 12-micron infrared light coming from the planet.

Although Webb cannot capture a direct image of 55 Cancri e, it can measure subtle changes in light from the system as the planet orbits the star.

By subtracting the brightness during the secondary eclipse (image below, details/download), when the planet is behind the star (starlight only), from the brightness when the planet is right beside the star (light from the star and planet combined), the team was able to calculate the amount of various wavelengths of infrared light coming from the dayside of the planet.

This method, known as secondary eclipse spectroscopy, is similar to that used by other research teams to search for atmospheres on other rocky exoplanets, like TRAPPIST-1 b.

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (MIRI Secondary Eclipse Light Curve) A light curve of 7.5- to 11.8-micron light captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) in March 2023 shows the decrease in brightness of the 55 Cancri system as the rocky planet 55 Cancri e moves behind the star, a phenomenon known as a secondary eclipse. The amount of mid-infrared light given off by the planet (the difference in brightness between the star-and-planet combined and the star on its own) indicates that the planet’s dayside temperature is about 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature, which is low compared to a similar

planet with no atmosphere, indicates that heat is being distributed from the dayside to the nightside of the planet, possibly by a volatile-rich atmosphere.

Cooler than Expected

The first indication that 55 Cancri e could have a substantial atmosphere came from temperature measurements based on its thermal emission (image below, details/download), or heat energy given off in the form of infrared light. If the planet is covered in dark molten rock with a thin veil of vaporized rock or no atmosphere at all, the dayside should be around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (~2,200 degrees Celsius). 

“Instead, the MIRI data showed a relatively low temperature of about 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit [~1540 degrees Celsius],” said Hu. “This is a very strong indication that energy is being distributed from the dayside to the nightside, most likely by a volatile-rich atmosphere.” While currents of lava can carry some heat around to the nightside, they cannot move it efficiently enough to explain the cooling effect.

When the team looked at the NIRCam data, they saw patterns consistent with a volatile-rich atmosphere. We see evidence of a dip in the spectrum between 4 and 5 microns — less of this light is reaching the telescope,” explained co-author Aaron Bello-Arufe, also from NASA JPL. “This suggests the presence of an atmosphere containing carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, which absorb these wavelengths of light.” A planet with no atmosphere or an atmosphere consisting only of vaporized rock would not have this specific spectral feature.

“We’ve spent the last ten years modelling different scenarios, trying to imagine what this world might look like,” said co-author Yamila Miguel from the Leiden Observatory and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON). “Finally getting some confirmation of our work is priceless!”

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (NIRCam + MIRI Emission Spectrum) A thermal emission spectrum of the super-Earth exoplanet 55 Cancri e, captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) GRISM Spectrometer (F444W) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) Low-Resolution Spectrometer, shows that the planet may be surrounded by an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide and other volatiles, not just vaporized rock. Bubbling Magma Ocean

The team thinks that the gases blanketing 55 Cancri e would be bubbling out from the interior, rather than being present ever since the planet formed. “The primary atmosphere would be long gone because of the high temperature and intense radiation from the star,” said Bello-Arufe. “This would be a secondary atmosphere that is continuously replenished by the magma ocean. Magma is not just crystals and liquid rock; there’s a lot of dissolved gas in it, too.”

While 55 Cancri e is far too hot to be habitable, researchers think it could provide a unique window for studying interactions between atmospheres, surfaces, and interiors of rocky planets, and perhaps provide insights into the early conditions of Earth, Venus, and Mars, which are thought to have been covered in magma oceans far in the past. “Ultimately, we want to understand what conditions make it possible for a rocky planet to sustain a gas-rich atmosphere: a key ingredient for a habitable planet,” said Hu.

This research was conducted as part of Webb’s General Observers (GO) Program 1952. Analysis of additional secondary eclipse observations of 55 Cancri e are currently in progress.

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.

Downloads

Right click the images in this article to open a larger version in a new tab/window.
Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
The research results are published in Nature.

Media Contacts

Laura Betzlaura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutrorob.gutro@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Margaret Carruthers mcarruthers@stsci.edu, Christine Pulliamcpulliam@stsci.edu
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.

Related Information

What is an Exoplanet?

VIDEO: How do we learn about a planets Atmosphere?

55 Cancri e exoplanet and 55 Cancri system simulated in 3d

Webb’s Impact on Exoplanet Research

More Webb News – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/latestnews/

More Webb Images – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/multimedia/images/

Webb Mission Page – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/

Related For Kids

What is a exoplanet?

What is the Webb Telescope?

SpacePlace for Kids

En Español

Para Niños : Qué es una exoplaneta?

Ciencia de la NASA

NASA en español 

Space Place para niños

Keep Exploring Related Topics

James Webb Space Telescope

Webb is the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It studies every phase in the…


Exoplanets


Stars


Universe

Share

Details

Last Updated

May 08, 2024

Editor Stephen Sabia Contact Laura Betz laura.e.betz@nasa.gov

Related Terms
Categories: NASA

Johnson Celebrates AA and NHPI Heritage Month: Kimia Seyedmadani

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 10:00am

A quest for innovative ideas and development processes led biomedical engineer Kimia Seyedmadani to NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) in 2018. After working for several years to design and develop cutting-edge medical devices, Seyedmadani became frustrated with resistance to innovative ideas and  the regulatory processes with respect to a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

“I got really frustrated and started asking, where are the revolutionary solutions for medical devices?” she said.

Seyedmadani explored a variety of opportunities seeking answers from aerospace companies and engineering programs before connecting with Keith Tucker, chief engineer for HRP’s Research Operation and Integration Group (ROI) and landing a Pathways internship with the program. “He allowed me to ask those questions, think outside of the box, and start closing those gaps in medical device development,” she said.

Her family was shocked that Seyedmadani decided to work for NASA, given that she was an Iranian immigrant. “My sister said it sounded like a Maz Jobrani joke,” she said. When she was hired as a full-time NASA employee in January 2020, Seyedmadani was told that she was the first Iranian immigrant born post-revolution to become a civil servant with the agency.

Kimia Seyedmadani (center) receives the NASA Silver Achievement Medal from Michelle Frieling, director of the Human and Health Performance Directorate, during a ceremony in December 2023. She is joined by her sister, Dr. Katayoun Madani, Global Surgery Policy and Advocacy Baker Institute Fellow and clinical instructor of global surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

Some aspects of Seyedmadani’s onboarding were different from other NASA employees. She recalls completing her internship trainings through NASA Protective Services and meeting with intelligence officers during times of heightened international tensions but says her peers and colleagues never treated her differently. “I’ve never had a bad experience at NASA,” she said. “I’ve had bad experiences outside of NASA. I had been called a terrorist, and as I was looking for jobs in aerospace, I did get asked to renounce my nationality. I said no, because I can’t say that I don’t have Iranian heritage and I don’t have friends in Iran.”

Since joining the Johnson team, Seyedmadani has worked to design, develop, and certify research payload kits and medical capabilities for Artemis vehicles, and to support ROI’s hardware and software development for HRP.  This work involves testing devices, coming up with certification and review processes, and ensuring that products meet established regulations and standards. “If a friend asks me what I do, I say I’m Wreck-It Ralph, I break things all the time,” she joked.

Kimia Seyedmadani, left, with colleague and mentor Keith Tucker, chief engineer for the Human Research Program’s Research Operation and Integration Group.

She also collaborates with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to verify that any changes NASA makes to an already-approved medical device, and its expedited flight certification processes, satisfy existing standards and tests perform by the device’s original manufacturer. She frequently interacts with the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health to identify opportunities to streamline certification processes without sacrificing device safety or quality. “I am learning a lot,” she says. “Before coming to NASA, I developed more than 50 medical devices for the medical device and diagnostic industry, but now I know that it doesn’t work exactly the same way in space. I see how necessity drives innovation.”

The value Johnson places on hiring employees who are naturally curious, open to learning, want to contribute to a team, and bring different knowledge or perspectives to the table is one of the center’s strengths, Seyedmadani said. Encouraging curiosity and learning is critical to both advancing human spaceflight and fostering diversity. “Tolerance is absolutely important to an inclusive environment, and knowing that no question is stupid, as long as you are giving 100%,” she said. She sees an opportunity for more social events and outreach that can help bridge the large age gaps that exist within some teams.

Seyedmadani said the connections she has made at Johnson and the support of her ROI hardware team and Human Systems Engineering and Integration Division management were key to her receiving a NASA Silver Achievement Medal in recognition for her work in HRP and the impact she has made on spaceflight hardware development processes.

“I have a wonderful team that makes me very comfortable, and it is privilege to be around them,” she said. “When questions come up, I can easily ask them, and they will be very open to answer them. That has made my NASA experience and working at JSC very fun for me.”  

Categories: NASA

NASA, JAXA XRISM Spots Iron Fingerprints in Nearby Active Galaxy

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 9:27am

3 min read

NASA, JAXA XRISM Spots Iron Fingerprints in Nearby Active Galaxy

After starting science operations in February, Japan-led XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) studied the monster black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 4151.

“XRISM’s Resolve instrument captured a detailed spectrum of the area around the black hole,” said Brian Williams, NASA’s project scientist for the mission at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The peaks and dips are like chemical fingerprints that can tell us what elements are present and reveal clues about the fate of matter as it nears the black hole.”

The Resolve instrument aboard XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) captured data from the center of galaxy NGC 4151, where a supermassive black hole is slowly consuming material from the surrounding accretion disk. The resulting spectrum reveals the presence of iron in the peak around 6.5 keV and the dips around 7 keV, light thousands of times more energetic that what our eyes can see. Background: An image of NGC 4151 constructed from a combination of X-ray, optical, and radio light. Spectrum: JAXA/NASA/XRISM Resolve. Background: X-rays, NASA/CXC/CfA/J.Wang et al.; optical, Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma/Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope; radio, NSF/NRAO/VLA

XRISM (pronounced “crism”) is led by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in collaboration with NASA, along with contributions from ESA (European Space Agency). It launched Sept. 6, 2023. NASA and JAXA developed Resolve, the mission’s microcalorimeter spectrometer.

NGC 4151 is a spiral galaxy around 43 million light-years away in the northern constellation Canes Venatici. The supermassive black hole at its center holds more than 20 million times the Sun’s mass.

The galaxy is also active, which means its center is unusually bright and variable. Gas and dust swirling toward the black hole form an accretion disk around it and heat up through gravitational and frictional forces, creating the variability. Some of the matter on the brink of the black hole forms twin jets of particles that blast out from each side of the disk at nearly the speed of light. A puffy donut-shaped cloud of material called a torus surrounds the accretion disk.

In fact, NGC 4151 is one of the closest-known active galaxies. Other missions, including NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, have studied it to learn more about the interaction between black holes and their surroundings, which can tell scientists how supermassive black holes in galactic centers grow over cosmic time.

This artist’s concept shows the possible locations of iron revealed in XRISM’s X-ray spectrum of NGC 4151. Scientists think X-ray-emitting iron is in the hot accretion disk, close to the black hole. The X-ray-absorbing iron may be further away, in a cooler cloud of material called a torus. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

The galaxy is uncommonly bright in X-rays, which made it an ideal early target for XRISM.

Resolve’s spectrum of NGC 4151 reveals a sharp peak at energies just under 6.5 keV (kiloelectron volts) — an emission line of iron. Astronomers think that much of the power of active galaxies comes from X-rays originating in hot, flaring regions close to the black hole. X-rays bouncing off cooler gas in the disk causes iron there to fluoresce, producing a specific X-ray peak. This allows astronomers to paint a better picture of both the disk and erupting regions much closer to the black hole.

The spectrum also shows several dips around 7 keV. Iron located in the torus caused these dips as well, although through absorption of X-rays, rather than emission, because the material there is much cooler than in the disk. All this radiation is some 2,500 times more energetic than the light we can see with our eyes.

Iron is just one element XRISM can detect. The telescope can also spot sulfur, calcium, argon, and others, depending on the source. Each tells astrophysicists something different about the cosmic phenomena scattered across the X-ray sky.

XRISM is a collaborative mission between JAXA and NASA, with participation by ESA. NASA’s contribution includes science participation from CSA (Canadian Space Agency).


Download high-resolution images on NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

By Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Media Contact:
Claire Andreoli
301-286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Facebook logo @NASAUniverse

@NASAUniverse

Instagram logo @NASAUniverse

Share

Details

Last Updated

May 08, 2024

Related Terms
Categories: NASA

1942: Engine Roars to Life in First Test at Future NASA Glenn

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 8:45am

3 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) Dr. George W. Lewis, the NACA’s Director of Aeronautical Research, and John F. Victory, NACA Secretary, at the controls to initiate the Engine Propeller Research Building test on May 8, 1942. Others gathered include Airport Manager John Berry, former City Manager William Hopkins, NACA Assistant Secretary Ed Chamberlain, Langley Engineer-in-Charge Henry Reid, NACA engineer Ernest Whitney, Executive Engineer Carlton Kemper, Construction Manager Raymond Sharp, as well as Clifford Gildersleeve, Walter Beam, and other representatives of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.Credit: NASA

In a crowded control room on May 8, 1942, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) leaders George Lewis and John Victory pushed a button and spun a crank that activated a massive piston engine in the adjacent test cell of the Engine Propeller Research Building (EPRB). This commenced the first test conducted at the NACA’s Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (today, NASA’s Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland.

The Engine Propeller Research Building, or Prop House as it was commonly called, originally contained two test stands to study full-scale piston engines. Additional test cells were soon added. The facility was built in a wooded area on the northern edge of the NACA’s Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory campus to muffle the engine noise. After many delays, the first check-out run took place the evening of April 30, 1942. Credit: NASA

The event was a key milestone for the United States during the otherwise troublesome period that followed the Pearl Harbor attack. Japan’s rapid seizure of large swaths of the Pacific and its capture of 15,000 U.S. troops increased pressure on the NACA to complete its new laboratory. The military needed the new laboratory, whose construction was behind schedule, to improve engine cooling, turbo-supercharging, and fuels for its aircraft, including the revolutionary new Boeing B–29 Superfortress. Besides the EPRB, the hangar was the only other building completed in the 15 months since ground was first broken at the Cleveland site.

Guests coming from Washington, D.C., to witness the first test arrived at the hangar shortly after 9 a.m. that day. They were soon joined by local officials and invited members of the press. Just before 10 a.m., they piled into cars and were driven through the mud to the EPRB, where engineer Arnold Biermann and head mechanic Melvin Harrison had a Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine ready to run. Local politicians and other NACA officials looked on as Lewis and Victory initiated the test, an evaluation of lubricating fuels. Once activated, the engine roared, and banks of instrumentation began capturing the test data for the research engineers.   

A view of construction at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (now, NASA’s Glenn Research Center) in 1942. The Steam Plant is to the left. The photograph was likely taken from the Administration Building, which was also under construction.Credit: NASA

Afterward, construction manager Raymond Sharp gave the group a tour of other construction sites at the lab. They then departed to the Union Club downtown for a luncheon, where Victory noted, “We are losing this war at present, and the steel we need for this laboratory is also needed for destroyers in the Atlantic and boats in the Pacific. If the powers that be decide that the steel is more valuable elsewhere in the war effort, we may never finish it.”

Just days later, however, Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces, recommended that completion of the laboratory should be prioritized. Congress allocated additional funding, the military provided the necessary supplies, and contractors were pressured to meet their deadlines.

These measures spurred significant progress at the new laboratory. Over the following year, additional facilities were completed, and large groups of employees transferred to Cleveland from Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (today, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia). The effort paid off and, in the end, the NACA met its original deadlines. A formal dedication of the new laboratory took place on May 20, 1943.

Keep Exploring:

More About NASA’s Glenn Research Center

More NASA Glenn History

NASA Glenn’s Arrival in Cleveland

Bringing the Future Within Reach—Celebrating 75 Years of the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center

Explore More 2 min read Tech Today: NASA’s Ion Thruster Knowhow Keeps Satellites Flying Article 2 days ago 3 min read NASA Uses Small Engine to Enhance Sustainable Jet Research Article 1 week ago 2 min read Washington State High Schooler Wins 2024 NASA Student Art Contest Article 2 weeks ago
Categories: NASA

M100: A Grand Design Spiral Galaxy

APOD - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 12:00am

Majestic on a truly cosmic scale, M100 is appropriately known as a


Categories: Astronomy, NASA

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

APOD - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 12:00am


Categories: Astronomy, NASA

International SWOT Mission Can Improve Flood Prediction 

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 6:47pm
6 Min Read International SWOT Mission Can Improve Flood Prediction 

Flooding on the Souris River inundated this community in North Dakota in 2011. The U.S.-French SWOT satellite is giving scientists and water managers a new tool to look at floods in 3D, information that can improve predictions of where and how often flooding will occur.

A partnership between NASA and the French space agency, the satellite is poised to help improve forecasts of where and when flooding will occur in Earth’s rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Rivers, lakes, and reservoirs are like our planet’s arteries, carrying life-sustaining water in interconnected networks. When Earth’s water cycle runs too fast, flooding can result, threatening lives and property. That risk is increasing as climate change alters precipitation patterns and more people are living in flood-prone areas worldwide.

Scientists and water managers use many types of data to predict flooding. This year they have a new tool at their disposal: freshwater data from the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. The observatory, a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency, CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales), is measuring the height of nearly all water surfaces on Earth. SWOT was designed to measure every major river wider than about 300 feet (100 meters), and preliminary results suggest it may be able to observe much smaller rivers.

Flooding from monsoon rains covers a wide region of northeast Bangladesh in this Oct. 8, 2023, image showing data from SWOT. The U.S.-French satellite is the first to provide timely, precise water surface elevation information over entire regions at high resolution, enabling improved flooding forecasts.

Stream gauges can accurately measure water levels in rivers, but only at individual locations, often spaced far apart. Many rivers have no stream gauges at all, particularly in countries without resources to maintain and monitor them. Gauges can also be disabled by floods and are unreliable when water overtops the riverbank and flows into areas they cannot measure.

SWOT provides a more comprehensive, 3D look at floods, measuring their height, width, and slope. Scientists can use this data to better track how floodwaters pulse across a landscape, improving predictions of where flooding will occur and how often.

SWOT river slope data — like that depicted here for California’s Sacramento River — can improve predictions of how fast water flows through rivers and off landscapes. To calculate slope, scientists subtract the lower water elevation (right) from the higher one (left) and divide by segment length. Building a Better Flood Model

One effort to incorporate SWOT data into flood models is led by J. Toby Minear of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado. Minear is investigating how to incorporate SWOT data into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Water Model, which predicts the potential for flooding and its timing along U.S. rivers. SWOT freshwater data will fill in spatial gaps between gauges and help scientists like Minear determine the water levels (heights) at which flooding occurs at specific locations along rivers.

UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student Marissa Hughes levels a tripod to install a GPS unit to precisely measure the water surface elevation of a segment of New Zealand’s Waimakariri River. The measurements were used to calibrate and validate data from the U.S.-French SWOT satellite

He expects SWOT to improve National Water Model data in multiple ways. For example, it will provide more accurate estimates of river slopes and how they change with streamflow. Generally speaking, the steeper a river’s slope, the faster its water flows. Hydrologic modelers use slope data to predict the speed water moves through a river and off a landscape.

SWOT will also help scientists and water managers quantify how much water lakes and reservoirs can store. While there are about 90,000 relatively large U.S. reservoirs, only a few thousand of them have water-level data that’s incorporated into the National Water Model. This limits scientists’ ability to know how reservoir levels relate to surrounding land elevations and potential flooding. SWOT is measuring tens of thousands of U.S. reservoirs, along with nearly all natural U.S. lakes larger than about two football fields combined.

Some countries, including the U.S., have made significant investments in river gauging networks and detailed local flood models. But in Africa, South Asia, parts of South America, and the Arctic, there’s little data for lakes and rivers. In such places, flood risk assessments often rely on rough estimates. Part of SWOT’s potential is that it will allow hydrologists to fill these gaps, providing information on where water is stored on landscapes and how much is flowing through rivers.

Tamlin Pavelsky, NASA’s SWOT freshwater science lead and a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says SWOT can help address the growing threat of flooding from extreme storms fueled by climate change. “Think about Houston and Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” he said. “It’s very unlikely we would have seen 60 inches of rain from one storm without climate change. Societies will need to update engineering design standards and floodplain maps as intense precipitation events become more common.”

Pavelsky says these changes in Earth’s water cycle are altering society’s assumptions about floods and what a floodplain is. “Hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be at increased risk of flooding in the future as rainfall events become increasingly intense and population growth occurs in flood-prone areas,” he added.

SWOT flood data will have other practical applications. For example, insurers can use models informed by SWOT data to improve flood hazard maps to better estimate an area’s potential damage and loss risks. A major reinsurance company, FM Global, is among SWOT’s 40 current early adopters — a global community of organizations working to incorporate SWOT data into their decision-making activities.

“Companies like FM Global and government agencies like the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency can fine tune their flood models by comparing them to SWOT data,” Pavelsky said. “Those better models will give us a more accurate picture of where and how often floods are likely to happen.”

More About the Mission

Launched on Dec. 16, 2022, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California, SWOT is now in its operations phase, collecting data that will be used for research and other purposes.

SWOT was jointly developed by NASA and CNES, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the project’s U.S. component. For the flight system payload, NASA provided the KaRIn instrument, a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instrument operations. CNES provided the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, dual frequency Poseidon altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (together with Thales Alenia Space and with support from the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform, and ground operations. CSA provided the KaRIn high-power transmitter assembly. NASA provided the launch vehicle and the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, and managed the associated launch services.

For more on SWOT, visit:

https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/

News Media Contact

Jane J. Lee / Andrew Wang

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

818-354-0307 / 626-379-6874

jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.wang@jpl.nasa.gov

Written by Alan Buis

2024-060

Categories: NASA

20 Years Ago: NASA Selects its 19th Group of Astronauts

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 5:34pm

On May 6, 2004, NASA announced the selection of its 19th group of astronauts. The group comprised 11 candidates – two pilots, six mission specialists, and three educator mission specialists – and included two women, two Hispanic Americans, and one African American. Three astronauts from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) joined the 11 NASA astronauts for the 20-month training program to qualify as mission specialists, following which they became eligible for flight assignments. They comprised the last group of astronauts selected to fly on the space shuttle. All members of the group completed at least one spaceflight, with five making a single trip into space, four making two trips, and five going three times. Several remain on active status and available for future flight assignments.


The Group 19 NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut candidates pose for a group photo – front row, Robert L. Satcher, left, Dorothy “Dottie” M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, Christopher J. Cassidy, Richard R. Arnold, Randolph J. Bresnik, and Thomas H. Marshburn; back row, Akihiko “Aki” Hoshide, left, Shannon Walker, Joseph M. Acaba, James P. Dutton, R. Shane Kimbrough, Satoshi Furukawa, José M. Hernández, and Naoko Yamazaki.

In a ceremony held at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, NASA Administrator Sean C. O’Keefe and Chief of the Astronaut Office Kent V. Rominger introduced the 11 new astronaut candidates, the first selected since the Columbia accident. John H. Glenn, representing the original Mercury 7 astronauts selected in 1959, also attended the ceremony. The newest class of astronaut candidates included Randolph J. Bresnik and James P. Dutton as the two pilot candidates; Christopher J. Cassidy, José M. Hernández, R. Shane Kimbrough, Thomas H. Marshburn, Robert “Bobby” L. Satcher, and Shannon Walker as the mission specialists; and Joseph M. Acaba, Richard R. Arnold, and Dorothy “Dottie” M. Metcalf-Lindenburger as the educator astronauts. Under a joint agreement between the two agencies, JAXA astronauts Satoshi Furukawa, Akihiko “Aki” Hoshide, and Naoko Yamazaki, selected in 1999, joined the 11 NASA astronauts for the 20-month certification program.


Group 19 astronaut candidates during survival training at Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine.

The 11 NASA and three JAXA astronaut candidates began their 18-month training and certification period in June 2004. The training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training. They also received orientation tours at all NASA centers. They completed the astronaut candidate training in February 2006 and qualified for various technical assignments within the astronaut office and for future flight assignments.


Group 19 patch, left, and NASA astronauts Joseph M. Acaba and Richard R. Arnold.

Per tradition, the previous astronaut class provided the nickname for Group 19: The Peacocks. The Group 19 astronauts designed their patch, that included elements such as the American and Japanese flags, a stylized astronaut pin, fourteen stars representing the astronauts, a book – representing knowledge and learning – with a Roman numeral XIX on it, and the Earth, Moon, and Mars, representing current and future exploration. The border of the patch contained the Latin words Explorandi Concitandi Docendi Gratia, meaning “for the sake of exploring, inspiring, and teaching.”

Acaba, one of the three educator astronauts, hails from California. He received his first spaceflight assignment as a mission specialist on STS-119, the 2009 mission that brought the final truss segment to the space station. He conducted two spacewalks, one of them with fellow Peacock Arnold. Acaba then traveled to the station for his second mission, this time on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, to serve as a flight engineer during Expedition 31 and 32 in 2012, during which the crew welcomed the first commercial cargo vehicle, a SpaceX Dragon. He completed his third mission as a flight engineer during Expedition 53 and 54 in 2012 to 2013, performing a single spacewalk. Acaba spent a total of 306 days in space and 19 hours and 46 minutes outside during three spacewalks. He has served as the Chief of the Astronaut Office since 2023.

The second of the three educator astronauts, Arnold, a resident of Maryland, flew with Acaba on STS-119 in 2009. He conducted two spacewalks, one of them with fellow Peacock Acaba. His second flight took place nine years later when he served as a flight engineer during Expedition 55 and 56 and performed three more spacewalks. He has logged 209 days in space and accumulated 32 hours and 4 minutes of spacewalk time during five excursions.


Group 19 NASA astronauts Randolph J. Bresnik, left, Christopher J. Cassidy, and James P. Dutton.

Bresnik, a U.S. Marine test pilot from California, received his first spaceflight assignment as a mission specialist on STS-129, a utilization and logistics flight that brought two External Logistics Carriers to the space station. He conducted two spacewalks during the 11-day flight, including one with fellow Peacock Satcher. During his second spaceflight in 2017, Bresnik flew to the station on a Soyuz, spending 139 days in space, first as a flight engineer during Expedition 52 and then as commander of Expedition 53, and conducted three more spacewalks. He logged a total of 149 days in space, and 32 hours outside during five spacewalks. Since 2018, Bresnik has served as assistant to the chief of the astronaut office for exploration.

A native of Maine and a U.S. Navy SEAL, Cassidy completed three spaceflights during his NASA career. On his first flight in 2009, he flew as a mission specialist on STS-127, the flight that delivered the Japanese Kibo Exposed Facility to the station. He performed three spacewalks during the 16-day mission, two of them with fellow Peacock Marshburn. He returned to the space station in 2013 via a Soyuz and served as a flight engineer during Expeditions 35 and 36, spending 166 days in space and conducting three spacewalks including one terminated early when fellow spacewalker Luca Parmitano’s helmet began filling with water. On his third mission in 2020, Cassidy served as flight engineer during Expedition 62 and commanded Expedition 63. He conducted four more spacewalks. He spent a total of 378 days in space and 54 hours 51 minutes outside on nine spacewalks.

A native of Oregon and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Dutton flew as pilot on STS-131, a resupply mission to the space station in 2010. Fellow Peacocks Metcalf-Lindenburger and Yamazaki accompanied Dutton on the flight. The Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) brought 27,000 pounds of supplies to the station, and returned 6,000 pounds of science, hardware, and trash back to the ground. Dutton logged 15 days in space.


Group 19 NASA astronauts José M. Hernández, left, R. Shane Kimbrough, and Thomas H. Marshburn.

California native Hernández joined the Materials and Processes Branch at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston prior to his selection as an astronaut. He made his one spaceflight on STS-128 in 2009, an expedition crew member rotation flight that also delivered 18,000 pounds of supplies, cargo, and science to the space station inside an MPLM. He logged 14 days in space. The 2023 motion picture “A Million Miles Away” chronicled Hernández’s journey to become an astronaut.

Texas native and U.S. Army aviator Kimbrough joined JSC in 2000 at Ellington Field’s Aircraft Operations Division before joining the astronaut corps. The first NASA astronaut from Group 19 to get a flight assignment, Kimbrough flew as a mission specialist on STS-126 in 2008. During the 16-day mission, the astronauts carried out an expedition crew member rotation and resupplied the station with 14,000 pounds of supplies including facilities to enable six-person occupancy of the station. Kimbrough completed two spacewalks during STS-126. For his second spaceflight, Kimbrough launched on a Soyuz and flew as a flight engineer on Expedition 49, becoming commander of Expedition 50 a week later. During the 173-day mission in 2016-2017, he conducted four spacewalks. For his third flight, Kimbrough served as the commander of Crew-2 and as flight engineer during Expedition 65/66 in 2021, flying with fellow Peacock Hoshide. During the 199-day mission he conducted three more spacewalks, bringing his total to nine and more than 59 hours outside the station. During his three spaceflights, he accumulated 388 days in space.

A native of North Carolina, Marshburn served as a flight surgeon at JSC before his selection as an astronaut, supporting Shuttle/Mir, space shuttle, and space station crews. On his first spaceflight, the 16-day STS-127 in 2009, he served as a mission specialist to help deliver the Japanese Kibo Exposed Facility and performed three spacewalks, two of them with fellow Peacock Cassidy. On his second spaceflight, Marshburn launched on a Soyuz and served as flight engineer on Expedition 34/35 in 2012 and 2013. During the 145-day mission, he completed one spacewalk. On his third mission, he served as Crew-3 pilot and flight engineer on the 176-day Expedition 66/67, completing one more spacewalk to bring his total to five, spending 31 hours outside the station. On his three flights, Marshburn spent 377 days in space.


Group 19 NASA astronauts Dorothy “Dottie” M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, left, Robert L. Satcher, and Shannon Walker.

The third educator astronaut, Denver native Metcalf-Lindenburger made her one spaceflight as a mission specialist on STS-131, flying with fellow Peacocks Dutton and Yamazaki. During the 15-day mission in 2010, the astronauts resupplied the station, including bringing 27,000 pounds of supplies in the MPLM and returning 6,000 pounds of hardware and science back to Earth.

A native of Virginia, Satcher worked as an orthopedic surgeon before his selection as an astronaut. He made his one spaceflight as a mission specialist on STS-129, an 11-day flight in 2009. During the utilization and logistics flight that brought two External Logistics Carriers to the station, Satcher performed two spacewalks, including one with fellow Peacock Bresnik, totaling 12 hours 19 minutes.

Walker holds the honor as the first native Houstonian selected as an astronaut. She worked for many years in flight operations at JSC prior to her selection. On her first spaceflight in 2010, Walker launched on a Soyuz and served as a flight engineer on the 163-day Expedition 24/25. For her second flight, she served as a mission specialist on Crew-1, the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, and as a flight engineer during Expedition 64 and commander of Expedition 65 in 2020 and 2021. Including that 167-day flight, Walker has logged 330 days in space. She currently serves as the deputy chief of the astronaut office.


Astronauts Satoshi Furukawa, left, Akihiko “Aki” Hoshide, and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who joined NASA’s Group 19 for training.

Born in Yokohama, Furukawa earned a medical degree and worked as a researcher in gastrointestinal surgery before JAXA selected him as an astronaut in 1999. He joined Group 19 in June 2004 to certify as a mission specialist. For his first spaceflight, Furukawa launched on a Soyuz and served as a flight engineer during Expedition 28/29, a 167-day mission in 2011. In 2023-24, he flew as a mission specialist on Crew 7 and as a flight engineer on Expedition 69/70, spending 199 days in space. Furukawa has accumulated 366 days in orbit and remains on active status.

Hoshide, born in Tokyo, joined JAXA in 1992 and seven years later the agency selected him as an astronaut. After finishing his mission specialist certification in 2006, JAXA chose him to fly on STS-124, the flight that delivered the Kibo pressurized module to the space station in 2008. Four years later, Hoshide traveled to the space station a second time to serve as a flight engineer during Expedition 32/33. He performed three spacewalks totaling 28 hours and 17 minutes. In 2021, he returned to the station as a member of Crew-2, flying with fellow Peacock Kimbrough. He served as a flight engineer during Expedition 65 and commander of Expedition 66, spending an additional 198 days in space. Hoshide accumulated 340 days in orbit and remains on active status.

An engineer born in Chiba, Yamazaki joined JAXA in 1996, three years before the agency selected her as an astronaut. She completed her mission specialist certification in 2006 and in 2010, made her one spaceflight on STS 131, flying with fellow Peacocks Dutton and Metcalf-Lindenburger. During the 15-day mission, the astronauts transferred 27,000 pounds of supplies to the station from the MPLM and returned 6,000 pounds back to Earth. Yamazaki operated both the shuttle and station remote manipulator systems during the flight. The STS-131 mission took place while fellow JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi served as an Expedition 23 flight engineer, marking the first time two Japanese astronauts flew in space at the same time.


Summary of spaceflights by Group 19 astronauts.

The Group 19 NASA and JAXA astronauts have made and continue to make significant contributions to the space station – assembly, research, maintenance, logistics, management – traveling to space and back using three different spacecraft – space shuttle, Soyuz, and Crew Dragon. Kimbrough, Marshburn, and Hoshide flew all three during their careers. As a group, they completed 28 flights spending 2,913 days, or nearly eight years, in space. They comprised the last group selected to fly on the space shuttle before its retirement in 2011. Eight of the 14 performed 43 spacewalks spending 275 hours and 46 minutes, or more than 11 days, outside the spacecraft. With several of the astronauts still on active duty, the story of Group 19 remains unfinished.

Explore More 14 min read 35 Years Ago: STS-30 Launches Magellan to Venus Article 6 days ago 18 min read Asian-American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Article 7 days ago 5 min read NASA and Art Article 1 week ago
Categories: NASA

NASA’s TESS Returns to Science Operations

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 4:51pm

4 min read

NASA’s TESS Returns to Science Operations

NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) returned to science operations May 3 and is once again making observations. The satellite went into safe mode April 23 following a separate period of down time earlier that month.

The operations team determined this latest safe mode was triggered by a failure to properly unload momentum from the spacecraft’s reaction wheels, a routine activity needed to keep the satellite properly oriented when making observations. The propulsion system, which enables this momentum transfer, had not been successfully repressurized following a prior safe mode event April 8. The team has corrected this, allowing the mission to return to normal science operations. The cause of the April 8 safe mode event remains under investigation. 

The TESS mission is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Launched in 2018, TESS has been scanning almost the entire sky looking for planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets. The TESS mission has also uncovered other cosmic phenomena, including star-shredding black holes and stellar oscillations. Read more about TESS discoveries at nasa.gov/tess.

Media contact:
Claire Andreoli
301-286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

April 24 NASA’s Planet-Hunting Satellite Temporarily on Pause

During a routine activity April 23, NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) entered safe mode, temporarily suspending science operations. The satellite scans the sky searching for planets beyond our solar system.

The team is working to restore the satellite to science operations while investigating the underlying cause. NASA also continues investigating the cause of a separate safe mode event that took place earlier this month, including whether the two events are connected. The spacecraft itself remains stable.

The TESS mission is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Launched in 2018, TESS recently celebrated its sixth anniversary in orbit. Visit nasa.gov/tess for updates.

Media contact:
Claire Andreoli
301-286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

April 17, 2024 NASA’s TESS Returns to Science Operations

NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has returned to work after science observations were suspended on April 8, when the spacecraft entered into safe mode. All instruments are powered on and, following the successful download of previously collected science data stored in the mission’s recorder, are now making new science observations.

Analysis of what triggered the satellite to enter safe mode is ongoing.

The TESS mission is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Launched in 2018, TESS has been scanning almost the entire sky looking for planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets. The TESS mission has also uncovered other cosmic phenomena, including star-shredding black holes and stellar oscillations. Read more about TESS discoveries at nasa.gov/tess.

Media contact:
Claire Andreoli
301-286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

April 11, 2024 NASA’s TESS Temporarily Pauses Science Observations

NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) entered into safe mode April 8, temporarily interrupting science observations. The team is investigating the root cause of the safe mode, which occurred during scheduled engineering activities. The satellite itself remains in good health.

The team will continue investigating the issue and is in the process of returning TESS to science observations in the coming days.

The TESS mission is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Launched in 2018, TESS has been scanning almost the entire sky looking for planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets. The TESS mission has also uncovered other cosmic phenomena, including star-shredding black holes and stellar oscillations. Read more about TESS discoveries at nasa.gov/tess.

Media Contact:
Claire Andreoli
(301) 286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Share

Details

Last Updated

May 07, 2024

Related Terms
Categories: NASA

NASA Challenge Gives Artemis Generation Coders a Chance to Shine

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 4:16pm

3 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)

NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement selected seven student teams to participate in a culminating event for the 2024 App Development Challenge (ADC), one of the agency’s Artemis Student Challenges, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston from April 15-18, 2024.

The 2024 App Development Challenge top teams in front of the Orion Capsule in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The coding challenge, celebrating its fifth year and a part of NASA’s Next Generation STEM project, invites middle and high school student teams to create an application visualizing the Moon’s South Pole region and display essential information for navigating the lunar surface. Additionally, students learn about the complexities of communicating from the lunar surface with Earth-based assets from NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) team.

Five of the top ADC teams traveled to Johnson and shared their applications with the public at Space Center Houston, and with the NASA workforce including Deputy Associate Administrator for SCaN Kevin Coggins, flight director Chloe Mehring and NASA astronaut Andre Douglas. Additionally, the teams toured Johnson’s unique facilities including Johnson’s simulation lab, robotics lab, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, and Mission Control.

NASA Astronaut Andre Douglas reviews DV Explorers’, a 2024 App Development Challenge top team from Baton Rouge Magnet School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, application for traversing the lunar surface.

Two ADC teams that received honorable mentions were invited to attend virtually where they presented their applications to the NASA workforce including Chief Architect for SCaN and ADC Technical Advisor Jim Schier, and to the five top teams.

“The NASA ADC project helped us learn a lot about Unreal Engine 5, Unity, and Blender,” said Team Big Bang from Falcon Cove Middle School in Weston, Florida. “Not to mention, this project also provided us with life lessons such as communication and time management skills…our team will come out of this project as winners because of everything we learned.”

2024 was the inaugural year for the Artemis Student Challenge awards. Michelle Freeman, the lead teacher for Team Big Bang, was awarded the Artemis Educator Award for the ADC. She was nominated by her student team for inspiring and motivating them to work hard and achieve more than the team thought possible.

Additionally, Team FrostByte from North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, earned the Pay It Forward award. The team conducting impactful education engagement events in their community. There efforts inspired the community to support their efforts and to ensure future ADC teams would have support.

“We’ve said that they are walking an unlit path because no one at our school or in our district has lit it before them. Now, they’re the ones lighting the way,” stated Jessie Nunes, lead teacher of Team FrostByte.

Student team members of FrostByte, a 2024 App Development Challenge top team from North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, explain their computer application for exploring the lunar surface to members of the public at Space Center Houston.

The following five schools were selected as top teams:

  • Baton Rouge Magnet High School: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Dougherty Valley High School: San Ramon, California
  • North High School: Des Moines, Iowa
  • Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies: Reseda, California
  • Trinity Christian School: Morgantown, West Virginia

The following schools were selected as honorable mentions:

  • Eddison Academy Magnet School: Edison, New Jersey
  • Falcon Cove Middle School: Weston, Florida
Previous Years

2024: NASA Challenge Invites Artemis Generation Coders to Johnson Space Center – NASA

2023: Artemis Generation Coders Earn Invite to Johnson Space Center

2021: NASA App Development Challenge Selects Artemis Generation Coders for Virtual Culminating Event – NASA

Explore More 3 min read White Sands Propulsion Team Tests 3D-Printed Orion Engine Component Article 12 hours ago 5 min read How NASA’s Roman Mission Will Hunt for Primordial Black Holes Article 14 hours ago 4 min read A Different Perspective – Remembering James Dean, Founder of the NASA Art Program Article 1 day ago
Categories: NASA

New Proposals to Help NASA Advance Knowledge of Our Changing Climate

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 4:14pm
On May 7, 2024, NASA announced the selection of four proposals for concept studies of missions to benefit humanity through the study of Earth science. Most of what we know about Earth has been gathered through NASA’s 60 years of observations from space, such as this image of our home planet as shown as a mosaic of data from MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer). Credits: NASA

NASA has selected four proposals for concept studies of missions to help us better understand Earth science key focus areas for the benefit of all including greenhouse gases, the ozone layer, ocean surface currents, and changes in ice and glaciers around the world.

These four investigations are part of the agency’s new Earth System Explorers Program – which conducts principal investigator-led space science missions as recommended by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017 Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. The program is designed to enable high-quality Earth system science investigations to focus on previously identified key targets. For this set of missions, NASA is prioritizing greenhouse gases as one of its target observables.

“The proposals represent another example of NASA’s holistic approach to studying our home planet,” said Nicky Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “As we continue to confront our changing climate, and its impacts on humans and our environment, the need for data and scientific research could not be greater. These proposals will help us better prepare for the challenges we face today, and tomorrow.”

As the first step of a two-step selection process, each of these proposals will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year mission concept study. After the study period, NASA will choose two proposals to go forward to launch with readiness dates expected in 2030 and 2032. The total mission cost cap is $310 million for each chosen investigation, excluding the rocket and access to space, which will be provided by NASA. 

Most of what we know about our changing planet is rooted in more than 60 years of NASA’s Earth observations. NASA currently has more than two dozen Earth-observing satellites and instruments in orbit. The missions ultimately selected from this set of proposals will make their own unique contributions to this great Earth observatory – which works together to provide layers of complementary information on Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere.

The four proposals selected for concept studies are: 

  • The Stratosphere Troposphere Response using Infrared Vertically-Resolved Light Explorer (STRIVE)
    This mission would provide daily, near-global, high-resolution measurements of temperature, a variety of atmospheric elements, and aerosol properties from the upper troposphere to the mesosphere – at a much higher spatial density than any previous mission. It would also measure vertical profiles of ozone and trace gasses needed to monitor and understand the recovery of the ozone layer – another identified NASA Earth sciences target. The proposal is led by Lyatt Jaegle at the University of Washington in Seattle.
  • The Ocean Dynamics and Surface Exchange with the Atmosphere (ODYSEA)
    This satellite would simultaneously measure ocean surface currents and winds to improve our understanding of air-sea interactions and surface current processes that impact weather, climate, marine ecosystems, and human wellbeing. It aims to provide updated ocean wind data in less than three hours and ocean current data in less than six hours. The proposal is led by Sarah Gille at the University of California in San Diego.
  • Earth Dynamics Geodetic Explorer (EDGE)
    This mission would observe the three-dimensional structure of terrestrial ecosystems and the surface topography of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice as they are changing in response to climate and human activity. The mission would provide a continuation of such measurements that are currently measured from space by ICESat-2 and GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation). The proposal is led by Helen Amanda Fricker at the University of California in San Diego.
  • The Carbon Investigation (Carbon-I)
    This investigation would enable simultaneous, multi-species measurements of critical greenhouse gases and potential quantification of ethane – which could help study processes that drive natural and anthropogenic emissions. The mission would provide unprecedented spatial resolution and global coverage that would help us better understand the carbon cycle and the global methane budget. The proposal is led by Christian Frankenberg at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about the Earth System Explorers Program, visit:

https://explorers.larc.nasa.gov/2023ESE/

-end-

Liz Vlock
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600
elizabeth.a.vlock@nasa.gov

Share Details Last Updated May 07, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
Categories: NASA

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

NASA Image of the Day - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 2:15pm
This image of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot and surrounding turbulent zones was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The color-enhanced image is a combination of three separate images taken on April 1, 2018, as Juno performed its 12th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was 15,379 miles (24,749 kilometers) to 30,633 miles (49,299 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 2:07pm
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

This April 1, 2018, enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The image is a combination of three separate images taken as Juno performed its 12th close flyby of the planet.

The Great Red Spot, a swirling oval of clouds twice as wide as Earth, has been observed on the giant planet for more than 300 years. In 2021, findings from Juno showed that Jupiter’s storms are far taller than expected, with some extending 60 miles (100 kilometers) below the cloud tops and others, including the Great Red Spot, extending over 200 miles (350 kilometers).

Juno is a solar-powered spacecraft that spans the width of a basketball court and makes long, looping orbits around Jupiter. It seeks answers to questions about the origin and evolution of Jupiter, our solar system, and giant planets across the cosmos.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Categories: NASA

International SWOT Mission Can Improve Flood Prediction

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 1:05pm

6 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) Flooding on the Souris River inundated this community in North Dakota in 2011. The U.S.-French SWOT satellite is giving scientists and water managers a new tool to look at floods in 3D, information that can improve predictions of where and how often flooding will occur.Credit: North Dakota State Water Commission

A partnership between NASA and the French space agency, the satellite is poised to help improve forecasts of where and when flooding will occur in Earth’s rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Rivers, lakes, and reservoirs are like our planet’s arteries, carrying life-sustaining water in interconnected networks. When Earth’s water cycle runs too fast, flooding can result, threatening lives and property. That risk is increasing as climate change alters precipitation patterns and more people are living in flood-prone areas worldwide.

Scientists and water managers use many types of data to predict flooding. This year they have a new tool at their disposal: freshwater data from the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. The observatory, a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency, CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales), is measuring the height of nearly all water surfaces on Earth. SWOT was designed to measure every major river wider than about 300 feet (100 meters), and preliminary results suggest it may be able to observe much smaller rivers.

Flooding from monsoon rains covers a wide region of northeast Bangladesh in this Oct. 8, 2023, image showing data from SWOT. The U.S.-French satellite is the first to provide timely, precise water surface elevation information over entire regions at high resolution, enabling improved flooding forecasts. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UNC-Chapel Hill/Google Earth SWOT river slope data — like that depicted here for California’s Sacramento River — can improve predictions of how fast water flows through rivers and off landscapes. To calculate slope, scientists subtract the lower water elevation (right) from the higher one (left) and divide by segment length. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UNC-Chapel Hill/Google Earth

Stream gauges can accurately measure water levels in rivers, but only at individual locations, often spaced far apart. Many rivers have no stream gauges at all, particularly in countries without resources to maintain and monitor them. Gauges can also be disabled by floods and are unreliable when water overtops the riverbank and flows into areas they cannot measure.

SWOT provides a more comprehensive, 3D look at floods, measuring their height, width, and slope. Scientists can use this data to better track how floodwaters pulse across a landscape, improving predictions of where flooding will occur and how often.

Building a Better Flood Model

One effort to incorporate SWOT data into flood models is led by J. Toby Minear of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado. Minear is investigating how to incorporate SWOT data into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Water Model, which predicts the potential for flooding and its timing along U.S. rivers. SWOT freshwater data will fill in spatial gaps between gauges and help scientists like Minear determine the water levels (heights) at which flooding occurs at specific locations along rivers. 

UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student Marissa Hughes levels a tripod to install a GPS unit to precisely measure the water surface elevation of a segment of New Zealand’s Waimakariri River. The measurements were used to calibrate and validate data from the U.S.-French SWOT satellite.Credit: Alyssa LaFaro/UNC Research

He expects SWOT to improve National Water Model data in multiple ways. For example, it will provide more accurate estimates of river slopes and how they change with streamflow. Generally speaking, the steeper a river’s slope, the faster its water flows. Hydrologic modelers use slope data to predict the speed water moves through a river and off a landscape.

SWOT will also help scientists and water managers quantify how much water lakes and reservoirs can store. While there are about 90,000 relatively large U.S. reservoirs, only a few thousand of them have water-level data that’s incorporated into the National Water Model. This limits scientists’ ability to know how reservoir levels relate to surrounding land elevations and potential flooding. SWOT is measuring tens of thousands of U.S. reservoirs, along with nearly all natural U.S. lakes larger than about two football fields combined.

Some countries, including the U.S., have made significant investments in river gauging networks and detailed local flood models. But in Africa, South Asia, parts of South America, and the Arctic, there’s little data for lakes and rivers. In such places, flood risk assessments often rely on rough estimates. Part of SWOT’s potential is that it will allow hydrologists to fill these gaps, providing information on where water is stored on landscapes and how much is flowing through rivers.

Tamlin Pavelsky, NASA’s SWOT freshwater science lead and a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says SWOT can help address the growing threat of flooding from extreme storms fueled by climate change. “Think about Houston and Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” he said. “It’s very unlikely we would have seen 60 inches of rain from one storm without climate change. Societies will need to update engineering design standards and floodplain maps as intense precipitation events become more common.”

Pavelsky says these changes in Earth’s water cycle are altering society’s assumptions about floods and what a floodplain is. “Hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be at increased risk of flooding in the future as rainfall events become increasingly intense and population growth occurs in flood-prone areas,” he added.

SWOT flood data will have other practical applications. For example, insurers can use models informed by SWOT data to improve flood hazard maps to better estimate an area’s potential damage and loss risks. A major reinsurance company, FM Global, is among SWOT’s 40 current early adopters — a global community of organizations working to incorporate SWOT data into their decision-making activities.

“Companies like FM Global and government agencies like the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency can fine tune their flood models by comparing them to SWOT data,” Pavelsky said. “Those better models will give us a more accurate picture of where and how often floods are likely to happen.”

More About the Mission

Launched on Dec. 16, 2022, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California, SWOT is now in its operations phase, collecting data that will be used for research and other purposes.

SWOT was jointly developed by NASA and CNES, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the project’s U.S. component. For the flight system payload, NASA provided the KaRIn instrument, a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instrument operations. CNES provided the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, dual frequency Poseidon altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (together with Thales Alenia Space and with support from the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform, and ground operations. CSA provided the KaRIn high-power transmitter assembly. NASA provided the launch vehicle and the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, and managed the associated launch services.

For more on SWOT, visit:

https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/.

News Media Contacts

Jane J. Lee / Andrew Wang
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0307 / 626-379-6874
jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.wang@jpl.nasa.gov

Written by Alan Buis

2024-060

Share Details Last Updated May 07, 2024 Related Terms Explore More 6 min read International SWOT Mission Can Improve Flood Prediction 

A partnership between NASA and the French space agency, the satellite is poised to help…

Article 5 hours ago
5 min read NASA Is Helping Protect Tigers, Jaguars, and Elephants. Here’s How.

As human populations grow, habitat loss threatens many creatures. Mapping wildlife habitat using satellites is…

Article 5 days ago
2 min read NASA Partner Zooniverse Receives White House Open Science Award

Congrats to NASA partner Zooniverse for being named winners in the White House’s Year of Open Science Recognition…

Article 5 days ago
Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics

Missions

Humans in Space

Climate Change

Solar System

Categories: NASA

White Sands Propulsion Team Tests 3D-Printed Orion Engine Component

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 12:05pm

When the Orion spacecraft carries the first Artemis crews to the Moon and back, it will rely on the European Service Module contributed by ESA (European Space Agency) to make the journey. The service module provides electrical power generation, propulsion, temperature control, and consumable storage for Orion, up to the moment it separates from the crew module prior to re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

For the first six Artemis missions – Artemis I through Artemis VI – NASA and ESA will use a refurbished Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine from the space shuttle program as the European Service Module’s main engine. Beyond Artemis VI, NASA will need a new engine to support Orion.

That need will be met by the Orion Main Engine (OME) in development with Aerojet Rocketdyne (now L3 Harris), but before the OME can fly, all of its components must be thoroughly tested.

Enter the Propulsion Test Office at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility. From November 2023 to January 2024, this team led rigorous testing of a critical OME component: the injector that delivers propellants to power the engine and provides the thrust necessary to return Orion home from the Moon.

Orion Main Engine injector test team members at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility.NASA/Reed Elliott

The tests were performed on Test Stand 301A in White Sands’ Propulsion 300 Area. The injector was mounted to a test engine that fired multiple times for three seconds each, for a total of 21 tests. With each test, the White Sands team sought to demonstrate the OME injector’s ability to maintain consistent and controlled combustion and to return to normal operations if the combustion process was artificially perturbed.

Many White Sands team members were involved in this effort. James Hess, project manager and operations director, ensured the tests were completed safely and successfully by overseeing operations, and confirming test requirements were met. James Mahoney handled the test schedule and budget as project lead, while Jordan Aday directed operations and the actual tests. Other key roles included lead electrical engineer Sal Muniz, and instrumentation engineer Jesus Lujan-Martino. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Shaun DeSouza served as test article director, working to ensure the injector operated as expected and that test condition requirements were met. Additional support was provided by OME Program team members at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Glenn Research Center.

Orion Main Engine injector test engine firing.NASA

The results confirmed that the OME injector could maintain stable combustion, and the team determined the tests were successful. A unique aspect of the OME injector is that it was fabricated through an additive manufacturing process called selective laser machining – basically 3D printing with metallic powders instead of plastics. Demonstrating the effectiveness of 3D printed components could help NASA and its partners lower costs and increase efficiencies in development processes.

The injector design will now be incorporated into a full OME that will be tested as a full engine assembly at White Sands once it is ready.  

Categories: NASA

Ken Carpenter: Ensuring Top-Tier Science from Moon to Stars

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 11:43am

Today, Ken Carpenter is a scientist for NASA’s Hubble and Roman space telescopes, but in 1967 he was just a teenager at his local library out to fact-check a “Star Trek” episode.

Name: Kenneth G. Carpenter
Title: Operations Project Scientist for Hubble Space Telescope; Ground System Scientist for Roman Space Telescope; and a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fellow and Principal Investigator for the Artemis-Enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI) NIAC Study.
Formal Job Classification: Astrophysicist
Organization: Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory, Astrophysics Division, Science Directorate (Code 667)

Ken Carpenter is an operations project scientist for Hubble Space Telescope; ground system scientist for Roman Space Telescope; and a NASA innovative advanced concepts (NIAC) fellow and principal investigator for the Artemis-Enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI) NIAC Study.NASA/Bill Hrybyk

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

As the operations project scientist for Hubble Space Telescope, I represent the astronomical community to the project management and help ensure that Hubble produces the best quality science possible consistent with other project requirements like cost and schedule.

I am also the ground system scientist for Roman Space Telescope, a role that entails overseeing the design and operation of the ground system and advising management to ensure we maximize the science.

As a NIAC fellow and principal investigator for the AeSI mission concept study, I am studying the possibility of building a large baseline UV-optical interferometer on the lunar surface in conjunction with the Artemis campaign.

What is your educational background?

In 1977, I graduated from Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s and master’s in astronomy. In 1983, I graduated from The Ohio State University with a Ph.D. in astronomy. That same year, I took a post-doctoral research position at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

What brought you to Goddard?

While at the University of Colorado, my mentor told me about an opportunity at Ball Aerospace to help put a new detector into one of Hubble’s instruments. I helped calibrate that detector for the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS) while in my research position. As a result, the University of Colorado offered me a new position at Goddard to help coordinate the development of the GHRS ground system.

Doing the extra work for Ball Aerospace while with the University of Colorado was an unusual path to take, but it led to my job at Goddard. The lesson here is do not be afraid of an unusual career path because a nontraditional path may lead to a great opportunity.

What is the most interesting thing you do as the operations project scientist for Hubble?

I get to be deeply involved in one of NASA’s flagship missions and help astronomers all over the world explore the leading edge of astronomy. I agreed to take this position for only three years in the early ’90s, but it has remained so exciting, challenging, and rewarding that I am still involved today. Working for Hubble has been an amazing experience and a constant delight. Being involved with enabling Hubble’s ground-breaking science and astronomy has been extraordinarily rewarding for me for more than three decades now.

“One of the most fun parts of my job is talking to people. I enjoy enabling Goddard’s world class science, but I really enjoy seeing a kid’s eyes light up with excitement when explaining some of our cool discoveries,” said Ken (right), shown here at an AwesomeCon booth with Christina Mitchell (left) and Faith Vowler (middle).Courtesy of Ken Carpenter

How did your work on Hubble lead to your involvement in bringing the Roman project forward?

My experience in Hubble’s operations and ground systems led me to get involved with the same for Roman at a very early stage. I was involved in developing the early concepts for Roman and helping it get selected as an official NASA mission. I was in the right place at the right time again. This is another example of taking advantage of an opportunity as it presented itself.

What is your role as the NIAC fellow and principal investigator for the AeSI mission concept study?

I was recently selected as a NIAC fellow to study the possibility of building an interferometer on the surface of the Moon in conjunction with the Artemis campaign. An interferometer is an array of telescope mirrors that work together. A large baseline means that the outer diameter of this array will be about one-third of a mile. We are investigating whether the Artemis infrastructure makes building this on the Moon competitive with, or better than, building such a telescope in free-space.

NIAC fellows are selected to lead visionary studies for technically challenging mission concepts and technologies. We are selected under a NASA-wide program that offers three levels of study. My 2024 Phase One NIAC study is one of only 13 accepted in 2024. We proposed our study four years in a row before we were finally awarded the study this year, reinforcing the lesson that persistence and patience are often needed to achieve great things.

You do a lot of outreach. What is your message?

I do a lot of public outreach, in particular for Hubble, Roman and our new NIAC program. This includes talks and exhibit tables at middle schools, high schools, astronomy societies, and large sci-fi and pop culture conventions, including DragonCon and AwesomeCon.

I try to convey to the audience the excitement of the science results from our various missions and about NASA’s plans for future missions. At schools, I often talk about paths to working at NASA and the job of working here. I point out that NASA needs people with a wide variety of skills, not just scientists and engineers. I usually conclude with an informal question-and-answer period.

One the most fun parts of my job is talking to people. I enjoy enabling Goddard’s world class science, but I really enjoy seeing a kid’s eyes light up with excitement when explaining some of our cool discoveries.

“Working for Hubble has been an amazing experience and a constant delight,” said Ken, shown here with the Hubble outreach team. “Being involved with enabling Hubble’s ground-breaking science and astronomy has been extraordinarily rewarding for me for more than three decades now.”NASA/Robert Andreoli

What is your message as a mentor?

I have mentored people from high school through post-doctoral fellows. I try to give them the benefit of some of the lessons I have learned. I tell them not to be afraid to take nontraditional paths and to take a risk if you see something interesting because it might lead to something even better. I also tell them to look for and take advantage of such opportunities and I try to give them opportunities to be part of investigations, to help write papers and to feel involved so that they experience the excitement of a Goddard and technical career in general.

Most of the people I have mentored have gone on to very exciting careers in astronomy and related fields. Perhaps the most unexpected and exciting result of mentoring for me was a Harvard undergraduate studying astronomy who turned into a deep-sea explorer, a scientist of a different sort.  

What are your hobbies and interests?

I am an amateur photographer of landscapes and also of my everyday experiences and travels. I am also very enthusiastic about all things related to Disney and Star Trek. My Disney fandom includes loving the films and also traveling to their theme parks as often as life permits. If I was not an astronomer, I like to think I might have become a Disney Imagineer, someone who conceives of and designs their attractions and experiences.

As a Trekkie, I attend sci-fi and pop culture conventions, and now I give science talks at them too. I know the science adviser to the modern Star Trek series, and we talk constantly about the synergies between Trek and NASA. I have met over the years a fair number of the stars from all of the series. After 50 years of fandom, this is very neat. Star Trek has always inspired me!

“Growing up, I read a lot of science fiction, said Ken, shown here with actor Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series. “The original Star Trek series greatly inspired me,” he said.Courtesy of Ken Carpenter 'Star Trek' Adviser Discusses Sci-Fi's Real Science at NASA Goddard

I also enjoy exploring the past through attending Renaissance festivals. I am lucky that the Maryland Renaissance Festival is one of the top festivals in the county and easy for me to access!

What inspired you to become an astronomer?

Growing up, I read a lot of science fiction. The original Star Trek series greatly inspired me. I also visited the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, which showed us the wonderful possibilities for the future that science and technology might create. This was before the internet and was a place where one could see one of the first color TVs, a very early edition Frisbee and be shown many other wonderful things that science and technology would contribute to our exciting future. They even had a Space Park with a rocket garden and memorabilia of the early space programs.

Walt Disney built some of the most popular attractions at the fair and brought them back to his theme parks after the fair ended. This included “It’s a Small World”, the first animatronic Abraham Lincoln, the Ford exhibit that featured cars going through ancient landscapes and seeing “live” animatronic dinosaurs, and the Carousel of Progress, which has the audience revolving around a central area with multiple stages to show how technology supports improvements in everyday living, as houses went from having ice boxes to talking refrigerators.

What got me into the library to pick up an astronomy book for the first time was a particular Star Trek episode during their second season called “Who Mourns for Adonais.” It included a reference to a star named Beta Gem (Pollux) and I wanted to see if it was a real star. In the process of going to the library and confirming the name was real, I also picked up an astronomy book, which hooked me immediately. From that point on, I wanted to be an astronomer. I was around 13. Fifty-plus years later, I actually met the actor, Mike Forest, who guest starred in that episode as the Greek god Apollo, and my mind was appropriately blown!

Who would you like to thank?

I would like to thank my wife Susan and our children David and Bryce for their support over the years including tolerating my long hours at work and their unwavering support as I pursued my dreams in exploring the universe and working at NASA. I could not have done all this amazing work without their love and support.

Beyond the immediate family, there are of course many, many others who have helped steer me through this amazing career and all have my thanks even if I can’t include them here. In particular I want to note folks who helped me so much during my “early career” stages, from Bob Wing at The Ohio State University, Jeff Linsky at the University of Colorado, and Sally Heap and Steve Maran at NASA Goddard. All were instrumental in ensuring my successful entry into the NASA universe.

What are your two favorite phrases that you live by?

“Dreamers need to stick together.” This is from the 2015 Disney movie “Tomorrowland,” one of my favorite movies of all time.

I would also add “IDIC,” for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” which is a Star Trek phrase expressing its core philosophy that people of all different cultures can work together in peace to create a wonderful and accepting future.

Conversations With Goddard is a collection of Q&A profiles highlighting the breadth and depth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s talented and diverse workforce. The Conversations have been published twice a month on average since May 2011. Read past editions on Goddard’s “Our People” webpage.

By Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Share Details Last Updated May 07, 2024 EditorMadison OlsonContactRob Garnerrob.garner@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms Explore More 6 min read Lynn Bassford Prioritizes Learning as a Hubble Mission Manager

Lynn Bassford levels decades of experience and a desire for self-growth as she helps lead…

Article 7 months ago
5 min read Melissa Harris: Propelling Space Telescopes Toward Success

Melissa Harris is an engineer working on the propulsion system for the Nancy Grace Roman…

Article 11 months ago
6 min read Glenn Bazemore: Professional Problem-Solver

Glenn Bazemore is a mechanical engineer working on the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope Team.…

Article 9 months ago
Categories: NASA