Showing posts from July, 2020

Exploring the Solar System Source:   By Jonathan Corum.  Excerpt: Three missions to Mars this summer — from NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates — will join dozens of active and inactive spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit. [A comprehensive listing of solar system missions.... 

Why the ‘Super Weird’ Moons of Mars Fascinate Scientists. What’s the big deal about little Phobos and tinier Deimos? Source:   By Robin George Andrews, The New York Times.  Excerpt: our planetary neighbor is adorned with two moons: puny Phobos, a lumpy mass 17 miles across; and diminutive Deimos, just 9 miles long. Their names in ancient Greek may mean “fear” and “dread’, but the aesthetics of these Lilliputian space potatoes inspire anything but. ...the desire to visit Phobos and Deimos was galvanized by their deeply mysterious nature. “They’re super weird, confusing and interesting,” said Abigail Fraeman, a planetary scientist studying Mars, Phobos and Deimos at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ...they look like asteroids foreign to the red planet but behave like byproducts of Mars’ early, impact-laden history. And if that Japanese mission manages to grab some samples and decode the chemistry of the mangled moons, we might be able to discover their origins. In doing so, we won’t just gain a better understanding of Mars’ anc

Solar Orbiter's First Images Reveal "Campfires" on the Sun   Source:   By European Space Agency (ESA).  Excerpt: The first images from Solar Orbiter, a new Sun-observing mission by ESA and NASA, have revealed omnipresent miniature solar flares, dubbed 'campfires', near the surface of our closest star. ...Solar Orbiter, launched on 10 February 2020, carries six remote-sensing instruments... and four in situ instruments that monitor the environment around the spacecraft. By comparing the data from both sets of instruments, scientists will get insights into the generation of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles from the Sun that influences the entire Solar System. ...The campfires shown in the first image set were captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) from Solar Orbiter's first perihelion, the point in its elliptical orbit closest to the Sun. At that time, the spacecraft was only 77 million km away from the Sun, abo

A Month of Milestones for Mars Missions Source:   By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) hopes to kick off a new decade of Mars exploration as it launches the Emirates Mars Mission and its orbiter, Hope. Hope, or Al Amal, is the first space exploration mission from an Arab state. It will be joined in its journey to Mars by China’s Tianwen-1 and the United States’ Mars 2020 mission later in July. ...The Hope probe is a weather satellite that will create a global map of Mars’s weather and atmospheric dynamics up through the exosphere. One of its science goals is to understand how near-surface weather leads to loss of atmospheric hydrogen and oxygen, a key to understanding Mars’s evolution from warm and wet to cold and arid. ...Tianwen-1 is an all-in-one orbiter, lander, and rover and could make China only the second country (after the United States) to successfully land on Mars. The plan is for Tianwen-1 first to orbit Mars

With first spacecraft to Red Planet, United Arab Emirates poised to join elite Mars club Source:   By Sedeer El-Showk, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a small Persian Gulf nation, is on the cusp of a big breakthrough: joining the United States, the Soviet Union, Europe, and India in the elite club of nations that have successfully sent spacecraft to Mars. On 15 July, the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM)—also known as the Hope satellite—is set to launch on a Japanese rocket, arriving at the Red Planet in February 2021. Planners hope the mission will boost UAE industry and science capacity while also delivering sorely needed data on the martian atmosphere. ...Most of the six spacecraft now at Mars are in polar orbits that only offer views of the surface at fixed times of day. But Hope will be inserted into an inclined orbit that provides a view of any given point at a different time on each orbit. A camera and infrared spectrometer wil

How NASA’s new rover will search for signs of ancient life on Mars Source:   By Kelso Harper, Joel Goldberg, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: [See movie also] If NASA realizes its midsummer dream, a spacecraft will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sometime between 30 July and 15 August, destined to ignite the next generation of Mars exploration. The mission aims to deliver the space agency’s latest rover, Perseverance, to an uncharted crater known as Jezero—an ancient lake bed that could offer a window into Mars’s climatic history. Perseverance will carry many tools and instruments, including a small helicopter and a novel array of 43 sample tubes, robotic arms, and multiple drills, which will bore into the martian surface for chalk-size cores of rock and soil. The cores will eventually make their way back to Earth in a sample return campaign, a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency. Should they contain organic compounds, they may ind