Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC
Ebb and Flow's Final Moments: These side-by-side, 3-D comparisons depict the unnamed lunar mountain targeted by the NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow spacecraft. They also include the ground tracks the spacecraft are expected to follow into the lunar terrain. These graphics were generated using data from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. On the left is the mountain with the ground track and mission termination point for the Ebb spacecraft. On the right is the mountain, ground track and mission termination point for the Flow spacecraft.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT
GRAIL Spacecraft Over the Moon: An artist’s depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, is home to the mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
Ebb and Flow's final resting place on the moon has been named for America's first woman in space, Sally Ride, NASA/JPL announced Monday.
The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21 p.m. EST) at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5-mile-tall (2.5-kilometer) mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.
"Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space, inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the resounding success it is today," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "As we complete our lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride's contributions by naming this corner of the moon after her."
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC
This image shows the variations in the lunar gravity field as measured by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) during the primary mapping mission from March to May 2012. Very precise microwave measurements between two spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, were used to map gravity with high precision and high spatial resolution.
The mission impact of NASA's "Ebb" and "Flow" spacecraft will be met with a literal impact when the twin space probes crash into the moon next week.
It must be so great to work at NASA.
Scientist 1: Hey, do you know about moon gravity?
Scientist 2: Not really.
Scientist 1: Wanna map it?
Scientist 2: Sure.
Scientist 1: Should we get a couple of washing machines and turn 'em into spaceships?
Scientist 2: Totally.
Scientist 1: And then crash them into the moon when we're done and see what happens?
Scientist 2: Yep.
Scientist 1: Cool.
In reality, scientists say the twins — in orbit around the moon and flying in formation since Jan. 1, 2012 — are too small to cause a crash that's visible from Earth. They are expected to make contact with a mountain near the north pole.
This image released August 27, 2003 captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a close-up of the red planet Mars when it was just 34,648,840 miles (55,760,220 km) away. This color image was assembled from a series of exposures taken between 6:20 p.m. and 7:12 p.m. EDT August 26, 2003 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The picture was taken just 11 hours before the planet made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. Many small, dark, circular impact craters can be seen, attesting to the Hubble telescope's ability to reveal fine detail on the planet's surface.
Mars is ours for the forseeable future, NASA announced Tuesday with plans for a "robust" multi-year program that includes a 2020 launch date for a new robotic science rover.
With over-the-moon elation, the space agency reinforced its commitment to a Mars exploration program that meets "our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives," according to the official news release.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The "planned portfolio" includes:
- Curiosity and Opportunity rovers
- Two NASA spacecraft
- Contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars
- 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere
- Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars
- Participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover
Knock knock — NASA's Opportunity rover has some Martian clay news for you.
Scientists said Tuesday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco that Opportunity — the solar-powered six-wheeler that landed on Mars in 2004 (and has far outlasted its original, three-month mission) — uncovered hints of clay minerals along the western rim of the Endeavour crater.
Steve Squyres, the mission's principal investigator at Cornell University said, "If you are a geologist studying a site like this, one of the first things you do is walk the outcrop, and that's what we've done with Opportunity," reports NASA.
Two outcrops of high interest on Matijevic Hill are "Whitewater Lake" and "Kirkwood." Whitewater Lake is light-toned material that science team members believe may contain clay.Kirkwood contains small spheres with composition, structure and distribution that differ from other iron-rich spherules, nicknamed blueberries, that Opportunity found at its landing site and throughout the Meridiani Planum area it has explored. Squyres calls the Kirkwood spheres "newberries."
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Lab demo of the measurement chamber inside the Tunable Laser Spectrometer — an atmosphere analysis instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover.
"The most sensitive measurements ever to search for methane gas on Mars" did not detect methane gas on Mars, reports NASA.
Preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life. On Earth, it can be produced by either biological or non-biological processes.
Officials released the test results Friday during a teleconference from Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Scientists with the space agency are trying to figure out if Mars was ever hospitable to microbial life, and how the planet may have lost a substantial amount of original atmosphere.
Learning what happened to the Martian atmosphere will help scientists assess whether the planet ever was habitable. The present atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth's.