Thursday, December 29, 2011

For NASA Webb Telescope Engineers, COCOA this Winter Means Precision Testing

Engineers working on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope are bringing out the COCOA this winter, but it's not a warm beverage. Rather, it’s a way to check that the mirrors are perfectly shaped and will work in the frosty environment of space.

COCOA stands for "Center of Curvature Optical Assembly." Curvature is important in a mirror, just as the convex side mirrors on your car are shaped to give you a wide field of vision behind and beside your car. COCOA tests on the Webb telescope's concave mirror segments are critical because they will tell engineers if all of the mirrors work together to make a telescope that has the correct shape.

"We need to check that the mirrors are of the right prescription, just like eyeglasses, so the images from our telescope are not blurry," said Lee Feinberg, Webb telescope Optical Telescope Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 of these being six-sided segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) mirror. Every individual mirror has been previously tested to confirm it has the correct shape, but testing them all together as an assembled telescope with COCOA ensures that the telescope as a whole works correctly.

The COCOA is part of NASA's vacuum cryo equipment that will be used at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to test the performance of the mirrors at operating temperatures. That's important because COCOA tells engineers if the full 18 segment mirror is functioning correctly in "operating temperatures" of 40 degrees Kelvin (-233 Celsius, or -387.4 Fahrenheit) prior to final assembly of the observatory before launch.

COCOA was built by ITT Exelis of Rochester, N.Y., with subcontractor Micro Instruments in Rochester, N.Y. ITT Exelis and Micro Instruments engineers are assembling the large Center of Curvature test system.

The Webb telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

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No team of reindeer, but radio signals flying clear across the solar system from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have delivered a holiday package of glorious images. The pictures, from Cassini's imaging team, show Saturn's largest, most colorful ornament, Titan, and other icy baubles in orbit around this splendid planet. The release includes images of satellite conjunctions in which one moon passes in front of or behind another. Cassini scientists regularly make these observations to study the ever-changing orbits of the planet's moons. But even in these routine images, the Saturnian system shines. A few of Saturn's stark, airless, icy moons appear to dangle next to the orange orb of Titan, the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere. Titan's atmosphere is of great interest because of its similarities to the atmosphere believed to exist long ago on the early Earth.

The images are online at:, and .

While it may be wintry in Earth's northern hemisphere, it is currently northern spring in the Saturnian system and it will remain so for several Earth years. Current plans to extend the Cassini mission through 2017 will supply a continued bounty of scientifically rewarding and majestic views of Saturn and its moons and rings, as spectators are treated to the passage of northern spring and the arrival of summer in May 2017.

"As another year traveling this magnificent sector of our solar system draws to a close, all of us on Cassini wish all of you a very happy and peaceful holiday season, " said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

More information about Cassini mission is online at and .

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Party dresses to make you brighter in parties

Every woman likes to be present at festivities where she can completely explain her loveliness to others. And in parties ladies can be dressed in the majority good-looking dresses which are not good to be dressed in on other events. But several women experience hard to get appropriate party dresses to purchase, because such beautiful wears particularly necessitate women to be suspicious when wearing them for fear that the conflicting effect may be arrived.

Some dresses for women may be pleasant but may be not appropriate for a woman’s skin tone. Some others may be good-looking to wear but may be out of the fashion. Now evening gowns are very common and several women adore them. They give enormous materials of ranges for women to prefer anything they like. Here are some instructions about how to prefer a dress for party.

When selecting party dresses, women must fully think their own skin tone. Women must select the dresses which can make their skin tones appear brighter not darker. Pick the color of the dresses which are darker than women’s skin tones, which will accomplish a fine result and make the skin appear brighter.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

NASA Presents Software of the Year Award

Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS), novel autonomy software that has been operating on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity since December 2009, is NASA's 2011 Software of the Year recipient.

The AEGIS software, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., autonomously directs Opportunity's cameras to interesting science targets. AEGIS was developed to enhance the usual targeting process involving scientists on the ground, which can require the rover to stay in the same place for a day or more while data are transmitted to Earth and targets are selected from preliminary images.

With AEGIS, the rover software analyzes images onboard, detects and prioritizes science targets in those images, and autonomously obtains novel, high-quality science data of the selected targets, within 45 minutes, with no communication back to Earth required. AEGIS chooses science targets based on pre-specified criteria set by the mission science team.

AEGIS can be used as soon as the rover reaches a new area and is especially beneficial during and after long drives. It enables high-quality data to be collected more often and in a significantly reduced time frame. The incorporation of AEGIS in the Mars Science Laboratory flight software is in progress, and it is also being considered for future NASA missions.

The AEGIS capability was developed as part of a larger autonomous science framework called OASIS (short for Onboard Autonomous Science Investigation System), which is designed to allow a rover to identify and react to serendipitous science opportunities. The AEGIS system takes advantage of the OASIS ability to detect and characterize interesting terrain features in rover images. This technology was created with assistance from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project and with funding from the New Millennium Program, the Mars Technology Program, the JPL Research and Technology Development Program, the JPL Interplanetary Network Development Program and the Intelligent Systems Program.

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NASA recently began a pilot using Google Apps, a suite of applications that brings services such as Gmail, Google Docs and other products together to help workers in today's business environment. NASA IT Labs, a part of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), sponsored the pilot to meet the growing demand from workers to access resources on any device.

About 600 IT staff from 11 NASA centers and facilities are participating in the pilot, which offers cost savings by managing user's identities, credentials and access via cloud computing using on-demand software. Cloud computing refers to resources and applications that are available on the Internet from nearly any Internet-connected device. No sensitive NASA data is being placed in the cloud.

Under the pilot, NASA users can connect to Google Apps for Government using an existing NASA work ID, which also functions as a smart card in the card reader of compatible computers. The card was created as a common identification standard for federal employees and contractors to increase security and reduce opportunities for identify fraud.

The pilot complies with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, which is designed to protect the nation's critical information infrastructure. Because no new ID or credential is needed, NASA complies with the law and workers can access secure materials from any smart device.

NASA also accepts and electronically verifies personal identity verification (PIV) credentials issued by other federal agencies through a credential registration process. With this capability, any authorized federal PIV card, which includes the DoD Common Access Card, may be used today for authentication to the Google Apps for Government NASA site.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Curiosity and the Solar Storm

On Nov. 26, 2011, Curiosity blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas 5 rocket. Riding a plume of fire through the blue Florida sky, the car-sized rover began a nine month journey to search for signs of life Mars.

Meanwhile, 93 million miles away, a second lesser-noticed Mars launch was underway. Around the time that Curiosity's rocket was breaking the bonds of Earth, a filament of magnetism erupted from the sun, hurling a billion-ton cloud of plasma (a coronal mass ejection or CME) toward the Red Planet.

There was no danger of a collision -- Mars rover vs. solar storm. Racing forward at 2 million mph, the plasma cloud outpaced Curiosity's rocket by a wide margin.

Next time could be different, however. With solar activity on the upswing (Solar Max is expected in 2012-2013) it's only a matter of time before a CME engulfs the Mars-bound rover.

That suits some researchers just fine. As Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) in Boulder, Colorado, explains, "We look forward to such encounters because Curiosity is equipped to study solar storms."

Hassler is the principal investigator for Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector --"RAD" for short. The instrument, developed at SWRI and Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, counts cosmic rays, neutrons, protons and other particles over a wide range of energies. Tucked into the left front corner of the rover, RAD is about the size of a coffee can and weighs only three pounds, but has capabilities of Earth-bound instruments nearly 10 times its size.

Encounters with CMEs pose little danger to Curiosity. By the time a CME reaches the Earth-Mars expanse, it is spread so thin that it cannot truly buffet the spacecraft. Nevertheless, RAD can sense what happens as the CME passes by.

"RAD will be able to detect energetic particles accelerated by shock waves in some CMEs," says Arik Posner of NASA's Heliophysics Division in Washington DC. "This could give us new insights into the inner physics of these giant clouds."

There's more to this, however, than pure heliophysics. Future human astronauts will directly benefit from RAD's measurements during the cruise phase.

"Curiosity is nestled inside its spacecraft, just like a real astronaut would be," notes Frank Cucinotta, Chief Scientist for NASA's Space Radiation Program at the Johnson Space Center. "RAD will give us an idea of the kind of radiation a human can expect to absorb during a similar trip to Mars."

Of particular interest are secondary particles. Galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles hit the walls of the spacecraft, creating an inward spray of even more biologically dangerous neutrons and atomic nuclei. RAD will analyze the spray from the only realistic place to make such measurements—inside the spaceship.

In this way, "RAD is a bridge between the science and exploration sides of NASA," says Hassler. "The two objectives are equally exciting."

RAD was activated on Dec. 6, 2011. Of the rover's ten science instruments, it will be the only one active during the cruise to Mars. Daily transmissions to Earth will let Hassler and colleagues monitor what's going on "out there."

"We're very excited about the possibility of more solar storms," he adds.

As important as RAD’s cruise phase measurements are, the instrument’s primary mission doesn’t really begin until it lands on the Red Planet.

Mars has a very thin atmosphere and no global magnetic field to protect it from space radiation. Energetic particles reaching ground level might be dangerous to life--both future human astronauts and extant Martian microbes. RAD will find out how much shielding human explorers need on the surface of Mars. RAD will also help researchers estimate how far below ground a microbe might have to go to reach a radiation "safe zone."

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NASA Mars-Bound Rover Begins Research in Space

NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover has begun monitoring space radiation during its 8-month trip from Earth to Mars. The research will aid in planning for future human missions to the Red Planet.

Curiosity launched on Nov. 26 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard the Mars Science Laboratory. The rover carries an instrument called the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) that monitors high-energy atomic and subatomic particles from the sun, distant supernovas and other sources.

These particles constitute radiation that could be harmful to any microbes or astronauts in space or on Mars. The rover also will monitor radiation on the surface of Mars after its August 2012 landing.

"RAD is serving as a proxy for an astronaut inside a spacecraft on the way to Mars," said Don Hassler, RAD's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "The instrument is deep inside the spacecraft, the way an astronaut would be. Understanding the effects of the spacecraft on the radiation field will be valuable in designing craft for astronauts to travel to Mars."

Previous monitoring of energetic-particle radiation in space has used instruments at or near the surface of various spacecraft. The RAD instrument is on the rover inside the spacecraft and shielded by other components of Mars Science Laboratory, including the aeroshell that will protect the rover during descent through the upper atmosphere of Mars.

Spacecraft structures, while providing shielding, also can contribute to secondary particles generated when high-energy particles strike the spacecraft. In some circumstances, secondary particles could be more hazardous than primary ones.

These first measurements mark the start of the science return from a mission that will use 10 instruments on Curiosity to assess whether Mars' Gale Crater could be or has been favorable for microbial life.

"While Curiosity will not look for signs of life on Mars, what it might find could be a game-changer about the origin and evolution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "One thing is certain: The rover's discoveries will provide critical data that will impact human and robotic planning and research for decades."

As of 9 a.m. PST (noon EST) on Dec. 14, the spacecraft will have traveled 31.9 million miles (51.3 million kilometers) of its 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) flight to Mars. The first trajectory correction maneuver during the trip is being planned for mid-January.

Southwest Research Institute, together with Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, built RAD with funding from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, and Germany's national aerospace research center, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Save your time and money by booking your ticket in online

People who ready to go for journey will give most preference to travel in bus and nowadays, they also started booking a ticket through online and cyberspace for saving their time and money. Booking a ticket through online or cyberspace will take more than a few seconds. In this fast moving world, online booking is good technique which will be like by every passenger. Online bus tickets can be booked through the internet and you can do at any time of day. The website is open for maximum hours and you can be sure that you do when you have time.

Every deluxe bus services like BUS NY TO DC provides this online booking for passenger convenient. Most people prefer to travel in bus since it is really affordable. For booking ticket all you need is an internet connection and credit cards and you can also easily book your ticket from your home.  Purchase your online ticket in advance and also makes sure that you get the best seat in the bus, to grab a comfortable seat in the bus and have a great time with your family.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

All Systems Go For Next Communication Spacecraft

The most recent evaluations of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) project confirmed all systems go for a third generation upgrade of the orbiting communications network. TDRS-K is scheduled for launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida in the fall of 2012.

Approval to move forward came during a recent Agency Project Management Council (APMC) meeting at NASA Headquarters. "I am very proud of the entire TDRS civil servant and contractor team for successfully completing this milestone and demonstrating that the TDRS project is ready to proceed into the integration phase,” said Jeff Gramling, TDRS Project Manager. “I am excited to see the TDRS-K satellite enter the thermal vacuum chamber and begin environmental testing." Testing will occur within the Boeing Space Systems Facility in El Segundo, California.

APMC approval allows the project to enter Phase D that will include spacecraft integration and testing. During this phase the spacecraft reflectors will be mounted, the thermal panels and batteries will be installed before the spacecraft will have to endure the rigors of the vibration and acoustic testing. Finally, the spacecraft must pass a pre-ship review prior to being transported to Florida for launch.

Prior to the APMC approval, the project successfully completed a combined Pre-Environment Review (PER) and Systems Integration Review (SIR) in August of this year. The SIR is a significant milestone in the NASA mission lifecycle. During the upcoming environmental test phase, various segments and subsystems are scrutinized for their viability under the same harsh conditions they will endure within the vacuum of space.

"Successful completion of the environmental testing phase of the project will be the last step before we ship the TDRS-K spacecraft to the launch site," said Dave Littmann, TDRS Deputy Project Manager. "Through a rigorous testing program, we will ensure this satellite, once on-orbit, is capable of meeting its functional and performance requirements, to provide reliable services to the customers of NASA’s Space Network."

This next generation space communications satellite is part of a follow-on spacecraft fleet being developed and deployed to replenish NASA’s Space Network. The TDRS Project Office at Goddard Space Flight Center manages the TDRS development effort. TDRS is the responsibility of the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) office within the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. Operations of the network is the responsibility of the Space Network Project at Goddard.

In December 2007, NASA signed a contract for Boeing Space Systems to build two, third generation TDRS spacecraft for launch in 2012 and 2013. Within the contract were the required modifications that will enable the White Sands Complex ground system to support the new spacecraft.

The launch of TDRS-K will begin the replenishment of the fleet through the development and deployment of the next generation spacecraft. These satellites will ensure NASA’s Space Network continues to provide around-the-clock, high throughput communications services to NASA’s missions and serving the scientific community and human spaceflight program for years to come.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NASA Legends Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Leaders of Congress honored astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with congressional gold medals in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Nov. 16, 2011. The Gold Medal, Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions, was first given to George Washington in 1776.

Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, achieving the feat aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon, while Collins piloted Apollo 11's command module.

"We stand on the shoulders of the extraordinary men we recognize today," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the ceremony. "Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged."

"When, 50 years ago this year, President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to "take longer strides" toward a "great new American enterprise," these men were the human face of those words," said Bolden. "From Mercury and Gemini, on through our landings on the Moon in the Apollo Program, their actions unfolded the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind."

Administrator Bolden also noted that five members of the most recent Astronaut Candidate Class were in attendance, pointing out that the new generation "will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins."

All four astronauts have also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded with distinction, as well as NASA's own Ambassador of Exploration Award.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stories of Missions Past: Early Explorers

NASA announced the short list for five potential new "Explorer class" spacecraft. These missions are by definition small and relatively inexpensive, designed to be led by a small team.

The Explorer class missions are numbered at 92 so far, with more constantly planned. Explorer class spacecraft recorded the signature left over from the big bang. They mapped out the complex geometry of Earth's magnetic environment. They found gamma rays coming from everywhere in the sky. They help warn scientists of incoming radiation from solar flares.

"The neat thing about the Explorers is that they're tailored to a specific problem," says Wilt Sanders the program scientist for the Explorer’s Program. "That's their strength. They're relatively inexpensive but they've come up with game changing results."

And it all began over five decades ago.

The First Explorer

It was January 31, 1958 and a Juno 1 rocket was almost ready to launch. It carried precious cargo -- a satellite called Explorer 1, that everyone hoped would be the first U.S. satellite in space. The mood among those at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. was tense. Not only had the Soviets already successfully launched Sputnik into space, but three months earlier, a rocket attempting to launch a U.S. satellite had flown a mere four feet before tumbling back to the ground.

The familiar countdown began: "10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . " and at 10:48 p.m. EDT, the Juno shot up, climbed over 200 miles into the sky, and released Explorer 1 into space. It wasn't until some two hours later, when the satellite had made its first complete orbit of Earth and was in close enough range to send a signal that it was operational, that the observers rejoiced. The very first U.S. satellite was officially a success.

For many, the tale of Explorer 1 stops here, a triumph of human ingenuity in reaching space. But, truly, that's only the beginning of the story. "Explorer 1 was also a science mission," says Willis Jenkins, the program executive for NASA's Explorer program. "This wasn't just launched to get a satellite up in space, it was meant to bring science data back."

And it certainly did. Explorer 1 contained experiments that turned our understanding of space upside down. To this day, scientists try to understand the dynamic, seething environment encircling Earth – known as the Van Allen radiation belts – that Explorer 1 helped discover.

Space Science Begins . . .

Explorer 1 was also, of course, the first in a long line of scientific workhorses.

Some of the latest explorers have names that are well known in the scientific community: the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer (Swift) and the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). (The last one brought home data that earned a Nobel Prize.) But the early Explorers were simply named with numbers, and it is these that are some of the unsung heroes of space exploration – making new discoveries that scientist today take for granted.

Explorer 1 and Explorer 3, for example, launched in January and March of 1958, respectively. They carried an instrument built by the University of Iowa scientist James Van Allen that could detect energetic particles in space. This instrument was quite simply a single Geiger counter attached to a miniature tape recorder. As the satellites climbed upwards, the rates of the particles usually increased but, periodically, they zeroed out completely. Van Allen and his team realized this was neither because the particles disappeared nor because the instruments failed, but because the radiation counts were so high that the sensors overloaded. From this, Van Allen deduced that a swath of intensely energetic particles was trapped in a circle around Earth. Ultimately two such belts were found, and they're now known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts.

Not all was easy on those early missions. Neither Explorer 2 nor Explorer 5 even made it into orbit, due to launch rocket failure. While such losses were devastating, the amount of time going into building these early, simpler satellites was nothing like the years it takes today. All five of the first Explorers were launched within the first six months of 1958.

By the time of Explorer 10 in 1961, the Explorer Program was now run by the newly founded NASA. They'd also earned the right to have names as well as numbers, albeit modest ones: Explorer 10 was also known as P 14. It gathered data for only 52 hours since its goal was merely to fly up out of Earth's magnetic environment and bring back information from interplanetary space on the other side. But the satellite saw a far more complicated magnetic system than expected.

"At that point the magnetosphere was thought to be a sphere conforming to the shape of Earth," says Frank McDonald who became a project scientist for the Explorer Program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. in 1961 and is now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. "We didn't know how complex a shape it was, or that there was a magnetotail flurrying out behind."

Explorer 10 discovered this "magnetotail" as it moved through the night side of Earth, facing away from the sun. The instruments detected an area devoid of the electrically charged solar wind steadily streaming off the sun, since it was deflected by Earth's own magnetic field. This "shadow", the magnetotail, extends some 800,000 miles long, well past the orbit of the moon.

As the Explorer program grew, the satellites were eventually divided into those that study the sun-Earth system, or heliophysics, and those that study astrophysics. But in the early days this was originally considered all part of general space science. However, that was beginning to change.

The next, Explorer 11 or S15, was used to search for cosmic gamma radiation, and indeed found that it came from all directions, giving birth to the field of gamma ray astronomy. The field has matured significantly over the decades and now studies such things as gamma ray bursts that originate from the distant universe, thought to be the signatures of black holes and certain supernovae.

Explorer 12 launched in August of 1961, just over 50 years ago, but it remains a historical highlight for many a contemporary studier of space. This satellite cemented into cannon much information we know about space today. It was the first to identify Earth's "magnetopause" – the boundary between Earth's magnetic environment and interplanetary space. It also improved our understanding of the Van Allen radiation belts and Earth's magnetosphere. Notably, it helped establish that the radiation belts were not so strong that they would prevent manned spaceflight.

"We published science papers on solar activity almost every few weeks based on Explorer 12," says emeritus astrophysicist Thomas Cline at Goddard, whose first job at NASA focused on Explorer 12. "We had constant mini-discoveries. As soon as you put an instrument in space that has never been used before, you invariably observe things you've never seen before."

From Explorer 12 onward, many of the early Explorers had highly elliptical orbits that shot the spacecraft well outside of Earth's magnetosphere, into interplanetary space. Scientists like Cline would use these spacecraft to expand their understanding of interplanetary space. Explorers looked at the universe in many wavelengths, brought back information about the particles in space, and mapped out the structure of the early universe.

On the heliophysics side, while those early missions simply identified the shape of Earth's magnetic environment, today's spacecraft try to spot currents in that magnetotail, to determine the shape of Earth's magnetic fields, and to see how large inputs of energy from the sun cause space weather storms that can affect Earth.

When funding is available ,NASA selects new Explorers – and while the time it takes to build an Explorer is several years compared to the several months it often took in the 1950s and 1960s – the price tag still remains low and the scientific output prodigious.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

NASA Develops New Game-Changing Technology

Two NASA California centers have been selected to develop new space-aged technologies that could be game-changers in the way we look at planets from above and how we safely transport robots or humans through space and bring them safely back to Earth.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will use advanced compound semiconductor materials to develop new technologies for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. The higher the temperature at which an infrared detector can operate, the less power is required to cool it. Reduced power needs can translate into operational cost and system weight savings. If successful, this sensor technology could be used in many future NASA Earth and planetary science instruments, as well as for U.S. commercial and defense applications.

"The technology demonstration effort is different in the fact that we're focused on affordability concurrently with performance," said Sarath Gunapala of JPL, who is project manager for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. "This technology has excellent potential for transitioning from laboratory demonstration to NASA and commercial product lines."

The overall goal for this technology development effort is to achieve 100 percent cost savings as compared with traditional cryogenically cooled infrared sensors. The weight and volume savings allow for more compact instruments -- an important consideration for a spacecraft's payload size and cost. This state-of-the-art technology also will have spinoff applications for commercial instrument manufacturers.

Seeking to radically change the way heat shields protect spacecraft during atmospheric entry, NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is developing the Woven Thermal Protection System. The project is a revolutionary approach to thermal protection system design and manufacturing for extreme environments. Ames is the lead center for the project, partnering with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Partnering with the U.S. textile industry, NASA is employing an advanced, three-dimensional weaving approach in the design and manufacture of thermal protection systems. Today, lightweight aircraft parts are being manufactured using similar weaving technologies. This will be expanded to include spacecraft heatshield applications. The system will enhance performance using advanced design tools with cost savings from a shortened product development and testing cycle.

"Woven TPS has the potential to significantly impact future NASA missions by changing heat shield development from a challenge to be overcome into a mission-enabling component,” said NASA Langley's Ethiraj Venkatapathy, principal investigator of the project. "By delivering improved heat shield performance and affordability, this technology will impact all future exploration missions, from the robotic science missions to Mars, Venus and Saturn to the next generation of human missions."

NASA’s Game-Changing Technology Division focuses on maturing advanced space technologies that may lead to entirely new approaches for the agency's future space missions while finding solutions to significant national needs. NASA Langley oversees project management of the Game Changing Technology programs.

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Idressonline is an online store which is going to conduct Thanksgiving sale on Black Friday Promotion with exclusive offers.

This promotion will starts at 10.00p.m on Thursday, Nov-24 to 26 midnight. In this restricted sale, idressonline delivers you new fashionable and elegant evening dresses, cocktail dresses, prom dresses, homecoming dresses in distinctive styles and in exciting colors that will help you to grab everyone’s attention. Make use of this precious opportunity to grab all your desire dresses at reduced prices in

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NASA Study of Clays Suggests Watery Mars Underground

A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface.

A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the Martian atmosphere has changed.

"The types of clay minerals that formed in the shallow subsurface are all over Mars," said John Mustard, professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Mustard is a co-author of the study in the journal Nature. "The types that formed on the surface are found at very limited locations and are quite rare."

Discovery of clay minerals on Mars in 2005 indicated the planet once hosted warm, wet conditions. If those conditions existed on the surface for a long era, the planet would have needed a much thicker atmosphere than it has now to keep the water from evaporating or freezing. Researchers have sought evidence of processes that could cause a thick atmosphere to be lost over time.

This new study supports an alternative hypothesis that persistent warm water was confined to the subsurface and many erosional features were carved during brief periods when liquid water was stable at the surface.

"If surface habitats were short-term, that doesn't mean we should be glum about prospects for life on Mars, but it says something about what type of environment we might want to look in," said the report's lead author, Bethany Ehlmann, assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena. "The most stable Mars habitats over long durations appear to have been in the subsurface. On Earth, underground geothermal environments have active ecosystems."

The discovery of clay minerals by the OMEGA spectrometer on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter added to earlier evidence of liquid Martian water. Clays form from the interaction of water with rock. Different types of clay minerals result from different types of wet conditions.

During the past five years, researchers used OMEGA and NASA's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, or CRISM, instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to identify clay minerals at thousands of locations on Mars. Clay minerals that form where the ratio of water interacting with rock is small generally retain the same chemical elements as those found in the original volcanic rocks later altered by the water.

The study interprets this to be the case for most terrains on Mars with iron and magnesium clays. In contrast, surface environments with higher ratios of water to rock can alter rocks further. Soluble elements are carried off by water, and different aluminum-rich clays form.

Another clue is detection of a mineral called prehnite. It forms at temperatures above about 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius). These temperatures are typical of underground hydrothermal environments rather than surface waters.

"Our interpretation is a shift from thinking that the warm, wet environment was mostly at the surface to thinking it was mostly in the subsurface, with limited exceptions," said Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., a co-author of the report and principal investigator for CRISM.

One of the exceptions may be Gale Crater, the site targeted by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. Launching this year, the mission’s Curiosity rover will land and investigate layers that contain clay and sulfate minerals.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, in development for a 2013 launch, may provide evidence for or against this new interpretation of the Red Planet's environmental history. The report predicts MAVEN findings consistent with the atmosphere not having been thick enough to provide warm, wet surface conditions for a prolonged period.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Which Way Does the Wind Blow? Let's Find Out!

On a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, Grady Koch spent a month watching ocean winds.

He beamed a laser over the sea, day after day, measuring conditions offshore using an instrument called Doppler Aerosol Wind (DAWN) lidar.

What Koch learns from the experiment will be used by scientists to advance weather forecasting technology -- and also by a consortium hoping to develop a wind farm in the very spot where the wind data is being taken.

"It's been going well," said Koch, a scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

"It works. We're showing that we can measure wind at different heights. One issue we've been working is, how far can we see? We've been able to see pretty well out to 12 kilometers (7.5 miles)."

The wind farm is proposed by the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, a partnership of universities, state and local governments, and industry. The Virginia legislature formed the consortium in 2007 to develop coastal energy technologies.

Alternative Energy

A wind farm would provide Virginia with about 10 percent of its power demand, said George Hagerman, a scientist at Virginia Tech, a consortium partner.

"We're at a point now where offshore wind is not just an academic exercise," he said. I don't think it's a question of 'if.' It's a question of when."

The consortium, Hagerman said, is working with private and government agencies to ensure the potential wind farm is placed in an area where it does not interfere with shipping routes or military exercises, which are common in the waters off Virginia Beach.

The location under study is about 15 miles off the Atlantic coast in Virginia Beach, Va. and covers about 240 square miles. Companies wishing to place wind-powered energy generators in the area would have to sign leases with the federal government, which controls the waters, Hagerman said.

A huge requirement for persuading industry to invest is providing them with reliable data about wind speed and direction.

That's where NASA Langley comes in.

The DAWN laser used by Grady Koch is extremely powerful, and capable of compiling three-dimensional wind profiles. "It's much stronger than anything you can buy on the commercial market," Koch said.

DAWN is the product of three decades of development for use in weather forecasting.

Ultimate Goal

Last year, for example, DAWN was part of a research campaign called the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Process (GRIP) mission. The campaign was conducted to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into hurricanes.

The laser function of DAWN measures wind speed and direction by tracking dust and other particles blowing in the wind. The particles, in a sense, illuminate the wind.

For the current project, DAWN was fitted to a large trailer and towed from Langley to the experiment site. It's a stone's throw from the ocean at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, an Army/Navy installation at Cape Henry, where the Atlantic meets the Chesapeake Bay.

For NASA, the experiment will add much-needed marine wind data to an existing 30-year dataset about wind. That information will be used to improve the capabilities of instruments like DAWN.

The hope is to provide new data for meteorologists so they can make better forecasts about hurricane intensity, track, and landfall. Eventually, scientists hope, a DAWN-like instrument will be launched into space to provide continuous global coverage.

Said Koch of the wind-profiling project: "We're proving a concept."

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spain Vacations-San Fermin Festival:Battle of the Bulls

Enough cheering for Chicago bulls is it not time to witness the real wild bulls. When are we all going to get some live fiery action with our souls involved in it? Come on people am not talking about playing for the bulls but playing with the bulls. Now is the time to decide for it, how many of you know about the San Fermin Festival?. This amazing festival takes place in Spain and it has a lot of events in it and one of them is the wild Bull Run.
This event takes place during July 7th to July 14th and all of us must try to visit Spain during this time and try our hand at this sport. It will give you a lot of thrills, fears, surprises, excitement and enjoyment all at once.So make it to Spain during this festival and enjoy the wild bull chase err I meant run. So book some Spain apartment or villas and enjoy your vacation. Check out some of the world’s most luxurious vacation rentals.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Teams Successfully Fly Over First Round of Competition Hurdles

The Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google has taken off! The competition in Santa Rosa, Calif., is challenging, pushing the envelope in aviation technology. As a result, only three of the 13 original registered teams remain in the competition for the NASA funded prize purse of $1.65 million. They are PhoEnix, Pipistrel-USA and e-Genius.

Yesterday was check in day for the teams and aircraft. Team Fueling notified CAFE that they were withdrawing from the competition due to mechanical problems. Emory Riddle Aeronautical University is flying demonstration flights as a noncompetitor.

Monday morning, as the early morning fog lifted, beautiful blue skies were revealed and the first round of competition took off.

A team briefing was held at 11:00 a.m. EDT to go over the plan for the days events which included completion of vehicle inspections, weight measurements, and takeoff noise and distance tests.

The noise and takeoff distance tests got underway shortly after 6:00 p.m. EDT. CAFE allowed media to go out near the runway and take video and photos as the planes took off and cleared the 50-foot height requirement and noise measurement. All were required to meet a noise level no greater than 78 dBA at full power takeoff, which was measured 250 feet sideways to take off distance. Takeoff distance was set for 2,000 feet from brake release to clear a 50-foot obstacle.

PhoEnix was first up, Pipistrel-USA was next, followed by e-Genius, and then ERAU. All were successful on their first attempts. The e-Genius team was offered and accepted a chance to do a second run due to unexpected background noise from another incoming aircraft across the field. They were again successful. All the planes were impressively quiet!

That concluded the first day of Green Flight Challenge competition, and the aircraft returned to the CAFE hanger campus to recharge their batteries for today's flight, which will cover about 200 miles. The weather is beautiful -- a perfect day for flight competition!

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Friday, October 7, 2011

NASA is Painting the Skies Green Over Santa Rosa

NASA and Centennial Challenge partner organization, the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency, or CAFE, Foundation of Santa Rosa, Calif., are encouraging aerospace enthusiasts to attend the Green Flight Centennial Challenge, set to be held at the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.

Teams from across the United States will test electric, biofueled and hybrid-powered aircraft, vying to be the most fuel-efficient small aircraft in the world. They're competing for a competition purse of $1.65 million -- the largest aviation prize ever offered.

Competitors will tackle a fuel efficiency competition Sept. 27 and a speed competition Sept. 29. To win the fuel competition, an aircraft must fly 200 miles in less than two hours, using less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or an equivalent amount of electricity. If more than one aircraft meets that criteria, the competitor whose aircraft delivers the best combination of speed and efficiency will take home the prize, according to the competition guidelines.

The Green Flight Challenge's winning aircraft must exceed a fuel efficiency equivalent to 200 passenger miles per gallon (pax mpge). In comparison, typical general aviation aircraft have fuel efficiencies in the range of 5-50 pax mpge. Large passenger aircraft are in the 50-100 pax mpge range.

The winning aircraft also must achieve an average speed of at least 100 mph over a 200-mile race circuit; take off from a distance of less than 2,000 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle; and deliver a decibel level below 78 dBA at full power takeoff, as measured from a 250-foot sideline.

The Green Flight Challenge also marks the first time in history that full-scale, electric-powered aircraft will fly in competition. This competition will include the first four-seat, electric aircraft ever to fly, as well as the largest battery pack ever developed for a flight vehicle.

Thirteen teams led by America innovators initially took on the challenge. Five successfully completed aircraft and flight qualification requirements and remain in competition for the prize purse.

Ten of the competing aircraft, including many of those still in competition, will be on display Saturday, Oct. 1, at Sonoma County Airport from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PDT. The public is invited to visit the competition area during the week of Sept. 26 - Oct. 1 between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The focus of the Green Flight Centennial Challenge is to advance technologies in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions with cleaner renewable fuels and electric aircraft. Such technologies and innovations include, but are not limited to, bio-fueled propulsion; breakthroughs in batteries, motors, solar cells, fuel cells and ultra-capacitors that enable electric-powered flight; advanced high lift technologies for very short takeoff and landing distances; ultra-quiet propellers; enhanced structural efficiency built on advances in materials science and nanotechnology; and safety features such as vehicle parachutes and air bags.

The Green Flight Challenge is one of five current NASA Centennial Challenge technology prize competitions. The program, which began in 2005, is named in recognition of the first centennial anniversary of powered flight, and honored the legacy of the Wright Brothers and other American innovators. In the spirit of their endeavors, the Centennial Challenge prizes are offered to independent inventors who work without government support, including small businesses, student groups and individuals.

The prize competitions are targeted at a range of technical challenges that support NASA's missions in aeronautics and space. The goal is to encourage novel solutions from non-traditional sources. In the Centennial Challenge program, NASA provides the prize money and each of the competitions is managed by an independent organization.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Solar Activity Subsiding - Auroras Ablaze

Solar activity is subsiding after last week's flurry of strong flares from sunspot 1283. The sunspot remains capable of M-class eruptions, but Earth would be unaffected by further blasts as the sunspot rotates over the sun's western limb.

A coronal mass ejection (CME) struck Earth's magnetic field on Sept. 9, sparking more than 18 hours of bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. In the United States, Northern Lights were spotted as far south as Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont, Montana, Maine, Minnesota and North and South Dakota. A similar display could be in the offing on Sept. 12-13 when another CME from sunspot 1283 is expected to sail past Earth.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

NASA Global Hawks Prepare for 2012 Hurricane Study

A group of environmental scientists has set up an office in an aircraft hangar at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., in preparation for a multi-year airborne science investigation of hurricane formation and intensification.

As they work on their computers, the scientists are also monitoring the installation and testing of specialized weather-monitoring instruments on one of NASA's Global Hawk remotely operated unmanned aircraft. This hands-on approach to research is part of a critical buildup to a hurricane study sponsored by NASA's Earth Venture Program that begins collecting data next summer.

NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, investigation is a multi-year study of the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean.

"The high-altitude and long-duration capabilities of NASA's Global Hawks allow HS3 to sample storms virtually anywhere in the Atlantic and for durations up to three times that of conventional aircraft," said principal investigator Scott Braun of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Being able to stay over a storm for 15 or more hours allows us to observe storms in ways that were simply not possible before."

HS3 conducted two checkout flights of one of NASA's Global Hawks, one of 24 hours duration Sept. 8 - 9 over the Pacific Ocean and the second of about 19.5 hours on Sept. 13 – 14 over the Gulf of Mexico. Data were gathered by three scientific instruments that will be used during the mission.

The payload included NOAA's Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (the NOAA dropsonde) in the tail of the Global Hawk. Dropsondes are small devices designed to be dropped from an aircraft to collect atmospheric data as they fall to the ground or the ocean surface. This system was designed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

In addition, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Scanning High-Resolution Interferometer Sounder, or S-HIS, was mounted in the Global Hawk’s belly. The sensor measures emitted thermal radiation to obtain temperature and water vapor profiles of the atmosphere.

The third instrument was the High Altitude MMIC Sounding Radiometer, or HAMSR, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. HAMSR provides measurements that can be used to infer the 3-D distribution of temperature, water vapor and cloud-liquid water in the atmosphere, even in the presence of clouds. Like S-HIS and the dropsondes, it provides information on the vertical profile of temperature and humidity.

The goal of the Pacific flight was to compare the temperature and humidity profiles from the S-HIS and HAMSR remote sensors with in situ measurements provided by the dropsondes. Given the uncertainty associated with measuring these quantities from a distance using infrared and microwave technologies, data from the two instruments will be compared to the accurate and much higher resolution data from the dropsondes.

During the 19.5-hour flight to the Gulf of Mexico, the Global Hawk rendezvoused with a NOAA Gulfstream IV. Both aircraft were equipped with dropsonde systems and this flight provided comparison data between them.

These checkout flights were flown to prepare for the deployment of two Global Hawks to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., during the summer of 2012. NASA first used the Global Hawk for hurricane research in 2010 during the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, experiment, but those flights operated from Dryden because the Global Hawk mobile operations facility had not yet been built. This meant that the aircraft had to traverse the southern United States to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

"For HS3, we will operate from Wallops because it gives us direct access to the Atlantic and increases our time near or over storms by up to 10 hours," added Braun.

The Global Hawk will carry sensors to collect data that address the controversial role of the Saharan Air Layer in tropical storm formation and intensification as well as the role of deep thunderstorms in the core region of tropical storms. The aircraft will deploy for about one month each summer in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

NASA’s Earth Science Project Office, located at Ames Research Center on Moffett Field, Calif., manages the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) project. The office is responsible for the project’s safety, technical integrity, performance and mission success.

The HS3 study is one of NASA's Earth Venture missions, part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program funded by the Earth Science Division of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The small, targeted science investigations complement NASA's larger research missions. In 2007, the National Research Council recommended that NASA undertake these types of regularly solicited, quick-turnaround projects.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

NASA Satellite Rainmap Shows Extent of Tropical Storm Lee's Heavy Rainfall

NASA has a rain gauge flying in space called TRMM, and data from that satellite has been used to create a map of the massive rainfall generated by landfalling Tropical Storm Lee.

After forming in the north central Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Lee came ashore over south central Louisiana on the morning of Sunday September 4th, 2011. Over the next two and a half days, the slow-moving storm worked its way across central Louisiana and central Mississippi and into northern Alabama, dumping heavy rains along the way. Tropical Storm Lee joined a frontal system to soak the eastern U.S.

The primary mission of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM satellite is to measure rainfall over the global Tropics using a combination of passive microwave and active radar sensors. TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA. For expanded coverage, TRMM can be used to calibrate rainfall estimates from other satellites. Rainfall estimates from the TRMM-based, near-real time Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. are shown here for the period August 31 to September 8, 2011 for the eastern half of the U.S.

TMPA shows heavy rains extending inland from the northern Gulf of Mexico across eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, northwestern Alabama, and into central Tennessee. Rainfall totals in this region generally exceed 100 mm (~4 inches) with some parts of Mississippi and Louisiana receiving upwards of 250 mm (~10 inches) Chattanooga, Tennessee broke their all time 24-hour rainfall total with 9.69 inches.

After coming ashore, Tropical Storm Lee began to merge with a slowing-moving frontal system advancing eastward out of the Mississippi valley. This frontal system was associated with a quasi-stationary upper-level low pressure center located over the Ohio valley. As a result, tropical moisture was drawn up the eastern seaboard, bringing heavy rains from the mid-Atlantic up into the northern Appalachians.

TMPA rainfall totals of 125 mm (~5 inches, shown in bright green) to as much as 200 to 250 mm (~8 to 10 inches, shown in orange and red) extend from south central Pennsylvania up into central New York, where the Susquehanna River reached record flood levels in downtown Binghamton. Elsewhere across the mid-Atlantic, where pockets of rain exceed anywhere from 100 to 150 mm (~4 to 6 inches), numerous roads and streets were closed due to widespread localized flooding.

On Sept. 9, 2011 at 5 a.m. EDT, heavy rains associated with Lee's remnants are slowly coming to an end across the Mid-Atlantic. The large-scale extra-tropical low pressure area that absorbed Lee's moisture and energy was centered over Indiana and will continue weakening. Meanwhile, The National Weather Service's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) expects "tropical moisture to continue streaming up from the Atlantic Ocean leading to the potential for another round of heavy rains across the region."

For updated rain totals from Tropical Storm Lee, visit the HPC's webpage:

While much of the nation east of the Mississippi received too much rain, there was no relief for Texas and parts of the Central Plains, which remain locked in a drought. TRMM satellite data is also helpful in determining areas of drought.

At NASA Goddard, TMPA rainfall anomalies were created for the one-month period from August 7 to September 7, 2011 that showed a stark contrast between the drought-stricken, well-below normal areas (nearly all of Texas and most of Kansas) and those with well-above normal rain along and east of the Mississippi due to the passage of Lee. The anomalies were constructed by computing the average rainfall rate over the period and then subtracting the 10-year average rate for the same period.

Those drought-stricken areas are hoping that Tropical Storm Nate, currently in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico will bring them some wet relief.

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A NASA-led team of scientists took to the Chesapeake Bay this summer to study a diverse yet close-to-home ecosystem in a field campaign that will help the agency determine how to study ocean health and air quality in coastal regions from space.

Two weeks of research cruises throughout the Chesapeake during a steamy July provided scientists with a detailed wealth of data on what might be called the fundamentals of the ecosystem. How do nutrient levels, pollutants, organic matter, water temperature and dissolved oxygen change throughout the day? What is the makeup of particulate matter in the air, and how does poor air from nearby urban and industrial regions move around above the water and ultimately influence the bay? And how does the air, water and land – or in this case, wetland – affect one another?

Antonio Mannino, an oceanographer at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Maria Tzortziou, an oceanographer and physicist at the University of Maryland and Goddard Space Flight Center, led the campaign as chief scientists. Both are working toward what would be a first for NASA and a significant milestone for their field: a geostationary satellite designed to make detailed measurements of ocean color and air quality along the coasts. Current and former NASA satellite instruments have measured ocean color – in essence, a measure of the amount of sediment, dissolved organics and phytoplankton in the water – from polar orbits. These have provided significant and long-term global data on the composition, productivity and health of the oceans. But NASA has never had a geostationary satellite – meaning it would occupy the same spot hundreds of miles above Earth, rather than orbiting around the planet – for ocean color. This would provide constant coverage of dynamic ecosystems, providing important information of the sort Mannino,Tzortziou and more than 20 other scientists from nine US academic and research institutes were gathering directly in the field this summer – how do air and ocean qualities change throughout a day, not just over long periods of time? And how can we measure this from space?


The Geostationary Coastal and Air Pollution Events (GEO-CAPE) mission was outlined by the National Research Council in its 2007 Earth science decadal survey as one of the most important goals for Earth science research from space. While it is years from being scheduled for launch, scientists such as Mannino and Tzortziou continue to lay the groundwork for a successful mission.

Like with any mission, Mannino said, "We can't build our dream instrument because of the cost. We're trying to understand what can we study given certain specs."

To that end, ten full days on the Chesapeake gave scientists plenty to start with. The Chesapeake was chosen because the campaign could tie in to a series of flights over the Baltimore -Washington region during the month of July as part of NASA's DISCOVER-AQ mission . But the diversity of the bay's different nooks and regions was an added benefit. Leaving from Annapolis, Md., every morning, a group of about 20 researchers made transects in all directions, released a drifter to take measurements wherever the currents led, anchored in one location throughout the day, and took a trip on a Zodiac inflatable power boat to sample shallow water near the marshes of the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. One key question Tzortziou has been investigating is the influence of marshes and wetlands on nearby water quality and carbon cycling."The idea was to go as close as possible to wetlands, which act as sources of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon, and look at the tidal exchanges of carbon and nutrients at the land-ocean interface where rapid processes occur," Tzortziou said. "How far into the main stem of the Bay can you detect the signal of the marsh? And how can we use satellite observations to capture and understand wetland influences on estuarine biology and biogeochemistry?"

Scientists are studying nutrients, dissolved and particulate carbon, organic nitrogen, phytoplankton, chlorophyll pigment, primary production, and dissolved oxygen concentrations. They are also studying optics in the water, necessary to link biological and chemical measurements to satellite ocean color data, and levels of compounds deposited in the water by air pollution. The bay's notorious water quality struggles, particularly during the height of summer, revealed themselves one day as the ship came upon a fish kill of dozens of striped bass, one of the Chesapeake's signature species. "Unusually high nutrient pollution levels have resulted in a particularly large dead-zone in the Bay this year," said Tzortziou.

"We wanted to see how the biology, biogeochemistry, and optics were changing over time," Mannino said of the suite of measurements. "Typically with satellites, we're comparing pixels over a week or month. With GEO-CAPE, we expect to quantify changes such as phytoplankton growth more directly instead of inferring this from models and limited satellite data".

From the research ship (NOAA SRVx; NOAA Marine Sanctuaries Program) and from three research airplanes that performed flights over the ship and spiraled downward close to the water surface, the scientists measured trace gases and particulates in the air to get a measure of the impact of nearby major cities, traffic arteries and industry. These measurements will help toward GEO-CAPE's goal to measure both coastal air quality and marine ecosystem processes.

Next steps

Like with any field campaign, the part in the field is only the beginning. Mannino and Tzortziou said the campaign team has only just begun to process and analyze its data. In addition to scientists from Goddard and the University of Maryland, researchers from NOAA, University of New Hampshire, University of South Florida, Old Dominion University, East Carolina University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center participated in the Chesapeake field campaign. High school, undergraduate and graduate students were involved in the campaign, gaining "hands on" experience at the field.

The Chesapeake turned out to be an ideal location, because it was both accessible and diverse. The northern bay, near Baltimore and Annapolis, provided a sediment-heavy region due to freshwater flow from the Susquehanna River. More polluted waters (and air) near Baltimore provided an opportunity to contrast the shallows near the more pristine Blackwater refuge. And waters farther south in the bay gave scientists a look at some of the clearer regions of the estuary. Future field campaigns will likely fill in knowledge gaps and answer questions toward making GEO-CAPE a reality, Mannino said.

"Ultimately, we're looking for the best satellite instruments possible for observing coastal ecosystems – instruments that will be able to make high quality ocean color observations within regions with high levels of sediment, colored dissolved organic matter, and phytoplankton," he said. "High resolution space-based observations from such instruments will help us understand ecosystem processes in highly dynamic coastal regions" added Tzortziou. "Having observations from such a diverse array of environments will help us plan future expeditions."

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tributes to Terrorism Victims are on Mars

In September 2001, Honeybee Robotics employees in lower Manhattan were building a pair of tools for grinding weathered rinds off rocks on Mars, so that scientific instruments on NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity could inspect the rocks' interiors.

That month's attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, less than a mile away, shook the lives of the employees and millions of others.

Work on the rock abrasion tools needed to meet a tight schedule to allow thorough testing before launch dates governed by the motions of the planets. The people building the tools could not spend much time helping at shelters or in other ways to cope with the life-changing tragedy of Sept. 11. However, they did find a special way to pay tribute to the thousands of victims who perished in the attack.

An aluminum cuff serving as a cable shield on each of the rock abrasion tools on Mars was made from aluminum recovered from the destroyed World Trade Center towers. The metal bears the image of an American flag and fills a renewed purpose as part of solar system exploration.

Honeybee Robotics collaborated with the New York mayor's office; a metal-working shop in Round Rock, Texas; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; and the rover missions' science leader, Steve Squyres, at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

"It's gratifying knowing that a piece of the World Trade Center is up there on Mars. That shield on Mars, to me, contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans," said Stephen Gorevan, Honeybee founder and chairman, and a member of the Mars rover science team.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Gorevan was six blocks from the World Trade Center, riding his bicycle to work, when he heard an airliner hit the first tower. "Mostly, what comes back to me even today is the sound of the engines before the first plane struck the tower. Just before crashing into the tower, I could hear the engines being revved up as if those behind the controls wanted to ensure the maximum destruction. I stopped and stared for a few minutes and realized I felt totally helpless, and I left the scene and went to my office nearby, where my colleagues told me a second plane had struck. We watched the rest of the sad events of that day from the roof of our facility."

At Honeybee's building on Elizabeth Street, as in the rest of the area, normal activities were put on hold for days, and the smell from the collapse of the towers persisted for weeks.

Steve Kondos, who was at the time a JPL engineer working closely with the Honeybee team, came up with the suggestion for including something on the rovers as an interplanetary memorial. JPL was building the rovers and managing the project.

To carry out the idea, an early hurdle was acquiring an appropriate piece of material from the World Trade Center site. Through Gorevan's contacts, a parcel was delivered to Honeybee Robotics from the mayor's office on Dec. 1, 2001, with a twisted plate of aluminum inside and a note: "Here is debris from Tower 1 and Tower 2."

Tom Myrick, an engineer at Honeybee, saw the possibility of machining the aluminum into the cable shields for the rock abrasion tools. He hand-delivered the material to the machine shop in Texas that was working on other components of the tools. When the shields were back in New York, he affixed an image of the American flag on each.

The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on June 10, 2003. Opportunity's launch followed on July 7. Both rovers landed the following January and completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004. Nobody on the rover team or at Honeybee spoke publicly about the source of the aluminum on the cable shields until later that year.

"It was meant to be a quiet tribute," Gorevan told a New York Times reporter writing a November 2004 story about Manhattan's participation in the rover missions. "Enough time has passed. We want the families to know."

Since landing on the Red Planet, both rovers have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit ended communications in March 2010. Opportunity is still active, and researchers plan to use its rock abrasion tool on selected targets around a large crater that the rover reached last month.

One day, both rovers will be silent. In the cold, dry environments where they have worked on Mars, the onboard memorials to victims of the Sept. 11 attack could remain in good condition for millions of years.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rovers for NASA.

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