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Posts Tagged ‘jet propulsion laboratory’

Flying Formation – Around the Moon at 3,600 MPH

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MIT

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MIT

The act of two or more aircraft flying together in a disciplined, synchronized manner is one of the cornerstones of military aviation, as well as just about any organized air show. But as amazing as the U.S. Navy’s elite Blue Angels or the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds are to behold, they remain essentially landlocked, anchored if you will, to our planet and its tenuous atmosphere. What if you could take the level of precision of these great aviators to, say, the moon?

“Our job is to ensure our two GRAIL spacecraft are flying a very, very accurate trail formation in lunar orbit,” said David Lehman, GRAIL project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “We need to do this so our scientists can get the data they need.”

Essentially, trail formation means one aircraft (or spacecraft in this case), follows directly behind the other. Ebb and Flow, the twins of NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) mission, are by no means the first to synch up altitude and “air” speed  while zipping over the craters, mountains, hills and rills of Earth’s natural satellite. That honor goes to the crew of Apollo 10, who in May 1969 performed a dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. But as accurate as the astronauts aboard lunar module “Snoopy” and command module “Charlie Brown” were in their piloting, it is hard to imagine they could keep as exacting a position as Ebb and Flow.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-089

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Cassini Garners Top Honor From Air and Space Museum

March 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn, managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has received the top group honor from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum – the Trophy for Current Achievement. Representatives for Cassini will receive the trophy on March 21 at a black-tie dinner in Washington, D.C.

“Here we are some 15 years since Cassini launched and it’s amazing how well the spacecraft has operated,” said Charles Elachi, director of JPL. “Thanks to the superb work of both the development team and the operations team, Cassini has been able to show us the beauty and diversity of the Saturn system and, beyond that, to study what is really a miniature solar system in its own right.”

The trophies for current and lifetime achievement are the National Air and Space Museum’s most prestigious awards. They recognize outstanding achievements in the fields of aerospace science, technology and their history.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-071

Young Stars Flicker Amidst Clouds of Gas and Dust

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/IRAM

Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/IRAM

Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.

The image can be viewed at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/herschel/multimedia/pia13959.html

The rainbow of colors represents different wavelengths of infrared light captured by both Spitzer and Herschel. Spitzer is designed to see shorter infrared wavelengths than Herschel. By combining their observations, astronomers get a more complete picture of star formation. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA, and also plays an important role in the European Space Agency-led Herschel mission.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-052

Proposed Mars Mission Has New Name

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

A proposed Discovery mission concept led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to investigate the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets by studying the deep interior of Mars now has a new name, InSight.

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport and is a partnership involving JPL, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the French Space Agency (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and other NASA centers. The previous name for the proposal was GEMS (GEophysical Monitoring Station). NASA requested that name be reserved for an astrophysics mission known as the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer, which was already in development.

“We chose the name InSight because we would literally peer into the interior of Mars to map out its structure,” said JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator. “With our geophysical instruments we will be able to see right through to the center of Mars, and will be able to map out how deeply the crust extends as well as the size of the core.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-050

NASA Twin Spacecraft On Final Approach For Moon Orbit

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core are nearing their New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.

Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit beginning at 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21 p.m. EST) for GRAIL-A on Dec. 31, and 2:05 p.m. PST (5:05 p.m. EST) on Jan. 1 for GRAIL-B.

“Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year’s celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need,” said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles (402,336 kilometers). NASA’s Apollo crews took about three days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) to get there.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-426_GRAIL_Highlights.html