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Space News Reports

'J' Marks the Spot for Rosetta's Lander 15 September 2014, 21.19 Space
'J' Marks the Spot for Rosetta's Lander
Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA › Larger
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NASA's Wind-Watching ISS-RapidScat Ready for Launch
Artist's rendering of NASA's ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset), which will launch to the International Space Station in 2014 to measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including
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NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Arrives at Martian Mountain
September 11, 2014 NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet's Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission's long-term prime destination. "Curiosity now
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First Map of Rosetta's Comet 15 September 2014, 21.19 Space
First Map of Rosetta's Comet
This view of the "belly" and part of the "head" of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko indicates several morphologically different regions. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA ›
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NASA to hold Sept. 17 Briefing on MAVEN Mars Orbit Insertion, Events Coverage
[image-36] NASA will host a televised media briefing at 1 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Sept. 17, to outline activities around the Sunday, Sept. 21 orbital insertion at Mars of the agency’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution
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New NASA Team Spots Massive Galaxies at the Very Edge of the Visible Universe
"If you think of our survey as fishing for galaxies in the cosmic sea, then we are finding many more big fish in deep waters than previously expected," said Charles Steinhardt of NASA's Infrared Processing and
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"Ghostly Organic Atmospheres of Comets Fueled the Emergence of Life" --Goddard Center for Astrobiology
An international team of scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made incredible 3D images of the ghostly atmospheres surrounding comets ISON and Lemmon (image at top of page and
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A Mystery of the Early Universe --"The Missing Element"
      The Milky Way galaxy is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters, which are balls of hundreds of thousands of old stars dating back to the formation of the galaxy. One of these,
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Elemental Mystery: Lithium Is Also Rare Outside Of The Milky Way
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in
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Philae Snaps a Spacetastic Selfie 10 September 2014, 18.53 Space
Philae Snaps a Spacetastic Selfie
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Image of Rosetta’s solar panel and comet 67P/C-G taken by Philae’s CIVA instrument on Sept. 7, 2014 (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA) Spacecraft
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Carnival of Space #370 10 September 2014, 18.53 Space
Carnival of Space #370
by Susie Murph on September 10, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major. This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Gadi Eidelheit at
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Assembly Complete for NASA’s First Orion Crew Module Blasting off Dec. 2014
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter NASA’s first completed Orion crew module sits atop its service module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at Kennedy Space
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Bumper Car Moonlets Crash and Crumble in Saturn’s F Ring
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter A map of Saturn’s F ring from 2006 shows one of the few bright, extended clumps (inside green box) seen during six years of observation by
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Tales (Tails?) Of Three Comets 10 September 2014, 18.53 Space
Tales (Tails?) Of Three Comets
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter A 40 minute exposure of Comet E2 Jacques taken from Payson, Arizona. Credit: Chris Schur. As the Chinese proverb says, “May you live in
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Scientists Find Evidence of 'Diving' Tectonic Plates on Europa
Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter's moon Europa. This conceptual illustration of the subduction process (where one plate is forced under another) shows how a cold, brittle, outer portion of Europa's
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JPL to Host 'NASA Social' Highlighting Comets 10 September 2014, 18.53 Space
JPL to Host 'NASA Social' Highlighting Comets
Artist's concept of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars, just 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers) from the planet. Image credit: NASA/JPL › Larger image
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NASA Research Aids Response to California Napa Quake
NASA?s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been monitoring active earthquake faults in California with a number of remote sensing and ground-based techniques. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Google Earth
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NASA Telecon to Discuss Mars Curiosity Science Plans
This artist concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and
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Spitzer's SPLASH Project Dives Deep for Galaxies 10 September 2014, 18.53 Space
Spitzer's SPLASH Project Dives Deep for Galaxies
Scientists "fish" for galaxies in this playful, digitally altered photo. The researchers are part of a program called SPLASH, which is using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to dive deep into the cosmic sea and find some of the
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NASA Launches New Era of Earth Science from Space Station
Image Credit: NASA September 08, 2014 The launch of a NASA ocean winds sensor to the International Space Station (ISS) this month inaugurates a new era of Earth observation that will leverage the space station's
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Hubble Finds Companion Star Hidden for 21 Years in a Supernova's Glare
Get larger image formats For over two decades astronomers have been patiently monitoring the fading glow of a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They've been looking for a suspected companion star that pulled off almost all of
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MAVEN Mars Orbiter Ideally Poised to Uniquely Map Comet Siding Spring Composition – Exclusive Interview with Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter MAVEN to conduct up close observations of Comet Siding Spring during Oct. 2014MAVEN is NASA’s next Mars Orbiter and will investigate how the
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Weekly Space Hangout – Sept. 5, 2014 – Summer Story Review!
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Guests:Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @cosmic_chatter)Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)Thad Szabo
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Second Possible Proto-Planet Found In System Pretty Close To Earth
by Elizabeth Howell on September 5, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter This artist’s conception shows a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of
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Space Station’s Robonaut 2 Is Getting More Astronaut-Like By The Day
by Elizabeth Howell on September 5, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter NASA’s large space station robot now has legs and a plan to (eventually) head outside to do
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New Mosaic Reveals Jets Blasting from Rosetta’s Comet
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Two jets of gas and dust blast from Comet 67P/C-G in this reassembled and enhanced mosaic made from four photos taken by Rosetta’s navigation
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What Comets, Parking Lots and Charcoal Have in Common
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter In this delightful portrayal of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we see the 2.5-mile-wide object close to true color with downtown Los Angeles,
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"A Strange New Theory of How Space-Time is Emerging" (Weekend Feature)
"What Mark has done is put his finger on a key ingredient of how space-time is emerging: entanglement," says Gary Horowitz, who studies quantum gravity at the University of California Santa Barbara. Horowitz says
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The Mystery of  Europa's Vanished Geysers --"Reached 200 Kilometers in Height"
Lorenz Roth of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas and Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne used the Hubble to prove that there is water vapour erupting near its south pole. The water plumes
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A Vivid Preview of the Milky Way's Fate --A Collision of Two Galaxies When Universe was Half Its Current Age
This past month, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and many other telescopes on the ground and in space, released the best view yet of a preview of the future Milky
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NASA Instrument aboard European Spacecraft Returns First Science Results
[image-51]A NASA instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA's) Rosetta orbiter has successfully made its first delivery of science data from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The instrument, named Alice, began mapping
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NASA Probes Studying Earth’s Radiation Belts to Celebrate Two Year Anniversary
[image-36] NASA's twin Van Allen Probes will celebrate on Saturday two years of studying the sun’s influence on our planet and near-Earth space. The probes, shortly after launch in August 2012, discovered a third radiation
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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Crosses Neptune Orbit En Route to Historic Pluto Encounter
NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015. The
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New iBooks Textbook Helps Visually Impaired Visit the Stars Through Touch and Sound
Get larger image formats Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled "Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn."
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NASA Telescopes Help Uncover Early Construction Phase of Giant Galaxy
Get larger image formats The birth of massive galaxies, according to galaxy formation theories, begins with the buildup of a dense, compact core that is ablaze with the glow of millions of newly formed stars. Evidence of
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Future News Reports

Obama's War Against US Energy Independence:  Give Away Oil Rich Alaskan Islands to Russia!
  By Joe Miller The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab
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OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials 08 April 2012, 02.33 Administrator Energy
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials Visit http://www.osbitpower.com for further information OSBIT Power (OP), Siemens Wind Power and Statoil have successfully completed offshore
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North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost 12 January 2012, 02.01 Administrator Energy
North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost
        North America’s EV charging infrastructure may soon see significant improvements, thanks to a recent agreement between Eaton Corporation and Coulomb Technologies. Under the deal, Eaton’s Level II and
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Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source? 28 May 2011, 01.34 Administrator Energy
Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source?
      Have scientists already unknowingly discovered the source for all atomic energy reactions, and could the discovery of the gravitomagnetic field be the ultimate energy source?  What if our understandings on how
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Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation 25 September 2011, 16.27 Administrator Energy
Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation
Physicists wary of junking light speed limit yet Physicist Antonio Ereditato poses before presenting the result of an experiment, which found a subatomic particle, the neutrino, seemed to move faster than the speed of
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STEORN ORBO  FREE ENERGY:  What's Next a Self Charging Unit for your Electric Car?
Steorn's Free Energy Orbo -- From Permanent Magnets to Solid State Systems   My associate, Hank Mills composed this for PESN, Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:17 Steorn is a small company based in Dublin, Ireland. For
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Cold Fusion, Releases Energy from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field 16 January 2011, 09.17 Administrator Energy
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy  from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field
Cold Fusion "In Bologna we did it" By Ilaria VENTURI, La Republica News, Bolona, Italy For the first time in Italy, in front of experts, the process was carried out using nickel and hydrogen. It 's the way to achieve
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Abu Dhabi Media Zone to generate renewable energy through its façade
Eco Factor: Sustainable development to generate renewable solar energy. Bernard Tschumi Architects have re-imagined their master plan for the new Abu Dhabi Media Zone, by incorporating several environmentally-friendly
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Microbial Life and Active Ecosystem Found in Antarctica Lake that Hasn't Seen Sunlight for Millions of Years PDF Print E-mail

The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth. Many of the microbes are single-celled organisms known as Archaea, said Montana State University professor John Priscu, the chief scientist of the U.S. project called WISSARD that sampled the sub-ice environment. He is also co-author of the Mpaper in the Aug. 21 issue of Nature.

“We were able to prove unequivocally to the world that Antarctica is not a dead continent,” Priscu said, adding that data in the Nature paper is the first direct evidence that life is present in the subglacial environment beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Lead author Christner said, “It’s the first definitive evidence that there’s not only life, but active ecosystems underneath the Antarctic ice sheet, something that we have been guessing about for decades. With this paper, we pound the table and say, ‘Yes, we were right.’”

 

                      Testimage3 (1)

 

Priscu said he wasn’t entirely surprised that the team found life after drilling through half a mile of ice to reach Subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013. An internationally renowned polar biologist, Priscu researches both the South and North Poles. This fall will be his 30th field season in Antarctica, and he has long predicted the discovery.

More than a decade ago, he published two manuscripts in the journal Science describing for the first time that microbial life can thrive in and under Antarctic ice. Five years ago, he published a manuscript where he predicted that the Antarctic subglacial environment would be the planet’s largest wetland, one not dominated by the red-winged blackbirds and cattails of typical wetland regions in North America, but by microorganisms that mine minerals in rocks at subzero temperatures to obtain the energy that fuels their growth.

 

Testimage3 (2)

Following more than a decade of traveling the world presenting lectures describing what may lie beneath Antarctic ice, Priscu was instrumental in convincing U.S. national funding agencies that this research would transform the way we view the fifth largest continent on the planet.

Although he was not really surprised about the discovery, Priscu said he was excited by some of the details of the Antarctic find, particularly how the microbes function without sunlight at subzero temperatures and the fact that evidence from DNA sequencing revealed that the dominant organisms are archaea. Archaea is one of three domains of life, with the others being Bacteria and Eukaryote.

Many of the subglacial archaea use the energy in the chemical bonds of ammonium to fix carbon dioxide and drive other metabolic processes. Another group of microorganisms uses the energy and carbon in methane to make a living. According to Priscu, the source of the ammonium and methane is most likely from the breakdown of organic matter that was deposited in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago when Antarctica was warmer and the sea inundated West Antarctica. He also noted that, as Antarctica continues to warm, vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will be liberated into the atmosphere enhancing climate warming.

 

Testimage3

 

The U.S. team also proved that the microorganisms originated in Lake Whillans and weren’t introduced by contaminated equipment, Priscu said. Skeptics of his previous studies of Antarctic ice have suggested that his group didn’t actually discover microorganisms, but recovered microbes they brought in themselves.

“We went to great extremes to ensure that we did not contaminate one of the most pristine environments on our planet while at the same time ensuring that our samples were of the highest integrity,” Priscu said.

Extensive tests were conducted two years ago on WISSARD’s borehole decontamination system to ensure that it worked, and Priscu led a publication in an international journal presenting results of these tests. This decontamination system was mated to a one-of-a-kind hot water drill that was used to melt a borehole through the ice sheet, which provided a conduit to the subglacial environment for sampling.

Every day in Antarctica, he would tell his team to keep it simple, Priscu said. To prove that an ecosystem existed below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, he wanted at least three lines of evidence. They had to see microorganisms under the microscope that came from Lake Whillans and not contaminated equipment. They then had to show that the microorganisms were alive and growing. They had to be identifiable by their DNA.

When the team found those things, he knew they had succeeded, Priscu said.

The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project officially began in 2009 with a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Now involving 13 principal investigators at eight U.S. institutions, the researchers drilled down to Subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013. The microorganisms they discovered are still being analyzed at MSU and other collaborating institutions.

Planning to drill again this austral summer in a new Antarctic location, Priscu said WISSARD was the first large-scale multidisciplinary effort to directly examine the biology of an Antarctic subglacial environment. The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers an area 1 ½ times the size of the United States and contains 70 percent of Earth's freshwater, and any significant melting can drastically increase sea level. Lake Whillans, one of more than 200 known lakes beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet and the primary lake in the WISSARD study, fills and drains about every three years. The river that drains Lake Whillans flows under the Ross Ice Shelf, which is the size of France, and feeds the Southern Ocean, where it can provide nutrients for life and influence water circulation patterns.

The opportunity to explore the world under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is an unparalleled opportunity for the U.S. team, as well as for several MSU-affiliated researchers who are part of that team and wrote or co-authored the Nature paper, Priscu said.

The fact that MSU was so involved reflects the fact that it is pioneering a new field of science, Priscu said. MSU is the common ancestor of many scientists who study life in and under ice.

“I always tell my students when they come into the lab that ‘We are inventing this field of science. It’s working on life in ice and under ice. This field has never existed before. We thought it up. You are pioneers,’” Priscu said.

Appreciative of the opportunity to participate in WISSARD, Vick-Majors said she saw bacteria under the microscope within an hour after the first sample of water was pulled out of Subglacial Lake Whillans. Within days, she saw proof that the bacteria were active.

“It was very exciting. It will be hard to top,” she said.

She added that, “If you want to do microbial ecology in Antarctic subglacial environments, John is probably the person you want to work with. I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity.”

Agreeing, Michaud said, “Some of the graduate students joke, ‘How do we top this?’ We can’t.”

But the students can build on their WISSARD experience and gain a deeper understanding of Subglacial Lake Whillans and other subglacial habitats, he said. It’s not about going out and finding more novel habitats.

Christner said the team that wrote the paper in Nature is the dream team of polar biology. Besides the MSU-affiliated scientists, the co-authors include Amanda Achberger, a graduate student at Louisiana State University; Carlo Barbante, a geochemist at the University of Venice in Italy; Sasha Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in San Diego; and Knut Christianson a postdoctoral researcher from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and New York University.

The Daily Galaxy via Montana State University

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"The Invisible Galaxies" --Radio Images of the Whirlpool Galaxy & Beyond PDF Print E-mail

 

 

Swirlingelec


Unravelling the mysteries of magnetic fields is crucial to understanding how our Universe works. For too long, many of the big questions about magnetic fields have simply been untestable before this new era of radio astronomy. "This opens a new window to the Universe where we do not know what galaxies will look like", observes Rainer Beck, lead astronomer with the Max Planck Institute. "Maybe we will see how galaxies are magnetically connected to intergalactic space. This is a key experiment in preparation for the planned Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that should tell us how cosmic magnetic fields are generated."



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Curiosity Skips Drilling, Resumes Mount Sharp Trek after Pounding Slippery Rock at Martian Valley of Slippery Sands PDF Print E-mail

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NASA’s Curiosity rover hammers into ‘Bonanza King’ rock outcrop evaluating potential as 4th drill site for sampling at ‘Hidden Valley’ in this photo mosaic view captured on Aug. 20, 2014, Sol 724. Inset MAHLI camera image at right shows resulting rock indentation that caused it to budge and be unsafe for further drilling. Note the background of sand dune ripples and deep wheel tracks inside Hidden Valley that forced quick exit to alternate route forward. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover hammers into ‘Bonanza King’ rock outcrop evaluating potential as 4th drill site for sampling at ‘Hidden Valley’ in this photo mosaic view captured on Aug. 20, 2014, Sol 724. Inset MAHLI camera image at right shows resulting rock indentation that caused it to budge and be unsafe for further drilling. Note the background of sand dune ripples and deep wheel tracks inside Hidden Valley that forced quick exit to alternate route forward. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover will skip drilling into a possible 4th rock target and instead resume the trek to Mount Sharp after finding it was unfortunately a slippery rock at the edge of a Martian valley of slippery sands and was therefore too hazardous to proceed with deep drilling and interior sampling for analysis.

After pounding into the “Bonanza King” rock outcrop on Wednesday, Aug. 20, to evaluate its potential as Curiosity’s 4th drill target on Mars and seeing that it moved on impact, the team decided it was not even safe enough to continue with the preliminary ‘mini-drill’ operation that day.

So they cancelled the entire drill campaign at “Bonanza King” and decided to set the rover loose to drive onwards to her mountain climbing destination.

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover's drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, "Bonanza King," would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover’s drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, “Bonanza King,” would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We have decided that the rocks under consideration for drilling, based on the tests we did, are not good candidates for drilling,” said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, in a statement.

“Instead of drilling here, we will resume driving toward Mount Sharp.”

Loose, unstable rocks pose a prospective hazard to the 1 ton robots hardware and health if they become dislodged during impact by the percussive drill located at the end of the robotic arm.

It’s worth recalling that whirling rocks during the nailbiting Red Planet touchdown two years ago on Aug. 6, 2012, inside Gale Crater are suspected to have slightly damaged Curiosity’s REMS meteorological instrument station.

Each drill target must pass a series of tests. And the prior three at more extensive outcrops all met those criteria. By comparison, imagery showed Bonanza King was clearly part of a much smaller outcrop. See our Bonanza King photo mosaics herein.

NASA’s Curiosity rover looks back to ramp with potential 4th drill site target at ‘Bonanza King’ rock outcrop in ‘Hidden Valley’ in this photo mosaic view captured on Aug. 6, 2014, Sol 711. Inset shows results of brushing on Aug. 17, Sol 722, that revealed gray patch beneath red dust. Note the rover’s partial selfie, valley walls, deep wheel tracks in the sand dunes and distant rim of Gale crater beyond the ramp. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover looks back to ramp with potential 4th drill site target at ‘Bonanza King’ rock outcrop in ‘Hidden Valley’ in this photo mosaic view captured on Aug. 6, 2014, Sol 711. Inset shows results of brushing on Aug. 17, Sol 722, that revealed gray patch beneath red dust. Note the rover’s partial selfie, valley walls, deep wheel tracks in the sand dunes and distant rim of Gale crater beyond the ramp. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

“One step in the procedure, called “start hole,” uses the hammering action of the percussive drill to create a small indentation in the rock. During this part of the test, the rock moved slightly, the rover sensed that instability in the target, and protective software properly halted the procedure,” according to a NASA statement.

This pale, flat Martian rock thus failed to pass the team’s safety criteria for drilling when it budged.

Bonanza King sits in an bright outcrop on the low ramp at the northeastern end of a spot leading in and out of an area called “Hidden Valley” which lies between Curiosity’s August 2012 landing site in Gale Crater and her ultimate destinations on Mount Sharp which dominates the center of the crater.

Just days ago, the rover team commanded a quick exit from “Hidden Valley” to backtrack out of the dune filled valley because of fears the six wheeled robot could get stuck in slippery sands extending the length of a football field.

“Hidden Valley” looked like it could turn into “Death Valley.”

As Curiosity tested the outcrop, the rover team was simultaneously searching for an alternate safe path forward to the sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp because she arrived at Hidden Valley after recently driving over a field of sharp edged rocks in the “Zabriskie Plateau” that caused further rips and tears in the already damaged 20 inch diameter aluminum wheels.

It will take a route skirting the north side of the sandy-floored valley taking care to steer away from the pointiest rocks.

“After further analysis of the sand, Hidden Valley does not appear to be navigable with the desired degree of confidence,” Erickson said. “We will use a route avoiding the worst of the sharp rocks as we drive slightly to the north of Hidden Valley.”

To date, Curiosity’s odometer totals over 5.5 miles (9.0 kilometers) since landing inside Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012. She has taken over 179,000 images.

Curiosity still has about another 2 miles (3 kilometers) to go to reach the entry way at a gap in the treacherous sand dunes at the foothills of Mount Sharp sometime later this year.

Mount Sharp is a layered mountain that dominates most of Gale Crater and towers 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the Martian sky and is taller than Mount Rainier.

“Getting to Mount Sharp is the next big step for Curiosity and we expect that in the Fall of this year,” Dr. Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Sciences at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, told me in an interview marking the 2nd anniversary since touchdown on Aug. 6.

“Drilling on the crater floor will provide needed geologic context before Curiosity climbs the mountain.”

The team may go back to its original plan to drill at the potential science destination known as “Pahrump Hills” which was changed due to the route change forced by the slippery sands in Hidden Valley.

The main map here shows the assortment of landforms near the location of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover as the rover's second anniversary of landing on Mars nears. The gold traverse line entering from upper right ends at Curiosity's position as of Sol 705 on Mars (July 31, 2014). The inset map shows the mission's entire traverse from the landing on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT) to Sol 705, and the remaining distance to long-term science destinations near Murray Buttes, at the base of Mount Sharp. The label "Aug. 5, 2013" indicates where Curiosity was one year after landing. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The main map here shows the assortment of landforms near the location of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover as the rover’s second anniversary of landing on Mars nears. The gold traverse line entering from upper right ends at Curiosity’s position as of Sol 705 on Mars (July 31, 2014). The inset map shows the mission’s entire traverse from the landing on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT) to Sol 705, and the remaining distance to long-term science destinations near Murray Buttes, at the base of Mount Sharp. The label “Aug. 5, 2013″ indicates where Curiosity was one year after landing. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Rosetta, Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, Dream Chaser, commercial space, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Tagged as: Bonanza King, Curiosity, Curiosity Rover, Gale crater, Hidden Valley, Mars, Mars Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), Mount Sharp, MSL, NASA, red planet, Zabriskie Plateau

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SpaceX Rocket Prototype Explodes In Texas; ‘Rockets Are Tricky’, Musk Says PDF Print E-mail

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SpaceX's F9R rocket prototype during a successful test in May 2014. Credit: SpaceX/YouTube (screenshot)

SpaceX’s F9R rocket prototype during a successful test in May 2014. Credit: SpaceX/YouTube (screenshot)

No injuries are reported after a SpaceX rocket prototype detonated in Texas today (Aug. 22) after an anomaly was found in the rocket, the company said in a statement.

The  Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) — a successor to the Grasshopper vertical take-off and landing rocket — was completing the latest in a series of ambitious tests that previously saw the prototype successfully testing new steerable fins.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test,” SpaceX said in a statement (which you can read in full below the jump.) “As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.”


The company said it would provide more updates as it found information. SpaceX founder Elon Musk issued a brief statement of his own on Twitter:

Screenshot of a June 2014 F9R test flight.

Screenshot of a June 2014 F9R test flight.

Below is SpaceX’s statement:

Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three-engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper.) During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.

Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.

With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.

SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed.

Here are some recent Universe Today stories on the rocket:

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Tagged as: F9R, falcon 9 reusable, Falcon 9-R, Grasshopper, SpaceX

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Watch A ‘Jellyfish Of Fire’ Created On The International Space Station PDF Print E-mail

by Elizabeth Howell on August 22, 2014

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Reid Wiseman, NASA astronaut and part-time master of Vine videos, has done it again. This time he’s showing off a flame experiment on the International Space Station called the Flame Extinguishment Experiment-2 (FLEX-2).

“Ignition, jellyfish of fire, warp-drive finish!” wrote Wiseman on Vine yesterday (Aug. 22). He also posted a slow-motion capture of flames in action, which you can see below the jump. FLEX-2, as the name implies, is the second flame experiment on board the International Space Station. NASA states the goal is to understand how small fuel droplets burn in space.

“The FLEX-2 experiment studies how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, and how mixtures of fuels evaporate before burning. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth,” the agency wrote.

A screenshot of an experiment in the Flame Extinguishment Experiment - 2 (FLEX-2) on the International Space Station, taken during Expedition 40 in August 2014. Credit: Reid Wiseman/Vine

A screenshot of an experiment in the Flame Extinguishment Experiment – 2 (FLEX-2) on the International Space Station, taken during Expedition 40 in August 2014. Credit: Reid Wiseman/Vine

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Tagged as: expedition 40, fire, flex-2, reid wiseman

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Stolen Meteorite Found at a Tennis Court PDF Print E-mail

by Jason Major on August 22, 2014

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The Meteorite of Serooskerken (Source: Sterrenwacht Sonnenborgh)

The Meteorite of Serooskerken (Source: Sterrenwacht Sonnenborgh)

Here’s a bit of good news: the Serooskerken meteorite, which was stolen from the Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory in Utrecht, Netherlands on Monday night, has been recovered. It was found in a bag left in some bushes alongside a tennis court and turned in to the police.

It’s not quite “game, set, match” though; unfortunately the meteorite was broken during the theft. (See a photo here via Twitter follower Marieke Baan.) Still, the Sonnenborgh Museum director is glad to have the pieces back, which he said will remain useful for research and can still be exhibited. (Source)

The Serooskerken meteorite was recovered from a fall in the Dutch province of Zeeland on August 28, 1925. Classified as a diogenite (HED) it is thought to have originated from the protoplanet Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (and the previous target of NASA’s Dawn mission.) It is one of only five meteorite specimens ever recovered in the Netherlands.

The meteorite was one of several items reported stolen from the Sonnenborgh Museum on the night of August 18-19, 2014.

Find out more about the recovery and see photos here.

HT to Google+ Space Community member Andre van der Hoeven for the update on this story.

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Tagged as: found, meteorite, Netherlands, recovered, Serooskerken, Sonnenborgh, theft, vesta

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Pluto Spacecraft Planning? New Map Of Neptune’s Icy Triton Could Prepare For 2015 Encounter PDF Print E-mail

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Talk about recycling! Twenty-five years after Voyager 2 zinged past Neptune’s moon Triton, scientists have put together a new map of the icy moon’s surface using the old data. The information has special relevance right now because the New Horizons spacecraft is approaching Pluto fast, getting to the dwarf planet in less than a year. And it’s quite possible that Pluto and Triton will look similar.

Triton has an exciting history. Scientists believed it used to be a lone wanderer until Neptune captured it, causing tidal heating that in turn created fractures, volcanoes and other features on the surface. While Triton and Pluto aren’t twins — this certainly didn’t happen to Pluto — Pluto also has frozen volatiles on its surface such as carbon monoxide, methane and nitrogen.

What you see in the map is a slightly enhanced version of Triton’s natural colors, bearing in mind that Voyager’s sensors are a little different from the human eye. Voyager 2 only did a brief flyby, so only about half the planet has been imaged. Nonetheless, the encounter was an exciting time for Paul Schenk, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. He led the creation of the new Triton map, and wrote about the experience of Voyager 2 in a blog post.

The southern hemisphere of Neptune's moon Triton, at a resolution of 600 meters (1,969 feet) per pixel. Credit: Paul Schenk (LPI, Houston) from Voyager 2 images acquired August 1989

The southern hemisphere of Neptune’s moon Triton, at a resolution of 600 meters (1,969 feet) per pixel. Credit: Paul Schenk (LPI, Houston) from Voyager 2 images acquired August 1989

“Triton is a near twin of Pluto,” wrote Schenk. “Triton and Pluto are both slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon, have very thin nitrogen atmospheres, frozen ices on the surface (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen), and similar bulk composition (a mixture of ices, including water ice, and rock.  Triton however was captured by Neptune long time ago and has been wracked by intense heating ever since.  This has remade its surface into a tortured landscape of overturned layers, volcanism, and erupting geysers.”

He also added speculation about what will be seen at Pluto. Will it be a dead planet, or will geology still be affecting its surface? How close will Triton be to Pluto, particularly regarding its volcanoes? Only a year until we know for sure.

Sources: NASA, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Paul Schenk

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Tagged as: triton

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Rosetta Moving Closer to Comet 67P Hunting for Philae Landing Site PDF Print E-mail

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Animation Caption: Possible landing sites on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The model shows the illumination of the comets surface and regions under landing site consideration for the Philae lander on board ESA’s Rosetta spececraft . Credit: CNES

“The race is on” to find a safe and scientifically interesting landing site for the Philae lander piggybacked on ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft as it swoops in ever closer to the heavily cratered Comet67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since arriving two weeks ago after a decade long chase of 6.4 billion kilometers (4 Billion miles).

Rosetta made history by becoming the first ever probe from Earth to orbit a comet upon arrival on Aug. 6, 2014.

The probe discovered an utterly alien and bizarre icy wanderer that science team member Mark McCaughrean, of ESA’s Science Directorate, delightedly calls a ‘Scientific Disneyland.’

“It’s just astonishing,” he said during a live ESA webcast of the Aug. 6 arrival event.

Now, another audacious and history making event is on tap – Landing on the comet!

To enable a safe landing, Rosetta is moving in closer to the comet to gather higher resolution imaging and spectroscopic data. When Rosetta arrived on Aug. 6, it was initially orbiting at a distance of about 100 km (62 miles). As of today, carefully timed thruster firings have brought it to within about 80 km distance. And it will get far closer.

Holger Sierks, OSIRIS principal investigator, discusses spectacular hi res comet images returned so far by Rosetta during the Aug. 6 ESA webcast from mission control at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany. Credit: Roland Keller

Holger Sierks, OSIRIS principal investigator, discusses spectacular hi res comet images returned so far by Rosetta during the Aug. 6, 2014, ESA webcast from mission control at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany. Credit: Roland Keller

Right now a top priority task for the science and engineering team leading Rosetta is Finding a landing strip” for the Philae comet lander equipped with 10 science instruments.

Philae’s landing on comet 67P is currently scheduled for Nov. 11, 2014. It will anchor itself to the surface using ice crews and two harpoons.

“The challenge ahead is to map the surface and find a landing strip,” said Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager, at the Aug. 6 ESA webcast.

The team responsibility for choosing the candidate sites comprises “the Landing Site Selection Group (LSSG), which comprises engineers and scientists from Philae’s Science, Operations and Navigation Centre (SONC) at CNES, the Lander Control Centre (LCC) at DLR, scientists representing the Philae Lander instruments, and supported by the ESA Rosetta team, which includes representatives from science, operations and flight dynamics,” according to an ESA statement.

This week the team is intensively combing through a preliminary list of 10 potential landing sites.

Over the weekend they will whittle the list down to five candidate landing sites for continued detailed analysis.

ESA will announce the Top 5 landing site candidates on Monday, Aug. 25.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet's nucleus. It was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 7, 2014. At the time, the spacecraft was 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) wide nucleus. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/Enhanced processing Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

Where will Philae land?
This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet’s nucleus. It was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 7, 2014. At the time, the spacecraft was 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) wide nucleus. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/Enhanced processing Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

The decision rests on the results of Rosetta’s ongoing global mapping campaign, including high resolution imaging from the OSIRIS and NAVCAM cameras and further observations from the other science instruments, especially MIRO, VIRTIS, ALICE, GIADA and ROSINA.

The surface criteria for a suitable landing site include day time landing illumination, a balance between day and night to allow the solar panels to recharge the batteries, avoiding steep slopes, large boulders and deep crevasses so it doesn’t topple over.

Of course the team also must consider the comet’s rotation period (12.4 hours) and axis of rotation (see animation at top). Sites near the equator offering roughly equal periods of day and night may be preferred.

The selection of the primary landing site is slated for mid-October after consultation between ESA and the lander team on a “Go/No Go” decision.

Artist impression of Philae on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist impression of Philae on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Tagged as: CNES, Comet 67P, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, Comets, DLR, esa, NASA, OSIRIS Camera, philae, rosetta

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NASA TV to Air Events That Highlight Pluto-Bound Spacecraft PDF Print E-mail

Media and the public are invited to attend two events Monday, Aug. 25 from 1-3 p.m. EDT to learn more about the agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and its historic connection to the Voyager spacecraft’s visit to Neptune in 1989.

The events, which will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website, will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington.

New Horizons will conduct a six -month-long study of Pluto and its five moons, including a close approach in July 2015.

• The 1-2 p.m. event will feature a panel discussion with:
o Jim Green, director, NASA’s Planetary Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
o Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
o Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado

• The 2-3 p.m. event will include several New Horizons science team members giving personal accounts of their work during the Voyager Neptune encounter and their new assignments on the Pluto mission. Panel participants include:

o Moderator: David Grinspoon, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona
o Fran Bagenal, University of Colorado, Boulder
o Bonnie Buratti, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
o Jeffrey Moore, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
o John Spencer, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado

Media can ask questions from participating NASA locations, or by telephone. To participate by phone, reporters must contact Steve Cole at 202-358-0918 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and provide their media affiliation by noon Monday.

Media and the public can also ask questions via social media using #askNASA.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

For more information on New Horizons on the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

-end-

 



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