Boosters for Orion Spacecraft's First Flight Test Arrive at Port Canaveral, Florida

Boosters for Orion Spacecraft’s First Flight Test Arrive at Port Canaveral, Florida

A barge arrives at the U.S. Army Outpost wharf at Port Canaveral in Florida, carrying two of the three United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy boosters for NASA’s upcoming Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) with the Orion spacecraft. The core booster and starboard booster will be offloaded and then transported to the Horizontal Integration Facility, or HIF, at Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The port booster and the upper stage are planned to be shipped to Cape Canaveral in April. At the HIF, all three boosters will be processed and checked out before being moved to the nearby launch pad and hoisted into position.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations in deep space, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. During the uncrewed EFT-1 flight, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space — farther than a spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years — and orbit the Earth twice. The capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph, generating temperatures as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The data gathered during the flight will influence design decisions, validate existing computer models and innovative new approaches to space systems development, as well as reduce overall mission risks and costs for later Orion flights.
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Image Credit: NASA

Unpacking Cargo from Expedition 38 Soyuz Landing

Unpacking Cargo from Expedition 38 Soyuz Landing

Engineers document cargo as it is unloaded from the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft after it landed with Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, and Flight Engineers: Mike Hopkins of NASA, and, Sergey Ryazanskiy of R…

Rhea's Day in the Sun

Rhea’s Day in the Sun

A nearly full Rhea shines in the sunlight in this recent Cassini image. Rhea (949 miles, or 1,527 kilometers across) is Saturn’s second largest moon.
Lit terrain seen here is on the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Rhea. North on Rhea is up and rotated 43 d…

False-Color Image of Earth Highlights Plant Growth

False-Color Image of Earth Highlights Plant Growth

On Aug. 3, 2004, NASA’s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft began a seven-year journey, spiraling through the inner solar system to Mercury. One year after launch, the spacecraft zipped around Earth, getting an orbit correction from Earth’s gravity and getting a chance to test its instruments by observing its home planet.
This image is a view of South America and portions of North America and Africa from the Mercury Dual Imaging System’s wide-angle camera aboard MESSENGER. The wide-angle camera records light at eleven different wavelengths, including visible and infrared light. Combining blue, red, and green light results in a true-color image from the observations. The image substitutes infrared light for blue light in the three-band combination. The resulting image is crisper than the natural color version because our atmosphere scatters blue light. Infrared light, however, passes through the atmosphere with relatively little scattering and allows a clearer view. That wavelength substitution makes plants appear red. Why? Plants reflect near-infrared light more strongly than either red or green, and in this band combination, near-infrared is assigned to look red.
Apart from getting a clearer image, the substitution reveals more information than natural color. Healthy plants reflect more near-infrared light than stressed plants, so bright red indicates dense, growing foliage. For this reason, biologists and ecologists occasionally use infrared cameras to photograph forests.
> Read more: Why is that Forest Red and that Cloud Blue? How to Interpret a False-Color Satellite Image
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Caption: Holli Riebeek

Martian Sand Dunes in Spring

Martian Sand Dunes in Spring

Mars’ northern-most sand dunes are beginning to emerge from their winter cover of seasonal carbon dioxide (dry) ice. Dark, bare south-facing slopes are soaking up the warmth of the sun.
The steep lee sides of the dunes are also ice-free along the crest, allowing sand to slide down the dune. Dark splotches are places where ice cracked earlier in spring, releasing sand. Soon the dunes will be completely bare and all signs of spring activity will be gone.
This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 16, 2014. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Caption: Candy Hansen

Sounding Rocket Launches Into Aurora Over Venetie, Alaska

Sounding Rocket Launches Into Aurora Over Venetie, Alaska

On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.
The GREECE mission seeks to understand what combination of events sets up these auroral curls as they’re called, in the charged, heated gas – or plasma – where aurorae form. This is a piece of information, which in turn, helps paint a picture of the sun-Earth connection and how energy and particles from the sun interact with Earth’s own magnetic system, the magnetosphere.
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Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry

Source Region for Possible Europa Plumes

Source Region for Possible Europa Plumes

This reprojection of the official USGS basemap of Jupiter’s moon Europa is centered at the estimated source region for potential water vapor plumes that might have been detected using the Hubble Space Telescope. The view is centered at -65 degrees latitude, 183 degrees longitude.
In addition to the plume source region, the image also shows the hemisphere of Europa that might be affected by plume deposits. This map is composed of images from NASA’s Galileo and Voyager missions. The black region near the south pole results from gaps in imaging coverage.
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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Expedition 38 Takes an In-Flight Crew Portrait

Expedition 38 Takes an In-Flight Crew Portrait

Expedition 38 crew members pose for an in-flight crew portrait in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station on Feb. 22, 2014. Pictured (clockwise from top center) are Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, commander; Japan Aerospace Exploration Age…

Deploying a Set of CubeSats From the International Space Station

Deploying a Set of CubeSats From the International Space Station

A set of NanoRacks CubeSats is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member after deployment by the NanoRacks Launcher attached to the end of the Japanese robotic arm. The CubeSats program contains a variety of experiments such as Earth observations and advanced electronics testing. International Space Station solar array panels are at left. Earth’s horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for the scene.
Two sets of CubeSats were deployed late Wednesday, Feb. 26 and early Thursday, Feb. 27, leaving just two more launches to go of the 33 CubeSats that were delivered to the station in January by Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo ship. The latest CubeSats were sent on their way at 8:50 p.m. EST Wednesday and 2:40 a.m. Thursday. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites and have small, standardized sizes to reduce costs. Two final batches of CubeSats are set for deployment at 11:20 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday, but more are scheduled to be delivered to the station on the second Orbital commercial resupply mission in May.
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Image Credit: NASA

Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory Aboard H-IIA Rocket

Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory Aboard H-IIA Rocket

A Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying the NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory rolls out to launch pad 1 at the Tanegashima Space Center, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, Tanegashima, Japan. Once launched, the GPM spacecraft will collect information that unifies data from an international network of existing and future satellites to map global rainfall and snowfall every three hours.
The rocket is scheduled to lift off during a launch window that opens at 1:37 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 27 (3:37 a.m., Friday, Feb. 28 Japan time).
GPM is an international satellite mission to provide next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. The GPM Core Observatory satellite carries advanced instruments that will set a new standard for precipitation measurements from space. The data they provide will be used to unify precipitation measurements made by an international network of partner satellites to quantify when, where, and how much it rains or snows around the world.
The GPM mission will help advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles, improve the forecasting of extreme events that cause natural disasters, and extend current capabilities of using satellite precipitation information to directly benefit society.
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Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls