Tuesday there was a press conference to announce which of the 33 proposed for science instruments to fly aboard the Europa mission.
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
Curt Niebur, Europa program scientist, NASA Headquarters
It has been a while since we’ve heard much news of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator or LDSD.
The image above shows the LDSD flight-test vehicle in a NASA-JPL clean room. The LDSD is sitting on a spin table that was used to spin the 4.6 meter / 15 foot and 3,175 kg / 7,000 lb test vehicle to 30 rpm to check its balance. The LDSD is about to be flown to a naval facility in Kauai, Hawaii for further testing.
The June tests will involve lifting the LDSD by balloon to 36 km / 120,000 feet over the Pacific. At altitude the LDSD will be released and a booster rocket will ignite and carry it to 55 km / 180,000 feet and accelerating it to Mach 4 in the process. At the final altitude a series of automated tests of two new technologies will begin.
The supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator also known at SAID-R, an inflatable doughnut will deploy. The result will be a larger vehicle with more drag that will slow the vehicle from about Mach 3.8 to Mach 2.5 when the worlds largest supersonic parachute ever will deploy. The parachute should enable a controlled landing in the Pacific Ocean 45 minutes later.
The new technologies tested should enable large payloads to be landed on Mars and other planets with atmoshpheres and at higher altitudes.
All the clues lead to the idea there was water on Mars, little dispute there. How much water there was is the question. Scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA) suggest the planet was 20 percent covered with water.
The following question has to be: was the water there long enough for life to exist?
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer also known as LADEE was launched from the Wallops Flight Facility on 06 September 2013 on a mission that would take it to the moon with four main goals:
Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the tenuous lunar exosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity;
Determine if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at tens of kilometers above the surface were sodium glow or dust;
Document the dust impactor environment (size, frequency) to help guide design engineering for the outpost and also future robotic missions;
Demonstrate two-way laser communication from lunar orbit.
The laser communication demonstration was successful and a download link of 622 megabits/sec was attained. The science data I think is still being studied.
The mission ended with a controlled interface with the lunar surface (it crashed on purpose) on 18 April 2014 at a velocity of 5,800 km/sec or 3,600 mph.
A look at Neptune and one of its moons Triton from New Horizons spacecraft on 10 July 2014. When the image was taken, New Horizons had not crossed the orbit of Neptune. At the orbit crossing New Horizons was actually closer to Pluto than Neptune.
Coming up very soon, on 06 December 2015 New Horizons will exit sleep mode for the last time. The spacecraft has periodically gone in and out of sleep mode so there shouldn’t be any surprises. From then on the spacecraft will be fully awake and very shortly after will start taking science data. We should get some tantalizing views of the Plutonian system from the same camera that took the one above: New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.
Best to let NASA explain:
Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.