Category Archives: NASA

The Total Solar and Spectral Irradiance Sensor

A VERY interesting mission about to get underway from a Space X rocket. The solar irradiance is a bit deeper than one might first surmise. Here’s a couple of companion links to the press release by NASA and Rani Gran:
NASA TSIS-1 website.
TSIS-1 Project website

A new instrument that will monitor our planet’s biggest power source, the Sun, arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It has a targeted November 2017 launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. The Total Solar and Spectral Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) instrument was built by the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Scientists will use TSIS-1 to study the Sun’s energy input to Earth. Specifically, it will measure both the total amount of light that falls on Earth, known as the total solar irradiance, and how that light is distributed among ultraviolet, visible and infrared wavelengths, called solar spectral irradiance.

We need to measure both because both affect Earth’s climate,” said Dong Wu, the TSIS-1 project scientist at NASA Goddard.

TSIS-1 will make these measurements with two sensors: the Total Irradiance Monitor and the Spectral Irradiance Monitor. These sensors advance previous measurements and are designed to see the tiny changes in solar irradiance, enabling scientists to study the Sun’s natural influence on Earth’s ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, clouds and ecosystems.

Scientists use the total solar irradiance measurements to quantify the variations in the Sun’s total amount of energy. Satellites have captured a continuous record of the total solar energy input to Earth since 1978, and have seen tiny fluctuations in solar energy output over the years. Most scientists believe the 0.1 percent variation in the Sun’s irradiance is too subtle to explain Earth’s recent warming, but it’s not impossible that long-term patterns proceeding over hundreds or thousands of years could cause more severe swings that could have profound impacts on climate. Scientists believe there could be a 100- or 200-year cycle of gradual heating up and cooling down periods for the Sun.

“We need to continue to monitor the Sun over longer periods during which the irradiance may change gradually but significantly,” said Peter Pilewskie, TSIS lead mission scientist from LASP in Boulder, Colorado. “How the atmosphere responds to subtle changes in the Sun’s output helps us distinguish between natural and human influences on climate.”

Scientists also study the solar spectral irradiance, the distribution of the Sun’s energy across its constituent wavelengths, because different wavelengths of light are absorbed by different parts of the atmosphere. For instance, the ozone layer is Earth’s natural sunscreen and protects life from harmful ultraviolet radiation. TSIS-1 measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the condition of this protective ozone layer.


COBALT (CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies) strives to provide the higest quality precision navigation solution ever tested for NASA space landing applications.

The technologies included a navigation doppler lidar (NDL), which provides ultra-precise velocity and line-of-sight range measurements, and the Lander Vision System (LVS), which provides terrain-relative navigation.

NASA’S Armstrong Flight Research Center – Through flight campaigns conducted in March and April aboard Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac, a rocket-powered vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) platform, the COBALT system was flight tested to collect sensor performance data for NDL and LVS and to check the integration and communication between COBALT and the rocket. The flight tests provided excellent performance data for both sensors, as well as valuable information on the integrated performance with the rocket that will be used for subsequent COBALT modifications prior to follow-on flight tests.

Mars Smiles Back

This fun image,  formally known as formally known as “THEMIS Art #138”,  comes to us from the Mars 2001 Odyssey Spacecraft taken by the onboard Thermal Emission Imaging System or THEMIS.

Orbit Number: 65345

Latitude: 34.4675 Longitude: 105.179

IR Captured: 2016-09-06 09:27


Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.

2017 Half Over

The title of this video is “What’s Happened So Far – Mid-Year @NASA – June 16, 2017”. I ask what happened TO the first half of the year? Half over already, my goodness!

NASA’s Newest Astronauts

One presumably young lady said in the comments for this video: “I will be in one of these videos someday.” and to that I say, I hope so!!

Also it could go without saying (and almost did), Good luck and congratulations to the new astronauts!

The Europa Clipper

NASA – NASA’s upcoming mission to investigate the habitability of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa now has a formal name: Europa Clipper.

The moniker harkens back to the clipper ships that sailed across the oceans of Earth in the 19th century. Clipper ships were streamlined, three-masted sailing vessels renowned for their grace and swiftness. These ships rapidly shuttled tea and other goods back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and around globe.

In the grand tradition of these classic ships, the Europa Clipper spacecraft would sail past Europa at a rapid cadence, as frequently as every two weeks, providing many opportunities to investigate the moon up close. The prime mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

Europa has long been a high priority for exploration because it holds a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust. The ultimate aim of Europa Clipper is to determine if Europa is habitable, possessing all three of the ingredients necessary for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources sufficient to enable biology.

“During each orbit, the spacecraft spends only a short time within the challenging radiation environment near Europa. It speeds past, gathers a huge amount of science data, then sails on out of there,” said Robert Pappalardo, Europa Clipper project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Previously, when the mission was still in the conceptual phase, it was sometimes informally called Europa Clipper, but NASA has now adopted that name as the former title for the mission.

The mission is being planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years.

JPL manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.