Category Archives: NASA

Kepler 452b


Kepler finds the best Earth analog so far. Kepler 452b is the smallest planet found in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, the place where liquid water can exist on a planet around a star. The Kepler-452 system is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus.

Kepler 452b is 60 percent larger in diameter with an orbit only 5 percent larger than we have here on Earth and the year is only a few days longer at 385.

It is thought Kepler 452b is a rocky planet. We don’t know the composition though and we don’t know the mass. When we find out the mass (and we will) then we can come up with all sorts of fun facts.

I am pleased to see the news coverage, but most is rather incomplete. If you haven’t read the press release, you can do so here – it’s much more informative than the coverage I’ve seen at least.

I chose the picture to show the size difference. Yes this planet is substantially different in size than Earth, but it’s getting closer and there are more candidates that seem to closely match Earth. It won’t be long and to think not that long ago we were “alone” as a solar system.

Back to Kepler’s Laws and sharpening my pencil.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

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RS-25 Engine Test

The RS-25 engine was tested on 11 June 2015 when it was fired for 500 seconds at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Four of these engines will be combined to power the new rocket, the Space Launch System by NASA. Eventually the engines will send astronauts to Mars or at least that’s the current plan.

This engine will have to go four more tests in this phased of development. No word on how this test went.


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LDSD Flight Replay

Here is the video of the LDSD flight last Monday (08 June).

I enjoy balloon launches as much as rocket launches. The video gives a great view of that too. The balloon took the saucer-like LDSD to an altitude of 36.5 km / 120,000 ft when a rocket propelled it to Mach 4 an altitude of 54.9 km / 180,000 feet so the tests could be made in the thin atmosphere where it would be similar to that of Mars.

The two technologies tested were the donut-shaped airbag and a parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling at several times the speed of sound. So far it sounds like the aribag worked pretty well but the parachute only partially opened and you can see that in the video.


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Lunar Evolution

The moon is pretty bright in the sky and will be full in just a couple of days.

The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is helping us understand more about the moon’s history.

Video from NASA Goddard

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Mission to Europa

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


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LDSD Testing

LDSD being prepared for testing. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
LDSD being prepared for testing. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

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The Old Ocean on Mars

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?


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LADEE Crater

LADEE impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater. the crater was made by the 383 kg (844 lb) spacecraft. Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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.

See more images at LROC’s LADEE Impact Crater site.

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