Perseverance has Found a ‘Cat Hair’ in its Drill Chuck. What is it?

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its SHERLOC WATSON camera, located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm. This image was acquired on Aug. 4, 2022 (Sol 517). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

After each use of one of the tools at the end of the Perseverance rover’s arm, the mission’s engineering team always takes images of the tool to make sure everything is still in working order.

Last week the rover’s drill was used to take a core sample from a rock – the 12th such sample that has now been stored and sealed for possible future retrieval in a proposed sample return mission. The team then took images of the drill and sample collection system components. In those images, two small pieces of debris were visible: a small object on the coring bit (which is stored in the bit carousel) and a small hair-like object on the drill chuck.

Continue reading “Perseverance has Found a ‘Cat Hair’ in its Drill Chuck. What is it?”

It’s Been 10 Years Since Curiosity Landed on Mars, and the Rover is Still Going Strong

Curiosity on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to take this 360-degree panorama of at the “Avanavero” drill site. The panorama is made up of 127 individual images taken on June 20, 2022, the 3,509th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, and stitched together back on Earth. The color has been adjusted to match the lighting conditions as the human eye would perceive them on Earth. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

For a spacecraft that’s traveled millions of kilometers across space and driven on the surface of Mars, Curiosity is holding up pretty darned well. That’s the assessment from the operations team at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This week they celebrated ten years of the rover’s exploration across one of the more forbidding terrains in the solar system.

Continue reading “It’s Been 10 Years Since Curiosity Landed on Mars, and the Rover is Still Going Strong”

South Korea’s First Orbital Mission to the Moon is on its Way

A graphic showing the orbital path the Danuri Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft will take to go into orbit around the Moon. Credit: Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)

South Korea launched its first robotic mission to the Moon last week, as a SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched the Danuri Lunar Pathfinder mission on August 4, 2022 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The spacecraft was placed into a fuel-saving lunar transfer orbit, and it should arrive in lunar orbit in December.

Translated, Danuri means “enjoy the Moon.”

Continue reading “South Korea’s First Orbital Mission to the Moon is on its Way”

Astronomers List 88 Distant Galaxies They Want to Look at With JWST. Some Are Less Than 200 Million Years Old.

distant galaxies behind a nearby galaxy cluster.
The galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as seen by NIRCam on JWST. It's gravitational lensing properties are helping astronomers identify 88 distant galaxies in this field of view for further study. Courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Way back in the earliest ages of the universe, the first galaxies were born. Astronomers want to know more about them. They’re especially interested to know exactly when these distant galaxies formed and what their stars were like. Now that JWST is a working observatory, astronomers are excited to use its data to explore those early epochs. They’re eager to see the most distant objects, and—as seems likely—do a rejiggering of the cosmic timeline after the Big Bang.

Continue reading “Astronomers List 88 Distant Galaxies They Want to Look at With JWST. Some Are Less Than 200 Million Years Old.”

With Martian air, Dirt, and Sunshine, It Should be Possible to Make Iron on Mars

mars
An artist concept of base infrastructure on Mars. Early habitats will be brought to Mars, but permanent infrastructure could be created using local materials. Credit: NASA

When the first humans reach Mars, they’ll probably live in habitats that were there ahead of time or in habs made from their landers. Eventually, though, if people are going to settle on Mars in large numbers, they’ll need to become self-sufficient. A group of researchers at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia is looking at ways to make it happen. Their goal is in-situ resource utilization on the planet for solutions to building out the materials needed for Mars cities. They’ve come up with a proposal to produce metals for use on Mars, using only what’s available on the planet. It’s the first detailed study of its kind focused on metal production at another world. It has further implications for colonies on the Moon, as well.

Continue reading “With Martian air, Dirt, and Sunshine, It Should be Possible to Make Iron on Mars”

A Remote Surgical Robot is Going to the International Space Station

Shane Farritor, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virtual Incision. Credit: Craig Chandler/UNL

In the near future, NASA and other space agencies will send astronauts beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the first time in over fifty years. But unlike the Apollo Era, these missions will consist of astronauts spending extended periods on the Moon and traveling to and from Mars (with a few months of surface operations in between). Beyond that, there’s also the planned commercialization of LEO and cis-Lunar space, meaning millions of people could live aboard space habitats and surface settlements well beyond Earth.

This presents many challenges, which include the possibility that the sick and injured won’t have licensed medical practitioners to perform potentially life-saving surgery. To address this, Professor Shane Farritor and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) have developed the Miniaturized In-vivo Robotic Assistant (MIRA). In 2024, this portable miniaturized robotic-assisted surgery (RAS) platform will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS) for a test mission to evaluate its ability to perform medical procedures in space.

Continue reading “A Remote Surgical Robot is Going to the International Space Station”

Hubble can Still Impress and Inspire. Here's Globular Star Cluster NGC 6638

Globular cluster NGC 6638 in the constellation Sagittarius, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Cohen.

Wow, what a beauty! While we’ve all turned our attentions to the new James Webb Space Telescope, this image proves Hubble has still has got it where it counts.  

This new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the heart of the globular cluster NGC 6638 in the constellation Sagittarius. This star-studded cluster contains tens of thousands to millions of stars, all tightly bound together by gravity. Globular clusters have a higher concentration of stars towards their centers, and this observation highlights that density.

Continue reading “Hubble can Still Impress and Inspire. Here's Globular Star Cluster NGC 6638”

Will Europa finally answer, ‘Are we alone?’

While NASA’s much-lauded Space Launch System stands ready for its maiden flight later this month with the goal of sending astronauts back to the Moon in the next few years, our gazes once again turn to the stars as we continue to ask the question that has plagued humankind since time immemorial: Are we alone? While there are several solar system locales that we can choose from to conduct our search for life beyond Earth, to include Mars and Saturn’s moons, Titan and Enceladus, one planetary body orbiting the largest planet in the solar system has peaked the interest of scientists since the 1970s.

Continue reading “Will Europa finally answer, ‘Are we alone?’”

Watch OSIRIS-REx's Complex Orbital Path Around Bennu in This Cool Animation

OSIRIS-REx mission timeline. Credit: NASA.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft conducted a two-year reconnaissance and sample collection at the asteroid Bennu, providing crucial data about the 500-meter-wide potentially hazardous rubble pile/space rock. When OSIRIS-REx arrived on Dec. 3, 2018, it needed some tricky navigation and precise maneuvers to make the mission work.

Experts at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio created an amazing visualization of the path the spacecraft took during its investigations. A short film called “A Web Around Asteroid Bennu” highlights the complexity of the mission, and the film is being shown at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a festival honoring standout works of computer animated storytelling.

Continue reading “Watch OSIRIS-REx's Complex Orbital Path Around Bennu in This Cool Animation”

Dwarf Galaxies Found Without Influence From Dark Matter

Dwarf galaxy in Fornax.
The dwarf galaxy NGC1427A flies through the Fornax galaxy cluster and undergoes disturbances which would not be possible if this galaxy were surrounded by a heavy and extended dark matter halo, as required by standard cosmology. Courtesy ESO.

Ask astronomers about dark matter and one of the things they talk about is that this invisible, mysterious “stuff” permeates the universe. In particular, it exists in halos surrounding most galaxies. The mass of the halo exerts a strong gravitational influence on the galaxy itself, as well as on others in the neighborhood. That’s pretty much the standard view of dark matter and its influence on galaxies. However, there are problems with the idea of those halos. Apparently, some oddly shaped dwarf galaxies exist that look like they have no halos. How could this be? Do they represent an observationally induced challenge to the prevailing ideas about dark matter halos?

Continue reading “Dwarf Galaxies Found Without Influence From Dark Matter”