Our view is from the fourth room - a glass enclosed public viewing area above the others.
Below is the Deep Space Operations stations and consoles support the workaday teams which monitor all active missions and data collection. Soft blue LEDs illuminate each workstation. Above are three projection screens which can display networked pages relevant to the task at hand - in this case the transition from spacecraft to rover of the Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity", a high-risk stream of events.
To the right is a Mission Control Center, which spends much time unoccupied. Tonight however Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team have come to sweat and fret, and eat the traditional peanuts. They monitor and direct the spacecraft as the tasks unfold autonomously, keeping watch that all is nominally within range (keeping an eye pealed for anomalies.) Tomorrow this room will once again be empty, save for the few workers swapping functions in preparation for the next Mission Control team. Some of the team returns to home mission control for day-to-day planning and operations, some of tonight's team bid farewell and are re-assigned to other teams where their spaceflight expertise can be useful, while others now join the ground operations aspect of Curiosity.
Just beyond the glass beneath the projection screens is the the key to ALL current missions, the Deep Space Network Operations Center. Here is the connections to and from points far and wide. It is the nexus, the hub between all currently operating missions with crews sending commands and receiving data, through here, and out to collections of Deep Space Network Antennas and arrays which are many, and include the famous ones in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone in the Mojave Desert of California. The buck stops here for ensuring scientists remain connected to their experiments. A redundant and robust network which includes transmission media such as microwave, coaxial, twisted-pair and fiber-optic carrying an astronomic variety of analog and digital protocol information must remain under constant vigil to prevent disruption.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research. It's mission statement "To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research." implies a directive to make it's finding available to all U.S. citizens. Sometimes that is a televised event, and the data screens on either side of the telemetry data screen are displaying the High-Definition video streams of themselves, perhaps a reminder to keep offensive gestures and t-shirt logos out of the public eye. This view is from the camera mounted on the right side of the public viewing platform, and a recursive image is seen on the right data screen. If you could view with infinite pixel density, you would be about here in the worm-hole, giving new meaning to waving at the folks back home.
Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
IMAGE ADVISORY October 18, 2005
Contact: Rosemary Sullivant, (818) 354-0474
SHARM EL SHEIK, EGYPT: SITE OF MIDEAST SUMMIT
The golf resort in Sharm El Sheik, where President Clinton
met this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, stands out against
the desert landscape in a satellite image taken by a NASA
instrument. The image is available at:
The image of the Red Sea coastal town was taken on August
25, 2005, by NASA's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and
Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), one of several Earth-observing
instruments aboard the Terra satellite.
More information about ASTER is available at:
http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov/ 10/18/00 RS
IMAGE ADVISORY October 16, 2005
Contact: Mary Hardin
30,000 NEW MARS IMAGES ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON THE WEB
The imaging team of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft
has doubled the number of Mars pictures available to the public
with the release of a new archive of red planet pictures totally
slightly more than 30,000 images.
The archive contains all the pictures that were taken by
Mars Global Surveyor from September 1999 through February 2004
and includes the images that were taken to search for the Mars
Polar Lander spacecraft. No evidence of the lander was ever
seen. The archive also covers the period of south polar cap
retreat through southern spring and into early summer. This
includes changes observed on the south polar cap's "Swiss cheese"
surfaces, among others.
Mars Global Surveyor was launched on November 7, 1996 and
entered orbit around Mars on September 12, 1997. The spacecraft
has been systematically mapping the red planet since March 1999.
Mars Global Surveyor is managed by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
The camera system was built and is operated by Malin Space
Science Systems, San Diego, Calif. JPL's industrial partner is
Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo., which developed and
operates the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 11, 2005
Contact: Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850
NEW BULK METALLIC GLASS TO CATCH PIECES OF THE SOLAR WIND
NASA's Genesis spacecraft, the first mission to collect and
return samples of the solar wind -- fast moving particles from
the Sun -- is moving closer to launch. Scheduled for liftoff in
February 2004, the mission will help scientists refine the basic
definition of the Sun's characteristics, and understand how the
solar nebula, a large cloud of gas and dust, gave rise to our
complex solar system.
Genesis has received its final piece of science equipment: a
solar wind collector made of a new formula of bulk metallic
glass, composed of the same class of material as high-tech golf
clubs. It and other solar wind collector tiles on the spacecraft
will collect the first-ever samples of the solar wind as the
spacecraft floats in the oncoming solar stream.
"Comparing differences in what the Sun and the Earth are
made of yields interesting conclusions," said Dr. Don Burnett of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the principal
investigator for the mission and leader of the Genesis team.
"What Genesis does is measure what the Sun is made of, so that
many important comparisons can be made."
On its return to Earth in 2004, the sample collected by
Genesis will be retrieved in midair by helicopters. Genesis will
have collected elements of the solar wind such as isotopes of
oxygen and nitrogen. The samples will be sent to laboratories for
Bringing back samples of the solar wind will provide the
next century of scientists with a databank of solar composition.
Because the outer layers of the Sun are composed of almost the
same material as the original solar nebula from which all our
solar system came, scientists will also learn more about
meteorites, comets, lunar samples, planetary atmospheres, and how
these components evolved.
The mission is designed to measure the composition of
isotopes in solar matter, to improve knowledge about the
differing amounts of elements, and to obtain separate samples of
different types of solar wind.
The body of the spacecraft contains a canister with
collector plates that fold out like blades on a pocket knife to
collect solar wind. The ions and particles that make up the solar
wind will embed themselves and be trapped in small hexagonal
plates on the circular blades.
A disk made of a mixture of metals that has properties
similar to other glasses, about the size of a coffee cup lid,
completes the science payload. It is a unique formulation of
bulk metallic glass created especially for Genesis. The shaft on
which the plates rotate is capped with the disk of new bulk
In an odd mix of science and sports, golfers and Genesis
scientists both like bulk metallic glasses, but for different
reasons. Premium golf clubs can be made with a kind of bulk
metallic glass that is hard but springy. Scientists use a type
that absorbs and retains helium and neon, important elements in
understanding solar and planetary processes.
The new bulk metallic glass-forming alloy was designed by
Dr. Charles C. Hays in the materials science laboratories of Dr.
Bill Johnson of Caltech. It is a complex mixture of zirconium,
niobium, copper, nickel, and aluminum. The atoms of metallic
glasses solidify in a random fashion, unlike metals, which have
an ordered crystalline structure. This disordered atomic state
makes metallic glasses useful in a wide range of applications,
from aircraft components to high-tech golf clubs. The Genesis
metallic glass was prepared in a collaborative effort by Hays and
George Wolter of the Howmet Corporation, Greenwich, Conn., using
the same process the company uses for the high-tech Vitreloy-
based golf clubs.
The surfaces of metallic glasses dissolve evenly, allowing
the captured ions to be released in equal layers by sophisticated
acid etching techniques developed by the University of Zurich,
Switzerland. Higher-energy ions blast further into the metal's
surface. When samples are back on Earth, special techniques will
be used to etch the metal layer by layer, releasing the particles
of gas for laboratory study.
"One exciting thing about bulk metallic glass is that it
will enable us to study ions with energies higher than the solar
wind. This allows Genesis to test proposals that the higher
energy particles differ in composition from the solar wind," said
Burnett. This will be the first time the theories about different
kinds of solar wind can be tested by bringing back actual
samples, he said.
To bathe in the solar wind, the spacecraft only needs to fly
about 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) toward the Sun
(about 1 percent of the Sun-Earth distance). When it is in the
right position -- outside of Earth's magnetic field, between
Earth and the Sun where the gravity of both bodies is balanced,
called the Lagrange point -- the capsule will open its collector
arrays and let ions barrage its panels.
Genesis is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space
Science, in Washington, DC. It is part of NASA's Discovery
Program of low-cost, highly focused science missions.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 11, 2005
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill (818) 354-6478
ART & SCIENCE OF SPACE NAVIGATION IS TOPIC OF FREE JPL LECTURE
Navigating spacecraft across the solar system has been
likened to celestial billiards, where an artful "bumper shot" may
be needed to get from one planet to another. A Jet Propulsion
Laboratory spacecraft navigation expert will explain the art and
science of this arcane field in a public lecture called
"Navigation: Cruisin' Through Space," to be held Thursday, Oct.
19 at JPL and Friday, Oct. 20 at Pasadena City College.
Both lectures are at 7 p.m. Parking and admission are free
and on a first-come, first-served basis.
Dr. Donald Gray, veteran of numerous space missions, will
explain how JPL became the world leader in space navigation by
delivering spacecraft to planets, comets, and asteroids
throughout the solar system with unprecedented accuracy. Gray
will also describe experiences that highlight the exuberance,
nail biting, and triumph of innovation inherent in the field.
Gray, who has been with JPL for more than 25 years, has
worked on the navigation teams of the Viking missions to Mars,
the Voyager missions to the outer planets, and the Cassini
mission to Saturn. He is currently working on Genesis, scheduled
to launch next year on a mission to gather a sample of particles
that stream outward from the Sun and return them to Earth for
Gray received a bachelor's degree from the University of
Maryland in 1955, and a master's degree and doctorate in
mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in 1963 and 1967. Gray is the recipient of two NASA
Exceptional Achievement Medals and a NASA Outstanding Leadership
Medal, among the agency's highest honors.
INTERNET ADVISORY Oct. 10, 2005
TRAVEL GUIDE SITE FOLLOWS SPACECRAFT TO JUPITER
For the first time ever, two interplanetary spacecraft are
studying the same outer planet at the same time. A new Internet
site will keep people on our own planet up to date about the
The Jupiter Millennium Flyby site maintained by NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., gives visitors a travel
guide of NASA's Cassini and Galileo spacecraft near Jupiter from
October through March. It will provide regular updates of new
information and pictures gathered by the spacecraft and by
related Jupiter research.
Cassini will pass near Jupiter in December to gain the
gravitational assist it needs for reaching its main objective,
Saturn, more than three years later. Its closest approach to
Jupiter will be about 10 million kilometers (6 million miles)
away, on Dec. 30, 2005. It began returning Jupiter pictures and
data last week, from about eight times farther away.
Galileo has been orbiting Jupiter since late 1995, still
making discoveries after more than double its planned orbital
lifespan and triple its planned radiation exposure. Galileo is
currently in a distant portion of an elongated orbit and will be
returning close to Jupiter in December. A coordinated plan of
studies aims to use the opportunity of having two different
vantage points to gain new information about Jupiter, its moons,
and its surrounding environment.
The Jupiter Millennium Flyby site will offer several
animations from various points of view. It also has educational
material for classroom use.
Cassini is a cooperative endeavor of NASA, the European
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the
Cassini and Galileo missions for NASA's Office of Space Science,
Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute
of Technology in Pasadena.
IMAGE ADVISORY October 6, 2005
Contact: Rosemary Sullivant, JPL (818) 354-0474
Jennifer Lafley, NIMA (301) 227-3089
CALIFORNIA'S GEOGRAPHY CREATES CHALLENGES FOR BROADCASTERS
Los Angeles may be the world's entertainment capital, but it
is a difficult area to place television and radio antennas for
broadcasting. The metropolitan area spreads out from the Pacific
Ocean to Southern California's upper and lower deserts -- over
valleys, mountains, canyons and coastal plains. While this unique
geography offers something for everyone in terms of urban,
suburban, houseboat, small-town and even semi-rural living,
reception of television and radio signals can be problematic if
there is no line-of-sight to a transmitting antenna. The
challenge to broadcasters is clear in this perspective view from
the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission available online at
The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is a cooperative
project between NASA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
(NIMA), and the German and Italian space agencies. More
information about the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is
available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/srtm .
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 28, 2005
Contact: Mary Hardin (818) 354-0344
IT'S "2004 MARS ODYSSEY" FOR NASA'S NEXT TRIP TO THE RED PLANET
As NASA's next spacecraft to the red planet begins a crucial
round of testing in preparations for launch next year, the
mission has been given a new name: 2004 Mars Odyssey.
"The year 2004 has a special significance to many of us who
recall the thrill of reading the book and watching the movie
'2004: A Space Odyssey.' We looked forward to the exciting future
of space exploration that the year 2004 promised," said Scott
Hubbard, Mars Program Director at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
"NASA's next mission to Mars, launching in the year 2004,
represents the start of a new wave of exploration at the red
planet," said Hubbard. "It seemed fitting to name the mission
2004 Mars Odyssey not only in honor of the story and the movie,
but also to herald the start of our new long-term journey to
Hubbard added that Arthur C. Clarke, author of "2004: A
Space Odyssey," enthusiastically endorsed the new mission name.
The orbiting spacecraft is designed to find out what Mars is
made of, detect water and shallow buried ice and study the
radiation environment. The spacecraft begins thermal vacuum
testing this week at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver,
Colo., where it was designed and built.
"It's exciting to have a new name for the mission, and going
into the thermal vacuum testing chamber is the next big step for
the spacecraft," said George Pace, project manager for 2004 Mars
Odyssey at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"We will simulate the full range of temperatures that the
spacecraft will be subjected to during its entire mission, from
the coldest to the warmest."
"We have done several things in response to the NASA review
board recommendations to ensure mission success, like adding
additional staff and transitioning development personnel to
operations. I'm confident we have a solid mission," Pace added.
The orbiter will study the kinds of minerals on the surface
and measure the amount of hydrogen in the shallow subsurfaces of
the planet, which will give scientists clues about the presence
of water, either past or present. It will also provide
information on the structure of the Martian surface and on the
geological processes that may have caused it. Finally, the
orbiter will take all-important measurements of the planet's
radiation environment so potential health risks to future human
explorers can be evaluated. To do this, the spacecraft carries
three science instruments: The Thermal Emission Imaging System
(THEMIS), the Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS), and the Mars
Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE).
2004 Mars Odyssey is scheduled for launch on April 7, 2005,
on a Delta II launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, FL. The space explorer is scheduled to arrive at Mars in
In August, NASA announced plans to launch twin rovers which
will land on Mars in 2004, and later this fall, will announce
details of the multi-year Mars exploration program plan.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 28, 2005
Contact: Jane Platt (818) 354-0880
ASTRONOMERS IMPROVE "COSMIC YARDSTICK"
Researchers using a sophisticated testbed at Caltech's
Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., have achieved the
best-ever distance measurement to a type of star known as a
Cepheid variable. These results improve the "cosmic yardstick"
used to infer the size and shape of the universe.
In the September 28 issue of the journal Nature, astronomers
from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; the California Institute
of Technology; and the JPL/Caltech Infrared Processing and
Analysis Center, all in Pasadena, determined a distance to the
star Zeta Geminorum in the Gemini constellation of 1,100 light
years. The improvement was made possible by the Palomar Testbed
Interferometer, designed and built by JPL researchers. The
device combines light gathered by two telescopes to produce a
very sharp image normally obtainable only with a much larger
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 26, 2005
Contact: Gabrielle Birchak-Birkman, JPL, (818) 393-4359
Michael Braukus, NASA Headquarters,
Washington, DC, (202) 358-1979
Herman Bank, Volunteer Professionals for Medical
Advancement (626) 791-3748
SEASONED SPACE VETS CONTINUE TO MAKE MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
You can take the rocket scientists into retirement, but you
can't turn off the inventive skills retired NASA professionals
carry with them. Retired engineers and scientists who helped make
history at the dawn of the Space Age are now applying their
skills to the world of medicine.
These enterprising space veterans from NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, are now helping doctors and
patients with expertise forged in the world of space technology.
"We may look like seniors, but our professional skills are
still in high gear and our creativity never dies," said Herman
Bank, space engineering veteran and founder and director of
Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement. He and his
brainy 65- to-85-year-old retired NASA colleagues, Bank said,
"are just too young to retire."
By working with Volunteer Professionals for Medical
Advancement these retirees from the JPL donate some of their
time to work closely with doctors and other medical professionals
to brainstorm, research and develop new medical technologies. The
organization's purpose is to provide hospitals with free services
that such facilities could otherwise not afford. The hospitals,
in turn, find that with the retired space professionals, they get
top-notch brainpower and reliable assistance. The accomplishments
of this retiree organization have brought its members state and
The group has been responsible for a number of medical
* Preliminary design of an automated oxygen enrichment system for
premature babies. Working with Los Angeles County/USC Medical
Center, retired volunteers and doctors are working to remove the
inaccuracies of manually controlled oxygen systems, which can
affect the infant's eyesight, brain and lung development.
* Solving a blood clot problem found with a stent that could
cause heart attacks. Retired professional volunteers introduced a
special electropolishing process to provide a super-smooth stent
surface. The electropolishing process, developed in the aerospace
industry, is not well known by doctors. The resulting
electropolished stent practically eliminated further blood clot
formation with the device.
* Creation of an advanced-database private computer network for
pediatricians. Working with Children's Hospital Los Angeles,
retired professionals are helping pediatricians nationwide to
correspond about children's illnesses using JPL's method of data
management. This database will provide a depository for
historical data of diagnoses, research, treatments and results.
Doctors estimate that extended medical use of the computer
database systems could reduce health care costs by 20 to 30
With each project, these retirees find that the rewards are
numerous. "Results of the project clearly show that volunteers
have made major contributions to medical advancement," said Bank.
"Doctors and hospital staff are very appreciative of this
volunteer professional assistance, which they can seldom find or
afford." He went on to note, "Retired professionals find
interest and satisfaction in challenges which do not interfere
with retirement activities."
Bank said that as a young man, he always wanted to go into
the field of medicine. Unable to afford medical school at the
time, he decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and
found himself at JPL. Bank proves that it's never too late to
pursue one's aspirations. "I decided that after doing 20 years of
space I wanted to do something here on Earth to advance
medicine," said Bank.
Embarking on their 10th year as an organization, these
retirees are looking forward to future challenges in medicine
which includes encouraging other retired engineers and scientists
to look for volunteer consulting opportunities. "The expansion
of this activity nationally should help medical advancement
considerably without cost, while using a skilled manpower
resource," said Bank.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 25, 2005
Contact: Gia Scafidi (818) 354-0372
ENTANGLED PHOTONS COULD PROMISE LIGHTNING-SPEED COMPUTERS
Defying traditional laws of physics, researchers may have
found a way to blast through imminent roadblocks on the highway
to faster and smaller computers.
Using modern quantum physics, a research team from NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., and the
University of Wales in the United Kingdom has discovered that
entangled pairs of light particles, called photons, can act as a
single unit, but perform with twice the efficiency.
Using a process called "entanglement," the research team
proposes that existing sources of laser light could be used to
produce smaller and faster computer chips than current technology
allows. Their paper appears in today's issue of the journal
Physical Review Letters.
"Our economy constantly depends on faster and faster
computers," said JPL researcher Dr. Jonathan Dowling, a co-author
of the paper. "This research potentially could enable us to
continue upgrading computers even after traditional manufacturing
procedures have been exhausted."
Currently, in a process known as optical lithography,
manufacturers use a stream of light particles to sculpt computer
chips. A chip is basically a grid of interconnected on-off
switches, called transistors, through which electric current
flows and enables computers to calculate. As companies crowd
millions of transistors into tinier chips, electric current
travels shorter distances, resulting in speedier processes.
Chipmakers shine a laser light onto photosensitive material
to create a stencil-like mask, which is used to carve silicon
into the components of transistors. However, the producers can
only provide transistors with dimensions as small as those of the
Today's state-of-the-art chips have transistors measuring
between 180 and 220 nanometers, approximately 400 times narrower
than the width of a human hair. While traditional computers have
the ability to perform with transistors as small as 25
nanometers, or 3,000 times narrower than a human hair, this
presents manufacturing obstacles.
The light manufacturers use to produce today's transistors
has a wavelength of 248 nanometers. It becomes increasingly
difficult to use light with shorter wavelengths to produce
transistors with smaller dimensions. In fact, according to a
central principle of optics called the "Rayleigh criterion," 248-
nanometer light can't create features smaller than 124
However, this new research, still in its theoretical stage,
could provide a bypass of the Rayleigh criterion. The research
team proposes that entanglement would allow the use of existing
sources of laser light of 248 nanometers to produce computer
chips with dimensions of a fourth of the wavelength (62
nanometers) or smaller compared to today's limits (124
Entanglement would allow researchers to use the intermingled
properties of two or more photons to obtain subwavelength spatial
resolutions. Albert Einstein called this intermingling of photons
process "spooky action at a distance" because the particles can
immediately influence each other over huge distances, even
halfway across the galaxy.
Here on Earth, entangled photons can be produced by passing
a light beam through a special crystal. In this quantum
lithography proposal, a pair of entangled photons enters a setup
with two paths. While the two particles travel together and act
as a single unit, it is impossible to determine which of the two
paths the pair has taken. In a strange effect of quantum
mechanics, however, each photon actually travels down both paths.
On each path, the photons act like a rippling wave with
peaks and valleys. After traveling on their own path for a while,
the two photons converge on a surface. Because the light
particles making up each wave were originally entangled, the
result of adding the photon waves together is to create patterns
on the surface equivalent to those made by a single photon with
half the wavelength.
This process, in essence, enables the entangled photon pair
to produce patterns twice as small on each side of a chip's
surface as can be created by the single photons in the
conventional optical lithography procedures. Entangling more than
two photons would improve results even further.
While a number of technical challenges remain, researchers
are already working on developing materials that would be
required for quantum lithography.
This research is part of the Revolutionary Computing
Technology project in the NASA/JPL Center for Integrated Space
Microsystems. The project is supported by the Deep Space Systems
Program in NASA's Office of Space Science. JPL is managed for
NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
For Immediate Release September 21, 2005
Contact: Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850
REVEALING EROS' SECRETS, ONE BY ONE
Eros, the chunky asteroid named after the god of love, is
slowly revealing to scientists the mysteries of its size,
rotation and other properties.
Eros has been studied by the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous
(NEAR)-Shoemaker spacecraft since last Valentine's day when a
careful maneuver put the spacecraft in orbit around the asteroid
to determine its properties. Some of those findings, such as
Eros' mass and bulk density, appear in the Sept. 22, 2005 edition
of the journal Science in a paper by principal author Dr. Don
Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Yeomans is the radio
science team chief for NEAR-Shoemaker. The journal also features
three other research reports on Eros.
Scientists have learned that Eros is most likely made of
rocky material with a uniform density throughout. The asteroid's
bulk density is similar to that of Earth's crust. Like Earth, the
surface of Eros is covered with a layer of looser rock and soil.
Though it is about 6,700 trillion kilograms (14,700 trillion
pounds) in mass, Eros is a fragment from the breakup of a once
larger asteroid. "It's a chip off a larger block from millions of
years ago," said Yeomans.
Eros is rotating around its shortest axis, making one
revolution every 5 hours and 16 minutes. As though thrown in a
tight spiral pass by some cosmic quarterback, Eros' rotation axis
appears to remain steady on its journey through space. Because
the asteroid is so much smaller with much less gravity than
Earth, it wouldn't take an Olympic athlete to jump entirely off
the surface into space.
Scientists were able to study Eros' rotation, mass
distribution and structure based on a series of observations
taken onboard the spacecraft. By photographing the asteroid and
measuring infrared light reflected from it, scientists could
determine its mass, detect minerals and record its motion. As the
craft edged into closer and closer orbits around the asteroid, it
took fresh data that helped determine the asteroid's size, shape
and mass distribution. These activities were critical for
navigating the spacecraft in to tighter orbits about Eros so that
close-up images could be taken.
"If we didn't know the precise size, shape and mass
distribution of the asteroid ahead of time, it would not have
been safe to send the spacecraft to within a few kilometers of
the asteroid's surface," said Yeomans.
By the mission's end in February 2004, the total surface of
the asteroid will have been imaged and measured.
Johns Hopkins University manages the NEAR mission for NASA,
and JPL is performing navigation support. Bobby G. Williams, also
an author on the paper, is the navigation team leader. For the
latest images and announcements of mission progress and
discoveries visit the NEAR Web site: http://near.jhuapl.edu or
the JPL website at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 14, 2005
Contact: Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
JPL MISSIONS HIGHLIGHT SPACE 2004 CONVENTION IN LONG BEACH
Our future in space will largely be determined by some of
the country's most prominent thought leaders at the Space 2004
Conference and Exhibition, September 19 through 21 at the
Convention Center in Long Beach, California, sponsored by the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
The program will feature prominent NASA keynote speakers
including NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and former U.S. Senator
and astronaut John Glenn. Dr. Edward Stone, director of NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., will moderate
a panel on New Civil Space Horizons on Thursday, September 21
from 8 to 10 a.m.
"We are providing a unique venue for leaders from
government, industry and academia to share ideas and interact,"
said Stone, a co-chair of the event. "The invited speakers will
provide their perspectives on the future of space, setting the
stage for continuing discussion throughout the program."
Conference participants will address new opportunities in
space, new missions and new challenges the millennium brings that
will be dependent on business decisions and technology readiness.
The three-day event will bring together an impressive list of
experts that includes scientists and engineers from various
civilian, military and private organizations. There will be four
panel discussions with technical paper presentations: "Space on
the National Agenda," "The Business of Space," "Military Space
Missions" and "New Horizons in Civil Space."
JPL will also have an exhibit featuring many educational
outreach programs geared toward students in grades K-12 to help
engage conference attendees in educational programs within their
The Boeing Company is the general sponsor for the Space 2004
Conference and Exhibition. The AIAA, which will serve as the host
and organizer, is the largest professional/technical society,
leading content provider, and principal voice on behalf of
aerospace professionals on all aspects of aviation, space and
defense. Managed for NASA by the California Institute of
Technology, JPL is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration
of the solar system.
mailto:email@example.com Directions to JPL: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/tours/routes.html
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 12, 2005
Contact: Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
HELP WANTED: JPL SEEKS ENGINEERS TO WORK ON FUTURE MISSIONS
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., invites
potential engineering job candidates to attend an Engineering Job
Fair on Saturday, September 23, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in JPL's
employee cafeteria, located in the lower lever of Building 167,
4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena.
Engineers with experience in system, electrical, mechanical
and aerospace disciplines are welcome to attend the job fair,
which aims to recruit the country's most talented engineers to
work on future missions including the next Mars missions.
JPL provides unique opportunities to work on cutting-edge
technology with some of the country's top engineers. Its staff
members are developing new ways to explore the farthest reaches
of our solar system, learn about our planet Earth and to transfer
new technologies to private companies for public use.
JPL is NASA's lead center for the exploration of Mars. The
laboratory will send an orbiter to Mars in 2004 followed by twin
rover missions in 2004.
Visitor parking is to the left (west) of the guard gate at
JPL's main entrance. All job candidates must show proof of
permanent U.S. residency and must bring 10 copies of their
resume. For more information regarding the job fair, call (818)
Managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology,
JPL is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 11, 2005
Contact: Gia Scafidi (818) 354-0372
FREE LECTURE HIGHLIGHTS "SEEING THE UNSEEN"
"Seeing the Unseen: Using Spaceborne Radars in Earth and
Planetary Exploration" is the latest in Jet Propulsion
Laboratory's (JPL) free von Karman Lectures, taking place at JPL
on Thursday, Sept. 21 and at Pasadena City College on Friday,
Sept. 22. The lecture will focus on the advanced radar sensing
technology currently being used to probe the surface and
subsurface of Earth and other planetary bodies.
Presented by Dr. Charles Elachi, director of JPL's space and
Earth science programs, the lecture will highlight the endless
discovery opportunities made possible by radar sensing, which can
be used to produce images of targets that cannot be seen through
other observing techniques. Elachi will cover the breakthroughs
expected within the next decade when radar sensors will be used
to probe the possible oceans below the surface of Jupiter's moon
Europa, to map buried channels on Mars, to image the Earth in 3-D
and to search for buried traces of old civilizations.
Throughout his 30-year career at JPL, Elachi has played a
significant role in transforming the Laboratory and NASA into
world leaders in the field of spaceborne imaging radars. In the
last decade, he has been responsible for the development of more
than 45 flight instruments and missions for Earth science,
astrophysics and planetary exploration at JPL and has received
numerous national and international awards. Elachi holds several
patents and has authored more than 200 publications in a variety
of space and science fields. He is the author of three textbooks
in the field of remote sensing and was deemed one of "Southern
California's rising stars who will make a difference in L.A." by
the Los Angeles Times in 1988.
The von Karman Lecture Series is sponsored by the JPL's
Public Services Office. Thursday lectures take place in JPL's von
Karman Auditorium located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr. in Pasadena,
while Friday lectures are given in Pasadena City College's Voslow
Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. Both begin promptly at 7 p.m.,
with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis.
More information on the von Karman Lecture Series can be
found at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/lecture or by calling (818)
354-0112. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 11, 2005
Contact: Rosemary Sullivant (818) 354-0474
TROPICAL DEPRESSIONS CAN'T HIDE BEHIND CLOUDS ANYMORE
Tropical storms churning into potentially dangerous
hurricanes often hide behind a cloak of clouds. But NASA has
given forecasters a new way to peek under the covers and identify
storms much faster.
Scientists traditionally rely on satellite pictures to study
the telltale swirl of clouds of a forming storm. However, the
SeaWinds instrument aboard the QuikSCAT satellite can look
through the cloud cover and measure winds at the ocean's surface.
According to a new study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and NASA researchers expected to be
published in a major scientific journal, SeaWinds can detect the
closed circle of winds that characterize a tropical depression up
to 46 hours sooner than conventional means.
"The SeaWinds data can help us in two ways," says paper
author Kristina Katsaros, director of NOAA's Atlantic
Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Fla. "They
can detect tropical depressions early and help us improve our
models. With more accurate information on the surface wind speed
and direction in hurricanes at all stages, our models can do a
better job of predicting a hurricane's evolution and course."
QuikSCAT was launched in June 1999. It travels over ninety
percent of the ice-free oceans every day with a high-frequency
microwave scatterometer that provides detailed information on sea
surfaces that can be translated into wind speed and direction.
In their NASA-supported study, Katsaros and her colleagues
looked at SeaWinds data from the regions where 12 of the named
storms in the 1999 hurricane season formed. Eight of the storms
eventually developed into hurricanes. The researchers then
examined the data collected 12 to 48 hours in advance of the
storms being declared tropical depressions.
While the SeaWinds instrument wasn't always upstream of all
12 storms, it was in position to provide wind data on eight. In
those cases, it was able to detect the closed wind circulation
well before it could be seen as cloud swirls on the GOES
satellite image. The lead times ranged from three hours for
Hurricane Irene to 46 hours for Hurricane Lenny.
Being able to detect tropical depressions early is
especially important in increasing warning times in regions like
the Gulf of Mexico, where storms can grow quickly into hurricanes
and can make landfall within a few days. Early detection also may
help the National Hurricane Center plan the best use of its
resources to keep watch on developing storms.
"The ability of SeaWinds to see tropical depressions at
their earliest stage gives us the opportunity to identify and
study the elements that create hurricanes," says co-author W.
Timothy Liu, the project scientist of SeaWinds at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. JPL built and
operates the QuikSCAT spacecraft for the Office of Earth
Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
During the current hurricane season, scientists from the
National Hurricane Center and the Hurricane Research Division are
comparing SeaWinds data with wind information from computer
models, reconnaissance aircraft, satellites, and devices that
measure temperature, moisture and relative humidity.
In a separate study, Liu combined SeaWinds data on winds
with information from another instrument, the Tropical Rain
Measuring Mission (TRMM), which can also can see through clouds
and measure rainfall in hurricanes. "Hurricanes are especially
devastating when they are accompanied by strong winds and heavy
rain," says Liu. "QuickSCAT and TRMM provide the only opportunity
for us to view the interplay between wind and rain before
landfall and help us to understand and predict hurricanes." The
results of this study appeared in the June 6 issue of Eos,
Transactions of the American Geophysical Union.
"This year the QuikSCAT data will be incorporated into a
surface-wind analysis system of NOAA's Hurricane Research
Division to produce the surface windfields in tropical storms in
near real time," says Kastaros. "This will help the National
Hurricane Center in making decisions about warning the public
when a storm threatens landfall."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 6, 2005
Contact: Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850
ULYSSES STUDIES THE SUN'S POLAR CAP AT SUNSPOT MAXIMUM
The Ulysses spacecraft, on a mission to explore the Sun at
extreme latitudes, today begins its investigation of the Sun's
south polar region. This will be the second time Ulysses has
passed under the Sun, but this time the glowing orb will look and
act very differently because the Sun has reached solar maximum, a
time of heightened activity.
Ulysses was able to assess the Sun during the relatively
quiet solar minimum between 1994 and 1996. Now it will fill in
the gaps with observations during the solar maximum, thus
completing observations during a full sunspot cycle of 11 years.
"Ulysses has been making continuous observations of the Sun
and heliosphere for the last 10 years," said the U.S. project
scientist for Ulysses, Dr. Edward Smith of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The scientists involved are
still as enthusiastic as ever and are looking forward to
discovering lots of new things as the Sun acts up."
Scientists are interested in learning about sunspots, solar
flares and coronal mass ejections, chunks of the Sun's outer
atmosphere that blow off into space and can strike the Earth,
causing aurorae and interrupting satellite communications.
The scientific investigations on Ulysses are studying the
Sun's corona, its gaseous outer atmosphere, which extends far
beyond the orbit of Earth. This gas moves outward through the
solar system at high speed, and therefore is called the solar
wind. In addition to affecting Earth and other planets, this wind
pushes the gas and dust that occupies the space between the stars
out of the solar system and forms a " bubble" in the interstellar
medium called the heliosphere. In spite of the Sun's effort to
keep out interstellar matter, some of the gas and dust penetrates
the bubble and is found throughout the heliosphere. A major goal
of Ulysses is to study incoming cosmic rays -- nuclei of atoms
traveling at nearly the speed of light -- and how they interact
with the solar wind.
During its first passage over the Sun's poles at solar
minimum, Ulysses showed that there are two kinds of solar wind --
slow wind near the equator and very fast wind near the poles.
Ulysses has found that although the Sun's magnetic field is
strongest near the poles, as the solar wind pushes it outward,
the magnetic field eventually has the same strength over the
equator as over the poles. The spacecraft will measure the
magnetic field around the Sun and the ions emanating from it. It
will try to find out how changes in the strength and direction of
the magnetic field affect both the solar wind, coming from the
Sun, and the cosmic rays, coming toward the Sun.
During the previous solar polar passes, scientists had
expected to find that the cosmic rays would be funneled toward
the poles by the Sun's magnetic field. But this wasn't what they
found, at least not during solar minimum. Will this be the case
during solar maximum? The Ulysses team hopes to find out.
Ulysses is the only spacecraft to reach such high solar
latitudes. Most spacecraft -- like the planets -- move around
the Sun in slightly tilted planes, compared to the Sun's equator.
Ulysses has gone well above the solar equator, as far as 80
degrees north and south solar latitudes -- equivalent on Earth to
traveling from the northern tip of Greenland to Antarctica in the
Ulysses, launched in 1990, is a joint venture of NASA and
the European Space Agency. JPL manages Ulysses for NASA's Office
of Space Science, Washington, D.C. More information on the
Ulysses mission is available at the JPL Ulysses website:
http://ulysses.jpl.nasa.gov and the ESA Ulysses website,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 30, 2005
Contact: Martha Heil (818) 354-0850
DUXBURY NAMED PROJECT MANAGER OF STARDUST MISSION
Thomas Duxbury has been named project manager of NASA's
Stardust mission to collect a comet sample and return it to
Earth. The mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Duxbury, who has served as Stardust's acting project manager
for the past year, replaces Dr. Kenneth Atkins, who now heads a
JPL program to develop the leadership of the Laboratory's
Duxbury joined the Stardust project as mission manager in
1996 and was responsible for a wide range of elements including
navigation, mission design, the ground data system, science data
management and archive and mission operations. Stardust,
launched in February 1999, is en route to Comet Wild-2 to capture
a sample of material and then return the sample to Earth in 2006.
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Duxbury attended Purdue
University in West Lafayette, Ind., where he earned his
bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. Upon
graduating in 1966, he started work at JPL in the field of
optical navigation on the Mariner 6 and 7 missions to Mars.
Duxbury has served on numerous planetary mission teams
including the Mariner 6, 7, 9 and 10 missions; the Mars Viking
mission that sent two landers and two orbiters to Mars; the
Pioneers 10 and 11 missions to Jupiter and Saturn; Voyagers 1 and
2 to the outer planets; the Soviet Phobos Mission to Mars; the
Mars Observer mission; the Department of Defense/NASA Clementine
mission that studied the Moon; and the Russian Mars 1996 mission.
He has served on many NASA panels and working groups such as the
NASA Planetary Cartography and Geologic Mapping Working Group and
the Russian/U.S. Joint Working Group on Solar System Exploration
for Mars Mission Coordination and Science Data Exchange.
In addition to his new Stardust role, Duxbury is a member of
the science teams for the Mars Global Surveyor's laser altimeter
and the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter and lander.
He is also the lead scientist for geodesy and cartography in the
Mars Exploration Office. His roles on past missions have included
engineering and scientific data analysis on highly irregularly
shaped and rotating planetary bodies.
For his pioneering work in characterizing Mars' moons Phobos
and Deimos, Duxbury received the NASA Medal for Exceptional
Scientific Achievement. He has also received eight NASA Group
Awards and the Institute of Navigation Burka Award. He received
the Soviet Flight Control Center Medal, being the only American
in Moscow supporting the Phobos '88 encounter and landing
operations. He is listed in American Men and Women in Science and
in Who's Who in America.
He lives in Pasadena with his wife, Dr. Natalia Duxbury, a
scientist at JPL. Stardust is managed by JPL for NASA's Office
of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology.
IMAGE ADVISORY August 29, 2005
Contact: Rosemary Sullivant (818) 354-0474
LOS NINOS MAY BE GONE, BUT PESKY PACIFIC PATTERN REMAINS
After three years of El Nino and La Nina with their often devastating
climate consequences, the Pacific is finally calming down in the tropics
but still shows signs of being abnormal elsewhere, according to the latest
satellite data from the U.S.-French TOPEX/Poseidon mission.
These data, taken during a 10-day cycle of collection ending August 17,
show that tropical Pacific sea levels, which indicate how much heat is
stored in the ocean, have returned to near-normal (green) after three years
of dramatic fluctuations. See http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/elnino/ .
But as summer ends in the Northern Hemisphere, remnants of the past few
years remain embedded in the upper ocean. Above-normal sea surface heights
and warmer ocean temperatures (indicated by the red and white areas) still
blanket the far-western tropical Pacific and much of the north (and south)
mid-Pacific. Red areas are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) above normal;
white areas show the sea surface height is between 14 and 32 centimeters (6
to 13 inches) above normal. This contrasts with the Bering Sea and Gulf of
Alaska where lower-than-normal sea levels and cool ocean temperatures
continue (indicated by blue areas), although this pattern is also
weakening. The blue areas are between 5 and 13 centimeters (2 and 5 inches)
below normal, whereas the purple areas range from 14 to18 centimeters (6 to
7 inches) below normal.
Looking at the entire Pacific basin, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation's
(PDO) characteristic warm horseshoe and cool wedge pattern is still evident
in this sea-level height image. The PDO is a long-term ocean temperature
fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean that waxes and wanes approximately every
10 to 20 years. Most recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) sea-surface temperature data also clearly illustrate the persistence
of this basin-wide pattern. They are available at:
"The present calming started three to four months ago when the La
Nina faded away," said oceanographer Dr. William Patzert of NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It appears that the global
climate system is finally recovering from the past three years of dramatic
swings from the extra-large El Nino of 1997/1998, which was followed by two
unusually cool and persistent La Nina years."
"The good news is that we're finally out from under the El Nino and La Nina
of the past three years," Patzert said. "Unfortunately, in the longer term,
the reality is that the PDO pattern still dominates the Pacific and, in the
short term, the atmosphere is still acting as though La Nina remains. The
western United States continues hot and dry, and a larger than normal
number of hurricanes are forecast by NOAA for both the Pacific and the
Atlantic. Also for the remainder of the summer and into the fall, we are
continuing to experience the legacy or hangover from El Nino and La Nina --
the devastating Western U.S. fires from the Canadian to Mexican borders are
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National
Service has forecasted continuing heat in the Western United States and an
active hurricane season for the end of summer and into the fall. NOAA seasonal forecasts can be found at: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov and
This month marks the eighth anniversary of the launch of TOPEX/Poseidon, a
mission that had been planned to last only three to five years. The
satellite has orbited Earth more than 37,400 times and completed 290 10-day
data collection cycles. More than 99 percent of all available mission data
has been collected and archived by the operations team at JPL.
The U.S.-French TOPEX/Poseidon mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 25, 2005
Contact: Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
GALILEO EVIDENCE POINTS TO POSSIBLE WATER WORLD UNDER
EUROPA'S ICY CRUST
NASA researchers have the strongest evidence yet that one of
Jupiter's most mysterious moons hides an ocean of water
underneath its icy coat. This evidence comes from magnetic
readings by NASA's Galileo spacecraft, reported in the Friday,
Aug. 25, edition of the journal Science.
Europa, the fourth largest satellite of Jupiter, has long
been suspected of harboring vast quantities of water. Since life
as we know it requires water, this makes the moon a prime target
for the search of exobiology - life beyond Earth.
"The direction that a magnetic compass on Europa would point
to flips around in a way that's best explained by the presence of
a layer of electrically conducting liquid, such as saltwater,
beneath the ice," explained Dr. Margaret Kivelson of the
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), principal
investigator for Galileo's magnetometer instrument, and co-author
of the Science paper.
Kivelson announced that conclusion when she first received
telltale readings from the Galileo magnetometer after the veteran
spacecraft flew near Europa in January. Her team details its
theory about the liquid layer in this week's formal report.
"We have good reason to believe the surface layers of Europa
are made up of water that is either frozen or liquid," Kivelson
said, pointing out that earlier gravity measurements show a low
density, such as water's, for the moon's outer portions. "But ice
is not a good conductor, and therefore we infer that the
conductor may be a liquid ocean."
Galileo has flown near Europa frequently since the
spacecraft began orbiting Jupiter and its moons in December 1995.
Pictures from those flybys show patterns that scientists see as
evidence of a hidden ocean. In some, rafts of ice appear to have
shifted position by floating on fluid below. In others, fluid
appears to have risen to the surface and frozen.
However, those features could be explained by a past ocean
that has subsequently frozen solid, said Galileo's project
scientist, Dr. Torrence Johnson of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. This magnetometer data is the only
indication we have that there's an ocean there now, rather than
in the geological past," Johnson said.
Johnson said the case for liquid water on Europa is still
not clinched. "The evidence is still indirect and requires
several steps of inference to get to the conclusion there is
really a salty ocean," he said. "A definitive answer could come
from precise measurements of gravity and altitude to check for
effects of tides."
NASA is planning a Europa Orbiter mission to carry
instruments capable of providing that information. Magnetic
evidence for an ocean is possible because Europa orbits within
the magnetic field of Jupiter. That field induces electric
current to flow through a conductive layer near Europa's surface,
and the current creates a secondary magnetic field at Europa, the
new report explains.
Key evidence that the magnetic readings near Europa result
from this type of secondary effect, implying a saltwater layer,
relies on timing. The direction of Jupiter's magnetic field at
Europa reverses predictably as the moon's position within the
field changes. During Galileo's flyby in January, the direction
of Jupiter's field at Europa was the opposite of what it had been
during passes in 1996 and 1998. Kivelson's team predicted how
that would change the direction of Europa's magnetic polarity if
Europa has a saltwater layer, and Galileo's measurements matched
"It makes a very strong case that the source of the magnetic
signature is a conducting layer near the surface," Kivelson said.
Galileo's magnetometer is also expected to play an important role
this fall and winter in joint studies of Jupiter while NASA's
Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft passes near Jupiter. Galileo will
be inside Jupiter's magnetic field while Cassini is just outside
it, in the solar wind of particles streaming away from the Sun.
Scientists plan to take advantage of that positioning to learn
more about how the solar wind affects the magnetic field.
Galileo completed its original mission nearly three years
ago, but has been given a three-year extension and has survived
three times the amount of radiation it was designed to endure.
Kivelson's UCLA co-authors are Drs. Krishan Khurana,
Christopher Russell, Martin Volwerk, Raymond Walker, and
Christopher Zimmer. The Galileo mission is managed for NASA's
Office of Space Science, Washington, DC, by JPL, a division of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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