Wondering what that big NASA announcement planned for today was all about? Wonder no more. The dark features, which can reach 5 meters wide and more than 100 meters long, were first noticed in 2010. By analyzing their reflected light signature, a team of eight scientists has concluded that the streaks consist of mineral salts that easily absorb moisture—and that flowing water is the likeliest explanation for their appearance. Flowing liquid water on Mars.
That red arrow in the NASA “meatball” logo isn’t just a fancy design flourish from the 60s, it’s modeled after some of the earliest supersonic swept-wing designs from inside NASA. This one in particular was designed for Mach 3: James J. Modarelli, head of the Research Reports Division at the NASA Lewis Research Center (now the NASA Glenn Research Center), was the chief designer of the NASA seal and meatball insignia.
Someone at NASA clearly read my issues with the SpaceX cockpit layout while designing the Orion capsule. Note the easy to reach joystick and lack of information overload on the screens! Seriously though, it’s interesting how similar the SpaceX and Orion configurations are. Just a few seats and a screen that folds down in front of your face!
A spacecraft now known as ICE (formerly ISEE-3) launched in 1978 has been inspecting comets and solar wind on-and-off since launch until 1999 when it had supposedly been sent signals to shut down. In 2008 it was “rediscovered” and found still in an active state with most of its experiments in working condition and a suitable amount of maneuvering fuel still available. Sometime before April of this year a group not affiliated with NASA realized that ICE could potentially be sent off to follow another comet and return interesting data if they could communicate with it during a close approach to Earth in mid-2014.
The next surface visitor to Mars got the green light today to begin construction for a launch and landing in 2016. InSight is a static experimental platform that will conduct tests on the geology of Mars in an attempt to learn more about the history of the planet. The platform is based on the successful 2008 Phoenix mission which means we’ll see a parachute-and-retrorocket descent with a soft landing at its final destination.
I saw this image of K2 again recently - K2 is the plan to keep the Kepler spacecraft looking for exoplanets despite the loss of two reaction wheels - and I wondered how K2 was doing. Last I heard it was still searching for a funding source for the new plan. It turns out that K2 is already collecting data for “Field 0”, a sort of trial run to see how successful stabilization via solar wind can be.