Posts Tagged ‘jpl’

HIPPO Hurricane Holler

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

High power photonics for satellite communications and on-board optical signal processing — that spells HIPPO. Considering their objectives, this is the future of space-based communications and some day will replace the RF technology used by today’s satcom spacecraft.

NASA recently proved lasers work well and the increase in throughput will be a revolutionary game-changer.

Big Bang Monday: 10 Years Gone for Cassini

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Today marks ten years since the Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn. The image above is one of my personal favorites (similar images also available via

The team of scientists at Cassini have selected their own “top 10” list of images. More importantly, their list of the top ten discoveries is far more impressive…

  1. The Huygens probe makes first landing on a moon in the outer solar system (Titan)
  2. Discovery of active, icy plumes on the Saturnian moon Enceladus
  3. Saturn’s rings revealed as active and dynamic — a laboratory for how planets form
  4. Titan revealed as Earth-like world with rain, rivers, lakes and seas
  5. Studies of the great northern storm of 2010-2011
  6. Radio-wave patterns shown not to be tied to Saturn’s interior rotation as previously thought
  7. Vertical structures in the rings imaged for the first time
  8. Study of prebiotic chemistry on Titan
  9. Mystery of the dual bright-dark surface of Iapetus solved
  10. First complete view of the north polar hexagon and discovery of giant hurricanes at both of Saturn’s poles

I love the preview of what we can expect in the coming years…

Big Bang Monday: Cassini’s Looking at Uranus

Monday, May 5th, 2014

While pondering the possibility of geosynchronous spacecraft running into an out-of-control or very inclined one (around the 150-deg. West area), I was reminded there’s a reason we call it “space.” There’s a lot of it out there.

The gorgeous image from our friends at the Cassini Solstice Mission is one that’ll make you think about space.

Here’s their description

Uranus is a pale blue in this natural color image because its visible atmosphere contains methane gas and few aerosols or clouds. Methane on Uranus – and its sapphire-colored sibling, Neptune – absorbs red wavelengths of incoming sunlight, but allows blue wavelengths to escape back into space, resulting in the predominantly bluish color seen here. Cassini imaging scientists combined red, green and blue spectral filter images to create a final image that represents what human eyes might see from the vantage point of the spacecraft.

Uranus has been brightened by a factor of 4.5 to make it more easily visible. The outer portion of Saturn’s A ring, seen at bottom right, has been brightened by a factor of two. The bright ring cutting across the image center is Saturn’s narrow F ring.

Uranus was approximately 28.6 astronomical units from Cassini and Saturn when this view was obtained. An astronomical unit is the average distance from Earth to the sun, equal to 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 kilometers).

This view was acquired by the Cassini narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 614,300 miles (988,600 kilometers) from Saturn on April 11, 2014. Image scale at Uranus is approximately 16,000 miles (25,700 kilometers) per pixel. Image scale at Saturn’s rings is approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) per pixel. In the image, the disk of Uranus is just barely resolved. The solar phase angle at Uranus, seen from Cassini, is 11.9 degrees.

The images our space program produce are free. Getting big print made suitable for framing is available here. They do custom orders, so if you don’t see what you want — go out and find it, then have it done that way you like it.

Curiosity on Mars: One Year in Two Minutes

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Ain’t nobody got time for watching Mars Curiosity rover videos!

Here’s the first year, in two minutes.

Big Bang Monday: Mars Curiosity 360

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico

Very cool.

Hope more Mars images become available by our friends at Big Bang Prints soon.

Big Bang Monday: NGC 281

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Today’s image comes to us courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope

This composite image of NGC 281 contains X-ray data from Chandra (purple) with infrared observations from Spitzer (red, green, blue). The high-mass stars in NGC 281 drive many aspects of their galactic environment through powerful winds flowing from their surfaces and intense radiation that heats surrounding gas, “boiling it away” into interstellar space. This process results in the formation of large columns of gas and dust, as seen on the left side of the image. These structures likely contain newly forming stars. The eventual deaths of massive stars as supernovas will also seed the galaxy with material and energy.

Read more about NGC 281.

It’s Alive!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Thank you, doctor. Nice piece by Jeremey Hsu at, calling the new Mars exploration spacecraft “Frankenstein” for all the money-saving shortcuts on the build side…

Take the DNA of the deceased NASA Phoenix Mars Lander, add bits and pieces from several lost Mars missions and you have a “Frankenstein” mission competing for a spot on NASA’s space exploration lineup for the next decade.

The mission, once called the Geophysical Monitoring Station, is nameless for now. It would carry a seismometer that flew aboard a doomed Mars Surveyor 98 spacecraft, and a burrowing “mole” device based on an instrument lost during the British Beagle 2 mission’s hard landing in 2003.

But the probe’s goal is clear: to learn the early evolution of terrestrial planets such as Earth by tapping a Martian geological record more than 4 billion years old.

“Mars is not an easy place to land on, but we’ve done it a number of times,” said Bruce Banerdt, a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “We’re going to try and do it exactly like how we did it with Phoenix a few years ago.”

The mission planners’ willingness to cannibalize technologies from other missions has allowed them to put together the Mars mission for relatively low cost. About 77 percent of the spacecraft is lifted from the Phoenix Mars Lander, and another 20 percent has just minor modifications. Only 3 percent of the spacecraft would need to be built from scratch or completely replaced.

Not specific enough for you? Here’s the abstract (PDF) by Bruce Banerdt and Zainab Nagin Cox…

The GEophysical Monitoring Station (GEMS) is a Phase A Discovery mission designed to fill a longstanding gap in the scientific exploration of the solar system by performing, for the first time, an in-situ investigation of the interior of Mars. This mission would provide unique and critical information about the fundamental processes governing the initial accretion of the planet, the formation and differentiation of its core and crust, and the subsequent evolution of the interior.

The scientific goals of GEMS are to understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and processes of Mars and to determine its present level of tectonic activity and impact flux. A straightforward set of scientific objectives address these goals: 1) Determine the size, composition and physical state of the core; 2) Determine the thickness and structure of the crust; 3) Determine the composition and structure of the mantle; 4) Determine the thermal state of the interior; 5) Measure the rate and distribution of internal seismic activity; and 6) Measure the rate of impacts on the surface.

To accomplish these objectives, GEMS would carry a tightly-focused payload consisting of 3 investigations: 1) SEIS, a 6-component, very-broad-band seismometer, with careful thermal compensation/control and a sensitivity comparable to the best terrestrial instruments across a frequency range of 1 mHz to 50 Hz; 2) HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), an instrumented self-penetrating mole system that trails a string of temperature sensors to measure the planetary heat flux; and 3) RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), which would use the spacecraft X-band communication system to provide precision tracking for planetary dynamical studies. The two instruments would be moved from the lander deck to the martian surface by an Instrument Deployment Arm, with an appropriate location identified using an Instrument Deployment Camera.

In order to ensure low risk within the tight Discovery cost limits, GEMS reuses the successful Lockheed Martin Phoenix spacecraft design, with a cruise and EDL system that has demonstrated capability for safe landing on Mars with well-understood costs. To take full advantage of this approach, all science requirements (such as instrument mass and power, landing site, and downlinked data volume) strictly conform to existing, demonstrated capabilities of the spacecraft and mission system.

It is widely believed that multiple landers making simultaneous measurements (a network) are required to address the objectives for understanding terrestrial planet interiors. Nonetheless, comprehensive measurements from a single geophysical station are extremely valuable, because observations constraining the structure and processes of the deep interior of Mars are virtually nonexistent. GEMS will utilize sophisticated analysis techniques specific to single-station measurements to determine crustal thickness, mantle structure, core state and size, and heat flow, providing our first real look deep beneath the surface of Mars.