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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shuttle Discovery set for final mission

Discovery, the oldest space shuttle in NASA's fleet, is readying for its final mission on Wednesday following repairs to leaks in a pressurisation system that has twice delayed the launch.

"Work is on schedule. We completed flight pressurisation and all went well. That is behind us now," Steve Payne, NASA test director, told reporters as the countdown to launch kicked off at 2:00 pm (1800 GMT) Sunday.

The mission, initially scheduled for Monday, was postponed so Kennedy Space Center technicians could repair quick-disconnect fittings in the system used to pressurised one of Discovery's orbital maneuvering rocket engines.

Discovery and its six American astronauts will now launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 3.52pm local time on Wednesday bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

The weather forecast remains 70 per cent for favourable conditions, Kathy Winters, Cape Canaveral's senior meteorologist, said at a press briefing, adding that there were slight concerns of possible rain and clouds in the launch area.

The flight to the orbiting ISS is the fourth and final shuttle flight of the year, and the last scheduled for Discovery, the oldest in the three-shuttle fleet that is being retired in 2011.

Discovery has been the busiest shuttle in history, with a record 38 trips into space since its first launch in 1984. According to NASA, it has travelled over 230 million kilometres during that time, involving 5,628 orbits of the Earth over 351 days.

NASA has long relied on the Discovery spacecraft at key points along its 26-year career -- the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the first ever female shuttle pilot Eileen Collins in 1995, and in 1998 it carried US space icon John Glenn to become the oldest human to fly in space at age 77.

Its all-American crew on this voyage, including female mission specialist Nicole Stott, will deliver a pressurised logistics module called Leonardo, which will be permanently attached to the spacestation to give it more storage space.

The shuttle will also bring Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space, and a permanent addition to the orbiting space station, as well as spare parts.

Two space walks, for maintenance work and component installation, are scheduled.

The three US shuttles -- the other two are Atlantis and Endeavour -- are due to be sent off to become museum pieces after a final shuttle mission to the space station in late February.

That means Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a modernised version of which recently dropped off three fresh crew members to the ISS, doubling the crew to six, will for several years be the only vehicle for transporting humans into space.

However, NASA's recently approved 2011 budget has left the door open to an additional shuttle flight in June.

Shuttle countdown begins as test conductors prepare for launch

The countdown to Discovery's final flight got under way at 2 p.m. Sunday, after a two-day delay to fix a technical problem.

Clocks at Kennedy Space Center began ticking down from the T minus 43-hour mark, a process NASA hopes culminates in the 3:52 p.m. Wednesday blastoff of the shuttle and six astronauts to the International Space Station.

Orbiter Test Conductor Mark Taffet was among dozens of engineers who manned stations in Firing Room 4 in the Launch Control Center, passing by a message that read: "The greatest launch team in the world enters through these doors."

Beneath an angled two-story wall of reinforced windows 3.4 miles from the launch pad, Taffet donned a headset overlooking banks of wood-paneled consoles where experts would monitor shuttle systems around the clock for more than 70 hours until liftoff.

"There's an intensity, for sure, but a good intensity," said Taffet, a 50-year-old Rockledge, Fla., resident and United Space Alliance engineer, of the atmosphere during the three-day countdown. "Your senses are definitely heightened."

In the final hours before Discovery receives a "go" for a 39th flight, NASA and contractor test conductors like Taffet will make sure launch preparations stay on schedule and are performed safely.

The preparations include Monday's loading of fuel cells that will power Discovery in orbit, fueling of the external tank on Wednesday, setup of the crew module and the astronauts' entry into it.

With only a 10-minute window to launch the shuttle, there's little margin for delay if a challenging technical glitch arises or if rain showers approach at the wrong moment.
"If there's an issue going, there's definitely tension," Taffet said. "Sometimes countdowns are extremely smooth, and people are waiting for something to happen."

Unscripted, high-pressure moments that produce creative "work arounds" can become the most fun part of the job.

This countdown, Taffet is backing up United Space Alliance colleague John Kracsun, the lead orbiter test conductor.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Space Radar Provides a Taste of Comet Hartley 2

Twelve radar images of the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 Twelve radar images of the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 were obtained by the Arecibo Observatory's planetary.

Trapped NASA Mars Rover finds more evidence of water on 'Red Planet'

The presence of water on Mars has become more evident, suggests a new NASA finding.

Scientists have revealed that the ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis.

Stratified soil layers with different compositions close to the surface led the rover science team to propose that thin films of water may have entered the ground from frost or snow.

The seepage could have happened during cyclical climate changes in periods when Mars tilted farther on its axis. The water may have moved down into the sand, carrying soluble minerals deeper than less soluble ones. Spin-axis tilt varies over timescales of hundreds of thousands of years.

The relatively insoluble minerals near the surface include what is thought to be hematite, silica and gypsum. Ferric sulphates, which are more soluble, appear to have been dissolved and carried down by water.

"The lack of exposures at the surface indicates the preferential dissolution of ferric sulphates must be a relatively recent and ongoing process since wind has been systematically stripping soil and altering landscapes in the region Spirit has been examining," said Ray Arvidson, investigator for the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

The twin Mars rovers finished their three-month prime missions in April 2004, then kept exploring in bonus missions. One of Spirit's six wheels quit working in 2006.

Researchers took advantage of Spirit's months at Troy last year to examine in great detail soil layers the wheels had exposed, and also neighbouring surfaces.

"With insufficient solar energy during the winter, Spirit goes into a deep-sleep hibernation mode where all rover systems are turned off, including the radio and survival heaters," said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and Opportunity at NASA.

"All available solar array energy goes into charging the batteries and keeping the mission clock running," said Callas.

Spirit, Opportunity, and other NASA Mars missions have found evidence of wet Martian environments billions of years ago that were possibly favourable for life.

These newest Spirit findings contribute to an accumulating set of clues that Mars may still have small amounts of liquid water at some periods during ongoing climate cycles.

The findings were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. (ANI)

Dead Spacecraft Walking

illustration only
A pair of NASA spacecraft that were supposed to be dead last year are instead flying to the Moon for a breakthrough mission in lunar orbit.

"Their real names are THEMIS P1 and P2, but I call them 'dead spacecraft walking,'" says Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA, principal investigator of the THEMIS mission. "Not long ago they appeared to be doomed, but now they are beginning an incredible new adventure."

The story begins in 2007 when NASA

launched a fleet of five spacecraft into Earth's magnetosphere to study the physics of geomagnetic storms. Collectively, they were called THEMIS, short for "Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms." P1 and P2 were the outermost members of the quintet.

Working together, the probes quickly discovered a cornucopia of previously unknown phenomena such as colliding auroras, magnetic spacequakes, and plasma bullets shooting up and down Earth's magnetic tail. This has allowed researchers to solve several longstanding mysteries of the Northern Lights.

The mission was going splendidly, except for one thing: Occasionally, P1 and P2 would pass through the shadow of Earth. The solar powered spacecraft were designed to go without sunlight for as much as three hours at a time, so a small amount of shadowing was no problem. But as the mission wore on, their orbits evolved and by 2009 the pair was spending as much as 8 hours a day in the dark.

"The two spacecraft were running out of power and freezing to death," says Angelopoulos. "We had to do something to save them."

The team brainstormed a solution. Because the mission had gone so well, the spacecraft still had an ample supply of fuel--enough to go to the Moon. "We could do some great science from orbit," he says. NASA approved the trip and in late 2009, P1 and P2 headed away from the shadows of Earth.

With a new destination, the mission needed a new name. The team selected ARTEMIS, the Greek goddess of the Moon. It also stands for "Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun."

The first big events of the ARTEMIS mission are underway now. On August 25, 2010, ARTEMIS-P1 reached the L2 Lagrange point on the far side of the Moon. Following close behind, ARTEMIS-P2 entered the opposite L1 Lagrange point on Oct. 22nd. Lagrange points are places where the gravity of Earth and Moon balance, creating a sort of gravitational parking spot for spacecraft.

"We're exploring the Earth-Moon Lagrange points for the first time," says Manfred Bester, Mission Operations Manager from the University of California at Berkeley, where the mission is operated. "No other spacecraft have orbited there."

Because they lie just outside Earth's magnetosphere, Lagrange points are excellent places to study the solar wind. Sensors onboard the ARTEMIS probes will have in situ access to solar wind streams and storm clouds as they approach our planet-a possible boon to space weather forecasters. Moreover, working from opposite Lagrange points, the two spacecraft will be able to measure solar wind turbulence on scales never sampled by previous missions.

"ARTEMIS is going to give us a fundamental new understanding of the solar wind," predicts David Sibeck, ARTEMIS project scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "And that's just for starters."

ARTEMIS will also explore the Moon's plasma wake-a turbulent cavity carved out of the solar wind by the Moon itself, akin to the wake just behind a speedboat. Sibeck says "this is a giant natural laboratory filled with a whole zoo of waves waiting to be discovered and studied."

Another target of the ARTEMIS mission is Earth's magnetotail. Like a wind sock at a breezy airport, Earth's magnetic field is elongated by the action of the solar wind, forming a tail that stretches to the orbit of the Moon and beyond. Once a month around the time of the full Moon, the ARTEMIS probes will follow the Moon through the magnetotail for in situ observations.

"We are particularly hoping to catch some magnetic reconnection events," says Sibeck. "These are explosions in Earth's magnetotail that mimic solar flares--albeit on a much smaller scale." ARTEMIS might even see giant 'plasmoids' accelerated by the explosions hitting the Moon during magnetic

These far-out explorations may have down-to-Earth applications. Plasma waves and reconnection events pop up on Earth, e.g., in experimental fusion chambers. Fundamental discoveries by ARTEMIS could help advance research in the area of clean .

After six months at the Lagrange points, ARTEMIS will move in closer to the Moon-at first only 100 km from the surface and eventually even less than that. From point-blank range, the spacecraft will look to see what the solar wind does to a rocky world when there's no magnetic field to protect it.

"Earth is protected from solar wind by the planetary magnetic field," explains Angelopolous. "The Moon, on the other hand, is utterly exposed. It has no global magnetism."

Studying how the solar wind electrifies, alters and erodes the Moon's surface could reveal valuable information for future explorers and give planetary scientists a hint of what's happening on other unmagnetized worlds around the solar system.

Orbiting the Moon is notoriously tricky, however, because of irregularities in the lunar gravitational field. Enormous concentrations of mass (mascons) hiding just below the surface tug on spacecraft in unexpected ways, causing them over time to veer out of orbit. ARTEMIS will mitigate this problem using highly elongated orbits ranging from tens of km to 18,000 km.

"We'll only be near the lunar surface for a brief time each orbit (accumulating a sizable dataset over the years)," explains Angelopoulos. "Most of the time we'll linger 18,000 km away where we can continue our studies of the solar wind at a safe distance."

The Dead Spacecraft Walking may have a long life ahead, after all.

NASA recycles two small satellites for lunar mission

Having finished their primary mission investigating the formation of auroral light displays at Earth's poles, two diminutive NASA satellites have been dispatched to the moon for bonus science.

Artist's concept of an ARTEMIS spacecraft near the moon. Credit: NASA

Packed with magnetometers and electrical instruments specially designed to probe shocking solar storms, the two are now positioned to study the mysterious interaction between the solar wind and the moon.

Scientists call the new mission ARTEMIS, or Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon's Interaction with the Sun.

"Using two repurposed satellites for the ARTEMIS mission highlights NASA's efficient use of the nation's space assets," said Dick Fisher, director of the heliophysics division in NASA's science directorate.

The two satellites were part of a fleet of five platforms launched in February 2007 to fly through Earth's magnetosphere, a nearly invisible bubble that protects the planet from radiation and charged particles originating from the sun and the cosmos.

Called the THEMIS mission, the five satellites discovered the natural mechanism that triggers geomagnetic storms, which manifest themselves as spectacular light shows known as aurora, or the Northern and Southern Lights.

With the primary mission completed, NASA moved two of the satellites from their unique, high-altitude orbit around Earth to never-before-explored regions at gravitationally stable points less than 40,000 miles from the moon.

Three remaining THEMIS satellites are still circling Earth in an extended mission observing the Northern Lights.

Using a series of novel thruster firings and taking advantage of lunar gravity, engineers guided the two highest THEMIS satellites to Lagrange points averaging about 37,000 miles from the near and far sides of the moon. The Lagrange points are sites where the gravity of two celestial bodies, the Earth and moon in this case, balance to create a stable home for scientific spacecraft.

One of the box-shaped spacecraft reached its Lagrange point Aug. 25, and the other arrived Oct. 22, according to NASA.

The newly-christened ARTEMIS probes are in stable orbits around each Lagrange point. The satellites are already collecting data, according to NASA.

More complex maneuvers are planned to place the satellites in elliptical orbits around the moon by May 2011. The probes will fluctuate between about 60 miles and 12,000 miles above the lunar surface.

NASA has approved ARTEMIS for a two-year mission. The mission is also named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and the wilderness often linked to lunar mythology.

A drawing depicting three THEMIS satellites in Earth orbit and two ARTEMIS probes near the moon. Credit: NASA

"ARTEMIS will provide a unique two-point view of the moon's under-explored space environment," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, THEMIS principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles. "These two spacecraft are headed for an incredible new adventure."

Five instruments on each satellite will measure the electric and magnetic fields, ions and electrons around the spacecraft, uncovering unprecedented details on the space environment close to the moon.

The moon does have a robust magnetosphere like Earth, leaving the lunar surface exposed to erosion from the solar wind, a stream of ionized particles flowing from the sun into the solar system.

ARTEMIS observations began this week to measure how the solar wind charges, alters and erodes the lunar surface, according to a NASA press release.

Scientists say ARTEMIS will be the most extensive study of the space environment around a planetary body without a magnetosphere.

Results from ARTEMIS will be crucial for characterizing the lunar radiation environment before possible long-term human voyages or robotic exploration.

Nasa uncovers new 'life on Mars' evidence after rover got stuck in the mud

Nasa uncovers new 'life on Mars' evidence after rover got stuck in the mud

This mosaic of images shows the soil in front of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit Photo: REUTERS

Researchers at the American space agency made the discovery after the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck in wet ground on the red planet earlier this year.

Astronomers have become excited by the latest discovery, which they say proves that water favourable for life formed on the red planet more recently than previously thought.

Scientists had always believed water formed more than a billion years ago but the latest discovery is the first sign of liquid forming in the past few hundred thousands years.

Nasa’s latest study, reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research, concluded the liquid likely formed from melting snow, which then trickled into the subsurface and dissolved.

It contained several minerals including hematite, silica and gypsum while ferric sulphates, which are more soluble, also were carried down by the water.

None of these minerals are exposed at the surface, which is covered by windblown sand and dust.

“On Earth … hydrothermal systems provide the environmental conditions, water, nutrients and energy sources needed to sustain robust microbial communities,” concluded the Nasa team, who are based at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“It seems likely the region (on Mars) … may have likewise supported a habitable environment.”

According to Nasa, the Mars explorer became stuck in April last year when its left wheels broke through the surface’s crust called “Troy” and fell into soft sand below.

The soil exposed by Spirit’s spinning wheels carries clues that Mars may still be wet.

The seepage could have happened during cyclical climate changes in periods when Mars tilted farther on its axis.

"Liquid water and life kind of go together," said Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis, who was involved in the project.

Nasa abandoned plans to extract the rover earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NASA Recovery Information

Overview of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009. It is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act is an extraordinary response to a crisis unlike any since the Great Depression, and includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.

Implementing the Recovery Act at NASA

Among the key purposes of the Recovery Act are preserving and creating jobs, spurring technological advances in science and health, and promoting economic recovery. NASA has an important role to play in achieving these purposes through the program and facilities investments it will make with Recovery Act funding. As NASA develops and begins implementing its plans, this site will be one of the Agency's primary ways for communicating NASA's plans, progress, and results.

The President and Congress are committed to spending these recovery dollars with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent. Meeting these commitments will require sustained focus by all of us at NASA, particularly in planning, awarding, managing, and overseeing the contracts and grants through which the objectives of the Recovery Act will be achieved.

is a website that empowers Citizens to hold the government accountable for every dollar spent. NASA, along with every other federal agency, is required to provide spending and performance data on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and as required basis.

We invite you to visit us regularly and hear about the exciting work NASA is doing to contribute to America's economic recovery.

Agency Plans and Reports

By the end of April, NASA will be working with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to finalize its Recovery plans. As these plans are approved and they are implemented, we will be posting the latest Agency Plans and Reports here.

Learn More About Our Programs
The Administration's priorities entrust NASA with $1 billion for Recovery investments. Among the purposes for these funds indicated by Congress include:

Glory Mission

Glory Beauty Pass

An artist's rendering of the Glory spacecraft. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Ryan Zuber The Glory spacecraft, set to launch no earlier than February 2011, will study how the sun and airborne particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate.

Scientists have a thorough understanding of how greenhouse gases impact the energy budget, but the roles that two other critical elements of the climate system—the sun's total solar irradiance (TSI) and atmospheric aerosol particles—play are somewhat less certain. The Glory mission, which contains two key scientific instruments, will improve understanding of both.

One of these instruments—the Aerosol Polarimetery Sensor (APS)--will offer scientists new measurements of aerosols, which can affect climate by either absorbing or reflecting light depending on their type. The unique instrument measures polarized light to make aerosol measurements and should thus help scientists distinguish between aerosols types, such as dust and black carbon, from space. The other instrument, the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM), will continue a long-running record of the sun's brightness with unprecedented accuracy.

Results from both instruments will be used to fine-tune global climate models and to help scientists predict how climate change will impact different regions of the planet. Glory will join a fleet of other Earth observing satellites known as the A-Train. It is scheduled to launch aboard a Taurus XL launch vehicle no earlier than February 2011.

NASA's LRO Exposes Moon's Complex, Turbulent Youth

The moon was bombarded by two distinct populations of asteroids or comets in its youth, and its surface is more complex than previously thought, according to new results from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft featured in three papers appearing in the Sept. 17 issue of Science.

Using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA), NASA scientists have created the first-ever comprehensive catalog of large craters on the moon. In this animation, lunar craters larger than 20km in diameter “light up” using LOLA elevation data.

In the first paper, lead author James Head of Brown University in Providence, R.I., describes results obtained from a detailed global topographic map of the moon created using LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). "Our new LRO LOLA dataset shows that the older highland impactor population can be clearly distinguished from the younger population in the lunar 'maria' -- giant impact basins filled with solidified lava flows," says Head. "The highlands have a greater density of large craters compared to smaller ones, implying that the earlier population of impactors had a proportionally greater number of large fragments than the population that characterized later lunar history."

Meteorite impacts can radically alter the history of a planet. The moon, Mars, and Mercury all bear scars of ancient craters hundreds or even thousands of miles across. If Earth was subjected to this assault as well -- and there's no reason to assume our planet was spared -- these enormous impacts could have disrupted the initial origin of life. Large impacts that occurred later appear to have altered life's evolution. The approximately 110-mile-diameter, partially buried crater at Chicxulub, in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, is from an impact about 65 million years ago that is now widely believed to have led or contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs and many other lifeforms.

Scientists trying to reconstruct the meteorite bombardment history of Earth face difficulty because impact craters are eroded by wind and water, or destroyed by the action of plate tectonics, the gradual movement and recycling of the Earth's crust. However, a rich record of craters is preserved on the moon, because it has only an extremely thin atmosphere – a vacuum better than those typically used for experiments in laboratories on Earth. The moon’s surface has no liquid water and no plate tectonics. The only source of significant erosion is other impacts.

"The moon is thus analogous to a Rosetta stone for understanding the bombardment history of the Earth," said Head. "Like the Rosetta stone, the lunar record can be used to translate the 'hieroglyphics' of the poorly preserved impact record on Earth."

Even so, previous lunar maps had different resolutions, viewing angles, and lighting conditions, which made it hard to consistently identify and count craters. Head and his team used the LOLA instrument on board LRO to build a map that highlights lunar craters with unprecedented clarity. The instrument sends laser pulses to the lunar surface, measures the time that it takes for them to reflect back to the spacecraft, and then with a very precise knowledge of the orbit of the LRO spacecraft, scientists can convert this information to a detailed topographic map of the moon, according to Head.

Objects hitting the moon can be categorized in different “impactor populations,” where each population has its own set of characteristics. Head also used the LOLA maps to determine the time when the impactor population changed. "Using the crater counts from the different impact basins and examining the populations making up the superposed craters, we can look back in time to discover when this transition in impactor populations occurred. The LRO LOLA impact crater database shows that the transition occurred about the time of the Orientale impact basin, about 3.8 billion years ago. The implication is that this change in populations occurred around the same time as the large impact basins stopped forming, and raises the question of whether or not these factors might be related. The answers to these questions have implications for the earliest history of all the planets in the inner solar system, including Earth," says Head.

In the other two Science papers, researchers describe how data from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment instrument on LRO are showing that the geologic processes that forged the lunar surface were complex as well. The data have revealed previously unseen compositional differences in the crustal highlands, and have confirmed the presence of anomalously silica-rich material in five distinct regions.

Every mineral, and therefore every rock, absorbs and emits energy with a unique spectral signature that can be measured to reveal its identity and formation mechanisms. For the first time ever, LRO's Diviner instrument is providing scientists with global, high-resolution infrared maps of the moon, which are enabling them to make a definitive identification of silicate minerals commonly found within its crust. "Diviner is literally viewing the moon in a whole new light," says Benjamin Greenhagen of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., lead author of one of the Diviner Science papers.

Lunar geology can be roughly broken down into two categories – the anorthositic highlands, rich in calcium and aluminium, and the basaltic maria, which are abundant in iron and magnesium. Both of these crustal rocks are what’s deemed by geologists as 'primitive'; that is, they are the direct result of crystallization from lunar mantle material, the partially molten layer beneath the crust.

Diviner’s observations have confirmed that most lunar terrains have spectral signatures consistent with compositions that fall into these two broad categories. However they have also revealed that the lunar highlands may be less homogenous than previously thought.

In a wide range of terrains, Diviner revealed the presence of lunar soils with compositions more sodium rich than that of the typical anorthosite crust. The widespread nature of these soils reveals that there may have been variations in the chemistry and cooling rate of the magma ocean which formed the early lunar crust, or they could be the result of secondary processing of the early lunar crust.

Most impressively, in several locations around the moon, Diviner has detected the presence of highly silicic minerals such as quartz, potassium-rich, and sodium-rich feldspar - minerals that are only ever found in association with highly evolved lithologies (rocks that have undergone extensive magmatic processing).

The detection of silicic minerals at these locations is a significant finding for scientists, as they occur in areas previously shown to exhibit anomalously high abundances of the element thorium, another proxy for highly evolved lithologies.

"The silicic features we've found on the moon are fundamentally different from the more typical basaltic mare and anorthositic highlands," says Timothy Glotch of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., lead author of the second Diviner Science paper. "The fact that we see this composition in multiple geologic settings suggests that there may have been multiple processes producing these rocks."

One thing not apparent in the data is evidence for pristine lunar mantle material, which previous studies have suggested may be exposed at some places on the lunar surface. Such material, rich in iron and magnesium, would be readily detected by Diviner.

However, even in the South Pole Aitken Basin (SPA), the largest, oldest, and deepest impact crater on the moon -- deep enough to have penetrated through the crust and into the mantle -- there is no evidence of mantle material.

The implications of this are as yet unknown. Perhaps there are no such exposures of mantle material, or maybe they occur in areas too small for Diviner to detect.

However it's likely that if the impact that formed this crater did excavate any mantle material, it has since been mixed with crustal material from later impacts inside and outside SPA. "The new Diviner data will help in selecting the appropriate landing sites for potential future robotic missions to return samples from SPA. We want to use these samples to date the SPA-forming impact and potentially study the lunar mantle, so it's important to use Diviner data to identify areas with minimal mixing," says Greenhagen.

The research was funded by NASA's Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. LRO was built and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. LOLA was built by NASA Goddard. David E. Smith from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA Goddard is the LOLA principal investigator. The Diviner instrument was built and is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA is the home institution of Diviner’s principal investigator, David Paige.

Click here for materials related to the news briefing on this subject.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Supreme Court conceal toward NASA on privacy .….

The U.S. Supreme Court restrict the government's ability to investigate the people who want to work inside its installations in the post-9/11 world, despite the suggestion that federal officials could go too far when prying into people's private lives in name of safety.

The high court heard arguments from government contractors at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who are fighting the government's request to have them submit to what they call intrusive background checks as a condition of their continued employment.

The case could have ramifications far beyond NASA.

"It's a big government, adding the government cannot be expected to individualize background checks to avoid asking questions one person might find intrusive while another might not.

An applicant might have a yard sign proclaiming a wish for the space shuttle to blow u.But with "low-risk or no-risk employees, the government doesn't need to know,"

JPL is NASA's premier robotics lab, famous for sending unmanned spacecraft to Mars and the outer solar system.

Employees said the agency was invading their privacy by requiring the investigations, which included probes into medical records.

None of the JPL workers who sued work on classified projects or have security clearances, although several are involved in high-profile missions, including the twin Mars rovers and the Cassini spacecraft studying Saturn and its moons.

NASA extended background checks for federal employees to its contract workers in response to a presidential directive that ordered government agencies to reinforce security at facilities and computer systems by issuing new identification badges for millions of civil servants and contractors.

A federal judge originally refused to stop NASA's background checks, saying they could continue while the lawsuit made its way through the courts. He was overturned by the San Francisco-based appeals court.

The contractors pointed to a chart that showed up on NASA's website after they asked about the criteria for employment decisions. Some of the factors that showed up on that chart to be considered in deciding whether to hire someone included carnal knowledge, sodomy, indecent exposure.

"NASA does not and will not use" that chart when it comes to making employment decisions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bolden Head To China-Joint Space Talks...

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden have an introductory talks with china for potential space partnerships and first-time visits to Chinese humanspaceflight facilities.

Both Obama and Bolden leaders issued a joint communique calling for talks on cooperation in human spaceflight.

Photo:NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

Michel cabbage words was that that Bolden's itinerary was not finalized. Seven NASA officials will accompany Bolden on the five-day trip.

Wolf is staunchly opposed to U.S. cooperation with China, highlighting that country's record of espionage and human rights abuses.

Planning or coordination has been approved by the Congress"."In fact, several recent NASA authorization bills have explicitly sought to place strict limitations on coordination with China."

Space powers like Russia and Europe are gradually warming up to including China in more bilateral cooperation, but leaders have made little progress on the thorny issue of Chinese participation on the International Space Station.

Both Obama and Bolden leaders issued a joint communique calling for talks on cooperation in human spaceflight.

NASA quickly issued a statement on the matter, saying U.S. officials checked with Russian leaders and confirmed there was never a formal invitation offered to China.

The administrator plans discussions with officials from several Chinese agencies, including the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the China Manned Space Engineering Office, the China National Space Administration, the China Academy of
Spaceflight Technology, and the China Academy of Science.

A delegation of Chinese representatives plans to travel to the United States as soon as November,

The specific agenda for a Chinese visit to the United States will depend on the access and transparency NASA officials are granted in China.

Wolf outlined his concerns about the release of "non-public" information to China. Bolden assured Wolf there would be so such release of sensitive data.