WASHINGTON — A new study using data from a pair of gravity-measuring NASA satellites finds that large parts of the arid Middle East region lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade.
Scientists at the University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine); NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs.
The findings, to be published Friday, Feb. 15, in the journal Water Resources Research, are the result of one of the first comprehensive hydrological assessments of the entire Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region. Because obtaining ground-based data in the area is difficult, satellite data, such as that from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, are essential. GRACE is providing a global picture of water storage trends and is invaluable when hydrologic observations are not routinely collected or shared beyond political boundaries.
This rectangular version of a self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013).
The rover is positioned at a patch of flat outcrop called “John Klein,” which was selected as the site for the first rock-drilling activities by Curiosity. The self-portrait was acquired to document the drilling site.
The rover’s robotic arm is not visible in the mosaic. MAHLI, which took the component images for this mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images or portions of images used in the mosaic.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates MAHLI. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the mission’s Curiosity rover for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — NASA’s progress toward a return to deep space missions continues with a new round of upcoming tests on the next-generation J-2X rocket engine, which will help power the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) to new destinations in the solar system.
Beginning this month, engineers will conduct a series of tests on the second J-2X development engine, designated number 10002, on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand to undergo a series of gimbal, or pivot, tests for the first time.
“The upcoming test series is not only a critical step forward, but important to the Stennis test team, as well,” said Gary Benton, manager of the J-2X test project at Stennis. “This test series will help us increase our knowledge of the J-2X and its performance capabilities. In addition, the series will help us maintain the high skill level of our team as we look ahead to continued J-2X testing and testing of the RS-25 engines that will be used to power the SLS first-stage.”
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft onboard is seen on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) mission is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat program’s 40-year data record of monitoring the Earth’s landscapes from space. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch Feb. 11.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
WASHINGTON — A NASA spacecraft studying Mercury has provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.
The new information comes from NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. Its onboard instruments have been studying Mercury in unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.
WASHINGTON — NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and their international partners have selected two veteran spacefarers for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015. This mission will include collecting scientific data important to future human exploration of our solar system. NASA has selected Scott Kelly and Roscosmos has chosen Mikhail Kornienko.
Kelly and Kornienko will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in spring 2015 and will land in Kazakhstan in spring 2016. Kelly and Kornienko already have a connection; Kelly was a backup crew member for the station’s Expedition 23/24 crews, where Kornienko served as a flight engineer.
The goal of their yearlong expedition aboard the orbiting laboratory is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. Data from the 12-month expedition will help inform current assessments of crew performance and health and will determine better and validate countermeasures to reduce the risks associated with future exploration as NASA plans for missions around the moon, an asteroid and ultimately Mars.
The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. Deep observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have been used to detect the X-ray emission from the hot outer atmospheres, or coronas, of young stars in the cluster and to probe how these fascinating star factories form and evolve. About 1,700 X-ray sources were detected, including about 1,450 thought to be stars in the cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra (blue) have been combined with infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red) and optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope (orange).
A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 3:22 p.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. The splashdown successfully ended the first
contracted cargo delivery flight contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station.
The Dragon capsule will be taken by boat to a port near Los Angeles, where it will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing. Returning with the Dragon capsule was 1,673 pounds of cargo, including 866 pounds of scientific research. Not since the space shuttle have NASA and its international partners been able to return considerable amounts of research and samples for analysis.
Blue Origin successfully completed a pad escape test at the company’s West Texas launch site Oct. 19, firing its pusher escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module. Blue Origin’s suborbital crew capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 feet during the flight test before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 1,630 feet away.
The pusher escape system was designed and developed by Blue Origin to allow crew escape in the event of an emergency during any phase of ascent for its suborbital New Shepard system. As part of an incremental development program, the results of this test will shape the design of the escape system for the company’s biconic-shaped orbital Space Vehicle. The system is expected to enable full reusability of the launch vehicle, which is different from NASA’s previous launch escape systems that would pull a spacecraft away from its rocket before reaching orbit.
The test was part of Blue Origin’s work supporting its funded Space Act Agreement with NASA during Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2). Through initiatives like CCDev2, NASA is fostering the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. After the capability is matured and available to the government and other customers, NASA could contract to purchase commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs.
To read more about the test and to see images, copy and paste this link into your Web browser: http://go.nasa.gov/TbrgbU