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NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

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Archive for July 2011

NASA's Juno spacecraft completed its last significant terrestrial journey today, July 27, with a 15-mile (25-kilometer) trip from Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla., to its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The solar-powered, Jupiter-bound spacecraft was secured into place on top of its rocket at 10:42 a.m. EDT (7:42 a.m. PDT).
Juno will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016 and orbit its poles 33 times to learn more about the gas giant's interior, atmosphere and aurora.


"We're about to start our journey to Jupiter to unlock the secrets of the early solar system," said Scott Bolton, the mission's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "After eight years of development, the spacecraft is ready for its important mission."


Now that the Juno payload is atop the most powerful Atlas rocket ever made -- the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 -- a final flurry of checks and tests can begin and confirm that all is go for launch. The final series of checks begins Wednesday with an on-pad functional test. The test is designed to confirm that the spacecraft is healthy after the fueling, encapsulation and transport operations. 



The on-pad functional test is the first of seven tests and reviews that Juno and its flight team will undergo during the spacecraft's last 10 days on Earth," said Jan Chodas, Juno's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "There are a number of remaining pre-launch activities that we still need to focus on, but the team is really excited that the final days of preparation, which we've been anticipating for years, are finally here. We are ready to go."


The launch period for Juno opens Aug. 5, 2011, and extends through Aug. 26. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 11:34 a.m. EDT (8:34 a.m. PDT) and remains open through 12:43 p.m. EDT (9:43 a.m. PDT).


JPL manages the Juno mission for principal investigator Scott Bolton. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

NASA's chief of safety and mission assurance since 2002, has announced plans to retire from the agency on Aug. 31.

"Bryan is a fellow Marine, trusted advisor and friend I have been privileged to serve with off and on since our years as plebes at the U.S. Naval Academy," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "I am deeply grateful for his vigilance over the safety and well-being of NASA's people and its work. His concern and commitment have encompassed not just the space shuttle and the astronaut corps, but every mission, large or small, and every member of the NASA family. He'll be sorely missed."

O'Connor announced his plans to members of his staff in NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance on Tuesday. In his current role, he is responsible for the safety, reliability, maintainability and quality assurance of all NASA programs.

"Even though good practice suggests shorter tours for senior leaders, I did not want to pass the safety baton until after the STS-135 crew left Atlantis on the runway," O'Connor said. "This transition is a great time to let someone new takes on this wonderful role you've permitted me to serve in."

Atlantis completed STS-135, the last mission of the space shuttle program, with a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 21.

O'Connor held management positions in NASA's space shuttle, International Space Station, and Shuttle-Mir programs, and played prominent safety management roles in the agency's recovery from two space shuttle accidents, the loss of Challenger in 1986 and the loss of Columbia in 2003. Prior to that, he joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1980 and flew two missions aboard the space shuttle.

Today’s wakeup song was “Don’t Panic,” by Coldplay, played at 9:59 p.m. EDT for space shuttle Atlantis Pilot Doug Hurley.

Hurley will guide Atlantis away from the International Space Station on a half-lap fly-around about an hour after the shuttle undocks at 2:28 a.m.

Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson and Pilot Doug Hurley have reloaded software into General Purpose Computer (GPC) 4 and recovered the computer. It has been added to the common set of GPCs and is operating normally, processing data.

Meanwhile, Mission Control is evaluating the “dump” of data from the computer that Atlantis transmitted earlier this morning to determine what caused the Thursday evening failure. GPCs 1, 2 & 4 are in “run” and GPC 3 is in “standby.” All four of the primary computers are processing data.

In Firing Room 4 in the Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launch team members gather at their consoles preparing for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.

Atlantis and its crew of four are scheduled to lift off at 11:26 a.m. EDT on July 8 to deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the station.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope crossed another milestone in its space odyssey of exploration and discovery. On Monday, July 4, the Earth-orbiting observatory logged its one millionth science observation during a search for water in an exoplanet's atmosphere 1,000 light-years away.

"For 21 years Hubble has been the premier space science observatory, astounding us with deeply beautiful imagery and enabling ground-breaking science across a wide spectrum of astronomical disciplines," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. He piloted the space shuttle mission that carried Hubble to orbit. "The fact that Hubble met this milestone while studying a faraway planet is a remarkable reminder of its strength and legacy."

Although Hubble is best known for its stunning imagery of the cosmos, the millionth observation is a spectroscopic measurement, where light is divided into its component colors. These color patterns can reveal the chemical composition of cosmic sources.

Hubble's millionth exposure is of the planet HAT-P-7b, a gas giant planet larger than Jupiter orbiting a star hotter than our sun. HAT-P-7b, also known as Kepler 2b, has been studied by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler observatory after it was discovered by ground-based observations. Hubble now is being used to analyze the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere.