Thursday, August 30, 2007

Venus: Full View by Magellan Spacecraft

Full view of Venus

The hemispheric view of Venus, as revealed by more than a decade of radar investigations culminating in the 1990-1994 Magellan mission, is centered at zero degrees East longitude. The Magellan spacecraft imaged more than 98 percent of Venus at a resolution of about 100 meters.

A mosaic of the Magellan images (most with illumination from the west) forms the image base. Gaps in the Magellan coverage were filled with images from the Earth-based Arecibo radar in a region centered roughly on zero degree latitude and longitude, and with a neutral tone elsewhere (primarily near the south pole). The composite image was processed to improve contrast and to emphasize small features, and was color-coded to represent elevation. Gaps in the elevation data from the Magellan radar altimeter were filled with altimetry from the Venera spacecraft and the U.S. Pioneer Venus missions.

Image credit: NASA

Next Leap in Mars Exploration

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will bring new capabilities to Mars exploration. The spacecraft arrives at Mars Mar. 10, 2006.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SuitSat-1 Floats Free

Suit Satellite

A space suit floats freely away from the International Space Station in a scene reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. But this time, no investigation is needed. The suit is actually the world's latest satellite and was launched on Feb. 3, 2006. Dubbed SuitSat-1, the unneeded Russian Orlan spacesuit filled mostly with old clothes was fitted with a radio transmitter and released to orbit the Earth.

Image Credit: NASA

THEMIS Movie Trailer


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Triangulum Galaxy

Triangulum Galaxy

The spiral galaxy M33 also is called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), it is much larger than the many of the local dwarf spheroidal galaxies. The galaxy's proximity to M31 causes it to be thought by some to be a satellite galaxy of this more massive galaxy.

In the above picture, visible light is shown in red and ultraviolet light superposed in blue. Stars in M33 are the most distant ever to be studied spectroscopically.

Image credit: NASA, UIT

Monday, August 27, 2007

Milky Way Neighbor

Spiral Galaxy

Our Sun and solar system are embedded in a broad pancake of stars deep within the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. Even from a distance, it is impossible to see our galaxy's large-scale features other than the disk.

The next best thing is to look farther out into the universe at galaxies that are similar in shape and structure to our home galaxy. Other spiral galaxies like NGC 3949, pictured in this Hubble image, fit the bill. Like our Milky Way, this galaxy has a blue disk of young stars peppered with bright pink star-birth regions. In contrast to the blue disk, the bright central bulge is made up of mostly older, redder stars.

NGC 3949 lies about 50 million light-years from Earth. It is a member of a loose cluster of some six or seven dozens of galaxies located in the direction of the Big Dipper, in the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear). It is one of the larger galaxies of this cluster.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Space Shuttle Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour

After a nearly 7-hour trip, Space Shuttle Endeavour, atop the mobile launcher platform, is hard down on Launch Pad 39A. First motion out of the Vehicle Assembly Building was at 8:10 p.m. July 10.

The components of the shuttle are, first, the orbiter and then the solid rocket boosters flanking the external tank behind it. Seen below the orbiter's wings are the tail masts, which provide several umbilical connections to the orbiter, including a liquid-oxygen line through one and a liquid-hydrogen line through another.

Endeavour is scheduled to launch on mission STS-118 on Aug. 7. During the mission, Endeavour will carry into orbit the S5 truss, SPACEHAB module and external stowage platform 3. The mission is the 22nd flight to the International Space Station and will mark the first flight of Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan, the teacher-turned-astronaut whose association with NASA began more than 20 years ago. STS-118 will be the first flight since 2002 for Endeavour, which has undergone extensive modifications, including the addition of safety upgrades already added to orbiters Discovery and Atlantis.

Image credit: NASA/George Shelton

Chandra: Beyond the Light

Scientists make three new black hole discoveries.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturn: At a Tilt

Saturn's Rings

Colorful Saturn tilts its darkened ringplane toward Cassini. Against the dark sky, the rings are made visible by the light that scatters through them toward the camera.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings. The planet is visible through the innermost and outermost portions of the rings.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained by the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 13, 2007, at a distance of approximately 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) from Saturn.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Liftoff of Atlantis!

After a smooth countdown, Space Shuttle Atlantis begins the STS-117 mission with a spectacular climb toward orbit.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Atlantis Performs Flip

Shuttle Atlantis performs a Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver to examine heat shield.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saturn: Ringworld Waiting

Full view of Saturn

Saturn's peaceful beauty invites the Cassini spacecraft for a closer look in this natural color view, taken during the spacecraft's approach to the planet. By this point in the approach sequence, Saturn was large enough that two narrow angle camera images were required to capture an end-to-end view of the planet, its delicate rings and several of its icy moons. The composite is made entire from these two images.

The images were taken on May 7, 2004 from a distance of 28.2 million kilometers (17.6 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 169 kilometers (105 miles) per pixel.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

1st STS-117 Spacewalk

STS-117's First Spacewalk Begins


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ring Around the Cosmos

Ring Nebula

Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star.

Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope by using natural colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Image From Astronomy Picture of the Day, Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team

Solar Array Deploys

The solar arrays on the newly installed Starboard 3 and 4 truss segment deploy.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mystery Blobs

Giant galactic blobs

This artist's concept illustrates one possible answer to the puzzle of the "giant galactic blobs." These blobs (red), first identified about five years ago, are mammoth clouds of intensely glowing material that surround distant galaxies (white). Astronomers using visible-light telescopes can see the glow of the blobs, but they didn't know what provides the energy to light them up. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope set its infrared eyes on one well-known blob located 11 billion light-years away, and discovered three tremendously bright galaxies, each shining with the light of more than one trillion of Earth's suns, headed toward each other.

Spitzer also observed three other blobs in the same galactic neighborhood and found equally bright galaxies within them. One of these blobs is also known to contain galaxies merging together. The findings suggest that galactic mergers might be the mysterious source of blobs.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)

From Ignition to Splashdown

Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis was recorded by multiple cameras on board the solid rocket boosters.


Pioneering NASA Spacecraft Mark Thirty Years of Flight

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three decades of flight as they head toward interstellar space. Their ongoing odysseys mark an unprecedented and historic accomplishment.

Voyager 2 launched on Aug. 20, 1977, and Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977. They continue to return information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto.

artist concept of Voyager approaching interstellar spaceImage right: Artist concept of the two Voyager spacecraft as they approach interstellar space. Image credit: NASA/JPL
+ Larger view
+ Learn more about the terms used
+ Blog: Voyager's Golden Record
+ Slide show: Planetary Tour
+ Voyager's Many Discoveries

"The Voyager mission is a legend in the annals of space exploration. It opened our eyes to the scientific richness of the outer solar system, and it has pioneered the deepest exploration of the sun's domain ever conducted," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "It's a testament to Voyager's designers, builders and operators that both spacecraft continue to deliver important findings more than 25 years after their primary mission to Jupiter and Saturn concluded."

During their first dozen years of flight, the Voyagers made detailed explorations of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons, and conducted the first explorations of Uranus and Neptune. The Voyagers returned never-before-seen images and scientific data, making fundamental discoveries about the outer planets and their moons. The spacecraft revealed Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, which includes dozens of interacting hurricane-like storm systems, and erupting volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. They also showed waves and fine structure in Saturn's icy rings from the tugs of nearby moons.

For the past 18 years, the twin Voyagers have been probing the sun's outer heliosphere and its boundary with interstellar space. Both Voyagers remain healthy and are returning scientific data 30 years after their launches.

Voyager 1 currently is the farthest human-made object, traveling at a distance from the sun of about 15.5 billion kilometers (9.7 billion miles). Voyager 2 is about 12.5 billion kilometers (7.8 billion miles) from the sun. Originally designed as a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the Voyager tours were extended because of their successful achievements and a rare planetary alignment. The two-planet mission eventually became a four-planet grand tour. After completing that extended mission, the two spacecraft began the task of exploring the outer heliosphere.

"The Voyager mission has opened up our solar system in a way not possible before the Space Age," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It revealed our neighbors in the outer solar system and showed us how much there is to learn and how diverse the bodies are that share the solar system with our own planet Earth."

In December 2004, Voyager 1 began crossing the solar system's final frontier. Called the heliosheath, this turbulent area, approximately 14 billion kilometers (8.7 billion miles) from the sun, is where the solar wind slows as it crashes into the thin gas that fills the space between stars. Voyager 2 could reach this boundary later this year, putting both Voyagers on their final leg toward interstellar space.

Each spacecraft carries five fully functioning science instruments that study the solar wind, energetic particles, magnetic fields and radio waves as they cruise through this unexplored region of deep space. The spacecraft are too far from the sun to use solar power. They run on less than 300 watts, the amount of power needed to light up a bright light bulb. Their long-lived radioisotope thermoelectric generators provide the power.

"The continued operation of these spacecraft and the flow of data to the scientists is a testament to the skills and dedication of the small operations team," said Ed Massey, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Massey oversees a team of nearly a dozen people in the day-to-day Voyager spacecraft operations.

The Voyagers call home via NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of antennas around the world. The spacecraft are so distant that commands from Earth, traveling at light speed, take 14 hours one-way to reach Voyager 1 and 12 hours to reach Voyager 2. Each Voyager logs approximately 1 million miles per day.

Each of the Voyagers carries a golden record that is a time capsule with greetings, images and sounds from Earth. The records also have directions on how to find Earth if the spacecraft is recovered by something or someone.

NASA's latest outer planet exploration mission is New Horizons, which is now well past Jupiter and headed for a historic exploration of the Pluto system in July 2015.

For a complete listing of Voyager discoveries and mission information, visit the Internet at: and .

Monday, August 20, 2007

Saturn's Hyperion: A Moon With Odd Craters

Saturn's Hyperion

What lies at the bottom of Hyperion's strange craters? Noone knows. To help find out, Cassini took this image, containing unprecedented detail, as the spacecraft swept past the sponge-textured moon in late 2005.

The image shows a remarkable world strewn with strange craters and odd surfaces. At the bottom of most craters lies some type of unknown dark material. Inspection of the image shows bright features indicating that the dark material might be only tens of meters thick in some places. Hyperion is about 250 kilometers across, rotates chaotically, and has a density so low that it might house a vast system of caverns inside.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, SSI and Cassini Imaging Team

Shuttle Performs Fly-Around of Station

Cameras aboard the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis capture spectacular views as the shuttle performs a fly-around of the station.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Long Way from Home

Earth and Moon

This image of the Earth and moon in a single frame, the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft, was recorded on Sept. 18, 1977, by Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles from Earth. The moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager.

In the picture are eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was directly above Mt. Everest (on the night side of the planet at 25 degrees north latitude) when the picture was taken.

The photo was made from three images taken through color filters, then processed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Because the Earth is many times brighter than the moon, the moon was artificially brightened so that both bodies would show clearly in the prints.

Image credit: NASA

Perfect Touchdown

Atlantis glides to a smooth landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Animation: AIM Mission To Study Polar Clouds

Animation shows spacecraft launch and deployment.


Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Shuttle Atlantis Launch
Birds don't fly this high. Airplanes don't go this fast. The Statue of Liberty weighs less. No species other than human can even comprehend the event. The launch of a rocket bound for space inspires awe and challenges description. Pictured above, the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off to visit the International Space Station during the early morning hours of July 12, 2001, one of six missions during the first year of the new millenium. From a standing start, the 2 million kilogram (4.4 million pound) rocket ship lifted off on a journey to circle the Earth that lasted 12 days.

Image credit: NASA

Successful Tank Separation

Endeavour's external tank has been jettisoned from the orbiter.

From Nasa

Friday, August 17, 2007

Boosters Fall Away!

The solid rocket boosters powering Endeavour's ascent have separated from the orbiter.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

3, 2, 1, Liftoff!

Space Shuttle Endeavour roars off the launch pad into a brilliant Florida sky.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Altitude Wind Tunnel: Historical Turning Point

Wind Tunnel

Cleveland's Glenn Research Center began as the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA's predecessor). The Altitude Wind Tunnel, built in 1944, could run at 250-425 mph at simulated altitudes of 1,000-30,000 feet. It was the only known wind tunnel specifically designed to test aircraft engines at such conditions. Tests in the tunnel assisted in solving engine-cooling problems for the B-29 bomber plane of World War II. The first wind tunnel tests on American jet engine prototypes were conducted here. The vertical structures shown are "turning vanes" added on the downstream surface to straighten the flow through an elbow of the tunnel that is no longer in service.

Image credit: NASA

Constellation Lunar Mission Animation

Follow a future lunar mission from launch to the moon and back.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Phoenix Headed for Mars

A beautiful early morning launch lofts the Mars Phoenix Lander on its journey to the red planet.