After a months-long contest among U.S. students to name NASA's latest Mars rover, the agency will reveal the name of the rover Thursday, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Tuesday.
The Mars 2020 rover was the subject of a nationwide naming contest in 2019, which drew more than 28,000 essays by K-12 students from across the United States. Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges, consisting of educators, professionals and space enthusiasts helped narrow the pool down to 155 semifinalists.
A second round of judging selected nine finalist essays that were open to an online public poll before Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, made the final selection.
The Mars 2020 rover currently is at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch this summer.
The rover is part of a larger exploration program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human missions to the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis program.
The first CubeSat mission to fly past Mars has been completed, according to a recent release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Contact with the twin Mars Cube One spacecraft, known collectively as MarCO, was lost in early January 2019 as the trajectories of the solar-powered CubeSats carried them farther from the Sun, according to JPL.
The team reattempted contacting the briefcase-sized pair this past September, when their orbits brought them closer to the Sun again. On Feb. 2, having been unable to detect any signals from them, the team declared the end of the mission.
The two CubeSats made history, not just for flying past Mars but also for relaying data from NASA's InSight lander, said JPL.
Designs derived from MarCO's radio, attitude control system and antenna will be in CubeSats that NASA will launch to the Moon with Artemis I, part of an effort to send humans back to the Moon in preparation for astronaut missions to Mars.
Data collected by each MarCO CubeSat will be published in the coming year, ensuring that future generations of small-satellite engineers can learn from these important pathfinders, according to JPL.
NASA has published a set of six papers this week describing its InSight lander's findings above and below the surface of Mars.
These findings reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Five of the papers were published in Nature. An additional paper in Nature Geoscience details the InSight spacecraft's landing site, a shallow crater nicknamed "Homestead hollow" in a region called Elysium Planitia.
InSight is the first mission dedicated to looking deep beneath the Martian surface. Among its science tools are a seismometer for detecting quakes, sensors for gauging wind and air pressure, a magnetometer, and a heat flow probe designed to take the planet's temperature.
The first results reported from the InSight mission on Mars include evidence for locally strong crustal magnetization, unexpected atmospheric processes, and marsquakes from distant, enigmatic sources. Some of the marsquakes detected by InSight's seismometer can be traced to Cerberus Fossae, a region that may be tectonically active, according to JPL.
Together, InSight's geophysical measurements provide information about Mars' interior structure and evolution, said the release.
InSight has two radios -- one for regularly sending and receiving data, and a more powerful radio designed to measure the "wobble" of Mars as it spins.
This X-band radio, also known as the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, can eventually reveal whether the planet's core is solid or liquid. A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would, said JPL.
This first year of data is just a start. Watching over a full Martian year (two Earth years) will give scientists a much better idea of the size and speed of the planet's wobble, said JPL.
NASA engineers have a new plan for pushing down on the heat probe of the InSight Lander, which has been stuck at the Martian surface for a year, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) published on Friday.
The mission team plans to command the scoop on InSight's robotic arm to press down on the "mole," a mini pile driver designed to hammer itself as much as 5 meters down.
They hope that pushing down on the mole's top will keep it from backing out of its hole on Mars, as it did twice in recent months after nearly burying itself.
As part of the heat probe, the mole is a 40-centimeter-long spike equipped with an internal hammering mechanism. While burrowing into the soil, it is designed to drag with it a ribbon-like tether that extends from the spacecraft.
Temperature sensors are embedded along the tether to measure heat coming deep from within the planet's interior to reveal important scientific details about the formation of Mars and all rocky planets, including Earth.
The mole found itself stuck on Feb. 28, 2019, the first day of hammering. The InSight team has since determined that the soil here is different from what has been encountered on other parts of Mars. InSight landed in an area with an unusually thick duricrust, or a layer of cemented soil.
The mole needs friction from soil in order to travel downward; without it, recoil from its self-hammering action causes it to simply bounce in place, according to JPL.
Throughout late February and early March, InSight's arm will be maneuvered into position so that the team can test what happens as the mole briefly hammers.
Meanwhile, the team is also considering using the scoop to move more soil into the hole that has formed around the mole. This could add more pressure and friction, allowing it to finally dig down, according to JPL.
The InSight landed safely on Mars on Nov. 26 of 2018 for a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet.
Delta-X, a new NASA airborne investigation, is preparing to embark on its first field campaign in U.S. Mississippi River Delta in coastal Louisiana state, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Wednesday.
Beginning in April, the Delta-X science team, led by Principal Investigator Marc Simard of JPL, will be collecting data by air and by boat to better understand why some parts of the delta are disappearing due to sea-level rise while other parts are not.
"Millions of people live on, and live from services provided by, coastal deltas like the Mississippi River Delta. But sea-level rise is causing many major deltas to lose land or disappear altogether, taking those services with them," Simard said.
"We hope to be able to predict where and why some parts of the region will disappear and some are likely to survive," he said.
Deltas protect inland areas from wind and flooding during storms. They serve as a first line of defense against sea-level rise, and they are home to many species of plants and wildlife.
The Mississippi River Delta, one of the world's largest, also helps to drive local and national economies via the shipping, fishing and tourism industries. But it is quickly losing land area, according to the release.
Over the course of two field campaigns, one in April and another in the fall, the Delta-X science team will investigate how and why sediment accumulates in some areas and not in others. They will also determine what areas are most susceptible to disappearing beneath rising seas.
The team will fly four times for each campaign, collecting data at both high and low tides to better understand how the tides impact the exchange of water and sediment between river channels and wetlands.
After processing the data, which is expected to take about nine months, the science team will use it to provide detailed models of the delta region and how it works.
"These models will empower local communities and resource managers with the information and prediction capabilities they need to make the necessary decisions to save and restore the delta," Simard said.