NASA News: Aquarius Yields NASA'S First Global Map Of Ocean Salinity

WASHINGTON -- NASA's new Aquarius instrument has produced its first
global map of the salinity of the ocean surface, providing an early
glimpse of the mission's anticipated discoveries.

Aquarius, which is aboard the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones
Científicas) observatory, is making NASA's first space observations
of ocean surface salinity variations - a key component of Earth's
climate. Salinity changes are linked to the cycling of freshwater
around the planet and influence ocean circulation.

"Aquarius' salinity data are showing much higher quality than we
expected to see this early in the mission," said Aquarius principal
investigator Gary Lagerloef of Earth & Space Research in Seattle.
"Aquarius soon will allow scientists to explore the connections
between global rainfall, ocean currents and climate variations."

The new map, which shows a tapestry of salinity patterns, demonstrates
Aquarius' ability to detect large-scale salinity distribution
features clearly and with sharp contrast. The map is a composite of
the data since Aquarius became operational on Aug. 25. The mission
was launched June 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Aquarius/SAC-D is collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space
agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE).

"Aquarius/SAC-D already is advancing our understanding of ocean
surface salinity and Earth's water cycle," said Michael Freilich,
director of NASA's Earth Science Division at agency headquarters in
Washington. "Aquarius is making continuous, consistent, global
measurements of ocean salinity, including measurements from places we
have never sampled before."

To produce the map, Aquarius scientists compared the early data with
ocean surface salinity reference data. Although the early data
contain some uncertainties, and months of additional calibration and
validation work remain, scientists are impressed by the data's quality.

"Aquarius has exposed a pattern of ocean surface salinity that is rich
in variability across a wide range of scales," said Aquarius science
team member Arnold Gordon, professor of oceanography at Columbia
University in New York and at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of
Columbia University in Palisades, N.Y. "This is a great moment in the
history of oceanography. The first image raises many questions that
oceanographers will be challenged to explain."

The map shows several well-known ocean salinity features such as
higher salinity in the subtropics; higher average salinity in the
Atlantic Ocean compared to the Pacific and Indian Oceans; and lower
salinity in rainy belts near the equator, in the northernmost Pacific
Ocean and elsewhere. These features are related to large-scale
patterns of rainfall and evaporation over the ocean, river outflow
and ocean circulation. Aquarius will monitor how these features
change and study their link to climate and weather variations.

Other important regional features are evident, including a sharp
contrast between the arid, high-salinity Arabian Sea west of the
Indian subcontinent, and the low-salinity Bay of Bengal to the east,
which is dominated by the Ganges River and south Asia monsoon rains.
The data also show important smaller details, such as a
larger-than-expected extent of low-salinity water associated with
outflow from the Amazon River.

Aquarius was built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena, Calif., and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Md., for NASA's Earth Systems Science Pathfinder Program. JPL is
managing Aquarius through its commissioning phase and will archive
mission data. Goddard will manage Aquarius mission operations and
process science data. CONAE provided the SAC-D spacecraft and the
mission operations center.

The new map is available at:


For more information about Aquarius/SAC-D, visit:




NASA Completes Orion Spacecraft Parachute Testing In Arizona

HOUSTON -- NASA this week completed the first in a series of
flight-like parachute tests for the agency's Orion spacecraft. The
drop tests at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona support
the design and development of the Orion parachute assembly.

Flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet, a drop-test article that
mimicked the Orion parachute compartment was deployed from a C-130
aircraft. Once airborne, two drogue chutes were deployed at an
altitude of 19,000 feet, followed by three pilot parachutes, which
then deployed three main landing parachutes. The drop test article
speed as it impacted the desert was approximately 25 feet per second.

The tests were the closest simulation so far to what the actual Orion
parachute landing phase will be during a return from space.

Since 2007, the Orion program has tested the spacecraft's parachutes
and performed 20 drop tests. The program provided the chutes for
NASA's pad abort test in 2010 and performed numerous ground-based
tests. Results from the previous experiences were incorporated into
the parachute design used in this test.

To learn more about the development of Orion, visit:



The Sounds Of NASA Available For Download

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Historic and interesting sounds and sound
bites from NASA space missions are available for download as
ringtones or on your computer for events, errors, alarms and notifications.

The public now can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch or Neil
Armstrong's, "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for
mankind," every time they get a phone call. A new NASA web page now
has a collection of more than 35 different sounds, each approximately
20 seconds. Examples include:

- Apollo 13's John "Jack" Swigert commenting "Houston, we have a
- Crackle of the historic last launch of the space shuttle, STS-135
- Segments from President John F. Kennedy's historic moon speech
- Sound wave conversions of the light curve waves created by stars
discovered by NASA's Kepler mission and other sounds of planets and stars

"NASA has been making historic sounds for over 50 years," said Jerry
Colen, NASA App project manager at the agency's Ames Research Center
in Moffett Field, Calif. "Now we're making some of these memorable
sounds easy to find and use."

The NASA sounds are available in both MP3 and M4R (iPhone) files. NASA
will update the collection as new sounds become available. To listen
to and download the sounds, visit:


The NASA App for Android allows users to easily preview and set the
sounds as ringtones.

To download the most recent version of the NASA App for Android, visit:



NASA Posts Global Exploration Roadmap

WASHINGTON -- NASA is releasing the initial version of a Global
Exploration Roadmap (GER) developed by the International Space
Exploration Coordination Group. This roadmap is the culmination of
work by 12 space agencies, including NASA, during the past year to
advance coordinated space exploration.

The GER begins with the International Space Station and expands human
presence throughout the solar system, leading ultimately to crewed
missions to explore the surface of Mars.

The roadmap identifies two potential pathways: "Asteroid Next" and
"Moon Next." Each pathway represents a mission scenario that covers a
25-year period with a logical sequence of robotic and human missions.
Both pathways were deemed practical approaches to address common
high-level exploration goals developed by the participating agencies,
recognizing that individual preferences among them may vary.

To view the document, visit:


For information about NASA and human exploration, visit:



NASA 2012 Lunabotics Competition Open For Registration

WASHINGTON -- NASA is accepting applications from teams of U.S. and
international undergraduate and graduate students for the third
annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event will be at NASA's
Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 21-26, 2012.

Participants in the competition will design and build a remote
controlled or autonomous robot, which could be used for future
exploration on the moon. During the competition, the teams' designs,
known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can
excavate and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes.

Students must submit applications, including a systems engineering
paper and an educational outreach project, by Nov. 30. Registration
is limited to one team for each university campus and 10 teams per country.

The competition is designed to engage and retain students in the
science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines
critical to NASA's missions.

For information about the competition and to apply online, visit:


For information about NASA's education programs, visit:



Plant Experiments Take Root On Space Station To Inspire Students

HOUSTON -- A unique science project designed to sow the excitement of
scientific discovery in students is sprouting this week aboard the
International Space Station. The Plants in Space project will allow
students and teachers to examine root growth in microgravity and
compare the results with those from plants used in their own
ground-based experiments.

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is funding
the project. It began Tuesday, Sept. 20, when space station
astronauts planted Brassica rapa seeds during the first of four
scheduled five-day trials. The project's primary scientific goal is
to investigate the influence of light on root orientation.

"More than 31 million students have participated in educational
demonstrations on the space station, and more than a million students
have done experiments linked to the space station," said NASA's
International Space Station Program Scientist Julie Robinson. "It's a
powerful force motivating young people to pursue careers that look to the future."

During the trials, astronauts plant seeds in a clear nutrient-filled
gelatin. They will take daily photographs of root growth during each
trial. Students will design and conduct their own experiments with
the help of a teacher's guide developed by the NSBRI. Students will
be able to compare observations and results of their investigations
to the station experiments and the project's ground-based control.

"An important aspect of the Plants in Space project is that it is not
cookbook science" said Nancy P. Moreno, NSBRI education and outreach
program principal investigator, professor of allied health sciences
at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and senior associate director of
its Center for Educational Outreach. "Unfortunately, too often in
science class, kids follow a procedure, get a predetermined result
and really don't experience the excitement of science and the whole
process of discovery. We know that if we enable students to ask their
own questions, design their own experiments and discover their own
answers, they are more likely to develop a greater interest in science."

The Plants in Space project seeks to determine if white light, heavy
in the blue spectrum, can influence the direction of root growth in
microgravity. Previous research has shown that plant roots respond
weakly to blue light. The project also will study the effects, if
any, of seed orientation on the direction of root growth. The
experiment design calls for mounting seeds in different orientations
on a piece of balsawood, then placing them on top of the growth medium.

Data gained from the primary and secondary scientific investigations
may help develop systems and techniques so future astronauts can grow
their own food during extended spaceflights to destinations such as Mars.

NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the
health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The institute's
science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60
institutions across the United States. NSBRI is funding Plants in
Space, conducted in cooperation with BCM, BioServe Space Technologies
at the University of Colorado in Boulder and NASA.

For the teacher's guide, project information, a "how-to" video and
project imagery, visit:


For more information about the International Space Station, visit:



NASA Selects Teachers For Student's Reduced Gravity Experiments

WASHINGTON -- Teachers from 14 NASA Explorer Schools (NES) have been
selected for the 2011 School Recognition Award for their
contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics
(STEM) education.

A team of NASA personnel reviewed applications and recognized the
schools for demonstrating exemplary classroom practices and finding
innovative uses of NES resources to engage a broad school population.
These schools were selected from more than 1300 schools that have
registered participants in the NASA Explorer Schools project.

Three teachers from each school will travel to NASA's Johnson Space
Center in Houston next year to conduct experiments in microgravity
aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft. The experiments will
examine how fluids with different viscosities behave in microgravity;
the acceleration and inertia of objects; and how the absence of
gravity affects mass and weight.

"This represents another innovative NASA project for teachers and
students to engage in actual scientific investigations in a
microgravity environment, similar to experiments conducted on the
International Space Station," said Shelley Canright, program manager
for primary and secondary education at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "It successfully demonstrates and enhances participants'
academic knowledge in STEM."

The schools selected are:

Amos Hiatt Middle School, Des Moines, Iowa
Charles T. Kranz Intermediate School, El Monte, Calif.
East Hartford-Glastonbury Magnet School, East Hartford, Conn.
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, Cudahy, Calif.
Ferndale Middle School, High Point, N.C.
Forest Lake Elementary Technology Magnet School, Columbia, S.C.
Franke Park Elementary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Jamestown High School, Jamestown, Pa.
Johnston Middle School, Houston
Key Peninsula Middle School, Lakebay, Wash.
Lakewood High School, Lakewood, Calif.
Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, Suffolk, Va.
St. Mary's Visitation School, Elm Grove, Wisc.
Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Glendale, Calif.

The NASA Explorer Schools Project is the classroom-based gateway for
students in grades 4 through 12; focused on stimulating STEM
education using agency content and themes. For more information about
the Explorer Schools Project, visit:


To watch a six-minute video that provides project information and
shows previous winners aboard the reduced gravity aircraft, visit:


For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:



NASA and the Cleantech Open Partner in Robotics Challenge

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected The Cleantech Open of Redwood, Calif.,
to manage the agency's Night Rover Challenge that will culminate in a
competition in fall 2012. The event is a new Centennial Challenges
prize competition seeking revolutionary energy storage technologies
for future space robotic rover missions. NASA is offering a prize
purse of $1.5 million to challenge winners.

The Night Rover Challenge is to demonstrate solar energy collection
and storage systems suitable for rovers to operate through several
cycles of daylight and darkness. During daylight, systems can collect
photons or thermal energy from the sun. During darkness, the stored
energy would be used to move the rover toward a destination and to
continue its exploration work.

"The Cleantech Open runs the world's largest clean technology business
competition and is a proven leader in developing clean technology
startup entrepreneurs" said Larry Cooper, program executive for
NASA's Centennial Challenges Program at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. "The team has significant experience in tech
entrepreneurship and innovation, and access to expertise in
aerospace, making them a great choice to manage the Night Rover
challenge. We look forward to the competition and bringing together
innovative teams with creative problem-solving ideas."

The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in energy
storage technology and system designs for space operations. In
particular, NASA seeks solutions to meet the demands imposed by the
daylight and darkness cycle on the moon. Energy innovations stemming
from this challenge may be beneficial to broader terrestrial
applications, including vehicles and renewable energy generation systems.

The Cleantech Open team is partnering with YouNoodle Inc., a San
Francisco-based startup to manage the competition. The Cleantech Open
and YouNoodle will begin preparations for the challenge, publishing
rules and registering competitors for the competition.

NASA's Centennial Challenges seek unconventional solutions to problems
of interest to the agency and the nation. NASA provides the prize
purse, but the competitions are managed by non-profit organizations
that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private
sponsorships. Competitors have included private companies, student
groups and independent inventors working outside the traditional
aerospace industry. Unlike contracts or grants, prizes are awarded
only after solutions are demonstrated successfully.

There have been 21 Centennial Challenges competition events since
2005. NASA has awarded $4.5 million to 13 different challenge-winning
teams. Centennial Challenges is one of the ten Space Technology
programs, managed by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist. For
more information about the program and descriptions of each of the
challenge competitions, visit:


For updates on the Night Rover Challenge visit:


For more information about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, visit:



◄ Share this news!

Bookmark and Share


The Manhattan Reporter

Recently Added

Recently Commented