NASA News: NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity Begins Study of Martian Crater

WASHINGTON - The initial work of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity at its
new location on Mars shows surface compositional differences from
anything the robot has studied in its first 7.5 years of exploration.

Opportunity arrived three weeks ago at the rim of a 14-mile-wide
(22-kilometer-wide) crater named Endeavour. The first rock it
examined is flat-topped and about the size of a footstool. It was
apparently excavated by an impact that dug a crater the size of a
tennis court into the crater's rim. The rock was informally named "Tisdale 2."

"This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," said Steve
Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University
in Ithaca, N.Y. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks,
but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We
are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us
the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity."

The diversity of fragments in Tisdale 2 could be a prelude to other
minerals Opportunity might find at Endeavour. In the past two weeks,
researchers have used an instrument on the rover's robotic arm to
identify elements at several spots on Tisdale 2. Scientists have also
examined the rock using the rover's microscopic imager and multiple
filters of its panoramic camera.

Observations by Mars orbiters suggest that rock exposures on
Endeavour's rim date from early in Martian history and include clay
minerals that form in less-acidic wet conditions, possibly more
favorable for life. Discontinuous ridges are all that remains of the
ancient crater's rim. The ridge at the section of the rim where
Opportunity arrived is named "Cape York." A gap between Cape York and
the next rim fragment to the south is called "Botany Bay."

"On the final traverses to Cape York, we saw ragged outcrops at Botany
Bay unlike anything Opportunity has seen so far, and a bench around
the edge of Cape York looks like sedimentary rock that's been cut and
filled with veins of material possibly delivered by water," said Ray
Arvidson, the rover's deputy principal investigator at Washington
University in St. Louis. "We made an explicit decision to examine
ancient rocks of Cape York first."

The science team selected Endeavour as Opportunity's long-term
destination after the rover climbed out of Victoria crater three
years ago this week. The mission spent two years studying Victoria,
which is about one twenty-fifth as wide as Endeavour. Layers of
bedrock exposed at Victoria and other locations Opportunity has
visited share a sulfate-rich composition linked to an ancient era
when acidic water was present. Opportunity drove about 13 miles (21
kilometers) from Victoria to reach Endeavour. It has driven 20.8
miles (33.5 kilometers) since landing on Mars.

"We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked
30 times longer than planned," said John Callas, project manager for
Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena,
Calif. "However, at any time, we could lose a critical component on
an essential rover system, and the mission would be over. Or, we
might still be using this rover's capabilities beneficially for
years. There are miles of exciting geology to explore at Endeavour crater."

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed three-month prime
missions in April 2004 and continued working for years of extended
missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments
on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial
life. Spirit ended communications in March 2010.

"This is like having a brand new landing site for our veteran rover,"
said Dave Lavery, program executive for NASA's Mars Exploration
Rovers at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It is a remarkable bonus
that comes from being able to rove on Mars with well-built hardware that lasts."

NASA will launch its next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, between
Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. It will land on Mars in August 2012. JPL
manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington.

For more about Opportunity, visit:



NASA Invites 150 Lucky Twitter Followers to Launch of Lunar Spacecraft

WASHINGTON -- NASA has invited 150 followers of the agency's Twitter
account to a two-day launch Tweetup Sept. 7-8. The Tweetup is
expected to culminate in the launch of the twin lunar-bound GRAIL
spacecraft aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station in Florida.

The launch is targeted for 8:37 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8. The two GRAIL
spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several
months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail from
crust to core. The mission also will answer longstanding questions
about the moon and provide scientists with a better understanding of
how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

Tweetup participants were selected from more than 800 people who
registered online. They will share their Tweetup experiences with
their followers through the social networking site Twitter.

Participants represent the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada,
India, Indonesia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Attendees from the
U.S. come from 32 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,
Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Beginning at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7, NASA will broadcast a
portion of the Tweetup when attendees talk with NASA Administrator
Charles Bolden; Jim Adams, deputy director of planetary science at
NASA Headquarters in Washington; Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal
investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in
Cambridge; Sami Asmar, GRAIL deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; and Neil deGrasse Tyson,
astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director at the American Museum
of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York.

To watch the broadcast, visit:


Participants also will tour NASA's Kennedy Space Center and Cape
Canaveral, including a close-up visit to the launch pad.
Reporters interested in interviewing Tweetup attendees should contact
Stephanie Schierholz at 202-358-1100 or
stephanie.schierholz@nasa.gov. Reporters interested in covering the
afternoon program Sept. 7 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
must secure access through Andrea Farmer by 5 p.m. Sept. 6 at
321-449-4318 or afarmer@dncinc.com.

Previously, NASA has invited groups to attend the launch of the Juno
spacecraft on its way to Jupiter and five space shuttle launches:
Atlantis' STS-129, STS-132 and STS-135 missions, Discovery's STS-133
mission, and Endeavour's STS-134 mission.

To follow participants on Twitter as they experience the prelaunch
events and GRAIL's liftoff, follow the #NASATweetup hashtag and the
list of attendees at:


NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the
mission. For more information about GRAIL, visit:


To connect with NASA on Twitter and other social networking sites, visit:



NASA Announces Media Teleconference on New Apollo Images

GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA will host a media teleconference at noon on
Tuesday, Sept. 6, to reveal new images of three Apollo landing sites
taken from the agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

Teleconference participants are:
-- Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters,
-- Mark Robinson, principal investigator, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Camera, Arizona State University, Tempe
-- Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center, Greenbelt, Md.

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must email Nancy Jones
at nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov with their name, media affiliation and work
telephone number by 10 a.m. on Sept. 6.

Supporting information and visuals for the briefing will be posted at
11:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 6 at:


Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on the Web at:



NASA Hosts Media Teleconference on Solar Flare Characteristics

WASHINGTON -- NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT on
Wednesday, Sept. 7, to discuss new observations about solar flares
that can impact communication and navigation systems.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is providing new data and
images for scientists to better understand the sun's dynamic
processes, which can affect Earth. The spacecraft launched in
February 2010.

Teleconference participants are:
-- Madhulika Guhathakurta, SDO program scientist, NASA Headquarters
-- Tom Woods, principal investigator, SDO Extreme Ultraviolet
Variability Experiment (EVE), University of Colorado, Boulder
-- Rodney Viereck, director, Space Weather Prediction Testbed,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather
Prediction Center, Boulder
-- Karel Schrijver, principal investigator, SDO Atmospheric Imaging
Assembly, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto,
-- Rachel Hock, EVE instrument scientist, University of Colorado,

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact Steve
Cole at 202-358-0918 or stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov by 9 a.m. EDT on
Sept. 7 for dial-in instructions.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on the Web at:


Supporting information for the briefing will be posted at:



New Radio Program Highlights And Inspires Innovation

Hampton, Va. -- NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are
launching a national radio program and podcast series that features
compelling stories of revolutionary ideas, emerging technologies and
the people behind the concepts that are shaping our future.
'Innovation Now', the series of 90-second radio segments, debuts Sept.
1, online and on WHRV 89.5 FM in Norfolk, Va.

The new program is scheduled to air at 5:32 p.m. EDT on WHRV during
"All Things Considered" in the timeslot previously held by "Discovery
Now." It may be aired at other times by stations in the future. New
episodes will be available Monday to Friday throughout the year.

The "Innovation Now" series highlights remarkable new technologies,
stories of people who take creative approaches to solving problems
and groundbreaking ideas that benefit lives and impact our world.
Program producers draw upon expertise within NASA and NIA and tap
into the creativity of strategic partners such as NASA's Office of
the Chief Technologist and the public to create content.

Episodes in production focus on breakthrough concepts in
transportation, computer technology, energy, health and medicine,
public safety, consumer goods, aerospace, environmental resources and
industrial productivity.

"The change in culture towards creativity and innovation is vital for
the future American and world economy to not only survive, but
flourish" said Robert Lindberg, NIA president and executive director.
"By sharing the compelling stories of 'what's next' in innovation,
this show will educate, entertain and inspire the public,
particularly entrepreneurs, teachers and students, lifelong learners
and business leaders."

NIA is a non-profit research and graduate education institute formed
by a consortium of leading research universities including Georgia
Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, North
Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University
of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the College of
William and Mary and the AIAA Foundation.

In addition to radio access, the public will be able to listen to the
show at its website, http://InnovationNow.us and download the
programs for free at iTunes.

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



Update: NASA Revises Time for Space Station Crew News Conference

HOUSTON -- NASA has revised the time for a news conference on Tuesday,
Sept. 6, with the two agency astronauts aboard the International
Space Station. The briefing, broadcast live on NASA Television, will
begin at 9:30 a.m. CDT.

Reporters may ask questions in person from NASA's Johnson Space Center
in Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the agency's
headquarters in Washington. The phone bridge at Johnson will be
available for reporters to participate by calling the newsroom at
281-483-5111 by 9:15 a.m.

NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum are members of Expedition 28
aboard the space station. The crew members will be available to
discuss the status of the station and their ongoing expedition research.

Because of the Aug. 24 failure of the Russian Progress 44 launch,
Garan will return to Earth on Sept. 15 (Sept. 16 in Kazakhstan). He
originally was scheduled to land on Sept. 8. Fossum will remain in
space until mid November.

For NASA TV downlink, schedule and live streaming video information, visit:


For more information about the Expedition 28 crew, visit:



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