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Science@Ames
 
Space ScienceSpace Science @ Ames features research in infrared astrophysics, laboratory astrophysics, extrasolar planets, planetary sciences, exobiology, and astrobiology.
 
 
Earth ScienceEarth Science @ Ames features basic and applied research in atmospheric and biospheric sciences, and conducts airborne science campaigns.
 
 
Biological ScienceBioSciences @ Ames features research in fundamental space biology, and provides engineering and payload development for the International Space Station.
 

 
Features
 
NASA Begins Sixth Year of Airborne Antarctic Ice Change Study
Oct 18, 2014
 


NASA is carrying out its sixth consecutive year of Operation IceBridge research flights over Antarctica to study changes in the continent's ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. This year's airborne campaign, which began its first flight Thursday morning, will revisit a section of the Antarctic ice sheet that recently was found to be in irreversible decline.

For the next several weeks, researchers will fly aboard NASA's DC-8 research aircraft out of Punta Arenas, Chile. This year also marks the return to western Antarctica following 2013's campaign based at the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station.

"We are curious to see how much these glaciers have changed in two years," said Eric Rignot, IceBridge science team co-lead and glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

IceBridge will use a suite of instruments that includes a laser altimeter, radar instruments, cameras, and a gravimeter, which is an instrument that detects small changes in gravity. These small changes reveal how much mass these glaciers have lost. Repeated annual measurements of key glaciers maintains a long-term record of change in the Antarctic that goes back to NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) which stopped collecting data in 2009.

IceBridge researchers plan to measure previously unsurveyed regions of Antarctica. One example is a plan to look at the upper portions of Smith Glacier in West Antarctica, which is thinning faster than any other glaciers in the region. The mission also plans to collect data in portions of the Antarctic Peninsula, such as the Larsen C, George VI and Wilkins ice shelves and the glaciers that drain into them. The Antarctic Peninsula has been warming faster than the rest of the continent.

"The Antarctic Peninsula is changing fairly rapidly and we need to be there to capture that change," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The mission also will collect data on Antarctic sea ice, which recently reached a record high coverage. This contrasts with declining sea ice in the Arctic and is due do a variety of factors such as changing wind patterns. Antarctic sea ice coverage is slightly above average and the growth varies from one part of Antarctica to another. For example, ice cover in the Bellingshausen Sea has been decreasing while ice in the nearby Ross Sea is growing.

"There are very strong regional variations on how sea ice is changing," said Nathan Kurtz, a sea ice scientist at Goddard. These regional trends together yield a small increase, so studying each region will help scientists get a better grasp on the processes affecting sea ice there.

In addition to extending ICESat's data record over land and sea ice, IceBridge will also help set the stage for ICESat-2 by measuring ice the satellite will fly over. One of IceBridge's highest priority surveys is a circular flight the DC-8 will fly around the South Pole at 88 degrees south latitude. This latitude line is where all of ICESat-2's orbits will converge in the Southern Hemisphere. Measuring ice elevation at these locations will help researchers build a time series of data that spans more than a decade and provide a way to help verify ICESat-2's data.

IceBridge's Antarctic field campaign will run through late November. The IceBridge project science office is based at Goddard. The Earth Science Project Office at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California manages the deployment of the operation. The DC-8 research aircraft is based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center's facility in Palmdale, California.

For more about Operation IceBridge, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/icebridge

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-4789
rachel.hoover@nasa.gov

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

George Hale
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-614-5853
george.r.hale@nasa.gov



 
NASA Ames holds a Open House in Celebration of it's 75th Anniversary
Oct 18, 2014
 
Highlights of the 75th Anniversary Open House of NASA's Ames Research Center


Michael Bicay.









For the complete photo album, go to the Ames Imaging Library Systems:
http://ails.arc.nasa.gov/ails/?jp=ohe&ti=media&1=1&so=cdate&v=thumbs&&o=0&h=1page=1




 
NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Research
Oct 8, 2014
 


NASA has awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

"With the Curiosity rover characterizing the potential habitability of Mars, the Kepler mission discovering new planets outside our solar system, and Mars 2020 on the horizon, these research teams will provide the critical interdisciplinary expertise to help interpret data from these missions and future astrobiology-focused missions, " said Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Average funding for each team will be approximately $8 million. The interdisciplinary teams will become members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), headquartered at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

The selected teams are:
  • NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Team lead is Michael Mumma. Research will investigate one theorized source of Earth's water and the organic molecules needed for life: comets and the other small bodies in our solar system. The results of this research will inform the search for habitable environments in our solar system and habitable planets around other stars.
  • NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. Team lead is Scott Sandford. Research will address the chemistry which occurred to create the organic molecules that may have been brought to the early Earth by comets and other small bodies.
  • NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Team lead is Isik Kanik. Research will conduct laboratory experiments and field research in environments on Earth, such as The Cedars in Northern California, to understand the habitability of extraterrestrial icy worlds such as Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus.
  • The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California; Team lead is Nathalie Cabrol. Research will produce guiding principles to better understand where to search for life, what to search for, and how to recognize finding evidence of past or current life. The goal of the proposed research is to best prepare for NASA's Mars 2020 rover.
  • The University of Colorado in Boulder. Team lead is Alexis Templeton. Research will study what scientists call "Rock-Powered Life." Rocky planets store enormous amounts of chemical energy that, when released through the interaction of rocks with water, can power living systems on Earth, as well as on other planets such as Mars.
  • University of California, Riverside. Team lead is Timothy Lyons. Research will examine the history of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere and ocean between 3.2 and 0.7 billion years ago. This is a time range in which the amount of oxygen present is thought to have increased from almost nothing to the amounts present today. This work will address the question of how Earth has remained persistently inhabited through most of its dynamic history and would provide NASA exploration scientists a template to investigate the presence of habitable conditions on Mars and other planetary bodies.
  • University of Montana in Missoula. Team lead is Frank Rosenzweig. Research will look to unlock the secrets of life's transitions from small "units" conducting simple chemical reactions to self-organizing, self-reproducing, energy-gathering systems that range in complexity from single cells to ecosystems.


"The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to Earth's harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most advanced technologies to search for signs of life," said Mary Voytek, director, astrobiology program, NASA Headquarters. "The new teams cover that breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the NAI, they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances."

The seven new teams join five continuing teams at the University of Washington in Seattle; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and University of Southern California, Los Angeles. >br />
For more information about the new teams, NAI, and NASA's astrobiology program, visit:

http://astrobiology.nasa.gov

Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-4789
rachel.hoover@nasa.gov




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