|Space Science @ Ames features research in infrared astrophysics, laboratory astrophysics, extrasolar planets, planetary sciences, exobiology, and astrobiology.|
|Earth Science @ Ames features basic and applied research in atmospheric and biospheric sciences, and conducts airborne science campaigns.|
|BioSciences @ Ames features research in fundamental space biology, and provides engineering and payload development for the International Space Station.|
NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data
November 21, 2013
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is ready to begin collecting science data about the moon.
On Nov. 20, the spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit around the moon's equator -- a unique position allowing the small probe to make frequent passes from lunar day to lunar night. This will provide a full scope of the changes and processes occurring within the moon's tenuous atmosphere.
LADEE now orbits the moon about every two hours at an altitude of eight to 37 miles (12-60 kilometers) above the moon's surface. For about 100 days, the spacecraft will gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.
"A thorough understanding of the characteristics of our lunar neighbor will help researchers understand other small bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets," said Sarah Noble, LADEE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Scientists also will be able to study the conditions in the atmosphere during lunar sunrise and sunset, where previous crewed and robotic missions detected a mysterious glow of rays and streamers reaching high into the lunar sky.
"This is what we've been waiting for - we are already seeing the shape of things to come," said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
On Nov. 20, flight controllers in the LADEE Mission Operations Center at Ames confirmed LADEE performed a crucial burn of its orbit control system to lower the spacecraft into its optimal position to enable science collection. Mission managers will continuously monitor the spacecraft's altitude and make adjustments as necessary.
"Due to the lumpiness of the moon's gravitational field, LADEE's orbit requires significant maintenance activity with maneuvers taking place as often as every three to five days, or as infrequently as once every two weeks," said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames. "LADEE will perform regular orbital maintenance maneuvers to keep the spacecraft's altitude within a safe range above the surface that maximizes the science return."
In addition to science instruments, the spacecraft carried the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration, NASA's first high-data-rate laser communication system. It is designed to enable satellite communication at rates similar to those of high-speed fiber optic networks on Earth. The system was tested successfully during the commissioning phase of the mission, while LADEE was still at a higher altitude.
LADEE was launched Sept. 6 on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V, an excess ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle and operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. LADEE is the first spacecraft designed, developed, built, integrated and tested at Ames. It also was the first probe launched beyond Earth orbit from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast.
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington funds the LADEE mission. Ames manages the overall mission and serves as a base for mission operations and real-time control of the probe. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the science instruments and technology demonstration payload, the science operations center and overall mission support. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office.
For more information about the LADEE mission, visit:
For more information about Ames, visit:
The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
Rachel Hoover Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Dwayne Brown Headquarters, Washington
2013 Ames Honor Awards Ceremony: Congratulations to all Code S honorees!
November 13, 2013
Bion-M1 Project Team
Eduardo Almeida - Code SCR
Richard Boyle - Code SCR
Carol Carroll - Code S
Nicole Rayl - Code SC
Debra Reiss-Bubenheim - Code SC
Sidney Sun - Code SC
Marlowe Primack - Code S
Cell Bio Tech Demo Team
Eduardo Almeida - Code SCR
Carol Carroll - Code S
Julie Levri - Code SCF
Barbara Navarro - Code SCF
Richard Olivares - Code SCF
Nicole Rayl - Code SC
Sidney Sun - Code SC
Sea Grass/Coral Reef UAV TeamRandall Berthhold - Code SGE
James Brass - Code SGE
Matthew Fladeland - Code SG
Donald Herlth - Code SGG
Richard Kolyer - Code SGG
SOFIA Observatory Pointing TeamErin Smith - Code SSA
Pasquale Temi - Code SSA
Millimeter-wave Thermal Launch System Team
James Eilers - Code SGE
John Hogan - Code SCB
Diane Wooden - Code SST(Not pictured here)
Nicole Rayl - Code SC(Not pictured here)
Scientist or Researcher
Jeffery Moore - Code SST
Artwork: Tom Esposito, Ames Graphics Services
By Lynette Forsman
Kepler Science Conference Highlights
November 11, 2013
(L-R): William J. Borucki, Space Scientist and Michael D. Bicay, Director of Science.
William J. Borucki
To see more images from the conference: ails.arc.nasa.gov
NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy
November 4, 2013
Scientists from around the world are gathered this week at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., for the second Kepler Science Conference, where they will discuss the latest findings resulting from the analysis of Kepler Space Telescope data.
Included in these findings is the discovery of 833 new candidate planets, which will be announced today by the Kepler team. Ten of these candidates are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, which is defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for liquid water.
At this conference two years ago, the Kepler team announced its first confirmed habitable zone planet, Kepler-22b. Since then, four more habitable zone candidates have been confirmed, including two in a single system.
New Kepler data analysis and research also show that most stars in our galaxy have at least one planet. This suggests that the majority of stars in the night sky may be home to planetary systems, perhaps some like our solar system.
"The impact of the Kepler mission results on exoplanet research and stellar astrophysics is illustrated by the attendance of nearly 400 scientists from 30 different countries at the Kepler Science Conference," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at Ames. "We gather to celebrate and expand our collective success at the opening of a new era of astronomy."
From the first three years of Kepler data, more than 3,500 potential worlds have emerged. Since the last update in January, the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler increased by 29 percent and now totals 3,538. Analysis led by Jason Rowe, research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., determined that the largest increase of 78 percent was found in the category of Earth-sized planets, based on observations conducted from May 2009 to March 2012. Rowe's findings support the observed trend that smaller planets are more common.
An independent statistical analysis of nearly all four years of Kepler data suggests that one in five stars like the sun is home to a planet up to twice the size of Earth, orbiting in a temperate environment. A research team led by Erik Petigura, doctoral candidate at University of California, Berkeley, used publicly accessible data from Kepler to derive this result.
Kepler data also fueled another field of astronomy dubbed asteroseismology -- the study of the interior of stars. Scientists examine sound waves generated by the boiling motion beneath the surface of the star. They probe the interior structure of a star just as geologists use seismic waves generated by earthquakes to probe the interior structure of Earth.
"Stars are the building blocks of the galaxy, driving its evolution and providing safe harbors for planets. To study the stars, one truly explores the galaxy and our place within it," said William Chaplin, professor for astrophysics at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. "Kepler has revolutionized asteroseismology by giving us observations of unprecedented quality, duration and continuity for thousands of stars. These are data we could only have dreamt of a few years ago."
Kepler's mission is to determine what percentage of stars like the sun harbor small planets the approximate size and temperature of Earth. For four years, the space telescope simultaneously and continuously monitors the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, recording a measurement every 30 minutes. More than a year of the collected data remains to be fully reviewed and analyzed.
Ames is responsible for the Kepler mission concept, ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.
For more information about the second Kepler Science Conference, visit:
For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visit:
By Michele Johnson
Ames Research Center
Kepler Science Conference Nov. 4-8 and Media Briefing, Nov. 4
November 1, 2013
KEPLER SCIENCE CONFERENCE
The second Kepler Science Conference will be held at Ames from Nov. 4-8, 2013. Registration is at capacity, but employees who wish to view the conference still may via Adobe Connect at http://connect.arc.nasa.gov/kepler. There are limited concurrent streams available, so interested parties should consider group viewing in a conference room.
The splinter meetings are scheduled during lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the conference, both will take place in Building 3 near Hangar 1, a 10 minute walk from Building 152.
Tuesday: Kepler Data and Tools for Users - 12:30 p.m. in Building 3
Wednesday: TESS Guest Investigator Session - 1:00 p.m. in Building 3
Thursday: The Future of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program - 12:45 p.m. in Building 3
As part of the Kepler Science Conference, a news briefing will be held at 10:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 4, to announce new results of the mission. The briefing will be available to employees via live stream in Building 3.
The briefing participants are:
Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water. Launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope has detected planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help us better understand our place in the galaxy.
Employees, news media representatives and the public may submit questions via Twitter to #AskNASA.
For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kepler
By Michael Bicay
NASA Ames Research Center
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Ames Science Missions
Kepler is a Discovery-class mission featuring a visible-light telescope designed to detect transiting planets around stars. It is expected to detect hundreds of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and will determine the fraction of stars with such terrestrial planets.
|SOFIA is an airborne observatory featuring a 2.5 m infrared telescope fitted aboard a 747 airplane. Flying state-of-the-art instrumentation at altitudes above 40,000 feet, the observatory will study astronomical phenomena in our Solar system, Galaxy and the nearby Universe.|
|The Lunar and Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will launch in the summer of 2013 and fly at low altitudes to study the thin lunar exosphere before it is perturbed by future humans, and to characterize the lunar dust environment to assess its possible impact on future engineering on the lunar surface.|