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NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections


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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 01:04 AM

NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections

The user posted image press release is reproduced below:

Oct. 30, 2006
Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1237/1726

RELEASE: 06-342

NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections


NASA Monday selected concept studies for missions that would return a sample of an enigmatic asteroid, probe the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere and reveal the interior structure and history of the Earth's moon.

Also selected for further study are three missions of opportunity that would make new use of two NASA spacecraft that have completed their primary objectives.

"The science community astounded us with the creativity of their proposals," said NASA's Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Mary Cleave. "We look forward to the new knowledge of our solar system that these concepts may provide."

Three missions were selected for concept studies:

-- The Origins Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security (OSIRIS) mission would survey an asteroid and provide the first return of asteroid surface material samples to Earth. Michael Drake of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is OSIRIS's principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., would manage the project.

-- The Vesper mission is a Venus chemistry and dynamics orbiter that would advance our knowledge of the planet's atmospheric composition and dynamics. Gordon Chin of Goddard is Vesper's principal investigator. Goddard would manage the project.

-- The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission would use high-quality gravity field mapping of the moon to determine the moon's interior structure. Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., is GRAIL's principal investigator. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., would manage the project.

The three missions of opportunity selected for concept studies are:

-- The Deep Impact eXtended Investigation of Comets (DIXI) mission would use the existing Deep Impact spacecraft for an extended flyby mission to a second comet to take pictures of its nucleus to increase our understanding of the diversity of comets. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, Md., is DIXI's principal investigator.

-- The Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh) mission would use the high-resolution camera on the Deep Impact spacecraft to search for the first Earth-sized planets detected around other stars. L. Drake Deming of Goddard is EPOCh's principal investigator.

-- The Stardust NExT mission would use the existing Stardust spacecraft to flyby comet Tempel 1 and observe changes since the Deep Impact mission visited it in 2005. In 2005, Tempel 1 has made its closest approach to the sun, possibly changing the surface of the comet. Joseph Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is NExT's principal investigator.

These proposals were among approximately two dozen submitted in response to NASA's Discovery Program 2006 Announcement of Opportunity in April. The announcement solicited two types of investigations: complete missions to design, build and fly new spacecraft to accomplish specific planetary science objectives; and missions of opportunity that propose scientific uses for existing spacecraft or build instrumentation for spacecraft of other space agencies.

NASA may select one or more investigations to continue into a development effort after detailed review of the concept studies. Decisions about which mission concepts will proceed to development are expected next year.

New missions will receive $1.2 million to conduct concept studies. If selected for continuation beyond the concept phase, each project must complete its mission, including archiving and analyzing data, for less than $425 million.

Missions of opportunities will receive $250,000 to conduct concept studies. If selected for continuation, each mission of opportunity must complete its project, including data archive and analysis, for less than $35 million.

For more information about the Discovery Program, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/

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Source: NASA Press Release 06-342

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#2    Azaezel

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 07:21 AM

Wow, great news! Thanks for posting this.

Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, but trusting them not to.

#3    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 02:36 PM

NASA Awards Funding For Possible UA-Led Asteroid Sample-Return Mission

The University of Arizona press release is reproduced below:

user posted image

By Lori Stiles
October 30, 2006


NASA announced today that it has awarded a University of Arizona-led team $1.2 million to further develop a proposed Discovery-class mission called "OSIRIS."

OSIRIS would return a pristine sample of a scientifically priceless asteroid to Earth in 2017. Regents' Professor and UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) Director Michael Drake is principal investigator for the proposed $415 million mission.

Drake and LPL Associate Professor Dante Lauretta, who is OSIRIS deputy principal investigator, will direct the mission science. LPL will also provide OSIRIS' cameras. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is responsible for overall mission management. Lockheed Martin Space Systems will build the flight system, the sampling mechanism, and the sample return capsule. Lockheed will also perform spacecraft operations.

user posted image
LPL Director Michael Drake, OSIRIS
principal investigator


The $1.2 million award is for the next seven months, when the team will prepare a more detailed engineering study of how it will accomplish mission science objectives.

OSIRIS would be the first spacecraft sent to explore a "carbonaceous" asteroid, a type of asteroid that contains primitive carbon compounds that have survived since solar system formation 4.5 billion years ago.

OSIRIS is both a mythological figure and an acronym. "O" stands for the scientific theme, origins. "SI" is for spectral interpretation, or taking images of the asteroid at wavelengths that will reveal its composition. "RI," or resource identification, is surveying the asteroid for such useful resources as water and metals. "S" stands for security, learning how to predict the detailed motion Earth-approaching asteroids.

user posted image
Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS deputy principal
investigator


OSIRIS of Egyptian mythology is the god of life and fertility, the god who taught Egyptians agriculture, Lauretta noted. There's an analogy to the proposed 21st century space mission, he added. "We're looking at the kind of object that we think brought life to Earth, that is, objects that seeded Earth with early biomolecules, the precursors of life."

Not only would OSIRIS delve into the evolution of our solar system and life, it would identify such resources as water, precious metals and other materials needed by future human explorers in near-Earth space, Drake and Lauretta said.

And, not least, OSIRIS would accurately measure the "Yarkovsky effect" for the first time.

Without understanding the Yarkovsky effect -- a force created by the uneven solar heating of an asteroid's surface -- humans can't defend Earth against potentially catastrophic asteroid impacts. There's no sure way to predict an Earth-approaching asteroid's orbit unless you can factor in how the Yarkovsky effect will change that orbit, Drake and Lauretta said.

Their targeted near-Earth asteroid was discovered in 1999 and is named RQ36. It is roughly 580 meters in diameter, or about two-fifths of a mile.

Asteroid RQ36 orbits between about 83 million and 126 million miles from the sun, swinging within about 280,000 miles of Earth orbit, or roughly 40,000 miles beyond the moon. The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center has officially classified RQ36 as a "potentially hazardous asteroid."

Asteroid RQ36 is especially rare because it linked to other asteroids that are outgassing volatiles and organic molecules like a comet. Only four such comet-like asteroids have been found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Lauretta said.

Asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter are the leftovers of terrestrial planet formation. Near-Earth asteroids are fragments of main belt asteroids that were sent careening out of the belt in collisions with larger asteroids millions of years ago. Those which move into Earth-approaching orbits present hazards -- hazards that Congress has mandated that NASA address.

But near-Earth asteroids also present great opportunities, Lauretta said. "The analogy is that, much the same way rocks and sediments in a river bed reveal information about the type of material found upstream, we can use near-Earth objects to discover a great deal about the nature of bodies found in the main belt," he said. "That's what we're doing in sampling a near-Earth object -- we're looking at the rocks that are tumbling in from the main asteroid belt, a place that's too expensive to sample with a Discovery-class mission."

If selected, OSIRIS would launch in fall 2011 and reach Asteroid RQ36 in February 2013. It would rendezvous with RQ36 for nearly 300 days, using scanning lidar, an instrument similar to radar but using light instead of radio, and LPL-designed cameras to map and photograph the asteroid at visible and infrared wavelengths.

Before departing no later than December 2013 for its 4-year journey back to Earth, OSIRIS would use a robotic arm and the asteroid's weak gravity to collect at least 150 grams (about 5 ounces) of primitive asteroid regolith (dirt) for analysis by scientists at Lauretta's LPL lab and around the world. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will curate returned samples.

In a novel arrangement ideal for longer missions, each of OSIRIS' science and management teams partner lead senior personnel with mid-career and early-career team members. Drake is the senior scientist mentoring the younger Lauretta in directing OSIRIS science, for example. The LPL's Peter Smith heads the imaging team that will build OSIRIS' camera system, for another example. The LPL's Bashar Rizk, Professor Tim Swindle and Carl Hergenrother are younger or mid-career scientists on Smith's team.

NASA also selected two other proposed new Discovery-class missions, and three more Discovery-class proposals that would make use of existing NASA spacecraft, for concept development funding. The space agency is expected to review developed proposals next year and select the final winner, or winners, from currently competing Discovery class missions in summer 2008.


Source: UA Press Release


Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 31 October 2006 - 03:41 PM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#4    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 03:40 PM

University of Maryland to Lead Another NASA Comet Mission

The University of Maryland press release is reproduced below:

user posted image

For Immediate Release
October 30, 2006

NASA announced today that it has accepted the University of Maryland proposal to send the Deep Impact spacecraft on an extended mission to get a close-up look at Comet Boethin.

The University of Maryland-led team that produced the spectacular Deep Impact mission, which smashed an impactor into Comet Tempel 1 in July, 2005, hopes new information gathered from Comet Boethin will help coalesce the vast array of new cometary information into solid ideas about the nature of comets, how they formed and evolved and if they have played a role in the emergence of life on Earth.

"As we try to interpret the larger meaning for all comets of our results from Deep Impact at Tempel 1, we have realized more and more how important is the variation from comet to comet," said Deep Impact leader and University of Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn.

"Deep Impact's flyby spacecraft and payload are still healthy. We propose to direct the spacecraft for a flyby of Comet Boethin in December, 2008, to investigate whether the results found at Comet Tempel 1 are unique or are also found on other comets," he said.

"This mission is a very cost effective way to provide new results that can be directly compared to the landmark Deep Impact findings as well as with the results of Deep Space 1 and Stardust and the earlier results from the numerous missions to Comet Halley."

Mission DIXI

The proposed new mission is called DIXI, which stands for Deep Impact eXtended Investigation. DIXI will use the surviving Deep Impact spacecraft and its three working instruments (two color cameras and an IR spectrometer).

Comet Boethin is now inbound to the sun from its most distant point that is nearly out to the orbit of Saturn, A'Hearn says. "At encounter, Comet Boethin will be just outside Earth's orbit, closer to the sun than was Tempel 1 (at the orbit of Mars) but about the same distance from Earth."

Like Deep Impact, DIXI will be a partnership between the University of Maryland , NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.

"One of the great surprises of comet explorations has been the wide diversity among the different cometary surfaces imaged to date," said A'Hearn, who will be principal investigator for DIXI. "Even on Tempel 1, the comet we've imaged the best, there is shocking variability in its surface. The comet's different surface types clearly have undergone different histories."

A'Hearn says the data obtained from DIXI will also will help scientists determine which characteristics of comet structure and composition are primordial, reflecting conditions and processes that existed 4.5 billion years ago when the solar system formed, and which are the result of evolutionary forces (heating and cooling, impacts, etc.) that have acted on comets since that time.

"Data from comets can help us to better understand the origin of the solar system, as well as what role, if any, comets may have played in the emergence of life on Earth," said Jessica Sunshine, a member of the Deep Impact science team, who will be deputy principal investigator on DIXI. "However, we first must know which cometary characteristics are due to evolution and which are primordial."

Deep Impact Surprises

Deep Impact was the first large scale experiment ever conducted on a comet. The Deep Impact flyby spacecraft made many surprising discoveries on approach to Comet Tempel 1. These include an extremely fluffy composition that largely insulates the interior from heat experienced by the surface; frequent, natural outbursts; major differences in the distribution of carbon dioxide and water; craters and other surprising geological features; demonstration that the ice below the surface must be evaporating (subliming) to water vapor, and the first detection of ice (a very small amount) on a cometary nucleus.

"Since half the discoveries at Tempel 1 were from the flyby data taken before impact, DIXI can return half the science of Deep Impact for much less than 10 percent of the cost of Deep Impact," A'Hearn said. "From the point of view of cost effective science, an extended mission such as DIXI is unbeatable."


Source: UMPress Release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#5    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 10:50 PM

NASA Gives Two Successful Spacecraft New Assignments

The linked-image press release is reproduced below:

July 3, 2007
EGrey Hautaluoma/Tabatha Thompson
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668/3895

RELEASE: 07-147

NASA Gives Two Successful Spacecraft New Assignments


WASHINGTON -- Two NASA spacecraft now have new assignments after successfully completing their missions. The duo will make new observations of comets and characterize extrasolar planets. Stardust and Deep Impact will use their flight-proven hardware to perform new, previously unplanned, investigations.

"These mission extensions are as exciting as it gets. They will allow us to revisit a comet for the first time, add another to the list of comets explored and make a search for small planets around stars with known large planets. And by using existing spacecraft in flight, we can accomplish all of this for only about 15 percent of the cost of starting a new mission from scratch," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Headquarters, Washington. "These new mission assignments for veteran spacecraft represent not only creative thinking and planning, but are also a prime example of getting more from the budget we have."

The EPOXI mission melds two compelling science investigations -- the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI) and the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh). Both investigations will be performed using the Deep Impact spacecraft, which finished its prime mission in 2005.

DIXI will involve a flyby of comet Boethin, which has never been explored. Boethin is a small, short period comet, or one that returns frequently to the inner solar system, from beyond Jupiter's orbit. This investigation will allow the recovery of some of the science lost with the 2002 failure of the COmet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) mission that was designed to make comparative studies of multiple comets. DIXI will be targeted to fly by comet Boethin December 5, 2008.

The EPOCh investigation also will use the Deep Impact spacecraft to observe several nearby bright stars, watching as the giant planets already known to be orbiting the stars pass in front of and then behind them. The collected data will be used to characterize the giant planets and to determine whether they possess rings, moons, or Earth-sized planetary companions. EPOCh's sensitivity will exceed both current ground and space-based observatory capabilities. EPOCh also will measure the mid-infrared spectrum of the Earth, providing comparative data for future efforts to study the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. This search for extrasolar planets will be made this year, en route to comet Boethin.

Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, is EPOXI's principal investigator and the leader of the DIXI science team. L. Drake Deming of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., is EPOXI's deputy principal investigator and leads the EPOCh investigation.

John Mather, Chief Scientist for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said, "EPOXI is a wonderful opportunity to add to our growing body of knowledge of exoplanets. Watching planets go behind or in front of their parent stars can tell us about their atmospheric chemistry."

The other newly selected Discovery mission of opportunity is called New Exploration of Tempel 1 (NExT). The mission will reuse NASA's Stardust spacecraft to revisit comet Tempel 1. This investigation will provide the first look at the changes to a comet nucleus produced after its close approach to the sun. It will mark the first time a comet has ever been revisited. NExT also will extend the mapping of Tempel 1, making it the most mapped comet nucleus to date. This mapping will help address the major questions of comet nucleus "geology" raised by images of areas where it appears material might have flowed like a liquid or powder. The images were returned by Deep Impact from its encounter with the comet on July 4, 2005. NExt is scheduled to fly by Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011.

Joseph Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, is NExT's principal investigator.

Stardust launched in Feb. 7, 1999. It traveled over 2 billion miles to fly within 150 miles of the comet Wild 2 in January 2004 to bring back samples that may provide new insights into the composition of comets and how they vary from one another. The container with the comet samples returned to Earth in January 2006 while the rest of the spacecraft remained in space.

Created in 1992, NASA's Discovery Program sponsors frequent, cost-capped solar system exploration missions with highly focused scientific goals. In 2006, NASA received approximately two dozen proposals in response to an Announcement of Opportunity for Discovery missions and Missions of Opportunity. Proposals were evaluated for scientific merit, technical, management and cost feasibility.

For more information about the Discovery Program, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release 07-147

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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