Increased confidence in the landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft has enabled NASA to narrow the ellipse where its newest Mars rover plans to touch down on the Red Planet. Upon landing, at around 10:31 p.m. PDT on August 5, the rover will be much closer than originally planned to the primary science target—a layered mountain called Mount Sharp in honor of the late Caltech geologist Robert Sharp (BS '34, MS '35).
Caltech has taken over operation from NASA of the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), a space telescope that for the last nine years has been surveying the cosmos in ultraviolet light. In this first agreement of its kind, NASA is lending the telescope to Caltech, which has led the mission and will continue operating and managing it through the support of private funders.
Last year, images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars—observations that challenged previously held beliefs that there was not a lot of movement on the red planet's surface. Now, technology developed by a team at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has allowed scientists to measure these activities for the very first time.
With the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) well on its way to Mars, the newest members of its science team have been announced. Two Caltech professors—Kenneth Farley and Bethany Ehlmann—are among 18 researchers who have been selected as funded participating scientists on the mission.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has won NASA's 2011 Software of the Year accolade for software it developed that has enabled the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity to autonomously select interesting science targets to study with its cameras.
The Voyager I spacecraft, which was built at JPL and launched in 1977, has reached a previously unexplored region between our solar system and interstellar space. Data collected from this zone indicates very little solar wind, a strong magnetic field, and a possible leak of high-energy particles from our solar system into the interstellar space. The latest findings from the mission were announced today at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.
An aircraft-carrier sized asteroid known as 2005 YU55 is expected to safely fly past Earth this afternoon at a distance slightly closer than the moon's orbit. Scientists at JPL have been tracking the asteroid using the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California.
The best place to look for signs of past life on Mars may be underground. According to a new interpretation of the distribution of clay minerals on Mars, warm water may have stayed mostly confined to the planet's subsurface for hundreds of millions of years.