Did the Solar Wind Erode the Early Martian Atmosphere

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The Martian climate remains one of the solar system’s biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition?

Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and the MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis.

Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses ‪#‎MAVEN‬ and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s role in sending it to the Red Planet.

MAVEN: Goddard Goes to Mars

(Video credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

100 Days to Mars Orbit Insertion for MAVEN

MAVEN 100 Days to MOI

Image credit: NASA – LASP

MAVEN is 100 days away from Mars Orbit Insertion

‪#‎Friggatriskaidekaphobia‬ is a fear of Friday the 13th. We on the MAVEN team prefer to celebrate the milestone of being 100 days out from September 21, 2014, when our upper atmospheric orbiter will rendezvous with the red planet and begin solving Mars’ climate mystery.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!

Update – Contact made with ISEE-3!

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It’s official: ISEE-3, the 36-year-old satellite that NASA left for dead over a decade ago, is back in touch with humankind. This afternoon, a group of citizen scientists who raised almost $160,000 to fund the process of taking control of ISEE-3 announced that two-way contact has been established with the little satellite that could. So what’s next?

“Over the coming days and weeks our team will make an assessment of the spacecraft’s overall health and refine the techniques required to fire its engines and bring it back to an orbit near Earth,” explained the Reboot team in a triumphant comment released today. Contact was made at Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico, where scientists collaborated with a worldwide network of like-minded space fans to fund and engineer the project.

Now comes the fun part: Getting ISEE-3 back to the business of studying space. We’ll have more updates as they come.

Posted by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on Gizmodo Thursday May 29th

Everything Old is New Again

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Artist’s concept image of ISEE-3 (ICE) spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

ISEE-3 was launched in 1978 to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth and NASA has signed an agreement with citizen scientists attempting to communicate with the old spacecraft. The ISEE-3 Spacecraft is returning toward Earth 35 years after it was launched and 33 years after its official mission end. 

Two instruments on the satellite are attributed to the late Dr. Kinsey Anderson. The first instrument studied, Interplanetary and Solar Electrons 2 keV to > 1 MeV and the second instrument studied X-Ray and Gamma Ray Bursts in the 5-228 KeV range. Both Instruments were also worked on by Peter Harvey, Henry Heetderks and the late Henry Primbsch.

SSL Researchers in the news

SETI Researcher Dan Werthimer speaks before Congress about the existence of extraterrestrial life. The complete article is posted on Yahoo News,  “Astronomers Tell Congress They’re Almost Certain ET Exists“.

Project Scientist Thomas Immel warns us about the pandora’s box of the burgeoning Cube Sat industry, in “Mini-satellites send high-definition views of Earth” found at BBC News

MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer Will Look at Key Player in Mars Atmosphere Loss

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SWIA Assembled on Clean Room Flow Bench

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SWIA Mounted on a corner of the MAVEN Spacecraft

This past November, NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched MAVEN in the hope of understanding how and why Mars has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.

One instrument aboard the spacecraft will study a special component of the Martian atmosphere to help solve this mystery. By studying ions, or small electrically charged particles, in and above the Red Planet’s tenuous atmosphere, the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer will help answer why Mars has gradually lost much of its atmosphere, developing into a frozen, barren planet.

Once the MAVEN spacecraft is orbiting Mars, the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA)—which was designed and built at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL)—will spend much of its time measuring the ions in the solar wind. Released continuously from the sun’s atmosphere, the solar wind travels toward Mars at speeds around a million miles per hour, carrying with it a magnetic field that originates inside the sun. It is composed of charged particles that interact with neutral gas particles in Mars’ upper atmosphere, giving them the ability to escape from Mars’ gravitational pull.

Scientists think the interactions between solar wind ions and Mars’ atmospheric particles are a key factor allowing the particles to escape, a process that gradually strips the planet of its atmosphere and has done so for billions of years.

Read the full NASA feature article, here:http://1.usa.gov/1iUhKqW

SWIA instrument lead, Jasper Halekas from UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab, was featured in a June 2012 MAVEN team blog entry

COS – Cosmic Origins Spectrograph – Five Years Post Launch

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STS 125 and Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Lift Off from Pad 39A

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The COS Instrument in its Orbiter Payload Bay Transport Container

On May 11, 2009 the Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS 125, Lifted off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Spaceflight Center for the fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope Servicing mission.

In the payload bay of the Atlantis Orbiter was a box about the size of a phone booth and inside was an instrument called COS or the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. This instrument was proposed and designed by Dr. James Green, a former SSL graduate student. The Space Sciences Lab was contracted by University of Colorado’s CASA or Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, to build a detector and electronics package.

Almost ten years after work started and several setbacks Atlantis was launched on May 11th, 2009. Our wonderful crew and mission specialists captured the Hubble Space Space Telescope and performed a bevy of spacewalks to swap out instruments and installing new ones including Wide Field Camera 3 and of course COS.

This final Hubble Servicing Mission has been a success with amazing discoveries and a look deep into our universe, at stars, planets and galaxies never before imagined.

NASA Administrator Bolden visits Space Sciences Lab

On Thursday May 8th the U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Lab was honored to have NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his Deputy Chief of Staff Mike French (Cal Alumni) stop by for an informational visit and tour of our facilities

Dr. Stuart Bale presented the history of our lab and the high success rate of the 75 missions that we have flown scientific instruments on, including Space Shuttle missions, Explorer Satellites, Sounding Rockets and High Altitude Balloons.

Two upcoming missions and one current mission were discussed with Administrator Bolden and his team. MAVEN’s current transition from Earth to Mars was championed by Dr. Dave Mitchell, discussing data already being collected by the suite of instruments developed by the lab and upcoming science once we arrive at Mars. ICON’s science objectives were highlighted by Dr. Thomas Immel and Dr. Bale discussed the upcoming Solar Probe mission and the challenges that are faced in its design and observations that will take place as it orbits the sun. Laura Peticolas also discussed the Educational Outreach that our lab participates in to spread the word and get students interested in science.

Administrator Bolden then toured various parts of our lab including the great view overlooking the Bay and Golden Gate, Deployable Booms with Paul Turin, Wire Booms and sphere Preamps with Dr. Bonnell, the GRIPS and COSI Balloon program with Ben Maruca, and Carolyn Kierans, the SSL MOC or Mission Operations Center with Bryce Roberts, Mark Lewis and Dan Cosgrove, and finally the Stardust lab with Anna Butterworth and Andrew Wesphal.

Administrator Charles Bolden

Administrator Charles Bolden

Paul Turin demonstrating Deployable Antennas and Whips

Paul Turin demonstrating Deployable Antennas and Whips

Dr. Bonnell explaining Wire Boom Sphere Preamps

Dr. Bonnell explaining Wire Boom Sphere Preamps

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Ben Maruca explaining the GRIPS and COSI Balloon Gondola

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Carolyn Kierans and the Balloon electronics

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Bryce Roberts and Mark Lewis showing the MOC capabilities

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Administrator Bolden examining Stardust Aerogel under the scope

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Administrator Bolden, his team and our Lab envoys