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This Week a NASA | Earth’s Soil Moisture; Liquid CO2 is What’s Carving Gullies on Mars; more

Uploaded 07/11/2014

Earth’s Soil Moisture; Liquid CO2 is What’s Carving Gullies on Mars; more

Data from NASA’s Aquarius instrument has helped researchers create worldwide maps of soil moisture, showing how the wetness of the land fluctuates with the seasons and weather phenomena. Soil moisture, the water contained within soil particles, is an important player in Earth’s water cycle. When it launched in June 2011, the primary science objective of the Aquarius mission was to study the salt content of ocean surface waters. But investigators have since developed a method to retrieve soil moisture data from the instrument’s microwave radiometer. Also, SLS Core Preliminary Design Review, JWST update and Dry ice gullies on Mars.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Aquarius maps soil moisture

Data from NASA’s Aquarius instrument has helped researchers create worldwide maps of soil moisture, showing how the wetness of the land fluctuates with the seasons and weather phenomena. Soil moisture, the water contained within soil particles, is an important player in Earth’s water cycle. When it launched in June 2011, the primary science objective of the Aquarius mission was to study the salt content of ocean surface waters. But investigators have since developed a method to retrieve soil moisture data from the instrument’s microwave radiometer.

SLS Core Preliminary Design Review

The core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System or SLS has passed its Critical Design Review at Marshall Space Flight Center. The CDR is a major milestone that proves the design for the rocket is mature enough for production. It is also a sign of progress toward NASA’s next giant leap to send humans farther into the solar system than ever before, including to an asteroid and eventually Mars. Representatives from NASA and The Boeing Company, the prime contractor for the core stage, participated on the Critical Design Review board.

JWST update

The James Webb Space Telescope has reached another development milestone with the completion of static load testing of its primary mirror backplane support structure, moving the telescope a step closer to its targeted launch in 2018.

The backplane support structure holds the telescope’s science instruments and the 21-foot-diameter primary mirror nearly motionless, while the telescope peers into deep space. The primary mirror, made up of 18 beryllium mirror-segments, is the largest mirror in the telescope and the one starlight will hit first.

Dry ice gullies on Mars

Repeated high-resolution observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate that seasonal carbon-dioxide frost, not liquid water, is the main driver in forming gullies on Mars today. In 2000, the first reported gullies on Mars generated excitement because of the possibility the gullies were formed by liquid water – a necessity for all known life. But, while Mars has plenty of water ice and water vapor – liquid water has not been confirmed on modern Mars.

And that’s what’s up this week @NASA.

 

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