Recently, an air pressurized paper rocket launcher being used by an educator failed. This launcher is described in NASA’s Rockets Educator Guide, publications EG-2011-11-223-KSC, pp. 86-90 and EG-2008-05-060-KSC, pp. 86-90. NASA completed an engineering investigation into the failure and determined that the launcher, or design equivalents, should not be used. NASA has removed the launcher design from its website and its education curriculum. Individuals and organizations should immediately discontinue use of the launcher published in the referenced NASA publications. The point of contact for additional information is James Stofan, Deputy Associate Administrator for Education Integration at We request that your organization assist NASA in disseminating this information as widely as possible throughout the education community.

Mars Landing Sky Show

Every time NASA lands a rover on Mars–or even makes the attempt–it is cause for celebration. On August 5th, the heavens themselves are aligning to mark the event.

Only a few hours before the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft Curiosity reaches the red planet and drops Curiosity on a hair-raising descent mission planners have dubbed the “seven minutes of terror,” Mars itself will be put on a special show in the sunset skies of Earth: Together with Saturn and Spica, a blue giant star in the constellation Virgo, the red planet will form a “Martian triangle” visible from almost all parts of our planet.

Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned data indicating ice may make up as much as 22 percent of the surface material in a crater located on the moon’s south pole.

The team of NASA and university scientists using laser light from LRO’s laser altimeter examined the floor of Shackleton crater. They found the crater’s floor is brighter than those of other nearby craters, which is consistent with the presence of ice. This information will help researchers understand crater formation and study other uncharted areas of the moon. The findings are published in the journal Nature.

To read more about ice on the moon, visit:

This story features the lunar exploration mission LRO and is directly related to NASA Now: Lunar Mathematics and Mapping, as well as the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson “Engineering Design Process: On the Moon.” To view this edition of NASA Now or to use this lesson in your classroom, visit:

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt

For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

Credit: Science@NASA

Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror

Engineers who designed the entry, descent and landing system for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity candidly talk about the new landing system, and describe the challenges of Curiosity’s final moments before touchdown on Aug. 5, 2012, at 10:31pm PDT. (Landing takes place about 14 minutes earlier due to the communications delay.)


For more information about Curiosity visit the Mars Science Laboratory mission page.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Releases Xbox360 Video Game: Mars Rover Landing

Mars Rover LandingIn collaboration with Microsoft Corp., a new outreach game was unveiled Monday to give the public a sense of the challenge and adventure of landing in a precise location on the surface. Called “Mars Rover Landing,” the game is an immersive experience for the Xbox 360 home entertainment console that allows users to take control of their own spacecraft and face the extreme challenges of landing a rover on Mars.

Curiosity Nears Daring Landing on Mars

NASA’s most advanced planetary rover is on a precise course for an early August landing beside a Martian mountain to begin two years of unprecedented scientific detective work. However, getting the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars will not be easy.

Curiosity is scheduled to land at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6).

The Mars Science Laboratory mission is a precursor for future human missions to Mars. President Obama has set a challenge to reach the Red Planet in the 2030s.

For more information about Curiosity visit Science@NASA Headline News.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NES Update: July 16 – July 20

Professional Development Opportunity

Professional Development Web Seminar: Skeletal System: Human Physiology in Space

July 19, 2012 at 11 a.m. EDT
Obtain information about the effect microgravity has on the physiology of astronauts and learn about the countermeasures NASA uses to help overcome these effects when they return to Earth. This seminar provides instruction on how to integrate the Skeletal System: Human Physiology in Space lesson into your curriculum. There are two classroom activities in this lesson focusing on the effects of spaceflight on human physiology.

Fifth Moon Discovered Around Pluto

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered another moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto.

They say the new moon, Pluto’s 5th, is likely irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. Provisionally designated S/2012 (134340) 1, it was detected in nine separate sets of images taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on June 26, 27, 29, and July 7 and 9. The moon circles Pluto in a 58,000 mile-diameter orbit.

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, was discovered in 1978 in observations made at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Hubble observations in 2006 uncovered two additional small moons, Nix and Hydra. In 2011 another moon, P4, was found in Hubble data.

In the years following the New Horizons Pluto flyby, astronomers plan to use Hubble’s planned successor, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, for follow-up observations. The Webb telescope’s infrared vision will be able to measure the surface chemistry of Pluto, its moons, and many other bodies that lie in the distant Kuiper Belt along with Pluto.

For more information about New Horizons and its mission to Pluto visit

Credit: Science News