A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.
This color image of Earth was taken by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope. The image was taken July 6 and shows North and Central America. The central turquoise areas are shallow seas around the Caribbean islands. Once the instrument begins regular data acquisition, EPIC will provide a daily series of Earth images allowing for the first time study of daily variations over the entire globe. These images, available 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired, will be posted to a dedicated web page by September 2015.
The refrigerator-sized spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 on Feb. 11 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.
A team of students working with Earthrise Space Foundation evaluated a rover of their own design in the regolith simulant bin at Swamp Works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently as the team pushes toward a flight-ready version they hope to launch to the moon on a private mission competing for the Google Lunar X Prize. The rover, parts of which are 3D printed, is 18 inches long and uses four wheels for movement. It also features a pair of lenses and a head that lifts and lowers. It is powered by batteries and solar arrays built into it its chassis.
The regolith simulant bin offers a lunar-like environment for evaluating a myriad of machines Kennedy researchers are developing that could be incorporated into future designs or exploration projects such as those required for astronauts to safely make the eventual journey to Mars.
The students that designed and assembled the rover are from the University of Central Florida and are part of the Omega Envoy Team competing to be the first privately-funded and operated mission to land an automated exploration craft on the moon. They came to Kennedy to test their machine in a massive box filled with material that has the same properties and behavior as lunar soil, known as regolith. The rover’s traction over the regolith was evaluated as well as its optical system. An engineer wrapped in protective garb to prevent breathing in the dusty soil was on-hand in case the rover ran into trouble. The little vehicle was also driven up an incline during the evaluation.
The team’s proposal is to launch a lander with the rover inside. Once on the moon, the rover would ride down a ramp and look around the lunar surface. A number of teams are official competitors in the contest which offers $30 million awards for the first privately funded and run group to land a robot on the moon and traverse the surface.
NASA has selected four astronauts who will train to fly Commercial Crew flight tests in 2017 aboard the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Greg Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken, and Suni Williams have been selected to be the first astronauts to board those spacecraft.
“What comes with our assignment is a fair amount of responsibility because there will be a legacy of astronauts for years and years to come who will have to live with the decisions that we in the agency are making with Boeing and SpaceX now,” said Bob Behnken of he and his fellow Commercial Crew astronauts.
The second series of vegetable growth experiments known as Veggie is underway today after astronaut Scott Kelly watered and placed the seed-filled pillows into the Veggie unit. The specialized space garden provides light to the plants and wicks moisture to the plant pillows as means to provide water simply.
Scott Kelly will take photos of his space plants and beam them back to ground-based researchers at Kennedy who are monitoring the experiment and will soon perform identical work on Earth as the ground control group for the space-borne seeds. The seeds on the station are expected to sprout in a few days and about a month from now the station crew is expected to have enough lettuce to complement their meal. Five of the plant pouches are functioning correctly, leaving one that experienced difficulties.
The research is considered vital to future plans to send astronauts to deep space and eventually to Mars. Crews on long-duration trips far from Earth can get vitamins from leafy vegetables during the flight and also enjoy the reminders of home.
Astronauts will water a series of lettuce seeds and turn on special LED lights Wednesday to begin the next round of vegetable production on the International Space Station. Known as Veggie, the experiment is aimed at validating the plant growth chamber and equipment developed to grow plants in weightlessness. It is the second phase of research performed a year ago that saw lettuce grow in similar conditions. The problem then was that enough water did not reach the growing plants. Working with scientists from Kennedy, where the research team is located, astronauts intervened to water the plants directly and the lettuce recovered, then flourished.
This time, researchers want to see whether modifications to the watering protocols for the water reservoir and “pillows” create and maintain a column of water for the growing plants. Astronauts will still have to water the pillows holding the seeds. In a week, the lettuce plants will be thinned to allow the biggest and strongest more room and resources to get larger. It will take approximately 28 days to complete the experiment, depending on growth. The astronauts will even get to eat half of the crop as they orbit Earth. The other half will be returned to Earth to be studied.
The implications off the Earth and on the Earth could be immense. For future astronauts speeding away from home on missions to deep space and journeys to Mars, fresh-gown vegetables, even in small amounts, can provide valuable nutrients. For farming on Earth, the techniques developed to make plants grow better in space may be used to grow plants more efficiently on our planet with less water and fertilizer and in smaller volumes.
For more details about Veg-01, go here and for more about all the research taking place off the Earth for the Earth and for the Journey to Mars, go to www.nasa.gov.
Processing of the Jason-3 spacecraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California continued last week up to the point at which the satellite normally would be fueled. Preparations have been suspended following the SpaceX Falcon 9 mishap that occurred at Cape Canaveral during the liftoff of CRS-7, a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The Jason-3 spacecraft test team for the French-built satellite will return to France on Tuesday, July 7 until a more definitive launch date for the mission can be determined.
Celebrate Fourth of July with Commercial Crew by coloring our newest coloring sheet. You candownload the sheet, at http://go.nasa.gov/1Hy6H2U. To follow the latest progress on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, check out the Commercial Crew blog, at blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.
SpaceX has established a recovery hotline and email address for anyone who finds debris from the SpaceX CRS-7 mission. The phone number should be active by 4 p.m. EDT today.
Debris Recovery Hotline: 866-392-0035
Debris Recovery Email: recovery@spaceX.com