Astronomy

Exact ecliptic position of Earth and Moon from Mars as photographed by Curiosity Rover?

Exact ecliptic position of Earth and Moon from Mars as photographed by Curiosity Rover?


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I've been studying the idea of travelling through space and navigation - in particular: Apollo sextant (used by astronauts to plot the position of their spacecraft relative to stars). And, in order to appreciate the fundamental characteristic of the solar system, in terms of planes and orbits, I've also been reading about the route of the recently discovered interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov, which passed through the ecliptic plane from above and exited below the solar system.

The goal is to visualise how planes (planets) might appear from different parts of the solar system (in terms of Line Of Sight) - parallel to the ecliptic plane and from different compass points… I find the eyes.nasa.gov/apps/ website for Mars really useful for moving through and around the solar system.

Finally, considering that the Moon has a 5° tilt to the Earth, and Mars is on the same ecliptic plane as Earth - where exactly was Mars and Earth and the Moon when this photo was taken by Curiosity Rover as detailed on this space.com article?

I guess Mars was positioned near Earth September Equinox, and Earth positioned just after the Perihelion, and full Moon.

I can't quite understand how the moon seems to be much lower than Earth.

EDIT: answering the general position of the Earth and Moon, which is the first step towards determining the exact.

Interestingly, the light seen from Mars is that reflecting from the surface of the Pacific ocean.

On the question of "exact", there is a difference, obviously, between knowing the exact and general position. And the first knowing is most suited for the purposes of science, navigation, research - whereas the second form of knowing (generally) for the sake of natural curiosity. But, I think there is a great deal to be gained from appreciating both the exact and general position (us and the Earth) in space - I think this can broaden our perspective.

This is (in general) the position of the Earth and Moon as seen from Mars…

Firstly, the mountain range in the background is the same as the range visible in the 2nd image below. We can compare and notice the same peak and shape of the summits.

The Dingo Gap is situated at Gale Crater.

Mars, Earth, Moon, in space…

In general… January 31, 2014 - 10:30pm. This broad view looking downwards at the plane.

And again…

And from beneath the plane… showing us just how far ahead Mars was relative to Earth.

Finally, considering the exact position of the Moon in order to answer the question for why the Moon appears to be positioned beneath Earth.

In fact, the Moon, at the time, was midway through its 5° tilt orbit around Earth. And, from certain angles and from such distance from Mars, could have appeared beneath Earth, as shown in the photo taken by Curiosity.

Because our galaxy is at an angle, it is difficult to determine where planets are relative to one another - consequently, from one perspective, as shown in the above image, Earth appears to be ahead of Mars. The only absolute way to determine the general position (visually) of planets is from beneath or above the ecliptic plane(?).


NASA Photojournal item PIA17936 says:

Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014).

Between sols 528 and 532, Where is Curiosity? shows it in a place called Dingo Gap at Martian longitude 137.41°, latitude -4.63°.

At that location on Mars in Stellarium, sunset on 2014-01-31 occurs around 21:00 UT, so the picture was taken around 22:20 UT.

JPL HORIZONS gives these J2000 heliocentric positions at that time:

lon. (l)lat. (b)dist. (r)
Mars168.784°1.613°1.662 au
Earth131.767°-0.001°0.985 au
Moon131.732°0.010°0.983 au

and these Mars-centric positions:

lon. (λ)lat. (β)dist. (Δ)
Earth22.935°-2.535°1.058 au
Moon22.826°-2.522°1.059 au

In other words, the Moon should appear about 0.11° west of Earth in the Martian sky, or to the right if Mars's north celestial pole is up:

But looking toward the western horizon (zenith up) from a tropical latitude, celestial north is to the right, so the Moon appears below Earth in the photo.


New era of Mars exploration begins as craft nears Red Planet

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A new era of Mars exploration will begin Monday with the expected arrival of the United Arab Emirates' Hope spacecraft in the vicinity of the Red Planet -- the first of three such arrivals planned for February.

The UAE probe will near Mars late Monday, and the mission will make a final, 27-minute orbital insertion burn, or correction, starting at 10:30 a.m. EST Tuesday.

Hope's arrival is to be followed Wednesday by China's Tianwen-1 probe and NASA's Perseverance rover Feb 18.

Tense moments await all three missions because reaching the planet is only a first step in a complex series of maneuvers to either gain a precise, intended orbit or land on the surface, said Briony Horgan, a NASA Perseverance team scientist.

When it arrives, the NASA rover will make a brief automated trip through the atmosphere to land in a crater filled with boulders and fields of sand.

"We've spent eight years preparing . so it's a little overwhelming that all of that hangs on just seven minutes of nail-biting descent through the atmosphere to the surface," said Horgan, an associate professor of planetary science at Purdue University in Indiana.

Horgan and other scientists said they eagerly await science and images from all three missions, although celebrations are mostly virtual and distanced due to the pandemic.

300 million-mile journey

All three lifted off in July for the 300 million-mile journey when Mars made its closest approach to Earth.

Buildings and monuments in Dubai have been lit in red to commemorate the arrival, according to the United Arab Emirates Space Agency.

The Hope probe's two-year mission is to gain the most complete data about Mars' atmosphere ever, including Mars summers and winters, day and night, at all locations around the planet.

The Emirati government chose a Mars mission to ignite space research and industry there, according to the UAE space agency.

Technicians and engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder provided advice and guidance, but UAE citizens built most of the Hope probe in Colorado. Final assembly occurred in Dubai.

If successful, the UAE would become the fifth nation to reach Mars, following the United States, Russia, China and India.

NASA and the former Soviet Union sent numerous probes past Mars starting in the early 1960s, but the first mission to orbit the planet was the United States' Mariner 9 in 1969.

The first successful landing on the Red Planet was the Soviet's Mars 3 mission in 1971, but it stopped transmitting data a little after 14 seconds passed. The U.S. Viking mission sent back the first photos from the Martian surface in 1976.

Checking the atmosphere

As Hope travels close to Mars on Tuesday, it will fire thrusters for 27 minutes to spin around and begin backing into the orbit that is needed to survey the Martian atmosphere. It will slow down from about 75,000 mph to 11,200 mph.

The spacecraft's systems are functioning well, and it was able to reach Mars with fewer thruster burns to correct its path than anticipated, Omran Sharaf, program director for the Hope mission, said in an interview Friday.

Once it reaches the correct orbit, the UAE will spend two months testing its systems, Sharaf said.

"Then we need to calibrate the device to make sure it's accurate enough, it's clear enough so that scientists can benefit from it," he said.

Studying the atmosphere also is part of the Chinese Tianwen-1 orbiter's mission, which also carries a rover. The exact time of arrival at the Red Planet on Wednesday hasn't been disclosed by the China National Space Administration.

The Chinese spacecraft conducted its fourth flight-path correction Friday, the agency reported.

China has set up its own global system of deep-space monitoring telescopes, while the NASA and UAE missions will use the United States' Deep Space Network that uses radio astronomy observatories in California, Madrid and Canberra, Australia.

"Tianwen-1 has already sent back a new image of Mars, which I never get sick of seeing through new robot eyes for the first time, and I'm looking forward to their rover landing later in the year," Horgan said.

Almost two weeks later, Perseverance is due to make fiery entry into the Mars atmosphere at roughly 12:30 p.m. EST on Feb 18.

Seven minutes of terror

NASA and scientists around the nation will undergo what the agency calls "seven minutes of terror" when the heat of entering the atmosphere prevents any communication.

After that, and another 11-minute delay for the signal to reach Earth, NASA will know if the rover landed successfully.

Perseverance also will undergo months of testing to ensure all systems are working before starting a quest to find signs of ancient life in Mars' Jezero Crater, thought to be an ancient lakebed and river delta.

Those systems include a drill to excavate cylinders of rock that will be sealed and left on the surface of the planet to collect in future missions.

Those rocks may not return to Earth for another 10 years because NASA has to launch two more probes -- one to retrieve the samples and fire them into orbit, and another to grab the orbiting cargo and fly back to Earth.

A single mission couldn't accomplish all of those goals due to the extreme technical challenges and limits of NASA's budget, but the European Space Agency also has committed to building major parts for future retrieval missions.

The first helicopter to fly on another planet -- Ingenuity -- is riding underneath Perseverance. NASA expects to test the helicopter after the rover drops it on the surface, sometime in the next few months.


Contents

Mars is a terrestrial planet and made of rock. The ground there is red because of iron oxide (rust) in the rocks and dust. [7] The planet's atmosphere is very thin. It is mostly carbon dioxide with some argon and nitrogen and tiny amounts of other gases including oxygen. The temperatures on Mars are colder than on Earth, because it is farther away from the Sun and has less air to keep heat in. There is water ice and frozen carbon dioxide at the north and south poles. [6] Mars does not have any liquid water on the surface now, but signs of run-off on the surface were probably caused by water.

The average thickness of the planet's crust is about 50 km (31 mi), with a maximum thickness of 125 km (78 mi). [8]

Mars has two small moons, called Phobos and Deimos.

The origin of Mars' moons is unknown and controversial. One theory is that the moons are captured asteroids. However, the moons' near circular orbits and low inclination relative to the Martian equator are not in agreement with the capture hypothesis. [9]

Estimates of the mass ejected by a large Borealis-size impact vary. Simulations suggest that a body about 0.02 of Mars mass (

0.002 Earth mass) in size can produce a sizable debris disk in Martian orbit. Much of the material would stay close to Mars. [9] There are several other large impact basins on Mars that could also have ejected enough debris to form the moons. [9]

In the next billion years, Phobos will probably be reformed into a ring around Mars. [10]

Lack of magnetic field Edit

Mars does not have a global magnetic field. [11] Despite this, observations show that parts of the planet's crust have been magnetized. This suggests that polarity reversals have occurred in the past. This paleomagnetism is similar to the magnetic striping found on Earth's ocean floors. One theory is that these bands suggest plate tectonic activity on Mars four billion years ago, before the planetary dynamo stopped working and the planet's magnetic field faded.

Rotation Edit

A Martian day is called a sol, and is a little longer than an Earth day. Mars rotates in 24 hours and 37 minutes. It rotates on a tilted axis, just like the Earth does, so it has four different seasons. Of all the planets in the Solar System, the seasons of Mars are the most Earth-like, due to their similar axial tilt. The lengths of the Martian seasons are almost twice those of Earth's, as Mars's greater distance from the Sun leads to the Martian year being almost two Earth years long.

Martian surface temperatures vary from lows of about −143 °C (−225 °F) (at the winter polar caps) [3] to highs of up to 35 °C (95 °F) (in equatorial summer). [4] The wide range in temperatures is due mostly to the thin atmosphere which cannot store much solar heat. The planet is also 1.52 times as far from the Sun as Earth, resulting in just 43% of the amount of sunlight. [12]

Water Edit

A 2015 report says Martian dark streaks on the surface were affected by water. [13]

Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to its low atmospheric pressure (there's not enough air to hold it in), [14] except at the lowest elevations for short periods. [15] The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of frozen water. [6] The amount of ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be enough to cover the entire planet's surface 11 meters deep. [6] A permafrost mantle stretches from the pole to latitudes of about 60°. [16]

Geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had much liquid water on its surface. [17] In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles, [18] and at mid-latitudes. The Mars rover Spirit sampled chemical compounds containing water molecules in March 2007. The Phoenix lander found water ice in shallow Martian soil in July 2008. [19] Landforms seen on Mars strongly suggest that liquid water at some time existed on the planet's surface. Huge areas of ground have been scraped and eroded.

Polar caps Edit

Mars has two permanent polar ice caps. During a pole's winter, it lies in continuous darkness, chilling the surface and causing the deposition of 25–30% of the atmosphere into slabs of CO2 ice (dry ice). When the poles are again exposed to sunlight, the frozen CO2 sublimes (turns to vapor), creating enormous winds that sweep off the poles as fast as 400 km/h. Each season this moves large amounts of dust and water vapor, giving rise to Earth-like frost and large cirrus clouds and dust storms. Clouds of water-ice were photographed by the Opportunity rover in 2004.

The polar caps at both poles consist primarily of water ice. [6]

Atmosphere Edit

Mars has a very thin atmosphere with barely any oxygen (it is mostly carbon dioxide). Because there is an atmosphere, however thin it is, the sky does change colour when the sun rises and sets. The dust in the Martian atmosphere makes Martian sunsets somewhat blue. Mars's atmosphere is too thin to protect Mars from meteors, which is part of the reason why Mars has so many craters.

Meteorite craters Edit

After the formation of the planets, all experienced the "Late Heavy Bombardment". About 60% of the surface of Mars shows a record of impacts from that era. [20] Much of the remaining surface is probably lying over the immense impact basins caused by those events. There is evidence of an enormous impact basin in the northern hemisphere of Mars, spanning 10,600 by 8,500 km (6,600 by 5,300 mi), or roughly four times larger than the largest impact basin yet discovered. [21] This theory suggests that Mars was struck by a Pluto-sized body about four billion years ago. The event is thought to be the cause of the difference between the Martian hemispheres. It made the smooth Borealis Basin that covers 40% of the planet. [22] [23]

Some meteorites hit Mars with so much force a few pieces of Mars went flying into space – even to Earth! Rocks on Earth are sometimes found which have chemicals that are exactly like the ones in Martian rocks. These rocks also look like they fell really quickly through the atmosphere, so it is reasonable to think they came from Mars.

Geography Edit

Mars is home to the highest known mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is about 17 miles (or 27 kilometres) high. This is more than three times the height of Earth's tallest mountain, Mount Everest. It is also home to Valles Marineris, the third largest rift system (canyon) in the Solar System, 4,000 km long.

Our records of watching and recording Mars start with ancient Egyptian astronomers in the 2nd millennium BC. [24] [25]

Detailed observations of the location of Mars were made by Babylonian astronomers who developed methods using math to predict the future position of the planet. The ancient Greek philosophers and astronomers developed a model of the solar system with the Earth at the center ('geocentric'), instead of the sun. They used this model to explain the planet's motions. [26] Indian and Islamic astronomers estimated the size of Mars and its distance from Earth. [27] [28] Similar work was done by Chinese astronomers. [29]

In the 16th century, Nicholas Copernicus proposed a model for the Solar System in which the planets follow circular orbits about the Sun. This 'heliocentric' model was the beginning of modern astronomy. It was revised by Johannes Kepler, who gave an elliptical orbit for Mars which better fit the data from our observations. [30] [31] [32] [33]

The first observations of Mars by telescope was by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Within a century, astronomers discovered distinct albedo features (changes in brightness) on the planet, including the dark patch and polar ice caps. They were able to find the planet's day (rotation period) and axial tilt. [34] [35]

Better telescopes developed early in the 19th century allowed permanent Martian albedo features to be mapped in detail. The first crude map of Mars was published in 1840, followed by better maps from 1877 onward. Astronomers mistakenly thought they had detected the spectroscopic mark of water in the Martian atmosphere, and the idea of life on Mars became popular among the public.

Yellow clouds on Mars have been observed since the 1870s, which were windblown sand or dust. During the 1920s, the range of Martian surface temperature was measured it ranged from –85 to 7 o C. The planetary atmosphere was found to be arid with only traces of oxygen and water. In 1947, Gerard Kuiper showed that the thin Martian atmosphere contained extensive carbon dioxide roughly double the quantity found in Earth's atmosphere. The first standard naming of Mars surface features was set in 1960 by the International Astronomical Union.

Since the 1960s, multiple robotic spacecraft and rovers have been sent to explore Mars from orbit and the surface. The planet has remained under observation by ground and space-based instruments across a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum (visible light, infrared and others). The discovery of meteorites on Earth that came from Mars has allowed laboratory examination of the chemical conditions on the planet.


Voyager 1 to Take Pictures of Solar System Planets

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its mission along with Voyager 2 to explore the outer planets, will use its cameras February 13-14 to take an unprecedented family portrait of most of the planets in our solar system.

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its mission along with Voyager 2 to explore the outer planets, will use its cameras February 13-14 to take an unprecedented family portrait of most of the planets in our solar system.

The collection of images will be from a unique point-of-view -- looking down on the solar system from a position 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane in which the planets orbit the Sun. No other spacecraft has ever been in a position to attempt a similar series of photos of most of the planets.

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is now about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) from Earth. The Voyager spacecraft are controlled by and their data received at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"This is not just the first time, but perhaps the only time for decades that we'll be able to take a picture of the planets from outside the solar system," said Voyager Project Scientist Dr. Edward C. Stone of Caltech. No future space missions are planned that would fly a spacecraft so high above the ecliptic plane of the solar system, he said.

Starting shortly after 5 p.m. (PST) on Feb. 13 and continuing over the course of four hours, Voyager 1 will point its wide- and narrow-angle cameras at Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth and Venus. Mercury is too close to the Sun to be photographed by Voyager's cameras, and Pluto is too far away and too small to show up in images taken by the spacecraft. Beginning with the dimmest of the targets - Neptune -- and working toward the Sun, Voyager 1 will shutter about 64 images of the planets and the space between them.

The constellation Eridanus (The River), stretching behind the planets from Voyager 1's perspective, will provide the backdrop for the images.

Due to the schedules of several spacecraft being tracked by NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), the images will be recorded on board Voyager 1 and played back to DSN receivers on Earth in late March. The Voyager imaging team estimates that processing the images to reveal as much detail as possible will take several weeks. Most of the planets will appear as relatively small dots (about one to four pixels, or picture elements, in the 800-by-800 pixel frame of one Voyager image).

The enormous scale of the subject matter makes it unlikely that the entire set of images can be mosaicked to produce for publication a single photograph showing all the planets. Even an image covering the planets out to Jupiter would easily fill a poster-sized photographic print. At the least, imaging team hopes to assemble a mosaicked image composed of the frames showing Earth, Venus and perhaps Mars together.

Voyager 1, rather than Voyager 2, received the solar system photo assignment largely because of Voyager 1's improved viewpoint of the planets.

Voyager 1 completed flybys of Jupiter and Saturn in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Voyager 2 flew past Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986 and Neptune last August. Both are now on missions that will take the spacecraft to the boundary of our solar system and into interstellar space.

According to Voyager engineers and scientists, the only potential damage from pointing the cameras toward the Sun is that the shutter blades of the wide-angle camera might warp. There are no plans, however, to use Voyager 1's cameras after the solar system photo series is completed.

The Voyager mission is conducted by Caltech's JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications.


Origin [ edit | edit source ]

Play media

Video (01:30/real-time): Eclipse of the Sun by Phobos, largest of the two Moons of Mars (Curiosity rover, 20 August 2013).

The origin of the Martian moons is still controversial. ⎴] Phobos and Deimos both have much in common with carbonaceous C-type asteroids, with spectra, albedo, and density very similar to those of C- or D-type asteroids. ⎗] Based on their similarity, one hypothesis is that both moons may be captured main-belt asteroids. ⎵] ⎶] Both moons have very circular orbits which lie almost exactly in Mars's equatorial plane, and hence a capture origin requires a mechanism for circularizing the initially highly eccentric orbit, and adjusting its inclination into the equatorial plane, most probably by a combination of atmospheric drag and tidal forces, ⎷] although it is not clear that sufficient time is available for this to occur for Deimos. ⎴] Capture also requires dissipation of energy. The current Martian atmosphere is too thin to capture a Phobos-sized object by atmospheric braking. ⎴] Geoffrey Landis has pointed out that the capture could have occurred if the original body was a binary asteroid that separated under tidal forces. ⎶]

Curiosity's view of the Mars moons: Phobos passing in front of Deimos – in real-time (video-gif, 1 August 2013).

Phobos could be a second-generation Solar System object that coalesced in orbit after Mars formed, rather than forming concurrently out of the same birth cloud as Mars. ⎸]

Another hypothesis is that Mars was once surrounded by many Phobos- and Deimos-sized bodies, perhaps ejected into orbit around it by a collision with a large planetesimal. ⎹] The high porosity of the interior of Phobos (based on the density of 1.88 g/cm 3 , voids are estimated to comprise 25 to 35 percent of Phobos's volume) is inconsistent with an asteroidal origin. ⎺] Observations of Phobos in the thermal infrared suggest a composition containing mainly phyllosilicates, which are well known from the surface of Mars. The spectra are distinct from those of all classes of chondrite meteorites, again pointing away from an asteroidal origin. ⎻] Both sets of findings support an origin of Phobos from material ejected by an impact on Mars that reaccreted in Martian orbit, ⎼] similar to the prevailing theory for the origin of Earth's moon.


This Week's Planet Roundup

Mercury is having a nice dawn apparition low in the east-southeast. Look for it below or lower left of Venus about 60 to 40 minutes before sunrise, by a little more than a fist at arm's length. Mercury is nicely showy this week, as Mercury goes, at about magnitude –0.5.

Venus (magnitude –3.9, in Virgo) shines brightly in the east before and during dawn, not very high. It rises in darkness about an hour before dawn's first light. Can you keep Venus in view all the way to sunrise and maybe after? Binoculars help as the sky grows bright with day.

Spica, only 1% as bright, glimmers below Venus or to its lower left. The Moon joins the scene on the morning of Friday the 13th, as shown above.

Mars (about magnitude –1.8, in Pisces) is a month past opposition and shrinking into the distance. But it's still 18 arcseconds wide in a telescope, as big as at some oppositions and plenty large to show good surface detail during steady seeing.

Mars shines bright yellow-orange in the east-southeast at dusk, below the Great Square of Pegasus. It's at its highest and best in the south by 9 or 10 p.m.

Mars on November 2nd, imaged by Christopher Go. South is up. The great diagonal dark streak is mostly Mare Cimmerium. From its lower right part, two little dark prongs point down. The larger one is Gomer Sinus, a good catch in large amateur telescope.

The classical names refers to the albedo (bright/dark) markings. In terms of physical geography, the bottom of Gomer Sinus is Galen Crater, home of the Curiosity rover for the last five years.

See Bob King's "A Great Year for Mars" in the October Sky & Telescope, page 48, and his Behold Mars! online. To get a map of the side of Mars facing Earth at the date and time you'll observe, you can use our Mars Profiler. The map there is square remember to mentally wrap it onto the side of a globe. (Features near the map's edges become very foreshortened.)

Jupiter and Saturn (magnitudes –2.2 and +0.6, respectively) tilt down in the west-southwest during and after twilight. Get your telescope on them early, even in twilight, before they sink lower toward the southwest. But don't expect much both are somewhat farther and smaller than they were during summer, and the seeing that low will likely be poor.

Jupiter is the bright one Saturn is now only about 4½° to its upper left. Watch them creep toward each other for the rest of the fall. They'll pass just 0.1° apart at conjunction on December 21st, low in twilight, as fall turns to winter.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Aries) is high in the east by 7 or 8 p.m., about 20° east (lower left) of Mars. Uranus is only 3.7 arcseconds wide, but that's enough to appear as a tiny fuzzy ball, not a point, at high power in even a good small telescope.

Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) is equally high in the south at that time. Neptune is 2.3 arcseconds wide, harder to resolve except in good seeing. Check in on them when you're done with Mars: Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time, EST, is Universal Time minus 5 hours. (Universal Time is also known as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time.)

Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in hard covers and enlarged for easier reading outdoors at night. Sample charts. More about the recent new editions.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5 nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And be sure to read how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the bigger (and illustrated) Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically, meaning heavy and expensive. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."

Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the heavens above. It's free.

"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
— Carl Sagan, 1996


This Week's Planet Roundup

Mars on November 7th, imaged by Damian Peach with the 1-meter Chilescope in good seeing. South is up. Even though Mars had shrunk to 11.3 arcseconds, details are abundant. The South Polar Cap is dwindling. The nearly horizontal dark band consists of Mare Sirenum (left) and Mare Cimmerium (right). Note the two straight, dark prongs of Gomer Sinus extending down from Cimmerium. The left one ends with Gale crater, home of the Curiosity rover. (The diagonal streaking everywhere is an image-processing artifact.)

Mercury is hidden deep in the glow of sunrise.

Venus (magnitude –4.7, in Virgo near Spica) rises as an eerie "UFO" above the east-southeast horizon a good two hours before the first light of dawn. As dawn arrives, Venus is the brilliant "Morning Star" dominating the southeast.

In a telescope Venus is a shrinking but thickening crescent, waxing from 20% to 25% sunlit this week. For the sharpest telescopic views, follow it up higher all the way past sunrise and into the blue sky of day.

Mars (fading from magnitude –0.2 to –0.1 this week) still shines highest in the south at nightfall and sets around midnight.

In a telescope Mars shrinks from 10 to 9 arcseconds wide, and it remains as gibbous as we ever see it: 86 percent sunlit. For a Mars map that displays which side is facing Earth at your time and date, use our Mars Profiler.

Jupiter is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.

Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Sagittarius) is very low in the southwest in twilight. You'll find it about 40° below Altair and 60° lower right of brighter Mars. It sets around the end of twilight.

Uranus, near the Aries-Pisces border, is pretty easy to see in binoculars at magnitude 5.7 — with a good finder chart, if you know the constellations well enough to see where to start with the chart.

Neptune, in Aquarius, is harder at magnitude 7.9. After dinnertime they're high in the southeast and south, respectively. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time (EST) is Universal Time (UT or GMT) minus 5 hours.

"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
— Carl Sagan, 1996

"Objective reality exists. Facts are often determinable. Vaccines save lives. Carbon dioxide warms the globe. Bacteria evolve to thwart antibiotics, because evolution. Science and reason are not a liberal conspiracy. They are how we determine facts. Civilization's survival depends on our ability, and willingness, to do this."
— Alan MacRobert, your Sky at a Glance editor

"Facts are stubborn things."
— John Adams, 1770


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Ahmet Gokhan Unlu will be one of 28 high school science teachers selected by the SETI Institute as a 2020 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador.

Click through the gallery to see 31 groundbreaking NASA missions in photographs. >>>

Way back in 1958, the launch of Explorer 1 marked a crucial turning point: this was the first time the United States succeeded in launching a satellite into space. The Soviet Union had launched Sputnik 1 in late 1957, and Explorer 1 showcased the fact that the United States was very much a contender in the space race. Explorer 1 transmitted signals to Earth for just under four months, and was finally destroyed years later, in 1970, when it reentered Earth's atmosphere.

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Apollo-Saturn

Before NASA put anyone on the moon, or even sent anyone into space, it needed to create and test a spacecraft that was up to the task. Thus, the Saturn V was born. This rocket, the kind that eventually would carry Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon, was tested in stages throughout the 1960s and underwent its first full unmanned test flight in 1967, becoming the first-ever launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Testing an entire rocket at once via a launch—rather than testing various aspects incrementally—was a novel approach, and then-Space Center Director Dr. Kurt Debus commented afterward that it “went extremely well.”

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By Oct. 11, 1968—when the Apollo 7 launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida—humans had already spent some time in space, the first among them being Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union. However, Apollo 7 orbited earth 163 times over the course of nearly 11 days, making it the longest trip thus far, and breaking additional barriers by being the first manned spaceship to broadcast live on national TV. The successful goal of this mission was to both test the ship's equipment and to ensure that the three crew members, and therefore future astronauts, could survive a trip this long.

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Some may think Christmas with the in-laws is tough, but the crew of Apollo 8, who spent their 1968 Christmas in space, would likely beg to differ. The Apollo 8 mission was intended to test both the spacecraft and the crew in an orbit between the Earth and the moon (referred to as cislunar), and an orbit around the moon which had never before been done. The mission went well, proving the technology new to this spacecraft, such as a combined forward hatch, was in good shape and ready for further use and development.

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While Apollo 8 successfully orbited the moon, it did not land, and additional testing was required to ensure that astronauts could visit the moon and return home safely. Enter the 1969 Apollo 9 mission, in which a crew tried out a piece of technology crucial to this goal: the lunar landing module. The mission was a success, and the crew could reattach the landing module in space, proving that a trip to the moon was not far off. As of March 20, 2019, all crew members of the Apollo 9 (James McDivitt, David Scott, and Rusty Schweickart) were still alive.

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Often referred to as the “dress rehearsal” for the first lunar landing, the 1969 Apollo 10 mission essentially went through the motions of a moon landing, including detaching the lunar lander from the command module and putting it through the first portion of a descent, without actually touching down. The lunar lander and command module are respectively, and charmingly, referred to as Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Though everyone returned safely, the crew experienced a moment of panic when human error led the lunar module to spin wildly out of control (and the crew to shout a few choice expletives).

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Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we've all been waiting for: on July 16, 1969, a Saturn V rocket carrying Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Four days later, Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. A new documentary about this event has shed light on some forgotten moments of the mission, such as Neil Armstrong taking the time, in a live TV broadcast during the crew's return to Earth, to pay homage to the technicians and engineers who built the 363-foot rocket that would make history. Eight years after President John F. Kennedy declared the lofty goal of putting a man on the moon, it was finally a reality.

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A few short months after the Apollo 11 mission put the first two men on the moon, the Apollo 12 mission followed suit. On Nov. 19, 1969, Charles Conrad Jr. and Alan L. Bean became the third and fourth souls to set foot on the lunar surface, spending 32 hours there while third crew member Richard F. Gordon stayed on board the spacecraft. Mission goals included collecting data and samples from the lunar surface, setting up the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (which would be left there to gather additional information), and checking on Surveyor III, an unmanned spacecraft that had landed there two years earlier.

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Houston, we have a problem: While this widely known phrase is not entirely accurate (crew member John Swigert actually said “OK, Houston, we've had a problem here”), it still summarizes what happened during the Apollo 13 mission. This mission was intended to be the third moon landing, but that goal had to be aborted when an oxygen tank exploded 56 hours into the flight. The three men on board (Swigert, Fred Haise, and Jim Lovell) were then forced to take shelter in the lunar module and quickly assemble an adapter that would make the air breathable, thus proving the possibility of a safe return to Earth even in the face of harrowing danger.

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Part of the Apollo 13 objectives had been to land for the first time on a particular area of the moon known as Fra Mauro, a crater named for the 15th century Italian geographer. Since Apollo 13 never landed, Apollo 14—which launched in early 1971 and carried a three-person crew of Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell—took over the goal of the Fra Mauro landing. After takeoff, the spacecraft struggled and experienced five failed attempts at connecting the command ship with the docking ring of the landing craft, but ultimately succeeded and completed the mission.

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The July 1971 Apollo 15 mission was the fourth mission to put human beings on the moon. This mission marked the revolutionary debut of the lunar roving vehicle (also known as a “moon buggy”), a four-wheeled, open-air vehicle designed to function with the moon's gravitational pull, thus enabling astronauts to observe a wider range of the lunar surface in a single visit. One aim of the trip was to take more photographs than prior visits, so the crew of this mission traveled with a huge variety of cameras to capture scenes during every part of the journey.

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The Apollo 16 mission lasted just over 11 days, beginning on April 16, 1972, and carrying the three-person crew of John Young, Thomas "Ken" Mattingly, and Charles Duke. Young and Duke were the two who set foot on the moon's surface, and they spent over 20 hours there collecting, in an amazing feat, over 200 pounds of lunar samples. Duke also made history by leaving something a behind: a family photo with the message, "This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972," written on the back.

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Apollo 17—which launched on Dec. 7, 1972—marked the last time humans set foot on the moon. However, the legacy of this mission is still very much alive. NASA recently announced it would open a collection of lunar rocks, which have never been studied in full, from Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17. (The latter mission alone brought back 250 pounds of rocks). These samples were preserved for a time when more advanced technology could delve deeply into the clues they may hold, and it's finally time to dig in.

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The journey of Pioneer 10, a space probe that launched from Cape Canaveral on March 2, 1972, was filled with firsts. At the time, NASA was gearing up to take advantage of a rare alignment in the solar system that would allow for a “Planetary Grand Tour”—meaning a group of spacecrafts could visit multiple planets in one trip. To prepare for this journey, Pioneer 10 was sent on a data-gathering mission, and became both the first spacecraft to reach Jupiter, and the first to leave the inner solar system.

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Pioneer 11 served as a companion probe to Pioneer 10 and was launched into space in 1973. Pioneer 11's journey marked another important first for NASA: this probe was the first to encounter Saturn, and it was also able to send back amazing images of Jupiter's polar regions. The spacecraft experienced a few technical setbacks and failures on its outbound journey, but overcame them and made such discoveries as an additional ring around Saturn. The last contact with this spacecraft occurred in late 1995.

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The central goal of NASA's 1970s Viking missions was to gather images of, and data pertaining to, Mars, as knowledge of the planet was slim. The Viking project proved a huge success, producing some 50,000 images of Mars and disproving the theory that the Martian sky was blue, similar to that of Earth. (In reality, it's pinkish during daytime.) Viking landers could also touch down and analyze Martian soil and atmosphere, a huge stepping stone in scientific understanding of this planet.

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Voyager Interstellar

The space probe Voyager 2 was sent into space in 1977, and in late 2018 it exited the heliosphere—the region of space that surrounds the sun and is impacted by its magnetic field—and officially went interstellar. In the decades preceding this monumental moment, Voyager 2 encountered and photographed Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn it is the only probe to face the latter two planets. Voyager 1 went interstellar in 2012, and now both probes are on a mission to send back information about what lies beyond the solar system, though they are still many thousands of years from reaching the stars for which they have set course.

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Skylab, NASA's first space station, was made out of a component of a Saturn V rocket during a time of NASA budget constraints. It launched unmanned in May 1973. The goal was to test the viability, for the first time, of a space station a crew could inhabit for extended periods to conduct scientific research in fact, several crews (one of which included Charles Conrad, a member of Apollo 12) visited and occupied the station during its time in space. Skylab's return to Earth became an international media spectacle, as NASA could not pinpoint the exact moment when or location where the craft would crash back through the atmosphere.

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Space Shuttle

NASA's Space Shuttle Program—in effect from 1981 to 2011—marked a huge scientific stride in creating the first effectively reusable spacecraft. The program created a fleet of five spacecrafts during its three-decade run, and before Space Shuttle Challenger's tragic end, it carried Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space. Space Shuttle Discovery successfully shuttled 184 men and women to space and back and spent 365 days in space before it was retired in 2011.

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For much of the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union used space to compete against one another, but the Shuttle-Mir program noted a great shift in this dynamic. The program was a U.S.-Russia collaboration, comprising U.S. shuttles and astronauts visiting the Russian space station, Mir. When the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis docked at Mir in 1995, history was made in more ways than one: The U.S. and Russian spacecrafts together formed the biggest man-made satellite, and the trip itself made up this country's 100th human space mission.

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On July 23, 1971, Landsat 1 (originally named the Earth Resources Technology Satellite) was launched into space. The goal of the Landsat program was to obtain extensive satellite imagery of Earth's terrain. Today, both Landsat 7, which was launched in 1999, and Landsat 8, which began operating in 2013, are active and functional. The program was heavily opposed at the start, for budget restrictions and the U.S. Defense Department's fear that such photography would negatively affect the confidentiality of the missions. But it ultimately was funded and became a successful and valuable new program.

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Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope is named for Edwin Powell Hubble, a hugely important 20th century American astronomer who discovered and proved the existence of galaxies beyond the Milky Way. The telescope was launched into orbit in 1990, and since then has broken barriers through its unique ability to capture and transmit images of space. The telescope is used for extensive scientific research projects, such as the Frontier Field program, but members of the public can also apply for observation time.

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Chandra X-ray Observatory, launched by NASA in 1999, is a telescope designed for detecting X-ray emissions in space. These emissions occur in the universe's hottest regions, such as where stars explode, and Chandra has been groundbreaking in its ability to capture images of such phenomena. As of March 14, 2019, Chandra was capturing images of a galactic storm in a distant galaxy in a cosmic structure known as the “Teacup.” It is located over 1 billion light years from Earth.

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Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched in August 2003 and still functions in 2019, is an infrared telescope that has allowed scientists visual access to previously unseen regions of the universe. The telescope is made up of two main components: the spacecraft itself and the cryogenic telescope assembly. It has produced striking images of brown dwarfs, molecular clouds, and more. Spitzer is notable for its role in scientists' ability to identify exoplanets and has given insight into galaxies over 13 billion light years from Earth.

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International Space Station

If you don't enjoy spending extended periods of time with your coworkers, then a job on the International Space Station may not be for you. The Space Station, which launched into orbit in 1998, has now been continuously inhabited for close to 20 years, with crews generally staying on board for six months at a time. Many nations contribute crew members and scientific knowledge to the project, and the three members of the current Expedition 58 (Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain, and David Saint-Jacques) have been aboard since December 2018. This consistent presence of humans in space is groundbreaking in its own right, and has allowed the scientific community to perform extensive experiments and gain knowledge about how humans can live in space.

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Mars Science Laboratory

Since 2012, the Curiosity rover for the Mars Science Laboratory has been stationed on the red planet, trying to provide an answer to one specific question: was Mars ever able to support life, specifically microscopic organisms known as microbes? Mars Science Laboratory's mission is a subset of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, designed to study the habitability of Mars and determine whether the planet could one day be a home for humans. Through its success in shedding light on Mars, Curiosity is living up to its name, which was bestowed by 12-year-old Clara Ma, winner of the Mars Science Laboratory essay contest.

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Parker Solo Probe

Many spacecrafts and brave astronauts have traveled the galaxy, but the Parker Solo Probe has embarked on a mission unlike anything that has come before. Launched in 2018, this spacecraft is en route to enter territory four million miles from the Sun. Though that may sound like a huge distance, this probe will encounter unimaginably intense heat and radiation, and is doing so to learn more about the sun's outer corona (the aura of plasma surrounding the sun). Another detail that sets the Parker Solo Probe apart from all other NASA missions is that it's the first to be named for a living individual: Eugene Parker, a professor at the University of Chicago who theorized revolutionary concepts about how the sun emits energy.

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Because of the dense layer of clouds that surrounds it, Jupiter maintains an environment that could shed light on the conditions in play when the solar system was first formed. This is the primary reason Juno is so important: launched in 2011, it is the first probe to map Jupiter's structure so far below the clouds. It can sample the charged particles on the planet's poles, which have never been analyzed in such a way. Juno is the name of the Roman goddess who was able to see through clouds to check on her husband, Jupiter, which is perfectly fitting.

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OSIRIS-REx's mission is no small undertaking: This spacecraft, and those behind it at NASA, are seeking answers to such questions as where humans come from and why the universe exists as it does. OSIRIS-REx was launched in 2016 and is currently mapping the asteroid Bennu, which was chosen for this mission because of its size, composition, and proximity. (It's so close that it might hit Earth in the 22nd century.) The great feat of OSIRIS-REx is that it's on track to be the first mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth, theoretically in 2023.

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Besides the great discoveries it provided, Cassini also marked an act of unity in the name of science. This spacecraft, which traveled to Saturn carrying a probe known as Huygens, was a joint effort among NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. Cassini's mission lasted 20 years, and in that time it made many critical discoveries, including revelations about the gravitational pull of Saturn's rings. Huygens also made the first landing on Titan, Saturn's moon. Perhaps most impressively, the Cassini mission ended with a grand finale: In its last months, Cassini dove through the gap between Saturn and its rings 22 times, creating a well of data about this previously unexplored region.

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SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket And Manned Crew

Elon Musk's SpaceX is going where no private company has gone before: to space. The mission, representing the first astronaut trip to space since 2011, is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will have astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board when it takes off from Launch Complex 39A in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff is slated for 3:22 p.m. on May 30.

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Jerrie Cobb, a well-known female pilot in the 1950s, flies the Gimbal Rig in the Altitude Wind Tunnel, (AWT) in April 1960 at the Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center). The Gimbal Rig, formally called MASTIF or Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility, was used to train astronauts to control the spin of a tumbling spacecraft. As part of a privately funded initiative Jerrie Cobb was the first woman to pass all three phases of the Mercury astronaut screening program. However, U.S. Government policy at the time stipulated a number of very specific qualifications for becoming an astronaut, including experience as a military test pilots. So, although the women who had volunteered for this private initiative did as well, or better, on the various screening tests than the original seven astronauts, the effort collapsed when it became clear that the government was not going to overturn the existing list of qualifications to admit any of the women into the astronaut corps.

(1962) Dr. Nancy Roman, one of the nations top scientists in the space program, is shown with a model of the Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO).

Jerrie Cobb poses next to a Mercury spaceship capsule. Although she never flew in space, Cobb, along with twenty-four other women, underwent physical tests similar to those taken by the Mercury astronauts with the belief that she might become an astronaut trainee. All the women who participated in the program, known as First Lady Astronaut Trainees, were skilled pilots. Dr. Randy Lovelace, a NASA scientist who had conducted the official Mercury program physicals, administered the tests at his private clinic without official NASA sanction. Cobb passed all the training exercises, ranking in the top 2% of all astronaut candidates of both genders. While she was sworn in as a consultant to Administrator James Webb on the issue of women in space, mounting political pressure and internal opposition lead NASA to restrict its official astronaut training program to men despite campaigning by the thirteen finalists of the FLAT program. After three years, Cobb left NASA for the jungles of the Amazon, where she has spent four decades as a solo pilot delivering food, medicine, and other aid to the indigenous people. She has received the Amelia Earhart Medal, the Harmon Trophy, the Pioneer Woman Award, the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award, and many other decorations for her tireless years of humanitarian service.

Melba Roy heads the group of NASA mathematicians, known as "computers," who track the Echo satellites. Roy's computations help produce the orbital element timetables by which millions can view the satellite from Earth as it passes overhead.

The late 1940s saw increased flight activity, and more women computers were needed at the NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit than the ones who had originally arrived in 1946. A call went out to the NACA Langley, Lewis, and Ames laboratories for more women computers. Pictured in this photograph with the snowman are some of the women computers who responded to the call for help in 1948 along with Roxanah, Emily, Dorothy, who were already here. Standing left to right: Mary (Tut) Hedgepeth, from Langley Lilly Ann Bajus, Lewis Roxanah Yancey, Emily Stephens, Jane Collons (Procurement), Leona Corbett (Personnel), Angel Dunn, Langley. Kneeling left to right: Dorothy (Dottie) Crawford Roth, Lewis Dorothy Clift Hughes, and Gertrude (Trudy) Wilken Valentine, Lewis.

This Aerosol Particle Analyzer, being displayed by Theresa Thibodeau of the Instrumentation Laboratory, was flown on one of the Apollo earth orbital flights. The device measured content of microscopic bits of solid of liquid matter in the spaceship cabin for possible effect on the well-being of the astronaut or the reliability of the electronic equipment. The ERC opened in September 1964, taking over the administration of contracts, grants, and other NASA business in New England from the antecedent North Eastern Operations Office (created in July 1962), and closed in June 1970. It served to develop the space agencys in-house expertise in electronics during the Apollo era. A second key function was to serve as a graduate and post- graduate training center within the framework of a regional government-industry-university alliance. Research at the ERC was conducted in ten different laboratories: space guidance, systems, computers, instrumentation research, space optics, power conditioning and distribution, microwave radiation, electronics components, qualifications and standards, and control and information systems. Researchers investigated such areas as microwave and laser communications the miniaturization and radiation resistance of electronic components guidance and control systems photovoltaic energy conversion information display devices instrumentation and computers and data processing. Although the only NASA Center ever closed, the ERC actually grew while NASA eliminated major programs and cut staff in other areas. Between 1967 and 1970, NASA cut permanent civil service workers at all Centers with one exception, the ERC, whose personnel grew annually until its closure in June 1970.

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Two seamstresses stitch together a sun-shade for the Skylab Orbital Workshop, the first United States Experimental space station in orbit, which lost its thermal protection shield during the launch on May 14, 1973. Without the heat shield, the temperature inside the Orbital Workshop became dangerously high, rendering the workshop uninhabitable and threatening the interior insulation and adhesive to deteriorate. Marshall engineers and scientists worked tirelessly around the clock to develop an emergency repair procedure. The Skylab crew and the repair kits were launched just 11 days after the incident. The crew successfully deployed the twin-pole sail parasol sun-shade during their EVA (Extravehicular Activity) the next day.

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An unofficial sustained American aviation altitude record for women was set July 1, 1979, by astronaut candidate Kathryn D. Sullivan in a NASA WB-57F reconnaissance aircraft. The record altitude of 63,300 feet was reached during a four-hour flight. Sullivan, in a high altitude pressure suit, operated color infrared cameras and multispectral scanning equipment as the WB-57F spent one and one-half hours of the Big Bend area of West Texas. Piloting the aircraft was Jim Korkowski, one of the NASA Airborne Instrumentation Research Program Pilots. The flight was out of Ellington AFB near Houston. Sullivan, who has a doctorate in geology, was selected in 1978 as one of 35 astronaut candidates training for the Shuttle program. She trained to be a mission specialist and flights in the WB-57F were training in preparation for her assignments on the Shuttle. Sullivan later served as a mission specialist on STS-41G, STS-31, and STS-45.

(1961) Jacqueline Cochran, first woman aviator to break the sound barrier, is sworn in as a consultant by NASA Administrator James E. Webb in 1961.

X-4 program with what Langley engineers euphemistically called "Female Computer" support personnel.

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Sheila Scott, born on April 27, 1927 in London, England, served as governor of the British section of the Ninety-Nines, an international association of licensed women pilots. The Ninety- Nines originated as an association of American women pilots who first gathered on November 2, 1929 at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York. All 117 registered female pilots in America at the time were invited, out of which twenty-six attended the first meeting and 99 became charter members dedicated to mutual support and the advancement of aviation. Under the leadership of Amelia Earhart, the first president, and the women who followed her, the organization grew and gained international recognition. Sheila Scott is pictured here with her Piper Aztec "Mythre," in which she made her world and a half flight in 1971. On this flight, she became the first person to fly over the North Pole in a single engine plane. She carried special NASA equipment for a communications experiment testing the Interrogation Recording and Location System (IRLS) of the Nimbus polar orbiting satellite. The IRLS equipment, a Balloon Interrogation package, transmitted data on Scott's location during the 34,000- mile around the world flight to the Nimbus satellite, which relayed it to NASA's ground station at Fairbanks, Alaska and then to a computer center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Sheila Scott's record-making, historic flight confirmed the satellite's ability to collect location data from remote computerized and human-operated stations with a unique "mobile platform" location test. She died on October 20, 1988.

In another first for NASA, an all-female crew of scientific experimenters began a five-day exercise on December 16, 1974, to test the feasibility of experiments that were later tested on the Space Shuttle/Spacelab missions. The experimenters, Dr. Mary H. Johnston (seated, left), Ann F. Whitaker and Carolyn S. Griner (standing, left to right), and the crew chief, Doris Chandler, spent spend eight hours each day of the mission in the Marshall Space Flight Centers General Purpose Laboratory (GPL). They conducted 11 selected experiments in materials science to determine their practical application for Spacelab missions and to identify integration and operational problems that might occur on actual missions.

Exhibits for the Inspection by the Institute of Aeronautical Science Group-JUMO 004 Jet Propelled Engine with cover removed. Design variables and the arrangement of blades on the eight-stage axial flow compressor of a Junkers Jumo, 004, turbojet engine is shown being investigated at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Cleveland, Ohio, now known as John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field.

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Staff testing chemical properties of fuels and lubricants at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland Ohio, now known as John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field.

The wives of Gemini 4 astronauts James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White II visited the Mission Control in Houston. Left to right are: Mrs. Patricia McDivitt and Mrs. Patricia White. The wives were taking the opportunity to speak to their astronaut husbands as they passed over the United States.

NASA hired Barbara S. Askins, a chemist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, in 1975 to find a better way to develop astronomical and geological pictures. In 1978, the Association for Advancement of Inventions and Innovations named her the National Inventor of the Year for her invention of a process that restored detail to underexposed negatives that would otherwise be useless. In 1978, Barbara Askins patented a method of enhancing the pictures using radioactive materials. The process was so successful that its uses were expanded beyond NASA researchers to improvements in X-ray technology and in the restoration of old pictures.

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Kitty Joyner, electrical engineer, at Langley Research Center in 1952.

Neta Snook Southern, age 84, emerges from the Flight Simulator for Advanced Aircraft at Ames Research Center. Southern, one of the first women pilots, was Amelia Earharts flight instructor around the year 1920. In marked contrast with what she saw at Ames, Southern said her old plane was made of wood and cloth, had no gas gauge, and the instrument panel consisted of an altimeter and a dollar watch hanging from a hook.

Amelia Earhart standing in front of the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in July 1937. Born in Atchison, Kansas in 1897, Amelia Earhart did not begin flying until after her move to California in 1920. After taking lessons from aviation pioneer Neta Snook in a Curtiss Jenny, Earhart set out to break flying records, breaking the women altitude records in 1922. Earhart continually promoted women in aviation and in 1928 was invited to be the first women to fly across the Atlantic. Accompanying pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon as a passenger on the Fokker Friendship, Earhart became an international celebrity after the completion of the flight. In May 1932 Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across in the Atlantic. In 1935 she completed the first solo flight from Hawaii to California. In the meantime Earhart continued to promote aviation and helped found the group, the Ninety-Nines, an organization dedicated to female aviators. On June 1, 1937, Earhart and navigator, Fred Noonan, left Miami, Florida on an around the world flight. Earhart, Noonan and their Lockheed Electra disappeared after a stop in Lae, New Guinea on June 29, 1937. Earhart had only 7,000 miles of her trip remaining when she disappeared. While a great deal of mystery surrounds the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, her contributions to aviation and womens issues have inspired people over 80 years.

Group photo on steps of Langley Research Building in 1928. front row, left to right: E.A. Meyers, Elton Miller, Amelia Earhart, Henry Reid, and Lt. Col. Jacob W.S. Wuest. Back row, left to right: Carlton Kemper, Raymond Sharp, Thomas Carroll, (unknown person behind A.E.), and Fred Weick. During her tour of Langley in November 1928, Amelia Earhart had part of her raccoon fur coat sucked into the 11 Inch High Speed Tunnel. To her left are Henry Reid and Col. Jacob Wuest, Langley base commander.

Fay Gillis Wells, writer, broadcaster, foreign correspondent, sailor, designer of boat interiors and noted aviatrix, stands in the National Air and Space Museum beside the Winnie Mae. This is the plane in which Wiley Post made his record-breaking global flight in 1933. Fay Wells participated in Posts achievement by managing the fuel dumps for the Winnie Mae in Siberia and by providing Wiley Post with the maps and navigation data. These services contributed to the success of the flight by which Post broke his own global record of 1931. Invited by Wiley Post to fly with him on a global mission in 1935, she decided instead to cover the Italian-Ethiopian War with her journalist husband, Linton Wells. Thus, Will Rogers was invited by Post as her replacement and went with him on the ill- fated journey that ended in an air crash fatal to both men. One of the founders of the Ninety-Nines, an association of licensed women pilots (named for the number of charter members) established in 1929, Fay Wells later became the organizations Bicentennial program chairman. In that capacity, she initiated the founding of the International Forest of Friendship in Atchison, Kansas, hometown of Amelia Earhart, the first president of the Ninety-Nines. The forest was established to honor aviation and space and those who pioneered in air and space flight. In the forest are plantings from tree seeds flown in lunar orbit during NASAs Apollo 14 mission to the Moon by astronaut Stuart Roosa. Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans planted the "Moon tree" seedlings at the dedication ceremony in Atchison on July 24,1986 (Amelia Earharts birthday).

Differential Analyzer built under the direction of Harold Mergler in the Instrument Research Section. The technician is preparing a data report. This equipment was located at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, LFPL, now John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Cleveland Ohio. For more on the breakthroughs in computing technology at Lewis Lab see "Bringing the Future Within Reach: Celebrating 75 Years of the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center" NASA/SP�-627, p, 75-76.

Technicians at (what is now) NASA's Langley Research Center install flaps and wiring on a flying-boat model for testing in facilities.

The women of the Computer Department at NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station are shown busy with test flight calculations. The "computers" under the direction of Roxanah Yancey were responsible for accurate calculations on the research test flights made at the Station. There were no mechanical computers at the station in 1949, but data was reduced by human computers. Shown in this photograph starting at the left are: Geraldine Mayer and Mary (Tut) Hedgepeth with Friden calculators on the their desks Emily Stephens conferring with engineer John Mayer Gertrude (Trudy) Valentine is working on an oscillograph recording reducing the data from a flight. Across the desk is Dorothy Clift Hughes using a slide rule to complete data calculations. Roxanah Yancey completes the picture as she fills out engineering requests for further data.

(March 19, 1940) NACA Ames Personnel: Front Row John Parsons, Manie Poole, Edward Sharp, Back Row Carlson Bioletti, Ferril Nickle, Arthur Freeman, R J Clark

Katherine Johnson was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1953 as a human computer. She started work in the segregated West Computing Unit at the Langley Laboratory in Hampton, VA. Her remarkable skills and dedication led to her involvement in NASA's early human spaceflight program. Her life was highlighted in the book (and movie) "Hidden Figures." In November 2017 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

Man and woman shown working with IBM type 704 electronic data processing machine used for making computations for aeronautical research.

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Arriving Engineers were John Parsons and Ferril Nickle (January 29, 1940) They were the first permanent members of the laboratory's staff on site. Other early arrivals from Langley were: Carlton Bioletti, March 1 Arthur B. Freeman, March 2 Edward R. Sharp, March 11 Manie G Poole, March 11 H. Julian Allen, April 13 Geroge E. Bulifant, April 17 Howard W. Krischbaum, April 29 and John P. Houston, April 29. Russ Robinson on-site representative of the construction group and their support staff E York, R Pippen.

One of the rare women physicists at NASA Lewis Research Center, working on an atomic laboratory experiment that pushed a gas at low pressure through a high-voltage discharge

(February 24, 1949) Manometer Board Setup in the 18 x 18 inch Supersonic Wind Tunnel at Lewis.

Pearl I. Young, the NACA's first female professional, at work in the instrument research laboratory circa 1929. Photograph published in Winds of Change, 75th Anniversary NASA publication, by James Schultz, page 47. Also published in Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958 by James R. Hansen, (page 209).

(1927) Langley administrative office in. Note the blueprints on the table at right lower corner, and rubber stamp tree on the man's desk in left foreground.

(1947) Langley's human computers at work. The female staff at Langley performed mathematical computations for male staff. Photograph published in Winds of Change, 75th Anniversary NASA publication (page 48), by James Schultz.

Early "computers" at work, in the summer of 1949 at what is now Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. In the terminology of that period, computers were employees--typically female--who performed the arduous task of transcribing raw data from roles of celluloid film and strips of oscillograph paper and then, using slide rules and electric calculators, reducing it to standard engineering units. Note mechanical calculator with Friden cover at left. The users named them Galloping Gerties because of their movement when in use. They used pads under them to cushion the motion. Seen here, left side, front to back, Mary (Tut) Hedgepeth, John Mayer and Emily Stephens. Right side, front to back, Lilly Ann Bajus, Roxanah Yancey, Gertrude (Trudy) Valentine (behind Roxanah), and Ilene Alexander.

Actress Nichelle Nichols was born in Robbins, Illinois on December 29, 1936. She played Lieutenant Uhura the Communications Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original series, Star Trek. Nichols stayed with the show and has appeared in six Star Trek movies. Her portrayal of Uhura on Star Trek marked one of the first non-stereotypical roles assigned to an African-American actress. She also provided the voice for Lt. Uhura on the Star Trek animated series in 1974-75. Before joining the crew on Star Trek, she sang and danced with Duke Ellington's band. Nichols was always interested in space travel. She flew aboard the C-141 Astronomy Observatory, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn on an eight hour, high altitude mission. From the late 1970's until the late 1980's, NASA employed Nichelle Nichols to recruit new astronaut candidates. Many of her new recruits were women or members of racial and ethnic minorities, including Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female American astronaut), Judith Resnik (one of the original set of female astronauts, who perished during the launch of the Challenger on January 28, 1986), and Ronald McNair (the second African-American astronaut, and another victim of the Challenger accident). Currently Nichelle Nichols is actively involved in movies and special appearances. She is also a spokesperson for her favorite charity, "The Kwanzaa Foundation."

Christa McAuliffe received a preview of microgravity during a special flight aboard NASA's KC-135 "zero gravity" aircraft in early 1986. A special parabolic pattern flown by the aircraft provides shore periods of weightlessness. McAuliffe was selected for the Teacher in Space Project and launched aboard STS 51-L (Challenger) on January 28, 1986. She and the rest of her crewmates died in the launch accident that day.

HERE ARE THE WOMAN WHO BUILT NASA

Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-47) onboard photo of Astronaut Mae Jemison working in Spacelab-J module. Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space. Spacelab-J is a combined National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and NASA mission. The objectives included life sciences, microgravity and technology research

Astronaut Judith A. Resnik, one of three mission specialists, positions herself on the floor of the Space Shuttle Discovery's mid-deck to note some items on a clipboard pad. Nearby, Charles D. Walker, payload specialist (partially out of frame at left), anchors himself with a foot restraint while working at a stowage locker. Between the two is a sign fashioned by Dr. Resnik and held up to a nearby TV camera during early STS-41D downlinked television. This is a 35mm frame.

Astronauts Kathryn D. Sullivan, left, and Sally K. Ride display a "bag of worms." The "bag" is a sleep restraint and the majority of the "worms" are springs and clips used with the sleep restraint in its normal application. Clamps, a bungee cord and velcro strips are other recognizable items in the bag.

Crewmembers of NASA's 41-D mission take a group shot displaying their fun moments in space aboard the orbiter Discovery. Crewmembers are (counter-clockwise from center) crew commander Henry W. Harsfield Jr., pilot Michael L. Coats, mission specialist Steven A. Hawley, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, payload specialist Charles D. Walker, and mission specialist Richard M. Mullane. Dr. Judith Resnik is shown enjoying the weightlessness of space during her first mission. Born on April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1970, and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland in 1977. Dr. Resnik joined NASA in 1978 as a senior systems engineer in product development with Xerox Corporation at El Segundo, California. NASA later selected her as an astronaut candidate in January 1978 she completed a 1-year training and evaluation period in August 1979. Dr. Resnik died on January 28, 1986 on her second mission, during the failed launch of Challenger STS-51 L.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducts research operations for the AngieX Cancer Therapy study inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The new cancer research seeks to test a safer, more effective treatment that targets tumor cells and blood vessels. Photo was taken by Expedition 56 crew

On Challenger's middeck, Mission Specialist (MS) Sally Ride, wearing light blue flight coveralls and communications headset, floats alongside the middeck airlock hatch.

Crew members of mission STS-51L stand in the White Room at Pad 39B following the end of the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). From left to right they are: Teacher in Space Participant, Sharon "Christa" McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik, Commander Dick Scobee Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Pilot, Michael Smith and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka

Nasa/ Kennedy Space Center Show More Show Less

S85-41007 (9 May 1983) --- At NASA's Johnson Space Center, astronaut Sally K. Ride takes a break from training as a mission specialist for NASA's STS-7 spaceflight in Earth orbit. Photo credit: NASA

Women scientists in training at Marshall Space Flight Center, (top to bottom) Carolyn Griner, Ann Whitaker, and Dr. Mary Johnston, are shown simulating weightlessness while undergoing training in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator. These women were part of a special program dedicated to gaining a better understanding of problems involved in performing experiments in space. The three were engaged in designing and developing experiments for space, such as materials processing for Spacelabs. Dr. Johnston specialized in metallurgical Engineering, Dr. Whitaker in lubrication and surface physics, and Dr. Griner in material science. Dr. Griner went on to become Acting Center Director at Marshall Space Flight Center from January to September 1998. She was the first woman to serve

NASA/ Marshall Space Flight Cent/NASA Show More Show Less

Astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan, 41-G mission specialist, uses binoculars for a magnifed viewing of Earth through Challenger's forward cabin windows.

NASA/Johnson Space Center/NASA Show More Show Less

The STS-51L crewmembers are: in the back row from left to right: Mission Specialist, Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher in Space Participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Greg Jarvis and Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Pilot Mike Smith, Commander, Dick Scobee and Mission Specialist, Ron McNair.

Space Shuttle Challenger's STS-7 crew poses for a group portrait on the forward flight deck. Left to right are Mission Specialist Sally Ride, Commander Robert Crippen, Pilot Frederick Hauck, Mission Specialist Norman Thagard and Mission Specialist John Fabian. Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space and NASA's youngest astronaut at the time.

Exuberant and thrilled to be at the Kennedy Space Center, seven women who once aspired to fly into space stand outside Launch Pad 39B neat the Space Shuttle Discovery, poised for liftoff on the first flight of 1995. They are members of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs, also known as the "Mercury 13"), a group of women who trained to become astronauts for Americas first human spaceflight program back in the early 1960s. Although this FLATs effort was never an official NASA program, their commitment helped pave the way for the milestone Eileen Collins set: becoming the first female Shuttle pilot. Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Ratley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman.

NASA/ Kennedy Space Center Show More Show Less

Astronaut Sally K. Ride, mission specialist on STS-7, monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the Flight Deck. Floating in front of her is a flight procedures notebook.

Commander Eileen Collins consults a checklist while seated at the flight deck Commander's station in the Shuttle Columbia during STS-93.

Dr. Mary Johnston, Carolyn Griner and Dr. Ann Whitaker (left to right), scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center, complete a training session in the MSFC’s Neutral Buoyancy Simulator, a facility used to simulate weightlessness. The scuba diving is part of special training the three took to better qualify them for their duties of designing experiments on materials processing in space. The training increased their understanding of the problems associated with doing experiments in space, such as aboard Spacelab. Dr. Johnston specializes in metallurgical engineering, Carolyn Griner in materials sciences, and Ann Whitaker in lubrication and surface physics. Carolyn Griner continued her career at MSFC, serving as the director of the Mission Operations Laboratory. In 1994 she was appointed as Deputy Director of MSFC, and for 9 months in 1998 served as acting Director. She retired from NASA in December 2000. Over a 16-year period Dr. Ann Whitaker served at NASA as chief of the Physical Sciences Branch, the Engineering Physics Division, and the Project and Environmental Engineering Division. In 1995 she served in several leadership positions in Marshall’s Science and Engineering Directorate. In September 2001, Dr. Whitaker was named director of the Science Directorate at MSFC.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. Born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California, she received a Bachelor in Physics and English in 1973 from Stanford University and, later, a Master in Physics in 1975 and a Doctorate in Physics in 1978, also from Stanford. NASA selected Dr. Ride as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. She completed her training in August 1979, and began her astronaut career as a mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on June 18, 1983. The mission spent 147 hours in space before landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California on June 24, 1983. Dr. Ride also served as a mission specialist on STS-41-G, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on October 5, 1984 and landed 197 hours later at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on October 13, 1984. In June 1985, NASA assigned Dr. Ride to serve as mission specialist on STS-61-M. She discontinued mission training in January 1986 to serve as a member of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, also known as the Rogers Commission. Upon completing the investigation she returned to NASA Headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for Long Range and Strategic Planning, where she lead a team that wrote NASA Leadership and America's Future in Space:A Report to the Administrator in August 1987. Dr. Ride has also written a children's book, To Space and Back, describing her experiences in space, has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and has twice been awarded the National Spaceflight Medal. Her latest books include Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System and The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space. She was also a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), which investigated the February 1.

Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan, Teacher in space primary and backup crew members for Shuttle Mission STS-51L. This mission ended in failure when the Challenger orbiter exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986.

STS-93 Commander, Eileen M. Collins shown wearing an orange Launch and Entry Suit (LES) with helmet. Collins was the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission.

NASA/Johnson Space Center/NASA Show More Show Less

The first African-American woman in space, Dr. Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama but considers Chicago, Illinois her hometown. She received a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering (and completed the requirements for a Bachelor in African and Afro-American studies) at Stanford University in 1977. Dr. Jemison also received a Doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981. After medical school she did post graduate medical training at the Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center. As an area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa, she managed the health care delivery system for U.S. Peace Corps and U.S. Embassy personnel. Jemison's background includes work in the areas of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and reproductive biology. She also developed and participated in research projects on the Hepatitis B vaccine and rabies. Jemison was a General Practitioner and attending graduate Engineering classes in Los Angeles when she was named an astronaut candidate in 1987. She flew her first flight as a science mission specialist on STS-47, Spacelab-J, in September 1992. She was co-investigator for the Bone Cell Research Experiment on that mission. In completing her first space flight, Jemison logged 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds in space. Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993. In 1994, she founded and began a term as chair of The Earth We Share (TEWS), an annual international science camp where students, aged 12 to 16, work together to solve current global dilemmas. From 1995- 2002 she was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College. She is currently director of the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in developing countries. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including.

NASA/Johnson Space Center/NASA Show More Show Less

Astronaut N. Jan Davis, payload commander, is pictured at the work station for the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) on the aft flight deck of the Space Shuttle Discovery during mission STS-85. Davis controlled and oversaw operations with the Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere-Shuttle Pallet Satellite-2 (CRISTA-SPAS-2) during the 12-day mission in Earth-orbit.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid exercises on a treadmill which has been assembled in the Russian Mir space station Base Block module.

NASA/ Johnson Space Center Show More Show Less

Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa, wearing a Launch and Entry Suit (LES) and Launch and Entry Helmet (LEH), simulates an emergency egress procedure at JSC's Mockup and Integration Laboratory (MAIL). Having exited the crew compartment trainer (CCT) a shuttle mockup, through an overhead aft flight deck window Ochoa lowers herself to the ground using the sky-genie. Training instructor Kenneth D. Trujillo assumes the role of a crewmate assisting from a position on the ground. The sky-genie is carried on all Space Shuttle flights for emergency egress purposes.

The NACA Muroc Contingent in October 1947 in front of the Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1-2 and Boeing B-29 launch aircraft. Standing left to right: Le Roy Proctor, Jr., Don Borchers, Harold Nemecek, Phyllis Actis Rogers, Milton McLaughlin, Roxanah Yancey, Arthur Bill Vernon, Dorothy Clift Hughes, Naomi C. Wimmer, Frank Hughes, John Mayer, Elmer Bigg, De E. Beeler. Kneeling left to right: Charles Hamilton, Joseph Vensel, Herbert Hoover, Hubert Drake, Eugene Beckwith, Walter Williams, Harold Goodman, Howard Lilly, John Gardner.

(May 2008) The 12th and Final National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Reunion took place at the NASA Langley Research Center, which was established as the first NACA facility in 1917 as the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. NACA Reunion XII was co-sponsored by the NASA Langley Research Center and the Langley Alumni Association and took place in Hampton, Virginia, May 2-4, 2008. There were 360 attendees from over 30 States. In 1958, the NACA became the basis for NASA.

Marjorie Townsend discusses the X-ray Explorer Satellite's performance with a colleague during preflight tests at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Townsend, a Washington, DC native, was the first woman to receive an engineering degree from The George Washington University. She joined NASA in 1959 and later advanced to become the project manager of the Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS) Program.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, second from left, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, third from left, and Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book "Hidden Figures," right, unveil the "Hidden Figures Way" street sign at a dedication ceremony, Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. The 300 block of E Street SW in front of the NASA Headquarters building was designated as "Hidden Figures Way" to honor Katherine Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and all women who have dedicated their lives to honorably serving their country, advancing equality, and contributing to the space program of the United States. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky) Show More Show Less

“Hidden Figures" filmmaker Ted Melfi, right, gives remarks, standing next to author Margot Lee Shetterly, left, after they were awarded NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medals by acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot and NASA astronaut Alvin Drew, Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The "Hidden Figures" film was based on the book of the same title, by Shetterly, and chronicles the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- African-American women working at NASA as “human computers,” who were critical to the success of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission in 1962. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

NASA/Aubrey Gemignani/(NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) Show More Show Less

NASAs first six women astronauts pose with a mockup of a personal rescue enclosure (PRE) or "rescue ball" in the crew systems laboratory at the Johnson Space Center. The PRE was created as a possible means of transporting astronauts from one Shuttle to another in case of an emergency. The PRE only reached the prototype stage and never flew on any missions. The group includes mission specialists, from left to right, Margaret R. (Rhea) Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnick, Sally K. Ride, Anna L. Fisher, and Shannon W. Lucid.

Taking a break from the various training exercises at a three-day water survival school held near Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, are some of the first female astronaut candidates in the U.S. space program. Left to right are Sally K. Ride, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, Kathryn D. Sullivan and Rhea Seddon.

From left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride. NASA selected all six women as their first female astronaut candidates in January 1978, allowing them to enroll in a training program that they completed in August 1979.

Astronauts Dr. N. Jan Davis (left) and Dr. Mae C. Jemison (right) were mission specialists on board the STS-47 mission. The astronauts are shown preparing to deploy the lower body negative pressure (LBNP) apparatus in this 35mm frame taken in the science module aboard the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Endeavor.

The STS-51L Challenger flight crew emergency egress training in the slide wire baskets. From left to right they are: Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Teacher in Space Participant, Christa McAuliffe. Directly behind them: Mission Specialist Judy Resnik and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka.

Nasa/ Kennedy Space Center Show More Show Less

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Nikolayevna-Tereshkova looks over the Apollo Command Module on exhibit in Building 2 during a tour of the Johnson Space Center in 1977 with astronaut Alan Bean. Tereshkova was the first woman to fly in space, launching on Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963.

President Barack Obama presents former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as professional baseball player Willie Mays, right, looks on, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) Johnson's computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields.

NASA/Bill Ingalls/(NASA/Bill Ingalls) Show More Show Less

A "Hidden Figures Way" street sign is seen at the corner of 4th and E Street SW across from the NASA Headquarters building following a dedication ceremony, Wednesday, June 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The 300 block of E Street SW in front of the NASA Headquarters building was designated as "Hidden Figures Way" to honor Katherine Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and all women who have dedicated their lives to honorably serving their country, advancing equality, and contributing to the space program of the United States. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky) Show More Show Less

158 of 204 The NASA Image and Video Library features the best of the agency’s work in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more. Updated in 2019, the library is searchable, includes historical and current images and all assets are downloadable.

The moon from Apollo 11

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin made history by landing on the moon while pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. While returning home on July 21, the crew captured this picture of the full moon. Earth’s only natural satellite, it circles us from an average distance of 238,900 miles away.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Earth from the International Space Station

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot a picture of Earth from 250 miles over Australia. Airglow—the orange hue—comprises diffuse bands of light created by atoms colliding in the atmosphere near the interface of Earth and space. Studying airglow is helping scientists to understand the connections between Earth weather and space weather.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Hurricanes on Earth

Several large hurricanes were brewing in the Atlantic Ocean in September 2017. By assembling several images taken in one day by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, NASA could provide a vibrant look at this weather pattern. Views like this help communities make decisions about disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Shuttle space walk

In 2006, NASA astronaut Robert L. Curbeam Jr. and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang continued construction on the International Space Station (ISS). Below them lie New Zealand and Cook Strait in the Pacific Ocean. The ISS must be maintained and repaired regularly so that its inhabitants can complete missions and experiments through at least 2024.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Shuttle in silhouette

An ISS crewmember captured a picture of the space shuttle Endeavour as it neared docking in February 2010. It was Endeavour’s 10 th flight to the ISS with the mission of delivering Tranquility (a berthing, life support, and exercise module) and Cupola (a robotics work station).

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Eruption on the sun

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory documented a dramatic solar event on March 2, 2012. This explosion, appearing on the right side of the sun in the photograph, is called a “prominence eruption.” The prominence is made up of plasma—matter in an ultra-high-energy state even more volatile than gas—and can loop thousands of miles into space.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Raikoke volcano eruption

Raikoke Volcano sits on the remote Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean. On June 22, 2019, an ISS crew member captured an image of the volcanic plume of Raikoke’s first eruption in almost one hundred years. NASA satellites tracked the plume for activity that might affect aviation and climate.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Rover selfie

The Curiosity Mars rover provided a selfie as part of its 1,065 th day of work on Aug. 5, 2015. A combination of multiple images taken by its Hand Lens Imager, the picture shows Curiosity on a rock called “Buckskin” on Mount Sharp. The mission to drill into Buckskin and collect a sample for analysis was successful in finding silica, which may show that liquid water once existed on Mars.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Cargo craft docks

The unmanned Cygnus cargo craft—the SS John Young—was photographed attaching itself to the International Space Station in November 2018 with a delivery of 7,400 pounds of supplies. The spacecraft was named after John Young, NASA’s longest-serving astronaut, who was an integral part of missions to the moon and the space shuttle program.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

John Young on the moon

As part of the first extravehicular activity of its mission, Apollo 16 commander John W. Young jumps off the lunar surface while saluting the American flag in April 1972. The fifth mission to land on the moon, Apollo 16 spent over 20 hours on the surface, drove 16.6 miles in the lunar rover, and returned with 210 pounds of samples.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Canadian aurora

The snowy Quebec landscape is illuminated by the stars, the moon, and the aurora borealis in this picture from February 2012. Taken from the ISS, the image also shows airglow along the horizon. The Manicouagan Crater, seen in the lower right, was created by an asteroid impact approximately 214 million years ago.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Helix Nebula

Launched in 2003, the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope is orbiting 353 miles above Earth. In 2007, it took an infrared image of the Helix nebula (sometimes referred to as the “Eye of God”). This nebula is in the constellation of Aquarius, 650 light-years away.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

The cracking Brunt Ice Shelf

In January 2019, NASA captured an image of Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf as it neared a substantial break that will release an iceberg twice the size of New York City. The crack, at the top right of the image, is called the “Halloween crack,” as it first appeared in October 2016.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Cassini’s capture of Saturn

Cassini was in space for 20 years on a mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons. In 2016, it took several images with a wide-angle camera which were combined to create one full depiction of the planet. Cassini completed its work, having delivered images and science results, by plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Show More Show Less

The heart of Madagascar

A 2018 photograph of the heart of Madagascar shows great landscape changes in the region as captured from the ISS by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. The world’s fourth-largest island is experiencing the decimation of rainforests because of the demand for its unique resources.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

The last landing

In 2011, the 30-year space-shuttle program ended as Atlantis touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. With five shuttles and 355 space flyers, the program completed 135 missions. Today, Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors’ Center.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

The eye of the hurricane

The International Space Station captured the eye of a Category 4 hurricane in September 2018. Moving across the Atlantic toward the Carolinas, the hurricane’s winds were clocked at 130 miles per hour. Florence reached landfall on Sept. 14 with record-breaking storm surge and rainfall.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

International Space Station

During their separation on July 19, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis took this photograph of the International Space Station. Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko, Sergei Volkov, and Alexander Samokutyayev, Japan Aerospace Exploration astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and NASA astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan were all aboard the ISS. The shuttle astronauts were Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus, and Rex Walheim.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Watercolor of the sea

Taken from observational satellite Landsat-8 in June 2018, this image of the Chukchi Sea illuminates colorful blooms of phytoplankton. Cool nutrient-rich water from the Bering Sea meet warm, less-salty Alaskan coastal water to create these patterns. The blooms can be seen even through deep Arctic ice cover.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

NASA/U. S. Geological Survey/Norman Kuring/Kathryn Hansen Show More Show Less

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter

During a close pass of Jupiter in February 2019, NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured the gas giant planet and its Great Red Spot, which is the site of a massive storm on the planet’s surface. This view was created by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill by compiling multiple images and data from the JunoCam. Juno was launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016. Its sole mission is to explore, study, and map the planet.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill Show More Show Less

Monument Valley

In the Navajo Tribal Park on the border of Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is one of the most recognizable areas of the American West. Red-rock formations and sandstone towers rise hundreds of feet above its sandy floor. The Operational Land Imager on Landsat-8 captured the elevation differences of the Valley in November 2016.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Flying through an aurora

Flying 200 miles above Earth has given the crew members on the International Space Station the opportunity to document the changes and events on their home planet from the Station’s unique perspective. In August 2014, the ISS flew through a green aurora. An aurora is observed when charged electrons from solar wind interact with Earth’s atmosphere.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula, approximately 5,700 light years from Earth. This composite image uses data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. The Pillars area of the nebula is an active star-forming region.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Show More Show Less

Total eclipse of the sun

The total solar eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21, 2017, offered a rare opportunity for NASA to collect data on the Earth-sun connection. Its long, uninterrupted path over land, starting at the Oregon coast where this image was captured, provided more time for scientists to study the sun’s corona.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Untethered in space

In 1984, Mission Specialist Bruce McCandless II took the historic first untethered spacewalk. Floating a few meters away from Space Shuttle Challenger, he spent four hours in the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). McCandless logged over 312 hours in space during his long career with NASA.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Marbled Pluto

Pluto’s color variations were captured by NASA’s New Horizons space probe in 2015. The enhanced image shows the marbling effect of the dwarf planet’s diverse landforms. Pluto has mountains and plains, with blue skies as well as ice and red snow.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

The wild river

Captured by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in 2017, this image shows the 1,400-mile Dnieper River in snowy, icy February. The river runs from Russia to the Black Sea. The International Space Station orbits Earth 16 times each day and is keeping a visual record of our ever-changing planet.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Supermassive black hole

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, discovered in a sparsely populated area of the universe with the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii. Black holes were previously believed to be located in very large galaxies in densely populated clusters. The black region in the center is the event horizon, where no light can escape from the black hole’s powerful gravity.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

NASA/ESA/D. Coe/J. Anderson/R. van der Marel(STScI) Show More Show Less

The space selfie

During a spacewalk to do maintenance on the International Space Station in March 2019, astronaut Nick Hague took a selfie. Documenting his first spacewalk, Hague was 250 miles above Earth. It wasn’t the first space selfie, though. Buzz Aldrin claimed that achievement during his moon walk in 1969.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

An SLS test article

NASA’s current focus is on the Space Launch System (SLS), a powerful rocket system to enable exploration far into the solar system. The rocket is intended to send Artemis 1, and the first woman lunar explorer, to the moon by 2024. In June 2019, the last structural test article for the SLS—a liquid oxygen tank—was loaded onto a barge in New Orleans for delivery to the Marshall Flight Center in Alabama for testing.

This slideshow was first published on theStacker.com

Harmony School of Excellence teacher Ahmet Gokhan Unlu will be one of 28 high school science teachers selected by the SETI Institute as a 2020 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador on Monday.

According to the SETI institute, AAA is professional development program for high school science teachers designed to improve science teaching and increase student learning and STEM engagement. It also states that Unlu will be undergoing week-long immersion training experience at NASA&rsquos Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, Calif. and participate in their Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Unlu will then receive training in astrophysics and planetary science content and pedagogy, which will then be followed by a two-week physical science curriculum.

&ldquoWe are delighted that this new AAA cohort expands the program&rsquos geographical reach and includes teachers from 13 states,&rdquo said Dr. Dana Backman, AAA program lead. &ldquoThese teachers will use their professional development and SOFIA experiences to convey real-world content to their students that illuminates the value of scientific research and the wide variety of STEM career paths available to them.&rdquo

Their press release states that the SETI Institute&rsquos NASA AAA program is one of 23 programs competitively selected by NASA&rsquos Science Mission Directorate. These cooperative agreements more effectively engage learners of all ages with NASA science. Selections were made by the agency's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington, DC.

Christian Alejandro Ocampo reports on education for the Laredo Morning Times. He originally joined LMT as a photographer.


How We Saved the Deep Space 1 Spacecraft

On Sept. 22, 2001, about 50 people huddled around computer monitors in a control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, some more anxious than others. The Deep Space 1 (DS1) spacecraft had already suffered a near-fatal setback on its journey to Comet 19P/Borrelly, along with countless minor obstacles since launch. Would it pull through now?

This could be a moment for history books: NASA's first close look at a comet. But in this case, failure was definitely an option. A device critical to pointing the spacecraft had stopped working 15 months earlier, and with no backup plan, the team had to invent a series of workarounds to keep the mission going. If they could just see the comet, it would all be worth it.

Marc Rayman, mission director and project manager for DS1, nervously paced between computer stations, fearing his team's hard work had been for nothing. Engineers had already made thousands of decisions and sent hundreds of commands to the spacecraft, working countless stressful hours to make this comet encounter a success. But any one error along the way could now end the mission. What's more, if the spacecraft ran out of hydrazine fuel or got battered by dust &ndash tiny grains carrying the energy of bowling balls knocking over pins &ndash it would be over. "You would spend the rest of your life thinking, 'If only&hellip' " Rayman remembers.

A Mission of Firsts

Launched 20 years ago, on Oct. 24, 1998, Deep Space 1 was originally designed to test 12 technologies that had never flown in space before. The team that developed this mission had the enormous challenge of both getting all the new technologies to work and making sure those technologies didn't interfere with one another. Engineers and mission planners had a lot of freedom to solve problems in new ways.

"The team was small, and everyone was doing a job that was bigger than they had done before," recalls Leslie Livesay, spacecraft manager for DS1, and now the director of JPL's Astronomy and Physics directorate. "It was a great learning experience for all of us and definitely one of the highlights of my career."

DS1's most essential technology was the ion engine, representing a brand new way to fly spacecraft. Ion propulsion's gentle force allows for graceful and fine-tuned maneuvering of a spacecraft and very high speeds over time. Another new technology DS1 tested was called Autonomous Navigation, or AutoNav, a system to let DS1 determine its own position in space and then adjust itself if its estimated course was not correct. Ion propulsion and AutoNav would be used on subsequent interplanetary missions. Learn more about DS1's technologies: 10 Things About DS1

With so many aspects of DS1 that were brand new, navigation lead Ed Riedel felt the mission had a "cowboy or cowgirl" spirit.

"You're out on your own, out there on the prairie, just you and your horse -- or you and your spacecraft -- and somehow you have to get to your destination," Riedel said.

The DS1 team was successful in thoroughly testing all 12 new technologies in space. What's more, in 1999, DS1 completed a flyby of asteroid 9969 Braille. While the photos DS1 sent back were fuzzy, observing any object at all was considered a bonus.

Having achieved its initial goals, DS1 received a new charter from NASA: take close-up images of a comet, which had never been done before, and collect other scientific data.

Rayman took this objective personally. He had wanted to work at NASA since the fourth grade. DS1 represented what he had always wanted to do: explore an uncharted destination in space where no one had gone before.

'Pop' Goes the Star Tracker

Like ancient explorers, spacecraft look out at the stars to figure out if they're pointed in the right direction. A device called a star tracker -- a camera with a built-in computer that takes images of stars -- helps the spacecraft orient itself so that its main engine can take it on the right path. DS1's star tracker was a commercially purchased product it wasn't one of the advanced, high-risk technologies that the mission set out to test.

In the beginning, Livesay's biggest concern about the spacecraft had been its high voltage power supply, which experienced problems before launch. In space, that seemed to be doing just fine. "I wasn't as worried about the star tracker," she said.

On Nov. 11, 1999, the DS1 spacecraft went into safe mode, a minimum-activity state that signals to the mission team that something has gone wrong. The engineers ran tests and determined the star tracker had failed. That meant there was no obvious way to get the spacecraft to point its main antenna to Earth to receive instructions. Making matters worse, Rayman was battling bronchitis and laryngitis at the time, and could barely speak as he struggled to diagnose the spacecraft's essential tool. As the weeks wore on, there was serious talk at JPL and NASA that this problem could end the mission.

"Most people's reaction was: You can't do anything productive without a star tracker. The mission was already extremely successful we should retire Deep Space 1, let it rest on its laurels, and move on to something else," Rayman said.

But one motto Rayman imparted to the team was, "If it isn't impossible, it isn't worth doing."

This would be one of the most challenging recoveries in NASA history.

An Unconventional Solution

The star tracker had a large view of the sky. The DS1 science camera saw an area 150 times smaller. It was the difference between gazing at the night sky with your naked eye and looking through a soda straw. To make matters worse, the camera generally could not see stars as faint as the ones the star tracker could, and operated 120 times more slowly. But after careful analysis it was clear: The science camera was the only hope of getting to Comet Borrelly.

In order to use the "straw" to control the spacecraft's orientation, the team would have to solve a multitude of technical problems and then write software to make the spacecraft understand how to track its orientation with the science camera. If they figured that out, they would have to operate the spacecraft in a brand new way.

"We would find one big bright star we could point at, and keep ourselves adjusted with the Sun sensor in the other direction, and thereby point the main engine," Riedel said.

But time was running out: To reach the comet, the spacecraft's engine would have to be thrusting toward Comet Borrelly by July 5, 2000. Otherwise, the comet's own orbit around the Sun would put it out of reach.

To the Rescue

For two months the team struggled to restore communication with the spacecraft, which required inventing a way to point the main antenna to Earth without the star tracker. Engineers had to execute a complex, risky rotation maneuver, then calculate exactly when DS1's main antenna would sweep past Earth so it could receive the command to stop. Because of DS1's distance, it took more than 28 minutes to get back the result of each communication. But the strength of the radio signal allowed them to discern how the spacecraft was positioned. Engineers sent commands to adjust it one or two degrees at a time until they were reasonably sure the main antenna was in the optimal position. "From farther than Earth is from the Sun, we were practically joysticking the spacecraft," Rayman said.

Tensions and anxieties mounted as the team worked long hours to design the new system, write the software and get it to the spacecraft. Each problem seemed to give way to a host of others. For the sake of the team's motivation, Rayman, whom Livesay describes as "the glue on the project," did his best to hide how worried he really was. The team developed this unprecedented software largely on the basis of engineering intuition. A major part of this software was dubbed MURKY.

Despite problems with transmission, the new software finally reached DS1 in June 2000. And on June 12, after seven months in safe mode, the spacecraft found the first star that could be used for orientation. Soon, just one week before the July 5 cutoff, DS1 was bound for Borrelly.

The Final Countdown

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks happened just 11 days before DS1's scheduled date with its comet. Spacecraft team members called one another to deliver the grim news that shook the world. JPL shut down for the day and tightened security. But the DS1 team, having been through 15 grueling months of problem-solving since the star tracker failure, was determined to get to the comet. Engineers who happened to get to work before JPL's closure managed to complete a critical ion engine maneuver that morning.

"The team sort of pulled together and said, 'Well, let's concentrate on doing this,' " Collins said. "I remember personally thinking, 'By gosh, we're going to make this encounter work.' "

Everything hung in the balance on September 22. The DS1 team operated from one floor above JPL's large Mission Control area famous for big Mars rover landings like Curiosity. There was no live televised news event for DS1. Rayman, known for keeping track of exact numbers, estimated that thousands of things could go wrong. Collins was more optimistic: "I figured that our odds were maybe 50-50," he wrote in his journal at the time. Staff coordinator Michelle Leonard brought burritos to the adjacent conference room for the team.

With only a few minutes until the photos from Comet Borrelly were expected to come in, attitude control engineer Tony Vanelli handed out small American flags. Collins donned his search-and-rescue helmet in honor of the 9/11 rescue workers at the World Trade Center site.

The first round of applause erupted because the spacecraft was still communicating after it passed the comet's nucleus. No pictures yet, but spacecraft data indicated that its camera had gotten something in view. Team members looked at one another, shaking their heads. "Every moment we last now, we get safer and safer," Collins wrote in his journal. But the clapping was tentative -- there were still risks ahead.

A Whole New World

DS1's first Borrelly images to the JPL computers were distant and fuzzy. Collins could see a jet forming along one side of the comet. Rayman became a little less anxious with each new picture but still tempered his enthusiasm &ndash after all, these fuzzy views might be the best DS1 could deliver.

And then -- screaming and clapping as a glorious 170-pixel-wide image -- more than three times better than they had planned -- appeared. There on the screen: A strange-looking, peanut-shaped comet nucleus, unlike any space object seen before.

Collins and Rayman cried with joy. Rayman and Riedel hugged. For a few hours after, the only words Rayman could muster were, "I just can't believe how incredibly cool this is." To this day, recalling the moment of seeing those comet photos brings tears to Rayman's eyes.

Riedel still gets tingles up his spine thinking about the comet encounter. While the European Space Agency's Giotto mission had photographed Comet Halley previously, the DS1 images of Comet Borrelly delivered much clearer views.

"From some of the first Borrelly images that splashed on the screen from DS1, the science team began to gain key insights about what makes comets tick," Riedel said. "DS1 gave us a look down into the pocks and crevasses, the smooth plains and oddly-textured fields that mysteriously give rise to the iconic cometary tail. Getting those images gave us, finally, an important idea of what these strange things called comets are."

With world events overshadowing the comet encounter, DS1 did not receive a great deal of attention in 2001. But those who worked on it miss the camaraderie of that special team. There are still occasional reunions.

"It was probably the most fun I ever had here at JPL," Riedel said.

Many DS1 team members have become distinguished leaders at JPL. Rayman is now mission director and chief engineer of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Dawn's mission to orbit the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, was made possible because of DS1's test of ion propulsion. As successful as Dawn has been technologically and scientifically, Rayman will always consider DS1's comet flyby the most amazing moment of his career.

"We got to see something humankind had never seen before, and boy did we pay for it, with an incredibly difficult rescue of a distant, mortally wounded spacecraft and years of no solid reason to believe the comet encounter was going to work so well," Rayman remembers. "I have never had, nor do I ever need to have again, an experience as wonderful as that one. This will last me for a lifetime."


Watch the video: Astronomy - Ch. 2: Understanding the Night Sky 2 of 23 What is the Ecliptic Plane? (June 2022).