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NASA Retires InSight Mars Lander Mission After Years of Science

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An image of the final selfie taken by NASA’s InSight Mars lander on April 24, 2022, the 1,211th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The lander is covered with far more dust than it was in its first selfie, taken in December 2018, not long after landing – or in its second selfie, composed of images taken in March and April 2019. Because InSight’s dusty solar panels are producing less power, the team will soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position (called the “retirement pose”) for the last time in May of 2022.
Credits: NASA

NASA’s InSight mission has ended after more than four years of collecting unique science on Mars.

Mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude the spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries have run out of energy – a state engineers refer to as “dead bus.”

NASA had previously decided to declare the mission over if the lander missed two communication attempts. The agency will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case, but hearing from it at this point is considered unlikely. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was Dec. 15.

“I watched the launch and landing of this mission, and while saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science InSight conducted is cause for celebration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The seismic data alone from this Discovery Program mission offers tremendous insights not just into Mars but other rocky bodies, including Earth.”

Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight set out to study the deep interior of Mars. The lander data has yielded details about Mars’ interior layers, the surprisingly strong remnants beneath the surface of its extinct magnetic dynamo, weather on this part of Mars, and lots of quake activity.

Its highly sensitive seismometer, along with daily monitoring performed by the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the Marsquake Service managed by ETH Zurich, detected 1,319 marsquakes, including quakes caused by meteoroid impacts, the largest of which unearthed boulder-size chunks of ice late last year.

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Such impacts help scientists determine the age of the planet’s surface, and data from the seismometer provides scientists a way to study the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.

“With InSight, seismology was the focus of a mission beyond Earth for the first time since the Apollo missions, when astronauts brought seismometers to the Moon,” said Philippe Lognonné of Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, principal investigator of InSight’s seismometer. “We broke new ground, and our science team can be proud of all that we’ve learned along the way.”

The seismometer was the last science instrument that remained powered on as dust accumulating on the lander’s solar panels gradually reduced its energy, a process that began before NASA extended the mission earlier this year.

“InSight has more than lived up to its name. As a scientist who’s spent a career studying Mars, it’s been a thrill to see what the lander has achieved, thanks to an entire team of people across the globe who helped make this mission a success,” said Laurie Leshin, director of JPL, which manages the mission. “Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye, but InSight’s legacy will live on, informing and inspiring.”

All Mars missions face challenges, and InSight was no different. The lander featured a self-hammering spike – nicknamed “the mole” – that was intended to dig 16 feet (5 meters) down, trailing a sensor-laden tether that would measure heat within the planet, enabling scientists to calculate how much energy was left over from Mars’ formation.

Designed for the loose, sandy soil seen on other missions, the mole could not gain traction in the unexpectedly clumpy soil around InSight. The instrument, which was provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), eventually buried its 16-inch (40-centimeter) probe just slightly below the surface, collecting valuable data on the physical and thermal properties of the Martian soil along the way. This is useful for any future human or robotic missions that attempt to dig underground.

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The mission buried the mole to the extent possible thanks to engineers at JPL and DLR using the lander’s robotic arm in inventive ways. Primarily intended to set science instruments on the Martian surface, the arm and its small scoop also helped remove dust from InSight’s solar panels as power began to diminish. Counterintuitively, the mission determined they could sprinkle dirt from the scoop onto the panels during windy days, allowing the falling granules to gently sweep dust off the panels.

“We’ve thought of InSight as our friend and colleague on Mars for the past four years, so it’s hard to say goodbye,” said Bruce Banerdt of JPL, the mission’s principal investigator. “But it has earned its richly deserved retirement.”

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

Several European partners, including France’s CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

For more information about the mission, please go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/insight

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infrastructure

That year LA declared it was at “Peak Car!”

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Peak Car
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Was there a time it was consider that “The City of Angeles,” had reached “Peak Car?”

I recently came across an article posted by the Metro Digital Resources Librarian on the Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive web site run by Metro Los Angeles. The article talked about LA’s new obsession with the automobile and how it gained popularity, in the early 1920s.

Library researchers pointed out that notable resources concurred with this, including Scott L. Bottles’ Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City, and Ashleigh Brilliant’s The Great Car Craze, How Southern California Collided with the Automobile in the 1920s.

The automobile was new and fresh, and also offered freedom to its owners, who realized that they could become more mobile and not rely solely on the massive LA street car network at the time.  The number of vehicle registrations in Los Angeles had quadrupled in just an eight-year period from 1914-1922.

“Automobile use exploded as the passenger vehicle transitioned from a hobbyist’s pursuit to a relatively affordable means of getting around the sprawling region and beyond.”

Metro Librarian found out what was happening on the public transit side of the story when they found an article published in Electric Railway Journal titled “California and Her Tractions, Part II.

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MetroDigital Resource Librarian:

As one of several features titled “A Series of Articles on Salient Phases of the Electric Railway Situation,” author Edward Hungerford details the then current state of public transit in the Los Angeles area.

And within that overview, he interviews Paul Shoup, Pacific Electric Railways president and vice-president of Southern Pacific Company.

Hungerford documents Pacific Electric’s earnings in a recent six-month period, and asks Shoup “for the real translation of these figures.”

Shoup responds by stating:

They mean that the peak of the competition of the automobile, publicly or privately owned or operated, has been reached out here — and passed. Not only is the rapidly rising cost of cars and tires and gasoline and oil beginning to deter the overenthusiastic motorists, but I think that the novelty of excessive motor riding also is rather wearing off. The hazards of driving on crowded highways are becoming more apparent and parking spaces in towns and cities more a question of doubt.

In addition to our great numbers of motor stage routes in every direction, we now have some 500,000 automobiles in California licensed for pleasure purposes, to which should be added the cars owned and operated by the 100,000 Easterners who come out here every winter. The competitive effect of all these cars has been, and still is, vast indeed. But we already can see in it a declining curve.

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Yes, you reads that right, Shoup declared that personal vehicle usage had peaked and that it was on the decline.

Shoup explains that Los Angeles Railway profits were consistent with those of Pacific Electric, but acknowledges that “increases in both operating cost and taxes had gone ahead a little more than proportionately.” But he intimates that the rising cost of automobile operation (gas, tires) means that cars will cease their encroachment into transit’s share of mobility.

MetroDigital Resource Librarian:

This statement was part of an interview published in a national journal. Was he telling industry professionals what they wanted to hear? Did he want to assuage fears of rail employees that their jobs were going to disappear as more people purchased and used automobiles? Was he hoping that his perspective would turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy so he could remain atop Pacific Electric and Southern Pacific?

You can read the full article here: https://metroprimaryresources.info/when-los-angeles-was-declared-to-have-hit-peak-car-in-1920/15665/

https://stmdailynews.com/category/stm-blog/blog/

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Science

Oklahoma Students to Hear from NASA Astronaut Aboard Space Station

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NASA
GMT362_22_38_Koichi Wakata_1018_Exp 68 crew

Students from Choctaw Nation Head Start, Jones Academy Elementary, and seven area public schools in Durant, Oklahoma, will have an opportunity this week to hear from a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

The space-to-Earth call will air live at 10:20 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 31, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann will answer prerecorded questions from pre-K through 8th grade student participants. The event, hosted by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is an opportunity for students and tribal members to get a firsthand look at living and working in space, inspiring the next generation to pursue STEM. The downlink aligns to students’ current science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum, which uses NASA lessons. The event also includes the opportunity for tribal students to connect and be inspired by Mann, who is the first Native American woman to fly in space.

Media interested in covering the event should contact Randy Sachs at [email protected] or 580-380-2597 no later than 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31.

For more than 22 years, astronauts have continuously lived and worked aboard the space station, testing technologies, performing science, and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. Astronauts living in space aboard the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Near Space Network Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

As part of Artemis, NASA will send astronauts to the Moon to prepare for future human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.

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See videos and lesson plans highlighting research on the International Space Station at:

https://www.nasa.gov/stemonstation

Source: NASA

https://stmdailynews.com/category/science/

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aerospace

NASA Launches Aeronautics Spanish-Language Webpages

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Lee esta nota de prensa en español aquí.

As part of its effort to provide more resources and information to new audiences, NASA has launched new webpages featuring aeronautics information in Spanish. The webpages aim to make aeronautics content more accessible to the Spanish-language community.

“This is a significant step forward in our efforts to make the knowledge we’ve accumulated at NASA available to people all over the country, and the world. We’re making sure that as we explore and tackle the biggest challenges facing aviation, we’re providing benefits for all,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “By presenting aeronautics information and educational materials in Spanish, we’re working to foster a diverse, bold and effective next generation of explorers. We’re counting on this generation to help NASA carry its vision into the future.”

According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the United States, after English. The translation of NASA’s aeronautics content will help inspire the next generation of NASA explorers.

The webpages provide educational material on the work being done by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. They contain information on top agency priorities, including sustainable aviation. NASA is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector by 2050 and works to achieve that goal by leading in fields ranging from green technologies and aircraft design to composite manufacturing and sustainable fuel testing. The new pages will help the agency introduce new members of the public to this work.

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In addition, the webpages will cover technological advances developed by NASA such as the Quesst mission, which will demonstrate quiet supersonic technology, possibly opening the door to commercial supersonic flight over land. Readers will be able to learn about NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility mission, which works to assist with the development of air transportation systems across the country, aeronautics tests at NASA’s wind tunnels and other facilities, and more.

The webpages also contain content designed for young learners focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), intended to help parents and teachers introduce children to these fields of study.

To view the Aeronautics webpages in Spanish, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/aeroes

Source: NASA

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