Current NASA News

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been announcing groundbreaking strides in understanding more of space, other planets, and how the earth functions so efficiently. NASA continues to push the field of science further and further to collect more data of the unexplored. Here are some of NASA’s upcoming plans that have recently been announced.

 

Touch the Sun?

The space agency has announced that it has plans of a mission to create and launch a probe to get closer to the sun than ever before. They anticipate the probe to come within 3.9 million miles of the sun, which has never been done before. The mission is set to depart in the summer of 2018. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is set to handle environments of over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit paired with extreme solar radiation.

The purpose of this mission is to take away data regarding the trace of energy that sources the corona and solar winds. As well, NASA is looking to find more specific information about the magnetic fields and plasma structures from the solar winds. The goal of the probe’s mission is to circle the sun 24 times between the years of 2018 through 2024.

 

Artificial Clouds

NASA has recently released colored artificial clouds on the East Coast of the United States. They released faux blue, green, and red clouds in June of 2017 to test a new system that will aid scientists with studying the auroras of the ionosphere.

Essentially, NASA launched a small sub-orbital rocket off of the coast of Virginia that released fist-sized canisters filled with vapor tracers into the atmosphere. These canisters may appear as colorful clouds. The canisters, or tracers, are made of vapors of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in space, which create the glow. This glow is to visually trace the flow of the particles throughout space.

 

A Hole on Mars?

One of earth’s closest neighboring planets, Mars, has shown a new, giant hole on the surface of the planet. This abnormally deep crater is a bit larger than Mars’ normal swiss cheese surface. NASA has yet to find the source of this new pit formed on Mars but there are many reasons for holes to be formed on Mars’ terrain from meteorite impacts to collapsing lava tubes.

New Defense Against Extraterrestrial Threat

Hollywood films have been preoccupied with the idea of comets and asteroids threatening our very existence for a long time. From blockbusters like Armageddon and Deep Impact to art films like Melancholia, the threat of space debris destroying the earth is a surprisingly common theme.

These kinds of films tend to display very creative interpretations of fact and dramatize this potential threat from space in order to keep viewers interested.

However, it is interesting to note that the US government is beginning to catch up to the plots of these films by announcing an agreement to begin working on planetary defense.

The nation’s agencies that build civilian rockets and nuclear arms revealed on Wednesday  that they will collaborate in order to deflect asteroids and comets that pose a threat to cities or possibly the planet.

For years both NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration — have researched threats of rocky debris from space independently. Both have assessed the space debris, proposed new designs for rocket interceptors and run computer simulations to test if a nuclear blast could force a massive asteroid onto a different trajectory.

Even so, this new interagency pact will formalize the cooperation between the two. The hope is that the two agencies will now be able to better coordinate governmental planning that would lead to better solutions for deflecting this kind of threat.

Alex LakhanpalIn 2013,  a 7,000-ton meteoroid exploded over a city in Russia which injured approximately 1500 people. This tragedy in Chelyabinsk illustrates the potential risk of cosmic debris.

Scientists who prefer nuclear-free  methods of asteroid interception admit that the atomic method would only be necessary if a huge threat appeared too fast for weaker countermeasures

In public interviews officials refuse to comment on whether or not any arms in the nation’s nuclear arsenal have been set aside for countering extraterrestrial strikes. However, it is acknowledged that there is a discussion surrounding possible nuclear options.

Regardless of the true threat of rock debris crashing into our planet and causing large-scale damage, it is encouraging to see government agencies working together in an effort to combat this kind of potential threat in the future. To learn more, see this article from the New York Times.