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One of the many tools that make up the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, the Panoramic Camera has provided an important geological context to the Martian landscape. The high resolution camera aboard the Mars rover continues to reveal a complex, yet strangely familiar geography of a planet that it has spent the past 10.5 years exploring.

The Pancam, as it is referred to, carries 14 different types of filters, allowing for not only full-colour images, but also spectral analysis of minerals and the atmosphere. Using this instrument, rock and soil targets are selected for more intensive study.

The assembled image above - multiple frames taken by Opportunity during the mission's 2,453rd and 2,454th Martian days - is of Santa Maria crater. This "natural color" is the rover team's best estimate of what the scene would look like if we were there and able to see it with our own eyes.

Rooted in the same photographic technology employed by both the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, GigaPan Systems was founded in 2008 as a collaborative project between a team of researchers at NASA and Carnegie Mellon University. As described on the company’s website, their mission is to, “bring this powerful, high-resolution imaging capability to a broad audience.” At 200 times the size captured by today’s standard 4-megapixel digital camera, Gigapixel images allow for remarkable detail within an image leading to what has been described as “virtual exploration”. As GigaPan Systems continue, “Gigapans are gigapixel panoramas, digital images with billions of pixels. They are huge panoramas with fascinating detail, all captured in the context of a single brilliant photo. Phenomenally large, yet remarkably crisp and vivid, gigapans are available to be explored at”

To read more about Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's Panoramic Camera:

To read more about GigaPan Systems:

Celebrate Opportunity’s longevity by writing to Congress to let them know you support doubling funding for NASA:

#NASA   #Penny4NASA   #Mars   #Martian   #MarsRover   #MarsExplorationRover   #Opportunity   #Spirit   #SantaMaria   #MER   #JPL   #Pancam   #PanoramicCamera   #GigaPan   #GigaPanSystems  
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For thirty years, a generation of astronauts embarked on a wide range of dynamic missions utilizing the five shuttles that comprised the Space Transportation System (STS). As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, these robust shuttles provided the means for two of NASA’s finest achievements -- launching the Hubble Space Telescope and constructing the International Space Station. However, according to a article, the space shuttle program has had significant cultural impacts as well.

"One of the greatest legacies of the space shuttle has been its ability to open space to more and different types of people," stated Robert Pearlman, editor of "Many nations saw their first citizen enter space aboard the shuttle, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Spain. The first American female and African-American entered space on the shuttle. The first American of Jewish descent and the oldest person to ever enter space flew on the shuttle, too."

On July 8th, 2011, the launch of STS-135 proved historic, as it was the final flight of the Space Shuttle program, with Atlantis being the mode of transportation. Lasting 12 days, 18 hours, and 28 minutes, STS-135 was an ISS supply mission, with a spacewalk scheduled on the fifth day for ISS maintenance. After successfully completing their mission objectives, the crew prepared Atlantis for its 33rd -- and final -- reentry and landing procedure, which occurred on July 21st. By the end of this mission, Atlantis racked up some impressive stats. The shuttle orbited the Earth 4,848 times, and in doing so, traveled nearly 126 million miles -- more than 525 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. After three decades and 14 satellite deployments, Atlantis was the workhorse of the shuttle fleet. STS-135 CAPCOM operator Barry Wilmore recognized the importance of Atlantis’ final Florida landing.

"We congratulate you, Atlantis, as well as the thousands of passionate individuals across this great space faring nation who truly empowered this incredible spacecraft which has inspired millions around the globe."

Since the completion of STS-135 three years ago, NASA still remains unable to send Americans to space, and must rely upon the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos for passage to the ISS. Hoping that an American-based commercial alternative would be available by 2015 under the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA had an original contract with Roscosmos at roughly $62.7 million per seat aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. However, because of the failure on Congress’ part to fully fund the CCP at optimum levels, that goal was made impossible. Still requiring a means to transport Americans to and from the ISS, on April 30th, 2013, NASA was forced to extend that contract until 2017. 

This extension also comes at a price. The price of one Soyuz seat now requires NASA to pay Roscosmos approximately $8 million more, at $70.7 million/seat. Tell Congress that you support fully funding the Commercial Crew Program and that you want to end NASA’s dependence on expensive Soyuz trips: 

1. Space Shuttle's Lasting Legacy: 30 Years of Historic Feats
2. NASA to Pay $70 Million a Seat to Fly Astronauts on Soyuz

Image Credit: NASA

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Named for abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, NASA's Sojourner rover landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. Unlike previous landing systems that used conventional rockets to decelerate, the Sojourner rover used a parachute and a system of airbags to slow down before the rover dropped roughly 100 feet to the planet's surface. This system comprised the Pathfinder lander, which was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station after successfully delivering the rover. Sagan, a major proponent of the exploration of Mars, passed away shortly after the Mars Pathfinder mission launched on its way to the Red Planet. 

Sojourner then set about its mission to analyze nearby rocks on the surface. Compositional analysis revealed that silica was found in higher concentrations in rocks than the surrounding area. Being found in igneous rocks, such a presence of silica was a hint that Mars may have had a more interesting geological history than was previously thought. Sojourner also sent pictures of the Martian surface back to NASA, while Pathfinder took photographs of the Martian sky. Among the photos from Sojourner were images showing rounded pebbles and conglomerate rocks indicating that different types of soil had been mixed in the past—evidence of a formerly water-rich planet.

Originally scheduled to operate for 7 sols (1 sol is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth), Sojourner had the possibility of extending its mission to 30 sols. In total, Sojourner operated for 83 sols before communications were lost on September 27, 1997. In that time, it covered just over 100 meters of the Martian surface.

Learn more about Sojourner here:
Urge Congress to help fund more planetary explorations:

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The skateboard on mars.
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Before finding himself within the astronaut corps, geologist Harrison Schmitt provided moon-bound Apollo astronauts with important information on how to effectively complete geological fieldwork on the lunar surface. Once these lunar samples were harvested and returned to Earth, Schmitt would participate in their examination and evaluation. Little did he know, Schmitt would soon find himself performing this fieldwork first hand as part of the last Apollo program mission, Apollo 17.

As Lunar Module Pilot, and the only geologist in the astronaut corps, Schmitt’s first and only spaceflight would cement him as one of the last people to have stood on the lunar surface (next-to-last to be exact; Commander Eugene Cernan entered the Lunar Module after Schmitt).

As of today, Schmitt holds the title of first and only professional scientist to have ventured beyond low-Earth orbit and to have set foot on the surface of the Moon.

Celebrate Harrison Schmitt’s 79th birthday by writing to Congress to let them know you support doubling funding for NASA:

Take a look at our ‘The Spirit of Apollo’ video, and consider what raising the NASA budget from less than half a penny up to one full penny on each federal dollar spent can and will do for our economy, for our society, and for our future:

To read more about Harrison Schmitt:

#Penny4NASA #NASA #HarrisonSchmitt #Apollo #Apollo17 #Geologist #Moon #Lunar #Birthday
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During Galileo Galilei's initial observations of Saturn's rings through his telescope in the early 17th century, he was mystified to find the planet's "appendages" appear, disappear, and reappear over the course of 6 years. Why was this the case?

It soon became understood that during the period of disappearance, Earth was crossing Saturn's ring plane, causing the rings of the planet to all but disappear. Much like Galileo's view a few hundred years ago, the Cassini image above is indicative of how incredibly thin the rings are. The main rings are generally only 30 feet thick, though parts of the main and outer rings can be several kilometres thick. Over astronomical distances, its no surprise the rings can simply disappear!

Image Description:
"Saturn's thin ring plane appears in blue, bands and clouds in Saturn's upper atmosphere appear in gold. Details of Saturn's rings can be seen in the high dark shadows across the top of this image, taken back in 2005. Moons appear as bumps in the rings."

#NASA   #Penny4NASA   #Galileo   #Galilei   #Saturn   #Rings   #Cassini   #Space   #Photography  
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#ThingsTimHowardCouldSave : The Dinosaurs

Maybe Tim Howard can help NASA defend against Potentially Hazardous Asteroids?

Congratulations to Tim Howard on a stellar performance in the World Cup!

#TimHoward #USA #USAvsBEL #USMNT #USSoccer #WorldCup #NASA #Penny4NASA  
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Have them in circles
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A product of NASA’s second group of astronauts known as the ‘New Nine’, Charles ‘Peter’ Conrad, Jr. first got his start as an astronaut in September of 1962. Well regarded for his skills as a pilot, it was not long before Conrad was assigned a Gemini mission as pilot of Gemini 5, alongside Commander Gordon Cooper. Interestingly enough, the support crew included two familiar names - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. As part of the Gemini 5 team, Conrad and Cooper set an eight-day space endurance record surpassing the then-current Russian record of five days.

In the four years following this spaceflight, Conrad would see himself selected as not only Commander of Gemini 11, but also Commander of Apollo 12 alongside Command Module Pilot, Dick Gordon, and Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean. As many have noted, the launch was arguably the most distressing of the Apollo program as both power and guidance in the command module were temporarily knocked out following a series of lightning strikes shortly after liftoff.

There have been many memorable sound bites from astronauts stepping down onto the lunar surface for the very first time, however few top that of Commander Pete Conrad when he became the 3rd person to walk on the Moon. In a $500 bet made with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci to prove that NASA did not script astronaut comments, Conrad spoke the words included on this post’s accompanying image.

Conrad's last mission was as commander of Skylab 2 in 1973, the first crew to board the Skylab space station. Sadly, on July 8, 1999, shortly after his 69th birthday and 26 years after his retirement from NASA, he would pass away from injuries sustained in a motorcycling accident.

Honor Pete Conrad’s legacy by writing Congress and telling them to increase NASA's budget:

Read more about Pete Conrad:

#Penny4NASA #NASA #Apollo #Apollo12 #Astronaut #Space
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With its original mission only meant to last 3 months, few would have thought that Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, would remain operational for its 10-year anniversary on the Martian surface in January of this year. Gathering scientific observations and reporting them back to Earth for over 40 times its designed lifespan, the NASA rover has driven 24.62 miles (39.62 kilometers) from its initial landing sight as of July 1st, 2014, setting the record for longest distance driven on another planet by a NASA rover.

Eleven years ago today, Opportunity began its voyage to the Red Planet aboard a Delta II Heavy rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. While it’s companion, Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, ceased communication with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) several months shy of its 6-year anniversary on the Martian surface, Opportunity continues to perform important scientific fieldwork and transmit valuable information back to our planet.

As of July 1st, Opportunity has been exploring south along the west rim of Endeavour Crater as orbital data has suggested the presence of aluminum-hydroxyl clay mineral deposits, produced in the planet’s ancient past when the environment was not only much warmer, but more wet as well.

To read regular updates from the Mars Exploration Rover team:

Celebrate Opportunity’s longevity by writing to Congress to let them know you support doubling funding for NASA:

To read more:

#NASA   #Penny4NASA   #Mars   #Martian   #MarsRover   #MarsExplorationRover   #Opportunity   #OpportunityRover   #Spirit   #SpiritRover   #Endeavour   #MER   #JPL  
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That was a barging engineering project
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Happy 4th Of July From All Of Us At Penny4NASA!

The Cartwheel Galaxy is a ring galaxy located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor. It was once a normal spiral galaxy until it experienced a head-on collision with a nearby galaxy approximately 100-200 million years ago. "Usually a galaxy is brighter toward the center, but the ultraviolet view (blue) indicates the collision actually smoothed out the interior of the galaxy, concentrating older stars and dust into the inner regions. It's like the calm after the storm of star formation," according to Phil Appleton of the California Institute of Technology.

The collision created waves of brief star formation rippling out from its center, the first being the bright blue outermost ring composed of many young massive stars. The second wave is the yellow-orange inner ring where less star formation is taking place. "It's like dropping a stone into a pond, only in this case, the pond is the galaxy, and the wave is the compression of gas," Appleton explained. "Each wave represents a burst of star formation, with the youngest stars found in the outer ring."

Read more about the Cartwheel Galaxy here:

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

#Penny4NASA #NASA #Space #Science #Astronomy #IndependenceDay #4thOfJuly #July4th #Fireworks  
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For nearly a decade, Cassini has proved itself as being an invaluable resource for planetary science. The mission has greatly broadened our collective understanding of Saturn, its 62 moons, and the magnificent ring structure that was once commonly referred to as “ears” by 17th century stargazers. Due to fuel and budget constraints, NASA has been actively planning Cassini’s extended mission. Mission specialists have been planning to bring Cassini within a close proximity of the inner ring structure, with an intent to study Saturn’s atmosphere by 2017.

According to Van Kane of The Planetary Society, “Up until November 2016, Cassini will have stayed well away from Saturn’s rings (except during orbit insertion in 2004) because the risk of catastrophic collision with an ice particle or boulder would be too high. With the fuel almost exhausted, Cassini’s managers want to bring it in close to the rings and Saturn itself. Twenty orbits would carry the spacecraft just outside the rings for close up observations of their structure and mass. (The latter measurements, for example, would help scientists determine how old the rings are.)”

“Following these orbits, the spacecraft would slip into the gap between the innermost ring and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere. From these 22 close-in orbits, the Cassini mission would essentially replicate the measurements that will be made at the same time by the Juno mission to Jupiter: detailed measurements of the interior of Saturn and of its atmosphere." Kane continued, "As a bonus, scientists can make more detailed measurements of the rings. And for all of us who vicariously explore the solar system through these missions, think of how beautiful the images would be looking out at the rings and Saturn from just above the clouds.”

As recent as November, Cassini’s extended mission was in jeopardy. However, the President's FY2015 budget proposal released earlier this year, as well as bills currently making their way through Congress, restored funding through the end of Cassini's extended mission when it is expected to run out of fuel. As of now, the budget for thIs mission is active, but concern remains as this was not the first time in which the planetary science budget has had to be restored. According to the figures provided by The Planetary Society, the operational budgets for Cassini’s next three years are approximately $60 million apiece.

We at Penny4NASA want to ensure that Cassini can make the final leg of its journey. The close observation of Saturn’s atmosphere and inner ring structure represent science that has never been attempted before. An appropriately funded planetary science budget will allow Cassini’s extended mission to take place.

1. Will We Lose Cassini’s "New" Mission at Saturn to Budget Cuts?
2. Further Analysis of NASA's FY15 Budget Proposal: Steady As She Goes?
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Did you see a flying saucer in the skies over Hawaii a few days ago?

Don't worry, it wasn't a UFO. It was a test flight of NASA's next generation spacecraft.

NASA’s self-dubbed ‘flying saucer,’ the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) completed its first successful flight test over the weekend at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility just off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

One of three concepts that NASA is investigating, the inflatable re-entry vehicle’s purpose is to aid in the safe landing of larger payloads on the Martian surface. As part of the test flight, the LDSD was floated to a height of 120,000 feet (37 kilometers) by a giant balloon before separating from the balloon and igniting a solid-fueled rocket booster to reach re-entry speeds. Once reaching necessary speeds, the LDSD deployed an inflatable decelerator parachute before splash down in the ocean. Re-entry technology like the LDSD will benefit not only future robotic missions to the Martian planet, but human missions as well.

Read more about NASA's 'flying saucer' here:

#WorldUFODay #UFO #UFOSightings #FlyingSaucer #LDSD #NASA #Penny4NASA #Mars
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#ThingsTimHowardCouldSave : The Planet

Congratulations to the US Men’s National Team on a great World Cup performance!

Image Credit: +Sierra Club

#TimHoward #USA #USAvsBEL #USMNT #USSoccer #WorldCup #NASA #Penny4NASA  
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Have them in circles
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NASA's annual budget is a half a penny on your tax dollar. Imagine what we could do with a full penny.
Penny4NASA was founded to uphold the importance of space exploration and science. We believe wholeheartedly that our federal funding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at a mere 0.48% of the total, does not reflect the hugely important economic, technological and inspirational resource that this agency has been throughout its 50+ year history. With approximately $10 coming back into the economy for every $1 spent, thousands of new science and engineering students becoming inspired continuously, and the multitude of technologies that NASA research has both directly and indirectly made possible, we believe that NASA needs to be funded at a level of at least 1% of the U.S. federal budget. This isn't a partisan argument, and this isn't a fiscal budget argument, this is the American people saying that as a society our tax dollars to reflect that importance of science and space exploration. And 0.48% doesn't cut it. We are calling for NASA budget to be increased to at least 1% of the US federal budget.
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