THIS WEEK @NASA: Parker Solar Probe Breaks Record, NASA Retires the Kepler Space Telescope

By  //  November 3, 2018

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ABOVE VIDEO: A new record for our mission to “touch” the Sun, the end of an era for a prolific planet hunter, and our next mission to Mars is closing in on its destination … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!

Parker Solar Probe Breaks Record for Closest Spacecraft to Sun

Our Parker Solar Probe is the new record holder for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object.

According to calculations by the Parker Solar Probe team, on Oct. 29, the spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun’s surface, set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976.

When it makes its final closest approach in 2024, Parker Solar Probe is expected to be just 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s surface.

NASA Retires the Kepler Space Telescope

After nine years in deep space, we are ending the science operations of our Kepler space telescope. Data collected by Kepler have helped us discover there are more planets than stars in our galaxy. The telescope has discovered more than 2,600 planets during its mission, many of which could be promising places for life. Kepler will be retired into a safe orbit away from Earth.

NASA’s Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End

After our Dawn spacecraft missed several communications sessions with our Deep Space Network, mission managers ended the historic mission – concluding that the spacecraft has finally run out of the fuel it uses to orient itself in space. Launched 11 years ago, it became the first mission to go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth – visiting the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt – Vesta, and Ceres, the dwarf planet it is currently orbiting. Dawn is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for at least 20 years.

InSight Landing Approaching

Mission managers previewed the InSight mission to Mars during an Oct. 31 briefing at NASA headquarters. The InSight lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet on Nov. 26. Its suite of instruments will study marsquakes, and other activity deep below the Martian surface to help us better understand how all rocky planets formed – including Earth and its Moon.

“On a Mission” Podcast-Episode: “The Danger of Going to Mars”:
“On Mars the atmosphere is thick enough to burn you up on entry.”

Our new eight-episode podcast, “On a Mission” takes you with Insight on its mission to Mars. Episode One lays out the odds of actually reaching the surface safely – fewer than half of Mars missions make it. The first two episodes are available online at nasa.gov/podcasts, the InSight website, SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts.

Space Launch System Rocket Engine Test Series Continues

On Oct. 31, engineers at our Stennis Space Center in Mississippi conducted another ‘hot fire’ test of an RS-25 engine controller, for use on a future flight of our new Space Launch System or SLS rocket. SLS will use four RS-25s to launch astronauts in our Orion spacecraft to deep space destinations, including to the vicinity of the Moon and Mars.

WATCH: Experience High-Resolution Science in First 8K Footage From SpaceRelated Story:
WATCH: Experience High-Resolution Science in First 8K Footage From Space

Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge Industry Day

Urban Air Mobility was the focus of an industry day on Nov. 1 in Seattle. Urban Air Mobility is defined as a safe and efficient system for passenger and cargo air transportation in and around an urban area. We are working with industry, academia and the Federal Aviation Administration to test concepts and technologies necessary to help move this industry forward.

X-59 QueSST Model Tested in Wind Tunnel

Engineers recently tested a sub-scale model of our X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, in a wind tunnel at our Langley Research Center in Virginia. The X-59 will demonstrate quiet supersonic technologies in straight and level flight over a large area. Data from this project could be the path for new commercial markets in supersonic flight in the United States and internationally.

That’s what’s up this week @NASA

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