Cassini’s Final Encounter with Saturn’s Giant Moon Titan –“Like the Early Earth”


During NASA’s Cassini mission’s final distant encounter with Saturn’s giant moon Titan, the spacecraft captured this view of the enigmatic moon’s north polar landscape of lakes and seas, which are filled with liquid methane and ethane containing organic molecules that likely could possibly, even under such inhospitable conditions, form structures similar to the lipid bilayers of living cells on Earth.


NASA: Mars’ Curiosity Rover –“Heading Up Mount Sharp to Its Scientific End Zone”


After snagging a new rock sample on Aug. 9, NASA’s Curiosity rover surveyed its surroundings on Mars, producing a 360-degree panorama of its current location on Vera Rubin Ridge under umber skies, darkened by a fading global dust storm. Curiosity is poised to drive to its scientific end zone: areas enriched in clay and sulfate minerals higher up Mount Sharp. That ascent is planned for early October.


“Origins!” –NASA to Live-Stream Discussion of Dawn Spacecraft’s Discoveries on Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will host a live-streamed Science Chat at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Friday, Sept. 7, during which experts will talk about the role of the agency’s Dawn spacecraft in studying the beginning of our solar system, and the approaching end of its 11-year mission.


Moon’s Darkest Polar Regions Harbor Water Ice –“A Key Discovery for Future Manned Missions”

A key controversy of the post-Apollo era was whether the lunar poles might contain water or not.  Although the Apollo samples had been studied and found to be “bone-dry,” we had not been to the poles on any Apollo mission.  We knew that any shadowed areas had to be extremely cold as well as permanently dark.  As water-bearing debris in the form of asteroids and comets constantly strike the Moon, it was thought that some of that water might get into a polar “cold trap” and would be kept there for billions of years.


NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Halfway to the Red Planet –“The Next Picture We Take Will Be of the Surface of Mars”


As of Aug. 20, NASA’s InSight spacecraft had covered 172 million miles (277 million kilometers) since its launch 107 days ago. In another 98 days, it will travel another 129 million miles (208 million kilometers) and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the Red Planet’s deep interior. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.


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