NASA selected two teams to receive the agency’s Software of the Year Award. A team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., was recognized for their “Land Information System Software (LIS) V4.0; and a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) software.

“This software is a great asset, as NASA pursues the Vision for Exploration. As we return to the moon and on to Mars, these types of software will aid us in our exploration and scientific discoveries,” said NASA’s acting Chief Engineer Gregory Robinson.

The LIS software is a high-performance land surface modeling and data assimilation system. LIS realistically predicts the water and energy cycles, including runoff, evaporation from plants and soil, and heat storage in the ground. This enables observation-driven modeling to help revolutionize the nation’s weather and climate forecasting systems.
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Painting by the numbers is a good description of how scientists create pictures of everything from atoms in our bodies to asteroids and comets in our solar system. Researchers involved in NASA’s Deep Impact mission have been doing this kind of work since the mission’s July 4th collision with comet Tempel 1.

“Prior to our Deep Impact experiment, scientists had a lot of questions and untested ideas about the structure and composition of the nucleus, or solid body of a comet, but we had almost no real knowledge,” said Deep Impact principal investigator Michael A’Hearn, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md. “Our analysis of data produced by Deep Impact is revealing a great deal, much of it rather surprising.”

For example, comet Tempel 1 has a very fluffy structure that is weaker than a bank of powder snow. The fine dust of the comet is held together by gravity. However, that gravity is so weak, if you could stand on the bank and jump, you would launch yourself into space.
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Next Ariane 5 Mission

Arianespace has set September 29 as the date for its next Ariane 5 mission, which will carry a dual-satellite payload from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

The Ariane 5 Generic vehicle is rapidly taking shape in the Spaceport’s assembly building. When completed, it will carry the French Syracuse 3A military communications satellite (built by Alcatel Alenia Space for the French DGA defense procurement agency) and the Galaxy 15 commercial telecom spacecraft (produced by Orbital Sciences Corporation for PanAmSat).

To follow the launch campaign preparations, see the Mission Update story in the Arianespace Website:

CryoSat – ESA’s ice mission

If our planet is warming up, what does the future hold for Earth’s frozen Poles? ESA’s first Earth Explorer mission will precisely measure changes in ice thickness to help predict likely developments. All is explained in this VideoTalk, an exciting multimedia feature.

Visit the new ESA CryoSat site and see the CryoSat videotalk at:

Satellite navigation tracks rally cars

EGNOS makes the difference. This is what was demonstrated at the German round of the World Rally Championship, where some competitors had their paths through the rally stages tracked using satellite navigation. Data from both conventional GPS and from GPS enhanced using the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service were recorded to demonstrate the improvement in positioning accuracy offered by the enhancement system.

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Working atop a range of Martian hills, NASA’s Spirit rover is rewarding researchers with tempting scenes filled with evidence of past planet environments.

“When the images came down and we could see horizon all the way around, that was every bit as exhilarating as getting to the top of any mountain I’ve climbed on Earth,” said Chris Leger, a rover planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.

The summit sits 82 meters (269 feet) above the edge of the surrounding plains. It is 106 meters (348 feet) higher than the site where Spirit landed nearly 20 months ago. Spirit and twin rover, Opportunity, successfully completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004. They have inspected dozens of rocks and soil targets since then, continuing their pursuit of geological evidence about formerly wet conditions on Mars.
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Breath of the Dragon

ERS-2 and Envisat reveal impact of economic growth on China’s air quality

China’s spectacular economic growth during the last decade has brought many benefits ­ and some challenges. Global atmospheric mapping of nitrogen dioxide pollution performed by ERS-2’s GOME and Envisat’s SCIAMACHY reveals the world’s largest amount of NO2 hanging above Beijing and northeast China, as reported in Nature this week.

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered a new era of science operations this week, when engineers shut down one of the three operational gyroscopes aboard the observatory. The two-gyro mode is expected to preserve the operating life of the third gyro and extend Hubble’s science observations through mid-2008, an eight-month extension.

This conclusion followed detailed analysis by engineers and scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. Thorough testing of the two-gyro mode was completed prior to implementation.

The gyros are an integral part Hubble’s complex pointing control system. The system maintains precise pointing of the telescope during science observations. The system was originally designed to operate on three gyros, with another three in reserve. Two of the six are no longer functional.
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