Curiosity Self-Portrait, Wide View

On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution images to be combined into self-portrait images of the rover. The mosaic shows the rover at "Rocknest," the spot in Gale Crater where the mission's first scoop sampling took place. Four scoop scars can be seen in the regolith in front of the rover. A fifth scoop was collected later. Self-portraits like this one document the state of the rover and allow mission engineers to track changes over time, such as dust accumulation and wheel wear. Due to its location on the end of the robotic arm, only MAHLI (among the rover's 17 cameras) is able to image some parts of the craft, including the port-side wheels. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Ion Thruster Sets World Record for Electric Propulsion Life

While the Dawn spacecraft is visiting the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, NASA Glenn has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. An ion thruster produces small levels of thrust relative to chemical thrusters, but does so at higher specific impulse (or higher exhaust velocities), which means that an ion thruster has a fuel efficiency of 10-12 times greater than a chemical thruster. The higher the rocket's specific impulse (fuel efficiency), the farther the spacecraft can go with a given amount of fuel. Given that an ion thruster produces small levels of thrust relative to chemical thrusters, it needs to operate in excess of 10,000 hours to slowly accelerate the spacecraft to speeds necessary to reach the asteroid belt or beyond. The NEXT ion thruster has been operated for over 43,000 hours, which for rocket scientists means that the thruster has processed over 770 kilograms of xenon propellant and can provide 30 million-newton-seconds of total impulse to the spacecraft. This demonstrated performance permits future science spacecraft to travel to varied destinations, such as extended tours of multi-asteroids, comets, and outer planets and their moons. Image Credit: NASA

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First disabled person to climb Everest, American300 Warrior Tours visit 24th Air Force

Anyone who wants to emulate the guest speaker from the American300 hosted Promise Tour, better understand the need to raise the bar for measuring success higher than most ever will.

Tom Whittaker, who lost his foot in a car accident in 1979, was not impressed when people in the hospital cheered for him when he put on his sock for the first time after the accident, he explained during a speech to more than 120 members of 24th Air Force at Arnold Hall here Dec. 19.

"You better set the bar a lot higher than that," he said raising his hand to neck level.
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“Band of Brothers” descendent brings Vandenberg Airman lost family heirloom

"From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother..." said Henry V, in the "St. Crispin's Day Speech" before the battle of Agincourt in the play "Henry V", by William Shakespeare.

One Vandenberg Airman witnessed the strength of the tie that binds brothers-in-arms together through generations when he received his great-uncle's World War II dog tags in a repatriation ceremony in the 576th Flight Test Squadron's conference room here, Dec. 20.
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Space Fence program moving forward

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here recently put out a request for proposal to move the Space Fence program forward.

Space Fence will be a system of up to two land-based radars, the first site located at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, to track objects entering Earth's orbit. According to program officials, it will form the foundation of improved space situational awareness by expanding the ability to detect, track, identify and characterize orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, smaller objects, maneuvering satellites, break-up events and lower inclination objects.
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Astronaut Chris Hadfield a ready-and-willing guinea pig during stint as ISS commander

Chris Hadfield will soon be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. The exuberant Canadian astronaut, who arrived at the high-flying laboratory Friday for a five-month stay, is also a willing guinea pig.

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Altimeter reading over Cuba

CryoSat altimeter view of sea level and topography over the Caribbean Sea and Cuba. The image shows radar reflections that differ in intensity between the water and elevated land. Near the edges of the island, points of high radar reflections are pictured in red. This is due to the higher reflectiveness of calm waters of the bay and over coral reefs.

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