Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Goddard Planetary Instruments Score a Hat Trick

06.12.2013
Planetary instruments from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., hit the trifecta on Dec. 4, running three experiments of the same kind at different places in space.

The instruments, all flying on NASA missions, are mass spectrometers, designed to take in atmospheric, rock or soil samples and identify particular molecules in them. The investigations lined up because of the operating schedules for the three, which must take turns with other instruments on their respective spacecraft.


Three mass spectrometers built at Goddard were operating on the same day at the moon, on Mars and en route to Mars. Image Credit: NASA

“At the moon and Mars and part way in between, we had three mass spectrometers happily operating in their other-worldly environments or being checked out for the first time in space on the same day,” said Paul Mahaffy, the principal investigator for the instruments.

Goddard’s Planetary Environments Lab, headed by Mahaffy, built all three instruments. The mass spectrometers identify gases in atmospheric samples or gases that get released from rock or soil samples as they are processed. To pick out individual components in a sample, an electron beam is used to break the large molecules into smaller fragments. Then high-frequency electric fields are applied to the resulting mixture to sort the fragments by mass and electric charge, producing a fingerprint of the molecules present.

Stationed at the moon was NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, which entered an equatorial orbit on Nov. 20 and began science operations the following day. On Dec. 4, the mission’s Neutral Mass Spectrometer was checking out the moon’s thin atmosphere. The instrument will continue to collect samples over multiple orbits with the moon in different space environments.

En route to Mars was NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission. Launched on Nov. 18, the spacecraft is in the early cruise phase and is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014. The mission’s Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer was turned on for the first time on Dec. 4 and measured calibration gases in the instrument.

Upon the spacecraft’s arrival at Mars, the instrument will study the planet’s fragile upper atmosphere, examining its composition and determining how quickly some of the gases are escaping into space over time. This information will help scientists understand what the Martian atmosphere looked like billions of years ago and how most of it has been lost since then.

On the surface of Mars was NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which carries the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. SAM has been analyzing multiple samples of the atmosphere and soils and rocks to help scientists understand how habitable Mars was in the past.

“With these studies, mass spectrometry is helping us piece together the histories of the moon and Mars and offers a vision of their futures,” said Mahaffy. “It’s a perfect example of how invaluable these instruments are for space science.”

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. Goddard manages the MAVEN mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., built the Curiosity rover and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California manages the LADEE mission.

By Elizabeth Zubritsky

Liz Zubritsky | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/goddard-planetary-instruments-score-a-hat-trick/#.UqDzAOKFdnk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>