Today’s Tidbits: July 3, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: July 3, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for July 3, 2018:  no word from Oppy; the Moon from ISS;  GRACE-FO satellites shoot at each other. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

No Word from Oppy

Artist’s illustration of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity. Credit: NASA

NASA is still waiting to hear from the Opportunity rover — Oppy  — on the surface of Mars.  A planet-wide dust storm is preventing its batteries from being recharged by the Sun.  It is hunkered down trying to stay warm enough with its tiny radioistope heating units so it can call home when the storm subsides and sunlight can reach its solar panels and get the batteries up to snuff again.

NASA Acting Planetary Science Division Director Lori Glaze told the Planetary Science Advisory Committee yesterday that an attempt was made to connect with the rover last weekend, but with no luck.  The next attempt will be made on July 11.

Oppy was last heard from on June 10, but hopes remain high that it will survive the storm.

The Moon from ISS

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst took this stunning image of the Moon from his perch aboard the International Space Station (ISS).  ESA is holding a 3-day workshop this week on lunar resources and how to utilize them “to return humanity to the Moon and further afield.”

Image of the Moon taken by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/NASA

GRACE-FO Satellites Shoot At Each Other

NASA’s twin GRACE-FO satellites shot lasers at each other today, but it was a friendly greeting.  The two satellites are following each other around in Earth orbit to make very fine measurements of the gravity field, which in turn reveals information about water movement around the planet in all its forms — liquid, solid, and gaseous.

Launched on May 22, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission is, as the name makes clear, a follow-on to the GRACE satellites that operated from 2002-2017.  Like GRACE, GRACE-FO uses microwaves as the primary method for measuring minute changes in the distance between the two satellites caused by gravity changes, but GRACE-FO has an experimental laser system as well.  Lasers are expected to provide even more precise measurements and thus higher quality data.

GRACE and GRACE-FO are cooperative projects between NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ).

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