Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Space Highlights - August 24, 2016

August 24, 2016

Two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites were launched into orbit this past week aboard a Delta 4 rocket, on behalf of the U.S. military.  The two satellites are intended to track the movement of other geosynchronous satellites in orbit, to asses threats from either damage or eavesdropping aimed at U.S. commercial and military satellites.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has captured another stunning 360 degree vista of the surface of the red planet, capturing images of eroded buttes and mesas on the horizon.

NASA's asteroid sample return mission has been prepped for launch on September 8th.  The new OSIRIS-REx space probe is intended to capture a sample from an asteroid and return it to earth orbit for eventual collection by a future mission.  The spacecraft will also map the surface of the asteroid that it visits using a laser altimeter.

Planetary scientists are speculating that a recently discovered, Venus-like exoplanet could harbor an oxygen rich atmosphere, based upon models for how intense stellar radiation is expected to decompose water in the upper atmosphere of the planet.  The planet GJ 1132b orbits a red dwarf star some 39 light-years from Earth.  The proposed climate model, however, will have to await more powerful telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope due to be launched in 2018, before it can be verified.

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