This month in Reaching Orbit, we are going to check in with some of the projects I have mentioned in earlier articles and see how they are fairing.
Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LCDM)
Last month I wrote about the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LCDM), since then the satellite launched successfully on February 11th, 2013. According to NASA the satellite is performing well and is now pointed at Earth. After three months of routine checks and calibration, NASA will hand over control of the LCDM to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and it will be renamed Landsat 8.
On a side note, Landsat 5 set a Guinness World Record for the ‘longest operating Earth observation satellite.’ Landsat 5 has been observing the Earth for 28 years and 10 months, long outliving its design life of three years and collecting more than 2.5 millions images!
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids
In the July 2012 edition of The Geospatial Times, I wrote about potentially hazardous asteroids and NASA’s program to detect them. On February 15, an asteroid – approximately 150 feet in diameter – passed about 17,200 miles above Earth’s surface, which is close enough to be within the orbit of geostationary satellites. Residents of Chelyabinsk, Russia were not so lucky when an asteroid, believed to be about 55 feet in diameter with a mass of 10,000 tons, shot across the sky and crashed nearby. Many residents were drawn to windows as the meteor entered Earth’s atmosphere, creating a bright streak of light before impacting the earth. The shockwave caused by the meteor blew out windows and injured more than 1,200 people, no deaths were reported.
NASA’s Orion program to send a crew beyond Earth’s orbit and the moon recently completed a parachute safety test. The demonstration took place on February 12, 2013 and affirmed that the crew vehicle could land safely if only two of the three parachutes inflated. Engineers rigged the third parachute so that it would lag behind the two others but never inflate. The Orion test capsule was dropped by a plane from 25,000 feet and then landed safely. You can read more about the Orion program in my August 2012 article.
Don’t Panic! It’s still there, being mysterious and crazy, providing more questions than answers.
Recently, the Curiosity rover drilled its first borehole into Mars, which was the first time any rover had successfully drilled into the Martian surface for a sample. The mineral samples collected by Curiosity will be analyzed for any evidence that water was present on Mars. You can read more about Curiosity here.
In other Martian news, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provided a time series of images of the planet’s north pole. It showed seasonal changes as carbon dioxide ice built up on the surface; only to crack, releasing pressurized gas along with sand trapped below the ice which proceeded to fan out on top of the layer that eventually evaporated.