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NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover finds evidence of Ancient Lake

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has found rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater that might have been a lake of liquid water. The scientists believe that the rocks were either transported by a flood or eroded in place by the wind.

Salient Facts

NASA’s Opportunity rover has been investigating on and near the western rim of Endeavour Crater since 2011. The Endeavour Crater is about 22 km across.

Opportunity has found out a pattern of striations running east-west outside the crest of the rim. The features have been observed just outside the crater rim’s crest above “Perseverance Valley”.

To ascertain whether the rocks are present in-place or got transported, scientists plan to drive Opportunity down Perseverance Valley. The Perseverance valley extends for a distance of about two football fields. It slopes down from the crest into the Endeavour crater.

The scientists are looking into several hypotheses for the perched lake. As per one hypothesis, one of the possibility is that a flood might have brought in the rocks and carved out the Perseverance valley. Another believes that the area was fractured by the impact that created Endeavour Crater.

Background

Mars has a rich variety of geological features: huge craters, broad plains, tall mountains, deep canyons, and much more. NASA’s Opportunity, also known as MER-B is a robotic rover investigating the Martian surface since 2004. It was launched in 2003 as a part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover program. The rover landed on the Martian surface in 2004.

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NASA launches World’s Lightest Satellite designed by Indian Student

NASA has launched world’s lightest satellite weighing only 64 grams designed by 18-year-old boy Rifath Sharook from Tamil Nadu. The tiny satellite has been named as KalamSat after the former President APJ Abdul Kalam. The tiny satellite was launched into space on a sounding rocket from NASA’s facility in Wallops Island.

Salient Facts

KalamSat is a 3-D printed satellite. This is the first time that 3-D printing technology is used to make satellites.

To participate in NASA’s contest Cubes in Space in partnership with the global education company, I Doodle Learning, Sharook and his team had designed a 1 kg CubeSat. But as the CubSat was costly the group made a smaller version for the contest and came up with ‘KalamSat’.

By using the concept called BalloonSats, the group created a Near Space Launch Vehicle (NSLV) to launch KalamSat. BalloonSats are designed to carry lightweight experiments into near-space.

The tiny satellite weighs only 64 grams which is lighter than a smartphone. The satellite has been made of reinforced carbon fibre polymer.

The satellite was operated for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space after its flight. The purpose behind the launch of KalamSat was to demonstrate the performance of 3D-printed carbon fibre.

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NASA tests ROSA on Space Station for First Time

NASA is testing the effectiveness of a flexible solar array, the Roll-Out Solar Array, or ROSA, on space station for the very first time. ROSA is expected to one day power satellites and spacecraft. NASA had earlier tested the ROSA technology in vacuum chambers on the Earth but this is the first time it is testing the technology in space.

Salient Facts

ROSA is an advanced, flexible solar array that rolls out like a tape measure. The ROSA is very much flexible so that it can be adapted to different sizes including very large arrays. ROSA is expected to provide power for a variety of future spacecraft and satellites. ROSA will be an asset for satellite radio and television, weather forecasting, GPS and other services used on the Earth.

The NASA engineers remotely attached the ROSA to the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2. ROSA will remain attached to the Canadarm2 over seven days to test its effectiveness. Scientists will test the effectiveness of ROSA  in the microgravity and extreme temperatures of space.

ROSA is smaller and lighter than the traditional panels and has a centre wing build of a flexible material containing photovoltaic cells to convert light into electricity. The narrow arm extends on both the sides of the wing to provide support, called a high strain composite boom. These booms are like split tubes made of a stiff composite material. The technology of the booms will be a boon for communications and radar antennas and other instruments.

Significance

Unlike the traditional solar array panels, ROSA has the potential to make solar arrays more compact and weigh lighter. The traditional solar panels which are at present used to power satellites are very bulky with panels being folded using mechanical hinges. ROSA with significantly less mass and volume can offer substantial cost savings and increase the power for satellites. ROSA is 20% lighter and 4 times smaller in volume than the traditional panels.

In addition, ROSA technology can provide solar power to remote locations.

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