NASA announced the impossibility to reactivate the radar of its SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite. The instrument ceased to function on July 7 and NASA engineers had been trying to reactivate it for weeks but without success. SMAP is an observatory designed to monitor the moisture present in the top 5 centimeters (2 inches) of soil and now will continue its mission in a limited way.
NASA announced the choice of a target for the second mission of the New Horizons space probe. It’s a so-called Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) officially called 2014 MU69. Informally called PT1 (Potential Target 1), it’s one of the objects selected in October 2014 among those discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope with just that purpose.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is carrying out a mapping of the dwarf planet Ceres and with its camera is capturing extraordinary images better than those available so far, with a resolution of 140 meters (450 feet) per pixel. Among the geological features photographed there’s a mountain about 6 kilometers (4 miles) high that had already intrigued scientists and public because it looks like a pyramid and its sides are covered with brilliant material.
NASA invited people around the world to participate in an initiative to send your name to Mars. You just need to record some data on the page prepared by the Agency on its website to get a virtual boarding pass. All names will be recorded on a microchip that will be transported on the InSight lander, which is scheduled to be launched in March 2016 to land on Mars in September 2016.
A photograph of the galaxy NGC 428 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows its distorted and warped structure. Together with traces of a significant amount of stars being formed, it’s the sign of the merger between two galaxies. For this reason, its appearance could give us an idea of what will happen in a few billion years to the Milky Way in its merger with Andromeda.