The news office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory covers mission events, science and discoveries from JPL’s dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond. Read the latest news from NASAJPL


The women of the Mars Science Laboratory mission

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover this week completed its first Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- since landing in August 2012. Each day of the rover working on Mars requires several dozen rover team members completing tasks on Earth.

To celebrate reaching this longevity milestone, which had been set as one of the mission's goals from the start, the Curiosity team planned staffing a special day, with women fulfilling 76 out of 102 operational roles.

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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover this week completed its first Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- since landing in August 2012. Each day of the rover working on Mars requires several dozen rover team members completing tasks on Earth.

To celebrate reaching this longevity milestone, which had been set as one of the mission's goals from the start, the Curiosity team planned staffing a special day, with women fulfilling 76 out of 102 operational roles.

"I see this as a chance to illustrate to girls and young women that there's not just a place for them in technical fields, but a wide range of jobs and disciplines that are part of the team needed for a project as exciting as a rover on Mars," said Colette Lohr, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

"There's no practical way any one person could learn all the disciplines needed for operating Curiosity," she said. "It takes a team and we rely on each other."

Disciplines range from soil science to software engineering, from chemistry to cartography, in duties ranging from assessing rover-temperature data freshly arriving from Mars to choosing where to point the rover's cameras. Descriptions of the roles, along with names and locations of the team members filling them today, are part of Curiosity Women's Day information available at:

http://go.usa.gov/9d3x

Lohr's role today is strategic mission manager, which means she is responsible for review and approval of plans being developed and modified during the day for rover activities more than three or four days in the future.

She and most of the other engineers and managers on the team are at JPL in California. Today's team, not atypically, also includes members working in 11 other U.S. states, from Massachusetts to Montana, and four other nations: Canada, France, Russia and Spain. Each of the rover's 10 science instruments has people responsible for evaluating newly received data and planning to get more data. Other scientists participating in operations serve on theme groups that pull together information from multiple instruments and choose priorities for upcoming activities.

Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp of JPL helped organize the special day and will fill the project scientist role, providing scientific leadership in the strategic planning process. She said, "The team has both scientists and engineers, but it's one team working together to accomplish the mission goals."

Each day's rover activities must be planned to fit within budgets of how much time, power and data-downlink capacity are available.

The operational roles fall into categories of tactical, supra-tactical and strategic, which focus, respectively, on the next day's rover activities, the activities two to five days ahead, and planning for weeks or months ahead.

"While some people are focused on today's plan for tomorrow, we need other people to be looking further ahead," Crisp said. "We wouldn't be able to plan complex activities for the rover if we started from scratch each day. We do a lot of work to get a head start on each day."

The operations team for Curiosity is larger than the operations teams for the previous generation of rovers, NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. In an experience similar to Women's Curiosity Day, one day in February 2008, Spirit's tactical operations team of about 30 people was almost entirely women.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Curiosity, visit:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl , http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity

http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity

TAGS: Women in STEM, Curiosity, Science, Engineering,

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An emcee gets the crowd pumped up as students prepare their robots for the competition

Soaring strains of the American and Chilean national anthems kicked off the 2014 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Los Angeles Regional Qualifier. Cheers from students of both nations erupted during the event's closing ceremonies, when it was revealed they would move on in competition.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., sponsored 10 teams from Southern California at this competition as part of NASA's Robotics Alliance Project. JPL also oversaw volunteer coordination for the event and provided 30 volunteer workers, including judges, referees, field re-setter and game announcer.

All 66 high school robotics teams competing in the L.A. qualifier, held March 21 and 22 at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif., were vying for spots at the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships to be held in St. Louis, April 23-26.

Winning teams progressing to championships include:
- Team 2576, Chilean Heart--Corporacion Corazon Technologico y Cientifico de Chile
- Team 3309, Friarbots--Servite, Connelly and Rosary high schools, Anaheim, Calif.
- Team 4997, The Golden Machine--Long Beach Polytechnic and Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach, Calif.
- Team 1717, D'Penguineers--Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy, Goleta, Calif.
- Team 5124, West Torrance Robotics--West Torrance High School, Torrance, Calif.
- Team 294, Beach Cities Robotics--Redondo Union and Mira Costa High Schools, Redondo Beach, Calif.

The 2014 challenge, "Aerial Assist," is played between two alliances of three teams each. Each alliance tries to score as many balls in goals as possible during a two-minute-and-30-second match. Additional points are earned by robots working together to score goals, and by throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor as they move the ball down the field.

More information and a short video about FIRST are at: http://www.usfirst.org/

Detailed match results and the complete list of award winners are available at: http://thebluealliance.com

More information on NASA's Robotics Alliance Project is at: http://robotics.nasa.gov/

TAGS: FIRST Robotics, Team Competitions, Robotics

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Arcadia High School's 2014 Ocean Bown team

They came from all over the Golden State, from San Francisco to San Dimas -- 24 teams of five students -- to compete in the 15th annual JPL-sponsored regional Ocean Sciences Bowl, a "Jeopardy"-style competition. The event was held over 13 hours on Saturday, March 15, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The round robin-style "Surf Bowl" featured multiple choice questions and longer, critical thinking-based team challenge questions on ocean-related topics.

At the end of the long day, it was northern California vs. southern California - Arcadia High School vs. San Francisco's Lowell High School. San Francisco hadn't lost a single round in the double-elimination tournament. So in essence, if Arcadia were going to win, they'd have to beat their northern competitors twice, which is exactly what they did to not only win, but also defend their regional title.

"Since we won here last year, we were really looking forward to this weekend and retaining our title," said Arcadia captain Kathy Lee. "Most of our team from last year graduated, so this was mostly a new team and we were really eager to show that we could defend the regional title. And now we're looking forward to defending the national in Seattle, which we won last year."

Taking third place in the competition was Santa Monica High School, while Woodbridge High School won the Good Sportsmanship Award.

The competition was developed to foster the next generation of marine scientists, researchers and environmental advocates. The National Ocean Sciences Bowl is a program of the nonprofit Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, based in Washington, D.C.

Prizes consist of trips to Catalina Island to visit the Wrigley Marine Science Center, part of USC's Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.

More information about the National Ocean Sciences Bowl is at: http://nosb.org/

TAGS: Ocean Bowl, Team Competitions, High School, Arcadia High School

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University High School at the Regional Science Bowl competition

University High School of Irvine, Calif., beat out 23 other local high schools in an all-day, "buzzer-beater"-style Science Bowl held at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

They came from many areas of Southern California -- from Palm Desert to Santa Barbara, from Irvine to Pasadena -- 24 teams of five students -- to compete in the 22nd annual JPL-sponsored Regional Science Bowl, a "Jeopardy"-style competition. The event was held over eight hours on Feb. 1 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

But at the end of the long day, only one team survived the double-elimination-style tournament: University High School from Irvine, Calif.

"We started this process in July," said University captain Jiho Park. "So it's the culmination of all our efforts since last summer, practicing as much as four or five hours a week as the competition got closer."

Jiho was in the same position last year, as they won the regional but then only placed fourth in the national. This time, he said, they hoped to go all the way.

Coordinated by the Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl quizzes students on biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and Earth and space sciences. The competition, which attracts about 20,000 middle and high school students nationwide, is designed to inspire students to pursue a career in science or math.

The program clearly works. When Jiho Park graduates University High School, he hopes to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and study biochemistry. From there, he says he'll get a Ph.D and work on research and development of drugs to fight cancer.

The University High School team will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, to compete in the National Science Bowl on April 24 to 28. Other prizes included a trophy, medals, winner's banner and NASA gear.

The runner up, Arcadia High School, also received medals and NASA gear. The sportsmanship award went to San Dimas High School for their exceptional graciousness with other teams and competition officials, spirit of fair play and enthusiasm for science. They were awarded a trip to Catalina Island to visit the Wrigley Marine Science Center, part of USC's Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.

TAGS: Science Bowl, Team Competitions, High School, University High School

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Regional Science Bowl 2013 winners

University High School of Irvine buzzed their way to victory on Saturday, Feb. 2, in the Los Angeles regional round of the National Science Bowl competition at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Battling through questions about Saturn's moon Mimas, parallel-plate capacitors and hydrogen bonding in organic molecules, University earned 80 points in the final match against the second place team, Arcadia High School, which scored 24 points.

Santa Monica High School placed third out of the 24 teams from Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Barbara counties that gathered at JPL on Feb. 2. The sportsmanship award went to Maranatha High School of Pasadena for their exceptional graciousness with other teams and competition officials, spirit of fair play and enthusiasm for science.

Coordinated by the Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl quizzes students on biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and Earth and space sciences. The competition, which attracts about 20,000 middle and high school students nationwide, is designed to inspire students to pursue a career in science or math. The JPL regional high school competition has been in existence for 21 years.

The main prize for the winners of the regional competition is an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Science Bowl on April 25 to 29, 2013. Other prizes for University High School included a trophy, medals, winner's banner, a NASA backpack, calendars with space images and a toy version of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover. The main prize for the sportsmanship award winners is a trip to Catalina Island to visit the Wrigley Marine Science Center, part of USC's Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.

TAGS: University High School, Irvine, Team Competitions, Science Bowl

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PASADENA,Calif. – Middle-school students and their teachers gathered in Washington last Friday (6/1) to demonstrate science lessons and highlight images they took from lunar orbit using NASA’s lunar orbiting Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft and its MoonKAM system. Along with demonstrating their knowledge of the moon and science, the students listened top resentations from the GRAIL mission’s lead scientist, Maria Zuber, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren, and Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space. The event took place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

“I was more than impressed with the student demonstrations and their grasp of lunar science, I was blown away,”said Maria Zuber, principal investigator of the GRAIL mission from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “The GRAIL mission and MoonKAM are making a difference in young student’s lives one image at a time.”

MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is the education and public outreach instrument aboard the lunar orbiting GRAIL spacecraft. MoonKAM provides students around the world with an opportunity to identify and choose images of the moon's surface using small cameras aboard the two lunar orbiters of GRAIL – Ebb and Flow. To date, over 80,000 pictures of the lunar surface have been commanded, imaged and received by fifth- to eighth-grade students. The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride and her team at Sally Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego.

“The MoonKAM program brings out students’ natural enthusiasm for science,” said Sally Ride. “Many of these students will be our future scientists and I expect some of them may even visit the craters they photographed.”

The GRAIL mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA's Deep Space Network is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of thesolar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For information about MoonKAM, visit: https://moonkam.ucsd.edu.

For more information about GRAIL, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/grail.

TAGS: MoonKAM, GRAIL, Moon, K-12

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