If Mars were a perfectly smooth sphere of uniform density, the gravitational pull experienced by an orbiting spacecraft would be exactly the same everywhere on the planet. But like other rocky bodies in the solar system, including Earth, Mars has both a bumpy surface and a lumpy interior. This causes the gravitational pull felt by a spacecraft to change ever so slightly as it circles Mars. For example, the pull will be a bit stronger over a mountain, and a little weaker over a canyon. Using small fluctuations in the orbital data from three NASA spacecraft—Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—scientists created a new map of Mars' gravity field. The map is the most detailed to date, and provides a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet. Watch the video to learn more.
NASA's GRACE-FO team plans to switch to a backup system in the Microwave Instrument on one of the twin spacecraft this month.
The laser ranging interferometer (LRI) instrument has been successfully switched on aboard the recently launched twin U.S./German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites.
Antarctic ice losses have tripled since 2012, raising global sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters) in that timeframe alone, finds a new NASA/ESA-funded climate assessment.
GRACE-FO has completed its first mission phase and demonstrated the performance of the precise ranging system that enables its measurements of how mass migrates around Earth.
All flight and ground systems have performed well throughout the Launch and Early Operations Period. The accelerometer and microwave science instruments have been powered on successfully and the two satellites are in relative pointing mode.