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NASA selects proposals to further explore the fundamental nature of space

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2019 / PRNewswire / – NASA has selected two suggestions for conceptual research that could help us better understand the fundamental nature of space and how it changes in response to planetary atmospheres, solar radiation, and interstellar particles. These proposals will contribute to the development of NASA's heliophysics program and can provide better protection for both technology and people as we travel farther from home.

Each of these offers of the Heliophysics Opportunity Mission will receive $ 400,000 conduct a nine-month study of the mission concept. After research, NASA will choose one proposal to launch as an interstellar mapping probe and agency acceleration (IMAP) as a secondary payload.

Proposals were selected based on the potential scientific value and feasibility of development plans. The total cost of this Mission of Opportunity is limited. 75 million dollars and is funded by NASA's Solar Earth Probes Program.

Selected offers:

Spatial / Spectral Image of the Heliosphere Estuary Alpha (SIHLA)
SIHLA will map the entire sky to determine the shape and underlying mechanisms of the boundary between the heliosphere, the area of ​​magnetic influence of our sun and the interstellar medium, the border known as heliopause. Observations collect far-ultraviolet light emitted by hydrogen atoms. This wavelength is key to the study of many astrophysical phenomena, including planetary atmospheres and comets, because most of the universe is composed of hydrogen. SIHLA will focus on mapping the speed and distribution of the solar wind – the outflow of particles from the Sun – helping to understand our understanding of what drives the structure in the solar wind and heliopause. This is an area of ​​research that is developing rapidly thanks to data from NASA missions such as Voyager, Parker Solar Probe and Interstellar Boundary Explorer.

Chief Investigator SIHLA Larry Paxton on Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel, Maryland,

Global Lyman alpha dynamic exosphere scanners (GLIDE)
The GLIDE mission will study the variability of the exosphere of the Earth, the uppermost region of its atmosphere, tracking the far ultraviolet light emitted by hydrogen. The proposed mission will fill the existing measurement gap, since only a few such images were previously taken from outside the exosphere. The mission will collect observations at high speed, taking into account the entire exosphere, providing a truly global and comprehensive dataset. Understanding how the Earth's exosphere changes in response to the influence of the Sun above or the atmosphere below will provide us with better forecasting methods and ultimately mitigate the ways in which space weather can interfere with radio communications in space.

The main researcher for GLIDE is Lara Waldrop on University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana,

IMAP is currently scheduled to launch in October 2024 revolve around the point between the Earth and the Sun, known as the first Lagrangian point, or L1. From there, IMAP will help researchers better understand the interstellar boundary region where Sun particles collide with material from the rest of the galaxy. This remote area controls the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere, the magnetic bubble that protects our solar system from surrounding charged particles. Cosmic rays from the galaxy and beyond affect cosmonauts and can harm technological systems. They can also play a role in the presence of life in the universe.

From the start of the IMAP mission statement, NASA's Science Mission Office (SMD) had planned to include a secondary spacecraft in the launch as part of SMD's new Rideshare initiative, which cuts costs by sending multiple missions in a single launch. This launch will also include a demonstration mission on heliophysical technology, which will be announced separately, to test technologies that can support future scientific missions, and a National Space Weather (NOAA) space weather observation mission that will enable the agency on space weather forecasting.

“Running these missions together is a great way to get the most out of science while keeping costs low,” he said. Peg Luce, Deputy Director, NASA Heliophysics Department. “We are carefully selecting new heliophysical spacecraft in addition to the well-positioned spacecraft that NASA has in orbit to explore this vast solar wind system – and our joint travel initiative is increasing our ability to send such key missions into space.”

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