NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Lands Safely on Mars

NASA's InSight Spacecraft Lands Safely on Mars

For the eighth time ever, humanity has achieved one of the toughest tasks in the solar system: landing a spacecraft on Mars.

The InSight lander, operated by NASA and built by scientists in the United States, France and Germany, touched down in the vast, red expanse of Mars’ Elysium Planitia just before 3pm Eastern Monday

There it will operate for the next two Earth years, deploying a seismometer, a heat sensor and radio antenna to probe the Red Planet’s interior. Scientists hope that InSight will uncover signs of tectonic activity and clues about the planet’s past. Those findings could illuminate how Mars became the desolate desert world we see today.

Mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, erupted in laughter, applause, hugs and tears as soon as the lander touched down.

“That was awesome,” one woman said, wiping her eyes and clasping her colleague’s hand. A few minutes later, a splotchy red and brown image appeared on the control room’s main screen – InSight’s first photograph from its new home.

It was NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s first landing as head of the agency.

“This was an amazing, amazing day,” he said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “To be in the room when the data stops and to know how quiet it gets … and then once the data comes back, the elation.”

Principal investigator Bruce Banerdt began his career as an intern at JPL on the Viking mission, the first successful Mars landing. Seeing the initial grainy image from InSight felt like “coming full circle,” he said. It was an early glimpse at a place on the brink of being explored.

Through the debris covering its camera’s dust cover, InSight captured a small rock (not expected to cause any problems for the science) and the edge of its own foot. Off in the distance, Mars’ horizon looms.

“This thing has a lot more to do,” said entry, descent and landing systems engineer Rob Grover. “But just getting to the surface of Mars is no mean feat.”

The interminable stretch from the moment a spacecraft hits the Martian atmosphere to the second it touches down on the Red Planet’s rusty surface is what scientists call “the seven minutes of terror.”

More than half of all missions don’t make it safely to the surface. Because it takes more than seven minutes for light signals to travel 100 million miles to Earth, scientists have no control over the process. All they can do is program the spacecraft with their best technology and wait.

“Every milestone is something that happened 8 minutes ago,” Bridenstine said. “It’s already history.”

The tension was palpable Monday morning in the control room at JPL, where InSight was built and will be operated. At watch parties around the globe – NASA’s headquarters in Washington, the Nasdaq tower in Times Square, the grand hall of the Museum of Sciences and Industry in Paris, a public library in Haines, Alaska, – legs jiggled and fingers were crossed as minutes ticked toward the beginning of entry, descent and landing.

At about 11:47am, engineers received a signal indicating that InSight had entered the Martian atmosphere. The spacecraft plummeted to the planet’s surface at a pace of 12,300 mph. Within two minutes, the friction roasted InSight’s heat shield to a blistering 2,700 degrees.

Grover released a deep breath: “That’s hot.”

In another two minutes, a supersonic parachute deployed to help slow down the spacecraft. Radar was powered on.

From there, the most critical descent checklist unfolded at a rapid clip: 15 seconds to separate the heat shield. Ten seconds to deploy the legs. Activate the radar. Jettison the back shell. Fire the retrorockets. Orient for landing.

One of the engineers leaned toward her computer, hands clasped in front of her face, elbows on her desk.

“400 meters,” came a voice over the radio at mission control. “300 meters. 80 meters. 30 meters. Constant velocity.”

Engineer Kris Bruvold’s eyes widened. His mouth opened in an “o.” He bounced in his seat.

“Touchdown confirmed.”

Bruvold grinned and threw his hands in the air. Others leaped from their chairs.

Grover let out a relieved chuckle: “Wow, this never gets old.”

Finally, at 12:01 p.m., scientists heard a tiny X-band radio beep – a signal that InSight is active and functioning on the Red Planet.

“Flawless,” Grover said. “Flawless. This is what we really hoped and imagined in our minds eye.

Vice President Mike Pence was among the anxious watchers, Bridenstine said; he called the administrator to congratulate NASA minutes after InSight’s successful landing.

The mission’s objective is to determine what Mars is made of and how it has changed since it formed more than 4 billion years ago. The results could help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet became the dry, desolate world we know it as today.

Early in its history, Mars may have looked a lot like Earth. Magnetization in ancient rocks suggest it had a global magnetic field like that of Earth, powered by a churning mantle and metallic core. The field would have protected the planet from radiation, allowing it to hold on to an atmosphere much thicker than the one that exists now. This, in turn, likely enabled liquid water to pool on Mars’s surface. Images from satellites reveal the outlines of long-gone lakes, deltas and river-carved canyons.

But the last 3 billion years have been a slow-motion disaster for the Red Planet. The dynamo died, the magnetic field faltered, the water evaporated and more than half of the atmosphere was stripped away by solar winds. The InSight mission was designed to find out why.

There is no orbiting spacecraft in the right position around Mars to relay real time information about InSight’s entry descent and landing back to Earth. But as InSight makes its precarious descent, NASA hoped to learn about its status via the MarCo satellites – tiny twin experimental spacecraft known as CubeSats that accompanied the lander on its flight to Mars. Each has solar arrays, a color camera and an antenna for relaying communications from the Martian surface back to Earth.

About 10 minutes before landing, the control room at JPL erupted in applause – both MarCo satellites were working.

“That means the team now can watch the data flowing onto their screens,” said Grover.

Without MarCo, NASA would have had to wait several hours for the details of InSight’s fate. Their success during this mission may provide “a possible model for a new kind of interplanetary communications relay,” systems engineer Anne Marinan said in a NASA news release last week.

The two tiny spacecraft will continue in their sun-centered orbit, and the MarCo team is discussing with NASA options for further projects for the mission.

NASA should know whether the lander’s solar arrays have deployed by Monday evening, thanks to recordings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The agency also will get its first clear images of the spacecraft’s landing site – a vast, flat, almost featureless plain near the equator.

“I’m incredibly happy to be in a very safe and boring landing location,” said project manager Tom Hoffman.

Unlike Opportunity and Curiosity, the rovers that trundle across Mars in search of interesting rocks, InSight is designed to sit and listen. Using its dome-shaped seismic sensor, scientists hope to detect tiny tremors associated with meteorite impacts, dust stormperhaps s and “marsquakes” generated by the cooling of the planet’s interior. As seismic waves ripple through, they will be distorted by changes in the materials they encounter – plumes of molten rock or reservoirs of liquid water – revealing what’s under the planet’s surface.

InSight’s seismometer is so sensitive it can detect tremors smaller than a hydrogen atom. But it also must be robust enough to survive the perilous process of landing. Nothing like it has been deployed on any planet, even Earth.

Designing this instrument, said principal investigator Philippe Lognonné, “was not only a technical adventure, but a human adventure.”

InSight also has a drill capable of burrowing 16 feet – deeper than any Mars instrument. From there, it can take Mars’s temperature to determine how much heat is still flowing out of the body of the planet. Meanwhile, two antennae will precisely track the lander’s location to determine how much Mars wobbles as it orbits the sun.

It will take two to three months for InSight to start conducting science, explained Elizabeth Barrett, science system engineer for the mission.

This is the first time NASA has used a robotic arm to place instruments on the surface of Mars, and the agency wants to be careful. There is no option to send a technician in for repairs if something goes wrong.

“I liken it to playing that claw game at a fairground, but with a very very valuable prize … and you’re doing blindfolded and remotely from 300 million miles away,” Barret said.

But the insights eventually gleaned from InSight won’t only add to what we know about Mars; they could provide clues to things that happened on Earth billions of years ago. Most records of Earth’s early history have been lost to the inexorable churn of plate tectonics, explained Suzanne Smrekar, the mission’s deputy principal investigator.

“Mars gives us an opportunity to see the materials, the structure, the chemical reactions that are close to what we see in the interior of Earth, but it’s preserved,” she said. “It gives us a chance to go back in time.”

Bridenstine said Monday that information from InSight may guide a potential crewed mission to Mars by providing information about Mars’ water, the risk of asteroid impacts, and resources that could potentially be utilized by human explorers.

“The more we learn, the more we’re able to achieve,” he said.

[“source=ndtv”]

Three Ways To Understand And Apply Social Media Insights To Your Business

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The internet has impacted the way most, if not all, industries have evolved. Keeping up with industry trends and available platforms is a job in and of itself. In particular, social media is shaping the way many companies engage with customers and drive sales.

In the education industry, the internet has revolutionized the way people learn and how they interact with their peers. Based on my experience working with social media influencers to engage students, I’d like to share three tips for entrepreneurs in any industry.

Learn how your target audience is using social media.

You can never stay hot for too long in the world of social media. One minute Snapchat is the app of the hour, the next it’s Instagram, and the cycle continues. Social media has secured credibility in recent years as a trusted source of information not only for news but also as a platform for consumers to engage with companies and exchange information.

My company’s target audience is students, and we have found that students today use social media in ways that are foreign to generations that did not grow up in the digital age. For example, “study with me” videos have become a popular internet sensation among youth. My company decided to capitalize on this opportunity by partnering with YouTube influencers to learn how students are using YouTube to study; we then applied that information to our platform to better help our users succeed academically.

Understanding how your target audience is using and benefiting from social media is critical to success. This applies to any business. Many companies are under the impression that all there is to social media is a simple press of a button to post content, but that’s not where the value lies. Building your presence is important, but understanding why you have that presence will help you properly utilize your channels and benefit in multiple ways.

To do so, connect with your target audience and customers. Create surveys, send personal emails or even make phone calls to understand how your customers are using social media and in what ways your business can have a valuable impact. Get a deeper understanding of your audience behavior and which channels you should focus on.

[“source=forbes]

Analytics, Insights Create Exceptional Donor Experiences

It’s an undeniable fact: The experience you create for donors is directly tied to your ability to retain and upgrade them. According to a recent study by Bloomerang, 46 percent of lapsed donors cited they stopped giving because the organization failed to provide a meaningful experience. Today’s donors want to feel recognized, heard, and valued. They want the same kind of personal and relevant experience they get from other brands on a daily basis.

However, creating that kind of donor experience involves more than just assessing a donor’s wealth and giving history. It also involves creating a complete picture of who they are and how they are engaging with your organization.

The methods of engagement was the topic of a session “The Art and Science of creating meaningful experiences at scale for your high value donors,” presented by Hilary Noon, senior vice president, insight, analytics, and experience at Pursuant and Bente Weitekamp, vice president of development at the Community Health Network Foundation in Indiana during the 2018 Bridge To Integrated Marketing Conference.

For some organizations, that might be understanding your donors’ connections to the mission or understanding when your last point of connection was or how they were impacted by your organization. Described below are a few ways your organization can build more meaningful relationships with your donors by applying what you learn from “listening” to them, according to Noon and Weitekamp.

* Dig Into All of Your Data Sources: Look at all of the data and insights you have about your donors — including information that lives outside of the development department or a structured system. This might include determining if and how they benefited from your organization, event registrations, marketing activity, etc. Tap into anecdotal feedback from your staff and volunteers on the front line who interact regularly with your donors.

Look at online behavior. What are they clicking on? What content are they consuming? What sites are they coming from before they arrive at your page?  Where are they going next?

Using data to find out everything you can about your donors enables you to provide them with an experience that is tailor-made to their specific passions and interests.

* Capture Motivations And Preferences Through Primary Research And Social Insights:One of the simplest ways to listen to your donors is to ask them. There are many mechanisms for doing this including surveys, focus groups and social listening. Surveys that ask donors why they gave, and how and when they’d like to hear from you ensures you’re not bombarding them with information they don’t care about and allows you to avoid wasting money. This is most effectively done as close to a transaction as possible. Just be sure you clearly communicate why you are asking for their feedback and how it will be used. Help them see what is in it for them.

While it might seem like giving donors’ the option to choose how and when they hear from you is giving up control, it often leads to greater response rates and increases the likelihood that the donor will feel more connected with your organization’s brand.

Using a social media monitoring or listening tool will provide insight into what people are saying about your organization, the volume of the buzz and the sentiment associated with your brand. Conversations about specific events or programs that your organization hosts can provide great insights into the experiences people are having and where improvements can be made. Keep in mind that social media is often where people go to share opinions in the extreme so use these tools along with the other tools mentioned to give you a more balanced view.

These tools can give you an important view into the hearts and minds of your donors. The key is to use the information you capture to improve the donor’s experience.

* Create Immersive Experiences That Drive Engagement: Immersive experiences are difficult to offer to all donors. Digital fundraising provides nonprofits with a new opportunity — at scale — to not only engage donors, but “listen” to them based on how they respond and interact.

For organizations that are fortunate to have a bricks and mortar presence, such as a hospital, a school or an arts organization, immersive experiences can be delivered in person. Today, every organization has the opportunity to create similar experiences through an interactive digital campaign that unlocks why donors care about your cause.

It isn’t as easy as simply putting an experience online, however. Gather what data and insights you have about your donors from listening to them and then map out the kind of experience that would be most meaningful to them. Be open to continuously refining and improving upon it as you go forward.

Where and how to start

Before you set out to build a listening program, determine which donors are highest priority to focus on. Prioritizing will allow you to go deep with one segment and improve the likelihood that you will create a relevant experience that will drive results.

The speakers suggested zeroing in on a specific aspect of your priority donors’ experience. Choose something that is meaningful to your organization and where you are most likely to have an impact. Consider choosing an experience that is led by a colleague who really supports your desire to focus on the donor experience.  Having a champion for your work will make the whole effort more enjoyable and will improve the likelihood that you will see positive results.

Transform the Donor Experience

Developing an exceptional experience isn’t just a “nice” thing to do for your donors. It’s one of the leading influencers in their desire to give again. It’s what transforms “transactional” fundraising, where you’re primarily soliciting donations with every touch, into a long-term “transformational” relationship-building approach to fundraising.

Taking the time to consider how your organization can leverage analytics and insights to create a more an intentional and meaningful experience will pay off… for your donors AND your organization.

[“Source-thenonprofittimes”]

Insights On Leadership And Neighborhoods From Executive Director Of Providence Revolving Fund

In its fourth decade, the Providence Revolving Fund (PRF) preserves the architectural heritage of one of the nation’s oldest cities through lending, real estate development, advocacy and technical assistance. In preservation parlance, a revolving fund is a program or, in PRF’s case, an entity which works a pool of capital in a visible way to save endangered properties and strengthen neighborhoods—with monies returning to the fund to be used for similar reinvestment. The nonprofit’s potency is substantial for Providence neighborhoods, having made 470 loans to moderate- and lower-income families; purchased and developed 63 buildings; facilitated $33 million in financing and leveraged an additional $250 million.

Restoration work in progress assisted by the Providence Revolving Fund.COURTESY OF PROVIDENCE REVOLVING FUND

Now a new era dawns for the Providence Revolving Fund, with the hiring of Carrie Zaslow as executive director. The community development professional has a wealth of experience in capital management for housing affordability and revitalization of commercial corridors. She also served as vice chair and chair of the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission.

Restored and assisted by the Providence Revolving FundCOURTESY OF PROVIDENCE REVOLVING FUND

Tom Pfister: Some people view challenges with neighborhoods as insurmountable. Others are on the fence. What would you say to persons who are unsure about whether to volunteer for or work at organizations that focus on supporting the delicate balances of healthy, inclusive, livable neighborhoods?

Carrie Zaslow: I have a fundamental belief that everyone should be able to live in neighborhoods that are safe, that have performing schools, that have recreation and fresh food available, where residents can thrive, and that honors the history and culture of the neighborhood. With that belief, there needs to be a balance on a policy level that will prevent displacement of current residents even if the neighborhood becomes attractive to others. With that said, I would tell people that community development is hard work, often decades in the making, but it is also immensely satisfying—especially when you speak with the neighborhood residents, and you meet the family that finally has an apartment up to code, lead safe and at a rent they can afford, and they can finally take a deep breath.

MORE FROM FORBES

Pfister: What are the most common misconceptions about affordable housing?

Executive Director Carrie Zaslow of the Providence Revolving FundPHOTO BY IAN TRAVIS BARNARD / COURTESY OF PROVIDENCE REVOLVING FUND

Zaslow: The biggest misconceptions about affordable housing are that it’s housing for people with no jobs and no income, that it will decrease the value of homes nearby and be a burden to the community. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Over 51% of Rhode Island renters are cost-burdenedby housing costs—they are paying more than 30% of their income on housing. A teacher or emergency medical technician supporting a family can longer afford to buy a market-rate house anywhere in Rhode Island. The Providence Revolving Fund has made a priority of both creating and supporting affordable housing that protects Rhode Island’s historic housing stock, and creating affordable housing that is visually beautiful. Today’s affordable housing is well designed, energy efficient and healthy. Families living in healthy and stable conditions are able to increase their family wealth and see their children perform better in school.

Pfister: What lesson have you learned about genuine leadership that guides you?

Zaslow: It’s important to take calculated risks. To understand that true innovation means accepting the possibility of failing. That you can’t let missteps define you—you learn from them and move on. To be a great leader, you are able to extend this mindset to your entire team, so as to create an atmosphere that promotes creativity and innovation.

Pfister: When you worked in other capacities within Providence neighborhoods and organizations, what did you admire from afar, so to speak, about the Providence Revolving Fund?

Zaslow: I always saw the Providence Revolving Fund as a strong organization with a talented staff. I knew founding Executive Director Clark Schoettle and Associate Director Kim Smith, and I admired their work and commitment. The organization is unique as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that works with both homeowner-borrowers and real estate developers in the area of historic preservation, and then as a developer itself of affordable housing in historic districts. What stood out for me about PRF was its shared belief in the power of the culture of a neighborhood and the importance of preserving it.

Pfister: Here at the starting line of your tenure as executive director, what is the highest priority facing the Providence Revolving Fund?

Zaslow: Our highest priority is equipping ourselves to meet the evolving needs of Providence neighborhoods and that means growth. The Providence Revolving Fund is one of only four CDFIs working in Rhode Island, and the only one working on historic preservation. Demand for the work we do is high and we will be developing new ways to meet that need.

For more than 25 years, I’ve served as a practitioner in real estate: e.g., I’ve directed a revolving fund for historic properties; raised and underwrote capital for resident-led development in underserved neighborhoods.

[“Source-forbes”]