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NASA Taps Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab To Develop Solar Missions

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Greenbelt - June 28, 2001
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, has awarded a contract to Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, for assigned research, design, development, mission operations and related technology development as part of the agency's Sun-Earth Connection, Living With a Star (LWS) and Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) programs.

The cost-plus-fixed-fee, 12-year contract has a maximum estimated value of $600 million.

The Sun, the astronomical object most significant to humanity, affects the entire geospace region. Because of the consequences to the Earth of the Sun's dynamic behavior and the rapidly expanding utilization of the geospace region for human activities, a thorough understanding of the Sun's effects has become essential.

The Solar Terrestrial Probes program is a continuous sequence of flexible, cost-capped missions designed to study the Sun- Earth connection.

STP missions will obtain information to answer two fundamental questions: how and why does the Sun vary, and how do the Earth and planets respond? NASA plans to begin this unprecedented study of the Sun and its influence on Earth with the launch of the Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesophere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission later this year.

The Living With a Star program will allow comprehensive study of the cause-and-effect relationships between events at the Sun and their effects in geospace that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems.

The LWS program will employ a series of spacecraft -- ranging from large and sophisticated observatories to observe the Sun and track disturbances originating there, to constellations of small satellites located in key regions around the Earth to measure downstream effects.

Living With a Star will quantify the physics, dynamics and behavior of the Sun-Earth system over the 11-year solar cycle and improve understanding of the effects on terrestrial climate change of solar variability and disturbances.

It will also provide data and scientific understanding required for advance warning of energetic-particle events that affect human safety. In addition, LWS will give scientists a detailed characterization of radiation environments useful in the design of more reliable electronic components for air and space transportation systems.

The work will be performed at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, as well as selected contractor facilities.

Living with a Star is part of the Sun-Earth Connection theme within the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Goddard Space Flight Center manages the LWS program for NASA.

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Changes In Sun's Intensity Tied To Recurrent Droughts In Maya Region
Gainesville - May 17, 2001
The Maya were talented astronomers, religiously intense in their observations of the sun, moon and planets. Now, new research shows something in the heavens may have influenced their culture and ultimately helped bring about their demise.

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