by Dr. Ken Kremer, Universe Today & AAAP
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MD – An armada of four identical spacecraft comprising NASA’s groundbreaking Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will soon fly through Earth’s magnetic reconnection events to capture the first 3-D maps of this little understood process that releases vast amounts of energy into the magnetosphere that protects Earth.
On May 12, 2014, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Science Chief John Grunsfeld and Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese made a special visit to inspect the observatory quartet in their rarely mated and fully stacked launch configuration inside the Goddard cleanroom. I was there for a firsthand look and detailed briefing from NASA’s leaders and the mission team about the science goals.
“MMS will help us study the phenomena known as magnetic reconnection and help us understand how energy from the sun – magnetic and otherwise – affects our own life here on Earth,” NASA Administrator Bolden told me standing beside the MMS spacecraft.
Magnetic reconnection is the process whereby magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect while explosively releasing vast amounts of energy. It occurs throughout our universe but is best studied ‘in situ’ in Earth’s magnetosphere. MMS launches in March 2015 aboard an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
For more on my interview with NASA Administrator Bolden about NASA’s MMS and human spaceflight programs read my articles here:
Antares Rocket Launch to ISS, June 17: NASA Wallops Island, VA. Evening outreach Jun 15-17 at Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA.