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Spaceport is built, but who will come?

September 24, 2012 2:06 pm | by Jeri Clausing, Associated Press | News | Comments

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says it will be New Mexico's Sydney Opera House. Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson has hinted it will host the first of his new brand of lifestyle hotels. But the nearly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar Spaceport America in New Mexico project has yet to attract the sort of industrial and investment activity expected, even as it nears phase one completion.

Slow-moving rocks better odds that life crashed to Earth from space

September 24, 2012 9:54 am | News | Comments

Microorganisms that crashed to Earth embedded in the fragments of distant planets might have been the sprouts of life on this one, according to new research. The research team reports that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth during the solar system's infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid materials.

Demonstrated: Nanotube transistors can survive space

September 18, 2012 6:02 am | News | Comments

As part of their investigation of the effects ionizing radiation has on crystalline structures found in single-walled carbon nanotube transistors, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory engineers have recently shown these devices can stand up harsh space environments. This durability has been achieved through a combination of a hardened dielectric material and the natural isolation of the transistor.

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Researchers to test alien soils for use in heat shield

September 17, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

An important test is coming up next week to see whether a heat shield made from the soil of the moon, Mars, or an asteroid will stand up to the searing demands of a plunge through the Earth's atmosphere. At stake is the possibility that future spacecraft could leave Earth without carrying a heavy heat shield and instead make one on the surface of another world and ride it home safely.

Astrophysicists get first images for Dark Energy Camera

September 17, 2012 7:08 am | News | Comments

When the Dark Energy Camera opened its giant eye last week and began taking pictures of the ancient light from far-off galaxies, more than 120 members of the Dark Energy Survey eagerly awaited the first snapshots. Those images have now arrived.

Visible from space: Curiosity tire tracks on Mars

September 7, 2012 5:15 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Tracks from the first drives of NASA's Curiosity rover are visible in a new image captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In just one month, it's driven 112 m on the red planet, slightly more than the length of a football field.

Thirty-five years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars

September 5, 2012 8:01 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. Since leaving the ringed gas giant behind many years ago, Voyager 1 has rocketed toward an invisible boundary that no human spacecraft has ever ventured beyond. Scientists now say, based on instrument readings, that it is about to leave our solar system and venture into interstellar space.

Explosion of galaxy formation lit up early universe

September 5, 2012 6:54 am | News | Comments

New data from the South Pole Telescope indicates that the birth of the first massive galaxies that lit up the early universe was an explosive event, happening faster and ending sooner than suspected. Extremely bright, active galaxies formed and fully illuminated the universe by the time it was 750 million year old, or about 13 billion years ago, according to a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Orbiter finds evidence of ice in lunar crater

August 30, 2012 12:44 pm | News | Comments

Scientists using the Mini-RF radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have successfully estimated the maximum amount of ice likely to be found inside a permanently shadowed lunar crater located near the moon's South Pole. Their results, which offer more definite support to prior findings, show as much as 5 to 10% of the material, by weight, could be patchy ice.

NASA launches twin satellites to radiation belts

August 30, 2012 8:23 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

Twin U.S. satellites rocketed into orbit Thursday on a quest to explore Earth's treacherous radiation belts and protect the planet from solar outbursts. It's the first time two spacecraft are flying in tandem amid the punishing radiation belts, brimming with highly charged particles capable of wrecking satellites and endangering astronauts.

Space shuttle exhaust reveals behavior of atmospheric winds

August 29, 2012 11:45 am | by Karen C. Fox | News | Comments

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off from Cape Canaveral on its final flight more than a year ago, a research team took advantage of this opportunity to track the 350-ton plume of water vapor exhaust that it released shortly after launch. Crossing through the paths of seven separate sets of instruments, the vapor spread far faster than expected and quickly moved to the Arctic. Such information will be used to inform global circulation models.

Curiosity rover returns voice, telephoto views from Mars

August 28, 2012 8:00 am | News | Comments

In addition to releasing spectacular new telephoto images of the Martian surface, NASA also used the rover to relay a voice message from NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, from Earth to Mars and back. The new images were taken by the 100-mm telephoto lens and the 34-mm wide angle lens of the Mast Camera instrument, which photographed the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

Armstrong's small step a giant leap for humanity

August 27, 2012 7:06 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

When man first harnessed fire, no one recorded it. When the Wright Brothers showed man could fly, only a handful of people witnessed it. But when Neil Armstrong took that first small step on the moon in July 1969, an entire globe watched from a quarter million miles away. Although more than half of the world's population wasn't alive then, it was an event that changed and expanded the globe.

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Mars rover passes driving test, looks to hit road

August 23, 2012 4:14 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Curiosity’s test drive was a success, allowing scientists at NASA to begin planning their next move. An intriguing spot 1,300 feet will mark the rover’s first attempt to drill into bedrock. The ultimate destination is Mount Sharp, a towering mountain that looms from the ancient crater floor. Signs of past water have been spotted at the base, providing a starting point to hunt for the chemical building blocks of life.

Researchers reproduce plasma loops to help understand solar physics

August 21, 2012 6:18 am | News | Comments

Sunny skies reign supreme in one California Institute of Technology laboratory, which has recreated so-called plasma loops that emanate from the sun’s surface. Considered to be possible precursors to solar flares, which release sometimes damaging radiation, these loops may be used to serve as a warning system for massive flares.

NASA awards Caltech five-year JPL contract

August 20, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

NASA has awarded the California Institute of Technology a new five-year contract to manage the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The contractor's primary mission is to support NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in carrying out specific objectives identified in the SMD Science Plan. The contract is for $8.5 billion.

ChemCam laser sets its sights on first Martian target

August 17, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument's remote microimager. The successful capture of ChemCam's first 10 photos sets the stage for the first test bursts of the instrument's rock-zapping laser in the near future.

'Microthrusters' could propel small satellites

August 17, 2012 3:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space. The device, designed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bears little resemblance to today's bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes, and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, its design is a flat, compact square covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions.

Radiation belt probes may help predict space weather

August 16, 2012 9:26 am | News | Comments

Living with a star can be a challenge, especially as Earthlings extend their reach into space. A Rice University scientist is contributing to an effort to make life more comfortable for both the people and satellites sent out there, and provide valuable research for those who remain planet-bound.

Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

August 16, 2012 5:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope have found a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year. Even more puzzling to astronomers than its prolific nature its age. At 6 billion years old, the large, mature galaxy shouldn’t be producing that many stars.

LRO spectrometer detects helium in moon's atmosphere

August 15, 2012 11:24 am | News | Comments

Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project spectrometer aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have made the first spectroscopic observations of the noble gas helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the moon. These remote-sensing observations complement in situ measurements taken in 1972 by the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment deployed by Apollo 17.

Recreating a slice of the universe

August 15, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

Scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

August 10, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a University of California, Los Angeles scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars.

Curiosity sends back flood of new views from Mars

August 8, 2012 8:32 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Locale aside, Curiosity is giving scientists an unprecedented sense of what it took to reach its Martian destination. A low-quality video of the landing and the first color picture arrived quickly. Now, spectacular images of the crate in which the rover landed are beginning to arrive, and the best views—of Mars and the journey there—are yet to come.

Curiosity’s power pack contains rugged technology

August 8, 2012 6:04 am | by Bill Cabage | News | Comments

The mobile instrument platform on NASA’s Curiosity rover, which recently landed on Mars, is too large to rely on solar-powered batteries and uses a plutonium oxide-powered generator. Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed and fabricated protective iridium alloy cladding that is designed to be so resistant to heat and impact that it remains intact even during an unplanned reentry during the spacecraft's launch or subsequent gravitational-assist flybys.

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