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Synthetic biology for space exploration

November 10, 2014 9:27 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.

Mars spacecraft reveal comet flyby effects on Martian atmosphere

November 10, 2014 7:46 am | by Jim Scott, CU-Boulder Media Relations | News | Comments

Two NASA and one European spacecraft, including NASA’s MAVEN mission led by the Univ. of Colorado Boulder, have gathered new information about the basic properties of a wayward comet that buzzed by Mars October 19, 2014, directly detecting its effects on the Martian atmosphere. Data from observations revealed that debris from the comet caused an intense meteor shower and added a new layer of ions, or charged particles, to the ionosphere.

Hubble surveys debris-strewn exoplanetary construction yards

November 7, 2014 3:03 pm | by NASA | News | Comments

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have completed the largest and most sensitive visible-light imaging survey of dusty debris disks around other stars.                         

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Satellites assist in Ebola management

November 7, 2014 9:37 am | by UK Space Agency | News | Comments

The UK's International Charter for Space and Major Disasters (the Charter) is an international agreement between space agencies to provide free satellite images in the immediate aftermath of natural or man-made disasters.         

3-D printing a lunar base

November 7, 2014 9:29 am | by European Space Agency | News | Comments

Could astronauts one day be printing rather than building a base on the Moon? In 2013 ESA, working with industrial partners, proved that 3-D printing using lunar material was feasible in principle. Since then, work continues to investigate the technique.

Synthetic biology for space exploration

November 6, 2014 3:13 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the Moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover finds mineral match

November 5, 2014 9:08 am | by NASA | News | Comments

Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA's Curiosity rover has yielded the mission's first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit. Curiosity collected the powder by drilling into a rock outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp in late September. The robotic arm delivered a pinch of the sample to the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument inside the rover.

Dark matter may be massive

November 4, 2014 2:37 pm | by Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

The physics community has spent decades searching for and finding no evidence that dark matter is made of tiny exotic particles. Case Western Reserve Univ. theoretical physicists suggest researchers consider looking for candidates more in the ordinary realm and, well, more massive. Dark matter is unseen matter, that, combined with normal matter, could create the gravity that, among other things, prevents spinning galaxies from flying apart.

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Eye-catching space technology restoring sight

November 4, 2014 10:58 am | by European Space Agency | News | Comments

Laser surgery to correct eyesight is common practice, but did you know that technology developed for use in space is now commonly used to track the patient's eye and precisely direct the laser scalpel? If you look at a fixed point while tilting or shaking your head, your eyes automatically hold steady, allowing you to see clearly even while moving around. This neat trick of nature is a reflex and we are usually unaware that it even happens.

How a giant impact formed asteroid Vesta’s “belt”

November 4, 2014 8:03 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft visited the asteroid Vesta in 2011, it showed that deep grooves that circle the asteroid’s equator like a cosmic belt were probably caused by a massive impact on Vesta’s south pole. Now, using a super high-speed cannon at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Brown Univ. researchers have shed new light on the violent chain of events deep in Vesta’s interior that formed those surface grooves.

SpaceShipTwo’s descent system deployed early

November 3, 2014 10:25 am | by Associated Press, Brian Melley | News | Comments

Federal investigators say they have determined that a space tourism rocket broke apart in flight over California's Mojave Desert after a device to slow the experimental spaceship's descent deployed too soon. While no cause for Friday's crash of SpaceShipTwo has been determined, investigators found the "feathering" system was activated before the craft reached the appropriate speed.

Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time

October 30, 2014 7:50 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems. Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the Univ. of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star.

Russians deliver space station cargo after U.S. flop

October 29, 2014 10:28 am | by Brock Vergakis - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The company behind the dramatic launch explosion of a space station supply mission promises to find the cause of the failure and is warning residents to avoid any potentially hazardous wreckage. Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Antares rocket blew up just moments after liftoff Tuesday evening from the Virginia coast.

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Supply rocket headed to space station explodes

October 28, 2014 9:28 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

An unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded moments after liftoff Tuesday evening, with debris falling in flames over the launch site in Virginia. No injuries were reported following the first catastrophic launch in NASA's commercial spaceflight effort.

NASA identifies ice cloud above cruising altitude on Titan

October 27, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn's moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth's poles. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

Google exec sets records with leap from near-space

October 27, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Google executive Alan Eustace broke the sound barrier and set several skydiving records over the southern New Mexico desert early Friday after taking a big leap from the edge of space. Eustace's supersonic jump was part of a project by Paragon Space Development Corp., which has been working secretly for years to develop a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow people to explore some 20 miles above the Earth's surface.

NASA Webb’s heart survives deep freeze test

October 22, 2014 9:05 am | by Laura Betz, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Operating a telescope powerful enough to reveal the first galaxies forming 13.5 billion years ago requires incredibly cold temperatures: about -387 F.

Big black holes can block new stars

October 21, 2014 10:46 am | by Dennis O'Shea, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Massive black holes spewing out radio frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found. The research provides crucial new evidence that it is these jets of radio frequency feedback streaming from mature galaxies’ central black holes that prevent hot free gas from cooling and collapsing into baby stars.

A 3-D map of the adolescent universe

October 20, 2014 8:18 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using extremely faint light from galaxies 10.8-billion light-years away, scientists have created one of the most complete, 3-D maps of a slice of the adolescent universe. The map shows a web of hydrogen gas that varies from low to high density at a time when the universe was made of a fraction of the dark matter we see today.

What gives the sun its heat

October 17, 2014 8:01 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Why is the sun's million-degree corona, or outermost atmosphere, so much hotter than the sun's surface? This question has baffled astronomers for decades. A team led by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is presenting new clues to the mystery of coronal heating using observations from the recently launched Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS).

Getting to know super-Earths

October 16, 2014 10:56 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

The findings of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft suggest that the most common exoplanets are those that are just a bit larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. These so-called super-Earths, which do not exist in our own solar system, have attracted the attention of astronomers, who have been trying to determine the composition of the closest of these planets. However, an unexpected barrier is blocking their progress.

Spacecraft to attempt comet landing next month

October 15, 2014 11:56 am | News | Comments

The European Space Agency has confirmed the time and place it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet. The unmanned probe Rosetta will release a 100-kg (220-lb) lander on Nov. 12 in a maneuver that will take about seven hours.

MAVEN’s first look at Mars holds surprises

October 15, 2014 8:06 am | by Jim Scott, CU-Boulder Media Relations | News | Comments

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars and produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet. In addition, the new observations allowed scientists to make a comprehensive map of highly variable ozone in the Martian atmosphere underlying the coronas.

Rediscovering Venus to find faraway Earths

October 14, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Astronomers Chih-Hao Li and David Phillips of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics want to rediscover Venus. They plan to “find” the second planet again using a powerful new optical device installed on the Italian National Telescope that will measure Venus' precise gravitational pull on the sun. If they succeed, their first-of-its-kind demonstration will be later used for finding Earth-like exoplanets orbiting distant stars.

Mars One (and done?)

October 14, 2014 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2012, the Mars One project, led by a Dutch nonprofit, announced plans to establish the first human colony on the Red Planet by 2025. The mission would initially send four astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars, where they would spend the rest of their lives building the first permanent human settlement.

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