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RoboSimian beats out Surrogate for spot at DARPA finals

December 12, 2014 7:00 am | News | Comments

RoboSimian was created for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a competition consisting of several disaster-related tasks for robots to perform. Using extra limbs from RoboSimian, researchers constructed Surrogate. Over the past six months, they have been testing both robots to see which one should compete in the finals.

Study of aerosols stands to improve climate models

August 4, 2014 9:12 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Aerosols, tiny particles in the atmosphere, play a significant role in Earth's climate,...

NASA unveils concept for their Mars 2020 Rover

July 31, 2014 3:40 pm | News | Comments

At a press conference in Washington on Thursday,...

NASA to test giant Mars parachute on Earth

June 2, 2014 12:00 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The skies off the Hawaiian island of Kauai will be...

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Technology decodes more information from single photons

February 12, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

It's not quite Star Trek communications—yet. But long-distance communications in space may be easier now that researchers have designed a clever detector array that can extract more information than usual from single particles of light. Described in a new paper, the NIST/JPL array-on-a-chip easily identifies the position of the exact detector in a multi-detector system that absorbs an incoming infrared light particle, or photon.

Rare new microbe found in two distant clean rooms

November 7, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

A rare, recently discovered microbe that survives on very little to eat has been found in two places on Earth: spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America. Some other microbes have been discovered in a spacecraft clean room and found nowhere else, but none previously had been found in two different clean rooms and nowhere else.

Technologies to characterize natural gas emissions tested in field experiments

October 29, 2013 8:08 am | News | Comments

A new collaborative science program is pioneering the development of ultra-sensitive methane-sensing technology. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is one of many gases whose presence in the atmosphere contributes to global climate change. It is a goal of industry and scientists alike to better constrain the source flux of fugitive methane emissions from man-made activities.

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Long-sought pattern of ancient light detected

October 22, 2013 11:17 am | News | Comments

The journey of light from the very early universe to modern telescopes is long and winding. The ancient light traveled billions of years to reach us, and along the way, its path was distorted by the pull of matter, leading to a twisted light pattern. This twisted pattern of light, called B-modes, has at last been detected and will lead to better maps of matter across our universe.

Managing the deluge of big data from space

October 18, 2013 10:44 am | News | Comments

For NASA, data pour in every day like rushing rivers. Spacecraft monitor everything from our home planet to faraway galaxies, beaming back images and information to Earth. All those digital records need to be stored, indexed and processed so that researchers can use the data to understand Earth and the universe beyond. Now, software engineers are coming up with new strategies for managing such large and complex data streams.

Curiosity confirms origins of Martian meteorites

October 16, 2013 2:40 pm | News | Comments

Earth’s most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars’ atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites.

NASA rover finds no hint of methane in Mars air

September 20, 2013 12:55 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover hasn't discovered any signs of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, a finding that does not bode well for the possibility that microbes capable of producing the gas could be living below the planet's surface, scientists said Thursday. On Earth, most of the gas is a byproduct of life, spewed when animals digest or plants decay.

Inflatable antennae could give CubeSats greater reach

September 6, 2013 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The future of satellite technology is getting small. CubeSats, and other small satellites, are making space exploration cheaper and more accessible. But with such small packages come big limitations: namely, a satellite’s communication range. Now researchers have developed a design that may significantly increase the communication range of small satellites.

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Yeti helps conquer “abominable” polar hazards

March 4, 2013 2:45 pm | News | Comments

A century after Western explorers first crossed the dangerous landscapes of the Arctic and Antarctic, researchers funded by the National Science Foundation have successfully deployed a self-guided robot that uses ground-penetrating radar to map deadly crevasses hidden in ice-covered terrains. Deployment of the robot—dubbed Yeti—could make Arctic and Antarctic explorations safer by revealing unseen fissures buried beneath ice and snow that could potentially claim human lives and expensive equipment.

Magnetic shielding innovation improves ion beam rockets

February 13, 2013 12:19 pm | News | Comments

Electric rocket engines known as Hall thrusters, which use a super high-velocity stream of ions to propel a spacecraft in space, have been used successfully onboard many missions for half a century. Erosion of the discharge channels walls, however, has limited their application to the inner solar system. A research team at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has found a way to effectively control this erosion by shaping the engine's magnetic field in a way that shields the walls from ion bombardment.

Curiosity Rover explores “Yellowknife Bay”

January 7, 2013 9:06 am | News | Comments

After imaging during the holidays, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity resumed driving Jan. 3 and pulled within arm's reach of a sinuous rock feature called "Snake River." Snake River is a thin curving line of darker rock cutting through flatter rocks and jutting above sand. Curiosity's science team plans to get a closer look at it before proceeding to other nearby rocks.

Researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons, asteroids

January 2, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

Stanford University researchers, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have designed a robotic platform that could take space exploration to new heights. The mission proposed for the platform involves a mother spacecraft deploying one or several spiked, roughly spherical rovers to the Martian moon Phobos.

Judge backs NASA lab in work discrimination case

November 5, 2012 10:32 am | News | Comments

A California judge has tentatively ruled in favor of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former computer specialist who alleged he was singled out in part because of his belief in intelligent design.

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Mars rover ready for its first soil sample

October 19, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

The ability to ingest solid samples and examine them using X-ray diffraction is a core capability for the Curiosity rover. This week that ability was tested using a small scoop of minerals that has been shaken to remove any residues carried from Earth. These particles have been placed inside CheMin, an analytical instrument about the size of a laptop computer inside a carrying case.

Researchers brew up organics on ice

September 19, 2012 4:52 am | News | Comments

Would you like icy organics with that? Maybe not in your coffee, but researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are creating concoctions of organics, or carbon-bearing molecules, on ice in the laboratory, then zapping them with lasers. Their goal: to better understand how life arose on Earth.

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.

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.

Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars

August 6, 2012 5:38 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

Cassini finds probable ocean below Titan's surface

June 28, 2012 10:50 am | News | Comments

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn's moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell. Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid "tides," on the moon only 3 ft in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 30 ft in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material.

Spitzer finds solid buckyballs in space

February 22, 2012 7:54 am | News | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space. Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form in the cosmos.

Study of clays suggests watery Martian underground

November 3, 2011 6:29 am | News | Comments

A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface. Spectral evidence gathered by orbiters support a new hypothesis that persistent warm water was confined to the subsurface, and erosional were carved during brief periods when the surface supported stable water.

NASA Mars research helps find buried water on Earth

September 15, 2011 5:32 am | News | Comments

A NASA-led team has used radar sounding technology developed to explore the subsurface of Mars to create high-resolution maps of freshwater aquifers buried deep beneath an Earth desert, in the first use of airborne sounding radar for aquifer mapping. The research may help scientists better locate and map Earth's desert aquifers, understand current and past hydrological conditions in Earth's deserts, and assess how climate change is impacting them.

Scientists stunned by surface of asteroid Vesta

August 2, 2011 10:02 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Last month, NASA's Dawn spacecraft began orbiting the 330-mile-wide rocky body of Vesta, the asteroid belt’s second-largest resident. The latest photos have been full of surprises, revealing extensive features, from multiple craters to mysterious grooves, that will keep scientists busy for years.

Next Mars rover will land in 96-mile-wide crater

July 25, 2011 11:16 am | by John Antczak, Associated Press | News | Comments

Gale Crater was chosen as the target for the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission after an extensive review of dozens of potential sites. NASA chose this site because they believe they have located the boundary where life may have sprung up and where it may have been extinguished.

Astronomers discover the largest, most distant reservoir of water yet

July 25, 2011 5:08 am | News | Comments

Water really is everywhere. Two teams of astronomers, each led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology, have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. Looking from a distance of 30 billion trillion miles away into a quasar, the researchers have found a mass of water vapor that's at least 140 trillion times that of all the water in the world's oceans combined.

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