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.
A century after Western explorers first crossed the dangerous landscapes of the Arctic and...
Electric rocket engines known as Hall thrusters, which use a super high-velocity stream of ions...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vesta, thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth, was visited close-up over the weekend by NASA’s Dawn space probe, which is the first spacecraft to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Ever since a crash landing on Earth grounded NASA's Genesis mission in 2004, scientists have been gathering, cleaning, and analyzing solar wind particles collected by the spacecraft. Now, two new studies published in Science reveal that Earth's chemistry is less like the sun's than previously thought.
Based on water vapor plumes found by the spacecraft Cassini in 2005, researchers already suspected that Enceladus hid a liquid saltwater ocean. Now, based on the dynamics of plumes studied by the Cassini team, they are now more certain that 50 miles beneath the surface crust a large body of liquid water exists between the rocky core and the icy mantle.
Two digital color cameras riding high on the mast of NASA's next Mars rover will complement each other in showing the surface of Mars in exquisite detail. They are the left and right eyes of the Mast Camera, or Mastcam, instrument on the Curiosity rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, launching in late 2011.
Design techniques honed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for Mars rovers were used to create the rover currently examining the inside of Japan's nuclear reactors, in areas not yet deemed safe for human crews.
New evidence from the discovery of a huge underground reservoir of dry ice, or frozen carbon dioxide, at the south pole of Mars, suggests to Southwest Research Institute scientists that the red planet’s climate 600,000 was probably a lot like the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s — but a lot worse.
Messenger first moved into close orbit around the speedy inner planet about two weeks ago. By the end of this week, NASA will have received more than 15,000 pictures from the $446 million spacecraft, giving us a comprehensive view of a heavily-cratered world that may hold ice at its south pole.
The March 11, magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan may have shortened the length of each Earth day and shifted its axis. But don't worry—you won't notice the difference.
Finding life on Mars could get easier with a creative adaption to a common analytical tool that can be installed directly on the robotic arm of a space rover.
Engineers just installed six new wheels on the Curiosity rover, and rotated all six wheels at once on July 9, 2010. This milestone marked the first in a series of "tune ups" to get the rover ready for a drive in the clean room where it is being assembled at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Curiosity is the centerpiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is expected to launch in late 2011, and touch down wheels-first in summer 2012.