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Telescope spies water plumes on dwarf planet Ceres

January 23, 2014 9:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The largest object in the asteroid belt just got more attractive: Scientists have confirmed signs of water on the dwarf planet Ceres, one of the few bodies in the solar system to hold that distinction. The observations, published in Thursday's issue of Nature, come as NASA's Dawn spacecraft is set to arrive at the Texas-sized dwarf planet next year.

Sierra Nevada to expand space program in Florida

January 22, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Sierra Nevada Corp. will publicly discuss expansion plans for its Dream Chaser Space System Program. The press conference, to be held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will detail the company’s efforts to build a winged, lifting-body spacecraft that provides a flexible, credible, affordable solution for ISS crew transportation.

Long shots: Galaxies from 13.2 billion years ago

January 8, 2014 9:39 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Images released by NASA on Tuesday show galaxies that are 20 times fainter than those pictured before. They are from a new campaign to have the 23-year-old Hubble Space Telescope gaze much earlier and farther away than it was designed to see. The spacecraft is now looking within 500 million years after the Big Bang.

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NASA’s Fermi makes first gamma ray study of a gravitational lens

January 7, 2014 8:54 am | Videos | Comments

An international team of astronomers, using NASA's Fermi observatory, has made the first-ever gamma ray measurements of a gravitational lens, a kind of natural telescope formed when a rare cosmic alignment allows the gravity of a massive object to bend and amplify light from a more distant source. This accomplishment opens new avenues for research, including a novel way to probe emission regions near supermassive black holes.

Laser demonstration reveals bright future for space communication

December 26, 2013 11:07 am | by Dewayne Washington, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission has helped confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.  

NASA orders urgent spacewalk repairs at station

December 17, 2013 6:30 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station, a massive repair job that could stretch to Christmas Day. Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. The task will require two and possibly three spacewalks on Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday.

NASA suspects bad valve for space station trouble

December 12, 2013 12:52 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station dimmed the lights, turned off unnecessary equipment and put off science work Thursday as NASA scrambled to figure out what's wrong with a key cooling unit. One of two identical cooling loops shut down Wednesday when the line got too cold because of a faulty valve. The system uses ammonia to dissipate heat from onboard equipment.

First rock dating experiment performed on Mars

December 11, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments have been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock with experiments performed on Mars. The work could not only help in understanding the geologic history of Mars but also aid in the search for evidence of ancient life on the planet.

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Scientists publish first radiation measurements from the surface of Mars

December 10, 2013 1:55 pm | News | Comments

In the first 300 days of the Mars Science Laboratory surface mission, the Curiosity rover collected soil samples in Gale Crater while the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector made detailed measurements of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars. Southwest Research Institute scientists have published the results of these studies, comparing them to typically doses received on Earth.

NASA: Ancient Martian lake may have supported life

December 9, 2013 12:28 pm | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover has uncovered signs of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars that may have teemed with tiny organisms for tens of millions of years, far longer than scientists had imagined, new research suggests. The watering hole near the Martian equator existed about 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists say it was neither salty nor acidic, and contained nutrients—a perfect spot to support microbes.

Martian laser surpasses 100,000 zaps

December 5, 2013 3:26 pm | News | Comments

The ChemCam laser instrument aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover fired its 100,000th shot recently, chronicling its adventures on Mars with a coffee-table-book’s worth of spectral data that might rival snapshots gathered during a long and satisfying family vacation here on Earth. ChemCam zaps rocks with a high-powered laser to determine their composition and carries a camera that can survey the Martian landscape.

CERN, eat your heart out?

December 5, 2013 9:46 am | by Jamie Hanlon, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

A research team has discovered a natural particle accelerator of interstellar scale. By analyzing data from NASA’s Van Allen probes, physicists have been able to measure and identify the “smoking gun” of a planetary scale process that accelerates particles to speeds close to the speed of light within the Van Allen radiation belt.

Hubble traces subtle signals of water on hazy worlds

December 4, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

Using the powerful­ eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.

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Hubble Telescope best shot at learning comet fate

December 3, 2013 2:10 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA said Monday that the Hubble Space Telescope is the best bet for figuring out whether Comet ISON disintegrated during its brush with the sun last week. A pair of solar observatories saw something emerge from around the sun following ISON's close approach on Thanksgiving Day. But scientists don't yet know whether the spot of light was merely the comet's shattered remains or what's left of its icy nucleus.

“Monster” cosmic blast zipped harmlessly by Earth

November 21, 2013 6:04 pm | by Francis Reddy, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Orbiting telescopes got the fireworks show of a lifetime last spring when they spotted what is known as a gamma ray burst in a far-off galaxy. It’s not an unusual occurrence, but this one set records. Had it been closer, Earth would have been toast. But because this blast was 3.7 billion light-years away, mankind was spared.

NASA launching robotic explorer to Mars

November 18, 2013 7:39 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA's newest Martian explorer, Maven, is on its launch pad in Florida, ready to soar. Bearing eight science instruments, the spacecraft will take 10 months to reach Mars, entering into orbit around the red planet in September 2014. Scientists hope Maven will help them learn why Mars went from being warm and wet during its first billion years, to the cold and dry place it is today.

NASA pursues geodesy application for atom-optics technology

November 11, 2013 9:51 am | by Lori Keesey, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

A pioneering technology called an atom interferometer promises to detect tiny perturbations in the curvature of space-time. With its potential picometer-level sensitivity, the instrument may one day detect what so far has remained imperceptible: gravitational waves or ripples in spacetime caused when massive celestial objects move and disrupt the space around them.

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.

Study: 8.8 billion Earth-size, just-right planets

November 5, 2013 9:12 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Space is vast, but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and are not too hot or cold for life. For the first time, NASA scientists have calculated, not estimated, what percent of stars that are just like our sun have planets similar to Earth: 22%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percentage points.

Earth-size planet found with rocky core like ours

October 31, 2013 8:35 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have found a planet way out in the cosmos that's close in size and content to Earth, an astronomical first. But hold off on the travel plans. This rocky world is so close to its sun that it's at least 2,000 degrees hotter than here, almost certainly too hot for life.

Mini space shuttle skids off runway in test flight

October 30, 2013 8:35 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

A new, smaller version of NASA's space shuttle, the Dream Chaser space plane, is recuperating from a rough first landing. A helicopter dropped the unmanned craft from 12,500 feet in a first free flight reminiscent of NASA's drop tests of the shuttle prototype Enterprise in the 1970s. Everything worked well for the automated plane until the end, when the left landing gear deployed too late and the test vehicle skidded off the runway.

Historic demonstration proves laser communication possible

October 28, 2013 3:12 pm | News | Comments

In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622Mbps. That download rate is more than six times faster than previous state-of-the-art radio systems flown to the moon.

National Robotics Initiative invests $38 million in next-generation robotics

October 25, 2013 8:53 am | News | Comments

The National Science Foundation, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA, has announced new investments totaling approximately $38 million for the development and use of robots that cooperatively work with people to enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety.

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.

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