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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.

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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.

Jupiter-bound craft running normally again

October 14, 2013 9:22 am | News | Comments

NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft hit a snag last week after it flew past Earth to increase its speed to barrel beyond the asteroid belt to Jupiter. The Southwest Research Institute, which leads the mission's science operations, now reports that Juno is out of "safe mode."

New kind of microscope uses neutrons

October 4, 2013 8:06 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working with partners at NASA, have developed a new concept for a microscope that would use neutrons instead of beams of light or electrons to create high-resolution images. Among other features, neutron-based instruments have the ability to probe inside metal objects to learn details of their internal structure.

NASA preparing to launch 3-D printer into space

September 30, 2013 11:03 am | by Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer | News | Comments

A new toaster-sized 3-D printer, set for launch next year, is designed to greatly reduce the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need. The printers would serve as a flying factory of infinite designs, creating objects by extruding layer upon layer of plastic from long strands coiled around large spools.

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Water for future Mars astronauts?

September 27, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

Within its first three months on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Rover saw a surprising diversity of soils and sediments along a half-kilometer route that tell a complex story about the gradual desiccation of the Red Planet. Perhaps most notable among findings from the ChemCam team is that all of the dust and fine soil contains small amounts of water.

Astronomers discover densest galaxy ever

September 24, 2013 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine the distance between the sun and the star nearest to it—a star called Alpha Centauri. That’s a distance of about 4 light years. Now, imagine as many as 10,000 of our suns crammed into that relatively small space. That is about the density of a galaxy that was recently discovered by an international team of astronomers led by a Michigan State Univ. faculty member.

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.

NASA launches robotic explorer to moon

September 6, 2013 11:44 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late Friday in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia. The LADEE spacecraft, which is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, soared aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket a little before midnight. It was a change of venue for NASA, which normally launches moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Eleven spacecraft show interstellar wind changed direction over 40 years

September 5, 2013 4:51 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Like the wind adjusting course in the middle of a storm, scientists have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have most likely changed direction over the last 40 years. Such information can help us map out our place within the galaxy surrounding us, and help us understand our place in space.

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NASA aiming for moon again, this time from Va.

September 5, 2013 1:58 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA is headed back to the moon, this time to explore its thin atmosphere and rough dust. The robotic spacecraft LADEE, will fly to the moon by way of Virginia's Eastern Shore. Liftoff is set for late Friday night from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

Terramechanics research aims to keep Mars rovers rolling

September 5, 2013 11:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In May 2009, the Mars rover Spirit cracked through a crusty layer of Martian topsoil, sinking into softer underlying sand. The unexpected sand trap permanently mired the vehicle. The mission mishap may have been prevented by a better understanding of terramechanics, which describes the interaction between vehicles and deformable terrain.

Space laser to prove increased broadband possible

August 29, 2013 12:07 pm | by Dewayne Washington, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

When NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) begins operation aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), it will attempt to show two-way laser communication beyond Earth is possible, expanding the possibility of transmitting huge amounts of data. This new ability could one day allow for 3-D high-definition video transmissions in deep space to become routine.

A Better Grip on Earth, in Space

August 29, 2013 10:01 am | Award Winners

Humans are designed to grasp well; but repetitive, high-force gripping can result in long-term discomfort or injury. For example, an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15 to 20 lbs of force to hold a tool for a task. NASA’s Johnson Space Center, General Motors and Oceaneering Space Systems have partnered to design a solution: the Robo-Glove.

NASA tests limits of 3-D printing with powerful rocket engine check

August 28, 2013 8:27 am | News | Comments

The largest 3-D printed rocket engine component NASA hsa ever tested blazed to life Thursday, Aug. 22 during an engine firing that generated a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. This test is a milestone for one of many important advances the agency is making to reduce the cost of space hardware.

Real-time UAV Structural Monitoring

August 28, 2013 8:16 am | Award Winners

In 2003, the Helios solar electric airplane broke up in mid-air and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The incident highlighted a problem: Operators of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had no way of knowing when the wings were experiencing unsustainable strain. Scientists at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center and 4DSP, a company specializing in signal and image processing systems, co-developed a lightweight, robust Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) that greatly speeds the operational monitoring and sensing.

Arctic sea ice: Unlikely to break records, but downward trend continues

August 27, 2013 3:14 pm | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual "minimum," that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover.

NASA spacecraft captures Earth-bound coronal mass ejection

August 21, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

On Tuesday, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME, a solar phenomenon which can send billions of tons of particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

Spaceflight alters bacterial social networks

August 15, 2013 3:03 pm | by Gianine M. Figliozzi, NASA Ames Research Center | News | Comments

In two NASA-funded studies, biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. After comparing the biofilms grown on the ground with those grown on space station-bound shuttles, study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities.

Study: Voyager 1 has left the Solar System

August 15, 2013 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments NASA's Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun's influence. The finding could be, however, somewhat controversial.

Around the world in four days: Tracking Chelyabinsk meteor plume

August 15, 2013 12:50 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

A meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. Unlike similar past events, this time scientists had the sensitive instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite to deliver unprecedented data and help them track and study the meteor plume for months.

Mars food study researchers emerge from dome

August 14, 2013 9:14 am | by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press | News | Comments

Six researchers have spent the past four months living in a small dome on a barren Hawaii lava field at 8,000 feet, trying to figure out what foods astronauts might eat on Mars and during deep-space missions. They emerged on Tuesday with their recipes and without the space suits they were required to wear each time they ventured onto the northern slope of Mauna Loa—an active volcano that last erupted in 1984.

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