When a high-altitude aircraft flew over the icy Arctic Ocean and the snow-covered terrain of Greenland in April 2012, it was the first polar test of a new laser-based technology to measure the height of Earth from space. Aboard that aircraft flew the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL, which can resolve elevation change to as little as the width of a pencil.
An unmanned rocket blasted into a chilly, clear sky Thursday night carrying the latest, third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The TDRS system, used on several satellites to support the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope, is so vital it's considered a national asset. Together they supply real-time global coverage at all times.
A decade after landing on Mars, the rover Opportunity is still chugging along. Sure, it has some wear and tear. One of its six wheels and two instruments stopped working long ago. It has an arthritic joint. Its flash memory occasionally suffers a senior moment. But these problems are considered minor for a journey that was supposed to be just a three-month adventure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.