On March 29, 2012, the science team for NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope learned that a defunct Cold-War spy satellite would pass too close for comfort on April 4. The two spacecraft were expected to occupy the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of each other. The story of how it sidestepped a potential disaster offers a glimpse at an underappreciated aspect of managing a space mission.
Based on numbers from the latest contract between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, the United States is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is is blaming Congress for the extra expense, saying reduced funding for commercial spaceflight development has forced the agency to sign the new contract.
A NASA-funded sounding rocket mission will launch from an atoll in the Pacific in the next few weeks to help scientists better understand and predict the electrical storms in Earth's upper atmosphere These storms can interfere with satellite communication and global positioning signals.
The planet-hunting Kepler telescope has discovered two planets that seem like ideal places for some sort of life to flourish. According to scientists working with the NASA telescope, they are just the right size and in just the right place near their star. The discoveries, published online Thursday, mark a milestone in the search for planets where life could exist.
Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars. University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs, and health risks.
It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference. For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment—called a Mars solar conjunction—makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface.
A laboratory experiment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., simulating the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the atmosphere than previously thought. The results now point out another region on the moon that could brew up prebiotic materials.
Scheduled for launch in late 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Very little magnetic field traces remain on Mars, which is forcing NASA to eliminate all magnetic traces from its spacecraft. The magnetometer may help determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Tuesday with a full science load from the International Space Station—and a bunch of well-used children's Legos. The privately owned cargo ship splashed down in the Pacific right on target, 250 miles off the coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, five hours after leaving the orbiting lab. The California-based SpaceX confirmed the Dragon's safe arrival via Twitter.
Rusted pieces of two Apollo-era rocket engines that helped boost astronauts to the moon have been fished out of the murky depths of the Atlantic by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. A privately funded expedition led by Bezos raised the main engine parts during three weeks at sea, about 360 miles from Cape Canaveral. The engine parts were resting nearly 3 miles deep in the Atlantic
After taking measurements of sudden, drastic changes in radiation levels, researchers have reported that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, now more than 11 billion miles from the Sun, left the heliosphere dominated by the Sun and has passed outside our solar system. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1% of previous amounts.
NASA's twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft went out in a blaze of glory Dec. 17, 2012, when they were intentionally crashed into a mountain near the moon's north pole. GRAIL had company—NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mapping satellite was orbiting the moon as well. With just three weeks notice, the LRO team scrambled to get LRO in the right place at the right time to witness GRAIL's fiery finale
The space terminal for the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), NASA's first high-data-rate laser communication system, was recently integrated onto the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. LLCD will demonstrate laser communications from lunar orbit to Earth at six times the rate of the best modern-day advanced radio communication systems.
Drilling into a rock near its landing spot, the Curiosity rover has answered a key question about Mars: The red planet long ago harbored some of the ingredients needed for primitive life to thrive. Topping the list is evidence of water and basic elements that teeny organisms could feed on, scientists said Tuesday.
The Mars rover Curiosity drilled into its first rock a month ago. Now scientists will reveal what's inside. Gathering at NASA headquarters Tuesday, the rover team will detail the minerals and chemicals found in a pinch of ground-up rock. The results come seven months after Curiosity made a dramatic landing in an ancient crater near the equator.
NASA’s Martian rover hunkered down Wednesday after the sun unleashed a blast that raced toward Mars. While Curiosity was designed to withstand punishing space weather, its handlers decided to power it down as a precaution since it suffered a recent computer problem. While the hardy rover slept, the Opportunity rover and two NASA spacecraft circling overhead carried on with normal activities.
A private Earth-to-orbit delivery service made good on its latest shipment to the International Space Station on Sunday, overcoming mechanical difficulty and delivering a ton of supplies with high-flying finesse. The Dragon's arrival couldn't have been sweeter—and not because of the fresh fruit on board for the six-man station crew. Coming a full day late, the 250-mile-high linkup above Ukraine culminated a two-day chase that got off to a shaky, almost dead-ending start.
A commercial cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Friday under a billion-dollar contract with NASA that could lead to astronaut rides in just a few years. Launch controllers applauded and gave high-fives to one another once the spacecraft safely reached orbit. The rocket successfully separated from the white Dragon capsule, which contains more than a ton of food, tools, computer hardware, and science experiments.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing gamma rays from sources across the universe. A Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.
An international team including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has definitively measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole for the first time. The findings, made by the two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, solve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.
An ultraviolet spectrograph designed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been selected for flight on the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE). NASA is funding development of the instrument, which will observe ultraviolet emissions from the Jovian system.
In a remarkable demonstration of the imaging abilities of the Mars Hand Lens Imager and Mastcam aboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity rover operators recently captured a panoramic self-portrait that includes a sweeping view of the Gale Crater region. Visibly in the photo is Curiosity's recent drilling activities.
Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step—dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of. NASA said Wednesday it received confirmation that Curiosity successfully collected a tablespoon of powder from the drilling two weeks ago and was poised to transfer a pinch to its onboard laboratories. It's the first time a spacecraft has bored into a rock on Mars to retrieve a sample from the interior.
For the first time, researchers are demonstrating ice crystal icing formation in a full-scale engine test facility at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The tests duplicate the natural event of cloud formation, ingestion by an aircraft engine of ice crystals created by the cloud, and the reduction of engine power that can result. This phenomenon is being studied to gain an understanding of the physics behind ice crystal formation in a turbine engine.
Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of dozens of atomic bombs. Most are less than a centimeter in diameter, but locals saw a big meteorite fall into the lake on Friday, leaving a 6-m-wide hole in the ice. A meteor up to 50-60 cm could eventually be found in the lake.