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Mars rover ready for its first soil sample

October 19, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

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.

Dark matter filament studied in 3D for the first time

October 17, 2012 8:29 am | News | Comments

Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament of dark matter examined recently by the Hubble Space Telescope is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.

Blue Origin completes rocket engine thrust chamber test

October 16, 2012 12:11 pm | News | Comments

NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin has successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen rocket engine. As part of Blue's Reusable Booster System (RBS), the engines are designed eventually to launch the biconic-shaped space vehicle the company is developing.

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How Huygens landed on Titan

October 16, 2012 12:10 pm | by Jia-Rui Cook/JPL and Daniel Stolte/UANews | News | Comments

Scientists have pieced together the sequence of events of the farthest touchdown a man-made spacecraft has ever made on an alien world. Their work in tracking the bounces, wobbles, and skids the probe made before coming to rest on Titan reveals new clues about the Saturn moon’s surface and helps plan future missions to moons and planets.

Surprises found in Mars rock touched by Curiosity

October 12, 2012 10:18 am | News | Comments

Two instruments on the Mars rover Curiosity were used to study the chemical makeup of a football-size rock called "Jake Matijevic". In addition to the ChemCam, which had examined a number of rocks, NASA for the first time used an X-ray spectrometer on the new rock, finding that its composition resembles some unusual rocks found in Earth’s interior.

NASA precisely measures expansion of universe

October 4, 2012 10:01 am | News | Comments

The Hubble constant is named after the astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who astonished the world in the 1920s by confirming our universe has been expanding since it exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago. This constant, or rate of expansion, is accelerating, and determining the expansion rate is critical for understanding the age and size of the universe. Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have announced the most precise measurement yet of the Hubble constant.

Global Hawk gets to the heart of what makes hurricanes tick

September 26, 2012 5:58 am | by Robert Gutro | News | Comments

NASA’s Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) investigation is a five-year mission to better understand the processes that underlie hurricane intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. The Global Hawk is a key part of that effort, and its flights into the hurricane’s environment allow several highly-advanced, autonomously operated instruments to gauge everything from wind speed to cloud structures.

Researchers to test alien soils for use in heat shield

September 17, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

An important test is coming up next week to see whether a heat shield made from the soil of the moon, Mars, or an asteroid will stand up to the searing demands of a plunge through the Earth's atmosphere. At stake is the possibility that future spacecraft could leave Earth without carrying a heavy heat shield and instead make one on the surface of another world and ride it home safely.

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NASA awards Tahoe RF SBIR Phase II contract

September 17, 2012 4:59 am | News | Comments

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has awarded a SBIR Phase II program to Tahoe RF Semiconductor Inc. for developing a miniaturized Radiation Hardened Beam-Steerable GPS Receiver Front End for NASA spacecrafts.

4DSP to commercialize NASA-licensed fiber optic technology

September 13, 2012 10:35 am | News | Comments

This week, design company 4DSP has launched live industry demonstrations of licensed NASA fiber optic sensing and 3D shape rendering technology. Past fiber optic sensing solutions have been limited by both processing speed and high deployment costs, and 4DSP expects the new technology to offer a 20-fold improvement in performance.

Orbiter finds evidence of ice in lunar crater

August 30, 2012 12:44 pm | News | Comments

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.

Space shuttle exhaust reveals behavior of atmospheric winds

August 29, 2012 11:45 am | by Karen C. Fox | News | Comments

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off from Cape Canaveral on its final flight more than a year ago, a research team took advantage of this opportunity to track the 350-ton plume of water vapor exhaust that it released shortly after launch. Crossing through the paths of seven separate sets of instruments, the vapor spread far faster than expected and quickly moved to the Arctic. Such information will be used to inform global circulation models.

Curiosity rover returns voice, telephoto views from Mars

August 28, 2012 8:00 am | News | Comments

In addition to releasing spectacular new telephoto images of the Martian surface, NASA also used the rover to relay a voice message from NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, from Earth to Mars and back. The new images were taken by the 100-mm telephoto lens and the 34-mm wide angle lens of the Mast Camera instrument, which photographed the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

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Award-winning aerogel presented at ACS

August 20, 2012 8:07 am | News | Comments

A scientific report on NASA Glenn Research Center’s Polyimide Aerogels, which won an R&D 100 Award this year, was part of the presentations at the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia this week. The new material is the lightest commercially available solid material, and is far tougher than the silicon-based aerogels that preceded it.

NASA awards Caltech five-year JPL contract

August 20, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

NASA has awarded the California Institute of Technology a new five-year contract to manage the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The contractor's primary mission is to support NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in carrying out specific objectives identified in the SMD Science Plan. The contract is for $8.5 billion.

LRO spectrometer detects helium in moon's atmosphere

August 15, 2012 11:24 am | News | Comments

Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project spectrometer aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have made the first spectroscopic observations of the noble gas helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the moon. These remote-sensing observations complement in situ measurements taken in 1972 by the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment deployed by Apollo 17.

Shredded star heralds a new era for testing relativity

August 6, 2012 6:09 am | News | Comments

Last year, astronomers discovered a quiescent black hole in a distant galaxy that erupted after shredding and consuming a passing star. Now researchers have identified a distinctive X-ray signal observed in the days following the outburst that comes from matter on the verge of falling into the black hole. Called a quasi-periodic oscillation, or QPO, this tell-tale signal helps scientist test principles of general relativity.

Astronomers find pulsar with a tremendous hiccup

July 24, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

Using data analysis methods, an international collaboration of researchers dug an unusual gamma-ray pulsar out of imagery from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The pulsar they found is radio-quiet, very young, and, during the observation period, experienced the strongest rotation glitch ever observed for a gamma-ray-only pulsar. The shift was so strong, the pulsar seemed to disappear.

NASA successfully tests hypersonic inflatable heat shield

July 24, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. A cone of uninflated high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat resistant materials, the shield was launched Monday from a three-stage Black Brant rocket for its suborbital flight.

Colorful science sheds light on solar heating

July 19, 2012 2:04 pm | News | Comments

A new visualization technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center produces images of the sun reminiscent of Van Gogh, with broad strokes of bright color splashed across a yellow background. But it's science, not art. The color of each pixel contains a wealth of information about the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at that particular spot on the sun.

Motions below Sun’s surface are unexpectedly slow

July 19, 2012 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using observations of solar oscillations from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory to glimpse the interior of the Sun, researchers have found that rather than moving at the speed of a jet plane (as previously understood) the plasma flows at a walking pace, just a few meters per second. The finding refutes predictions made by previous numerical models.

Study of interstellar plasma reveals a wave mystery

July 18, 2012 7:33 pm | by Karen C. Fox | News | Comments

Most of the matter in the universe is plasma. Using data from the WAVES instrument on NASA's Wind mission, space plasma physicist Lynn Wilson and his colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have discovered evidence for a type of plasma wave moving faster than theory predicted it could move. The research suggests that a different process than expected may be driving the waves.

Plasma is next NASA science target

July 18, 2012 4:35 am | News | Comments

Two giant donuts of this plasma surround Earth, trapped within a region known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The belts lie close to Earth, sandwiched between satellites in geostationary orbit above and satellites in low Earth orbit are generally below the belts. A new NASA mission called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, due to launch in August 2012, will improve our understanding of what makes plasma move in and out of these electrified belts wrapped around our planet.

NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s

July 17, 2012 5:39 am | by Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Associated Press | News | Comments

Through a labyrinth of hallways deep inside a 1950s-era building that has housed research that dates back to the origins of U.S. space travel, a group of scientists in white coats is stirring, mixing, measuring, brushing and, most important, tasting the end result of their cooking. Their mission: Build a menu for a planned journey to Mars in the 2030s.

Hubble discovers fifth moon orbiting Pluto

July 12, 2012 4:05 am | News | Comments

A research team using Hubble’s powerful vision to scour the Pluto system to uncover potential hazards to the New Horizons spacecraft has located yet another satellite to the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape, 6 to 15 miles across, and in a co-planar orbit with other moons in the system. Its discovery prompts discussion on how such a complex collection of moons occurred.

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