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Webb Telescope teams completes optics milestone

January 17, 2013 10:27 am | News | Comments

Engineers working on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have recently concluded performance testing on the observatory's aft-optics subsystem at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp's facilities in Boulder, Colo. This is significant because it means all of the telescope's mirror systems are ready for integration and testing.

Experiment to reshape future of atmospheric science

January 17, 2013 8:38 am | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA | News | Comments

NASA scientists and engineers are working now to lay the groundwork for the Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem (ACE) mission, which will change what we can learn about clouds and aerosols. To that end, the Polarimeter Definition Experiment (PODEX) in Southern California will soon commence, testing a new class of polarimeters that are especially suited for finding the type, shape, and size of particles in the upper atmosphere.

Whew! Big asteroid no longer threat to Earth

January 11, 2013 10:31 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

About nine years ago, when astronomers first saw Apophis, they thought there was a 2.7% chance that it would smack into our planet. Later, they lowered the chances to an even more unlikely 1 in 250,000. Now it's never mind, they say, as the 1,060-foot wide rock will approach to within 20,000 miles.

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At least one in six stars has an Earth-sized planet

January 7, 2013 3:41 pm | News | Comments

The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17% of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury.

Curiosity Rover explores “Yellowknife Bay”

January 7, 2013 9:06 am | News | Comments

After imaging during the holidays, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity resumed driving Jan. 3 and pulled within arm's reach of a sinuous rock feature called "Snake River." Snake River is a thin curving line of darker rock cutting through flatter rocks and jutting above sand. Curiosity's science team plans to get a closer look at it before proceeding to other nearby rocks.

On the ice: Trio of complex Antarctic science efforts reach milestones

December 21, 2012 1:06 pm | News | Comments

In the past week, researchers with the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS) project, the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project and the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) project each announced they had achieved these various milestones. In each case, the successes were based on innovative drilling technologies and promise to open new scientific vistas for Antarctic research.

From Cassini for the holidays: A splendor seldom seen

December 21, 2012 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Just in time for the holidays, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years now, has delivered another glorious, backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.On Oct. 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around the gas giant, Cassini was deliberately positioned within Saturn's shadow, a perfect location from which to look in the direction of the sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet.

Clays on Mars: More plentiful than expected

December 21, 2012 9:30 am | News | Comments

A new study indicates that clay minerals, rocks that usually form when water is present for long periods of time, cover a larger portion of Mars than previously thought.  In fact, the research team say clays were in some of the rocks studied by Opportunity when it landed at Eagle crater in 2004. But Opportunity doesn’t have the capability any longer to detect these clays, which were found using spectroscopic analysis from the Mars Reconnaissance Observer.

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Asteroid surfaces more complex than previously thought

December 21, 2012 8:39 am | News | Comments

Meteorites that had fallen from an asteroid impact that lit up the skies over California and Nevada in April were quickly recovered by scientists and recent studies report that this space rock is an unusual example from a rare group known as carbonaceous chondrites, which contain some of the oldest material in the solar system. It is also complex, containing molecules such as water and amino acids.

Innovation on Wheels

December 14, 2012 11:35 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

The Mars Science Laboratory is more than the biggest rolling science laboratory ever put on another planet. It's a systems engineering—and product development—triumph.

Dark Clouds, But Bright Outlook for R&D

December 14, 2012 11:27 am | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Changes in the R&D environment are driving research managers to look at different ways to support and grow their organizations.

Twin NASA spacecraft prepare to crash into moon

December 13, 2012 4:38 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

On Friday, engineers are turning off the science instruments in preparation for Monday's big finale. After nearly a year circling the moon, NASA's Ebb and Flow will meet their demise when they crash—on purpose—into the lunar surface. Just don't expect to see celestial fireworks as it will happen on the dark side of the moon.

With Hubble’s help, former “oldest galaxy” regains title

December 12, 2012 4:57 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A galaxy that was once thought to be the oldest known has regained its lost title after a record-long series of exposures by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it is in fact 13.3 billion years old, 100 million years older than previously thought. The study, which looked back to when the universe was just 4% of its present age, found six other similarly ancient galaxies.

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Air Force sends mystery mini-shuttle back to space

December 12, 2012 9:21 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The military's small, top-secret version of the space shuttle rocketed into orbit Tuesday for a repeat mystery mission, two years after making the first flight of its kind. The X-37B is about one-quarter the size of the original NASA space shuttle and can land automatically. The purpose of this mission remains a secret: Launch commentary ended 17 minutes into the flight.

New forecast system helps transoceanic flights avoid storms

December 12, 2012 9:00 am | News | Comments

A new NASA-funded prototype system developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research now is providing weather forecasts that can help flights avoid major storms as they travel over remote ocean regions. The eight-hour forecasts of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions are designed for pilots, air traffic controllers and others involved in transoceanic flights.

Eugene Cernan, “last man on moon”, landed 40 years ago

December 10, 2012 4:43 pm | by Emil Venere | News | Comments

Eugene A. Cernan, a Purdue University alumnus and the most recent person to walk on the moon, stepped out of the lunar lander 40 years ago Tuesday. Commander of Apollo 17, Cernan made three moonwalks, explored the barren landscape in a lunar rover, collected about 250 pounds of soil samples and moon rocks, and took scientific measurements.

Below surface, moon reveals a "shattered" history

December 6, 2012 12:07 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Results presented Wednesday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco show that the moon took a beating in its early days, far more than previously believed. Detailed gravity mapping by NASA’s Ebb and Flow spacecraft show the extent to which the moon was broken up and shattered from bombardment by asteroids and comets.

Cosmic radio waves mimic chirping of “alien birds”

December 5, 2012 10:20 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA's Van Allen Probes have been exploring the hostile radiation belts surrounding Earth for just three months. But already measurements in unprecedented detail have been taken. Scientists said Tuesday these waves can provide an energy boost to radiation belt particles, somewhat like ocean waves can propel a surfer on Earth. What's more, these so-called chorus waves operate in the same frequency as human hearing so they can be heard.

Mars redux: NASA to launch Curiosity-like rover

December 5, 2012 9:53 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The space agency on Tuesday announced plans to launch another mega-rover to the red planet in 2020 that will be modeled after the wildly popular Curiosity. To keep costs down, engineers will borrow Curiosity's blueprints, recycle spare parts where possible and use proven technology including the novel landing gear that delivered the car-size rover inside an ancient crater in August.

Record-setting X-ray jet discovered

November 28, 2012 1:07 pm | News | Comments

A jet of X-rays from a supermassive black hole 12.4 billion light years from Earth has been detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This is the most distant X-ray jet ever observed and gives astronomers a glimpse into the explosive activity associated with the growth of supermassive black holes in the early universe.

DOE, NASA demonstrate simple, robust fission reactor

November 27, 2012 11:18 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers have built a new type of nuclear reactor that is reliable enough to be used on space flights. The prototype, which has been used to generate 24 W of electricity, relies on heat pipe technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1983. The fluid-based cooling system requires no moving parts and the reactor itself is based on a simply closed-loop Stirling engine.

Hubble helps find candidate for most distant object in the Universe yet observed

November 16, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

By combining the power of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and one of nature’s zoom lenses, astronomers have found what is probably the most distant galaxy yet seen in the universe. The object offers a peek back into a time when the Universe was only 3% of its present age of 13.7 billion years.

Curiosity’s laboratory instrument suite gets first “taste” of soil

November 14, 2012 2:49 pm | News | Comments

A pinch of fine dust and sand from a patch of windblown material called “Rocknest” became the first sample of soil examined by the Mars Science Laboratory’s suite of laboratory instruments, called Sample Analysis at Mars. The sample was delivered on Nov. 9, allowing the mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, and laser spectrometry instruments to study the sample. Researchers are poring through the data now.

Judge backs NASA lab in work discrimination case

November 5, 2012 10:32 am | News | Comments

A California judge has tentatively ruled in favor of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former computer specialist who alleged he was singled out in part because of his belief in intelligent design.

Rover finds Mars atmosphere free of methane

November 5, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

A set of instruments aboard the rover has ingested and analyzed samples of the atmosphere collected near the "Rocknest" site in Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover is stopped for research. With these initial sniffs of Martian atmosphere, preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life.

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