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Opposite behaviors? Arctic sea ice shrinks while Antarctic ice grows

October 24, 2012 8:15 am | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA | News | Comments

A new NASA study shows that from 1978 to 2010 the total extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica in the Southern Ocean grew by roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. However, this growth rate is not nearly as large as the decrease in the Arctic, which has scientists questioning the reasons for the growth. Atmospheric circulation may be one cause.

SwRI to build miniature solar observatory for manned suborbital flight

October 23, 2012 11:22 am | News | Comments

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has received funding from NASA to build a miniature, portable solar observatory for developing and testing innovative instrumentation in suborbital flight. The SwRI Solar Instrument Pointing Platform will fly on new, commercial manned suborbital craft to enable spaceborne science and instrument development at a fraction of the cost of unmanned sounding rockets.

U.S. astronaut sees science breakthrough in space

October 22, 2012 11:31 am | News | Comments

An astronaut departing this week for the International Space Station said Monday that the bulk of the scientific benefits from the orbiting laboratory will be seen over the coming decade, amid questions on whether the estimated $100 billion spent in last 12 years is worth the effort. Portland, Indiana-born Kevin Ford said the station is just now entering the phase where the bulk of science being conducted there will come to fruition.

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Atom optics to help detect the imperceptible

October 22, 2012 8:43 am | by Lori Keesey | News | Comments

Predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, the waves occur when massive celestial objects move and disrupt the fabric of space-time. But by the time these waves reach Earth, they are so weak that the planet expands and contracts less than an atom in response. No instrument or observatory has ever directly detected them. A pioneering technology capable of atomic-level precision is now being developed to detect what so far has remained imperceptible.

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.

Skydiver's feat could influence spacesuit design

October 18, 2012 11:39 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

According to a NASA engineer, “Fearless Felix” Baumgartner's death-defying jump Sunday from a balloon 24 miles above Earth gives us a good foundation for improving the odds of survival for professional astronauts, space tourists, and high-altitude pilots and passengers. Researchers have spent decades working on self-contained space escape systems, with no significant advances since Joe Kittinger in 1960 jumped from 19.5 miles up and reached 614 mph.

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.

SpaceX Dragon capsule launched to space station

October 7, 2012 9:30 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A commercial cargo ship rocketed into orbit Sunday in pursuit of the International Space Station, the first of a dozen supply runs under a mega-contract with NASA. It was the second launch of a Dragon capsule to the orbiting lab by the California-based SpaceX company. This time was no test flight, however, and the spacecraft carried 1,000 pounds of key science experiments and other precious gear.

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.

Mars rover Curiosity finds signs of ancient stream

September 30, 2012 6:01 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The NASA rover Curiosity has beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream, possibly waist-deep, once flowed on Mars. There have been previous signs that water existed on the red planet long ago, but the images released Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, likely by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed.

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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.

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.

Visible from space: Curiosity tire tracks on Mars

September 7, 2012 5:15 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Tracks from the first drives of NASA's Curiosity rover are visible in a new image captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In just one month, it's driven 112 m on the red planet, slightly more than the length of a football field.

Thirty-five years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars

September 5, 2012 8:01 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. Since leaving the ringed gas giant behind many years ago, Voyager 1 has rocketed toward an invisible boundary that no human spacecraft has ever ventured beyond. Scientists now say, based on instrument readings, that it is about to leave our solar system and venture into interstellar space.

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.

NASA launches twin satellites to radiation belts

August 30, 2012 8:23 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

Twin U.S. satellites rocketed into orbit Thursday on a quest to explore Earth's treacherous radiation belts and protect the planet from solar outbursts. It's the first time two spacecraft are flying in tandem amid the punishing radiation belts, brimming with highly charged particles capable of wrecking satellites and endangering astronauts.

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.

Armstrong's small step a giant leap for humanity

August 27, 2012 7:06 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

When man first harnessed fire, no one recorded it. When the Wright Brothers showed man could fly, only a handful of people witnessed it. But when Neil Armstrong took that first small step on the moon in July 1969, an entire globe watched from a quarter million miles away. Although more than half of the world's population wasn't alive then, it was an event that changed and expanded the globe.

Mars rover passes driving test, looks to hit road

August 23, 2012 4:14 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Curiosity’s test drive was a success, allowing scientists at NASA to begin planning their next move. An intriguing spot 1,300 feet will mark the rover’s first attempt to drill into bedrock. The ultimate destination is Mount Sharp, a towering mountain that looms from the ancient crater floor. Signs of past water have been spotted at the base, providing a starting point to hunt for the chemical building blocks of life.

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