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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.

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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.

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.

Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

August 16, 2012 5:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope have found a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year. Even more puzzling to astronomers than its prolific nature its age. At 6 billion years old, the large, mature galaxy shouldn’t be producing that many stars.

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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.

Curiosity sends back flood of new views from Mars

August 8, 2012 8:32 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Locale aside, Curiosity is giving scientists an unprecedented sense of what it took to reach its Martian destination. A low-quality video of the landing and the first color picture arrived quickly. Now, spectacular images of the crate in which the rover landed are beginning to arrive, and the best views—of Mars and the journey there—are yet to come.

NASA picks three private firms to develop space taxis

August 7, 2012 12:23 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA recently picked three aerospace companies to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the third phase of NASA's efforts to get private space companies to take over the job of the now-retired space shuttle. The companies will share more than $1.1 billion. Two of the ships are capsules like in the Apollo era and the third is closer in design to the space shuttle.

NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent

August 7, 2012 4:15 am | by Alicia Chang and Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writers | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover on Monday transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Mars atmosphere, giving Earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world. It was a sneak preview since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.

New study links current events to climate change

August 6, 2012 6:59 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The relentless, weather-gone-crazy type of heat that has blistered the United States and other parts of the world in recent years is so rare that it can't be anything but man-made global warming, says a new analysis from NASA’s James Hansen. In a departure from most climate research, which is based on modeling, the new study relies on statistics.

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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.

Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars

August 6, 2012 5:38 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

NASA to athletic Mars rover: 'Stick the landing'

July 31, 2012 8:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. But before Curiosity can start rolling it must survive a complicated touchdown so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror"—the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph to a complete stop.

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.

NASA partners with Cella Energy on hydrogen technology

July 10, 2012 1:45 pm | News | Comments

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has announced a new partnership with Cella Energy Inc. that could result in vehicles being powered by hydrogen. The company has formulated a way to store hydrogen safely in tiny pellets that still allow the fuel to be burned in an engine. Because of its rocket work, Kennedy has the infrastructure and experience necessary to handle hydrogen safely.

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