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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.

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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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New studies nix report of arsenic-loving bacteria

July 9, 2012 8:42 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

It was a provocative finding: strange bacteria in a California lake that thrived on something completely unexpected—arsenic. What it suggested is that life, a very different kind of life, could possibly exist on some other planet. On Sunday, that same journal, Science , released two papers that rip apart the original research.

Sounding rocket mission has finest mirrors ever made

July 9, 2012 6:28 am | News | Comments

On July 11, NASA scientists will launch into space the highest resolution solar telescope ever to observe the solar corona. Often one improves telescope resolution simply by building bigger mirrors, but this is not possible when constraining a telescope to the size of a sounding rocket, so the High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) orbiter has a 9.5-inch with a variance of less than two atoms.

Researchers create 'MRI' of the sun's interior motions

July 9, 2012 5:51 am | News | Comments

A team of scientists has created an "MRI" of the sun's interior plasma motions, shedding light on how it transfers heat from its deep interior to its surface. The result upends our understanding of how heat is transported outwards by the sun and challenges existing explanations of the formation of sunspots and magnetic field generation.

Life's molecules could lie within reach of Mars Curiosity rover

July 6, 2012 8:34 am | News | Comments

Stick a shovel in the ground and scoop. That's about how deep scientists need to go in order to find evidence for ancient life on Mars, if there is any to be found, a new study suggests. That's within reach of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover expected to land on the Red Planet next month.

NASA signs agreement with Craig Technologies to maintain assets

July 5, 2012 8:02 am | News | Comments

NASA’s new partnership with Craig Technologies will help them maintain an inventory of unique processing and manufacturing equipment for future mission support at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Under a five-year agreement, NASA will loan to Craig 1,600 pieces of equipment used for Space Shuttle Program support.

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Cassini finds probable ocean below Titan's surface

June 28, 2012 10:50 am | News | Comments

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn's moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell. Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid "tides," on the moon only 3 ft in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 30 ft in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material.

Cassini shows why jet streams cross-cut Saturn

June 25, 2012 1:38 pm | News | Comments

Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn's atmosphere. Recent images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed the source from which the jets derive their energy.

SwRI to build eight NASA nanosatellites

June 21, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

NASA has selected a team including Southwest Research Institute to develop the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will provide better prediction capabilities for extreme weather events, particularly the intensification of hurricanes.

Researchers calculate size of particles in Martian clouds of CO2 snow

June 19, 2012 3:44 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the dead of a Martian winter, clouds of snow blanket the Red Planet's poles—but unlike our water-based snow, the particles on Mars are frozen crystals of carbon dioxide. Most of the Martian atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide, and in the winter, the poles get so cold—cold enough to freeze alcohol—that the gas condenses, forming tiny particles of snow. Now researchers have calculated the size of snow particles in clouds at both Martian poles from data gathered by orbiting spacecraft.

NASA's Fermi detects the highest-energy light from a solar flare

June 11, 2012 10:26 pm | News | Comments

During a powerful solar blast on March 7, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The flare produced such an outpouring of gamma rays—a form of light with even greater energy than X-rays—that the sun briefly became the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky.

Cosmic smashup predicted, but Earth will survive

June 1, 2012 8:20 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Astronomers in a NASA news conference Thursday said that years of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope provide grisly details of a long-anticipated galactic smashup, one that will involve the dead-on crash of a neighboring galaxy with our entire Milky Way.

Tiny planet-finding mirrors borrow from Webb Telescope playbook

May 25, 2012 5:25 am | by Lori Keesey | News | Comments

NASA’s next flagship mission, the James Webb Space Telescope, will carry the largest primary mirror ever deployed in space. Researchers has borrowed a page from its segmented mirror design to create a similar example just a half-inch in diameter. Strangely, the tiny mirror may one day become the standard for future space telescopes.

Commercial space race gets crowded behind SpaceX

May 24, 2012 12:24 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA has hired Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but will eventually add astronauts. And the space agency is hiring other companies, too. Several firms—at least eight—think they can make money in space and are close enough to Musk's company to practically surf in his spaceship's rocket-fueled wake.

Cassini reveals details about charged nanograins

May 22, 2012 8:59 am | News | Comments

In a new study, researchers describe what they found in data from Cassini: a new class of space particles—submicroscopic nanograins of electrically charged dust. Such particles are believed to exist throughout the universe, and this marks the first time researchers have measured and analyzed them.

Private supply ship rockets toward space station

May 22, 2012 8:58 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The SpaceX company made history as its Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 1,000 pounds of space station provisions in its Dragon capsule, rose from its seaside launch pad and pierced the pre-dawn sky, aiming for a rendezvous in a few days with the space station. If the mission proceeds as planned, Dragon will be the first commercial vessel to visit the space station.

Newfound exoplanet may turn to dust

May 18, 2012 3:30 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, and elsewhere have detected a possible planet, some 1,500 light years away, that appears to be evaporating under the blistering heat of its parent star. The scientists infer that a long tail of debris is following the planet, and that this tail may tell the story of the planet's disintegration.

Studying the internal mechanisms of shape-memory alloys

May 9, 2012 6:29 am | News | Comments

Shape-memory alloys are an engineer's dream, able to shape-shift spontaneously to accommodate changing operating conditions. A research team from NASA and the University of Central Florida is studying the internal mechanisms of these real-life "transformers" at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with an eye toward increasing their use in everyday scenarios.

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