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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.

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.

To the moon? Firm hopes to sell $1.5 billion trips

December 7, 2012 8:49 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A new venture called Golden Spike Co. was announced on Thursday that hopes to offer trips for two to the moon for a cool $1.5 billion. Some space experts are skeptical of the firm’s financial ability to get to the moon, but the team of former NASA executives believe they can combine the technical might of Apollo with the marketing of Apple.

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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.

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.

Mars rover Curiosity: No surprise in first soil test

December 3, 2012 2:55 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Results are in from the first test of Martian soil by the rover Curiosity: So far, there is no definitive evidence that the red planet has the chemical ingredients to support life. Scientists said Monday a scoop of sandy soil analyzed by the rover's chemistry lab contained water and a mix of chemicals, but not the complex carbon-based compounds considered necessary for microbial life.

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.

Robotic laser system strips paint from aircraft, saving money and time

November 26, 2012 5:42 pm | News | Comments

Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University and Concurrent Technologies Corporation are working with the Air Force Research Laboratory and Ogden Air Logistics Center 309 AMXG to develop and demonstrate a robotic system that uses high-powered lasers to remove coatings from fighter and cargo aircraft. The continuous-wave lasers should replace abrasives and chemicals used in traditional coating removal processes.

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Laser-based “printing” method used to make NASA rocket parts

November 9, 2012 1:15 pm | by Bill Hubscher | News | Comments

At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, a manufacturing technique called selective laser melting, or SLM, to create intricate metal parts for America's next heavy-lift rocket. Working from a 3D computer-aided design computer file, the machine basically “prints” complex parts using metal powder and lasers. The process significantly reduces the manufacturing time required to produce parts from months to weeks or even days, in some cases.

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.

Military plans new hypersonic flight after failure

October 25, 2012 2:54 pm | News | Comments

Two months ago, a problem with a control fin caused an X-51A to lose balance and crash off the Southern California coast. Research on the cause pointed to a mysterious “random vibration issue”. The U.S. military says it is planning a fourth attempt at unmanned hypersonic flight next spring or summer.

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.

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.

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.

NASA must reinvest in nanotechnology research

October 16, 2012 11:38 am | News | Comments

The United States may lose its leadership role in space to other countries unless it makes research and development funding and processes—especially in nanotechnology—a renewed and urgent priority, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Jump from 24-miles high provides collective moment

October 15, 2012 1:01 pm | by Juan Carlos Llorca and Oskar Garcia, Associated Press | News | Comments

Felix Baumgartner stood poised in the open hatch of a capsule suspended above Earth, wondering if he would make it back alive. Twenty four miles below him, millions of people were right there with him, watching on the Internet and marveling at the wonder of the moment. Nine minutes later he landed, becoming the world's first supersonic skydiver.

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.

Skydiver aims to break sound barrier in free fall

October 2, 2012 3:55 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

His blood could boil. His lungs could overinflate. The vessels in his brain could burst. His eyes could hemorrhage. And, yes, he could break his neck while jumping from a mind-boggling altitude of 23 miles. But the risk of a gruesome death has never stopped "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner it won’t likely stop him next Monday over New Mexico, where he will attempt the highest, fastest free fall in history and try to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

Spaceport is built, but who will come?

September 24, 2012 2:06 pm | by Jeri Clausing, Associated Press | News | Comments

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says it will be New Mexico's Sydney Opera House. Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson has hinted it will host the first of his new brand of lifestyle hotels. But the nearly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar Spaceport America in New Mexico project has yet to attract the sort of industrial and investment activity expected, even as it nears phase one completion.

New airport system facilitates smoother take-offs and landings

September 19, 2012 9:23 am | News | Comments

For airline passengers who dread bumpy rides to mountainous destinations, help may be on the way. A new turbulence avoidance system, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has for the first time been approved for use at a U.S. airport and can be adapted for additional airports in rugged settings across the United States and overseas.

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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