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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Astrophysicists get first images for Dark Energy Camera

September 17, 2012 7:08 am | News | Comments

When the Dark Energy Camera opened its giant eye last week and began taking pictures of the ancient light from far-off galaxies, more than 120 members of the Dark Energy Survey eagerly awaited the first snapshots. Those images have now arrived.

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.

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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.

U.S. research and development most prevalent in small number of regions

September 13, 2012 4:29 am | News | Comments

According to data from a 2008 Business R&D and Innovation Survey by the National Science Foundation, businesses perform the lion's share of their R&D activity in just a small number of geographic areas, particularly the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area and the New York-Newark-Bridgeport area.

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.

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.

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.

ChemCam laser sets its sights on first Martian target

August 17, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument's remote microimager. The successful capture of ChemCam's first 10 photos sets the stage for the first test bursts of the instrument's rock-zapping laser in the near future.

'Microthrusters' could propel small satellites

August 17, 2012 3:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space. The device, designed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bears little resemblance to today's bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes, and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, its design is a flat, compact square covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions.

Radiation belt probes may help predict space weather

August 16, 2012 9:26 am | News | Comments

Living with a star can be a challenge, especially as Earthlings extend their reach into space. A Rice University scientist is contributing to an effort to make life more comfortable for both the people and satellites sent out there, and provide valuable research for those who remain planet-bound.

Unmanned U.S. military hypersonic craft failed

August 15, 2012 11:42 am | News | Comments

A faulty control fin prevented the X-51A Waverider from starting its exotic scramjet engine and it was lost Tuesday shortly after being launched. Though data showed the right conditions were achieved for engine ignition, the subsystem failure sent it plummeting into the Pacific Ocean. One Waverider remains.

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