As evidenced by NASA’s confirmation last week of an asteroid collision observed by Hubble, there are plenty of objects careening around the solar system that we don’t know about. Some of these space rocks could do some serious damage if the Earth’s gravitational field ever pulls them in.
A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.
Astronomers and students from the University of Khartoum form a line half a mile wide to comb the Nubian Desert for tiny fragments of a rare asteroid.
Peter Jenniskens/NASA Ames Research Center/SETI
On October 7, 2008,shortly before dawn in northern Sudan, a trucker named Omar Fadul el Mula was praying at a remote teahouse in the Nubian Desert when a bright flash lit up the landscape. It was as if the world had switched from night to day. He sprung to his feet, ran around the small building, and saw a huge trail of dust and debris stretched high in the sky.
Congress charged NASA with finding 90 percent of nearby space rocks greater than 140 meters (460 ft) by 2020. Now the National Research Council warns that the space agency will fall short of that goal without more funding.
Getting thwacked by a meteorite and surviving seems almost impossible, but don't tell that to 14-year-old Gerrit Blank. While walking to school in his hometown of Essen, Germany, a "ball of light" seared a 3-inch scar into his hand before hitting the ground.
Transformational Space's versatile manned rocket system features a cleverly designed capsule, a dramatic airborne launch, and Apollo-style reentry and splashdown. The young company has quickly become a leader in the commercial space race, and its craft is a potentially key backup during NASA's efforts to replace the space shuttle. T/Space's approachgetting incremental funding from NASA only after it demonstrates working hardwarehas earned it rock-solid credibility in a world populated by vaporware.
The biggest airliner ever built takes flight
When the first Airbus A380 made its maiden flight from Toulouse, France, on April 27, it launched a new age in long-distance air travel. The top-shelf airlines first in line to purchase it-Singapore, Emirates, Virgin-will use the enormous jet's roomy two-story cabin to pamper around 118 business- and first-class travelers while packing as many as 437 passengers in coach to hold down fares.
DayJet's new software is the key to its forthcoming on-demand air taxi service, efficiently matching available planes with potential travelers. As soon as next year, you'll be able to call or go online to request a trip, with a desired departure and arrival time. The software will analyze factors including weather and DayJet's available planes and itineraries and will respond in seconds with a fare.
Swift is the first satellite explicitly designed to solve the mystery of gamma-ray bursts, the enigmatic explosions that have puzzled astronomers for decades. Practically every day, another burst randomly appears in the sky, flashing powerful gamma rays for anywhere from a fraction of a second to two minutes. Before the burst fades, Swift quickly locates it, rotates its telescopes and other satellites for observation, and relays the burst's location to ground-based telescopes, which study it in detail.
Imagine an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could fly for days rather than hours, aiding soldiers on reconnaissance missions or supplying emergency communications to disaster-affected regions. AeroVironment, which built the first human- and solar-powered airplanes, has successfully flown a prototype of a UAV that will be able to remain at high altitudes for longer than a week at a time. Unlike earlier solar-powered systems, which had to power the vehicle and store enough electricity for nighttime flying, Global Observer uses fuel-cell-powered electric motors to drive eight propellers.