Meade's RCX400 is the first consumer scope that comes out of the box with all the features you need for optimal stargazing and astrophotography. In addition to its GPS tracking, it has a built-in cooling fan, a motorized focuser, and a heater to keep condensation off the lens. Its mirrors can be aligned electronically, and it offers customized settings for different celestial targets.
10- to 16-inch apertures; $5,150 - $16,400
Most business jets don't get anywhere near their maximum range traveling at top speed. The Dassault Falcon 7X, unveiled in February, is the exception. Its long, slender wings help lift the plane to 41,000 feet even when fully loaded (other jets must burn significant amounts of fuel to reach similar altitudes, where airplanes operate more efficiently) and suffer less drag at high speeds than do other wing designs. The result: a 6,560-mile range while traveling at 530 mph. Advanced flaps and slats let the Falcon land at slower speeds and on shorter runways.
Pointed at the surface of Mars, the half-meter telescope on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will reveal structures as small as three feet wide-cracks in the canyons, rock outcroppings that had been just a blur. Scientists hope the craft, which launched in August and will take up orbit around the planet in March, will be able to spot the twin Mars rovers still tirelessly rolling across the surface and trace the fate of the European Space Agency's failed Beagle 2 lander. Ground-penetrating radar will further
the search for water.
"A bullet hitting a bullet" is how NASA scientists described the Deep Impact mission. The 800-pound copper-and-aluminum impactor positioned itself in comet Tempel 1's path and, on July 4, slammed into it, offering a first-ever peek inside a comet. Sensors on the spacecraft that launched the impactor analyzed the detritus, which was packed with surprising ingredients such as carbonatesminerals typically formed in liquid waterand aromatic hydrocarbons, the principal ingredients of soot.
A Radical rotor boosts helicopter speed to 288 mph
The top speed of helicopters hasn't increased much since the 1960s, but that will change when the prototype of Sikorsky's newly unveiled X2 takes flight late next year. It will travel at up to 288 mph (compared with the 220mph limit of conventional 'copters) using two four-bladed, low-drag rotors spinning in opposite directions and an airplane-like propeller in the rear that significantly increases the forward thrust.
Smart pilots won't fly without accurate, up-to-date weather information. Garmin brings it straight into their airplanes with the GPSMap 396, the first portable navigation device that receives real-time XM WX Satellite Weather radar and satellite images, forecasts, and wind data. $2,700
XSS-11 is an experimental Air Force technology demonstrator designed to track other satellites. Controllers simply tell the spacecraft where to look for a piece of orbiting hardwareanother U.S. satellite, for instanceand the XSS-11 autonomously plots a course, accelerates to the object, and begins to orbit and observe. It's the first step toward automatic satellite inspection and repair.