A future trip to the moon could use a commercial vehicle, if Armadillo Aerospace has anything to say about it. The company's rocket-powered craft pulled off a mock lunar landing on Saturday to qualify for a $1 million purse from NASA's Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
Wasting no time after the publication of the Augustine Report, both NASA and a competitor for the Lunar X-Prize used this week to test lunar exploration technology. For NASA, this meant a Thursday test of the Ares rocket that forms the bedrock of their Shuttle replacement efforts. For Armadillo Airspace, a test of their X-Prize-contending lunar lander prototype.
The space shuttle Discovery just can’t catch a break. Astronauts aboard the orbiting craft, which is scheduled to land back on Earth later today, fired the engines around noon EDT today to dodge a piece of space junk creeping into its orbit, marking the third piece of orbiting detritus to enter the shuttle’s neighborhood during this mission.
Scientists working on behalf of NASA have successfully levitated a mouse using a strong magnetic field. I pay taxes so that stuff like this can happen. I don't hate animals. It's for understanding microgravity better, ok?
Planetary Nebula NGC 6302:The newly-refurbished Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first breathtaking images after being repaired in September. Here, Nebula NGC 6302 with its butterfly wings of 36,000-degree gas. NASA
We always like to look forward to bigger and better tech, but NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, though it's been around the block, still holds a special place in every geek's heart. Now the freshly repaired and upgraded telescope has resumed churning out enough images of cosmic glory to turn anyone's head.
After months of research, public hearings, and debate, the NASA Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, also known as the Augustine Committee, has finally submitted its recommendations to the White House.
Space-DRUMS:The Space-DRUMS chamber makes use of 20 sound beams to produce materials free of container contamination. Semiconductors are especially an area of interest for the souped-up pressure cooker. NASA
This dodecahedron-shaped device currently on board the International Space Station may resemble a landmine, but in fact it serves quite an opposite purpose: within, scientist Jacques Guigne hopes to use sound waves to cleanly manipulate a brew of ingredients into custom materials that can only be made in the unique conditions of space.
Spacecraft might one day refuel on the moon or Mars using plain old ice. A small rocket flew earlier this month on an environmentally-friendly propellant consisting of aluminum powder and water ice.
The "ALICE" fuel mixture being developed by Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University could someday replace liquid or solid rocket propellants, and possibly enable higher performance as well. The implications for space exploration could also mean accessible fuel reserves at future lunar or Martian outposts, which naturally attract the interest of NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
And you thought your connection was fast. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is currently scanning the moon with powerful sensory equipment, gathering the most detailed data to date from the lunar surface. But to transmit all those images and data across the 238,800-mile void separating the moon from Earth, the LRO relies on a super-charged wireless connection that beams 461 gigabytes per day back to the blue planet. And the instrument that makes it all possible is a mere 13 inches long.
For a while now, NASA has been planning to use a nuclear fission reactor to power future bases on the Moon and Mars. They have now finally begun testing a Stirling engine-based system, subjecting it to simulated extraterrestrial conditions to examine how it would fare as a lunar power generator.
Packing for space missions has always faced weight limitations due to fuel costs. But NASA's successful test of an inflatable heat shield signals a way forward for future spacecraft to reenter Earth's atmosphere, and maybe even land heavier loads on Mars.
Over a period of four months in late 2003, the Hubble telescope assembled an image that represents the deepest look into space every composed. The Ultra Deep Field image captures an estimated 10,000 galaxies, some as old as 13 billion years (just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, going by most estimates), all squeezed into a sliver of sky no bigger than what you'd see behind a 1-millimeter square postage stamp held one meter away.
Future space hotel moguls can get nervous when NASA's next-generation spaceship plans begin to founder. So one company has come up with a modified "Lite" design of the planned Orion vehicle to carry astronauts and paying passengers into orbit.
Saturn Gets Served:A mysterious object passing through Saturn's "Ring F" NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
An unknown object appears to have punched through one of Saturn's rings and left a calling card in the form of trailing debris. NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped the image on June 11, 2009 during its ongoing tour of Saturn and its moons.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.