It may not look like much, but NASA's next candidate to touch down on Mars has taken its first steps toward its larger ambition of exploring the Martian landscape in 2012.
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a big week last week, mounting the Remote Sensing Mast and an array of navigation and sensing cameras on their latest Mars rover. Then on Friday Curiosity took its first drive, traveling about three feet back and forth on its brand new 20-inch aluminum wheels.
The U.S. Senate appeared to have cobbled together a compromise with the White House concerning NASA's immediate future as of late last week, but a new House Science Committee bill might undermine those dealings.
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite has just completed its first survey of the entire sky viewable from Earth -- returning more than a million images that provide a zoomed-in look at celestial objects ranging from distant galaxies to asteroids.
A Senate committee vote this afternoon should keep the Space Shuttle Program alive for at least one more mission and grant NASA the leeway it wants to continue developing a heavy-lift rocket capable of carrying crews into deep space. The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the authorization bill earlier this afternoon, sending it up to the full Senate for review sometime in the near future.
As rare-earth metals become less common, and as nuclear non-proliferation treaties proliferate, it may get harder to send probes into deep space. Preparing for that eventuality, the European Space Agency is stockpiling smoke-detector parts for a possible new fuel source.
NASA scientists have figured out what temporarily knocked out the X-ray detector on the agency's Swift space observatory earlier this summer: the strongest blast of X-rays ever recorded from beyond the Milky Way slammed into Swift unexpectedly, overwhelming the detector and puzzling mission handlers for a moment. But good luck sending a bill to the culprit for time lost; the X-rays were spawned 5 billion years ago during the violent explosion of a massive star as it turned into a black hole.
Add gumshoe detective to NASA's resume. Last year, scientists from the space agency working with the US Geological Survey and the Menlo Park District Attorney's office solved an 18-year-old murder case using technology developed for autonomous Earth science missions, NASA has announced.
Next time you're marveling at the fact that Spirit and Opportunity have been roving Mars for over six years now, ponder this: the two Voyager spacecraft have been hurtling through our solar system for nearly 33 years. Today, Voyager 1 hits a mission milestone of operating continuously for 12,000 days. The spacecraft launched on September 5, 1977, while Jimmy Carter was president, and has now traveled 14 billion miles.
A satellite that will help scientists understand the solar system's largest planet is being outfitted with some special interplanetary armor.
The Juno spacecraft will study Jupiter's powerful radiation belt, but it has to be built to survive that radiation. Engineers recently added a special shield around the spacecraft's electronics, turning it into a Jovian armored tank, says its principal investigator, Scott Bolton, based at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
In orbit, debris as small as a metal screw can cripple a vehicle or kill an astronaut. Here are five ideas for cleaning up the growing band of trash circling Earth
By David KushnerPosted 07.13.2010 at 10:05 am 1 Comment
One Friday last November, the six astronauts onboard the International Space Station received an urgent warning from mission control: Watch out for space junk. A piece of orbital debris, possibly a chunk of satellite, was hurtling toward the station. A direct hit could break through the hull. The crew prepped for escape.