Today in pretty space pics: the asteroid Vesta, captured in all its multicolored glory by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The colors, of course, aren’t true. Rather, they’ve been assigned by scientists to show different mineral and rock types as data streaming back from Dawn is informing the analysis of this unique asteroid.
A day after the successful launch of the Phobos-Grunt probe from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian mission handlers are already scrambling to save their spacecraft from the fate that has befallen so many Russian Mars missions. Phobos-Grunt found orbit yesterday but then failed to fire the engines that would put it on a path for the Martian moon Phobos.
NASA may be temporarily out of the manned spaceflight game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t preparing to realize all of our most technologically compelling sci-fi fantasies. The agency’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has awarded three researchers funding to study three different means of creating a tractor beam--a ray of laser light than can trap and pull objects in the opposite direction of the beam.
Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory will soon be the world’s largest radio telescope no more. After years of planning, China has broken ground on the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), a massive bowl-shaped radio signal collector that will be the world’s most sensitive when it opens for business in 2016.
As the pieces of the James Webb Space Telescope – the next-gen replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope – come together, there's plenty of excitement in the astronomy community, but as Nature reports, there is plenty of anxiety as well. Webb, scheduled for launch in 2014, simply has to work.
When civilizations were first spreading out across the Earth from its place of origin, traders and travelers harnessed the wind to circulate people, goods, and information from locale to locale, keeping the wheels of exchange turning as efficiently as technology would allow. Now, space sailing may take on a similar role. Fleets of “data clippers” could soon circulate around the solar system, ferrying scientific data from deep space missions back to Earth.