The NASA budget that went to Capitol Hill yesterday dashed any plans to initiate new Mars exploration missions in the next few years, but amid the belt-tightening SPACE reports that NASA is exploring another idea that, while much closer to home, is still quite ambitious--the building of a manned waypoint (read: space station) at the Lagrangian point EML-2 on the far side of the moon.
NASA’s new budget is slated to land on Capitol Hill today, and it’s not quite what the space agency was hoping for. President Obama is asking Congress for $17.7 billion for NASA in 2013, funding it at its lowest level in four years and a full billion dollars less than the President mapped out for the agency in the five-year budget he sent Congress last year. Perhaps hardest hit: future Mars missions.
SpaceX’s dream of fielding a spacelaunch system that is completely reusable is inching forward with the successful test-firing of its new SuperDraco engine. The powerful new SuperDraco will be installed in the side walls of the next-gen Dragon spacecraft and provide up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust, enabling not only on orbit maneuvering, but emergency escape from the rocket tower should something go awry during launch.
Last week’s solar eruption and resulting radiation bombardment--the biggest recorded in seven years--made its presence felt here on Earth via altered flight paths for some planes in the Northern Hemisphere and a certain degree of hand-wringing over the health of satellites in the solar storm’s path. But it also made an impression far from Earth aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, currently cruising the interplanetary space between Earth and Mars.
In the grand tradition of the awe-inspiring "blue marble" pictures, this newest shot from NASA's recently-renamed Suomi NPP satellite is the sharpest, highest resolution picture of its kind we've ever seen. It's a composite image, combining shots taken of the Earth's surface on January 4th. It's available in a crazybig 8,000 by 8,000 pixel resolution, ideal for murals or screen-printing a large area rug.
Today in pretty space pics: The Helix Nebula, captured in infrared light by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope at Chile’s Paranal Observatory. How this nearby space fixture escaped being named the Eye of Sauron, we have no idea.
The first launch of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the ISS has been delayed yet again. No new date has been set, but the SpaceX apparently feels its Dragon could benefit from further testing and will not be ready for its scheduled February 7 launch. “We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data,” a SpaceX spokeswoman said in a statement today.
It’s been a busy week, what with the Consumer Electronics Show and the Detroit Auto Show showering geeks and gearheads alike with enough conceptual eye-candy to keep us all salivating for the next big thing all year.
But for those of us whose eyes are on the heavens more than on little screens, the 219th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society was the thing to watch this week.
The hits just keep on coming out of Austin this week as the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society rolls on. Researchers there have announced the discovery of the first Saturn-like ringed object outside our solar system, documented when researchers were trying to diagnose the cause of a strange eclipsing effect emanating from a nearby star.
Drones: they’re not just for controversial cross-border airstrikes anymore. Physicist Jason Barnes has designed a robotic aircraft that could cruise the methane skies of Saturn’s moon Titan almost indefinitely, beaming data and images back to Earth and terminating with extreme prejudice any terrorist threats it encounters there (we made that last part up).
The head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos--you know, the one that hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success lately--isn’t sure exactly why Russia’s doomed Phobos-Grunt mission failed to fire its engines and escape Earth’s orbit on a trajectory for Mars. But he’s got a theory: it’s the West’s fault.
When the German ROSATsatellite fell from the sky back in October--right on the heels of NASA’s UARS satellite, which came crashing down in September--we were told that we wouldn’t have to worry about any more falling satellites for awhile.
Here at PopSci we don’t like to spread rumors. And that’s how I generally like to start off a post wherein I intend to propagate some kind of hearsay rooted mostly in speculation. Hearsay like this: America’s X-37B spaceplane, the shuttle-like unmanned robotic orbiter that the Air Force put into orbit for the second time back in March, is probably (possibly) spying on China’s Tiangong-1 space station.
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.