NASA is spending roughly $175 million on three new technology demonstration projects, one of which is aiming to take HD data streaming to Mars. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will explore reliable optical communications technologies that could boost data rates between Earth and deep space by a couple of orders of magnitude.
Too bad the shuttles are shuttered. A Russian Progress cargo spaceship bound for the ISS crashed in eastern Russia this morning after failing to reach orbit. After launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrom in Kazakhstan in the wee hours today the spacecraft encountered some kind of trouble--Russian broadcaster RT said “engine trouble,” but that could mean a lot of things--and plummeted back to Earth with the nearly four tons of food, fuel, oxygen, and other supplies it was taking up to the International Space Station.
Our favorite Twitter ‘bot--no, like an actual robot that tweets--is out of the box and live-tweeting its new life on the International Space Station. Robonaut 2 was actually unboxed several months ago (it was delivered by the final Discovery mission in February) but has been sitting idly, waiting for the crew to get around to firing it up. Now R2 is plugged in, and man is it ever chatty.
For all the apocalypse talk that gets tossed around by psuedo-scientists and religious blowhards, rarely do we hear mention of Apophis, the 50 million-ton asteroid that actually might come close enough to Earth to warrant an end-of-the-world scare sometime in 2029. In that year it will pass so close to us that we'll be able figure the trajectory for its return trip in 2036. If it passes through an area of space near our home planet known as the "keyhole," it spells doom--on its return pass in 2036 it likely would strike us.
If it’s a space race the Russians want, a space race they shall have. But et tu, Europe? Russian news outlet Ria Novosti is reporting that the European Space Agency (ESA), long the ally of Cold War champion NASA, is teaming with Russia on a joint manned mission to Mars, and that their crew will be the first to set foot on the Red Planet.
By Adam HadhazyPosted 08.17.2011 at 10:11 am 21 Comments
In 2006, while flying by Saturn's moon Titan, the radar on NASA's Cassini orbiter discovered seas of liquid ethane and methane on the moon's –300ºF surface, the only bodies of liquid we know of that exist anywhere but on Earth. Some of the oily seas appeared on Cassini's radar to be larger than Lake Superior, but visibility was poor because Titan's atmosphere is thick and hazy. Now NASA is considering sending a probe called the Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) to splash down on one of Titan's seas for a closer look.
Kepler has found the darkest known planet in universe--a Jupiter-sized exoplanet some 750 light-years away that is so black that it reflects just one percent of the light that reaches it. TrES-2b is so black that it’s darker than coal, or any other planet or moon that we’ve yet discovered. It’s less reflective than black acrylic paint. To summarize: it’s really, really black.
The new post-shuttle NASA has said it aims to work more cooperatively with private space industry and outside sources of innovation in writing the next chapter in space exploration and science, and the agency is putting its money where its mouth is. After selecting 30 future technology proposals for funding earlier this week, NASA has now inked a number of much larger contracts with seven private space companies--including Virgin Galactic--to integrate and fly various technology payloads aboard their suborbital spacecraft.
NASA's space shuttles have journeyed into orbit well more than 100 times, making more than 20,000 loops around the planet along the way. But their final journeys to Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and New York are a logistical feat all their own. NASA moves the shuttles on the back of a modified 747, but no one has shipped a shuttle like that in more than 20 years.