Going once, going twice, sold! to the space enthusiast in the second row
By Jennie WaltersPosted 06.28.2011 at 3:05 pm 3 Comments
In April, NASA announced plans to "donate" four space shuttles to American museums for about $30 million apiece. That's a bit steep for armchair astronauts, but a surprising amount of semi-affordable space stuff goes to auction each year.
Back in 2001, NASA launched a mission named Genesis toward the sun to collect solar particles streaming from our star and return them to Earth. Genesis arrived back on Earth right on time in 2004, but all didn't go according to plan. When Genesis's parachute failed, the spacecraft crash landed in Utah, spilling it's contents across the ground.
For all their promise for future space propulsion schemes, plasma drives have had a hard time gaining momentum. A $3.1 million grant aims to change that, giving Australian National University physicists a lift that should help them see their plasma engine all the way to orbit aboard a European satellite within two years.
Looking for a source of renewable electricity? Researchers at the University of Toronto have found some serious current emanating from a huge cosmic jet 2 billion light years from Earth. At 1018 amps, the current is the strongest current ever seen, equalling something like a trillion bolts of lightning.
Researchers looking for signs of life elsewhere in the universe often start by looking for one key ingredient necessary to complex life as we know it: water. And just 750 light-years away, they’ve found quite a bit of it spewing from the poles of a young, sunlike star that is blasting jets of H2O into interstellar space at 124,000 miles per hour.
Centaurus A, a.k.a. NGC 5128, is only 11 million light years from Earth, and as such it is a popular, brightly-lit target for amateur stargazers. You can even see it fairly well with common binoculars. But you can’t see it like this. Hubble has gathered the most detailed image ever taken of the nearby galaxy, showing up close the characteristic lanes of dust and dark material that obscure the region.
If you want to see what Earth looks like from space, become an astronaut (or, barring that, a space tourist). For the next best view, pay a visit to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where a massive, nearly 20-foot spherical OLED orb--the world’s first large scale spherical OLED--offers a satellite’s-eye view of the planet in super high resolution.
Japan's "T2K," one of our favorite neutrino experiments (we're keen on several), might have just cracked the mystery of why matter triumphed over antimatter after the Big Bang (they should have canceled each other out).
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.
China jumped into the space race a few decades too late for the original moon race, but the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) is feverishly working to close the space technology gap with Russia and the United States. As part of that effort, China’s Chang’e-2 moon orbiter left its moon orbit today and set a heading for interplanetary space, with a destination more than 930,000 miles from Earth.