Launching payloads into space is expensive, but high costs aside it’s also a horribly inefficient process. Conventional rockets are almost pure fuel, leaving only a small percentage (usually in the low single digits) of a launch vehicle's total weight available for payload. So NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio is looking into a whole new system of payload propulsion that uses lasers or microwaves to launch vehicles into orbit.
If you consider a meticulously curated sandpit in a Moscow suburb a destination, then the Mars500 team has finally arrived. After more than 250 days confined to a wood-paneled simulated space capsule, the international crew put down its landing craft on the “Martian” surface over the weekend and, donning Russian Orlan spacesuits, executed its first walk on the red planet today.
Since its inception (okay, since the early 1960s) the United States has been the world leader in space travel and exploration, taking the lead in crafting mankind's vision and agenda for humanity's role in space. So it made sense when NASA and DARPA announced their joint "100-Year Starship" study last year to explore the possibility of a one-way manned mission to another planet.
Tapping a bit of frat-boy ingenuity, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) have devised a new way for an old space exploration instrument to suck down large volumes of vaporized particles and analyze rocks for their compositions using an ion funnel, a process that could speed analysis, lighten instrument loads, and improve the odds of finding signs of life.
We may spend out days basking it its life-enabling glow, but there’s a lot we don’t know about our sun and how it impacts our planet. So NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) was launched to shed some light on the sun, and Sunday it beamed back its “first light” images—that is, the STEREO released its first 3-D images of the sun. Sort of.
The ESA’s newest Automated Transfer Vehicle--ATV-2, otherwise known as Johannes Kepler--is loaded up and primed for its February 15th launch to the International Space Station, marking a several significant milestones for the European Space Agency and its contribution to ISS operations. Among those benchmarks, it marks the first “operational” flight for the ESA’s ATVs, the 200th launch aboard the European Ariane 5 rocket, and the heaviest load an Ariane 5 has ever hurled into orbit.
In what some are calling a second iteration of the space race, it seems the Russians have found a "Sputnik moment" of their own. In the wake of the recent successful wrap-up of the X-37B's first orbital mission—a 220-day affair that reportedly saw the Air Force's mysterious unmanned space plane complete a range of on-orbit maneuvers and tests that the U.S.A.F.
The proliferation of space debris surrounding our planet isn't just a theoretical problem--flying extraterrestrial garbage can cause damage to satellites, manned and unmanned space missions, and even the International Space Station.
How big is the universe anyhow? We know the universe is roughly 4 billion years old and we know how far light travels in a year, so ostensibly it would seem the visible universe is contained to a radius of 14 billion light years. But we know that photons in the cosmic microwave background have traveled some 45 billion light years to reach earth (because the universe is also expanding the most distant visible objects are actually further than 14 billion light years), giving the universe an apparent diameter of at least 90 billion light years.
So how big is it really? A new mathematical analysis says its at least 250 times larger than the visible universe. Which is really, really big.