Never mind using the solar wind to power spacecraft — that's old hat. Scientists at Washington State University want to use solar wind to power the entire world. A humongous solar sail could be used to harvest the power of solar winds, generating 1 billion billion gigawatts of electricity.
A pair of Russian aerospace companies have announced plans to launch the first commercial space station, in 2015 or perhaps 2016. The station will have room for up to seven astronauts, scientists, and wealthy citizens to perform experiments or just take in the scenery. Meanwhile, U.S.
In a mission to learn more about the sun’s inner workings, NASA is planning to launch a specially shielded spacecraft in 2018 that will plunge into the solar atmosphere. The car-sized Solar Probe Plus will explore an area just 4 million miles from the star’s surface, the last region of the solar system to be explored by humans.
As the aerospace world prepares to say goodbye to the space shuttles, engineers are looking for cheaper, faster replacements. The German space agency is apparently ahead of the game, announcing a retro-looking multi-faceted design late last week.
The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is developing a heat-resistant, 8-sided rocket that can re-enter the atmosphere without breaking up or suffering much damage, according to The Local. It would be the only rocket capable of guiding itself home.
A satellite that will help scientists understand the solar system's largest planet is being outfitted with some special interplanetary armor.
The Juno spacecraft will study Jupiter's powerful radiation belt, but it has to be built to survive that radiation. Engineers recently added a special shield around the spacecraft's electronics, turning it into a Jovian armored tank, says its principal investigator, Scott Bolton, based at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
A plucky Japanese probe burned up in a spectacular fireworks display Sunday, celebrating the end of a mission that found success despite being plagued with problems.
The Hayabusa probe overcame several obstacles to fly 3 billion miles to and from a tiny asteroid, land on its surface and (hopefully) collect samples. The spacecraft broke up in the upper atmosphere upon returning home, but not before it released a 15-inch capsule that might contain samples from the asteroid Itokawa. If it does, the sample will be the first material ever returned to Earth from a celestial body other than the moon.
A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.
This week, NASA discussed their plans to explore Mars and Titan for signs of life, while Stephen Hawking warned against hostile aliens. So, being in an extraterrestrial-seeking mood, we've taken to the archives, where speculation about interplanetary neighbors--be they hyper-intelligent beings, primitive microbes or Martian beavers--has long filled our pages.
NASA's search for extraterrestrial life could result in missions such as a balloon or boat-like capsule on Titan, or even a complex three-part Mars mission to return a Martian sample to Earth. Until then, scientists have focused attention on both Earth and Mars regions which could hold organic materials or microfossils.
Extraterrestrial life hunters gathered this week near Houston at what amounts to a biennial Woodstock for astrobiologists, and a NASA teleconference today gave a glimpse into the proceedings. Some of the best and the brightest shared their latest findings and discussed future missions to search for signs of life on Mars, Europa and other exotic solar system destinations.
NASA's Orion crew capsule, which was part of the cancelled Constellation program, has been revived as an escape pod for the International Space Station. A smaller version of the capsule could launch on an Atlas or Delta rocket and eliminate the need to buy a multimillion-dollar Russian Soyuz spacecraft for emergency crew escape, Florida Today reports.