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November 18, 2013 | By Amy Hubbard
[Updated, 10:41 a.m. Nov. 18: Success! The Atlas V rocket, carrying MAVEN on its mission to Mars, lifted off this morning just as the launch window opened.  Social media lighted up as the robotic explorer left the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. This is just the first step in a 10-month journey. ] And lift off of the #MAVEN spacecraft on a journey to Mars aboard an #Atlas5 rocket: - NASA (@NASA) November 18, 2013 MAVEN is on schedule for its launch to Mars today.
November 18, 2013 | By Amina Khan
A rocket carrying NASA's MAVEN spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 1:28 p.m. ET Monday, on a mission to answer a profound mystery about Mars' planetary evolution: What happened to the atmosphere? The agency's latest robotic explorer will sample gas isotopes, catch solar particles and probe magnetic fields in the upper atmosphere, to try and figure out how long the Red Planet was capable of protecting liquid water -- and perhaps even supporting life. Mars' atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of Earth's, making it so thin that it can't keep liquid water from boiling away.
November 15, 2013 | By Amina Khan
Four billion years ago, rivers and lakes dotted the surface of Mars, their waters reflecting puffy clouds drifting in a blue sky, scientists believe. Now, it's a dry, rusty rock that's subject to fierce sandstorms, withering blasts of radiation and freezing temperatures that have frozen carbon dioxide to the planet's poles. What happened? That's the question NASA seeks to answer with the scheduled launch Monday of the MAVEN spacecraft. Planetary scientists believe the answer lies high in the Martian atmosphere.
November 13, 2013 | By Amina Khan
Don't be fooled - this epic video of plump clouds, clear lakes and gorgeous landscapes isn't from some remote vacation spot on Earth. This could be what Mars looked like about 4 billion years ago, NASA scientists say. The video (which you can watch above) also shows how Mars may have transitioned from a lush paradise into the desert-like Red Planet we know today. Scientists working on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, known as MAVEN, which is scheduled to launch Monday, are hoping to figure out whether the planet really could have looked like that - and if so, for how long.
October 31, 2013 | By Lisa Boone
With her long blond ponytail floating above her inside the International Space Station, astronaut Karen Nyberg calmly explains the challenges of quilting in weightlessness. "Now that I've tried my hand sewing in space," she said in a video released Thursday by NASA, "I can say one thing with certainty: It's tricky. " As if being a mechanical engineer and astronaut isn't significant enough, the avid quilter brought sewing supplies including fabric, scissors, thread, five needles (but no pins)
October 23, 2013 | By Amy Hubbard
Using a laser, NASA has beamed data between the moon and Earth -- 239,000 miles -- at a record-shattering rate. The download rate that got NASA scientists so excited was 622 megabits per second.  We asked an expert to break it down. "This download rate is six times faster than the most recent state-of-the-art radio system from the moon," Don Cornwell, manager of the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration told The Times by email on Wednesday. PHOTOS: ISS crews and images from space Up to this point, NASA has used radio frequency communication.
October 15, 2013 | By Carol J. Williams
A quirky habit of German insomniacs and "chill-out" music fans has come to world attention thanks to the U.S. government shutdown. "Space Night," a nearly 20-year-old late-night broadcast by Bavarian Television, provides a music-sharing platform against a backdrop of NASA's video feed from the International Space Station. But the 15-day-old U.S. government shutdown has idled the NASA archivists responsible for relaying the imagery beyond Mission Control, cutting off fresh backdrops to mix with the music for "Space Night" broadcasts that were to have launched a new season Nov. 1. NASA archivists were put on unpaid leave at the start of October, when 700,000 government workers whose jobs weren't deemed essential to defense and security were furloughed until the contentious U.S. Congress passes a budget for the new fiscal year.
October 10, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Having trouble wrapping your head around why NASA's Juno spacecraft needed to come so close to Earth as it makes its way to Jupiter? Bill Nye has you covered.  To honor Juno's closest approach to Earth since it launched in 2011, NASA and the YouTube channel THNKR debuted a new web series Wednesday called "Why With Nye. " It features Bill Nye using a host of goofy props to talk about Juno and Jupiter -- how we plan to get the spacecraft to...
October 7, 2013 | By Michael Hiltzik
You could place Michael Eisen in the same league as Aaron Swartz. Like the late Swartz, who campaigned for free public access to government publications and academic papers, UC Berkeley biologist Eisen is one of the genuine pioneers of open-access academic publishing. That's the notion that scientific papers should be made available free to researchers and the community at large, rather than hidden behind the expensive paywalls of profitable scientific journals.  Last week Eisen took his battle to NASA, which submitted the first papers to come out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's popular Mars Curiosity rover project to Science  magazine, which charged the public as much as $20 a day to access them.
October 3, 2013 | By Amina Khan, This post has been updated, as indicated below.
Planetary scientists are breathing a sigh of relief as NASA's MAVEN mission to Mars has been cleared for takeoff. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, slated for launch as early as Nov. 18, had been put on hold after this week's government shutdown, raising fears that the spacecraft would miss the launch window and be grounded for years. "I learned this morning that NASA has analyzed the MAVEN mission relative to the Anti-Deficiency Act and determined that it meets the requirements allowing an emergency exception," Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN's lead scientist based out of the University of Colorado in Boulder, said in an email.
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