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NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.
April 21, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
This Earth Day NASA is asking citizens of the Earth to step outside and photograph themselves wherever on the planet they happen to be. The space agency's celebration of the Earth and the people who live on it is called, appropriately, #globalselfie. To participate all you need is a digital camera and a sign indicating which spot on our planet you happen to be standing on. (Not feeling creative? NASA has a sign you can print out on its website. It reads, "Hi NASA! I'm on Earth Right Now @_______)
January 20, 2014 | By Carol J. Williams
Nervous anticipation gave way to jubilation on Monday when the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet-chaser spacecraft emerged from almost three years of induced, energy-saving sleep to report it was ready to carry out its history-making $1 billion mission. Rosetta alerted scientists at the ESA mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, that it was awake and ready to rev up and rendezvous with the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet in August. The message sent from the spacecraft still 5.6 million miles from its comet destination reached Earth at 7:18 p.m. Central European Time (11:18 a.m. PST)
April 18, 2014 | By Amina Khan
NASA's LADEE mission ended with a bang when the spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface Thursday. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer smashed into the dark side of the moon between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m., according to NASA officials. The vending-machine-sized spacecraft ran out of fuel and collided with the moon at a speed of roughly 3,600 miles per hour -- or “about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet,” Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA Ames Research Center said in a statement.
January 2, 2014 | By Amina Khan
Gecko's sticky feet seem to let the little climbing lizards crawl wherever they want. Now researchers have used the gecko feet's trade secrets to let robots use that climbing power in space. The idea, which received backing from the European Space Agency, mimics the pads of the gecko's feet to allow small robots to climb up the hulls of larger spacecraft to maintain and even repair them. Such repair bots could extend the lives of expensive spacecraft, save them from sudden and untimely deaths, and perhaps one day minimize risky spacewalks for future astronauts.
July 18, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
A Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher has solved the so-called Pioneer anomaly -- the unexpected slowing of the two Pioneer spacecraft -- and shown that it is not due to unknown physics, as some theoreticians had speculated. Instead, it is the result of heat radiated by the spacecraft. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively, on a trajectory toward the edge of the solar system. In the early 1980s, controllers at NASA's JPL detected a slight deceleration in the crafts' speeds.
June 28, 2013 | By Brad Balukjian
One of NASA's prize workhorses, the spacecraft Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or GALEX, was decommissioned Friday after 10 years of scanning the universe in ultraviolet light. “It had a long run,” said Karl Forster, GALEX science operations center team leader. The satellite, only 6 feet tall and a svelte 1,034 pounds, was part of NASA's small Explorer mission. Its main objective was to use ultraviolet cameras to take images of young stars, which are invisible to human eyes because they emit only UV light.
April 12, 2001 | From Associated Press
A spacecraft intended to demonstrate deployment of a solar sail was damaged while undergoing testing in Russia, a mission official said Wednesday. The extent of damage was unclear, and the craft's launch will be delayed weeks or months, said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society in Pasadena and the Cosmos 1 project director. The craft was scheduled for launch April 26 from a Russian missile submarine in the Barents Sea.
September 9, 1997 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Launching a spacecraft powered by 72 pounds of plutonium could harm millions of people if there were an accident, opponents of the Cassini space mission said. NASA officials disagreed, saying independent experts have examined the craft and found it to be safe. Leaders of groups opposed to any nuclear-powered spacecraft said at a news conference that they are asking President Clinton to stop the Cassini launch next month to protect the Earth from the plutonium risk. Cassini is a $3.
August 14, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
A team taking a low-budget stab at the $10-million Ansari X Prize for private manned spaceflight had a setback Sunday, when their rocket malfunctioned and exploded after shooting fewer than 1,000 feet in the air. No one was hurt in the test of the Rubicon 1 just south of Olympic National Park in Washington. The 23-foot-long, 38-inch-diameter spacecraft held three dummies in place of astronauts.
April 10, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
NASA has a landing-on-Mars problem, and that strange flying-saucer-shaped test vehicle in the picture above may help them solve it. Since 1976, when NASA's Viking probe first landed on the Red Planet, the agency has relied on the same parachute design to help all its Mars probes and rovers descend to the planet's surface intact. So far, that Viking-era parachute system has worked fabulously. Most recently, it helped the 1-ton Curiosity rover survive its 'Seven Minutes of Terror' and land safely on the planet.
April 4, 2014 | By Amina Khan
Scientists have found strong evidence of a watery sea beneath the icy surface of Enceladus, a moon that orbits Saturn and squirts jets of water vapor into one of the planet's rings. The dramatic jets, which emerge from cracks in the moon's surface, have long tantalized scientists looking for signs of liquid water elsewhere in the solar system. Now, using gravitational data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, the researchers have determined that Enceladus hosts a vast southern sea roughly the size of Lake Superior.
April 2, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
Hubble has spotted a comet named Sliding Spring spewing gas and dust into space as it zooms to a close encounter with Mars in October. Researchers working with the Hubble Space Telescope recently released two images of the comet. The image on the left, captured March 11, shows what the Hubble saw. The one on the right has been resolved to reveal what appears to be two distinct jets shooting out of the comet's the icy nucleus. Comet Sliding Spring began its journey to the sun 1 million years ago from the hypothesized, but never seen Oort cloud in the cold, outer reaches of our solar system.
April 1, 2014 | By W.J. Hennigan
For more than 15 years, a $518-million military weather satellite sat in a clean room at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s facility in Sunnyvale waiting for the day it would be launched into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. On Thursday morning, the spacecraft is finally set to be blasted into space atop Atlas V rocket. It will be the latest satellite launched in support of the military's long-running Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, a satellite system initiated in 1962.
March 12, 2014 | By Amina Khan
NASA's elderly Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flipped into “safe mode” on Sunday after an unexpected computing glitch caused the spacecraft to switch from its main computer to its backup. The 8-year-old satellite, which left Earth in August 2005 and entered Martian orbit on March 10, 2006, has lived well beyond its primary two-year science phase, so perhaps the occasional "brain fart" is understandable. Tasked with searching for signs that water flowed on Mars for a long period of time, it's been sending Earth detailed information about seasonal and longer-term changes on our rust-hued neighbor . In fact, it has returned more data than all other interplanetary missions combined, according to officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, which manages the mission.
February 27, 2014 | By Amina Khan, This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
Don't call it a comeback just yet. Astronomers mourned the Kepler Space Telescope after it was crippled last year. But NASA's planet hunter may be getting a second chance at life - with an ingenious, just-so-crazy-it-might-work plan that would use the sun's rays to steer the spacecraft. The data already collected by Kepler are still turning up a treasure trove of hundreds of planets , as Wednesday's announcement showed. But if it passes NASA approval, the potential new mission, called K2, could mean a whole different kind of search to find Earth-size exoplanets, along with supernovae, protostars and galaxy clusters.
August 16, 2013 | By Amina Khan and Eryn Brown
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft may be down a couple wheels, but it's by no means out for the count, mission scientists said Thursday. As part of a time-honored tradition, the space agency is calling on scientists and engineers to submit ideas for new ways to prop up the telescope and pull more scientific discoveries out of its still-working instrument. Every mission NASA sends out into space has a limited lifetime - even the Voyager spacecraft, launched in the 1970s and still making news today . Some spacecraft end up malfunctioning.
December 14, 2009 | By John Johnson Jr.
NASA's newest mapping mission, designed to sniff out the dimmest residents of our neighborhood in space, launched successfully this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Delta II rocket carrying the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft lifted off at 6:09 a.m., Pacific time. About eight minutes later, the 1,485-pound WISE craft entered space. About 52 minutes into the flight, the craft's second-stage rocket ignited again, placing the vehicle into its assigned polar orbit 326 miles above the Earth.
February 26, 2014 | By Amina Khan, This post has been updated, as indicated below.
Using a brand-new technique, scientists using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope have found 715 confirmed planets huddling around 305 stars, nearly triple Kepler's previous total of 246 confirmed planets in the Milky Way galaxy. Nearly 95% of them are smaller than Neptune, and four of them are in their star's habitable zone, the region where liquid water - a necessary ingredient for life as we know it - could exist. Even though the planet-hunting telescope's crucial pointing ability was crippled last year , data mined from the spacecraft are still turning up a trove of strange and wonderful worlds, researchers said - bringing them ever closer to finding "Earth 2.0. " “We've been able to open the bottleneck to access the mother lode and deliver to you more than 20 times as many planets as have ever been found and announced at once,” said Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center who led one of two papers on the discovery set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
February 18, 2014 | By Edward C. Stone
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. Even if defined only by distance, the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory twin Voyagers are America's greatest space adventure. They've been flying successfully for more than 36 years and are billions of miles from home. What isn't widely known is that they almost never made it out there. The first proposed mission in the late 1960s was for four spacecraft to take advantage of a rare alignment of the four outer planets of the solar system; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would all be on the same side of the sun. However, in December 1971, NASA decided it couldn't afford the $1-billion price tag for a 12-year "grand tour" mission with four spacecraft.
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