April 10, 2014 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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.