Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Enceladus Hot Springs

Scientists now think that Saturn's moon Enceladus not only has a liquid water ocean under it's icy shell, but hot springs on the floor of that sea, as well.

Such hot springs would further enhance Enceladus' potential as an abode of life.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Crater Earhart

A team from Purdue University has identified a huge-- 124 mile wide-- ancient crater on the Moon and provisionally named it after famed aviator Amelia Earhart.  The crater escaped recognition all this time because it has been so badly battered.

Earhart worked at Purdue, and her papers are collected there.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One Year Mission Underway

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have arrived at ISS to begin their year-long stay.

The point of the mission is to study the physical and psychological effects of extended spaceflight.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scanning Luna

A new approach to understanding the Moon involves scanning the Moon's iron core with X-rays to learn how iron behaves under such temperatures and pressures.

That study could, in turn, be applied to the iron cores of other small, rocky worlds, like Mars and Mercury.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Year In Space

This weekend, one astronaut and one cosmonaut are scheduled to begin a one year mission on ISS, testing the human body's adaptability to extended stays in space.  A Soviet cosmonaut or two spent a year on the old Mir space station.

The astronaut's twin brother, also an astronaut, will serve as a sort of control in the study of his brother's physical reactions to microgravity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Livable Mars

Two independent studies find carbon and molecular nitrogen have likely existed throughout history on Mars.

Their presence strengthens the case that life could have existed on Mars-- and may yet today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rocket Races

SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance are competing in the military satellite launch market.  ULA, the incumbent, has a perfect launch record, but so does SpaceX, with fewer launches, and that company is committed to pushing costs lower.

The competition could help shape the commercial launch market for years to come.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rosetta Finds Molecular Nitrogen

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has found molecular nitrogen on its target comet.

Scientists say the discovery suggests the comet was formed early on in the Solar System, and in its outer regions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mars One Update

Mars One has delayed its first manned landing on Mars until 2027 due to an investment glitch.

The project is also dealing with charges that its astronaut selection process is flawed and that there were only about 2,000 applications for colonist slots, not the 200,000 claimed by the project.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Solar Eclipse

A total eclipse of the Sun was seen over Europe and Africa this morning.

Such spectacles are possible because of an extraordinary coincidence.  As seen from Earth, the disks of the Sun and Moon are almost exactly the same size.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Lunar Crater

Two years ago, a boulder slammed into the Moon, creating a particularly bright flash.

Now, using images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA has found the crater created by the strike-- one about fifty feet in diameter complete with surrounding ejecta and rays.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Fifty years ago, Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first human to walk in space.

It was perhaps the last in a string of major "firsts" in human spaceflight scored by the USSR.  That emphasis on being first to do various things may have taken away from the systematic development of a manned space capability, helping NASA pull ahead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

China's Plans

China is introducing two new rockets into its Long March family of launchers, replacing two older models.

It also plans to launch a small space lab next year, the next step towards building a large space station in the 2020s.  China also announced its next lunar probe will be funded by a mix of public and private sources.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rolling Water Worlds

A new study suggests that worlds completely covered by a water ocean rolling along their orbits, poles pointed at their parent star, could still harbor life.

At Earth's distance from the Sun, the depth of the ocean would need to average 165 feet to provide a stable environment for life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Active Moon

Data from China's Yulu lunar rover suggests the Moon was much more active in the past than previously thought--- including at least instances of explosive vulcanism.

Yulu stopped functioning in January 2014.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ganymede's Ocean

Observations using the Hubble telescope have provided the best evidence yet that Jupiter's Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System, has a huge, salty, water ocean under its icy crust.  There may be more water on Ganymede than there is on the surface of Earth.

Hubble is likely best known for its deep sky work, but it has also made numerous discoveries within the Solar System.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SLS Test

NASA successfully test fired the engine of its huge new SLS launcher yesterday in the Utah desert.

SLS is slated to launch the first manned Orion mission-- possibly to the Moon-- in late 2017.  After that, though, the uses for such a powerful rocket are unclear.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Martian Marathon

The Curiosity rover has now traveled just over 26 miles-- the length of a marathon race-- on Mars.

It still trails the Opportunity rover, which continues to roll along, but Curiosity is nearing its ultimate goal, Mount Sharp.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World View Success

World View, a company providing rides in high altitude balloons to the edge of space, has completed its first commercial flight, carrying student experiments aloft under a NASA program.

The company maintains much work can be done in near space, and it is also looking at providing commercial passenger flights.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Curiosity Short Traced

The electrical short plaguing the Curiosity rover has been traced to its robot arm.

Engineers are studying the problem, and NASA hopes to have the arm back in operation as early as next week.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Planetary Defense

The U. N. has established two organizations to deal with planetary defense.  One will try to identify potentially dangerous asteroids, and the other will develop plans for dealing with the aftermath of an asteroid strike.

The next step is to develop ways to deflect asteroids aimed at Earth.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dawn Over Ceres

NASA's Dawn spacecraft went into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres this morning, the beginning of a 16-month long exploration of the world.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres has already proven the worth of ion propulsion in deep space operations.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Amateur Astronomy

Amateur astronomers have always played a role in advancing the science, and that tradition continues.

Plumes high in the atmosphere of Mars, which professional astronomers haven't been able to explain, were discovered by Wayne Jaeschke, a patent attorney, and confirmed by other amateurs.  Professional astronomers indeed will depend on amateurs to monitor Mars for more plumes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Owning Asteroids

Property rights beyond Earth may well become a big issue in the years dead ahead.  Asteroids, for example, are rich in scientific information-- and in economically valuable natural resources.  Some legal scholars argue current space law can be interpreted to allow for property rights in space, but other scholars could argue differently.

A new treaty for a new era may ultimately be necessary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Russia And ISS

Russia recently announced it will stay with ISS until 2024, after which it plans to build its own space station.

The U. S. has also committed to ISS until at least 2024 and hopes private space stations will take over from ISS.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Another Leak

There was another spacesuit leak during an ISS spacewalk this weekend.   NASA engineers say the water came from condensation within the suit.

This is something NASA simply has to get right.