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Tracking the total solar eclipse from NASA’s WB-57F jets
For most viewers, the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse will last less than two and half minutes. But for one team of NASA-funded scientists, the eclipse will last over seven minutes. Their secret? Following the shadow of the Moon in two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes. Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will use two of NASA’s WB-57F research jets to chase the darkness across America on Aug...
Algorithm helps protect Mars Curiosity's wheels
There are no mechanics on Mars, so the next best thing for NASA's Curiosity rover is careful driving. A new algorithm is helping the rover do just that. The software, referred to as traction control, adjusts the speed of Curiosity's wheels depending on the rocks it's climbing.
How do you get a robot to recognise a surprise?
How do you get a robot to recognise a surprise? That's a question Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers are pondering, especially as AI begins to change space research. A new article in the journal Science: Robotics offers an overview of how AI has been used to make discoveries on space missions.
Journey to Mars: pipetting and cell isolation in space
Just like early explorers, NASA Twins Study investigators are venturing into new territory. Conducting human omics research on twin astronauts as part of the One Year Mission that took place aboard the International Space Station is one such venture. As technology evolves so does the research. NASA is evaluating more efficient and innovative research techniques to prepare for the journey to Mars.
Practical steps for a manned mission to Mars
NASA hopes to send a manned mission to Mars in the mid-2030s. On a planet where temperatures can fall to -125ºC generating energy presents a key challenge and new techniques are about to be tested. The best equipment needs the people to use it, so resilience experiments are also under way. To tackle the challenge of energy generation, NASA will test two-meter high reactors, developed as part of the ‘Kilopower’ project, in th...
NASA's spacecraft to fly over Jupiter's great red spot
Only days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000m wide (16,000km wide) storm. This will be humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature - a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.
NASA-supported tool accelerates wildfire recovery
Burned Area Emergency Response teams— they may be one of most important parts of wildfires that you've probably never heard of. As the last flames of a raging wildfire are being contained, these BAER crews begin safeguarding lives, property, and natural resources threatened by additional perils that fires create. "Wildfire reduces or removes vegetation and ground cover protecting forest soils," said Mary Ellen Miller, a research engine...
NASA simulates space radiation on Earth
In each life a little rain must fall, but in space, one of the biggest risks to astronauts’ health is radiation 'rain'. NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) is simulating space radiation on Earth following upgrades to the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. These upgrades help researchers on Earth learn more about the effects of ionising space radiation, to hel...
Window improves the view on orbiting laboratory
One of the busiest work stations on the International Space Station got a major upgrade recently, and it already has saved dozens of hours on a variety of experiments for crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory. The Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) is a sealed and enclosed work area installed in the U.S. Destiny lab on the space station, and is about the size of a 70-gallon fish tank.
NASA launches first-ever neutron-star mission
Nearly 50 years after British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell discovered the existence of rapidly spinning neutron stars, NASA will launch the world’s first mission devoted to studying these unusual objects. The agency also will use the same platform to carry out the world’s first demonstration of X-ray navigation in space.
Juno Mission reveals a whole new Jupiter
Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.
Instrument to search for life in outer solar system
An instrument originally developed to search for organic molecules on Mars is being repurposed to potentially hunt for life on a handful of moons in the outer solar system that appear to host oceans, geysers and vents of ice volcanoes. Will Brinckerhoff, a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, helped build a mass spectrometer for the European Space Agency’s 2020 ExoMars Rover mission.
Human activity may affect space weather
Our Cold War history is now offering scientists a chance to better understand the complex space system that surrounds us. Space weather - which can include changes in Earth's magnetic environment - are usually triggered by the sun's activity, but recently declassified data on high-altitude nuclear explosion tests have provided a look at the mechansisms that set off perturbations in that magnetic system.
AX J1910.7+0917 found to be the slowest X-ray pulsar
European astronomers have found that an X-ray pulsar designated AX J1910.7+0917 has the slowest spin period among other objects in this class. The research team, led by Lara Sidoli of the National Institute for Astrophysics and Space Physics (INAF) in Milan, Italy, presented the new findings in a paper published on arXiv.org. X-ray pulsars are sources displaying strict periodic variations in X-ray intensity, consisting of a magnetised n...
Metallic 'space fabric' links fashion and engineering
Raul Polit Casillas grew up around fabrics. His mother is a fashion designer in Spain, and, at a young age, he was intrigued by how materials are used for design. Now, as a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, he is still very much in the world of textiles. He and his colleagues are designing advanced woven metal fabrics for use in space.
NASA tests robotic ice tools for missions to ocean worlds
Want to go ice fishing on Jupiter's moon Europa? There's no promising you'll catch anything, but a new set of robotic prototypes could help. Since 2015, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been developing technologies for use on future missions to ocean worlds. That includes a subsurface probe that could burrow through miles of ice, taking samples along the way; robotic arms that unfold to reach faraway objects; and...
Origami-inspired robot could aid the work of rovers
The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) in development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was inspired by origami. Its lightweight design is capable of flattening itself, tucking in its wheels and crawling into places rovers can't fit. Over the past year and a half, PUFFER has been tested in a range of rugged terrains, from the Mojave Desert in California to the snowy hills of Antarctica.
NASA radar technique finds lost lunar spacecraft
Finding derelict spacecraft and space debris in Earth's orbit can be a technological challenge. Detecting these objects in orbit around Earth's moon is even more difficult. Optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the moon. However, a new technological application of interplanetary radar pioneered by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has successfully located spac...
Kepler provides another peek at ultra-cool neighbour
Astronomers announced that the ultra-cool dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, hosts a total of seven Earth-size planets that are likely rocky, a discovery made by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in combination with ground-based telescopes. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also has been observing this star since December 2016. Today these additional data about TRAPPIST-1 from Kepler are available to the scientific community.
The coolest spot in the Universe
This summer, an ice chest-sized box will fly to the International Space Station, where it will create the coolest spot in the universe. Inside that box, lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife" will be used to cancel out the energy of gas particles, slowing them until they're almost motionless. This suite of instruments is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), and was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,...