A NASA news conference yesterday suggested what many scientists have suspected for decades: Mercury's northern pole most likely contains large deposits of water ice and possible organic materials. The new data comes from Messenger -- a NASA spacecraft currently orbiting Mercury -- which observed the icy deposits by measuring hydrogen concentrations on the planet. The findings were described in three separate papers published yesterday in the science journal Nature. … Read more
What were you hoping for with the big juicy Mars discovery that a NASA researcher hinted at? Aliens? Kuato? Jimmy Hoffa?
As you'll no doubt recall, NASA investigator John Grotzinger was quoted as saying that data from the Curiosity rover suggested a discovery of epic significance. Well, here's your official oven-fresh serving of disappointment.
Today NASA confirmed there's no earth-shaking finding from the soil samples analyzed with Curiosity's on-board chemistry lab. … Read more
I'm planning to have an awesome holiday season this year, if only by virtue of the fact that myself and leading astrobiologist David Morrison are confident we'll be around to celebrate them.
Normally I don't seek out the professional opinion of NASA scientists to validate my Christmas and New Year's plans, but in the case of 2012 I'm playing it safe.
Let's review what we know about NASA's Martian secret heard round the solar system last week:
An NPR reporter happened to be recording in the office of the lead scientist for the Curiosity rover as some data from the rover's on-board chemistry lab was coming in. When pressed by the reporter to interpret the data, NASA's John Grotzinger declined, commenting simply that the "data is going to be one for the history books."… Read more
Forget Mars! NASA has discovered signs of video gaming on a moon of Saturn. Recently released images from the Cassini mission show features on the icy moon of Thethys that look suspiciously like a famous '80s arcade creation.
The Pac-Man image was discovered in thermal data provided by Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer. You can read up on the nifty high-energy electrons bombardment theory for the shape over at NASA. The findings were published in the journal Icarus.… Read more
Why don't we have warp drive yet? Well, because, according to "Star Trek" lore, inventor Zefram Cochrane hasn't been born yet.
Baby Zefram is due in about 20 years, but in the meantime NASA and the Department of Energy are working on something somewhat tantalizing if you're planning a deep-space probe.
Researchers including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have demonstrated a nuclear reactor that could power spaceflight. It's nowhere near as powerful as NASA's conceptual antimatter engine--the Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment produces just 24 watts of electricity. … Read more
Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, both veterans of long-duration space flights, will spend a full year aboard the International Space Station to help scientists learn more about how the body reacts and adapts to weightlessness and other aspects of the space environment.
The research is aimed at helping scientists and engineers develop possible countermeasures for future manned missions to deep space destinations including the moon, nearby asteroids and, eventually, Mars.
"Congratulations to Scott and Mikhail on their selection for this important mission," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space flight, said in a statement. "… Read more
It seems NASA and the Curiosity rover have found something exciting and nerd-tastic on Mars, but the space agency's scientists are holding back for now, despite how painful it appears to be for them.
NPR science correspondent Joe Palca happened to be in the room recently when John Grotzinger, lead scientist for the Curiosity mission at NASA, started receiving data on his computer from the rover's on-board chemistry lab, also known as SAM (sample analysis at Mars). SAM and NASA scientists on Earth have been busy analyzing a sample of Martian soil of late, and apparently the dirt from the Red Planet has a secret to tell.
"This data is going to be one for the history books, it's looking really good," Grotzinger said in the story that aired yesterday.
And that's about all he said.… Read more
Three veteran space station fliers strapped into their Soyuz ferry craft, undocked and plunged back to Earth today, making a fiery descent to a frigid pre-dawn landing in Kazakhstan to close out a 127-day stay in space.
With Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko strapped into the descent module's center seat, flanked on the left by outgoing Expedition 33 commander Sunita Williams and on the right by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, the crew undocked from the station's Russian Rassvet module at 5:26 p.m. EST as the two spacecraft sailed 250 miles above northwestern China.
Two-and-a-half hours later, positioned … Read more
"Now, this is the plan. Get your ass to Mars."
We all remember Schwarzenegger motivating himself to go to the Red Planet in "Total Recall" (anyone bother watching the remake?) and sure we'd like to go too. Now NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has determined that radiation levels on the planet's surface are safe for human explorers.
"Basically, we're finding that the Mars atmosphere is acting as a shield for the radiation on the surface and as the atmosphere gets thicker, that provides more of a shield and therefore we see a dip in our radiation dose," Hassler said.
The findings mark the first time that cosmic rays have been measured on the surface of another planet, and come 100 years after Victor Hess discovered cosmic rays on Earth by using a hot-air balloon.… Read more