The first color images returned of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveals blue skies and surface water-ice deposits. Previous non-color images of the dwarf planet's tenuous atmosphere have displayed a surprisingly complex multilayer structure, and the new color images have allowed scientists to deduce the composition of the haze.
Not being able to charge your phone because you have the wrong USB cable is one thing, but imagine showing up at a space station with the wrong docking system. To prevent that from happening in the future, NASA has unveiled its new universal docking ports for the International Space Station and other spacecraft. Built by a consortium of international partners, a pair of the International Docking Adapters (IDA) are undergoing tests before delivery to the station. With the designation of IDA-2, they are an upgrade of two previous adaptors that were lost when the CRS-7 mission exploded shortly after liftoff.
We know from our experiences on the Moon that EVA suits undergo significant abrasion and wear over the course of a mission, and with NASA's eyes fixed firmly on a mission to Mars, the next generation of spacesuits will quite literally be thrown into the unknown. In an effort to establish how they will perform, NASA has announced a competition soliciting ideas on how to test the durability of fabrics with the potential to be used in its next-gen space suits.
NASA scientists have used a combination of satellite data and ground-based cameras to study pulsating auroras, which appear as flickering patches of bright light in the night sky. The research gave rise to an unexpected discovery, with the data revealing that secondary electrons may play a bigger part in the occurrences than was previously thought.
An Israeli team has become the first to produce a "verified launch contract" as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. To win the competition, privately funded teams must land an exploratory robot on the moon by Dec. 31, 2017. SpaceIL's lunar effort would become the first private mission to the moon, as well the first from Israel.
Astronomers have been left puzzled after images from the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile revealed mysterious wave-shaped structures around a nearby star, the likes of which have never been seen before. The features were observed in the disc of dust surrounding the young star AU Microscopii (AU Mic), and could lead to a new understanding of how planets form inside such discs.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first discovery of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star outside of our solar system – 51 Pegasi b. This event represented a watershed moment in astronomy, and since this point, over 1,800 exoplanets have been discovered, with over 1,000 spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope.
As spacecraft for manned and planetary missions get larger, so do their heat shields – which are becoming very big indeed. To avoid the day when the shield becomes too large for any existing or planned launcher, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is developing the Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) heat shield, which uses carbon-fiber cloth and can be folded up like an umbrella. The cloth heat shield recently completed tests that simulated entering the Martian atmosphere.
NASA's latest image release from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has offered an up-close look at the real-world setting for sci-fi blockbuster The Martian. Snapped by the spacecraft's telescopic camera, the photos detail several Mars sites that appear in the film's fictional missions to the Red Planet.
Space startup Moon Express has signed a contract with Rocket Lab to help carry out three lunar missions starting in 2017. Described as the first private contract between two companies to carry out a lunar landing, the agreement will see Rocket Lab provide launch services using its Electron rocket system for the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander as part of Moon Express's attempt win the Google Lunar Xprize.