Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Space

Artist's concept of the Philae lander that is set to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Ger...

After you become the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid, what do you do for an encore? For ESA’s Rosetta comet probe, the answer is to get ready for the first soft landing on a comet nucleus. Only weeks after going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the unmanned Rosetta explorer is engaged in a fast-paced reconnaissance of the comet and has identified five candidate sites for putting down the Philae lander in November.  Read More

Artist's impression of New Horizons passing Pluto (Image: NASA)

Like a traveler on a very long road trip, a deep space probe has passed the last sign post before its destination. NASA has announced that its New Horizons probe has passed the orbit of Neptune – its last milestone before it flies by Pluto on July 14 next year. Launched in 2006, the piano-sized unmanned spacecraft is almost 2.75 billion mi (4.42 billion km) from Earth and is the fastest man-made object ever sent into space.  Read More

Northrop Grumman's preliminary design for DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 (Image: Nor...

Northrop Grumman, in partnership with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, has unveiled the preliminary design it is developing as part of DARPA’s XS-1 Spaceplane project. Looking like a windowless update of a 1960s Dyna Soar orbiter, it’s the next step in producing launch systems that will dramatically reduce the costs of getting into orbit.  Read More

An FR9 test rocket awaiting flight

SpaceX gave a dramatic demonstration on Friday of why spacecraft undergo such thorough testing. At its testing ground at McGregor, Texas, a SpaceX Falcon 9 Reusable Development Vehicle 1 (F9R Dev 1) exploded in midair during a test flight. Nearby residents saw the fireball and local television station KXXV caught the incident on video. Elon Musk tweeted that the vehicle "auto-terminated," but there were no injuries or near-injuries, and that “Rockets are tricky …”  Read More

Artist's concept of NASA's SMAP satellite (Image: NASA)

NASA is set to launch a new satellite with the capacity to measure soil moisture on a global scale. Once operational, data from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite could be used to better inform farmers in agricultural decision making, providing unprecedented levels of detail on moisture trends with an efficiency and speed unattainable using current technology.  Read More

Diagram of the ExoLance penetrator that would search for signs of life below the surface o...

If there’s life on Mars, it will have a great impact on Earth. But to answer the question, a group of engineers want to make an impact on Mars. Explore Mars, Inc., a private organization made up technologists and former NASA engineers, wants to look for signs of any present life on Mars not by scratching about on the surface, but by dropping supersonic lances on the planet that will penetrate deep into the Martian soil to seek out protected, potentially wet strata where life might still exist.  Read More

The new method will attempt to find traces of a tell-tale radio signal, known as an Io-con...

A new technique pioneered by a team of scientists from the University of Texas, Arlington, may hold the key to detecting moons orbiting distant exoplanets, a feat which is currently beyond the grasp of modern astronomy. Such a technique would afford scientists a greater opportunity of discovering a planetary body capable of sustaining life.  Read More

Curiosity looking up the ramp at the north-eastern end of 'Hidden Valley' (Image: NASA/JPL...

Very few road trips go exactly according to plan and that goes double for ones on Mars. At the start of its third year on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover was slated to head for the "Pahrump Hills" for its fourth rock drilling exercise, but after encountering unexpectedly hazardous terrain, it’s making a detour to a similar site called "Bonanza King" to carry on its mission.  Read More

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collector (Image: UC Ber...

Good things come in microscopic packages – at least, so says NASA. According to the space agency, our first ambassadors from interstellar space may be seven particles measuring only about two microns, that were returned to Earth by the unmanned Stardust probe in 2006. They could provide new insights into the origin and evolution of interstellar dust.  Read More

ATV-5 docks under autonomous control (Image: ESA/NASA)

ESA’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5, Georges Lemaître, has arrived at the International Space Station. In what the space agency describes as a "flawless demonstration of technology and skill," the unmanned cargo ship autonomously docked itself while supervised by mission control in Toulouse, France and by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov inside the space station.  Read More

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