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Space

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio prepares to test the ultraviolet light decontamination har...

The International Space Station (ISS) is perhaps the most artificial environment that human beings have ever taken up residence in. It’s not the sort of place where you’d want a lab accident, because you can’t run out the door and wait in the carpark for the air to clear, so NASA uses gloveboxes to keep the crew and equipment separate from dangerous contaminants. To increase this level of safety and expand the number experiments the station can carry out, the space agency is fitting one of the larger gloveboxes with an Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) system to to prevent potentially dangerous microorganisms from escaping.  Read More

The IXS Enterprise design that takes into account current physics (Image: Courtesy of Mark...

Artist Mark Rademaker has unveiled a set of concept images imagining what a spaceship capable of traveling to other stars in a matter of months would really look like. Although it may look like something from the next science fiction epic and is unlikely to lift off anytime soon, his IXS Enterprise design is actually based on some hard science.  Read More

A 12-hour observation of an ASKAP test field (Image: Ian Heywood and the ACES team/CSIRO)

In preparation for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope project set to start construction in 2018, the CSIRO’s recently unveiled Australia SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope array has been used to demonstrate and prove the technology involved. With the images it has captured so far, it has also shown its ability to operate as a fully-fledged radio telescope in its own right.  Read More

Artist's impression of Rosetta's Philae probe approaching comet (Image: ESA/ATG medialab)

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which back in January awoke from 957 days hibernation on its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has now started its first instrument observations. Included in these instruments are three NASA science packages; MIRO, ALICE, and IES, all of which have started sending science data back to Earth.  Read More

The heat shield, attached to the underside of the Orion spacecraft (Photo: NASA)

NASA scientists have installed the largest heat shield ever created for the intention of atmospheric re-entry, onto the crew module of its next generation spacecraft, Orion. The shield, made of the same base material as that which protected Apollo-era astronauts from re-entry conditions over four decades ago, is set to be tested to the extreme later this year as Orion's maiden flight blasts off.  Read More

Artist's concept of OPALS in operation (Image: NASA)

While the International Space Station may be mankind’s outpost for the conquest of space, it still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to a decent YouTube connection. That’s because, for all its sophistication, the station’s communications system is still based on 1960s radio technology and has all the bandwidth of a soda straw. That changed this week as NASA took a step into the video age with the test of its Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) demonstrator, which saw a laser used to beam a video to Earth in seconds instead of the usual minutes.  Read More

This infrared image, one of the first taken by SPHERE, displays a dust ring orbiting a nea...

A new scientific instrument for detecting and observing remote exoplanets has been successfully installed on Unit 3 of the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument, or SPHERE, recently returned its first set of images and is promised to revolutionize the exploration and study of these distant celestial bodies.  Read More

SpaceShipTwo will carry 12 NASA experiments (Image: Mars Scientific/Clay Center Observator...

Science and space tourism shook hands this week with NASA announcing 12 technology experiments that will fly on the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane under a charter agreement with Virgin Galactic. The payload is a mixture of government, academic, and private microgravity experiments that will form the first commercial research flight for the spacecraft.  Read More

SOFIA, with her cavity doors open and a NASA F/A-18 in tow (Photo: NASA/Jim Ross)

NASA scientists are eager to get to grips with a new toy for observing the heavens, the Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES). Mounted on a heavily-customized Boeing 747, the spectrograph has undergone two successful test flights and when declared operational, will comb the sky for infrared frequency light aboard the largest flying telescope ever constructed.  Read More

The ESA Common Berthing Mechanism is intended to replace other devices, such as this Russi...

Docking is the paradox of spaceflight. On the one hand, it’s as boring to watch as an apple turning brown; on the other, it’s white-knuckle suspense when you realise that tons of paper-thin metal are one misstep away from destruction. What’s worse, the number of different docking port designs makes compatibility a major concern, so ESA is developing a universal docking mechanism that will allow any spacecraft to lock onto any other.  Read More

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