Asteroid mining is a potential trillion-dollar industry, but before any prospectors start fitting their mules of spacesuits, surveying is going to be more important than extraction. To help find out if its worth going to a particular asteroid, scientists from Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the Planetary Science Institute are developing a new gamma-ray spectroscope that's capable of scanning asteroids, moons, and other airless bodies for gold, platinum, rare earths, and other valuable minerals.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced that the Telesat Telstar 12 VANTAGE satellite today made a successful launch from the Yoshinobu launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center. The broadcast and telecommunication satellite lifted off at 3:50 pm JST atop the upgraded H-IIA Launch vehicle No. 29 (H-IIA F29). The launch was the first using the H-IIA upgraded second stage and the first commercial launch for the platform.
NASA has released two images showcasing a full rotation of the dwarf planet Pluto and its unusually large moon Charon. The observations combined to create the mosaics were captured as the spacecraft made its high velocity pass of the dwarf planet using the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera.
In April, Blue Origin, the aerospace company established by Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted the first test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle. While the launch was a success, the propulsion module was unable to be recovered as planned due to a loss of pressure in the hydraulic system on descent. But sticking to the old adage of, if you don't first succeed, try, try again, Blue Origin has now successfully launched and landed a re-usable rocket designed to take paying customers on a suborbital flight to the edge of space.
A new theory from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, suggests that dark matter may interact with planets, forming long filaments or "hairs" of invisible particles. Studying these hairs could be scientifically fruitful, deepening our knowledge of the elusive matter, and even using them to analyze distant planetary bodies.
Astronomers have used the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope to discover hundreds of previously undetected massive galaxies. The findings are localized to a small patch of sky, and their discovery provides clues as to when such objects first emerged in the early Universe.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has officially selected the Fluorescence Explorer – or FLEX – as the eighth Earth Explorer satellite. The mission will study vegetation around the planet, gathering information about planet health at a time when a growing population is putting increased strain on food production.
NASA has ordered the first mission by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. This is the second mission planned with a private company under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, which guarantees at least four such orders with two companies. The launch is scheduled for late 2017.
When NASA's Orion deep space capsule makes its next unmanned flight, it will be a bit shinier thanks to a new thermal coating. The new coating and an improved heat shield will protect the spacecraft against the extremes of heat and cold that it will encounter on its journey, as well as from the heat of reentry when it returns to Earth.
Of the many new exoplanets discovered over the past two decades, all have been identified as established, older planets. Some with incredible winds raging across their surfaceand others that may be able to support life because of their position in the habitable zone, but none have been acknowledged as newly-forming protoplanets. Now scientists working at the Keck observatory have spied just such a planet in the constellation of Taurus, some 450 light-years from Earth, that is only just beginning its life, collecting matter and spinning into a brand new world.