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Space

VolcanoBot 1 in a lava tube (Image: NASA/JPL/Caltech)

Space may be vast, but the planets can be pretty cramped – especially when it comes to volcanoes. This is unfortunate because the difficult to navigate fissures that are a major volcanic feature contain clues as to the interior of planets and moons and the mechanisms that formed them. To help learn more, NASA is dropping miniature robots down crevices inaccessible to humans as a way of extracting information about volcanoes on and off the Earth.  Read More

Artist's impression of the Kepler space telescope (Image: NASA)

NASA's Kepler space telescope's count of exoplanets has passed the magic 1,000 mark, including eight new "habitable" planets and 544 candidate planets. Having confirmed so many exoplanets and their characteristics provides a database large enough to allow astronomers to carry out statistical analysis and make very rough predictions about how many planets there are in our galaxy, as well as the odds of finding another Earth.  Read More

CRS-5 lifting off (Photo: SapceX)

The CRS-5 mission lifted off today in a pre-dawn launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. As the unmanned spacecraft rose into orbit to resupply the International Space Station, the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster made an historic attempt at a powered landing on a drone barge positioned in the Atlantic Ocean, which did not come off successfully.  Read More

CRS-5 on the launch pad (Photo: SpaceX)

Today's launch of the CRS-5 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been scrubbed. The launch, which was scheduled for 6:20 am EST, was aborted one minute and 21 seconds prior to lift off due to an issue with the second stage. The launch would have seen the first attempt of a powered booster landing on a barge.  Read More

Body-mounted astronaut joystick (Photo: ESA)

It may look like the ultimate gaming joystick, but its purpose is very serious. On the International Space Station, astronauts recently finished putting the European Space Agency's (ESA) Haptics-1 joystick through its paces. The purpose of the first force-reflecting joystick in space is to improve how robots and humans interact in weightlessness.  Read More

The Southampton #LettuceOnMars experiment

When the first living visitor from Earth lands on Mars we might well expect it to be a man or a woman, but if students from the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society have their way, it could be one small step for a lettuce. That may seem more than a bit mad, but its part of an experiment to see if crops can grow in the Martian environment as a prelude to colonization.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Opportunity rover (Image: NASA)

NASA's Opportunity rover landed on Mars in 2004 and its 90-day mission has now lasted almost 11 years. Unfortunately, its age is beginning to show with the unmanned robotic explorer beginning to display signs of memory loss. Mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that Opportunity's computers have been resetting as its flash memory banks suffer fits of "amnesia," which engineers back on Earth are trying to repair.  Read More

Artist's concept of Dawn firing its ion engine (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Like the end of a very long and eventful road trip, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has its main goal in sight. The space agency says that the unmanned probe has emerged from behind the Sun as it uses its ion propulsion to catch up with the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt and that mission control was able to re-establish contact. The craft has received instructions for executing a series of maneuvers that will take it on its final approach phase, which will end with it going into orbit around Ceres.  Read More

Starscraper project Mark IIb engine test firing

The International Space Station (ISS) may get all the glory, but suborbital rocket flights still play a vital part in space research. The problem is that even though such flights only go to the edge of space, they are expensive, few in number, and put massive stresses on experiments. Partly funded by a Kickstarter campaign, students at Boston University are developing an inexpensive suborbital rocket for educational purposes that uses new engine designs to create a cheaper, reusable suborbital rocket that's easier on the payload.  Read More

The KOI-3158 system compared to other known planets (Image credit: Tiago Campante)

A team of scientists has found what they claim is the oldest Earth-sized planet in the Milky Way, hinting at the possibility of ancient life elsewhere in our galaxy. Located about 117 light years from us in the constellation Lyra, the star KOI-3158 is estimated to be 11.2 billion years old, give or take 900 million years or so. For some perspective, our own sun and solar system is believed to be less than 5 billion years old.  Read More

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