DARPA announces Phase 2 of spaceplane project

DARPA has announced the second phase of its ambitious XS-1 program. The agency is seeking to make access to space more regular and affordable by employing an entirely re-usable high-speed, sub-orbital automated spaceplane as the first stage of its launch vehicle.Read More

The stuff of stars found in lunar soil from Apollo missions

When several of the Apollo missions returned from the moon between 1969 and 1972, they brought back samples of the lunar soil. New research into some of those samples has revealed that those missions also brought back something else – the remnants of a star that died near our solar system about two million years ago.Read More

NASA begins testing electronic sail technology for deep space probes

It took Voyager 1 over 30 years to reach interstellar space, but scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are testing a new technology that could cut that time by two thirds. The Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS) or E-sail concept is a novel form of propellant-less propulsion that relies on a series of wires to catch the solar winds. The technology promises to reduce the travel time from Earth to the heliopause – about 123 AU (18 billion km, 11 billion mi) from the Sun – to under 10 years.Read More

Breakthrough Listen Initiative starts sharing "search for ET" data

The first batch of data from a US$100 million effort to find signs of intelligent life beyond Earth has been released for public access. The Breakthrough Listen Initiative began making observations in January using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and Lick Observatory's Automated Planet Finder in California, and has posted what it's gathered so far on its website.Read More

Stephen Hawking's space probes eye the express lane to neighboring stars

The Alpha Centauri star system is a fair old hike. At 25 trillion miles (4.37 light years) away, it would take around 30,000 years for us to roll into the area, and that's if we hitched a ride on today's fastest spacecraft. If the latest idea from the cosmically inquisitive Stephen Hawking comes to fruition, however, we could reach this neighboring stellar system within 20 years of launch.Read More

NASA's weird and wonderful NIAC 2016 selections

NASA has announced its 2016 selections for Phase 1 of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. As usual, the first round contains an impressive array of weird and wonderful technological concepts with the potential to revolutionize space exploration.Read More

Evidence of an exoplanetary system was recorded in 1917

While the search for exoplanets has only comparatively recently picked up steam, a chance re-examination of an old astronomical glass plate has shown that the very first evidence of an exoplanetary system was actually recorded almost 100 years ago. The data on the plate doesn't outright confirm exoplanets in the system, but astronomers are confident that it's only a matter of time before their existence in such systems is confirmed. Read More

A better tool for more accurate planet hunting

A new calibration tool developed by researchers at the Carnegie Institute is set to have a big impact in the hunt for exoplanets. The technology allows astronomers to use a longer wavelength of light when analyzing distant stars, making it possible to pick out false positives in results.Read More

Prototype moon buggy saved from junkyard goes to auction

When the Apollo 15 mission landed on the moon in July 1971, it took with it the first ever vehicle to be driven by humans on another world; the lunar roving vehicle (LRV). In the long and complex history prior to that event, however, NASA commissioned the construction of a range of test vehicles for the Apollo program, many of which were eventually scrapped once their experimental use was concluded. One such vehicle – a mid-1960s LRV prototype – ended up in the hands of a junkyard dealer who decided not to break it down for scrap but, instead, held on to it for some years. "Rediscovered" late in 2015, the long-lost prototype is now headed for auction where it is expected to fetch at least US$125,000. Read More


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