Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Goddard Space Flight Center

An image of the Mona Lisa has been beamed by laser to a probe orbiting the Moon

High art recently met high tech as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) received an image of the Mona Lisa via laser. Traveling about 240,000 miles (386,000 km), the image was sent to the probe in lunar orbit using a laser beamed from NASA’s Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging (NGSLR) station at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland as a demonstration of lasers as a deep-space communications tool.  Read More

Goddard technologist Nithin Abraham analyzes a sample of gas-adsorbing paint (Photo: NASA/...

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland is working to eliminate new car smell. No, they aren't a bunch of killjoys. That distinctive odor is caused by outgassing of chemicals used in car manufacturing. Some scientists believe these gases to be harmful, but whether they are or not, satellites suffer from the same problem. The gases released by satellites themselves can damage them, so NASA is working on new ways to control or eliminate these emissions.  Read More

Goddard physicist Babak Saif with the broadband laser system (Photo: NASA/Pat Izzo)

Gravity waves are the big ticket item of physics. Predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 as part of his general theory of relativity, these waves could help scientists solve many mysteries about the origin of the universe – if they could detect them. In an attempt to do this, researchers at Stanford University and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are developing a new atomic interferometry technique that may be sensitive enough to record gravity waves for the first time.  Read More

Artist's concept of a servicing satellite (Image: NASA)

Geostationary satellites cost a fortune and, despite their sophistication, they break down or eventually run out of propellant to keep them oriented. This is unfortunate when the nearest garage is back on Earth, so NASA wants to remedy this with an orbital version of roadside service. The space agency is developing a service robot that can visit ailing satellites and refuel or even repair them on the spot.  Read More

The RBSP mission will study the Van Allen Belts (Image: JHU/APL)

Radiation is a common hazard of space exploration and space agencies usually tend to avoid it for obvious reasons. It can be dangerous for astronauts and fatal to the microcircuitry of satellites. Why, then, is NASA sending its next unmanned mission right into the worst radiation hazard in the neighborhood? On August 23, two Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) will launch atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida to study the radioactive Van Allen Belts.  Read More

NASA's stunning Perpetual Ocean animation visualizes ocean currents (Image: NASA/Goddard S...

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is an unlikely entrant in the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival. Its “Perpetual World” animation may have failed to appeal to the judging committee of the 2011 edition of the competition, but it sure succeeded in catching our eye. The jaw-dropping animation visualizes the flow of surface ocean currents around the world. The raw data regarding the currents from June 2005 through to December 2007 has been turned into a work of art reminiscent of van Gogh.  Read More

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has provided a glimpse at the interstellar ma...

Over the course of a year, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) scans the entire sky. During February, its instruments are aligned in the correct direction to intercept atoms that have crossed the boundary from interstellar space into our solar system, become caught by the Sun's gravity and slung around the star. This has now allowed IBEX to capture the most complete glimpse of the material that travels in the galactic wind in the space between star systems. The results indicate this material doesn't look like the same material that makes up our solar system.  Read More

A rendering of the harpoon embedded in a comet, with its collection cartridge visible insi...

Call it Ishmael. Actually, no, call it the Comet Nucleus Sample Return mission spacecraft. Regardless of its name, the NASA vehicle will be wielding a harpoon, not unlike the narrator of Moby Dick. Instead of hunting a white whale, however, it will be after a comet. Although the spacecraft itself is still a concept, its harpoon is in the works now.  Read More

Front view of Curiosity Mars rover  (Image: NASA)

We've had our sights on NASA's Curiosity Rover (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL) for quite some time now. Well, it's finally ready and in a few short weeks, this amazingly advanced one-ton (900 kg) explorer will find itself atop a massive Atlas V rocket for the eight-month, 354 million-mile (570 million-km) trip to our red neighbor – the culmination of over seven years of development and US$2.5 billion in funding.  Read More

The new super-black coating made from hollow carbon nanotubes prevents reflection because ...

When it comes to gathering measurements of objects so distant in the universe that they can no longer be seen in visible light, the smallest amount of stray light can play havoc with the sensitive detectors and other instrument components used by astronomers. Currently, instrument developers use black paint on baffles and other components to help prevent stray light ricocheting off surfaces, but the paint absorbs only 90 percent of the light that strikes it. NASA engineers have now developed a nanotech-based coating that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it, making it promising for a variety of space- and Earth-bound applications.  Read More

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