In anticipation of more ambitious planetary missions, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, in collaboration with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California, has recently been testing new landing technologies using an Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT). Aimed at developing new systems for landing on Mars and other planets with much greater precision, a new imaging landing system and algorithm were tested using the demonstration vehicle on two successful flights. Read More
The last place you'd expect to find signs of water erosion is in the Asteroid Belt, but researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that data collected during the Dawn spacecraft's visit to Vesta indicates that it not only once had water, but that it formed gullies and other erosion features on its surface. Read More
Years before the first astronauts set foot on Mars, scientists will already be there – virtually. Thanks to a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft aimed at advancing human-robot interactions, the space agency's OnSight software will allow researchers to explore a virtual Martian landscape created from data sent back by the Curiosity rover. Read More
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
Bigger may be better, but better isn't always better. In October, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California unveiled a new and improved version of its RoboSimian robot. Called Surrogate, it has many advantages over its predecessor, but it's RoboSimian that is going to next year's DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. Read More
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
Good things come in small packages – and sometimes in aerosol cans. To prove this, researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California are working on technology for a future generation of space telescopes that may one day see the giant instruments replaced by swarms of particles that are deployed from a can and herded into place by laser beams. Read More
The Great Red Spot is the distinguishing feature that makes Jupiter one of the most easily recognizable planets in our solar system. Until recently, it was widely believed that this blemish was formed as a result of reddish-colored chemicals rising up from within the planet itself. However, using information obtained by analysis of data from the Cassini fly-by mission of Jupiter, researchers working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have discerned that the planet's Great Red Spot may have more to do with the external action of the sun than some internal mechanism. Read More
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
In a combination of the astronomical and the culinary, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) say that Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, may not have a single large ocean, but instead may be built like a club sandwich with alternating layers of ice and water. The claim is based on computer models of how salt water acts under the high pressures that may exist beneath Ganymede’s global ice pack, and may improve the chances of finding life elsewhere in the Solar System. Read More