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The F-1 engine sent the Apollo Moon missions into space (Photo: NASA)

A legendary Space Age rocket engine that sent mankind to the Moon in 1969 may be brought back to power humanity’s return to that celestial body. Under a NASA request, Dynetics Inc of Huntsville, Alabama has submitted a proposal apparently studying the feasibility of reviving the F-1 rocket engine technology. Previously used to power the first stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the Moon, it could now find use in NASA’s planned Space Launch System (SLS) due to enter service in 2017.  Read More

Image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, showing five moons orbiting the distant, ic...

Pluto may no longer be classified as a planet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still getting its fair share of attention. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently making its way to the icy dwarf planet to study it and its moons. To search for potential hazards to the spacecraft and help plan a safer trajectory before its scheduled arrival in 2015, a team of astronomers has trained the eye of the Hubble Space Telescope on the system and discovered a fifth, previously unknown moon orbiting the planet.  Read More

Artist's depiction of the twin GRAIL spacecraft that have completed their primary mission ...

After entering orbit around the Moon at the start of the year, NASA’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) probes, Ebb and Flow, have completed their primary mission to study the Moon’s interior structure ahead of schedule. Operating around the clock since March 8, NASA says the spacecraft have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure and evolution of the Moon and the data they have gathered will provide insights into how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed.  Read More

The NASA guidelines are intended to protect historic US landing sites, such as Apollo 11's...

When the last American astronauts blasted off from the Moon in 1972, it seemed as if they were leaving behind monuments that would stand for all time. On a lifeless, airless satellite there would never be any scavengers or souvenir hunters, no wind to bury or wear down the abandoned spacecraft and artifacts, and no air to corrode metal. Even the footprints would still be there millions of years from now. Or so everyone thought. Now, with more and more nations and private organizations planning manned and unmanned missions to the Moon, NASA is worried that the Apollo landing sites and others could be endangered by the next wave of lunar explorers. To prevent this, the space agency issued a set of guidelines that politely asks everybody to keep their distance.  Read More

The departing Space Shuttle Atlantis captured this image of the Hubble Space Telescope dur...

From Earth's perspective, on June 5 and 6, Venus will pass across the face of the Sun. By observing the tiny fraction of sunlight that passes through Venus's atmosphere using the Hubble Space Telescope, it is hoped that the planet's atmospheric makeup can be determined. Though we already know the nature of Venus's atmosphere, it is hoped the event will help astronomers hone techniques, already in use, that may one day help to identify Earth-like planets in far-away solar systems. The catch? Hubble cannot observe the Sun directly. Instead it will look at the Moon to observe reflected light.  Read More

Astrobotic Technology has received a NASA contract to determine if its Polaris rover robot...

While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting.  Read More

The famous photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 mi...

When the moon-walking Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth in 1969, amongst the 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar rocks they brought with them were three minerals from Tranquility Base that were thought to be unique to the Moon or lunar and possibly Martian meteorites. They were armalcolite (named after Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz' Aldrin and Michael Collins), pyroxferroite and tranquillityite. Both armalcolite and pyroxferrite were later found on Earth, leaving tranquillityite as the last mineral believed to have no terrestrial counterpart. Now tranquillityite has also been struck off the list with its discovery in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.  Read More

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn to join GRAIL-A in lun...

Nasa’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft are now in orbit around the Moon. Having achieved lunar orbit at 2 pm PST on New Year’s Eve, GRAIL-A was joined by GRAIL-B at 2:43 pm PST on New Year’s Day. The twin spacecraft are now in a near-polar, elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 11.5 hours. In readiness for the science phase of the mission which is due to start in March 2012, both spacecraft will undergo a series of burns to place them in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 km) and orbital period of just under two hours.  Read More

An artist's impression of GRAIL's formation orbit (Image: NASA)

If all goes to plan, tomorrow at 1:21 p.m. PST, NASA's GRAIL-A spacecraft will enter orbit about the Moon. GRAIL-A is one of two unmanned orbiters launched in September, with its sibling GRAIL-B due to enter orbit the following day (New Year's Day) at 2:05 p.m. PST. Together the two craft constitute the GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory), charged with mapping the Moon's gravitation field.  Read More

The Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational lunar ba...

Imagine if every time you went for on a trip, you had to carry all the fuel required to get you to your destination and back - even if that trip was to a place far, far away, like say Mars. In space there are no refueling options available (yet), and given that propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft, this issue is fundamental to saving costs and driving future space exploration. Now the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational base to mine ice on the Moon that will be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for distribution to spacecraft via the first gas stations in space ... and the plan is to be open for business by 2020.  Read More

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