NASA has teamed up with The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo to test a new CubeSat-mounted laser communication system. While the mission, known as the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD), has already been successfully placed in orbit, the team is currently working to resolve an issues with its attitude control system.
Launched in 1997, NASA's Cassini orbiter mission to Saturn has lasted 18 years and 3 months so far – a considerable extension of its original four-year timetable. As its mission draws to an end, the unmanned, nuclear-powered spacecraft will execute the first of its final three flybys of Saturn's moon Enceladus. To take place between now and December, the close encounters are expected to provide a better understanding of the moon's global ocean and its possible habitability.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a huge spinning mystery where a ferocious storm much larger than the diameter of Earth rages. New ultra high-definition images snapped by the Hubble Telescope have offered a fresh perspective on the Red (or is that Orange) Spot, as well as revealing other intriguing features on the gas giant.
As NASA ramps up talk of a manned missions to Mars, it is turning to the public to help build the infrastructure to keep us there. The freshly launched In Situ Resource Utilization Challenge puts the call out for clever ideas to use resources already found on Mars to help carve out a human presence on its surface.
That NASA has aspirations for a manned mission to the Red Planet is already well known, but the space agency has now revealed in greater detail how it plans to make such a mission reality. In a document titled "NASA's Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration," the expedition is broken down into three separate phases, painting a picture of the incremental scientific advances needed to land humans on the Martian surface.
The first color images returned of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveals blue skies and surface water-ice deposits. Previous non-color images of the dwarf planet's tenuous atmosphere have displayed a surprisingly complex multilayer structure, and the new color images have allowed scientists to deduce the composition of the haze.
We know from our experiences on the Moon that EVA suits undergo significant abrasion and wear over the course of a mission, and with NASA's eyes fixed firmly on a mission to Mars, the next generation of spacesuits will be thrown into the unknown. In an effort to establish how they will perform, NASA has announced a competition soliciting ideas on how to test the durability of fabrics with the potential to be used in its next-gen space suits.
NASA scientists have used a combination of satellite data and ground-based cameras to study pulsating auroras, which appear as flickering patches of bright light in the night sky. The research gave rise to an unexpected discovery, with the data revealing that secondary electrons may play a bigger part in the occurrences than was previously thought.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first discovery of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star outside of our solar system – 51 Pegasi b. This event represented a watershed moment in astronomy, and since this point, over 1,800 exoplanets have been discovered, with over 1,000 spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope.
As spacecraft for manned and planetary missions get larger, so do their heat shields – which are becoming very big indeed. To avoid the day when the shield becomes too large for any existing or planned launcher, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is developing the Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) heat shield, which uses carbon-fiber cloth and can be folded up like an umbrella. The cloth heat shield recently completed tests that simulated entering the Martian atmosphere.