The best of 2014

NASA

An artist's impression of the star forming in a distant, young galaxy (Image: NASA/Space T...

NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes have been used to examine a distant elliptical galaxy known as Sparky. The observations represent the first glimpse at the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction, shedding light on an area of frenzied star production in the early universe.  Read More

NASA's 'swarmies' stand at the ready to work together explore alien worlds (Photo: NASA/Dm...

A collection of autonomous robots designed to scuttle around on distant planets looking for resources and material in much the same way that members of insect colonies do on Earth are currently being tested by NASA engineers. The robots, dubbed ‘swarmies’, are designed to individually survey an area, signal the others when they have found something of value, and then divide up the task of collecting the material and returning it to their base.  Read More

Artist's impression of New Horizons passing Pluto (Image: NASA)

Like a traveler on a very long road trip, a deep space probe has passed the last sign post before its destination. NASA has announced that its New Horizons probe has passed the orbit of Neptune – its last milestone before it flies by Pluto on July 14 next year. Launched in 2006, the piano-sized unmanned spacecraft is almost 2.75 billion mi (4.42 billion km) from Earth and is the fastest man-made object ever sent into space.  Read More

Artist's concept of NASA's SMAP satellite (Image: NASA)

NASA is set to launch a new satellite with the capacity to measure soil moisture on a global scale. Once operational, data from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite could be used to better inform farmers in agricultural decision making, providing unprecedented levels of detail on moisture trends with an efficiency and speed unattainable using current technology.  Read More

The Queen B (Bioshielding) model, by Noah Hornberger won a competition hosted by NASA and ...

If humans successfully colonize Mars in the future, what kind of homes will they inhabit? NASA and MakerBot recently hosted a competition which tasked people with making a 3D-printed model home suitable for the Red Planet. Noah Hornberger won with his Queen B (Bioshielding) concept home, which offers food-for-thought concerning the future of interplanetary architecture.  Read More

Curiosity looking up the ramp at the north-eastern end of 'Hidden Valley' (Image: NASA/JPL...

Very few road trips go exactly according to plan and that goes double for ones on Mars. At the start of its third year on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover was slated to head for the "Pahrump Hills" for its fourth rock drilling exercise, but after encountering unexpectedly hazardous terrain, it’s making a detour to a similar site called "Bonanza King" to carry on its mission.  Read More

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collector (Image: UC Ber...

Good things come in microscopic packages – at least, so says NASA. According to the space agency, our first ambassadors from interstellar space may be seven particles measuring only about two microns, that were returned to Earth by the unmanned Stardust probe in 2006. They could provide new insights into the origin and evolution of interstellar dust.  Read More

ATV-5 docks under autonomous control (Image: ESA/NASA)

ESA’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5, Georges Lemaître, has arrived at the International Space Station. In what the space agency describes as a "flawless demonstration of technology and skill," the unmanned cargo ship autonomously docked itself while supervised by mission control in Toulouse, France and by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov inside the space station.  Read More

Astronauts Mike Massimino (left) and Michael Good (right) strap in for a night's sleep abo...

The recently-released results of a study carried out by researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, and the University of Colorado have revealed the extent of the sleep deprivation suffered by astronauts over the course of a long-term mission in Earth-orbit. This study and others like it are the result of an increasing effort undertaken by agencies around the world to study the physiological and psychological impacts of a permanent human presence in space.  Read More

NASA has selected five finalists to move on in its NIAC Program

NASA has chosen five studies to advance to phase 2 of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The successful projects were chosen via a system of peer review, and represent the most promising technological concepts with the greatest potential to revolutionize the agency's approach to the building and operating of aerospace systems.  Read More

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