Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Orbit

Image of the ISS captured in 2011, docked with ATV-2 and the Endeavour space shuttle (Phot...

The International Space Station (ISS) has been forced to fire the thrusters of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) in order to maneuver the station and its crew out of the way of potentially harmful debris. Such instances are rare, making a catastrophic scenario highly unlikely. However, with each passing year, the amount of orbital debris increases, heightening the risks of a collision for mankind's only manned outpost among the stars.  Read More

Yale astronomers discover exoplanet with wildly inconsistent orbital period (Image: Shutte...

Yale astronomers have discovered a low-mass, low-density exoplanet orbiting a distant star whose orbit boasts some fascinating and extreme characteristics. The yearly period of the exoplanet, known as PH3c, varies enormously from one orbit to another, and so eclectic are these orbits that it was undetectable by conventional exoplanet hunting techniques that rely on a periodic dip in the light of the parent star.  Read More

Artist's impression of MAVEN orbiting the Red Planet (Image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight C...

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has successfully completed a maneuver designed to place the robotic explorer in Mars orbit. The achievement is the crowning moment in a 10-month journey through deep space, representing the culmination of millions of dollars and over a decade of planning and hard work by NASA mission operators.  Read More

Artist's impression of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft approaching Mars (Image: NASA/Goddard Space...

Mission operators working from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are undergoing final adjustments for orbital insertion of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, due to take place September 21. Achieving a stable orbit around the Red Planet would be the culmination of a 10-month voyage, during which the robotic explorer traveled 442 million miles (711 million km) after having ridden into space in November 2013 atop an Atlas V rocket.  Read More

Artist's impression of Venus Express skimming the Venusian atmosphere (Image: ESA–C. Carre...

Facing the alternative of a fiery death, the ESA’s Venus Express orbiter has completed a daring maneuver that extended the life of the unmanned explorer by several months. Under command from Earth, the spacecraft spent a month skimming the outer edge of the Venusian atmosphere to alter its velocity and send it into a new orbit that will keep it operating until perhaps the end of the year.  Read More

Astronomers have disproved the existence of two exoplanets thought to orbit Gliese 581 in ...

Those packing their bags for a trip to the two potentially habitable exoplanets previously claimed to be orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581 had better rethink their travel plans. Astronomers at Pennsylvania State University say the planets, Gliese 581 d and Gliese 581 g, don't actually exist.  Read More

Picture taken from Cassini in 2013, displaying the Earth as seen from orbit around Saturn ...

Having returned a vast number of incredible images of Saturn, her rings and her moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is reaching the final stage of its marathon mission. As such, and with the help of over 2,000 members of the general public, mission operators have selected a fitting name for the final maneuvers of the iconic spacecraft.  Read More

Earth is surrounded by a cloud of debris that is becoming increasingly hazardous to operat...

As part of its Clean Space Initiative, the ESA is planning a satellite salvage mission called e.DeOrbit that would use a satellite to net space debris and remove it from low Earth orbit. To capture such debris using an autonomous system, it needs to be targeted effectively, which is difficult when the debris is tumbling unpredictably. To fine tune the design of the e.DeOrbit mission, the ESA will commission a study to shed light on why space debris tumbles the way it does.  Read More

Artist's Impression of Cassini passing near Titan (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Data collected from observations recorded by NASA's Cassini mission has been used to propose ways to better understand the atmospheres of exoplanets. By studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite, Titan, scientists have shown how spectra are subtly altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, thereby giving a greater insight into interpreting the spectral readings of the atmosphere of these distant worlds.  Read More

Is space-based solar power the answer to our energy needs? JAXA envisions solar satellites...

Space-based solar power seems like an idea from a Star Trek script, but given the uncertain future of its power generation industry, Japan stands to gain as much as anyone by exploring this potential source of renewable energy. The disaster at Fukushima, limited access to fossil fuels and advances in technology has, at least in the eyes of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), added further weight to the notion of a space-based solar power system. The agency is developing a complex roadmap involving a 1 GW extraterrestrial solar farm, a microwave beam and a man-made island in the Tokyo harbor which could be used collect solar energy in space and supply power to Earth by 2040.  Read More

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