Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Orbit

Between the nets, six inflatable PVC spheres up to 8.5 m (30 ft) in diameter, divide the s...

If you have ever wished you could experience weightlessness but cant afford space tourism, then a Dusseldorf art gallery may get you closer, as long as you wear sturdy shoes. The "in-orbit" multi-level art installation by Tomás Saraceno is suspended 20m (60 ft) above the piazza of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen gallery. The Argentinian architect and artist’s largest work to date aims to resemble a cloud landscape for those brave enough to walk through it.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Keck asteroid capture mission (Image: Rick Sternbach / Keck Instit...

To paraphrase an old saying, if the astronaut can’t go to the asteroid, the the asteroid must come to the astronaut. In a study released by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, researchers outlined a mission to tow an asteroid into lunar orbit by 2025 using ion propulsion and a really big bag. The idea is to bring an asteroid close to Earth for easy study and visits by astronauts without the hazards and expense of a deep space mission.  Read More

Artist's impression from a point in the Alpha Centauri triple star system, showing the new...

European astronomers working from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile have discovered a planet slightly more massive than Earth, orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri triple star system – the nearest stellar system to our planet. Alpha Centauri Bb (as the new exoplanet is called, the star being Alpha Centauri B) is the first Earth-sized body found orbiting a Sun-like star and was discovered by measuring the tiny wobbles of Alpha Centauri B as it moves in response to the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet. It is orbiting Alpha Centauri B every three days and six hours at an orbital radius of six million kilometers (3.7 million miles). The proximity to the star leads to a surface temperature of some 1,500º K (2,250º F/1,232º C) – hot enough to melt granite.  Read More

A rendering of the debris cloud surrounding the earth (Image: NASA)

Boeing has filed a patent for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of.  Read More

Image showing the south pole of the giant asteroid Vesta obtained by the framing camera on...

After becoming the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in July 2011, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has spent the last 10 months orbiting said object - the giant asteroid Vesta. During that period it has captured more than 20,000 images of Vesta and a multitude of data from different wavelengths of radiation. What it reveals is an asteroid that in many ways shares more in common with a small planet or Earth’s moon than it does with another asteroid.  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

Stratolaunch Systems has announced its planned air-launch-to-orbit system, which will get ...

Seven years ago, philanthropist Paul G. Allen collaborated with aerospace expert Burt Rutan, to create SpaceShipOne – the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and winner of the Ansari X PRIZE. Now, in the post-Shuttle era, the two men have reunited to create a reusable vehicle for launching both manned and unmanned rockets into space. The project was announced in Seattle today.  Read More

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft with Vesta on the lower left and Ceres on the u...

On Saturday, NASA’a Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta, becoming the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for a year before heading for the dwarf planet Ceres. With previous multi-target missions, such as the Voyager program, considered rapid planetary flybys, Dawn is also set to become the first spacecraft to enter orbit around one extraterrestrial body before continuing under powered flight to a second.  Read More

Skylon spaceplane

After nearly 30 years of service, the Space Shuttle fleet is due to enter retirement with the last ever mission scheduled for takeoff on July 8, 2011. In its lifetime, the world’s first Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) has provided information that will prove invaluable for the next generation of spacecraft that will succeed it. One such craft is the Skylon, an unpiloted, single-stage, reusable spaceplane currently under development by UK-based Reaction Engines Ltd. (REL). The Skylon got a shot in the arm last month with the release of a technical review of Skylon carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) that concluded there are “no impediments” that would prevent the continued development of the Skylon and its SABRE engine.  Read More

The first image of Mercury captured from orbit by MESSENGER (Image: NASA)

After reaching orbit around Mercury on March 17, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has sent back its first image of our solar system’s innermost planet. The historic image, which was captured at 5:20 am EDT (U.S.), is the first ever captured from a spacecraft in orbit and is dominated by the rayed crater named Debussy. The bottom portion of the image also shows a region of Mercury’s surface near the planet’s south pole that had not previously been seen by spacecraft.  Read More

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