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Space Travel

This color-enhanced picture from the MRO shows the distribution of phyllosilicates (shown ...

NASA’s $720 million Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided groundbreaking insight into the environmental makeup of the planet during its earliest geological age. Images from the MRO reveal that the Red Planet was originally a muddy brown, with vast lakes and flowing rivers covering a predominantly clay surface.  Read More

View from space taken by Greg Olsen
 Photo: Space Adventures

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has forked out a US$5 million deposit to reserve a seat on future orbital spaceflights and join the select group of private space tourists. Space Adventures, the company that helped Dennis Tito become the world’s first private astronaut in 2001, has also announced an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) to launch a dedicated mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011.  Read More

Artist's impression of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander
 Image credit: NASA/JPL

May 26, 2008 NASA has announced the successful touchdown of the Phoenix spacecraft on arctic plains in the north of the Red Planet. The completion of the 10 month journey was confirmed with the detection of a radio signal from Phoenix (a signal which takes more than 15 minutes to reach Earth) indicating that it had reached the Martian surface. The spacecraft reached speeds of approximately 12,000 mph before entering the top of the planet's atmosphere and beginning its decent towards a soft touchdown on its three-legs made possible by parachute deployment and finally, the use of controlled thrusters. Launched on August 4, 2007, Phoenix is the sixth lander to touch down on Mars with only five of the 11 previous international attempts having succeeded including the first successful landing of the Viking program in 1976.  Read More

Dr Yang Gao testing the lunar rover

May 1, 2008 The development of a new generation of lunar rovers has been given a boost thanks to funding for an exchange program between the Surrey Space Centre and the University of Beijing. The exchange will pave the way for future moon projects such as the UK‘s proposed Moonraker lander mission and the second phase of China's Chang'e programme.  Read More

Electric solar sail moves closer to reality
 Photo: Antonin Halas

April 16, 2008 It's a striking image made popular in sci-fi classics like the recent Star Wars films - a spacecraft hurtles through the galaxy propelled by gigantic reflective sails that use of solar radiation in place of on-board fuel . Space organizations around the world including NASA are pursuing this technology, but a rapidly evolving project from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has taken a radically different approach by using long metallic tethers and a solar-powered electron gun to create an "electric sail" that looks very different from the depictions of pressure sails with which we have become familiar.  Read More

Lynx sub-orbital spacecraft
 Image: www.xcor.com

March 28, 2008 Back in 2001 Californian millionaire Denis Tito made headlines as the worlds' first space tourist - shelling out around US$20 million for the privilege. Seven years on, the competition to offer such an out-of-this-world experience to a broader range of paying customers (and capitalize on what is expected to become a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade) is heating up. Earlier this year fledgling spaceline Virgin Galactic revealed designs for what will become its flagship -SpaceShipTwo, now Californian based XCOR Aerospace has unveiled a two-seater suborbital spaceship the size of a small private plane that the company expects to have airborne in 2010.  Read More

Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor Odyssey Moon Limited

March 5, 2008 In September 2007 the X PRIZE Foundation announced a $30million prize purse for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the moon. Now the Foundation has released details of the first ten teams to register for this amazing space race.  Read More

NASA Lunar truck prototype 
 Photo Credit: NASA

March 3, 2008 NASA has released images of its latest lunar exploration concept vehicle - a six-wheeled, variable height, stand-to-operate surface rover prototype designed to provide ideas for the future as part of the long-term goal of establishing an outpost on the moon by 2020.  Read More

Artist's impression of the newly detected planets 
 Photo courtesy KASI, CBNU, and ARCSEC

February 20, 2008 With upwards of 100 billion stars in our own Milky Way and at least that number of galaxies in the observable universe, the odds have long pointed to the likely existence of planets beyond our own solar system. The first discovery of such an extra-solar planet to receive subsequent confirmation took place in 1988 and two decades later, as detection techniques and equipment continue to improve, that number is now approaching 300. Now news that Astronomers from the University of St Andrews have found a new planetary system some 5,000 light years away that bears "striking similarities" to our Solar system.  Read More

MoonLITE orbiter carrying four penetrators

February 20, 2008 A new report has outlined the possibility of US support for the planned UK-led MoonLITE mission, a project that aims to use a solar-powered spacecraft to fire four suitcase-sized “penetrators” at the surface of the moon at speeds of 300m/s. The penetrators would be deployed to the far side of the Moon, and one of the poles, where they would sink to depths of up to two metres beneath the moon’s surface, and analyse “Moonquakes”, study heat flows, and determine the chemical and physical structure of the Moon’s interior.  Read More

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