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Spacecraft

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has detected two unexpected phenomena in the short time since making orbit around the red planet – an aurora occurring deep in the Martian atmosphere, and an as of yet unexplained high altitude dust cloud. MAVEN is currently four months into a primary mission lasting one Earth year, during which time it is attempting to shed light on the characteristics of the Martian upper atmosphere and ionosphere, studying how they interact with our Sun. Read More
The European Space Agency (ESA) has temporarily suspended its attempt to reestablish contact with its Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. For eight days, the agency’s Rosetta probe unsuccessfully beamed a wake up signal to the hibernating lander, which has been silent since its batteries were exhausted in November. Read More
Though the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser spaceplane was kicked out of the running to ferry crew to the ISS, a variation on the craft may still end up visiting the station. As part of its bid to win NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract, SNC has unveiled an unmanned autonomous version of Dream Chaser to carry cargo into orbit. Read More
"A sailor must be able to swim in the sea. Likewise, a cosmonaut must be able to swim in outer space." With those words, the head of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev, initiated the crew of the first spacewalk mission. On March 18, 1965, cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Pavel Belyayev lifted off in Voskhod (Sunrise) 2, from which Leonov would exit to become the first person in history to step into the vacuum of space. Read More
Lockheed Martin has provided a glimpse at the next generation of commercial spacecraft by revealing its proposal for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program. The new cargo ships, which Lockheed compares to the US transcontinental railroads of the 19th century, are designed to not only resupply the International Space Station, but also support manned deep space missions, such as the first expedition to Mars. Read More
NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova have safely touched down in Kazakhstan on Mar. 11, with the landing heralding the end of a 167-day mission to the International Space Station. During their time in low-Earth orbit, the crew's activities were planned to the minute by mission controllers on the ground. Over the course of Expedition 42, hundreds of experiments were undertaken relating to the effects of the microgravity environment aboard the station, the potential benefits of which will aid future astronauts, as well as the people back on Earth. Read More
In science, it's often the case that solving one mystery just raises more questions. Take Saturn's moon Enceladus. For almost a decade, scientists have been puzzled by the gossamer plumes that waft up from its surface. Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now indicates that these may might be due to present-day hydrothermal activity in the vast ocean beneath the crust of the frozen moon, raising the possibility that Enceladus may harbor life. Read More
Getting to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) by jumping out of an airlock with a parachute may seem daft, but a group of students are trying just that with a CubeSat. According to NASA, TechEdSat-4, which was jettisoned from the space station on March 3, has reached its designated orbit, where it will use a parachute-like "exo-brake" to slow it down enough to safely re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. Read More
NASA's Dawn spacecraft added another trophy today to the conquest of space as it went into orbit around Ceres. According to the space agency, the unmanned probe arrived at about 4:39 am PST and is currently circling the dwarf planet at an altitude of about 38,000 miles (61,000 km) – making it not only the first spacecraft to reach a dwarf planet, but also the first to orbit two extraterrestrial bodies. Read More
The UK government has shortened its list of potential sites for Europe's first commercial spaceport. It is hoped that the spaceport will be operational by the year 2018, ready to ride the wave of a new breed of commercial spaceplane that will carry paying customers and even satellites into low-Earth orbit. Read More
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