NASA has released a natural-color image of Saturn from space, the first in which Saturn, its moons and rings, and Earth, Venus and Mars, all are visible.
The new panoramic mosaic of the majestic Saturn system taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which shows the view as it would be seen by human eyes, was unveiled at the Newseum in Washington on Tuesday.
Cassini’s imaging team processed 141 wide-angle images to create the panorama. The image sweeps 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across Saturn and its inner ring system, including all of Saturn’s rings out to the E ring, which is Saturn’s second outermost ring. For perspective, the distance between Earth and our moon would fit comfortably inside the span of the E ring.
“In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. “And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot.”
For the first time, NASA has publicly confirmed what many people have suspected and speculated: On August 25, 2012, the Voyager 1 probe exited the Sun’s little bubble in space and began an exciting new journey into the interstellar medium. CNN has more here.
CNN) — At the edge of the heliosphere, you wouldn’t know by looking whether you left the cradle of humanity behind and floated out into interstellar space. You would just see unfathomably empty space, no matter which side of the invisible line you were on.
But scientists now have strong evidence that NASA’s Voyager 1 probe has crossed this important border, making history as the first human-made object to leave the heliosphere, the magnetic boundary separating the solar system’s sun, planets and solar wind from the rest of the galaxy.
“In leaving the heliosphere and setting sail on the cosmic seas between the stars, Voyager has joined other historic journeys of exploration: The first circumnavigation of the Earth, the first steps on the Moon,” said Ed Stone, chief scientist on the Voyager mission. “That’s the kind of event this is, as we leave behind our solar bubble.”
A new study in the journal Science suggests that the probe entered the interstellar medium around August 25, 2012. You may have heard other reports that Voyager 1 has made the historic crossing before, but Thursday was the first time NASA announced it.
China will launch its next manned space flight on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab, the National Space Administration said, in the latest step towards the development of a space station.
The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft will launch from a remote site in the Gobi desert in China’s far west at 5:38 p.m. (0938 GMT), Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned space program, told a televised briefing on Monday.
Once in orbit, the craft will dock with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1, a trial space laboratory module, and the two male and one female astronauts will carry out various experiments and test the module’s systems.
They will also give a lecture to students back on earth, Wu said.
China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia.
But the Shenzhou 10 mission will be the latest show of China’s growing prowess in space and comes while budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.
Join a small team of rocket designers as they open a window into the future of space travel. Stirring music from Digital Republic.
Modern science has linked polar light shows, called auroras, to vast waves of electrified gas hurled in our direction by the sun. Today, researchers from a whole new generation see this dynamic substance, plasma, as an energy source that may one day fuel humanity’s expansion into space. What can we learn, and how far can we go, by tapping into the strange and elusive fourth state of matter?
Since the dawn of rocketry, we’ve relied on the same basic technology to get us off the ground. Fill a cylinder with volatile chemicals, then ignite them in a controlled explosion. The force of the blast is what pushes the rocket up. Nowadays, chemical rockets are the only ones with enough thrust to overcome Earth’s gravity and carry a payload into orbit. But they are not very efficient.
The heavier the payload, the more fuel a rocket needs to lift it into space. But the more fuel a rocket carries, the more fuel it needs. For long-range missions, most spacecraft rely on their initial launch speed to essentially coast to their destination. Flight planners often design routes that give the craft a gravity assist by sending it around the moon or another planet. One small cadre of scientists believes it has a quicker and more efficient way to get around in space.
Dr. Ben Longmier and his team from the University of Michigan have traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to play a small part in a much larger push to revolutionize space travel and exploration.
The team plans to use helium balloons to send components of a new type of rocket engine to an altitude of over 30 kilometers, above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere. The purpose is to test these components within the harsh environment of space. While astronauts train to live and work in zero gravity, or to move around in bulky space suits, these would-be space explorers are preparing to negotiate some of Earth’s harshest environments.
Once they launch their payload, they have to retrieve it wherever it comes down in Alaska’s vast snowy wilderness. The idea they are pursuing is nothing short of revolutionary. It’s a type of rocket that promises far greater gas mileage than other rockets, and enough power to reach distant targets. It runs on the same fuel that nature uses, literally, to power the universe: plasma.
If NASA is to land humans on Mars by the 2030s, as President Barack Obama has directed, there’s not much time to settle on a plan and develop the technologies required, agency officials said Monday (May 6).
In the 1960s, America seized an opportunity to go to the moon, and succeeded. A second opportunity for a leap forward in space is upon us now, said NASA chief Charles Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars Summit here at George Washington University.
“Interest in sending humans to Mars I think has never been higher,” Bolden said. “We now stand on the precipice of a second opportunity to press forward to what I think is man’s destiny — to step onto another planet.” [Buzz Aldrin’s Visions for Mars Missions & More (Video)]
So two kids in Canada submitted a question: what happens when you wring out a washcloth in space? The answer just might surprise you.
Of course, my primary takeaway is when do I get to go play in zero gravity?
Hats off to BoingBoing for the tipoff.
There has never been anything like the Saturn V, the launch vehicle that powered the United States past the Soviet Union to a series of manned lunar landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The rocket redefined “massive,” standing 363 feet (110 meters) in height and producing a ludicrous 7.68 million pounds (34 meganewtons) of thrust from the five monstrous, kerosene-gulping Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines that made up its first stage.
At the time, the F-1 was the largest and most powerful liquid-fueled engine ever constructed; even today, its design remains unmatched (though see the sidebar, “The Soviets,” for more information on engines that have rivaled the F-1). The power generated by five of these engines was best conceptualized by author David Woods in his book How Apollo Flew to the Moon—”[T]he power output of the Saturn first stage was 60 gigawatts. This happens to be very similar to the peak electricity demand of the United Kingdom.”
Despite the stunning success of the Saturn V, NASA’s direction shifted after Project Apollo’s conclusion; the Space Transport System—the Space Shuttle and its associated hardware—was instead designed with wildly different engines. For thirty years, NASA’s astronaut corps rode into orbit aboard Space Shuttles powered by RS-25 liquid hydrogen-powered engines and solid-propellant boosters. With the Shuttle’s discontinuation, NASA is currently hitching space rides with the Russians.
But there’s a chance that in the near future, a giant rocket powered by updated F-1 engines might once again thunder into the sky. And it’s due in no small part to a group of young and talented NASA engineers in Huntsville, Alabama, who wanted to learn from the past by taking priceless museum relics apart… and setting them on fire.
In orbit around our planet, hundreds of satellites constantly relay a huge amount of data back and forth, not to mention streaming it down to the surface. But the aging system is nearly at capacity, so NASA is planning a secure, robust successor.
Don’t worry — it’s not as if astronauts are having to get by on dial-up during their stay on the International Space Station. In fact, the ISS has a fairly beefy 300-megabit line — more than 10 times faster than what most people can get at home.
Although the current system is suitable for today’s needs, it may not be so for tomorrow’s. Early this month, NASA posted an official request for information, or RFI, to begin technical discussion of the next generation of space communications. NBC News spoke on the phone with NASA’s Philip Liebrecht and James Schier, who work on the space agency’s space communications platforms, about the plans for a replacement.
If you could lick the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, you would actually be sampling a bit of the ocean beneath. A new paper by Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and Kevin Hand from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena, details the strongest evidence yet that salty water from the vast liquid ocean beneath Europa’s frozen exterior actually makes its way to the surface.
The finding, based on some of the best data of its kind since NASA’s Galileo mission (1989 to 2003) to study Jupiter and its moons, suggests there is a chemical exchange between the ocean and surface, making the ocean a richer chemical environment. The work is described in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.
The exchange between the ocean and the surface, Brown said, “means that energy might be going into the ocean, which is important in terms of the possibilities for life there. It also means that if you’d like to know what’s in the ocean, you can just go to the surface and scrape some off.”
Europa’s ocean is thought to cover the moon’s whole globe and is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick under a thin ice shell. Since the days of NASA’s Voyager and Galileo missions, scientists have debated the composition of Europa’s surface. The infrared spectrometer aboard Galileo was not capable of providing the detail needed to identify definitively some of the materials present on the surface. Now, using the Keck II Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and its OSIRIS spectrometer, Brown and Hand have identified a spectroscopic feature on Europa’s surface that indicates the presence of a magnesium sulfate salt, a mineral called epsomite, that could have formed by oxidation of a mineral likely originating from the ocean below.