The fine astronauts onboard the ISS have been very kind to us space nerds. Its cameras have blessed us with more breathtaking timelapses than we can count. And now onboard astronaut Don Pettit is kicking things into hyperspace with this set of gorgeous "star trails" that look like they've been plucked right out of Tron.
The 2012 transit of Venus happened yesterday around 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Did you see it? If not, here's an image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
NASA's space shuttles are usually busy doing something cool for photographers. (Even in retirement, they know how to put on a show.) This picture, though, is cool in a very weird way: Space Shuttle Explorer crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Never heard of Explorer? We forgive you — it's a secret shuttle.
NASA and SpaceX have decided on a time for the latter's Dragon commercial space capsule to return to our planet. Once again you'll be able to watch it live, but this time you may actually be able to sleep in. UPDATE: Dragon successfully splashed down at 11:42 A.M. PDT. See more here.
The tiny little black dot in the lower left of this picture is the SpaceX Dragon capsule with its solar panel unfurled, performing a "fly-under" about a mile beneath the International Space Station. After Tuesday's flawless launch, Dragon is now maneuvering for berthing with the station on Friday.
Space exploration is at a crossroads. For the last few decades it has largely been about NASA and its shuttle fleet, but quiet players in the field are starting to come forward with some bold plans. Both Russia and Japan, for instance are talking about returning to the lunar surface in major ways.
After a dramatic last-second abort early Saturday, SpaceX enjoyed a picture-perfect launch Tuesday morning, with its Falcon 9 rocket delivering the company's Dragon capsule into orbit. NASA's chief called it "the brink of a new future," while SpaceX's founder remarked that "it was like winning the Super Bowl."
Sure, it's quibbling to pick on your packed lunch when you are going to be strapped to the world's biggest roman candle and be launched into space. And of course, the astronauts on the Apollo 10 mission back in May of 1969 did no such thing.
In what was a brutal reminder that NASA can (and should) delay a launch at any time if there's a perceived problem, SpaceX's highly anticipated liftoff was stopped short just before its Falcon 9 rocket should have been streaking toward the sky, and Dragon's historic rendezvous.
NASA has been collecting data about the Earth, the solar system, and beyond for over half a century, but it's not always easy to see how all of this data is making our world a better place on the level of people like you and me. The Space Apps Challenge, sponsored by NASA and Innovation Endeavors (an investment firm headed by Google's Eric Schmidt), asked international teams to submit ideas for apps offering solutions to global problems. There were four types of challenges that teams could work on, including software, open hardware, citizen science, and data visualization. Within these broad categories were specific goals: for example, creating an open-source 3D printing platform that works in space or redesigning the Voyager Golden Record for 2012. Thousands of people and organizations ultimately participated in the challenge (which gave them just one single weekend to come up with a demo or pitch), and the results are in. Before you say "ugh, I don't care about apps," take a look at these short videos highlighting the winners, because we're pretty sure you'll want to care about these.