As of this post, Space Shuttle Endeavour is currently undergoing its final launch preparations — for its final mission, in fact. If all goes well, NASA will send Endeavour on the agency's 134th shuttle mission, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station, carrying spare parts, pocket-sized satellites and other equipment.
When the Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off later today, it will be carrying three satellites. But they won't be filling up the cargo bay, because all three would fit easily in one crew member's shirt pocket.
NASA's "Swift" gamma ray burst tracking satellite spotted a huge blast of energy from a distant galaxy last month, and astronomers now think that it was the dying gasp of a star getting shredded by a black hole.
It's been just a few weeks since the space shuttle Discovery returned from her last mission to orbit, and already she's being partially disassembled and cleaned to prepare her for her final resting place, replacing Enterprise at the Smithsonian.
Space aficionados got really excited last year when NASA announced it was working closely with 3D pioneer James Cameron to equip its Mars rover Curiosity, with 3D cameras. Unfortunately, it looks like the Red Planet rover will be searching for space martians without the eye-popping third dimension in tow.
Just as the Shuttle program is winding down, NASA has been busy putting together the pieces for the just unveiled Orion space capsule. Part of the new gear includes some nifty new space suits, which they've recently been testing in Antarctica.
The funding to send astronauts to the moon on NASA's new Orion space capsule may have been axed, but it's good for lots of other stuff, from ISS transport flights to deep-space adventures. Lockheed Martin has just unveiled the very first Orion spaceship, along with a fancy new simulation center to test it out in.
Every time the space shuttle launches, it ends up in orbit without its solid rocket boosters or external fuel tank. The tank breaks up during reentry and little bits of it land over the Indian Ocean, but the boosters parachute to safety, are picked up by a special ship, and get used over again.
Don't get me wrong, the International Space Station is no slouch, but back in the '70s NASA had some pretty grandiose visions for what life in space would be like. We'd be living in massive, rotating spheres, in cities designed to hold 10,000 people and wrapped around the inside of cylinders; we'd have flying vehicles and space suits to drift around in, and even sweeping green vistas with lakes and birds and cattle. It would be our home away from home, and every comfort would be there. Just, you know, in space.
The VASIMIR VF-200 is an honest-to-goodness plasma thruster that NASA has just agreed to test out in Earth orbit, potentially aboard the ISS. If things work out, it's capable of taking us to Mars in 40 days instead of six months.