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.
Rogue space junk poses a serious threat to both manned and unmanned spacecraft, since it just takes one wayward screw or fleck of paint to potentially punch a hole in some critical system. NASA has considered everything from balloons to sails to help mitigate the problem, and now the agency is thinking about a laser.
NASA's going to be deploying a network of 15 cameras across the United States to boost the coverage of its "All-sky Fireball Network," which is designed to track incoming meteorites, determine their trajectories, and possibly even figure out where they land.
Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, which, if you're counting, is more than 33 years ago. During that time, it's flown past Jupiter and Saturn and nearly made it out of our solar system, but it's still feeling frisky enough to perform a series of acrobatic roll maneuvers. Not bad for a spacecraft that was new at the same time as the Atari 2600.
Late on Friday, the Journal of Cosmology (a free but peer-reviewed scholarly journal) published a paper on their website by NASA astrobiologist Dr. Richard B. Hoover that showcases a variety of microscopic fossilized structures from inside meteorites that are possibly the remains of extraterrestrial bacteria. Aliens, for real.
We near the end of an era with the final launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery set to happen at 4:50pm. And you can watch it live online.