Two astronauts armed with a toothbrush, a wire cleaner and some nitrogen air boldly took their second spacewalk in less than a week. A faulty bolt was preventing the installation of a power station unit on the International Space Station, which was discovered after a marathon eight-hour spacewalk on August 30.
As far as humans are concerned, the most important part of a spaceship isn't the turbodrive or the turbolifts or even the turbolasers. No, it's the life support system, the thing that keeps us from, you know, dying. These systems are generally bulky and complex, but a new concept from NASA would weave them directly into spaceship hulls instead.
Like everything they build, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) designed Curiosity's Sky Crane landing system to work. But nothing is guaranteed in spaceflight. The team wouldn't know for sure whether the mission's entry, descent, and landing (or EDL) was successful until they got confirmation from the rover. The problem was that Curiosity's landing site in Gale Crater would be out of range at touchdown, so the team brought in a communications relay: the Mars Odyssey orbiter. It was a simple and obvious solution, except that Odyssey experienced its first ever malfunctions weeks before Curiosity's landing.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has concluded its survey of the asteroid Vesta and is now heading to Ceres, the largest asteroid (or smallest dwarf planet) in the solar system. As Dawn's mission director puts it, "thrust is engaged, and we are now climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions." Whoa.
Believe it or not, Bruce Willis had sort of the right idea in Armageddon: the most effective way to nuke an asteroid that's threatening Earth is to detonate the weapon deep inside the rock as opposed to on the surface. There may be a Willis/Affleck-free way to make this happen, by using an artificial asteroid of our own.
Imagine: you're riding in a spaceship toward the Moon, cresting on the wave of history itself. What happens if you get there is anyone's guess. It's unthinkable that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could ever have done less than the impossible, but President Richard Nixon had a speechwriter prepare for the worst.
The WISE space-based infrared survey telescope has completed two surveys of the sky in the infrared, revealing millions of new supermassive (and ravenous) black holes called quasars. And we weren't exactly looking for Hot DOGs out there, but we found a bunch of 'em anyway.
A couple days ago NASA's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite took this shot of Tropical Storm Isaac....
Designing the perfect aircraft is impossible. For takeoff and landing (arguably the most important parts of flying), you want something with wide, broad wings. But to fly fast and efficiently, you want wings that are swept back and as small as possible. Variable sweep wings are a compromise, but this concept (just funded by NASA) proposes something, um, different.
There's one simple reason why we don't have space telescopes the size of yo momma (like, kilometer-sized) in orbit right now, and that's because they're just too big and too fat to launch. A company called Tethers Unlimited has received a pile o' cash from NASA to figure out how to build giant structures in orbit instead.