Bringing Mars To Earth. The Plans For a Mars Sample Return Mission

One of the great accomplishments of the Apollo missions was to bring home hundreds of kilograms of lunar rock. Suddenly, geologists had a lifetime’s worth of lunar samples captured from several different spots across the Moon. These rocks and dust have been under continuous analysis since the Apollo 11 astronauts came home over 50 years ago.

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A Spacecraft Is Going To Assemble Its Own Solar Panels In Space: Archinaut One

Artist's illustration of Archinaut One with its solar panels extended. Credit: Made In Space

As I’ve mentioned in several episodes now, humanity is in a bit of a transition period, a time when it makes sense to launch material up and out of Earth’s gravity well into orbit, and beyond. But it’s really expensive, costing up to $10,000 per pound you want in orbit, and 10 times if you want it on the Moon. 

But over the coming decades, more and more of our space-based infrastructure will be built in space, manufactured out of materials that were mined in space.

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Why Build Big Rockets at All? It’s Time for Orbital Refueling

On Tuesday, July 30th, NASA announced 19 different partnerships with 13 different companies to use their expertise to help them develop space technologies, from advanced communications systems to new methods of entry, descent and landing.

Instead of contracting out specific projects, NASA will make its employees, facilities, hardware and software available to these companies, for free.

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Spacecraft Gyroscopes And Reaction Wheels. You Can Never Have Enough

On January 8, 2019, the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations due to a hardware problem. Image Credit: NASA/STScI.

It’s amazing to think there are telescopes up in space, right now, directing their gaze at distant objects for hours, days and even weeks. Providing a point of view so stable and accurate that we can learn details about galaxies, exoplanets and more.

And then, when the time is up, the spacecraft can shift its gaze in another direction. All without the use of fuel.

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One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Telescope launched back in April, 2018. After a few months of testing, it was ready to begin mapping the southern sky, searching for planets orbiting stars relatively nearby.

We’re just over a year into the mission now, and on July 18th, TESS has shifted its attention to the Northern Hemisphere, continuing the hunt for planets in the northern skies.

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What Are Light Echoes? Using Reflections Of Light To See Even Further Back In Time

Star V838 Monocerotis

When we look outward into space, we’re looking backwards in time. That’s because light moves, at the speed of light. It takes time for the light to reach us.

But it gets even stranger than that. Light can be absorbed, reflected, and re-emitted by gas and dust, giving us a second look.

They’re called light echoes, and allow astronomers another way to understand the Universe around us.

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How Habitable is Titan? NASA is Sending the Titan Dragonfly Helicopter to Find Out

There are few places in the Solar System which are as fascinating as Saturn’s moon Titan. It’s a world with a thicker atmosphere than Earth. Where it’s so cold that it rains ammonia, forming lakes, rivers and seas. Where water ice forms mountains. 

Like Europa and Encleadus, Titan could have an interior ocean of liquid water too, a place where there might be life.

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Planetary Society Deploys LightSail 2’s Solar Sail. What Does The Future Hold For Solar Sails?

Photo of LightSail 2's sail deployment. Credit: The Planetary Society

Where you can travel in space depends on how much propellant you’ve got on board your rocket and how efficiently you can use it. But there’s a source of free propellant right here in the Solar System – the Sun – which is streaming out photons in all directions. You just need to catch them.

And right now, the Planetary Society’s new LightSail 2 spacecraft is testing out just how well it’ll work.

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