NASA is Going Ahead With a Hopping Lander to Explore the Lunar Surface

Methods of movement for robotic explorers of other worlds have been as varied as the worlds themselves. Some missions have been simple landers, some rovers, and now there’s even been a helicopter flight on Mars.  But there is an unexplored hybrid mode of movement that will soon be coming to a Moon near you – hopping.  NASA just granted an additional $41.6 million to support development of a hopping lunar lander that will explore the inside of craters that are permanently in shadow.

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Two Bizarre red Asteroids Somehow Migrated From the Kuiper Belt all the way to the Main Asteroid Belt

If asked to pick what color asteroids in the asteroid belt would be, red is likely not one that would come to mind for most people.  But that is exactly the color of two new asteroids found by Hasegawa Sunao of JAXA and an international team of researchers.  The catch is the objects don’t appear to be from the asteroid belt at all, but are most likely Trans-Neptunian objects that were somehow transported into what is commonly thought of as the asteroid belt. How exactly they got there is still up for debate.

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NASA Chooses Falcon Heavy Over SLS to Launch Europa Clipper, Saving About $2 Billion

The bureaucracy of government control is slowly fading away in space exploration, at least in the US.  A series of delays, cost overruns, and imposed requirements have finally started taking its toll on the Space Launch System (SLS), the next generation NASA rocket system.  Now, the space agency has finally conceded a point to the commercial launch industry.  It has elected to use Space X’s Falcon Heavy to launch one of its upcoming flagship missions – Europa Clipper.

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Lightweight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Fuel Tanks Pass a Critical Test, and Could Knock a lot of Weight off a Rocket’s dry Mass

Material science is still the unsung hero of space exploration.  Rockets are flashier, and control systems more precise, but they are useless without materials that withstand the immense temperatures of forces required to get people and things off the planet.  Now a team from MT Aerospace, working on a grant from ESA, has developed a new type of material that will be immensely useful in one of the most important parts of any rocket engine – the fuel tanks.

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Blue Origin Offers a $2 Billion Discount to get Back in the Lunar Lander Game

Blue Origin has been busy lately.  They launched their founder, Jeff Bezos, into space and put a bid in on NASA’s new Lunar Lander project.  While SpaceX won that contract back in April, Blue Origin has continued to fight for their right to supply the space agency with an alternative lander.  And recently, their not-quite-an-astronaut chief had added another fuel to the fire by offering to take $2 billion off the price tag of a Blue Origin lander.

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Searching for Dark Matter Inside the Earth

Dark matter remains one of the greatest mysteries in science.  Despite decades of astronomical evidence for its existence, no one has yet been able to find any sign of it closer to home.  There have been dozens of efforts to do so, and one of the most prominent just hit a milestone – the release and analysis of 8 years of data.  The IceCube Neutrino Observatory will soon be releasing results from those 8 years, but for now let’s dive in to what exactly they are looking for.

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This is how you get Tatooines. Binary Star Planet Formation

One of the less appreciated aspects of George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars was that he predicted the existence of planets in binary star systems years before we saw even the first exoplanet.  Now a team from the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics have found how exactly those planets can form without being torn apart by their accompanying suns.

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Europe Launches its new Robotic arm, Which Will Crawl Around the International Space Station Like an Inchworm

The robotic arms of the ISS are some of its most useful tools.  The arms, designed by Canadian and Japanese space agencies, have been instrumental in ferrying around astronauts and shepherding modules to one side of the ISS.  However, the Russian segment lacked its own robotic arm – until a new one designed by ESA was launched last week.

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When the Sun Dies, Earth’s Magnetosphere won’t Provide Protection any More

The Earth’s magnetic field is an underappreciated wonder of the natural world.  It protects our atmosphere, provides some of the most breathtaking scenery when it creates auroras, and allows people to navigate from one side of the world to the other.  Unfortunately, it won’t be able to save us from the death of the Sun though.  At least that’s the finding of some new research by Dr. Dimitri Veras of the University of Warwick and Dr. Aline Vidotto of Trinity College Dublin.

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