Washington, D.C. – Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died Monday, January 16th, surrounded by his family.
Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
He was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. He piloted the Gemini 9 mission with Commander Thomas P. Stafford on a three-day flight in June 1966. Cernan logged more than two hours outside the orbiting capsule.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – After a two-and-a-half-hour descent, the metallic, saucer-shaped spacecraft came to rest with a thud on a dark floodplain covered in cobbles of water ice, in temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing.
The alien probe worked frantically to collect and transmit images and data about its environs — in mere minutes its mothership would drop below the local horizon, cutting off its link to the home world and silencing its voice forever.
Although it may seem the stuff of science fiction, this scene played out 12 years ago on the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The “aliens” who built the probe were us. This was the triumphant landing of ESA’s Huygens probe.
Written by Tracy McMahan
Huntsville, AL – Major construction is complete on NASA’s largest new Space Launch System structural test stand, and engineers are now installing equipment needed to test the rocket’s biggest fuel tank.
The stand is critical for ensuring SLS’s liquid hydrogen tank can withstand the extreme forces of launch and ascent on its first flight, and later on the second flight, which will carry up to four astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on a journey around the moon, into the deep-space proving ground for the technology needed for the journey to Mars.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon.
The image combines two separate exposures taken on November 20th, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images were taken to calibrate HiRISE data, since the reflectance of the moon’s Earth-facing side is well known.
Written by Bob Jacobs / Allard Beutel
Washington, D.C. – In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.
“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
Written by Joe Atkinson
Hampton, VA – It’s a complex and daunting thing, dreaming up ways to assemble spacecraft in space.
But don’t tell that to a few whip-smart college students — they’re up for the challenge.
In fact, five university teams will soon get the chance to make the case for their in-space spacecraft assembly concepts as part of the 2017 Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice.
But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has made its first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn’s rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase on November 30th.
Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn’s rings on December 4th at 5:09am PST (8:09am EST) at a distance of approximately 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. This is the approximate location of a faint, dusty ring produced by the planet’s small moons Janus and Epimetheus, and just 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers) from the center of Saturn’s F ring.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – If you think operating a robot in space is hard, try doing it in the ocean.
Saltwater can corrode your robot and block its radio signals.
Kelp forests can tangle it up, and you might not get it back.
Sharks will even try to take bites out of its wings.
The ocean is basically a big obstacle course of robot death. Despite this, robotic submersibles have become critical tools for ocean research. While satellites can study the ocean surface, their signals can’t penetrate the water. A better way to study what’s below is to look beneath yourself — or send a robot in your place.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist.
For robots, it’s all in the gears.
Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you’ll need won’t come from a hardware store.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear.
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