"Binzel suspects that Pluto’s “heart,” particularly its left ventricle region, called Sputnik Planitia, was created by an impact with another object in the Kuiper belt, an asteroid belt near the edge of the solar system. That impact gouged out a piece of the surface of Pluto, making the crust very thin at the point of impact. Underground water, kept warm by Pluto’s radioactivity, then flooded this area of thin crust like water in a blister. This formed the extra mass that caused Pluto to reorient itself so the impact zone faced away from Charon." [more inside]
Hopping, tumbling and flipping over are not typical maneuvers you would expect from a spacecraft exploring other worlds. Traditional Mars rovers, for example, roll around on wheels, and they can't operate upside-down. But on a small body, such as an asteroid or a comet, the low-gravity conditions and rough surfaces make traditional driving all the more hazardous. Enter Hedgehog: a new concept for a robot that is specifically designed to overcome the challenges of traversing small bodies.(via)
Beagle probe found on the surface of Mars 12 years after contact was lost with the probe on its descent it has been spotted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [more inside]
Carolyn Porco is the leader of the Imaging Team on the Cassini-Huygens mission. Watch as she extolls the wonders and discovery about two of Saturn's most interesting moons, Titan and Enceladus. [more inside]
The twin Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 have discovered something new in the heliosheath at the edge of the solar system: it's frothy out there. Video. Press Release. Via. Voyager: Previously.
Bill James, a pioneer in the field of baseball statistics, has now turned his attention to serial killers and their methods.
Trouble started soon into Hayabusa's treacherous round-trip journey to Itokawa when she lost her companion, Minerva. On arrival, she stumbled and dropped the sample she was sent to retrieve, and we thought the worst when she stopped calling. One accident left her disoriented and unable to find her way, and another reduced her progress to a slow limp. But on Sunday, with unfailing help from home, Hayabusa returns, three years late and seven years after she departed.
Mercury Messenger, a NASA probe, just performed a fly-by of Mercury at a height of 200 kilometers. It's the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since 1975.
NASA proposes using a Stirling cooler (essentially a Stirling engine in reverse) to keep a probe cool on the surface of Venus, which has had a tendency to melt or smash previous probes. The cooler would maintain a 25cm sphere within the probe at 200°C -- 100°C above the boiling point of water but sufficiently cool for a high-temperature microcontroller to operate. The waste heat radiators on the exterior of the sphere would reach the temperature of 500°C, 40°C above the the normal Venusian surface temperature.
NASA's Phoenix probe launched Saturday from Cape Canaveral, destination Mars. Its mission is to investigate polar ice. This probe is unique for a couple of reasons: first, it will face a traditional parachute-and-retro-rockets landing, unlike previous endeavors. Second, it will be landing far north of any previous mission. Previous Mars missions have had mixed success, with only about half successfully making it to their destination. It is scheduled to land in May, 2008.
CIA Seeks Probe of Iraq-Al Qaeda Memo Leak The CIA will ask the Justice Department to investigate the leak of a 16-page classified Pentagon memo that listed and briefly described raw agency intelligence on any relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, according to congressional and administration sources...and if this probe is like so many others, that will be the end of this news item.
NEAR shoemaker lands and survives. The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touched down on a barren space rock called Eros on Monday, in history’s first attempt to land an object on an asteroid. Scientists said the probe still appeared to be sending signals back to Earth after making contact, hinting that the car-sized probe survived the descent. The speed at impact was between 1.5-1.8 m/s. This marks the first time that a US spacecraft was the first to land on another body of the solar system. And, if the server is back up, it's worth checking out the project's website.