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)
"A press release from Cornell explains how the researchers used some creative chemical modeling to construct a hypothetical, methane-based cell that's stable in Titan's sub-zero oceans. They call their alien life form an "azotosome."" [more inside]
Sunspots, first observed by Galileo, normally follow an 11-year cycle. We are into a few years into (recorded) cycle number 24 but according to NASA it's looking rather underpowered. Nobody is certain exactly what the consequences will be, but one distinct possibility is a cold period; a previous low in solar activity, the Maunder minimum, is correlated with a brief Little Ice Age. Nobody really knows how this unusual solar weather pattern might interact with human-caused climate change. Previously, albeit somewhat controversially.
An 'armchair astronomer' named David Martines has found something on Google Mars which he believes is some kind of space station. Allegedly, NASA is investigating the image. Another theory says that what he sees is a "linear streak artifact produced by a cosmic ray".
These Flickr collections document NASA's 2010 Desert Research and Technology Studies tests (Desert RATS!). [via]
Emily Lakdawalla has published the first 42 of 99 Voyager Mission Status Bulletins (thanks to space fan Tom Faber). Before the days of the internet, updates on space missions were distributed via newsletter. From 1977-1990 NASA published these Voyager newsletters to update scientists and enthusiasts. Both Voyager I and Voyager II are still out there, hurtling toward the stars. Voyager I and II weekly status updates from 1995-present are currently available online. Lakdawalla will be publishing the rest of the bulletins after she indexes them.
The Ice Fracture Explorer is Joseph Shoer's concept for an unmanned expedition into the oceans of Europa. [via]
At least three million tons of fishlike creatures could theoretically live and breathe on Europa, according to Professor Richard Greenberg of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Greenberg recently presented his findings to the Division for Planetary Sciences, American Astronomical Society (PDF, Google quick view). Greenberg has written about potential life on Europa before, but his recent calculations suggest that the concentrations of oxygen would be great enough to support not only microorganisms, but also more complex animal-like organisms which have greater oxygen demands. [more inside]
Where am I now? Travelin' 1.18km/s(2646mph). 70,289km from the Moon. 19 hrs! RU Excited? I am! #lcross
On October 9th, NASA spacecraft will run into the moon, and on purpose. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and its rocket's Centaur upper stage will impact the moon, with the goal of sending some of the (possibly present) ice above the lunar surface. Once out of the eternal shade of the moon's south pole, sunlight will break the ice up into H+ and OH- molecules, which can be detected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The initial impact site was the crater Cabeus A, but the target was later changed to Cabeus (proper), selected for highest hydrogen concentrations with the greatest level of certainty, and for the high-contrast back drop to detect ejecta and vapor measurements. NASA has provided guides for amateur observations of the impact, a facebook group, and a Twitter feed so you don't miss the moment.
" It was beyond description, really, it was mind-blowing," she said. "I'm surprised at how surprised I am at the beauty and the clarity of these images. They are shocking to me."
Designing a Space Colony? Start Here. Some light Reading. Be sure to check out the artwork (more space art by Don Davis).
Pioneer 10 space probe finally packs it in for good. So long, little fella...
NASA releases new high resolution images of the "Face on Mars" digitally enhanced to make it it look like an ordinary mesa rock formation.
Of course, we know better...
Of course, we know better...
Will the Pluto mission once again get cancelled? I mean, now that Pluto isn't a planet anymore; apparently, it's been downgraded to "big ball of ice." After all those years of service, of faithful rotation, that steadfast revolve, how can they just kick a planet out like that?! It's a travesty, I tell you -- a travesty!