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Geologic Column: Sometimes, the sky really is falling

Airplane pilots have a long history of using euphemisms to minimize the sense of risk in their work. Pilot-speak for crashing an airplane, for example, is “ruining your entire day.” In the same parlance, encountering an asteroid could cause all of us to have a very, very bad day. But maybe our close calls — such as the fireball that flew over Russia in February — can serve as reminders to renew our focus on searching for and understanding objects that could, literally, impact our planet.

12 May 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Mars-Observing Fleet Set to Face Silent Treatment

Outbound communications from NASA to its group of Mars-observing orbiters and rovers will be curtailed starting April 4. And as of April 9, no commands will be sent in the Red Planet’s direction. Lest anyone worry that this radio silence has to do with sequester-related budgetary constraints affecting the space agency, don’t fret, it’s only temporary and it has more to do with orbital, rather than fiscal, dynamics. The planned break in communication is a result of an impending planetary configuration, known as a solar conjunction, that will put the sun directly between Earth and Mars.

03 Apr 2013

Two NASA spacecraft reveal ancient underground cracks from moon's formation

SAN FRANCISCO: The face of the moon has always enchanted humankind, but new data from a NASA mission have given scientists a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface.

06 Dec 2012

Simple organic compounds detected by Curiosity on Mars

Too early to tell if findings are evidence of biological activity, scientists say

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, has detected evidence of simple, chlorinated organic compounds in soil sampled recently from the red planet, project scientists announced Monday from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The scientists characterized the finding as very exciting, but they stressed that the results do not provide “definitive" evidence of past or present life on Mars.

03 Dec 2012

Bare Earth Elements: Let the real Curiosity begin

This has been a year of scientific milestones. In just the last few months, we have witnessed the first successful launch of a privately built spacecraft — SpaceX’s Dragon capsule — which docked with the International Space Station in May, as well as the announcement in July that the Higgs Boson, the lynchpin particle in the Standard Model of physics, had at last been confidently detected. And by now, you have surely heard that Curiosity — the latest model in NASA’s lineage of robotic Mars-exploring rovers — has successfully landed on the red planet. In case you hadn’t, here is your official notice:

CURIOSITY HAS LANDED ON MARS!

06 Aug 2012

Hazardous Living: Watching Curiosity land safely was exhilarating

Sometimes humanity accomplishes something absolutely awesome. Tonight was one of those nights. We put another rover on Mars — by far the most advanced rover yet. Curiosity is now out exploring Gale Crater and much is expected of her.

06 Aug 2012

CryoScoop: Massive rift portends Antarctic berg

Researchers flying over West Antarctica last month were at the right place at the right time, spotting an actively growing rift that they expect will spawn an iceberg about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

04 Nov 2011

CryoScoop: Sea ice synopsis and a whale tale

The extent of Arctic sea ice shrinks each year during the northern hemisphere’s spring and summer, trading a white frozen surface for dark open ocean. Reaching its lowest annual extent by September or October, the ice grows back again through the cold and dark winter months.

30 Sep 2011

Charting a course correction: A review of Earth: The Operators' Manual

"Earth: The Operators' Manual" achieves its goal, which is to prepare us to change course and relace fossil fuels with alternative sources to blunt the impacts of global warming.

23 Sep 2011

A day without Glory

On a warm afternoon in early March, the Taurus XL rocket that was prepped for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California looked more like a giant chopstick standing on end than a potential game changer in the debate over climate change science. The barrel-shaped satellite that the rocket carried — named Glory — was designed to deliver critical information about small airborne particles called aerosols.

19 Aug 2011

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