Taxonomy term

space exploration

Cassini's legacy after two decades at Saturn

Scientists on Earth have received the last submission from the Cassini spacecraft. It descended into Saturn’s atmosphere at 122,500 kilometers per hour, which caused it to melt, thereby ensuring that Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus would remain protected from possible contamination by any errant Earth microbes. Cassini scientists had considered other options for the spacecraft’s end, including leaving it to float endlessly in space or parking it in orbit around Saturn. But ultimately, they chose to have it descend into Saturn’s atmosphere after deciding the data that could be returned from the descent were more valuable than any further data it might obtain by remaining in space. Scientists will make discoveries from these data for decades to come.

15 Sep 2017

Making oxygen with MOXIE

The MOXIE (Mars OXygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment) instrument on NASA’s 2020 rover is designed to demonstrate technology that can generate oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Scaled-up versions of the technology could one day be used to produce the large amounts of fuel needed to boost rockets back off the planet’s surface, as well as to create breathing oxygen for human settlements.

15 Sep 2017

Mars class of 2020: A diverse group of missions takes aim at the Red Planet

As many as six missions to Mars might launch in summer 2020, representing a growing and increasingly diverse interest in interplanetary space exploration.
15 Sep 2017

A great time to land on Mars

The 2020 window represents an especially good opportunity for missions looking to reach the Martian surface because of favorable environmental conditions on the planet early in 2021 when the spacecraft will arrive. The elliptical shape of Mars’ orbit means that the planet is, at times, much closer to or farther from the sun, so the amount of sunlight hitting the planet varies dramatically through the Martian year. Meanwhile, the tilt of Mars’ axis, as on Earth, leads to a progression of seasons as the orientations of the northern and southern hemispheres with respect to the sun change regularly and oppositely. The combination of Mars’ orbit and tilt drives an annual cycle of swings in atmospheric pressure of up to about 25 percent as carbon dioxide freezes out of, or sublimes into, the atmosphere.

15 Sep 2017

Geomedia: Books: Exploring space is risky business

Space is deadly, and the explorers who risk their lives to venture farther into these depths rank among the bravest heroes of all time. In “Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration,” Claude A. Piantadosi portrays the history and future of space exploration through the lens of space medicine, which reminds us of the many threats to the human body that await as we venture away from our planet.

30 Aug 2017

Comment: In space, timing is everything

From concept to launch, planetary missions are the result of years of planning and work, but success can hinge on a few events that happen in mere seconds.
10 Aug 2017

Red Planet Roundup: August 2017

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

03 Aug 2017

Benchmarks: January 31, 1961: Ham the chimpanzee, first hominid in space

Early on the morning of Jan. 31, 1961, a chimpanzee named Ham, outfitted in a diaper, waterproof pants and a space suit, was sealed into a capsule and loaded onto a Mercury-Redstone 2 spacecraft in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Six hours later, Ham the Chimp, named after Holloman Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M., where he was trained, became the first hominid to travel into space.

31 Jan 2017

Rosetta mission ends with a bang: But the discoveries will continue

Rosetta crashed onto the surface of a comet on Sept. 30, bringing its mission to an end, though the scientific analysis and discoveries will continue for decades. We examine a few of the biggest surprises and highlights of Rosetta’s scientific journey so far.

30 Sep 2016

What's in a name: Rosetta, Philae, and 67P?

All of the names associated with the Rosetta mission, including the orbiter itself, the lander and all of the place names coined by mission scientists on 67P, refer to ancient Egyptian sites or deities, in homage to the Egyptian origin of the Rosetta Stone and Philae obelisk.

30 Sep 2016