Back in November, NASA launched the latest version of its PhoneSat into orbit. The PhoneSat 2.4 satellite launched at 8:15pm on November 19 hitching a ride into orbit using a Orbital Minotaur I rocket. PhoneSat 2.4 built on the successful flights of other small satellites that used smartphones for their brain.
The NASA Van Allen twin probes launched last year have revealed that the Earth is a giant particle accelerator. Recently it was reported that particles in the magnetosphere sometimes accelerate across distances of a few hundred meters. But the newer discovery shows the acceleration can occur across hundreds of thousands of kilometers. The data will be helpful to to scientists helping satellite operators and the International Space Station to predict and prepare for the destructive tendencies of the seemingly random fluctuations that can occur in the magnetosphere.
One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to exploring our solar system and spending time away from Earth is food and water. A spacecraft taking humans to explore the moon and beyond has to be able to carry the crew, air, fuel, water, and food to serve the entire mission. Finding ways to reduce the amount of one of those items that has to be packed in the ship leaves more space for others.
Signs of water on five distant planets have been spotted using the Hubble Space Telescope, with scientists finessing their measurements so as to better differentiate which stand the best likelihood of potentially supporting life. Evidence of water had been initially spotted on several Jupiter-like exoplanets previously, but the team led by the University of Maryland in College Park was able to use infrared wavelength measurements to more specifically calculate the nature of the individual atmospheres.
Astronomers ranging from the professional level down to the amateur sky watcher are all disappointed with comet ISON. The comet had the potential to be the brightest in hundreds of years and was called the comet of the century by some. Unfortunately, the comet didn't make it around the sun intact. NASA says that the investigation into exactly what happened to ISON and what remains is ongoing.
We've talked plenty about the comet ISON around here as it makes its trip towards the sun. The comet has the potential to put on one of the best light shows in recent history, assuming it survives its brush with the sun. The sun has already been doing a number on ISON, shrinking it smaller size as it gets closer to its Thanksgiving Day brush with the sun.
Moon Express is a company that is working with NASA on private space flights to the moon. Moon Express has a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed with NASA and part of that agreement means that NASA provides Moon Express with its robotic Mighty Eagle lander for testing purposes. Moon Express has announced the completion of a successful closed loop free flight test with that robotic lander.
This past summer, NASA announced the beginning of its Grand Asteroid Challenge with something it calls Grand Challenges, a push by the Obama Administration to further innovations and increase new discoveries. Today the agency has announced its first partnership under this challenge, with NASA penning an agreement with Planetary Resources in Washington state to crowdsource the detection of asteroids.