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.
China has a robotic moon lander that will land on the surface of the moon next month. Chinese scientists are in the final stages of preparing the Chang'e 3 lander to launch. The lander will lift off atop a Chinese Long March 3B rocket that is set for launch in early December.
Back in February, Dennis Tito revealed his ambitious plan to send a married couple on a flyby mission to Mars, something he has detailed today to members of Congress in a push to get the US government on board (figuratively speaking). Despite the science fiction-esque sound of it all, Tito says that the project can take place within the next couple of years rather than decades, and that he is aiming for December 2017.
Space is a very hazardous place. It's either very hot, or very cold and has lots of radiation that can kill humans. These factors pose significant risks to astronauts traveling into space. NASA has been using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for a number of tasks, including studying deep-space radiation.
NASA's Mars orbiter MAVEN launched successfully today from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:28PM EST. Once it arrives in orbit around the Red Planet, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN orbiter will gather data about Mars' upper atmosphere to try and discover how exactly the planet got to be so dry and atmosphere-poor. Earlier probes suggest the planet used to be much more like Earth in terms of moisture and atmosphere thickness.
Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and SpaceX met in late October to conduct a safety review of the Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket. NASA announced that the meeting took place last Friday. The safety review was designed to look at the safety policies and procedures in place in preparation for using the SpaceX Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to send astronauts into space.
NASA this weekend all but abandoned a money-saving technology due to a lack of money. You read that correctly. The space agency's budget woes are so suffocating that it can't even get the funding to develop ways to make missions more efficient. In this case, the efficiency would have been massive: the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG)--the program that just effectively got the ax--would have let many space missions require just one-fourth the fuel they currently need.