Space

NASA suffers New Horizons disconnect as Pluto nears

NASA suffers New Horizons disconnect as Pluto nears

The New Horizons probe set to arrive at Pluto in just ten days time gave NASA an unpleasant July 4th surprise, losing contact with Earth for more than an hour. The glitch, which began at 1:54pm EDT, saw radio communications between the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the distant spacecraft cut for unknown reasons. While the link was reconnected at 3:15pm EDT, it leaves NASA scientists scrambling to get New Horizons back onto its original course.

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NASA finds more mystery spots, this time on Pluto

NASA finds more mystery spots, this time on Pluto

NASA has been increasingly gathering more detailed looks at the planets that are close to us. It found itself a little mystery with Ceres, where one of its spacecrafts found a couple clusters of bright spots. The space agency still hasn’t quite figured out what those are, but now it has itself another mystery — this time on Pluto, where the New Horizons spacecraft has taken an image that shows a line of big dark dots in an evenly-spaced single line.

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Rosetta finds sinkholes that could swallow a pyramid

Rosetta finds sinkholes that could swallow a pyramid

Rosetta continues its extended mission in capturing information on its nearby comet this week, finding massive sinkholes in the process. A number of these massive "cavities" have shown themselves in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These holes appear as deep as 590 feet (180 meters) and as wide as 656 feet (200 meters) in diameter. While scientists are not certain why these pits are appearing, lead researcher Jean-Baptiste Vincent suggested that it could be because of the heat of the sun, this heat creating jets of surface-collapsing dust.

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Rare space event: catch Venus and Jupiter crossing tonight

Rare space event: catch Venus and Jupiter crossing tonight

Throughout the month of June, Venus and Jupiter have been moving closer and closer to one another. Or at least they've been appearing to move closer to one another. They've been moving in directions that'll eventually have them within one degrees of one another in our night sky, making it appear as those they're very nearly aligned with one another. Starting at the beginning of June at around 21 degrees from one another, these two planets will reach 0.33 degrees, or 20 arc minutes from one another.

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NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA has revealed a new prototype design for an aircraft that will eventually be the first to fly on Mars in the 2020's. Dubbed the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or "Prandtl-m" for short, features a flying-wing design and is said to be ready for testing later this year via launching from a balloon at an altitude of 100,000 feet to simulate Mars' atmosphere.

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This morning’s fireball was just space junk, says NASA

This morning’s fireball was just space junk, says NASA

Random fireballs in the sky, depending on your perspective in life, are either very exciting or very scary. Presumably both emotions were experienced by witnesses this morning when a bright fireball appeared in the darkened early morning sky over a few southern states. The event was captured by many in the form of pictures and videos, and it spurred all sorts of unfounded speculation: aliens, secret government experiments, the end of the world. The reality, though, is far more mundane.

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SpaceX explosion leaves NASA reliant on Russian resupply

SpaceX explosion leaves NASA reliant on Russian resupply

With SpaceX's CRS-7 rocket in pieces and future launches grounded until the cause of Sunday's explosion is identified, the ISS is again dependent on Russia for supplies. Although the astronauts currently on the International Space Station have food, water, and other essentials in their orbiting stock cupboard to last them through October 2015, NASA says, it's still vital that the ISS Progress 60 rocket makes it up in one piece when it lifts off this coming Friday.

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NASA puts never-before-seen Challenger, Columbia shuttle wreckage on display

NASA puts never-before-seen Challenger, Columbia shuttle wreckage on display

As this weekend's failed launch of the latest SpaceX mission demonstrates, space travel and exploration remains a difficult endeavor. It is perhaps fitting then that weekend also saw the opening of a new exhibition from NASA at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. On display to the public for the first time ever are pieces of space shuttle wreckage from the Challenger and Columbia missions and their doomed flights. While missions like the recent SpaceX fortunately don't put human lives directly at risk, NASA's new display is part of a fitting tribute to the two crews that were lost.

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SpaceX CRS-7 mission explodes en-route to ISS

SpaceX CRS-7 mission explodes en-route to ISS

SpaceX's latest resupply mission to the International Space Station ended in failure today, as the CRS-7 mission rocket exploded shortly after take-off. An investigation is underway, with SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggesting that an issue in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank led to over-pressure. Two minutes and thirty-nine seconds after the Falcon rocket and its Dragon capsule blasted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, observers were shocked to see it explode just before second-stage separation was due to take place.

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NASA nears Ceres mystery spots: pyramid-like peak spotted

NASA nears Ceres mystery spots: pyramid-like peak spotted

The dwarf planet Ceres has presented quite the mystery: bright spots in a cluster. The spots were first spotted around the beginning of this year, and as the Dawn spacecraft grows nearer we've seen the spots become more clear. The latest shots show them from the closest distance yet, and among the other images is yet another mystery: a pyramid-like mountain sitting out on a barren landscape all by itself. This latest shot of the bright spots was taken on June 9.

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