A half-century after the first Moonwalks, talk of travel beyond low-Earth orbit has become so fanciful that it’s almost as if we were back on a quest for the Holy Grail. It shouldn’t be. Let’s don’t over-romanticize space travel. If we’re ever truly going to move off-world, a trip from Earth to the Moon needs to become as mundane as a commercial flight from New York to Paris.
After 12 years of delays and cost overruns, the $9.7 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope -- the James Webb Space Telescope -- has finally been fully assembled. The two halves that make up the next-generation space telescope have been brought together by NASA engineers for the very first time, something which took many years and countless hours of planning to achieve.
Thirty years ago, NASA's Voyager 2 mission flew by Neptune, capturing the first close-up images of the blue gas giant. Before this, the eighth planet in our solar system was only known as a fuzzy dot in the distance. And the end of Voyager 2's planetary tour on August 25, 1989, concluded with a dazzling display of Neptune and it's moon, Triton. The images and scientific data returned by Voyager 2 would change our understanding of the solar system.
The Moon is a hot destination right now -- especially for NASA, which wants to send people back to the lunar surface, but also for the private space industry. The most ambitious private lunar exploits are still many years off, but already, three companies claim they’ll be putting small robotic landers on the Moon in the next two years, amping up a small space race.
Most of the spacecraft in science fiction are ridiculously spacious, but real life is much less luxurious. The International Space Station (ISS) has just 388 cubic meters of habitable space, and future deep-space assignments could have astronauts serving much longer tours of duty. NASA has partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation to explore ways to make spacecraft a bit less cramped, and the company has now completed a prototype inflatable habitat module with almost as much living space as the entire ISS.
The twin Voyager spacecraft took off in 1977, carrying scientific instruments and golden records stuffed with information. Millions of miles away, they still communicate with Earth. They still collect data. But they are aging. The spacecraft, traveling in slightly different directions, weaken every year. Their thrusters, which keep them steady, are degrading. Their power generators produce about 40 percent less electricity than they did at launch.
All is not what it seems in the world of lunar samples. If you put a moon rock alongside one from Earth, they usually don't have a lot in common. So when Curtin University planetary scientist Professor Alexander Nemchin looked closely at a moon rock in his laboratory, he realized something wasn't right.
Humanity's next giant leap could be enabled by next-gen nuclear tech, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. During the sixth meeting of the National Space Council (NSC) today (Aug. 20), the NASA chief lauded the potential of nuclear thermal propulsion, which would harness the heat thrown off by fission reactions to accelerate propellants such as hydrogen to tremendous speeds.
The Hubble Space Telescope has been silently hovering above Earth for over 25 years, but it’s still returning spectacular images of the cosmos. That’s an amazing technological achievement. But it wasn’t always a smooth ride.
Of the 12 people who have walked on the moon, zero have been women. NASA's Artemis program aims to change that by landing the first woman on the moon. "I have a daughter. She is 11 years old, and I want her to see herself in the same position that our current, very diverse astronaut corps currently sees itself, having the opportunity to go to the moon," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an agency town hall May 14.