On Jan. 19, 2019, just 161 days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first orbit of the Sun, reaching the point in its orbit farthest from our star, called aphelion. The spacecraft has now begun the second of 24 planned orbits, on track for its second perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun, on April 4, 2019.
Hacking NASA’s Curiosity rover let it measure Martian gravity, even though it has no scientific instruments designed to do so. The measurements revealed a surprise at Gale crater. We can use gravity to probe the interior structure of a planet because the gravitational pull of a particular area depends on the type and density of the rocks there.
It’s been a long time coming, but NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is close to its first launch. SpaceX says it is currently planning for the initial test flight of its crewed Dragon capsule next month. This comes after a series of setbacks as both SpaceX and Boeing trudged through the testing and review process that will eventually return manned spaceflight to the US.
As a retiring member and the outgoing chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I can no longer set that agenda, but I can recommend the issues that still need Congressional attention and action. Headlines claiming that Congress is making a “return to science” are ignoring years of progress on policies advancing research, STEM education, and space exploration. America’s continued success in technology, innovation, and energy development depends on a Science Committee that commits to working toward these goals.
A NASA spacecraft 4 billion miles from Earth yielded its first close-up pictures Wednesday of the most distant celestial object ever explored, depicting what looks like a reddish snowman. Ultima Thule, as the small, icy object has been dubbed, was found to consist of two fused-together spheres, one of them three times bigger than the other, extending about 21 miles in length.
Landing InSight on the surface of Mars was an incredible feat all by itself, but the robot has just successfully completed its first major mission milestone. After carefully surveying the nearby terrain, NASA pinpointed a location to deploy the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). InSight successfully placed the sensor on the surface as instructed.
After 41 years traveling through the solar system, NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has entered interstellar space. That makes it the second human artifact to leave our home behind to drift between the stars. You might be thinking this already happened, but that’s because the first object out of the solar system was the other Voyager. They’re both in interstellar space now, but they had very different journeys.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe has made the closest-ever approach to a star (the sun) and shared an image of the sun's atmosphere on Twitter on Wednesday. NASA's image, captured Nov. 8, shows the corona, which is the sun's outer atmosphere, when the spacecraft was just 16.9 million miles from the star.
Pictures from full-color Instrument Deployment Camera, which is mounted on the spacecraft’s 6-foot-long robotic arm, will help scientist ensure that the spots they pick will be sufficiently level and rock-free to accommodate the first instruments to be lifted up and placed down permanently on the surface of another planet.
We often hear about the dust storms and wind on Mars, but it’s hard to visualize conditions on the ground when the planet’s only inhabitants are robots. Today, the Curiosity rover has provided a handy visual example of how the wind blows on the red planet. The record consists of two images of a penny, one before the windy season and one after.