Category: space & earth

“Our cosmos could thus have been burped into being by the laws of physics alone.”

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Join David Kaplan on a virtual-reality tour showing how the sun, the Earth and the other planets came to be.

Only over the past half-century have scientists uncovered the story of the sun, the Earth, the moon and our neighboring planets. Each meteorite plucked off the ground, every moon rock collected by Apollo astronauts and every measurement recorded by NASA’s far-flung probes has provided a clue that planetary scientists have pieced into a coherent account of how the solar system formed and evolved. Continue reading

Into the Solar Wind


No spacecraft has ever flown as close to the Sun as the Parker Solar Probe will. The spacecraft will penetrate the outer solar atmosphere — the corona — where its measurements should help us understand the origin and characteristics of the solar wind. To put this in perspective, consider that Mercury is at 0.39 AU. The Helios-B spacecraft, launched in 1976, closed to within 43 million kilometers of the Sun (0.29 AU), the current record for a close pass. The Parker Solar Probe will fly seven times closer, moving within ten solar radii. Continue reading

Tape drive due to shut down in 2018 as 1.4 kbps link becomes too skinny

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When Greg Matloff’s “Solar Sail Starships: Clipper Ships of the Galaxy” appeared in JBIS in 1981, the science fictional treatments of interstellar sails I had been reading suddenly took on scientific plausibility. Later, I would read Robert Forward’s work, and realize that an interstellar community was growing in space agencies, universities and the pages of journals. Since those days, Matloff’s contributions to the field have kept coming at a prodigious rate, with valuable papers and books exploring not only how we might reach the stars but what we can do in our own Solar System to ensure a bright future for humanity. Continue reading

The Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 4 landed at NASA 's Kennedy Space Center, May 7, 2017.

A sonic boom that rattled Central Florida early Sunday morning was no secret. What caused it was a nearly two-year secret military mission ending at Kennedy Space Center. Continue reading

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In late April, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft began a series of potentially dangerous dives, or “ring crossings,” between Saturn and its innermost rings of ice. Continue reading

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prepares to shoot the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings for the second time in its Grand Finale, Cassini engineers are delighted, while ring scientists are puzzled, that the region appears to be relatively dust-free. This assessment is based on data Cassini collected during its first dive through the region on April 26. Continue reading