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Posts Tagged "space exploration"

@ScientificAmerican

Thank You, Guest Editor LeVar Burton

Image credit: Reading Rainbow

We at Scientific American share several passions with the actor, producer and educator LeVar Burton: fostering children’s literacy, science, social good and education. And, of course, Star Trek. So perhaps it’s only natural that this past Wednesday we welcomed Burton as our Guest Editor for the day. Burton conducted a “site takeover”—making story assignments, deciding [...]

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Guest Blog

ScienceDebate Revs Up for 2016 Presidential Election

President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton launched the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership between the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson on September 8, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse)

This year, I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, which brings together 60 leaders from around the country to work on projects designed to create significant social impact and change. PLS is co-sponsored by the presidential libraries of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, [...]

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Guest Blog

How the Ansari X Prize Altered the Trajectory of Human Spaceflight

SpaceShipOne in her new home in the National Air and Space Museum. (Credit: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons)

Looking up into the bright Mojave sky in 2004, I strained to keep my eyes on the tiny spaceship 50,000 feet up. “Three, two, one… release, release, release!” came the call over the loudspeakers. I held my breath as I watched the rocket motor ignite and the spaceship ascend on a plume of fire with [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Rosetta Captures Stunning New Images of Comet’s Surface and Activity

Comet surface at 1.7 meter/pixel resolution (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

What happens when you make a low-level flyby of a cometary nucleus? You get jaw-dropping images. The above 2-shot mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by ESA’s Rosetta orbiter at an effective altitude of just 19.9 kilometers. The resolution is a crisp 1.7 meters per pixel and this frame spans a region of about 3 [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Where Would you Leave a Message From the Stars?

bottle.001

A recent article by Samuel Arbesman in the science magazine Nautilus discusses the extraordinary sounding possibility that – just perhaps – a search for extraterrestrial intelligence could be made by looking at our DNA. Yes, that’s right, at DNA. Not just human DNA either, but the codes of all living organisms. It’s a fascinating, if [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Tricksy Mars may be Obscuring Signs of Organic Matter

The view from Curiosity (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

[Correction: jarosite has indeed been detected on Mars, this post has been updated to reflect that fact.] Picture a hot volcanic spring. Mineral-laden acidic water flows through sulfur-rich rocks. A foul odor hangs in the air. For us it’s a nasty environment, best enjoyed through the lens of a tourist’s camera. But for tough thermophilic [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Titan Loses its Speckles

A 3-D view of a region of Kraken Mare showing the sharp turns in a 'river' (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Some of the most stunning images of Saturn’s moon Titan are made using a synthetic aperture radar to penetrate the thick atmosphere to see the frigid surface. But radar images are prone to what’s called ‘speckle noise’. This is the granular texture that covers the radar maps, and it’s caused by the physical roughness of [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Dawn Approaches Ceres

Dawn's latest, and best, images of Ceres (NASA)

NASA’s Dawn mission, having performed remarkably at the asteroid Vesta, is homing in on Ceres. The spacecraft’s ion engines will bring it to a capture orbit around this 590 mile diameter dwarf planet on March 6th, 2015 – at a distance some 2.5 times further from the Sun than the Earth. Now at a separation [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Alien Yet Familiar: Following Curiosity Across Mars

(Mastcam image, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

822 Martian days after landing, NASA’s Curiosity rover, carrying the Mars Science Laboratory, continues on its extraordinary journey across landscapes that are both utterly alien, and remarkably familiar. Here’s a small update. On November 18th 2014 the rover was in the center of this region (within the Pahrump Hills), continuing across the base area of [...]

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Life, Unbounded

That Comet? That’s You, 4.5 Billion Years Ago

The surface of a comet, with one of Philae's landing feet (Credit ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

As the European Space Agency’s Philae lander bounced and settled onto the surface of comet 67P/C-G’s crumbly nucleus it wasn’t just space exploration, it was time travel. This stupendous feat of spacecraft design and operation has brought us to a place little changed from its original state, a condensation and agglomeration of one small part [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Surreal Task of Landing on a Comet

The top of the 'duck's head' where Philae will attempt to land (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

On November 12th 2014 the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will eject the small robotic lander Philae on a trajectory that should take it down to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-P for short). Already Rosetta is maneuvering from its 10 kilometer orbit to get into the right place to deploy Philae. The landing [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Failure Is Always An Option

One of the lucky ones...Saturn V launch (NASA)

Do not try this at home. A Russian Proton-M launch goes wrong – and it can happen to anyone (wait for the shock wave). A rocket is a controlled bomb. The fully fueled Saturn V ‘moon rocket’ held an explosive force of about half a kiloton of TNT, enough to do some serious damage if [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Interview: The New Moon

moon

Think you know about the Moon? I did, but then I started reading ‘The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation‘ (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and realized that my knowledge amounted to a teensy scrap of lunar dust. For the past few years my colleague Prof. Arlin Crotts has been assembling an astonishingly detailed look [...]

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Observations

Dawn Spacecraft Arrives at Ceres, Becomes First to Orbit a Dwarf Planet

The dwarf planet Ceres in crescent phase as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft

Shortly after 7:30 am Eastern time this morning, a seven-year space voyage at last reached its final destination: NASA’s Dawn mission entered orbit around Ceres, a small, icy world orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. Confirmation of Dawn’s arrival came about an hour later, via the spacecraft’s radio signal to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory [...]

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Observations

Readers Choose the Top 10 Scientific American Stories of 2014

Entering a closed timelike curve tomorrow means you could end up at today. Credit: Dmitry Schidlovsky

World events left many marks and losses in 2014, but Scientific American readers kept calm and carried on for the most part, as your top picks among the stories we published this year reveal. We added in behind-the-scenes information for some of your favorites, listed below: 1. Time Travel Simulation Resolves “Grandfather Paradox”—Our online managing [...]

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Observations

The Top 10 Space and Physics Stories of 2014

A spacecraft photographs itself approaching a comet in deep space

From humanity’s first, flawed foray to the surface of a comet to the celebrated discovery of (and less celebrated skepticism about) primordial gravitational waves, 2014 has brought some historic successes and failures in space science and physics. Here are my selections for the top ten stories from this year, with a look forward at what [...]

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Observations

What Interstellar Gets Wrong about Interstellar Travel

A starship travels through a cosmic wormhole

Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar, is a near-future tale of astronauts departing a dying Earth to travel to Saturn, then through a wormhole to another galaxy, all in search of somewhere else humanity could call home. It’s a gorgeous, ambitious work, with outstanding performances from a star-studded cast augmented by high-fidelity visual effects and a [...]

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Observations

Live Chat at Noon Today on Dreams of Other Worlds and NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Robotic exploration of space is fascinating, complex and quite important to our understanding of the universe. To learn more about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection, join us for a live chat today (Tuesday, October 29) at noon EDT with Chris Impey, astronomer and author of Dreams of [...]

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Observations

Millionaire Plans Manned Mission to Mars in 2018

Mosaic of the Valles Marineris hemisphere of Mars

Yesterday, a mysterious group called the Inspiration Mars Foundation announced vague plans for a “historic journey to Mars and back in 501 days” scheduled for 2018. The group neglected to mention if the trip would be manned, instead directing the public to a press conference scheduled for February 27. But new information reveals that the [...]

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Observations

Curiosity Gears Up to Zap Rocks in Huge Crater at Red Planet

Mars, rover

Now that NASA’s “seven-minutes of terror” have passed safely, the Mars Curiosity rover’s exploratory mission is off and running. Over the next two years—probably more, if it’s anything like the Opportunity or Spirit rovers—the Jeep-sized rover will explore its new home using a variety of tools. One of the Curiosity’s most important objectives will be [...]

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Observations

Planetary Resources’ Crazy Plan to Mine an Asteroid May Not Be So Crazy

Vesta, asteroid, Dawn, space

In a widely anticipated announcement today, the new company Planetary Resources revealed their plans for near-Earth asteroid domination. The group has mapped out a multi-stage process to map, observe, capture, tow and eventually mine asteroids for valuables. “A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the platinum group metals mined in history,” reads [...]

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Observations

Could a Balloon Fly in Outer Space?

Here’s the sort of crazy idea that animates our office conversation at Scientific American. It all started with my colleague Michael Moyer’s joke that a certain politician could build his moon base using a balloon: just capture the hot air and float all the way up. Ha ha, we all know that balloons don’t work [...]

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Observations

Who Should Explore Space: Astronauts or Astro-Bots?

document.write(“”); Check out our latest Space Exploration coverage: This Way to Mars In-Depth Report : The Future of Deep-Space Exploration Forget Asteroids—Send a Manned Flyby Mission to Venus How an Energy-Efficient Spacecraft Could Revolutionize Space Travel [Video] Breaking the Deep-Space Barrier [Interactive]

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Symbiartic

Travel the Solar System! See Distant Worlds!

guyatt-mini

Mars – Valles Marineris © Ron Guyatt Sol System – Meteor Shower © Ron Guyatt In an explosion of heroic art deco design, illustrator and designer Ron Guyatt has created a massive series of posters making our own solar system fascinating again. After 60 posters in the style of the ones we are sharing above, [...]

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Symbiartic

Commander Hadfield Shows Us What Science Communication Could Be. Visually.

c_hadfield_mini

Science communication has seldom had a better champion than Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield who just returned to Earth last night. Astronauts tweeting and talking from space is not a new phenomena, and though interesting scientific experiments abound way up on the ISS, they weren’t what caught the public’s imagination this go round. It was [...]

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Symbiartic

The SciArt Buzz: SciArt Happenings in March/April 2013

Pulse

Oh, my. The more I look, the more I find. Get your sciart on, peeps! _____________ EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION Pulse: Art and Medicine February 16 to April 13, 2013 The Mansion at Strathmore 10701 Rockville Pike North Bethesda, MD Imagine the place where art, science and the human body intersect: that’s the idea behind Pulse: [...]

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Symbiartic

See Where Our Curiosity Gets Us?

12-020FEATURE

I’m so excited I might burst. The first images from Curiosity’s cameras rained down to Earth in the middle of last night, after a 14 minute journey from the red planet. Here they are, in all their glory. Larger, color images will be available next week. Let the imagination soar!! Other neat tidbits from Curiosity: [...]

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