Mars is a pretty inhospitable place, and NASA recently ruined the fun by showing that it's just not feasible to terraform the entire planet. But what about just certain parts of it? Now, researchers from Harvard have shown that thin layers of silica aerogel could warm the surface and block UV radiation while still letting visible light through. That could be enough to keep water liquid and let plants photosynthesize within a given region.
In a move that may one day lead to satellites that can build other satellites, NASA has agreed to a US$73.7 million contract with Made in Space of Mountain View, California to launch a demonstrator spacecraft that will manufacture and assemble satellite component in orbit. Called Archinaut One, the goal is to develop technologies that could be used in both space manufacturing and deep-space missions.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered structures around a black hole that were thought to be impossible. A small, "malnourished" black hole was found to have a flat disk of material circling it – a feature thought unique to supermassive black holes. This disc is also so close to the black hole that it's distorting and stretching the light itself.
Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the University of Bath are developing a technique that uses satellite radar imaging to monitor the safety of bridges and other large-scale infrastructure. Using 15 years of orbital radar images of the Morandi Bridge, the researchers were able to detect signs of warping that preceded its collapse in 2018.
NASA engineers are conducting an extremely long-range reconfiguring of the space agency's two 42-year-old Voyager deep-space probes to extend their service lives. By cutting back and reallocating heating resources and bringing back online thrusters that haven't been used in decades, the goal is to keep the unmanned spacecraft sending back data from the frontiers of the solar system for several more years.
NASA has awarded Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Astrobotic a US$5.6 million contract to build a new suitcase-sized robotic lunar rover that could land on the Moon as soon as 2021. One of 12 proposals selected as part of the agency's Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload (LSITP) program, the 24-lb (11-kg) MoonRanger rover is designed to operate autonomously on week-long missions within 0.6 mi (1 km) of its lander.
So far we've spotted more than 4,000 planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, but we know very little about their atmospheres. Now, NASA astronomers have managed to probe the atmosphere of GJ 3470 b, a planet unlike any in our solar system. It marks the first time for this kind of world, and could be a step towards identifying potentially habitable planets.
NASA has carried out another dramatic test of the emergency escape system for its upcoming heavyweight rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The Launch Abort System (LAS) sits at the very top of the gigantic rocket, and is tasked with forcefully pulling the crew out of harm's way in the event of a life-threatening mission failure.