Space Science

Decision time — NASA’s New Frontiers

By Adam Hadhazy

June 1, 2019

UPDATE: Dragonfly wins. See News story – NASA has limited dollars for exploring the solar system with robotic spacecraft, and it can take a decade to get such a probe to its destination. Careers are made or stalled when NASA selects a proposed mission, which is why the agency’s latest New Frontiers competition is such a high-stakes affair. Adam Hadhazy spoke to the finalists vying for the prize.

Lunar far side comes into focus

By Adam Hadhazy

April 1, 2019

How China’s January landing on the far side of the moon is helping open this neglected other half to science and human utilization.

Digging in to Mars

By Amanda Miller

March 1, 2019

Every square meter of Mars has been photographed from orbit; its dirt has been scooped up and heated to reveal its constituent chemicals; rovers have driven for kilometers. The surface of Mars, though, has never been dug so deep. That is set to change. Cracking the surface of Mars could deliver readings that will upend tenets about planetary evolution.

Imaging a habitable world

January 2, 2019

Scientists are detecting exoplanets daily by the slight decrease in light from a host star as a planet transits in front of it. Photos of such a planet could tell us whether or not we are alone in the universe. Louis D. Friedman and Slava G. Turyshev think they have a solution for delivering this photographic evidence, one that will require a 900 trillion-kilometer journey and applying a phenomenon discovered by Einstein.

Better asteroid alerts

By Tom Jones

October 31, 2018

NASA plans to spend $3.8 million over the next four years adding two telescopes to its asteroid search network to do a more complete job of detecting small objects as they are closing in on Earth.

Quantum promises

By Amanda Miller

September 27, 2018

Precise navigation will be a necessity for safe human exploration of Mars and other celestial bodies in deep space. A pair of experiments about to get underway could change the way this navigation is done, and for the better.

Taking on the sun

By Tom Risen

August 31, 2018

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, now on its way toward the sun, must survive the searing temperatures in the solar corona to unlock the processes driving the solar wind and coronal mass ejections that can harm satellites and electronics on Earth. We spoke to the scientists and engineers behind Parker’s thermal protection strategy.

Destination: Mercury

By Adam Hadhazy

August 31, 2018

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury, getting underway in October, could answer vexing questions about the innermost planet’s core and its Earth-like magnetic field. And the answers could shed light on planetary matters far beyond our solar system.

Drone tech opens door to Mars Helicopter

By Tom Risen

June 6, 2018

NASA’s announcement that it will add a tiny helicopter to its planned Mars 2020 rover came after a series of test flights inside a vacuum chamber proved the feasibility of adapting consumer drone technologies into a craft capable of flying in an atmosphere just 1 percent as dense as Earth’s.

The dreamers

April 30, 2018

A cadre of technologists and entrepreneurs think asteroids could be the linchpin for establishing an entire economy in space

Nuclear nonsolution

March 30, 2018

Detonating a nuclear bomb is unlikely to protect Earth from a far-off asteroid or comet headed our way

Reaching Europa

By Tom Risen

March 30, 2018

The White House wants to steer the launch of NASA’s proposed Europa Clipper spacecraft to a commercial rocket

The case for WFIRST

By Amanda Miller

March 30, 2018

The Trump budget would cancel development of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

Exploration telepresence

By Tom Jones

September 28, 2017

Astronauts in Mars orbit could orchestrate complex exploration of the surface

Course corrector

By Adam Hadhazy

September 28, 2017

Managers of proposed mission hope to protect Earth from giant space rocks

Beating Curiosity

By Leonard David

August 31, 2017

A next generation robotic rover could start rolling across the Mars surface in 2021

Defending Earth

By Michael Peck

February 9, 2017

Should the military have a greater role against wayward asteroids and comets?

An asteroid companion

By Tom Jones

November 21, 2016

NASA planners see opportunities for robotic and human exploration

Planet Spotting

By Adam Hadhazy

July 30, 2016

Delivering photos of Earthlike exoplanets