on Cassini’s Final Year

On September 15, 2017, Cassini will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and be destroyed. It will be a sad day for science, but it’s one that we’ve known would be coming for a long time, and it’s decidedly not an accident.

on Juno and Orbital Motion

The Juno spacecraft has arrived at Jupiter, settling into orbit on July 4th after a trip of just under four years. Juno’s arrival was a flurry of enormous excitement. It’s the first time we’ve actually visited Jupiter since New Horizons blasted past it in 2007 (after a trip of only one year, but then again, New Horizons…

on the Secrets of Pluto

At this point, the New Horizons space probe has uploaded about half the data it took back in July 2015*. Given a few months to mull over the images and other data coming back, planetary scientists have found out a lot about Pluto. And it is WEIRD.

on the Status of JWST

The James Webb Space Telescope isn’t actually complete yet, but its mirror is now together. As has been stressed repeatedly in places like Twitter, this sight isn’t an unfamiliar one, but this time it’s not a model or a computer animation… it’s the real thing. And that means the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is…

What is NASA’s budget really?

Just before Christmas, Congress announced a new budget… with an unexpectedly large budget for NASA of $19.3 billion dollars, higher than the $18.5 billion Obama was requesting earlier last year. This is a large bonus*, given that it allows NASA to maintain and expand funding for a few of the big projects it’s working on….

concerning the Impossible Space Drive

Sources like IFLscience (the real one, not the parody) and Slashdot are reporting that NASA has successfully tested their impossible space drive again. That’s incredibly misleading: Yes, the test was successful, but the engine itself isn’t. They already know it doesn’t work. They’re trying to figure out HOW it doesn’t work.

on “The Martian” (with spoilers)

Yes, it’s The Martian, the latest great hope of science fiction, after a decade that’s given us a few high-concept contenders for classic sci-fi. Based on a novel by Andy Weir that I read faster than anything I’ve read recently, it’s basically a fictional descendent of Apollo 13: A mission in space gone horribly wrong,…

in which NASA finds water on Mars

NASA has discovered water on Mars! There’s actual signs that liquid water is currently flowing on the planet, in tiny channels, before it evaporates. If this past week’s news has given you a case of deja vu, there’s good reason for it. Over the past few years, NASA has made a string of announcements that…

on the HDST

Some of the latest news about telescopes is the High Definition Space Telescope (HDST), proposed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) – the folks who run America’s national observatories. The HDST is, as currently drafted, an optical telescope (like the Hubble Space Telescope) with a 12-meter mirror made of folded segments…

is there Life on Mars?

…in David Bowie’s discography? Definitely yes. …as viewed on images from the Curiosity rover? No. The internet is increasingly abuzz with supposed UFOs, iguanas, and people sitting on the surface of Mars. There’s a lot of them now.

On the Exploration of Pluto

We live in exceptionally exciting times with regards to the Solar System. Right now, there are active spacecraft at Mars, Ceres, 67P-Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Saturn, and soon… Pluto. And three of those are the first time we’ve ever really had a good look at those parts of the Solar System. Pluto (and Charon) will be the first…

on Ceres

It’s going to be a big year for Solar System research. Not only is there good news about a future mission to Europa, this summer the New Horizons space probe will shoot past Pluto, and the Dawn spacecraft is now approaching Ceres.