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Space Technology

  • ExoMars: probe in Mars orbit, but what about lander?

    The joint ESA/Russian ExoMars programme took a huge step yesterday when the mission's Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully conducted a manoeuvre to be captured by Mars. However, the mission's Schiaparelli lander, which separated from the orbiter a few days ago to land on Mars, hasn't made any communication yet. "TGO’s Mars orbit Insertion burn lasted from 13:05 to 15:24 GMT on 19 October, reducing the spacecraft’s speed and direction by more than 1.5 km/s," the ESA said on its website. "The ESOC teams are trying to confirm contact with the Entry, Descent & Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), Schiaparelli, which entered the Martian atmosphere...

  • ExoMars: ESA & Russia’s lander to touch down Wednesday

    Fresh from the Rosetta mission, the European Space Agency has a big day on 19 October, when it will be dropping its ExoMars lander on Mars in partnership with Russia. The ExoMars mission, launched in March 2016 and consisting of the Schiaparelli lander and the Trace Gas Orbiter, is already in the Martian neighbourhood. The two spacecraft have also separated on 16 October, ahead of Schiaparelli's touchdown. The Schiaparelli lander isn't meant to be active on the surface for long though, being a tech demonstrator with a battery life of up to eight days. However, it will endure a tough entry, as its heat shield will be...

  • Listen to Jupiter’s screams from NASA’s Juno probe

    NASA's Juno, successfully made its first flight around Jupiter, capturing the "voice" of the giant in the process. NASA's spacecraft is equipped with a recording device from the University of Iowa (UI) which recorded Jupiter's aurora, a light show similar to the ones we experience here on earth. The UI device called Waves, picked up the planet's radio emissions as Juno travelled 4184.29km above the planet's surface. The recorded emission was then converted by UI engineers making it audible. And absolutely haunting. "Jupiter is talking to us in a way only gas-giant worlds can," said associate research scientist Bill Kurth in a blog...

  • Juno: NASA’s Jupiter orbiter has an engine issue

    The Juno space probe arrived at Jupiter to much fanfare in July, having travelled almost three billion kilometres to reach the gas giant. Now, it appears that the orbiter is suffering from an engine-related problem, NASA confirmed in a statement. The issue was discovered after engineers decided to test systems ahead of a 19 October "period reduction manoeuvre" or PRM. This type of burn is meant to reduce the probe's orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 days to just 14 days. Unfortunately, the issue means that the scheduled burn has been postponed for now. Juno has suffered an engine-related issue, but it's still gathering...

  • SA robotics firm Ryonic in push for NASA challenge

    You don't often hear about South African involvement in space-based endeavours, but local firm Ryonic Robotics is hoping to get in on the fun. The company has entered the qualification round of NASA's Space Robotics Challenge (part of the Centennial Challenges Programme), which ultimately seeks to improve the abilities of humanoid robots in space and Mars. The contest will eventually see finalists attempting to program a virtual robot, "stationed" on Mars, to complete a series of tasks. This is made tougher by the implementation of a communications delay, similar to the one between Earth and the Red Planet. Ryonic Robotics is hoping to make...

  • Check out this fantastic HD footage of the moon

    Humanity has already visited the moon, but seeing close-up footage of the satellite is still an utterly enchanting experience. Now, 2007 footage from Japan's SELENE probe has resurfaced on reddit, showing off a detailed, high definition look at the celestial body. This was all made possible thanks to the inclusion of an HDTV camera on the craft, the JAXA space agency said. The SELENE probe was put on a collision course with the moon after successfully accomplishing its mission "The SELENE HDTV was developed in cooperation with JAXA and NHK, and it took full HD images all around the moon. Originally, operations was planned...

  • ISS: private modules to be allowed on space station

    The International Space Station (ISS) has been in service for well over a decade, serving as a key science and technology hub for space agencies and institutions. Now, the USA has announced that it will be allowing private companies to add their own modules "and other capabilities" to the orbital outpost. The announcement comes after NASA asked the private sector about possibly using an available docking port on the station. "One of the potential uses of such a port would be preparation for one or more future commercial stations in Low Earth Orbit, ready to take over for the Space Station once...

  • We can beat SpaceX to Mars – Boeing

    SpaceX has made a few big Mars-related announcements, but at least one firm believes it can beat Elon Musk's company to the Red Planet. Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing, told a conference (h/t: ScienceAlert) that he believes the first humans on Mars will get there using Boeing's spaceships. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg was quoted as saying. Boeing thinks it can beat SpaceX to the Mars punch It wouldn't be the first time that the aerospace colossus got involved in space matters either, building key parts for the Saturn V rocket that...

  • Mission complete: Rosetta touches down on comet

    The European Space Agency has confirmed the successful touchdown of the Rosetta spacecraft on the surface of Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. An ESA representative said it bought an end to operations, and that the spacecraft did a job that was "space science at its best". Rosetta was programmed to shut down as soon as it touched down on the comet's surface. A decade-long journey for Rosetta Launched in 2004, the spacecraft has been floating through the vast vacuum of space for 12 years, six months and 28 days. Rosetta racked up an impressive 7.9-billion kilometres through space since launching on 2 March 2004. With three...

  • United Nations to launch its first space mission

    The United Nations (UN) has teamed up with private space firm Sierra Nevada Corporation to launch the UN's first space mission. The mission, announced at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, is meant to help developing nations launch their own payloads, the space firm announced in a press statement. As for a host spacecraft, payloads will be lifted into orbit via Sierra Nevada's unmanned Dream Chaser "orbital vehicle", being similar to Boeing's X37B unmanned spaceplane. "The dedicated Dream Chaser mission is targeted at providing developing countries the opportunity to develop and fly microgravity payloads for an extended duration in orbit; however, all...

  • SpaceX reveals interplanetary rocket, spaceship

    SpaceX has revealed what it calls an interplanetary rocket and spaceship which will take astronauts to Mars. The so-called Mars Vehicle will be the biggest American rocket ever built, edging out the Saturn V rockets used during the Apollo missions. The vehicle will be composed of a giant reusable booster rocket that has 42 new Raptor engines (as opposed to the nine Merlin engines used in the Falcon Heavy), as well as a new "Interplanetary Spaceship". The latter will be capable of carrying 450 tons to Mars, with a "long-term goal of 100+ passengers" per ship. However, refuelling will be an integral part...

  • Europa: Hubble telescope spots ‘possible’ water plumes

    NASA has revealed possible water plumes erupting from the surface of Europa. The potential plumes were spotted in images taken by the Hubble Telescope, the space agency said. The discovery makes it more likely that a future mission to the Jovian moon wouldn't need to drill through "miles of ice" to sample water from an ocean, NASA said in a statement. "Europa's ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbour life in the solar system, said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "These plumes, if they do indeed...

  • NASA to reveal ‘surprising’ Europa news on Monday

    Europa is considered to be one of the best candidates for extraterrestrial life of any kind in the solar system, and NASA has some surprising news to share. "Spoiler alert: NOT aliens," the space agency tweeted, in case anyone wanted to get their hopes up though. "Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa," the agency explained in a full press statement. Could we expect solid proof of an ocean on Europa? NASA will reveal all later NASA used images from the...

  • Blue Origin reveals rival to SpaceX Falcon rockets

    Private space firm Blue Origin has announced the New Glenn rocket, towering above the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The rocket was announced in a newsletter by Blue Origin and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post reported, adding that it would be ready to launch "by the end of the decade". New Glenn, named after the USA's first astronaut John Glenn, would have 3.85 million pounds of thrust at sea level. By comparison, the Falcon Heavy is expected to have 5.5 million pounds of thrust. The new rocket will come in two stage and three stage flavours, giving more flexibility with payloads and...

  • Rosetta space probe spots Philae lander on comet

    November 2014 saw the Rosetta space probe orbiting a comet, dubbed Comet 67P Churmukov Gerasimenko, then dropping a tiny lander on it in a landmark moment. The lander, dubbed Philae, endured a tough landing, bouncing several times before finally coming to rest on the celestial object. Now, Rosetta has managed to snap another image of the comet and, if you look very closely in the shadow on the right-hand side, you'll find the Philae lander resting on it. Still don't see it? The European Space Agency (ESA) zoomed in on the snap... "The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the...