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Tag Archives: Space

Own A Tiny Speck Of Mars


There are a few ways you could get your hands on Martian soil. Wait until we develop space travel enough to bring back samples, then steal those, for one. Or wait until we develop it even further and become the first Martian tourist. But let’s face it, that’s not happening anytime soon. Until then, it turns out there’s already some Martian rock right here one Earth, and you can buy some. How? Like this: when a meteorite hits the red planet, a lot of rock is ejected into the atmosphere. A small amount escapes the planet’s gravitational pull and an even smaller amount still ends up as a meteorite right here on Earth. Martian soil, right here on our blue pebble. The specimen you see above is Martian shergottite, NWA 4930, recovered in the Sahara desert. It’s been examined and certified to come from the same place where the Curiosity rover is currently digging some holes. $25 will buy you… a 2mg speck. But hey, how much do you actually need?

It’s packaged in a protective shell with a card describing its history, and is being sold by ThinkGeek, so we don’t doubt its authenticity.

[ Product Page ]

We Have A Rover On Mars! And Here’s Two Nerdy Facts About It You May Not Know Yet

It never ceases to amaze us that what is essentially a species of really successful primates is able to launch a rocket into space, have it travel around 350 million miles and land on Mars, pretty much right where it wants it. The logistics, engineering, science and all around awesomeness required to do this is just mind boggling. Even more amazing is that the descent of this rover on an otherworldly land is then captured in images by a satellite this same species of primates placed there a few years prior! The above picture, in case you haven’t seen it yet, is just that: NASA’s Curiosity rover descending towards Mars’ surface as captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the red planet since 2006.

The touchdown, as you surely know, was flawless; news of this has been pretty hard to miss. But there are two (pretty geeky) factoids about the mission you may not have heard in the media yet: what’s Curiosity’s brain and what does it have to do with Apple, and what’s the image file type it’s transmitting in? For the answer to these questions, hit the jump.

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Virgin Galactic’s SS2 And WK2 Unveiled, Will Make Commercial Space Flights In 2011


By Evan Ackerman

We saw renderings of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip2 and its mothership, White Knight 2, back in January. This week, the finish craft were both officially unveiled at the future location of the as yet unfinished Spaceport America in New Mexico, and Virgin Galactic says they’ll be heading to space several times a day as early as 2011.


Each spaceflight will last about 2.5 hours round trip. White Knight 2 carries SpaceShip2 up to an altitude of 52,000 feet, at which point SS2 separates and fires its rocket to accelerate at mach 3 to an altitude of about 70 miles. 5 minutes of glorious views and weightlessness ensues, after which the passengers hopefully survive the crushing g-forces (maxing out at 6 gs for 20 seconds) and glide back to a safe landing. The cost of all this? $200,000.

Oh, and here’s a little nugget of awesome for you: the first two spacecraft are reportedly named Enterprise and Voyager.

[ Virgin Galactic ]

Google Earth Now Includes Moon, Lunar Landing Happening 40 Years Ago Today


By Evan Ackerman

Today is the 40th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and Google has added a new moon feature to Google Earth, allowing you to zoom around the moon and take tours of the landing sites narrated by the astronauts themselves. If you have Google Earth 5.0 installed, you can get to the moon by clicking the planet button on the top toolbar and selecting the moon. If not, you can download Google Earth for free, here.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be alive on July 20, 1969, you can experience the landing in real time at The site takes a little while to load, but it’s streaming live radio transmissions from Apollo 11, timeshifted by 40 years. It’s awesome… And not just the “wow, that’s awesome” sort of awesome. It’s the sort of awesome where the “awe” really means something.

Apollo 11 lands in 45 minutes.

Video: Cryogenic Rocket Engine Makes Icicles

By Evan Ackerman

NASA’s new Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine (CECE) runs on hydrogen and oxygen. The H and O combine, igniting into 5,000 degree steam and releasing a whole heap of energy in the process. So how in the heck does the engine form icicles while it’s running? Well, the hydrogen and oxygen are stored as liquids, and to stay liquid, they have to be very, very cold: the hydrogen measures a rather nippy -423 degrees F. As the hydrogen circulates around the engine, it cools everything way, way down, and when the super hot steam exits the super cold engine, it condenses into water at the edges and then freezes into icicles.

The CECE is called “deep throttling,” which means that the thrust can be adjusted from 8% all the way up to 104% of its maximum rated output of 13,800 pounds of thrust. It’s designed to take people back to the moon, along with all of the crap they’re gonna need to make themselves at home there for a while.

Hit the link for a nice big pic.Continue Reading

Atlantis Launch In Infrared


By Evan Ackerman

This isn’t some weird Photoshop filter, it’s a picture taken with a digital camera that’s been modified to capture in the infrared part of the spectrum. Cool, right? Try this Google Image search for more examples of infrared pics.

VIA [ Gawker ]

A Bedroom In The Most Expensive Gadget Ever

By Evan Ackerman

Obviously, this guy needs a Kindle. I just wonder what kind of internet they get up there; for about $130 billion, it had better be something decent. I also wonder what else he’s got on that laptop…

If you’d like to see the rest of the tour, catch parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 on NasaTV @ YouTube.

Also, if you haven’t seen a shuttle launch from the point of view of a camera mounted on the outside of one of the booster rockets, check it out after the jump.Continue Reading

Bat-ronaut Rides Into Space On Discovery’s External Tank


By Evan Ackerman

When space shuttle Discovery launched on Sunday, it was carrying one surprise passenger: a small, and probably quite confused, Mexican free-tailed bat. An inspection team noticed the bat sleeping about a third of the way up the external fuel tank prior to launch, but everybody assumed that the bat (affectionately named “Interim Problem Report 119V-0080”) would wake up and fly away as soon as Discovery’s engines lit. Instead, visual and infrared imagery confirmed that the little guy was still there, alive and holding on, up until after Discovery cleared the tower.

Here’s what the Kennedy Space Center had to say on the matter:

Although we remained hopeful he would wake up and fly away, the bat eventually became IPR 119V-0080 after the ICE team finished their walkdown. He did change the direction he was pointing from time to time throughout countdown but ultimately never flew away. IR imagery shows he was alive and not frozen like many would think. The surface of the ET foam is actually generally between 60-80 degrees F on a day like yesterday. SE&I performed a debris analysis on him and ultimately a LCC waiver to ICE-01 was written to accept the stowaway. Lift off imagery analysis confirmed that he held on until at least the vehicle cleared to tower before we lost sight of him.

And thus is the legend of the STS-119 Bat-ronaut.

Godspeed, little guy, godspeed.

VIA [ ]

Video Friday: SpaceX Rocket Test

By Evan Ackerman

Happy Black Friday, here’s some rocket porn:

This is the first full mission duration test of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (9 for 9 engines) launch vehicle. All together, the engines produced 855,000 pounds of thrust, and burned over half a million pounds of liquid oxygen and kerosene. The 9 engine configuration is robust and reliable, and the vehicle can still complete its mission even if it loses an engine after liftoff.

Pretty impressive for a commercial company, and they’re offering to put your satellite into low earth orbit for a mere $36.75 million.

[ SpaceX Falcon 9 ]