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Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

It's been three years since NASA announced its 3-D Printed Habitat Competition, sending designers and architects scrambling to imagine the best design for a home on Mars—one that could be constructed using materials already available on Earth's neighbor planet.

Now, Nasa has announced the top three finalists, and their designs are something else.

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Credit: NASA

Opportunity was only given 90 days to live after landing on the tempestuous surface of Mars in 2004. Fourteen and a half years past its original 90 day mission, the little rover that could has finally ended its quest.

The news comes months after the Rover stopped replying to commands left by technicians on Earth. Despite over 835 attempts to revive Opportunity remotely, it was declared dead on February 13, 2019.

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Silkworm larvae. (Wikimedia Commons)

If you feel like Earth is becoming less and less habitable each year, you’re not alone. Even famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking declared in 2017 that if human civilization is to survive, our best bet is to move to the moon within the next 30 years.

As it turns out, China is about to take the first steps toward testing livability on what’s often referred to as the “dark side” of the moon — the as-yet-unexplored southern hemisphere, not visible from Earth.

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Wikimedia Commons

Just as science fiction author Ray Bradbury envisioned, NASA research strongly suggests the red planet was once green and covered by more oceans than found on Earth. So what happened to turn the fourth planet from the sun into a cold and barren crimson wasteland?

It was the sun that killed Mars. Violent solar winds stripped away the atmosphere over billions of years, leaving Mars naked and exposed to the harshness of space. Now NASA believes they can restore Mars to its former verdant glory — thus enabling the possibility of colonization — with the introduction of an artificial magnetic field. The magnetic field will allow the planet to develop an atmosphere, which in turn could help support life and liquid surface water in the future.

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Oblique view of eastern Marius Hills and Marius crater (upper right) by Lunar Orbiter 2. (Lunar and Planetary Institute, Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery Lunar Orbiter 2, image 213, med [1])

The United States and Russia are teaming up to construct the Deep Space Gateway, which is a stepping stone to establishing a human colony on the Moon; Apollo 17 in 1972 sent the last people to the Moon. Establishing a settlement on the lunar surface is a vastly more complicated task than a three-day stay in a lander. The Moon lacks both an atmosphere and a magnetic field, and its surface is completely exposed to high energy cosmic rays, radiation from the Sun, and the vacuum of space. Its surface temperatures are extreme, swinging between minus 100 at night and 173 degrees Celsius during the day, and a day on the Moon lasts 28 Earth days.

Humans cannot survive on the Moon without some serious protection—if we are to return and establish permanent residence up there, we need a safe place to stay.

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Artist concept of MU69 flyby. (Credit NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

The New Horizons probe, which flew past Pluto two years ago to much fanfare, heads toward another, even more distant world named (486958) 2014 MU69.

Before it arrives, that name needs an overhaul.

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[DIGEST: Space.com, NASA]

When propelling a spacecraft into the cosmos, there are two main factors to consider: power and longevity. Most of NASA’s current missions prioritize power: getting to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and back doesn’t require an engine to push the spacecraft continuously forward for long, and the majority of NASA’s current work remains in LEO. In a move toward engines that supply gentler thrust for a longer time, NASA has recently awarded a $67 million contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop an advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) system for rocket engines.

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