MrSeb writes: "Yesterday morning marked the one-year anniversary of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. One year ago, an Atlas V 541 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral with the largest, most expensive interplanetary payload ever constructed by humankind: Mars rover Curiosity. Tasked with the mission of finding out whether Mars has ever supported extraterrestrial life, the MSL mission has so far been an unparalleled success — and hopefully, in the skilled hands of NASA engineers, Curiosity will continue to return valuable scientific data for years to come. In recent news, Curiosity took its first sniff of Martian atmosphere using its SAM instrument and found no sign of methane, probably ruling out the existence of alien life on Mars. In the last few days, Curiosity has finally moved away from the Rocknest site and is now situated at Point Lake, where NASA hopes to try out Curiosity’s last remaining untested tool: a drill that can bore into rocks. Then, if all goes to plan, Curiosity will spend a few weeks/months at Glenelg, and then roll on towards Mount Sharp — the primary target of NASA's MSL mission."
MrSeb writes: "The dream of faster-than-light travel has been on the mind of humanity for generations. Until recently, though, it was restricted to the realm of pure science fiction. Theoretical mechanisms for warp drives have been posited by science, some of which actually jive quite nicely with what we know of physics. Of course, that doesn't mean they’re actually going to work, though. NASA researchers recently revisited the Alcubierre warp drive and concluded that its power requirements were not as impossible as once thought. However, a new analysis from the University of Sydney claims that using a warp drive of this design comes with a drawback. Specifically, it could cause cataclysmic explosions at your destination."
MrSeb writes: "A few hundred million miles away on the surface of the Red Planet, Mars rover Curiosity has discovered an unidentified, shiny, metallic object. Now, before you get too excited, the most likely explanation is that bright object is part of the rover that has fallen off — or perhaps some debris from MSL Curiosity’s landing on Mars, nine weeks ago. There is the distinct possibility, however, that this object is actually native to Mars, which would be far more exciting. It could be the tip of a larger object, or perhaps some kind of exotic, metallic Martian pebble (a piece of metal ore, perhaps). Close-up imagery will now be captured and analyzed, and within the next few days we should know if it's simply a piece of Curiosity — or something a whole lot more exciting indeed."
MrSeb writes: "NASA’s Curiosity rover has now been on the surface of Mars for just over a week. It hasn’t moved an inch after landing, instead focusing on orienting itself (and NASA’s scientists) by taking instrument readings and snapping images of its surroundings. The first beautiful full-color images of Gale Crater are starting to trickle in, and NASA has already picked out some interesting rock formations that it will investigate further in the next few days (pictures below). Over the weekend and continuing throughout today, however, Curiosity is attempting something very risky indeed: A firmware upgrade. This got me thinking: If NASA can transmit new software to a Mars rover that's hundreds of millions of miles away... why can't a hacker do the same thing? In short, there's no reason a hacker couldn't take control of Curiosity, or lock NASA out. All you would need is your own massive 230-foot dish antenna and a 400-kilowatt transmitter — or, perhaps more realistically, you could hack into NASA's computer systems, which is exactly what Chinese hackers did 13 times in 2011."
MrSeb writes: "Just in time for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Festivus, or...), NASA’s Cassini probe has sent back some amazing photos of Titan, Dione, Tethys, and of Saturn herself. Cassini has now been orbiting Saturn for seven years, and is scheduled to continue operating until 2017, by which point — because it takes almost 30 Earth years for Saturn to orbit the Sun — it will still only have experienced Saturnian spring and summer."
MrSeb writes: "NASA has announced the imminent birth of the Space Launch System (SLS), a rocket that will be powered by five Space Shuttle Main Engines and two Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters — a configuration that will make it the most powerful launch vehicle ever made. The tentative first-launch date is December 2017, where the equally-drily-named Multiple-Purpose Crew Vehicle will be sent on an unmanned trip around the Moon — and if all goes to plan, starting 2021, and for the first time in 60 years, astronauts will fly around the Moon."
MrSeb writes: "Remarkable new images of the Apollo landing sites on the Moon have just been released by Nasa. The pictures clearly show the hardware left on the lunar surface by American astronauts in the 1960s and 70s, including Apollo 17's "moon buggy". The images were acquired by the robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been circling Earth's satellite since 2009. LRO has recently lowered its orbit from 50km above the Moon's surface to just 25km."