NASA's Greased Lighting Drone is Part Helicopter, Part Plane, All Awesome: VIDEO


NASA's latest drone prototype, GL-10 (better known as the 'Greased Lighting') is a sight to behold - combining a helicopter's maneuverability and vertical take-off with an airplane's speed and endurance.

Oh, and its also quieter than your neighbor's lawnmower. 


NasaThe team, at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is looking at the idea initially as a potential unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). "We have a couple of options that this concept could be good for," said Bill Fredericks, aerospace engineer. "It could be used for small package delivery or vertical take off and landing, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications. A scaled up version -- much larger than what we are testing now -- would make also a great one to four person size personal air vehicle.""

Now if NASA could just get to work making one of those S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers from the Avengers films.

Watch the hybrid flyer in action, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NASA's Greased Lighting Drone is Part Helicopter, Part Plane, All Awesome: VIDEO" »

NASA's Ron Garan Answers the Question on Every Space Explorer's Mind: 'To the Moon or to Mars?' - VIDEO


In a new Big Think video, former NASA astronaut Ron Garan answers the question "Should we go to the Moon or should we go to Mars?" with a resounding "both".

Garan, who was a crew member on the Discovery back in 2008, elaborates:

Moon"I’d say it would probably be 10 to 15 years from the time we make a decision to go to Mars we could probably get to Mars. But by making a decision that means we’ve allocated the necessary funding, et cetera, et cetera. But another path to Mars would be to go to the moon first. And by going to the moon first – and what I mean by that is by establishing a transportation infrastructure between the Earth and the moon and a permanent human presence on the moon."

Hear Garan's full, fascinating response, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NASA's Ron Garan Answers the Question on Every Space Explorer's Mind: 'To the Moon or to Mars?' - VIDEO" »

NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Releases First Color Image of Pluto and its Moon Charon


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is setting up to make an historic fly-by of Pluto on July 14. NASA today released this first-ever color photo from the probe of Pluto with its largest moon Charon.

Writes NASA:

This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on April 9 and downlinked to Earth the following day. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus. At this distance, neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved by the color imager, but their distinctly different appearances can be seen. As New Horizons approaches its flyby of Pluto on July 14, it will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.

We'll hopefully be getting some amazing images later this year.

NASA's Hubble Telescope Captures Stunning Image of Galaxy 60 Million Light Years Away


Earlier this week NASA posted on Facebook the above photo of IC 335 - a lenticular galaxy located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster some 60 million light-years away. 

Via the post:

As seen in this image, the disk of IC 335 appears edge-on from the vantage point of Earth. This makes it harder for astronomers to classify it, as most of the characteristics of a galaxy’s morphology — the arms of a spiral or the bar across the center — are only visible on its face. Still, the 45 000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an S0 type.

These lenticular galaxies are an intermediate state in galaxy morphological classification schemes between true spiral and elliptical galaxies. They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium. Only a few new stars can be created out of the material that is left and the star formation rate is very low. Hence, the population of stars in S0 galaxies consists mainly of aging stars, very similar to the star population in elliptical galaxies.

No word yet on if Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey were spotted attempting to repopulate the human race on a nearby planet. 

Mars Rover's Major Discovery: 'Great Lake' On Red Planet

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 4.23.32 PM

NASA Photo/Curiosity heading towards Mount Sharp

NASA has announced a major discovery by the Curiosity rover; water may have been more plentiful on the planet's surface than previously thought. This could mean that some forms of life existed on Mars millions of years ago.

In a news conference earlier this week, lead scientist John Grotzinger said that observations by the rover on its year-long trek across the Gale Crater indicate that the area was likely dotted with rivers, deltas and even a "great lake" in the distant past. Taking soil samples and detailed photos as it made its way towards Mount Sharp, the rover discovered layered sediments which are a sign that water may have existed on the surface of the dry, dusty red planet many years ago.

“As a science team, Mars is looking very attractive to us as a habitable planet,” Dr. Grotzinger said in an interview. “Not just sections of Gale Crater and not just a handful of locations, but at different times around the globe.”

While scientists continue to evaluate the data coming from the robotic probe, they have also posited that the existence of Mount Sharp, an unusually tall peak on the edge of the Gale Crater, could support their water theory as well. They believe the mountain is the remains of sediments laid down by a series of lakes that filled the deep bowl over millions years. When the water dried up as the planet lost its atmosphere, they believe that winds dug out the crater leaving the massive 3-mile high peak.

"All that driving we did really paid off for science," added Grotzinger, referring to Curiosity's travels. "It didn't just get us to Mount Sharp - it gave us the context to appreciate Mount Sharp." 

Next up on the the rover's agenda; climbing Mount Sharp itself. Curiosity has been on Mars more than 2 years so far and NASA has extended its mission indefinitely.

WATCH: NASA's Orion Test Flight Marks the First Step on the Long Road to Mars


NASA's Orion spacecraft is set to have its first test flight this morning from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. If the test flight proves successful, the next-gen space capsule is expected to one day carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids, and Mars. 

NBC News reports:

The planned 4.5-hour mission — known as Exploration Flight Test 1, or EFT-1 — isn't carrying people. It's an uncrewed flight, meant to check critical systems that can't be fully tested on Earth, including the craft's heat shield and parachutes.

The data gathered from more than 1,200 sensors will be factored into the construction of more flightworthy Orion spaceships, with the aim of flying astronauts for the first time in 2021. If NASA holds to its schedule, the cone-shaped spacecraft would send crews to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and to Mars and its moons starting in the 2030s.

"We're now on the way to Mars, and that's what's most important," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told NBC News in advance of liftoff.

The launch was scheduled a little after 7 am (ET) but has been delayed due to high ground winds.

Watch the launch, AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: NASA has scrubed the launch for today and will try again on Friday morning. More at NPR here

Continue reading "WATCH: NASA's Orion Test Flight Marks the First Step on the Long Road to Mars" »


Towleroad - Blogged