National Geographic NASA Probe Observes Meteors Colliding With Saturn's Rings NASA "These new results imply the current-day impact rates for small particles at Saturn are about the same as those at Earth-- two very different neighborhoods in our...
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. -- Soaring into a brilliant blue sky from a new launch pad on the Virginia coastline, an Antares rocket owned by Orbital Sciences Corp. blasted off on a successful test flight Sunday, inaugurating a new launch system to resupply the International Space Station.
The first launch of the Antares rocket is a major step in a joint venture between Orbital Sciences and NASA to develop two commercial space transportation systems to resupply the space station, replacing much of the cargo-carrying capacity lost when the space shuttle retired in 2011.
"Today's successful test marks another significant milestone in NASA's plan to rely on American companies to launch supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, bringing this important work back to the United States where it belongs," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.
NASA wants to identify an asteroid in deep space, figure out a way to capture the spinning and hard-to-grab orb, nudge it into our planetary region, and then set it into orbit around the moon, the agency announced Wednesday.
The capture would be performed robotically, and the relocated asteroid would become a destination for astronauts to explore—and, possibly, for space entrepreneurs to mine.
The idea may sound more like science fiction than national policy, but it actually fits in with key goals of the Obama administration and the space community.
Those goals include learning how to identify asteroids heading toward us and to change their course, finding destinations where astronauts can go as they try to learn how to make the longer trip to Mars, and providing opportunities for space investors.
"This mission represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities and help protect our home planet," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement before the plan was announced on Wednesday.
"This asteroid initiative brings together the best of NASA's science, technology, and human exploration efforts to achieve the president's goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025," his statement continued.
Planning for the effort has just begun, and Bolden said teams will meet over the summer to work out how to select the right asteroid, how to get a spacecraft to it, and how to tow it many millions of miles to our moon.
As envisioned in a new NASA video (below), the asteroid would be caught and then surrounded by a large, flexible covering that will be towed by a spacecraft with two large solar arrays.
Like a proud peacock displaying its tail, Enceladus shows off its beautiful plume to the Cassini spacecraft's cameras. Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across) is seen here illuminated by light reflected off Saturn.
For three years, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been orbiting our planet, keeping its watchful eye on our sun, a star in our own backyard. The video compresses three years into four minutes, using two frames from each Earth day.
Following its last close flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured these raw, unprocessed images of the battered icy moon. They show an ancient, cratered surface bearing the scars of collisions with many space rocks.
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