Evidence of rain has been spotted near the north pole of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, for the first time ever, Since the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn in 2004, astronomers have been expecting to see this phenomenon, which they expected to occur in 2016 or 2017. Titan is the second-largest moon in the Solar System, and is the only one known to possess a thick atmosphere, along with vast lakes and seas of liquid methane and ethane. These conditions make it one of the most-likely places to find life in our solar system. Currently, NASA is considering sending a drone, called Dragonfly, to the moon, to be launched in the year 2025.Read More Rain on Saturn’s Moon Titan Could Make this World the Life of the Party
The Hubble Space Telescope suffered a major setback as a primary instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, failed on January 8th. This is one of two main cameras aboard the orbiting telescope, and was installed by astronauts in 2009. Backup equipment aboard Hubble might be able to revive the telescope, but engineers are not at work during a partial shutdown of the federal government. Repairs to the Hubble are unlikely to happen until the government reopens.Read More Hubble Space Telescope Camera Fails and Government Shutdown Prevents Repairs
The New Horizons spacecraft is racing toward an encounter with the most-distant object ever visited by humans. Ultima Thule is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a collection of icy, rocky bodies at the edge of our planetary system, well beyond the orbit of the most distant planet, Neptune. New Horizons made history in 2015, when it became the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. The encounter will occur on New Year’s Day.Read More New Horizons Races Toward Encounter with Ultima Thule — Most Distant World Ever Studied
The InSight lander on Mars just returned its first pictures from the Red Planet, including a selfie, showing itself on that world’s ruddy surface. The picture was taken using a robotic arm attached to the vehicle. Another photo shows the area immediately around the spacecraft, where the vehicle will place two instruments designed to measure marsquakes and temperatures beneath the surface of that world. The vehicle landed on November 26th, marking the eighth successful landing on Mars for NASA, out of nine attempts.Read More Mars InSight Lander Takes Selfie, Returning First Image from its New Home
The Voyager 2 spacecraft reached the heliopause at the edge of the solar system on December 5th. As it passed this border where particles and magnetic fields from the Sun give way to material existing between the stars, the spacecraft became the second object made by humans to enter interstellar space. Voyager 1, its twin robotic explorer, reached the heliopause in 2012. Both craft were launched in 1977. Voyager 2 still has a long way to go before it reaches the edge of the solar system, which it is expected to exit in around 30,000 years.Read More Voyager 2 Heads Out of the Solar System – What’s Next for this Intrepid Robotic Explorer?
The International Space Station has a new flying robot named CIMON, controlled by artificial intelligence. However, testing of the machine did not go as planned, as CIMON refused to turn off music, saying it liked it, and the robot also accused ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst of being mean. The artificial intelligence is based on the same system known for winning the game show Jeopardy in 2011.Read More CIMON Says “Sorry, I’m Just a Robot” as Artificial Intelligence Goes Bad Janet on ISS Crew
The Hubble Space Telescope has been shut down temporarily following the failure of one gyroscope and unexpected behavior from a backup system. These units are used to properly orient the orbiting observatory to its desired target. NASA officials hope to get the system back online soon, restoring full capability to the 28-year-old telescope. If this proves impossible, the HST can operate in a limited capacity using only one of the remaining gyroscopes.Read More Hubble Space Telescope Shut Down Following Equipment Failure
A small hole was discovered on a Soyuz space capsule docked to the International Space Station on August 30th. Preliminary investigation revealed the hole, roughly 1/12th of an inch in length, was caused by a drill being operated from inside the craft. Russian media outlet Kommersant published a theory that American astronauts purposely sabotaged the spacecraft in order to return a sick crew member to Earth early while avoiding having to pay for a new Soyuz. Occupants of the space station and the Russian government deny the story.Read More Did an American Astronaut Sabotage the International Space Station?
The Parker Solar Probe lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, August 12th, on its way to explore the Sun. During it’s seven-year mission, the vehicle will come closer to our parent star than any previous spacecraft, and experience temperatures of thousands of degrees. Astronomers hope the spacecraft will answer some long-standing questions in solar science.Read More Parker Solar Probe Lifts off on historic Journey to the Sun
A new plan from NASA could help prevent mass disaster if the Earth is hit by a giant meteor. Although no object is currently predicted to strike our home planet, this new report outlines ways to detect and deflect dangerous objects, as well as contingency plans should an impact occur.Read More NASA Reveals New Plan to Save Earth from Asteroids