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NASA's next Mars rover to improve on Curiosity

NASA's next Mars rover to improve on Curiosity

Science
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- NASA's Curiosity rover has been a tremendous success, providing scientists streams of valuable data. But there's always room for improvement, and NASA engineers expect the next rover to improve on Curiosity's technological legacy.At present iteration, the Mars 2020 rover features greater autonomy, seven new instruments and updated wheels.Despite design improvements, the new rover looks a lot like the old rover. And that's because the Mars 2020 rover utilizes much of the same hardware. In fact, so-called "legacy hardware" accounts for 85 percent of the mass of the new six-legged craft."The fact that so much of the hardware has already been designed -- or even already exists -- is a major advantage for this mission," Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, s...
NASA's asteroid chaser swings by Earth on way to space rock

NASA's asteroid chaser swings by Earth on way to space rock

Technology
NASA's asteroid-chasing spacecraft is swinging by Earth on Friday on its way to a space rock. Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex was on track to pass within about 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) of the home planet Friday afternoon — above Antarctica. It needs Earth's gravity as a slingshot to put it on a path toward the asteroid Bennu. Osiris-Rex should reach the small, roundish asteroid next year and, in 2020, collect some of its gravel for return to Earth. If all goes well, scientists should get the samples in 2023. Friday's flyby is a quick hello: The spacecraft will zoom by at about 19,000 mph (31,000 kph). NASA has taken precautions to ensure Osiris-Rex — about the size of an SUV — does not slam into any satellites. "Everything looks great! Thanks for the well wishes," the University o
NASA'S OSIRIS-REx executes slingshot around Earth

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx executes slingshot around Earth

Science
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe has used Earth's gravity to slingshot itself into outer space. The spacecraft is now en route to the asteroid Bennu and is expected to encounter the space rock in August 2018.On Friday, OSIRIS-REx swung past the South Pole at an altitude of 10,711 miles. During the flyby, Earth's gravity offered the probe's speed a boost of 8,451 mph.OSIRIS-REx, short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, is NASA's asteroid encounter and sample collection mission.Once OSIRIS-REx meets up with Bennu, the probe will circle the asteroid for nearly two years. In 2020, the probe will attempt to scoop up rock and dust samples from the surface of the asteroid. The spacecraft will begin its return journey to Earth in 20...
Scientists work to keep NASA's space telescope in the dark

Scientists work to keep NASA's space telescope in the dark

Science
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- NASA scientists are taking on the vital task of ensuring unwanted infrared light does not interfere with the optical testing of the James Webb Space Telescope."One of the challenges of testing an infrared telescope is that room-temperature objects [such as the walls of the vacuum chamber itself, or the warm electronics systems inside it] glow at the wavelengths of light that the telescope is trying to measure," Randy Kimble, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a press release. "If not carefully controlled, that warm glow can provide an unwanted background in the telescope's images, which would compromise the optical testing."Due to the telescope's extreme sensitivity to infrared light, scientists are using a cold, gaseous helium sh...
Last chance to suggest NASA's message to Voyager 1

Last chance to suggest NASA's message to Voyager 1

Technology
It's the final day for internet users to suggest a message for NASA to beam to the Voyager 1 space probe.The craft is currently almost 13 billion miles from Earth - making it the most distant human-made object ever.It was launched on 15 September 1977 and in order for a message to be beamed to it in time for the 40th anniversary of the mission, NASA is closing the date for suggestions on Tuesday.The space agency is seeking suggestions via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for a 60-character message to send to the unmanned Voyager 1.At the end of the entry period, the public will be allowed vote on what short message should be sent to the probe.Public polls can be a risky business in the age of the internet, with the public last year opting to name the UK's new polar research ship Boaty McBo...