NASA

Science • Space
NASA plans first flight of Mars helicopter Ingenuity on April 8
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the Martian Surface
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the Martian Surface Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

NASA is targeting no earlier than April 8 for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make the first attempt at the powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Before the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft can attempt its first flight, however, both it and its team must meet a series of daunting milestones.

“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Bill Nelson to be nominated to head NASA – Biden administration
Bill Nelson to be nominated to head NASA – Biden administration
Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz/Released), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Former Florida senator Bill Nelson is poised to be nominated to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by President Joe Biden. Nelson, a three-term US senator and one-time astronaut, would succeed Trump appointee Jim Bridenstine.

The news was followed by criticism as many had hoped Biden would nominate a woman for this position. “Given how many qualified and talented women were rumored to be in consideration, he’s putting great trust in his former Senate colleague,” so Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA.

Science • Space
Artemis missions completes second main engine test
The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a second hot fire test, Thursday, March 18, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a second hot fire test, Thursday, March 18, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Humans might soon visit the Moon again. NASA has completed a test on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, igniting the four main engines for eight minutes and nineteen seconds on Thursday whereas the first test in January only ran for a minute.

"The SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, and during today's test the core stage of the rocket generated more than 1.6 million pounds of thrust within seven seconds. The SLS is an incredible feat of engineering and the only rocket capable of powering America's next-generation missions that will place the first woman and the next man on the Moon," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a statement.

Science • Space
NASA engineers hid secret code in Perseverance's parachute
NASA engineers hid secret code in Perseverance's parachute
Credit: @steltzner, via Twitter

NASA engineers have hidden a secret binary code on the parachute of its Perseverance rover that was solved by internet users six hours after its discovery. The seemingly random pattern of red-and-white stripes represents letters when read clockwise and reads: "Dare mighty things." Adam Steltzner, Perseverance's chief engineer, confirmed the secret message on Twitter, writing: "It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours! Oh internet is there anything you can’t do?"

Science • Space
NASA releases new images from Mars by its Perseverance rover
"The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. Dare mighty things."
"The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. Dare mighty things." Credit: @NASAPersevere, via Twitter

NASA has released a set of images taken by its Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars. In one image captured from a satellite, the rover can be seen during its descent to Mars while the others show the surface of the red planet.

Science • Space
NASA rover "Perseverance" has successfully landed on Mars
NASA rover "Perseverance" has successfully landed on Mars
Credit: Courtesy of Youtube / NASA

NASA's Perseverance rover successfully touched down on Mars Thursday afternoon, as part of one of the agency's most ambitious deep-space missions to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet.

Science • Space
Nasa rover "Perseverance" to land on Mars - First helicopter flight on another planet
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

More than a century after the first motorized flight on Earth, such a maneuver is soon to take place on another planet for the first time. As part of the "Mars 2020" mission, the U.S. space agency Nasa plans to bring its Mars rover "Perseverance" together with the ultra-light helicopter "Ingenuity" to the Red Planet on Thursday (Feb. 18). There, "Ingenuity" is to fly through the Martian atmosphere. This is a particular challenge because the Martian atmosphere is only one percent as dense as the Earth's atmosphere.

"Ingenuity" is actually more like a drone. Nasa engineers had to make the mini-helicopter as light as possible so that it could take off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere. It weighs just 1.8 kilograms and consists of four feet, a missile, and two propellers. The propellers rotate 2400 times per minute, about five times faster than a normal helicopter.

"Ingenuity" is expected to complete up to five flights over the surface of Mars. The aircraft can ascend up to five meters and fly up to 300 meters. However, the first test will cover a much shorter distance. Each flight can last up to one and a half minutes.

Since it takes about 20 minutes to transmit data from Mars to Earth, "Ingenuity" is not remotely controlled, but flies independently. Nasa issues only basic commands after which "Ingenuity" orients itself with a series of sensors. The results of the flights will not be available until some time later.

Science • Space
Private spaceflight specialist Axiom Space raises $130 million, becoming the latest space unicorn
Axiom Space logo
Axiom Space logo Credit: Axiom Space

Axiom has begun bringing in revenue for its space stations already, with NASA awarding the company a contract to connect one habitable module to the ISS as early as 2024. The seven-year contract has a maximum award value of $140 million, which Suffredini said goes beyond development to include launching and operating the module once connected to the space station. Suffredini said that Axiom has procured the parts of its modules that take the longest to arrive from supplies, with "contracts in place with major providers" and "early design work" completed.

Science • Space
China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered Mars orbit
Artist’s impression of the Tianwen-1 rover surveying on mars surface.
Artist’s impression of the Tianwen-1 rover surveying on mars surface. Credit: China National Space Administration, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Mars is getting crowded! After being on the space-road for seven months, China's Tianwen-1 probe has successfully entered Mars orbit on Wednesday, just one day after UAE's Hope orbiter and eights days before NASA's Perseverance rover.

"Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter," mission managers wrote before launch in the journal Nature Astronomy. "No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough."

Science • Space
Mars Rover Perseverance to Land on Mars on Feb 18
Mars Rover Perseverance to Land on Mars on Feb 18
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Perseverance is in its home stretch. NASA's Mars rover is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18, almost six months after it started its journey to the red planet.

"I am thrilled to be here today as our countdown to Mars winds down from months to just weeks. Perseverance is closing in on the Red Planet, and our team is preparing for her to touch down in Jezero Crater.," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said.

After landing, Perseverance will search for ancient life on Mars on the floor of Jezero.

Science • Space
The first entirely private space crew will visit the International Space Station
Ax-1 mission crew
Ax-1 mission crew Credit: Axiom Space (Twitter Reproduction)

The proposed Ax-1 mission will use a SpaceX rocket to put three paying customers - American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe - into low-Earth orbit on the space station. Stibbe plans to do experiments for Israeli researchers, working with the Ramon Foundation and Israel's space agency. The crew will be led by former NASA astronaut and space station commander Michael López-Alegría.

Axiom hopes to arrange up to two trips per year, and the company also wants to build its own privately funded space station.

Science • Space
YouTuber Mr Beast sells space on hard drive that will be sent to Moon by NASA
YouTuber Mr Beast sells space on hard drive that will be sent to Moon by NASA
Credit: Courtesy of Mr. Beast

The YouTuber Mr Beast has announced that he secured space on the NASA Moon rover that is set to be launched in 2021. Onboard will be a hard drive with what he claims is the "universes first digital time capsule".

For $10 people can buy space on the hard drive to send images and videos to the moon "assuming it's legal".

Climate & Environment
NASA analysis: 2020 tied with 2016 for warmest year on record
This plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK).
This plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Credit: NASA GISS/Gavin Schmidt

According to an analysis by NASA, Earth's global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. The average temperature in 2020 was 1.02 degrees Celsius (1.84 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer globally, compared to the baseline 1951-1980 mean.

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”

Science • Space
ARTEMIS: NASA Has Picked Astronauts for new Moon Mission
ARTEMIS: NASA Has Picked Astronauts for new Moon Mission
Credit: NASA

We're going back to the Moon! 18 astronauts, nine of them women, are training for NASA's upcoming Artemis missions to travel to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars. The group includes the first woman who will walk on the lunar surface in 2024.

Science • Space
SpaceX-NASA to launch Crew-1 mission
SpaceX-NASA to launch Crew-1 mission
Credit: NASA / Joel Kowsky (Public Domain)

The Crew Dragon capsule, placed atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is expected to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday at 19:49(ET). Three NASA astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker — will be joined by Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan's space agency, JAXA, on the trip.

The flight of four astronauts to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket follows the success of the Demo-2 mission and its historic splashdown. It will also set a few key spaceflight milestones.

Science • Space
NASA has managed to contact Voyager 2 after repairs and upgrades to radio antenna
NASA has managed to contact Voyager 2 after repairs and upgrades to radio antenna
Credit: CSIRO / via Wikimedia Commons

NASA has successfully contacted the Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since March. The Deep Space Station 43 in Canberra, Australia, is the only radio antenna that is able to contact and command the Voyager 2, which is now 43 years old, and has been under maintenance to receive repairs and upgrades since March. Now it has successfully re-contacted the spacecraft and Voyager 2 has confirmed the signal and executed the commands that had been sent.

Work on the radio antenna is expected to wrap up in February.

Regional News • Americas • United States
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins votes from space in the US election using the 'ISS voting booth'
Astronaut Kate Rubins
Astronaut Kate Rubins Credit: Nasa (Twitter Reproduction)

"It's critical to participate in our democracy," Rubins told AP. "We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space." A 1997 law allows astronauts to cast their vote when in "spaceflight," which is forwarded from Mission control to the space station to the county clerk.

Science • Space
Nokia will establish mobile network on moon by 2022
Nokia will establish mobile network on moon by 2022
Credit: unsplash.com / NASA

The Finnish company Nokia has announced that they have been awarded a contract by Nasa to build a mobile network on the moon. Initially it will be based on the 4G/LTE technology and later upgraded to 5G.

The network will serve as a foundation for astronauts to make phone calls and send data. Ground stations on Earth will also be able to control devices and vehicles remotely.

Science • Space
Latest Soyuz mission established a new record for flights to the ISS
Soyuz approaching the ISS
Soyuz approaching the ISS Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

The Soyuz mission, launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:45 UTC Wednesday, became the fastest ever journey from Earth to the ISS, with a total travel time of three hours and three minutes. Similar launches, since 2013, take around six hours.

Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and NASA's Kathleen Rubins were onboard the Soyuz.

Roscosmos stated that "a new record for flights to the International Space Station was set – the total time from launch to docking of the Soyuz MS-17 was three hours and three minutes."

Previously, only an uncrewed Progress cargo space ship has used this profile which requires just two orbits before docking with the ISS.

Science • Space
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
Credit: NASA

Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have signed on as founding member nations to NASA's Artemis Accords, an international agreement that "will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions."

"Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition," so NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "With today's signing, we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy."