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The self-assembling particles that come from InSPACE

NASA astronaut Suni Williams photographing InSPACE-3 vial assembly after particles redistribution operation on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Jan. 7, 2013 — Shape-shifting malleable, gelatinous forms are orbiting Earth at this very moment -- assembling and disassembling, growing as they are bombarded by magnetic pulses. These forms will take shape as astronauts run experiments involving smart fluids aboard the International Space Station.

While they may change shape, the forms are not things of science fiction. They are the things of fundamental science.

The purpose of the Investigating the Structures of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions-3, or InSPACE-3, study is to...

Botany experiment will try out zero gravity aboard space station

Dec. 18, 2012 — Gravity: It's the law in these parts. But to reach the stars, humans may have to learn to live outside the law.

"Gravity is the most pervasive thing on the planet, and it's always been there," says Simon Gilroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison botany professor. "Terrestrial biology has evolved with this constant force in the background, and when you remove it, things start to happen that you wouldn't necessarily think of."

Surprises are not welcome in...

Saying 'Godspeed' to a Spidernaut: Eight-legged Nefertiti spent 100 days on International Space Station

Astronaut Suni Williams with the YouTube SpaceLab payload Spider Habitat where Nefertiti the spidernaut lived while she was on orbit. (Credit: NASA)

Dec. 13, 2012 — "You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I...

Technology designed for use by astronauts works to save trapped miners

Paragon Space Development Corp. workers move the NASA-funded air revitalization unit into a testing chamber. (Credit: Paragon Space Development Corp.)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 28, 2012) — A technology designed for use by astronauts in the hazardous environment of space has found a lifesaving use in another dangerous occupation, but this time on Earth, or rather under it: coal mining.

Paragon Space Development Corp. of Tucson, Ariz., is providing the air revitalization system it matured under a...

NASA offers opportunity to use communications testbed on space station

SCaN Testbed installed on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 27, 2012) — Want to be a part of International Space Station research? Here's your chance. NASA is offering opportunities for academia, industry and government agencies to develop and carry out research and technology demonstrations on the space station using the newly installed Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Testbed.

These opportunities will allow...

Windshield wiper for Mars dust developed: Actuator moved by materials that have shape memory

A windshield wiper for Mars. (Credit: Image courtesy of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - Oficina de Información Científica)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 24, 2012) — A team of researchers at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M) has developed a device that works as a windshield wiper to eliminate Mars dust from the sensors on the NASA spacecrafts that travel to the Red Planet.

The actuator, a type of brush made up of Teflon fibers that are moved by...

NASA's Orion spacecraft: Crew access arm reaches for new and heritage technologies

A computer-aided design image of the crew access arm that is being developed for the Mobile Launcher tower. (Credit: NASA/Boeing)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 24, 2012) — NASA Kennedy Space Center's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program engineers in Florida are combining heritage technology and new innovations to design the crew access arm for the tower on the mobile launcher that will be used for NASA's Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS)...

SpaceX, NASA target Oct. 7 launch for resupply mission to International Space Station

The Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket is in position for a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. During the rehearsal, the rocket will be fully fueled and launch controllers will perform a countdown demonstration. (Credit: NASA)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 21, 2012) — NASA managers, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) officials and international partner representatives Thursday...

Space Shuttle Endeavour flyovers draw excited fans

Endeavour stands atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft ahead of its flight to Los Angeles. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 20, 2012) — Space shuttle Endeavour and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft landed at Ellington Field in Houston this morning to complete the first day of its trek from Florida to Los Angeles where the shuttle will be placed on public display.

As the SCA approached Houston, it performed a low-level flyover carrying Endeavour...

Landing pads being designed for extraterrestrial missions

Using the lessons of the Apollo era and robotic missions to Mars, NASA scientists and engineers are studying the hazards involved in any extraterrestrial landings. They are seeking ways avoid the rocks and soil visible in the foreground of this image of Buzz Aldrin working at the lunar module during the Apollo 11 moonwalk in July 1969. (Credit: NASA/Neil Armstrong)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 20, 2012) — When the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover landed on Aug. 6, it...

NASA app features inflatable spacecraft for returning station cargo

The main screen of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, app. (Credit: NASA)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 20, 2012) — Want to try your hand at landing an inflatable spacecraft? All you need is a smart phone, a computer or a tablet.

NASA's new educational computer game based on its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) project can be played on the Internet and downloaded free on Apple and Android mobile devices. (See...

Protection for humans on Mars

Shielding for astronauts could be built on Mars from Martian sand. (Credit: G. Otto / Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 18, 2012) — For six weeks NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been working on the Red Planet. NASA also plans to send humans to Mars within the next 20 years. On the flight and during the stay on Moon or Mars the astronauts have to be protected against long exposure to cosmic radiation that might cause...

Mobile launcher platforms prepped for new generation

Morning breaks over Launch Pad 39A following the arrival of shuttle Atlantis and Mobile Launcher Platform-2 prior to the STS-132 mission. (Credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 17, 2012) — NASA's trio of mobile launcher platforms (MLP) are being revamped to serve a variety of next-generation launch vehicles. The huge steel structures, which acted as launch bases for the Apollo/Saturn program and every space shuttle mission, will serve as the platforms that...

European endorsement for ESA's space hazards programme

— In April 2011, the European Commission (EC) released a communication entitled "Towards a space strategy for the European Union that benefits its citizens" outlining the crucial role of space for European economies and societies.

The document provided a powerful endorsement for the goals of ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Preparatory Programme, which was authorised the ESA Member states at the Ministerial...

— In April 2011, the European Commission (EC) released a...

ATV preparing for fiery destruction

— Serving the International Space Station is a valuable job but it will come to a spectacular end: ESA's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, packed with Station rubbish, will deliberately plummet to its destruction on Tuesday in Earth's atmosphere.

Just like the tonnes of natural space debris that collide with our planet every day, the 10-tonne ferry will burn up on reentry.

Only a few hardy pieces might survive and...

— Serving the International Space Station is a valuable job but it...

Entry, descent and surface science for 2016 Mars mission

— The European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have announced the scientific investigations selected for their 2016 ExoMars lander demonstrator. They will probe the atmosphere during the descent, and return the first ever data on electrical fields at the surface of Mars.

The EDM Entry, descent, and landing Demonstrator Module is part of the joint ESA/NASA ExoMars...

— The European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. National Aeronautics...

Raising the International Space Station: ATV Johannes Kepler conducts the 'Big Boost'

— It's the International Space Station's biggest increase in altitude to date, and, thanks to the European Space Agency's ATV Johannes Kepler, it will significantly improve the 417-tonne Station's orbital mileage through the next decade of scientific research.

During three intensive reboost manoeuvres, ATV Johannes Kepler is raising the ISS altitude from around 345 km to 380 km, where it will use far less fuel to...

— It's the International Space Station's biggest increase in altitude...

Carrying humans into deep space: NASA announces key decision for next deep space transportation system

— NASA has reached an important milestone for the next U.S. transportation system that will carry humans into deep space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced May 25, 2011 that the system will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Those plans now will be used to develop a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

"We are committed to human exploration...

— NASA has reached an important milestone for the next U.S...

NASA's two lunar-bound spacecraft, vacuum-packed

— NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (Grail) spacecraft have completed all assembly and testing prior to shipment to Florida.

As seen in the photo, taken April 29, technicians installed lifting brackets prior to hoisting the 200-kilogram (440- pound) Grail-A spacecraft out of a vacuum chamber at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. Along with its twin Grail-B, the Grail-A spacecraft underwent an...

— NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (Grail)...

Antibody production gets confused during long-term spaceflight

— The trip to Mars just got a little more difficult now that French researchers have discovered that antibodies used to fight off disease might become seriously compromised during long-term space flight. In a new report published online in the FASEB Journal, the scientists show that antibodies produced in space are less effective than those produced on terra firma. The reduced effectiveness of antibodies makes...

— The trip to Mars just got a little more difficult now that French...

Mars tribute marks memories of Shepard's flight

— The team exploring Mars via NASA's Opportunity rover for the past seven years has informally named a Martian crater for the Mercury spacecraft that astronaut Alan Shepard christened Freedom 7. On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted Freedom 7 in America's first human spaceflight.

The team is using Opportunity this week to acquire images covering a cluster of small, relatively young craters along the rover's route toward a...

— The team exploring Mars via NASA's Opportunity rover for the past...