NASA’s new Mars mission technology looks like a flying saucer

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NASA is testing a saucer-like space craft that could bring heavy payloads to Mars. Photo illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA is testing a saucer-like spacecraft that could bring heavy payloads to Mars. Photo illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Flying saucers from Mars is the stuff of science fiction. But a flying saucer from Earth is part of the mission to get astronauts to the Martian surface.

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory completed a successful spin test of a saucer-shaped experimental craft in front of a live web audience Tuesday. The saucer will next lift off by balloon from Hawaii, where from 120,000 feet it will be dropped to test a new kind of parachute and an inflatable Kevlar ring to add drag for a slower descent.

Help NASA solve space’s mysteries with this asteroid app

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The Big Dipper rises behind the Catalina Sky Survey  telescope. Photo: Catalina Sky Survey/University of Arizona
The Big Dipper rises behind the Catalina Sky Survey telescope. Photo: Catalina Sky Survey/University of Arizona

There are millions of asteroids in the Solar System and relatively few astronomers to track them. They’d hate to miss that one dangerous rogue headed on a collision course with Earth.

So NASA has made it easier for the amateur stargazer to record and compare their discoveries and put extra eyes on the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA and Planetary Resources Inc. have developed a computer program that is based on an algorithm that analyzes images for potential asteroids. The new asteroid hunting application, available for free download here, was announced Sunday by NASA at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

NASA salutes Nimoy for taking us boldly where no one had gone before

Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted from the International Space Station this special salute to the late Leonard Nimoy. Photo: Terry Virts/Twitter
Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted from the International Space Station this special salute to the late Leonard Nimoy. Photo: Terry Virts/Twitter

Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of unflappable calm and logic during dangerous space travels on TV and in movies inspired those whose stage is actual space.

NASA is mourning the loss of Nimoy as if Mr. Spock was one of their own. Since news of Nimoy’s passing Friday, astronauts have tweeted, uploaded a YouTube video tribute and issued statements, thanking the iconic Star Trek actor for the courage to “boldly go” into professions involving space exploration.

One of the more touching tributes came from astronaut Terry Virts, who tweeted a photo of his hand in Spock’s iconic “Live Long and Prosper” gesture at a window in the International Space Station looking over Earth.

Space-walking astronaut safe after water found in helmet

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Astronaut Terry Virts as he works on a robotic arm outside the International Space Station Wednesday. Photo: NASA
Astronaut Terry Virts as he works on a robotic arm outside the International Space Station Wednesday. Photo: NASA

Wardrobe malfunctions can happen with every style of clothing. It’s just a little terrifying when it happens to an astronaut on a spacewalk.

NASA astronaut Terry Virts reported a floating blob of water inside his helmet Wednesday after completing a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to perform cable and lube work outside the International Space Station.

Apollo program inspired Jony Ive to make a ‘spacesuit’

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What would a Jony Ive spacesuit look like? Photo: Sotheby's
What would a Jony Ive spacesuit look like? Photo: Sotheby's

When you’ve designed some of the most successful consumer electronics in modern history, where else can you look but up?

One of the many interesting tidbits in The New Yorker’s 17,000-word profile of Jony Ive surrounds his fascination with the Apollo space program and, yes, designing spacesuits. It doesn’t sound like the spacesuit itself was what inspired Apple’s top designer as much as the process that went into it.

Ive mentions he’s been watching the old Discovery channel series Moon Machine about the challenges facing the Apollo program. NASA designers had no idea what goals they even needed to meet for the suit, but built up to the final design with invention after invention until they got it right.

An anecdote from The New Yorker’s time in Ive’s hallowed design studio (emphasis added):