Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA's first all-electric plane is ready for testing

The first all-electric configuration of NASA's X-57 Maxwell now is at the agency's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

The X-57, NASA's first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane – and the first crewed X-plane in two decades – was delivered by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, California on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in the first of three configurations as an all-electric aircraft, known as Modification II, or Mod II.

The X-57's Mod II vehicle features the replacement of traditional combustion engines on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft, with electric cruise motors. The delivery is a major milestone for the project, allowing NASA engineers to begin putting the aircraft through ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests and eventually, flight tests.

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MIGHTY CULTURE
Pat Brennan

This newly discovered planet gives Tatooine a run for its money

Planet: LTT 1445 A b

The discovery: This overheated planet, about 1.4 times as big around as Earth, has a sky that one-ups Star Wars' Tatooine – three stars instead of two. It is one of 12 recent discoveries just added to NASA's Exoplanet Archive, and was found by a Harvard Center for Astrophysics team using data from the TESS space telescope.

Date: July 26, 2019

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MIGHTY TACTICAL
Felicia Chou

NASA will use new space sensor to protect coastal ecosystems

NASA has selected a space-based instrument under its Earth Venture Instrument (EVI) portfolio that will make observations of coastal waters to help protect ecosystem sustainability, improve resource management, and enhance economic activity.

The selected Geosynchronous Littoral Imaging and Monitoring Radiometer (GLIMR) instrument, led by principal investigator Joseph Salisbury at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, will provide unique observations of ocean biology, chemistry, and ecology in the Gulf of Mexico, portions of the southeastern United States coastline, and the Amazon River plume – where the waters of the Amazon River enter the Atlantic Ocean.

"This innovative instrument from the University of New Hampshire, selected by NASA, will provide a powerful new tool for studying important ecosystems," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Its findings also will bring economic benefits to fisheries, tourism, and recreation in the coastline area."

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MIGHTY TACTICAL
Jenny Marder

How NASA tracks wildfires to help firefighters below

Every evening from late spring to early fall, two planes lift off from airports in the western United States and fly through the sunset, each headed for an active wildfire, and then another, and another. From 10,000 feet above ground, the pilots can spot the glow of a fire, and occasionally the smoke enters the cabin, burning the eyes and throat.

The pilots fly a straight line over the flames, then U-turn and fly back in an adjacent but overlapping path, like they're mowing a lawn. When fire activity is at its peak, it's not uncommon for the crew to map 30 fires in one night. The resulting aerial view of the country's most dangerous wildfires helps establish the edges of those fires and identify areas thick with flames, scattered fires and isolated hotspots.

A large global constellation of satellites, operated by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), combined with a small fleet of planes operated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) help detect and map the extent, spread and impact of forest fires. As technology has advanced, so has the value of remote sensing, the science of scanning the Earth from a distance using satellites and high-flying airplanes.

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NASA's next mission will search for life on Saturn's largest moon

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn's icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan's dense atmosphere — four times denser than Earth's — to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

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NASA selects new missions to study how our Sun effects space

NASA has selected two new missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its dynamic effects on space. One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study Earth's response.

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet's magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impacts on human interests, such as astronauts' safety, radio communications, GPS signals, and utility grids on the ground. The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects — including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA's Artemis program to the Moon.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL
Clare Skelly

These technologies will help return astronauts to the Moon

Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency's broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

"We are pursuing new technologies across our development portfolio that could help make deep space exploration more Earth-independent by utilizing resources on the Moon and beyond," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "These NIAC Phase III selections are a component of that forward-looking research and we hope new insights will help us achieve more firsts in space."

The Phase III proposals outline an aerospace architecture, including a mission concept, that is innovative and could change what's possible in space. Each selection will receive as much as $2 million. Over the course of two years, researchers will refine the concept design and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. The inaugural Phase III selections are:

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NASA is helping you make your mark on Mars

Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity's first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

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Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded 'marsquake'

NASA's Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely "marsquake."

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander's 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

"InSight's first readings carry on the science that began with NASA's Apollo missions," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "We've been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!"

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