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NASA

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is giving earthlings their closest-ever views of Saturn's swirled atmosphere and its massive hurricane, beaming a trove of images and data back to Earth after the craft made its first dive between Saturn and its rings Wednesday.

Cassini is "showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.

If all goes to plan, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will beam new images of Saturn and its rings to Earth early Thursday, sharing data collected Wednesday from its first dive through the gap between the planet and its striped belt of ice and rock particles.

Today's dive also marks the start of the final phase in the craft's 13-year visit to Saturn. Days ago, it used the gravity of Saturn's moon Titan to bend its path toward its eventual destruction on the planet.

NASA is looking for some help making the solar system's most portable port-a-potty.

So if you think you know the best way to poop in a spacesuit, the agency is ready to hear it ... and you might make $30,000 for your trouble.

The next generation of great space telescopes is heading into its final round of ground tests. The nearly $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope. It's designed to provide unprecedented images of the earliest stars and galaxies that formed in the universe.

But before the telescope can get to work, there are still a lot of engineering challenges to overcome.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET.

A rocket took off Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as part of a mission by NASA and the University of Arizona to send a robot to an asteroid. The goal: Bring back ancient dust.

More than 2 tons of supplies and gear are speeding toward the International Space Station, after a SpaceX Falcon rocket launched early Monday from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The cargo includes a new port that will standardize how spacecraft connect to the station.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

Its name will be "Red Dragon." And if the latest partnership between SpaceX and NASA works out, the privately funded craft will land on Mars to collect scientific data — possibly within the next two years. The plan is to use the Dragon capsule, but without a human crew.

"SpaceX is planning to send Dragons to Mars as early as 2018," the company said via Facebook Wednesday. "These missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars."

A new era for living in space may be about to start.

A prototype habitat is headed to the International Space Station for a two-year trial. What makes the module unique is it's launched folded up, and it's inflated to its full size once in orbit.

A NASA probe will hurtle past Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wednesday, coming to within just 30 miles of the surface.

In the process, it will sample mist from a liquid ocean beneath the frozen surface. Doing so may provide clues about whether the ocean can support life.

At just 314 miles across, researchers originally expected Enceladus to be a tiny ball of solid ice. But thanks to NASA's Cassini probe, they now know it's somewhere really special.

Few images can put life's trivialities into perspective quite like the sight of our planet in the interminable blackness of space.

And at the very least, it's a cool view.

On Monday, NASA announced that this view will be available every day on a new website dedicated to publishing images from a satellite camera 1 million miles away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Michael Barratt with floating tomato in Zvezda service module of the International Space Station.
Wikipedia Photo/Public Domain

Ross Reynolds interviews Michael Barratt, a Camas, Washington born astronaut who flew on the last Space Shuttle mission, about how real space travel compares to the movie versions. He's already seen the new Matt Damon film "Martian" twice. Barratt also talks about how his upbringing on a farm was good preparation for going into space.

Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET.

This morning, a plucky NASA spacecraft has entered the orbit of one of the oddest little worlds in our solar system.

Ceres is round like a planet, but really small. Its total surface would cover just a third of the United States.

Courtesy of NASA

Ross Reynolds talks to Alan Boyle, science editor for NBCNews.com, about the recent discovery of water on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Boyle also talks about NASA's proposed mission to Europa and how the agency decides where to focus its space exploration dollars.

Cash prizes await "citizen scientists" who can improve algorithms that help NASA find and identify asteroids in our solar system, the agency says. A contest to find more asteroids begins next week, in what NASA calls an attempt to crowdsource innovation.

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