space

The dramatic failure of a test flight by Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket last October cost the co-pilot his life and left the pilot severely injured. New data from investigators suggest that the pilot survived in part because the craft essentially came apart around him.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says a steel strut is the most likely cause of last month's explosion of an unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

"The preliminary conclusion is that the failure arose from a strut in the second stage liquid oxygen tank," Musk said Monday at a news conference.

He said one of the steel struts that held a helium bottle broke free during flight, likely causing the bottle to shoot to the top of the tank at high speed.

Researchers in Switzerland say they've solved a nearly 100-year-old astronomical mystery by discovering what's in the wispy cloud of gas that floats in the space between the stars.

Scientists have unveiled the best photos of Pluto and its moons that humanity is likely to see for at least a generation. These images were taken Tuesday by NASA's New Horizons space probe as it hurtled past Pluto at more than 30,000 miles per hour.

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has revealed itself to be an oddball world. It's smaller than our own moon, and it orbits at an angle relative to the plane of the solar system. Because of its size and distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope could only make it out as a brown smudge, billions of miles away.

New images of Pluto have arrived from a NASA space probe, and they're already allowing scientists to update what we know about the dwarf planet — such as its size. NASA's New Horizons probe has traveled more than 3 billion miles to send photos and data about Pluto back to Earth.

Christian Cultee, a student at the Northwest Indian College, with a rocket that broke the sound barrier.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Chris Cultee will have a close-up view when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flies past Pluto on Tuesday.

Cultee, who attends the Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation near Bellingham, is an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center this summer. He tweeted Monday about his experiences at @NASASunEarth with the hash tag #RaceOnTech. 

It has taken nearly a decade and 3 billion miles to get there, but scientists are about to get their first look at Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is closing fast on the tiny world once thought to be at the edge of our solar system. On Tuesday the probe will begin an intensive nine-day scientific study of Pluto and its moons.

New images of Ceres are the clearest ever taken, but NASA's scientists still haven't figured out the enigmatic dwarf planet. The agency's latest photos of Ceres show multiple bright spots — and a "pyramid-shaped peak towering over a relatively flat landscape."

That's according to an update posted by the space agency, saying that Ceres and its bright spots "continue to mystify."

Last November, the European Space Agency wasn't sure if it would ever hear from its Philae lander again after the probe's unfortunate landing spot on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko left it in the shadow of a cliff, starving its solar panels of the faint sunlight needed to produce power.

In the NFL, something that behaves like Pluto's football-shaped moons might be called a wobbly duck. NASA simply calls them astonishing.

Instead of steadily rotating through their orbits, two of Pluto's moons "wobble unpredictably," the space agency says, citing new analysis of data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

A new glimpse of what the universe looked like in its youth has been captured, thanks to researchers who determined that light from the galaxy known as EGS-zs8-1 has spent more than 13 billion years traveling to reach us here on Earth.

The blue galaxy, which was named for its coloration after its initial discovery by the Hubble telescope, was studied by a team of astronomers based at Yale University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mike Massimino is one of the last people to ever see the Hubble Space Telescope in person.

From inside his orbiting space shuttle, the telescope first appeared on the horizon as a star, says Massimino, who was an astronaut on the final mission to service the space telescope in 2009.

The space shuttle twin solid rocket boosters separate from the orbiter and land in the ocean, where they are collected for reuse by NASA.
Flickr Photo/NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Geekwire's Todd Bishop about the latest frontier in the race between space entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos: landing a rocket on a floating barge in the open ocean.

In space, all they have is instant.

"For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."

But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."

Early risers (very early on the U.S. West Coast) who had clear skies might have caught a view of today's lunar eclipse — the third in a cycle of four that had its premiere nearly a year ago.

Those of us on the East Coast (this writer included) got to see a partial eclipse before the moon set in the west.

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