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Living in a bubble: inflatable modules could be the future of space habitats

The astronauts of the International Space Station welcomed the arrival of what we call the “Bigelow Bungalow”, officially known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) on April 10. If all goes to plan, the station’s robotic arm will install the module later this week. Although, according to NASA’s Kirk Shireman, it won’t be inflated […]

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The search for life beneath the ice: why we’re going back to Europa

Morgan Saletta, University of Melbourne and Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne Last month NASA gave the “all systems go” for a new mission to Europa. But why go back? After all, we’re still sifting through the data from the Galileo probes fly-bys from more than a decade ago. The short answer: it’s all about life. […]

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Apollo 11: it was 45 years ago today

What a time to ‘have to’ go and buy milk. Mid-morning Monday, July 21 1969, and my mother sends me up the street to get some milk. No big deal, you might say. However, a few hours prior to then, at 6:17 AEST that morning to be precise, a fragile craft, called the Eagle, had […]

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The Right Stuff: astronaut biographies from Glenn to Hadfield

An enduring image of an ‘astronaut’ was created for the public by NASA, Time magazine, and Tom Woolf’s The Right Stuff. These caricatures of  the original seven American astronauts, the so-called Mercury-7, chosen to assert American supremacy over the communist threat of Sputnik have seemingly endured way past their use by date. A resurgence in […]

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Missions to Mars

Forty years ago we last stepped foot on the Moon. Currently, with our occupation of the low-Earth orbit international space station, we are space residents. In the visionary Mission to Mars (National Geographic Society, 2013), moon-walker, space advocate, Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, challenges us to take a further step and colonise […]

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Pluto’s new moons named: Spock still homeless

The dwarf planet, Pluto, can still generate public interest – if the naming of its two recently discovered moons is anything to go by. After their discovery, the leader of the research team, Mark Showalter, called for a public vote to suggest names for the two objects. The contest, aptly named ‘Pluto Rocks!‘, concluded with […]

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Explainer: the International Space Station

As the most visible man-made object in the night sky the International Space Station (ISS) is of significance to humankind. It takes humans from being explorers of space to being residents of space. The Russians launched Zarya, the first module of the ISS, on November 20, 1998. It has grown considerably since then and has […]

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Kepler meets Einstein: a gravity-bending feat

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has witnessed the effects of a dead star bending the light of its companion star. The findings are among the first detections of this phenomenon — a prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — in binary, or double, star systems. The dead star, called a white dwarf, is the burnt-out […]

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New light on dark matter: space station magnet attracts praise

By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne Nobel prizewinner Samuel Ting, early this morning (AEDT), announced the first results from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrophotometer (AMS) search for dark matter. The findings, published in Physical Review Letters, provide the most compelling direct evidence to date for the existence of this mysterious matter. In short, the AMS results […]

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Postcard from Spitzer: weather on 2MASSJ22282889-431026 is hot and cloudy

Long distance weather reports are now a commonality. The report for 2MASSJ22282889-431026 is somewhat unusual. It forecasts wind-driven, planet-sized clouds, with the light varying in time, brightening and dimming about every 90 minutes. The clouds on 2MASSJ22282889-431026 are composed of hot grains of sand, liquid drops of iron, and other exotic compounds. Definitely not the first […]

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NASA discovers a new radiation belt around Earth

By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne NASA revealed Friday morning (AEST) that its Van Allen Probes have discovered a third, previously unknown, radiation belt around Earth. The belt appears to be transient, depending strongly on solar activity. The Probes mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star geospace program to explore the fundamental processes […]

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Does my science look big in this? This week in science

Being responsible for picking the week’s most interesting science stories is a fun and fascinating challenge. It pushes to me to look beyond my own interests and explore what others find compelling. So I trust you find my ‘science making news’ selection of interest and delight; explore the quantum, human, off-world and mathematical highs of […]

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The perils of space exploration: last flight of space shuttle Columbia

The 28th and last flight (STS-107) of the space shuttle Columbia was ten years ago. Launched on January 16, 2003 Columbia was destroyed at about 0900 EST on February 1, 2003 while re-entering the atmosphere after its 16-day scientific mission. The destruction of the shuttle killed all seven astronauts on board. An illustrious career Columbia […]

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Joy to the world: an ode to outer space at Christmas

  By Alice Gorman, Flinders University and Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne Christmas – whether you’re religious or not – is a time when people gather their families together to reinforce the bonds that make us human. In the era of modern telecommunications, distance no longer separates people the way it once did. Whether you’re […]

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NASA’s Curiosity shows there’s more to life than life

By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne and Helen Maynard-Casely, Australian Synchrotron The Curiosity rover has landed on Mars, driven around, started its scientific mission and, as of 4am today (AEDT), started reporting integrated science results. In a news conference at the American Geophysical Union NASA’s Curiosity mission team presented a measured, low-key and hype-free discussion […]

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Does my science look big in this? The astrobiology edition

During the 20th century a powerful new idea gradually entered our consciousness and culture: cosmic evolution.  We are all par of a huge narrative: a cosmos billions of years old and billions of light years in extent. It is this idea that caught my attention this month via the proceedings of the Sao Paulo Advanced […]

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Its a wheel! its a wheel – a wheel on Mars!

NASA’s rover Curiosity was safely on Mars.  It was a perfect landing.  The novel sky-crane method had proved its detractors wrong and its designers right.  What was needed then was signs that Curiosity was working as designed.  NASA had said that the first pictures may be anything up to 2 hours after landing.  A long […]

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NASA landing Curiosity, science, and technology on Mars

Go to NASA TV or Ustream, now.  Otherwise you may be missing your ‘Apollo’ moment .  In about an hour’s time the NASA control room in Pasadena will be strained, hushed, waiting to hear these joyful words, “touchdown signal detected.” The signal that the rover, Curiosity, has has landed safely on Mars. After a picture […]

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Is there life on Mars? Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity go roving

The NASA rover Curiosity is expected to be landing on Mars at 3:31 am August 6, 2012 (AEST).  It’s mission, lasting one Martian-year (98 Earth weeks),  is of scientific significance and perhaps even of human significance.  Curiosity will be fulfilling the prospecting stage of a step-by-step program of exploration, reconnaissance, prospecting and mining evidence for […]

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Here be Dragons

On May 11, a Dragon will mate with the International Space station.  Rather than some mythical creature, this Dragon is of human artifice.  The Dragon’s rendezvous and berthing with the International Space Station presages a new chapter in human exploration of space. The significance of this event is Dragon is a reusable spacecraft, developed, and […]

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Who found the water on the Moon?

At just over two tonnes, the second stage of an Atlas V rocket makes for an unusual ‘kinetic probe’.  Nonetheless on October 9, 2009 NASA deliberately impacted a spent Centaur rocket into the lunar south polar crater Cabeus.  The target area was a permanently shadowed region within this crater.  The impact, not surprisingly, ejected a […]

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Hubble finds a dark matter puzzle

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Telescope have observed what appears to be a clump of dark matter left behind from a wreck between massive clusters of galaxies. The result could challenge current theories about dark matter that predict galaxies should be anchored to the invisible substance even during the shock of a collision. Abell […]

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Curiosity about life on Mars

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong uttered one of the most remembered quotes of the 20th century, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind….” Millions of people heard these words as they watched, via grainy black and white television images, Neil Armstrong step from the landing pad of the Lunar Module […]

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