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Taxi! To the Space Station!

(Reuters) - NASA is looking for at least two U.S. firms to design and build space taxis to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, program managers said on Tuesday.

NASA plans to invest $300 million to $500 million in each of the firms selected under new 21-month partnership agreements, Ed Mango, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program, said at an industry briefing at the Kennedy Space Center prior to the release of a solicitation on Tuesday.

The new program aims to build upon previous NASA investments in companies designing commercial passenger spaceships...

Dorothy, RUN! Sun Attacks Earth!

Our planet is being bombarded by high-energy particles unleashed by the strongest solar storm since 2005, scientists say.

The charged particles are mostly a concern for satellites - which they can disrupt - and astronauts.

But they can also cause communication problems for aircraft travelling near the poles.

The geomagnetic storm has been caused by a potent flare that erupted from the Sun at 0400 GMT on Monday...

Roar from Deep Space

Space is typically thought of as a very quiet place. But one team of astronomers has found a strange cosmic noise that booms six times louder than expected.

The roar is from the distant cosmos. Nobody knows what causes it.

Of course, sound waves can't travel in a vacuum (which is what most of space is), or at least they can't very efficiently. But radio waves can.

Radio waves are not sound waves, but they are still electromagnetic waves, situated on the low-frequency end of the light spectrum...

Saturn Glowing Weirdly

A stunning light display over Saturn has stumped scientists who say it behaves unlike any other planetary aurora known in our solar system.

The blueish-green glow was found over the ringed planet's north polar region just like Earth's northern lights.

It was discovered by the infrared instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The northern polar region of Saturn shows both the aurora and underlying atmosphere, as captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

'We've never seen an aurora like this elsewhere,' said Tom Stallard, a scientist working with Cassini data at the University of Leicester...

RUN, Dorothy! SEVERE Space Storm Approaching!

Space weather forecasters revised their predictions for storminess after a major flare erupted on the Sun overnight threatening damage to communication systems and power grids while offering up the wonder of Northern Lights.

"We're looking for very strong, severe geomagnetic storming" to begin probably around mid-day Thursday, Joe Kunches, Lead Forecaster at the NOAA Space Environment Center, told this afternoon.

The storm is expected to generate aurora or Northern Lights, as far south as the northern United States Thursday night...

Uranus Has Blue Ring

Astronomers knew there was something odd going on when they looked for Uranus' newly discovered outer rings. For starters, they could only find one. After months of analysis, they figured out why: Unlike its red partner, the missing ring is so blue, it fell outside the telescope's range.

"It's funny that this research got started by something we didn't see," said Imke de Pater, with the University of California at Berkeley and lead author of a paper describing the discovery in this week's journal Science...

Titan is just waiting for us... Titan wants us...

HOUSTON, Texas – A leading planetary scientist said that Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, should be targeted for a new round of outer planet exploration.

Thanks to new data streaming in from the Cassini mission, said Jonathan Lunine, Professor of Planetary Sciences and of Physics at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Titan deserves prime-time scrutiny, perhaps using an airship to reveal the moon as never before.

“(However) all plans for exploring the outer solar system, more or less, are in complete ruins at the moment,” Lunine said during a major lecture at the 37th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), being held here throughout the week...

Liquid Water on Saturn Moon Enceladus

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of liquid water spewing from geysers on one of Saturn's icy moons, raising the tantalizing possibility that the celestial object harbors life.

The surprising discovery excited some scientists, who say the Saturn moon, Enceladus, should be added to the short list of places within the solar system most likely to have extraterrestrial life.

Recent high-resolution images snapped by the orbiting Cassini confirmed the eruption of icy jets and giant water vapor plumes from geysers resembling frozen Old Faithfuls at Enceladus' south pole...

Would You Like to Hike the Lunar Alps?

Up we go...

Spaceports Galore

They're building a spaceport in New Mexico...

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – New Mexico lawmakers agreed today to proceed on a three-year commitment of funds to build a regional spaceport, designed to support commercial rocket launchings, including passenger-carrying suborbital vehicles.

"Our view of this is all systems go for the spaceport," said New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans, also Chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in nearby Santa Fe.

"This sends out a message loud and clear that New Mexico is setting out on this bold plan," Homans told reporters in a telephone briefing...

Lightning Storms on Saturn

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Researchers are tracking a gigantic storm on Saturn that is unleashing lightning bolts more than 1,000 times stronger than those found on Earth.

Using instruments aboard the international Cassini spacecraft, scientists from the University of Iowa first spotted the storm on Jan. 23.

But since the spacecraft was not in the right position to photograph the storm, scientists enlisted the help of amateur astronomers who confirmed a storm was raging in the ringed planet's southern hemisphere...

The Russian Venus Landers

A long time ago, a powerful empire launched a series of space probes...

The Russian Venus Landers

Listen to Radio Transmissions from an Empty Spacesuit as it Orbits the Earth

One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That's when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.

The spacesuit is the satellite -- "SuitSat" for short.

"SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm," explains Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites...

13,000 Pieces of Space Junk Orbit Our Planet

NASA scientists say: Clean it up!

Super-powerful new ion engine revealed

A new design for an ion engine promises up to 10 times the fuel-efficiency of existing electric propulsion engines, according to tests by the European Space Agency. The new thruster could be used to propel craft into interstellar space, or to power a crewed mission to Mars, ESA says.

Ion engines work by using an electric field to accelerate a beam of positively charged particles – ions – away from the spacecraft, thereby providing propulsion. Existing models, such as the engine used in ESA’s Moon mission, SMART-1, extract the ions from a reservoir and expel them in a single process...

Someone Has Stolen Pieces of the Moon!


Virginia Beach crime solvers have an extraterrestrial case on their hands.

Two small sealed plastic disks labeled “meteorite samples” and “lunar samples” were stolen from a car in the area on January 10. The material is made available by NASA to contracted instructors for educational purposes.

A projector was also taken along with a silver briefcase that held the Moon and meteorite specimens.

In order to borrow from NASA lunar and/or meteorite disk samples, educators need to attend a short workshop on the security measures needed to handle these national treasures...

What if a Living Planet Got Hungry?

Some believe that there may be planets out there, which are totally organic? That is to say they are totally alive. Teaming with Microbial life which has eaten all the elements and compounds of the planet all the way thru. It is certainly within the realm of possibility considering the trillions and trillions and trillions of planets out there and the amount of life that exists in other worlds.

Microbes would eat the dirt, rock, metal and uses the gases for food and then bacteria would eat the bi-products...

Meteor Shower Predictions for 2006

Nearly every year we get some form of meteor shower showers. In 2005 we had the Perseids Meteor Shower, which was quite good and turned out to be a major shower, very impressive. In October of 2005 we had Draconids, which was observed over Asia and Eastern Europe, although it was not a major event. There of course were other notable showers, but not so spectacular. But in 2006 we will witness some wonderful meteor showers.

On January third and forth we will see the Quadrantids, the peak will be extremely brilliant and comparable to the Perseids and Geminids...

Government Issues Proposed Space Tourism Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Regular tourist trips into space are still a thing of the future, but the government is getting ready for the eventual liftoff.

More than 120 pages of proposed rules, released Thursday, governing the future of space tourism touch on everything from medical standards for passengers to preflight training.

They spell out qualification and training requirements for the crew, and mandate training and informed consent for the "space flight participants"--known in more earthly terms as passengers...

Microbot Madness: Hopping Toward Planetary Exploration

The success of NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity has scored high points for the wheeled automatons, but another plan may one day have their robotic successors hopping.

That plan, according to its research team, calls for a swarm of small, spherical robots the size of tennis balls to hop across another world exploring caves, nooks and other crannies that past mobile robots have been too large to study.

“The individual units are very cute and very adorable,” Penelope Boston, one of two researchers spearheading an effort to study the hopping microbots, told SPACE...

An Explosion on the Moon

So you thought nothing ever happens on the moon?

December 23, 2005: NASA scientists have observed an explosion on the moon. The blast, equal in energy to about 70 kg of TNT, occurred near the edge of Mare Imbrium (the Sea of Rains) on Nov. 7, 2005, when a 12-centimeter-wide meteoroid slammed into the ground traveling 27 km/s.

"What a surprise," says Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) researcher Rob Suggs, who recorded the impact's flash. He and colleague Wes Swift were testing a new telescope and video camera they assembled to monitor the moon for meteor strikes...

Saturn's moon resembles a primitive Earth

Paris - A historic mission to Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has revealed a chemical hell of great complexity which somewhat resembles the forces that helped sculpt the infant Earth, scientists said Wednesday.

In its parachute-braked descent to Titan's surface on January 14, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe Huygens sent back pictures of a world bathed in an orange photochemical smog and a landscape gouged by rivers of methane.

Using an onboard gas analyser that took samples and heated them to 600°C, Huygens found that Titan's clouds are seeded with particles made from complex organic molecules containing carbon and nitrogen...

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