Author Neel V. Patel
Author Neel V. Patel
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China launches its first ever mission to bring moon rocks back to Earth

China launches its first ever mission to bring moon rocks back to Earth

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.China launched its Chang’e 5 mission to the moon early Tuesday morning local time from the country’s launch site on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The country is seeking to bring soil and rock samples from the lunar surface back to Earth for the first time in its history, for scientific study.  What’s going to happen: Chang’e 5 should make it to the moon on November 27. The entire mission consists of four parts: an orbiter, a lander, an ascent stage, and a return capsule. The spacecraft are not equipped with any heating units to help...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Nov 23
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Spaceflight does some weird things to astronauts’ bodies

Spaceflight does some weird things to astronauts’ bodies

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Astronaut Scott Kelly famously lived and worked on the International Space Station for 340 days—the longest time an American has spent in space. His mission gave scientists some vital insight into what happens to the human body during long-duration stays in orbit. That’s because Kelly has an identical twin, Mark (also an astronaut, and now soon to be a US senator). The Kelly twins offered scientists a rare opportunity: as they studied what happened to Scott’s body during his year in space, they had the benefit of a control subject, Mark, who...

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Author Neel V. Patel
6d ago
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How the Artemis moon mission could help get us to Mars

How the Artemis moon mission could help get us to Mars

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, He would have given man a moon.” The famed rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke uttered those words in 1984. He wanted to highlight how we could use the moon as a springboard to expand human civilization into the rest of the solar system. This was more than a decade on from the last Apollo mission to the moon, and Ehricke was watching NASA and the rest of the US space program retreat from hopes of exploring more distant worlds like Mars and focus instead on Earth’s orbit.  America is finally...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Sep 23
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The second-largest radio telescope in the world is shutting down

The second-largest radio telescope in the world is shutting down

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The US National Science Foundation has just announced it is going to begin decommissioning the famous Arecibo Observatory, the 1,000-foot-wide, 900-ton radio telescope located in Puerto Rico. It’s a huge blow to the astronomy community, which used Arecibo for 57 years to conduct an enormous amount of space and atmospheric research.  What happened: Arecibo has withstood decades of wear and tear from various storms and other natural disasters, including damage by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a few earthquakes in January. But in August, a support...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Nov 19
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Half the Milky Way’s sun-like stars could be home to Earth-like planets

Half the Milky Way’s sun-like stars could be home to Earth-like planets

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Nearly 4,300 exoplanets have been discovered by astronomers, and it’s quite obvious now our galaxy is filled with them. But the point of looking for these new worlds is more than just an exercise in stamp collecting—it’s to find one that could be home to life, be it future humans who have found a way to travel those distances or extraterrestrial life that’s made a home for itself already. The best opportunity to find something like that is to find a planet that resembles Earth. And what better way to look for Earth 2.0 than to search around...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Nov 6
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Not finding life on Venus would be disappointing. But it’s good science at work

Not finding life on Venus would be disappointing. But it’s good science at work

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Last month’s report that there may be  came with a stunning implication: extraterrestrial life. On Earth, phosphine is a chemical produced by some kinds of bacteria that live in oxygen-poor conditions. Its presence on Venus, announced by a team led by Cardiff University’s Jane Greaves, raised the possibility that there could be life in what has long been thought one of the most inhospitable environments in the solar system: a planet that’s covered in thick clouds of sulfuric acid, with an atmosphere that’s 96% carbon dioxide, and where the...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Oct 31
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The 5 best places to explore in the solar system—besides Mars

The 5 best places to explore in the solar system—besides Mars

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.With the launch of three missions to Mars this summer (including a ), our exploration of the Red Planet will soon leap to new heights. And there are good reasons we should be obsessed with it: Mars is the only extraterrestrial world besides the moon that human beings could conceivably reach within a generation. If we dream about visiting other worlds, Mars is realistic. It also makes sense from a scientific perspective. Suniti Karunatillake, a planetary scientist at Louisiana State University, argues that it is the only other rocky planet in...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Aug 17
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If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way

If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.This was the week airborne transmission became a big deal in the public discussion about covid-19. Over 200 scientists from around the world  urging it to take seriously the growing evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO stopped short of redefining SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) as airborne but  that more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.” “I honestly don’t know what people are waiting for,” says microbiologist Chad...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 11
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Why Japan is emerging as NASA’s most important space partner

Why Japan is emerging as NASA’s most important space partner

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The first time the US went to the moon, it put down  to do it alone. That’s not the case with Artemis, the new NASA program to send humans back. Although it’s a US-led initiative, Artemis is meant to be a much more collaborative effort than Apollo. Japan is quickly emerging as one of the most important partners for this program—perhaps the most important. Although NASA has  for  the idea of a pretty ambitious role for , that talk finally became real on July 9, when the two countries  regarding further collaboration in human exploration. It...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 22
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Why Japan is emerging as NASA’s most important space partner

Why Japan is emerging as NASA’s most important space partner

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The first time the US went to the moon, it put down  to do it alone. That’s not the case with Artemis, the new NASA program to send humans back. Although it’s a US-led initiative, Artemis is meant to be a much more collaborative effort than Apollo. Japan is quickly emerging as one of the most important partners for this program—perhaps the most important. Although NASA has  for  the idea of a pretty ambitious role for , that talk finally became real on July 9, when the two countries  regarding further collaboration in human exploration. It...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 22
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Venus is likely teeming with dozens of active volcanoes on its surface

Venus is likely teeming with dozens of active volcanoes on its surface

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.An international group of researchers have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that were recently active and are likely still active today. The results, published Monday in , upend long-held assumptions that the second planet from the sun is largely dormant.  What we thought: Unlike Earth, Venus doesn’t have plate tectonics that are constantly moving and gradually shaping its surface, leaving many scientists to assume the planet had been inactive for perhaps the last half-billion years. But this assumption has never been truly tested,...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 21
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Astronomers found a giant intergalactic wall hiding in plain sight

Astronomers found a giant intergalactic wall hiding in plain sight

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Astronomers have found one of the largest structures in the known universe—an intergalactic “wall” of galaxies that’s at least 1.4 billion light-years long. And given how close it is to us, it’s remarkable that we haven’t seen it before now. What happened: An international team of scientists reported the discovery of the South Pole Wall. The structure is basically a curtain that stretches across the southern border of the universe (from the perspective of Earth) and consists of thousands of galaxies, along with huge amounts of gas and dust....

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 13
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Will astronauts ever visit gas giants like Jupiter?

Will astronauts ever visit gas giants like Jupiter?

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Every week, the readers of our space newsletter, , send in their questions for space reporter  to answer. This week: Can we go to Jupiter? Once we move past the asteroid belt, is it realistic to assume there is a chance humans could ever explore any of the gas giants, like Jupiter, really close to its atmosphere? And what that would look like?  —Sarah Jupiter, like the other gas giants, doesn’t have a rocky surface, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a massive cloud floating through the vacuum of space. It’s made up of mostly helium and hydrogen,...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 8
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Are we making spacecraft too autonomous?

Are we making spacecraft too autonomous?

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.When SpaceX’s Crew Dragon took NASA astronauts to the ISS , the launch brought back a familiar sight. For the first time since the space shuttle was retired, American rockets were launching from American soil to take Americans into space. Inside the vehicle, however, things couldn’t have looked more different. Gone was the sprawling dashboard of lights and switches and knobs that once dominated the space shuttle’s interior. All of it was replaced with a futuristic console of multiple large touch screens that cycle through a variety of...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jul 3
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Scientists have made Bose-Einstein condensates in space for the first time

Scientists have made Bose-Einstein condensates in space for the first time

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.On board the International Space Station since May 2018 is a mini-fridge-size facility called the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), capable of chilling atoms in a vacuum down to temperatures one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero. It is, for all intents and purposes, one of the coldest spots in the known universe. And according to a , scientists have just used it to create a rare state of matter for the first time ever in space. Bose-Einstein condensates, sometimes called the fifth state of matter, are gaseous clouds of atoms that stop behaving...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jun 11
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Astronomers have found a planet like Earth orbiting a star like the sun

Astronomers have found a planet like Earth orbiting a star like the sun

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.Three thousand light-years from Earth sits Kepler 160, a sun-like star that’s already thought to have three planets in its system. Now researchers think they’ve found a fourth. Planet KOI-456.04, as it’s called, appears similar to Earth in size and orbit, raising new hopes we’ve found perhaps the best candidate yet for a habitable exoplanet that resembles our home world. The new findings bolster the case for devoting more time to looking for planets orbiting stars like Kepler-160 and our sun, where there’s a better chance a planet can receive...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Jun 5
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Here’s how we could mine the moon for rocket fuel

Here’s how we could mine the moon for rocket fuel

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.The moon is a treasure trove of valuable resources. Gold, platinum, and many rare Earth metals await extraction to be used in next-generation electronics. Non-radioactive helium-3 could one day power nuclear fusion reactors. But there’s one resource in particular that has excited scientists, rocket engineers, space agency officials, industry entrepreneurs—virtually anyone with a vested interest in making spaceflight to distant worlds more affordable. It’s water.  Why? If you split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then liquefy those...

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Author Neel V. Patel
May 19
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NASA sets a date for SpaceX's first ever crewed mission

NASA sets a date for SpaceX's first ever crewed mission

You need to enable JavaScript to view this site.NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced plans to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 27. If the launch takes place, it will be the first time an American rocket will carry passengers to orbit since the final space shuttle launch on July 8, 2011. The covid-19 pandemic looms over the mission, which is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The state is under a currently due to expire on April 30, with exemptions for essential activities. The federal...

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Author Neel V. Patel
Apr 17
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