Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is There Life Beyond Earth? 'I Think Absolutely,' Says NASA JPL Director

Charles Elachi, Director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, doesn't hesitate when he's asked about life beyond earth. "Personally, I think absolutely," he said yesterday at The Atlantic's Big Science Summit in San Jose, California. "We have the same laws of chemistry, physics. If there are any locations where there are the basic ingredients, there should be the basic ingredients for life."

Saturn’s Frankenstorm: The Aftermath

The Eastern seaboard hunkered down yesterday as Hurricane Sandy (aka Frankenstorm) barreled ashore. Even after hitting land, Sandy was still moving at a steady 28 mph, carrying sustained winds of 85 mph. Coastal areas flooded, including parts of New York City, and millions lost power. The storm surge along with the accompanying rain and gales might cost East Coast states up to $20 billion in total damages, much more than originally anticipated. Faced with the wreckage of a hurricane, it’s hard to believe that Frankenstorm barely registers on the solar system’s weather scale. Saturn’s Great White Spot would have dwarfed little Sandy, and recent research shows that the tempest is continuing to wreak havoc in the planet’s upper atmosphere almost two years after it started.

Sandy Causes Space Shuttle Pavilion To Deflate

Superstorm Sandy has caused the pavilion that houses the Space Shuttle Enterprise to deflate at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to deflate. Record levels of water rushing up from the Hudson River flooded both the main power source and backup generators at the museum Monday, according to a statement from museum president Susan Marenoff-Zausner. She said the resulting power problem caused the pavilion, which is similar to a giant bubble of material that houses the shuttle Enterprise, to deflate. The shuttle Enterprise itself was draped in protective cloth.

Voyager 1 detects weirdness at solar system edge

Voyager 1 is the most distant man-made object and is thought to have recently escaped the sun's sphere of influence. The probe, launched 35 years ago, is therefore mankind's first interstellar vehicle careening into the vast expanse of space between the stars. Needless to say, as one of two deep space probes launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has explored previously unknown regions of the solar system, making groundbreaking discoveries as it went. Now, in a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists analyzing data streaming from the spacecraft have uncovered a small mystery right at the solar system's magnetic boundary with the interstellar medium.She may be old, but you can't keep a good probe down.

Recovered SpaceX Capsule Arrives at California Port

About two days after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, a commercially operated space capsule laden with 760 kilograms of return cargo from the international space station arrived at port in San Pedro, Calif., in the early morning hours of Oct. 30. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) recovered its Dragon space capsule Oct. 28, the same day the craft departed the space station. Dragon splashed down about 400 kilometers off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, with a cache of cargo including items belonging to NASA and its international space station partners. The ship carrying Dragon docked around 3 a.m. local time, SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson said in an Oct. 30 email.

NASA Rover's First Soil Studies Help Fingerprint Martian Minerals

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has completed initial experiments showing the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii. The minerals were identified in the first sample of Martian soil ingested recently by the rover. Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NASA Satellites Capture Hurricane Sandy's Massive Size

NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image Sandy's massive circulation. Sandy covers 1.8 million square miles, from the Mid-Atlantic to the Ohio Valley, into Canada and New England. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image Sandy's massive circulation on Oct. 29 at 18:20 UTC (2:20 p.m. EDT). Sandy covered 1.8 million square miles, from the Mid-Atlantic to the Ohio Valley, into Canada and New England. Sandy made landfall hours after the MODIS image was taken.

Endeavour Exhibit Opens

Thousands of people eagerly waited today at the California Science Center in Los Angeles to catch the first glimpses of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in its new home. "This is the launch of a new mission for Endeavour to inspire the next generation of explorers. The students, parents, teachers and attendees celebrated this addition to this community and to California's focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education," said Leland D. Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education and a former space shuttle astronaut.

Student teams fly their theses in weightlessness

For three days last week, student teams had the opportunity to run their experiments in near-weightlessness aboard Novespace’s Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft as it followed a series of parabolas. As part of the Fly Your Thesis! project, three student groups flew along with nine professional teams in the 57th ESA parabolic flight campaign, investigating effects that are virtually impossible to study on the ground under the normal pull of gravity. This year’s educational venture gave students invaluable experience in how to design, build and perform experiments in microgravity.

NASA's Huge New SLS Rocket Could Power Missions Far Beyond Mars

NASA is contemplating space journeys far beyond a near-Earth asteroid, the moon or Mars for its new heavy-lift rocket in development. The Space Launch System (SLS), as it is called, could instead visit the moon of Pluto or return samples from other outer planets. An unmanned flyby mission to Pluto's Charon, sample return missions to Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's Titan, or a sample-gathering flight through Jupiter's atmosphere or the ice water jets of Saturn's Enceladus — all are said to be possible with the 286,000-pound (130,000 kilograms) launch capabilities of the Space Launch System.

Astronomy clubs eye night skies and an uncertain future

Who knows what might be out there? The darkening sky above Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington was star-speckled and seemingly endless. On this October night, it held the potential of seeing a flurry of shooting stars stream across its canvas. Who knew who might come out here? Joe Morris, president of the National Capital Astronomers, came prepared for anyone. He had pieced together a squat, black reflector telescope with an 11-inch lens. Other members of the amateur astronomy club put together two more telescopes on the ground, eager for anyone to stop by for a glance.

Partially Completed ALMA Radio Telescope Already Generating Discoveries

After a large telescope is constructed, engineers and astronomers often have to spend months or years tinkering before it finally begins contributing to science in earnest. But last year, with just one quarter of its construction completed, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array radio telescope—the largest, highest-altitude and most expensive ground-based observatory yet—turned its dishy ears to the skies and began to listen. Already it has begun to sing out its discoveries.

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

The cosmic cauldron has brewed up a Halloween trick in the form of a ghostly face that glows in X-rays, as seen by ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope. The eerie entity is a bubble bursting with the fiery stellar wind of a ‘live fast, die young’ star. The bubble lies 5000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Canis Major, the ‘greater dog’, and can be imagined to take on a dog- or wolf-like face. It spans nearly 60 light-years across and was blown by the powerful stellar wind of the Wolf-Rayet star HD 50896 – the pink star near the centre of the image that makes up one of the object’s piercing eyes.

Man in the moon is unmasked as giant asteroid crater

Scientists say a flattened section of the moon, 3,000 kilometers wide, was likely caused by a collision with an asteroid the size of Austria. The moon's Procellarum basin, the dark part as seen from Earth, is what remains of the impact crater, they said. Its vast size is apparent in relation to the moon's diameter: 3,476 km. (The basin is likened in Japanese folklore to the shape of a rabbit pounding rice cakes.) The research team from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba and other institutions was headed by the institute's Ryosuke Nakamura. It studied the distribution of minerals in mapping data obtained by the Kaguya moon exploration orbiters, satellites which are internationally known as Selene.

Mars rover gets instructions daily from NASA via a network of antennae

We live in a chaos of electromagnetic energy. Visible, infrared and ultraviolet light courses omnidirectionally from the sun. A fraction of it bathes our planet, while some bounces off other planets, moons, comets and meteoroids. The visible light from stars up to 4,000 light-years away can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. With instruments, astronomers can detect gamma rays from stars 13 billion light-years away. Radio waves from remote galaxies help Earth’s official timekeepers monitor our planet’s path around the sun.

Monday, October 29, 2012

NASA Examines Hurricane Sandy as it Affects the Eastern U.S.

On Monday, Oct. 29, Hurricane Sandy was ravaging the Mid-Atlantic with heavy rains and tropical storm force winds as it closed in for landfall. Earlier, NASA's CloudSat satellite passed over Hurricane Sandy and its radar dissected the storm get a profile or sideways look at the storm. NASA's Aqua satellite provided an infrared view of the cloud tops and NOAA's GOES-13 satellite showed the extent of the storm. The National Hurricane Center reported at 11 a.m. EDT on Oct. 29 that Hurricane Sandy is "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and coastal hurricane winds plus heavy Appalachian snows."

ULA engine issue pushes NASA satellite launch to January

The Space Coast has just one more rocket launch left in 2012. A NASA satellite launch that was planned in December has moved to January due to a delay in an Air Force mission launching on the same kind of rocket. The Air Force’s launch of a military space plane on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket is now tentatively targeted for Nov. 13, having slipped about two weeks. ULA postponed that launch while it investigates the cause of an upper stage engine’s loss of thrust during an Oct. 4 Delta IV launch from Cape Canaveral that successfully deployed a GPS satellite. The Delta IV and Atlas V use similar RL-10 upper stage engines.

Continuing Work With Scoops at 'Rocknest'

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity on Sol 82 (Oct. 29, 2012) used its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to photograph the diverse rocks in the "Rocknest" area and prepared for an overnight analysis of a soil sample by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument.

NASA's Fermi to Reveal New Findings About the Early Universe

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Nov. 1, to discuss new measurements using gamma rays to investigate ancient starlight with the agency's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Science Journal has embargoed details until 2 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Seoul sets Nov. 9-24 as new window for space rocket launch

South Korea on Monday set new candidate dates for the launch of its first space rocket after a previously scheduled launch was called off due to a defective part. The Launch Preparation Committee set Nov. 9-24 as new candidate dates for the launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), with Nov. 9 singled out as the most likely date. Singling out a specific date is for convenience reasons only, and the actual launch could take place on any of the candidate dates, the committee said.

Galactic Thief: "I Would Have Gotten Away With It, If It Weren't for Those Meddling Astronomers"

One of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way almost got away with theft. However, new simulations convicted the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) of stealing stars from its neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). And the crucial evidence came from surveys looking for something entirely different - dark objects on the outskirts of the Milky Way. Astronomers have been monitoring the LMC to hunt for evidence of massive compact halo objects, or MACHOs. MACHOs were thought to be faint objects, roughly the mass of a star, but their exact nature was unknown. Several surveys looked for MACHOs in order to find out if they could be a major component of dark matter - the unseen stuff that holds galaxies together.

Ceremony held to honor Shenzhou-9 crew

Three astronauts of the Shenzhou-9 mission who conducted China's first manned space docking in June have received awards for their service to the country's space endeavors. Jing Haipeng, commander of the Shenzhou-9 flight crew, was honored with a second-class aerospace achievement medal; Liu Wang and Liu Yang, who is China's first female astronaut, were both conferred third-class medals. They were given the awards on Monday at a ceremony, following a decision by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission (CMC).

Canadian Rover May Fly on NASA's Deep Space Rocket

The Canadian Space Agency is in early talks to launch a rover beyond Earth orbit aboard NASA's huge new deep space rocket, according to a senior Canadian official. Canada recently unveiled seven rover prototypes that cost a total of $60 million. Some of the rovers have been field-tested with NASA and impressed officials with the U.S. space agency, according to the CSA's Gilles Leclerc. As such, Leclerc said NASA is considering flying a rover on an early flight of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is slated to become operational in the early 2020s. However, he allowed the discussions are preliminary given the upcoming U.S. presidential election and uncertainty about future NASA funding.

Space shuttle Endeavour exhibit to launch Tuesday

For more than two decades, officials at the California Science Center dreamed of showcasing a space shuttle at the Exposition Park museum. It took a nationwide competition, a three-day cross-country flight and a harrowing 12-mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles, but on Tuesday, that dream will come true. The free, state-run museum will open its doors to the display pavilion housing the retired orbiter Endeavour, which arrived at the Science Center about two weeks ago. The 18,000-square-foot building will showcase the museum's prized exhibit until a new air and space wing is built.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dragon Returns to Earth

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft spashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 3:22 p.m. EDT Sunday about 250 miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, marking a successful conclusion to the first contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule will be taken by boat to a port near Los Angeles, where it will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing. Some cargo will be removed at the port in California and returned to NASA within 48 hours. This includes a GLACIER freezer packed with research samples collected in the orbiting laboratory's unique microgravity environment. These samples will help advance multiple scientific disciplines on Earth and provide critical data on the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The remainder of the cargo will be returned to Texas with the capsule.

China unveils large radio telescope in Shanghai

A massive radio telescope for use in space observation was unveiled Sunday at the foot of Sheshan Mountain in Shanghai. The telescope will be used to track and collect data from satellites and space probes. The newly-built radio telescope can pick up eight different frequency bands and also track Earth satellites, lunar exploration satellites and deep space probes, said Hong Xiaoyu, head of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory.

South Korea likely to retry launching its first carrier rocket in November

South Korea will most likely put off its third attempt to launch a satellite with its first-ever space carrier rocket, KSLV-1, for three or four weeks after an unsuccessful try on Friday, a source in the Russian space rocket industry said on Saturday. "The South Koreans simply won't be able to fit into the current launch window for the satellite, which opened on October 26 and closes on October 31," the source told Interfax-AVN. The next window would open after November 20, he said.

Coolant leak prompts Nov. 1 station spacewalk

NASA engineers are putting the finishing touches on plans for a spacewalk Nov. 1 to isolate a small leak in the ammonia cooling system used to carry away heat generated by the electrical gear that stores and distributes power from one of the International Space Station's eight huge solar panels. The leak is tiny, the equivalent to a hole about the diameter of a human hair. But if it is not bypassed or repaired, the coolant in the channel 2B solar array will drop below safety margins over the next few months, taking down a critical power channel.

Splitting event in comet 168P/Hergenrother

Over the past few weeks, comet 168P/Hergenrother has been under intense scrutiny due to its strange behaviour, namely a 6 magnitude surge in its brightness in a matter of several nights. Simultaneously the central condensation became markedly brighter and sharper, whilst the coma was also seen to grow in size. This has triggered the attention of amateur and professional astronomers alike.

'Largest meteorite' to fall in Poland

Professor Wojciech Stankowski, a retired lecturer at Poznan's University of Adam Mickiewicz told the PAP news agency: “At the beginning of this month, a meteorite of about 300 kg was found,” he said. “It is by far the largest to have been found in this part of Europe up until now,” he added. The marvel from outer space was found in the Morasko Meteorite Nature Reserve, which was established in 1976 at a site where meteorites were first discovered in 1914.

Virgin Eyes WhiteKnightTwo for Zero-g Parabolic Flights

Virgin Galactic, which plans to offer suborbital space trips aboard the air-launchedSpaceShipTwo, is looking into offering zero-gravity parabola flights aboard the carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo. The twin-boomed, four-engine aircraft, designed and manufactured by Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., could carry a total of 14 passengers for zero-gravity flights — six in the right boom and eight in the left, said Virgin Galactic lead pilot David Mackay. The Federal Aviation Administration, however, may have other ideas.

KSC could facilitate military and commercial operators in the OPFs

As Kennedy Space Center’s transition from the home base of the Shuttle fleet to a multi-user spaceport continues, managers at the facility have noted that the two vacated Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs) yet to secure a customer could securely host a military vehicle – such as the X-37B – next to a commercial customer.

Antares rocket tests halted by Hurricane Sandy

Threats of high winds and flooding from Hurricane Sandy are forcing Orbital Sciences Corp. to suspend tests of its Antares rocket and secure facilities at a coastal launch site in Virginia, a spokesperson said Friday. The Antares rocket's first stage was moved Oct. 1 to the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore for several weeks of testing, fueling exercises and an engine hotfire ahead of the new launcher's first liftoff. According to Barron Beneski, an Orbital spokesperson, workers at the coastal launch site are sealing doors on the Antares horizontal integration facility and closing access doors, disconnecting propellant lines, and safing systems on the rocket's first stage on launch pad 0A at Wallops.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid

In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you’d better hope that it’s blindingly white. A pale asteroid would reflect sunlight — and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course. How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to an MIT graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs. Sung Wook Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says if timed just right, pellets full of paint powder, launched in two rounds from a spacecraft at relatively close distance, would cover the front and back of an asteroid, more than doubling its reflectivity, or albedo. The initial force from the pellets would bump an asteroid off course; over time, the sun’s photons would deflect the asteroid even more.

China launches another satellite for independent navigation system

China successfully launched another satellite into space for its indigenous global navigation and positioning network at 11:33 p.m. Beijing Time Thursday, the launch center said. The satellite, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan, was boosted by a Long March-3C carrier rocket. It was the 16th satellite for the Beidou system, or Compass system. The network is planned to officially provide services for most parts of the Asia-Pacific region in early 2013 and begin offering global services by 2020.

Orbitec’s Liquid Vortex Engine Notches First Successful Test Flight

Orbital Technologies Corp. (Orbitec) announced Oct. 25 the first successful flight test of its Vortex liquid rocket engine, which is designed to serve as a new upper stage for the medium- and heavy-lift rockets U.S. government agencies and commercial firms rely on to send satellites into orbit. During an Oct. 20 test flight in Mojave, Calif., the Vortex engine was integrated in a P-15 Prospector rocket designed and built by Garvey Spacecraft Corp. of Long Beach, Calif., and California State University, Long Beach.

Chile's ALMA probes for origins of universe

Earth's largest radio telescope is growing more powerful by the day on this remote plateau high above Chile's Atacama desert, where visitors often feel like they're planting the first human footprints on the red crust of Mars. The 16,400-foot (5,000-meter) altitude, thin air and mercurial climate here can be unbearable. Visitors must breathe oxygen from a tank just to keep from fainting. Winds reach 62 mph (100 km) and temperatures drop to 10 below zero (minus 25 Celsius). But for astronomers, it's paradise.

NASA, Air Force Haggling Over Cost Sharing on Engine Project

Negotiations on a proposal in which NASA and the U.S. Air Force would jointly fund an Aerojet-led propulsion project that could pave the way for a U.S. alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine are bogged down over cost sharing issues, according to government and industry officials. The impasse centers on how much funding the Air Force would provide for tests Aerojet has proposed as part of a program aimed at upgrading NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) crew and cargo rocket. Aerojetis one of four companies NASA selected in July to work on liquid- and solid-fueled booster concepts meant to improve SLS’s lift capacity and affordability.

Seoul halts rocket launch due to potential fuel leak

South Korea postponed its launch of a space rocket Friday due to a problem that was detected only hours before the scheduled liftoff. Cho Yul-rae, vice minister of education, science and technology, said the launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) will be delayed at least three days. "A leak has been detected from a connection between the first-stage rocket of the KSLV-1 and the launch pad," Cho told a press briefing. The problem was detected during a final inspection of the space rocket, also known as Naro-1, which was earlier scheduled to be launched between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

New Study Brings a Doubted Exoplanet 'Back from the Dead'

A second look at data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reanimating the claim that the nearby star Fomalhaut hosts a massive exoplanet. The study suggests that the planet, named Fomalhaut b, is a rare and possibly unique object that is completely shrouded by dust. Fomalhaut is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and lies 25 light-years away. In November 2008, Hubble astronomers announced the exoplanet, named Fomalhaut b, as the first one ever directly imaged in visible light around another star. The object was imaged just inside a vast ring of debris surrounding but offset from the host star. The planet's location and mass -- no more than three times Jupiter's -- seemed just right for its gravity to explain the ring's appearance.

Max Planck scientists discover record-breaking millisecond pulsar with new analysis method

Pulsars are the compact remnants from explosions of massive stars. Some of them spin around their own axis hundreds of times per second, emitting beams of radiation into space. Until now, they could only be found through their pulsed radio emissions. Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Hanover assisted by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy have discovered a millisecond pulsar solely via its pulsed gamma radiation. A new data analysis method developed by the AEI was crucial for the success. The pulsar is accompanied by an unusual sub-stellar partner, which it is vaporizing, hence the name “black widow”.

Assessing Drop-Off to Mars Rover's Observation Tray

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission's 78th sol (Oct. 24, 2012) to view soil material on the rover's observation tray. The observations will help assess movement of the sample on the tray in response to vibrations from sample-delivery and sample-processing activities of mechanisms on the rover's arm.

Europe Eyes Funding for Miniature Robotic Space Plane

A European-built robot space plane could be soaring in orbit before the end of the decade if the program to develop it gains funding approval next month. The Innovative Space Vehicle (ISV) would be Europe's civilian equivalent of the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a robotic miniature space shuttle that has flown on two missions since 2010. The unmanned space plane would be much smaller than the Air Force vehicle, however.

Monster Galaxy May Have Been Stirred Up By Black-hole Mischief

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a remarkable new view of a whopper of an elliptical galaxy that may have been puffed up by the actions of one or more black holes in its core. Spanning a little more than one million light-years, the galaxy is about 10 times the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy. The bloated galaxy is a member of an unusual class of galaxies with a diffuse core filled with a fog of starlight where there would normally be a concentrated peak of light around a central black hole. Viewing the core is like seeing a city with no downtown, just houses sprinkled across a vast landscape.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NASA's Cassini Sees Burp at Saturn After Large Storm

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought. Data from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) instrument revealed the storm's powerful discharge sent the temperature in Saturn's stratosphere soaring 150 degrees Fahrenheit (83 kelvins) above normal. At the same time, researchers at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md., detected a huge increase in the amount of ethylene gas, the origin of which is a mystery. Ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas, isn't typically observed on Saturn. On Earth, it is created by natural and man-made sources.

Branson: Virgin space project keeps being delayed

British billionaire Richard Branson says his space tourism project keeps being pushed back and isn't sure of an exact date for the first launch.He says it will be at least another 12 or 18 months before the Virgin Galactic venture can offer paid space travel to adventurers. The founder of the Virgin Group met with students on his first visit to Poland on Wednesday, where he came to launch Virgin Academy, which will help young people kick start their own businesses.

Curiosity may one day return to Earth, says Nasa boss

The director of Nasa's Mars exploration programme has spoken of hopes that one day the rover Curiosity might be brought back to Earth by astronauts. Doug McCuistion said it was his personal hope that humans would visit the Red Planet in the 2030s or 2040s. He said he could imagine astronauts walking up to Curiosity. McCuistion said the roving laboratory's mission was scheduled to last two years, but it could have enough power for 20 years.

S. Korea, U.S. Pact To Boost Joint Space Cooperation

U.S. and South Korean militaries will continue their close cooperation against wide-ranging global security challenges and strengthen their cooperation in space and cyberspace, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday. In a joint news conference after the 44th U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative meeting here, Panetta and South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin affirmed that the nearly 59-year-old alliance will remain a cornerstone of stability in Northeast Asia into the future.

SpaceX Dragon OK'd to come home

SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on Sunday is set to end an 18-day stay at the International Space Station and return to Earth, NASA confirmed Wednesday. Station mission managers unanimously gave a “go” for the departure to proceed despite a glitch that may make one of Dragon’s three flight computers unavailable. The computer was knocked out of sync with the other two when it automatically reset itself without commands from the ground, but officials said the problem would not limit the spacecraft’s ability to fly home safely.

China to launch 11 meteorological satellites by 2020

China will launch 11 meteorological satellites before 2020 to boost the country's weather monitoring network, according to the country's meteorological satellite development plan (2011-2020) released on Wednesday.