by Ryan Whitwam

NASA is no stranger to making history, but today was a major milestone in our exploration of Mars by any measure. After a brief delay, the Ingenuity helicopter lifted off from the floor of Jezero Crater at 3:34 AM EDT. It flew for several seconds before landing safely. This marks the first time a human-made machine has taken flight on another planet. It’s onward and upward from here.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars along with the Perseverance rover in February 2021, but it wasn’t deployed on the surface until several weeks later when NASA found a suitable location…


by Ryan Whitwam

All that remains of the Tyrannosaurus rex today is a handful of fossils, but how many of these iconic dinosaurs roamed the Earth? A new analysis from the University of California Berkeley estimates that there were about 20,000 adult Tyrannosaurs at any given time during the Cretaceous period. Add that up over millions of years, and there could easily have been 2.5 billion of these dinosaurs in total.

Paleontologists have unearthed only 32 adult T. rex fossils, which is not enough to estimate their range or numbers. Fossils tell us about individual animals — how they lived…


by Ryan Whitwam

You’ve probably heard of Vantablack, the darkest color black in the world that can absorb 99.9 percent of light. Now, researchers from Purdue University have created the whitest white, which can reflect almost as much light. Aside from being a neat technical feat, the team believes the new white paint could help address climate change by saving loads of power.

Purdue engineers didn’t come out of nowhere with the whitest white ever — they announced a record-setting white color in October of last year, too. That one reflected a paltry 95.5 percent of light, but the new…


by Ryan Whitwam

(Credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science)

(Credit: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science)We are constantly learning new things about the universe, but the more we know, the clearer it becomes that we’re missing pieces of the puzzle. The possible existence of dark matter is one of the more vexing missing pieces, but a team from MIT thinks fast-spinning black holes might help narrow the search for these mysterious particles.

The matter we can see in the universe only accounts for 15 percent of what we think is out there based on the rate of expansion. This missing mass is known as dark matter, and…


by Ryan Whitwam

Blue Origin, the private spaceflight firm founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is still trying to get its New Shepard rocket ready for commercial launches, but it just accepted a contract to design something new. The contracts from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) direct Blue Origin, as well as Lockheed Martin and General Atomics, to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system that could accelerate human spaceflight-literally.

Our current rocket technology relies mostly on chemical power, such as the liquid-fueled engines on a Falcon 9 or the upcoming SLS. These rockets have very high thrust…


by Ryan Whitwam

As the late Carl Sagan once famously said, “We’re made of star-stuff.” That’s a clever way to illustrate that all the heavy elements in the universe, even those that make up the seven and a half billion humans on Earth, came from the nuclear inferno of a star at some point. Astronomers mapping our galaxy have stumbled upon a region rich in OB stars, which are believed to be instrumental in seeding the universe with the makings of life.

Until just a few years ago, it was impossible to map these distant star clusters with much accuracy…


by Joel Hruska

Image by Zahi Hawass

A new discovery on the west bank of the Nile, near the iconic Valley of the Kings, has archaeologists buzzing about what may be the most important archaeological find since the location of Tutankhamun’s tomb. An entire lost city has been found, with workshops, palaces, a cemetery, and living quarters. The site is said to be in excellent condition.

“There’s no doubt about it; it really is a phenomenal find,” Salima Ikram, an archaeologist who leads the American University in Cairo’s Egyptology unit, told National Geographic. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Scientists working at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois have made some of the most important discoveries in physics over the years, including the existence of the top quark and characterizing the neutrino. Now, the team working on Fermilab’s Muon g−2 experiment has reported a tantalizing hint of a new type of physics, according to the BBC. If confirmed, this would become the fifth known fundamental force in the universe.

Our current understanding of particle physics is called the Standard Model, which we know is an incomplete picture of the universe. Concepts like the Higgs boson and dark energy…


by Ryan Whitwam

NASA’s ambitious Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) has been in orbit of the asteroid Bennu since 2018, but it’s getting ready to call it a day and head home. NASA reports that OSIRIS-REx has completed a last-minute addition to its mission profile: one final flyby of Bennu to see how its activities changed the surface of the object.

OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in late 2018, but NASA spent almost two years studying the space rock before OSIRIS-REx got down to business. The spacecraft’s Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) allowed it to drift down…


by Ryan Whitwam

Having multiple spacecraft going to and from the International Space Station (ISS) is great for scientific progress, but it can cause the occasional traffic jam. Astronauts have executed the first-ever Dragon port relocation maneuver at the ISS, moving one Dragon to a new port, leaving space for the next few capsules to dock at the station.

It’s common practice on the ISS to keep at least one human-rated spacecraft docked at all times. This provides a means of escape for astronauts in the event of a system failure on the ISS or a high risk of impact…

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