by Ryan Whitwam

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SpaceX is running through Starship prototypes like they’re growing on trees. Just a few weeks after its last rocket exploded following a hard landing, the company succeeded in landing a Starship rocket after its test flight. Sadly, the vessel exploded several minutes later. SpaceX hasn’t talked about the cause of the incident, but it does seem to consider the SN10 flight an overall success despite what transpired after.

All of SpaceX’s current launch operations are based on the Falcon 9, which is certified to carry even astronauts into space. It’s also the basis for the company’s Falcon…


by Ryan Whitwam

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Humans haven’t been great for the health of the planet, but even if we pollute ourselves to extinction, Earth will continue on. It’s survived enormous asteroid impacts and megavolcanoes, after all. A few primates aren’t going to do worse in the long-run. The ultimate fate of life on Earth lies a billion years in the future. A new study supported by NASA’s exoplanet habitability research lays out how the sun will eventually bake the planet, turning Earth from a lush, oxygen-rich world to a dried-up husk with no complex life.

NASA is interested in the future of…


by Ryan Whitwam

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The NASA Perseverance rover touched down on Mars last month, kicking off what we all hope will be many years studying the red planet. Perseverance isn’t the only robot in that part of the solar system. The ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is one of several missions looking down at the surface, and it has spotted the Perseverance rover on the floor of Jezero Crater. That’s it in the image above.

Perseverance touched down in the crater on February 18th, and it has yet to take its first drive. With the rover stationary, it was a simple…


by Ryan Whitwam

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When we talk about reusable rockets’ it’s usually because SpaceX has accomplished another unheard-of feat. This time it’s California-based Rocket Lab talking a big game about reusable rockets. The company says its upcoming Neutron rocket will be ideal for deploying mega-constellations, and it’ll have a reusable first-stage a la the Falcon 9.

Rocket Lab’s current launch vehicle is called Electron, a small-lift rocket that has completed 16 launches, including one successful soft landing in the ocean after which the first stage was recovered for refurbishment. Neutron will up the ante in several ways.

For starters, Neutron will…


by Ryan Whitwam

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It’s not every day you send something to another planet, and NASA likes to adorn its robotic explorers with a little decoration to make these missions extra-special. That’s why the people of Earth were invited to add their name to a tiny silicon chip mounted on the rover. Now that the rover is on the surface and there are dozens of photos of its hardware, the internet has spotted another fun ornamentation: a cute little rover family.

NASA is invested in anthropomorphizing its rovers — you need look no further than Twitter to confirm that. So, it’s…


by Ryan Whitwam

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NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe in 2018, but the spacecraft just returned an amazing shot of Venus from its most recent flyby. According to NASA, Parker spotted a previously unseen glow that could be a product of oxygen in the inhospitable planet’s atmosphere. The unexpected clarity of surface features also has scientists reassessing how sensitive Parker’s cameras are.

Parker is designed to study the sun, but it also spends a lot of time near Venus. To analyze the sun’s corona without getting fried, Parker moves at incredible speeds. It’s currently the fastest human-made object, moving at…


by Joel Hruska

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Image by Staff Sgt Joely Santiago, USAF.

The Air Force has announced a new study into the tactical aviation requirements of future aircraft, dubbed TacAir. In the process of doing so, Air Force chief of staff General Charles Q. Brown finally admitted what’s been obvious for years: The F-35 program has failed to achieve its goals. There is, at this point, little reason to believe it will ever succeed.

According to Brown, the USAF doesn’t just need the NGAD (Next Generation Air Dominance) fighter, a sixth-generation aircraft — it also needs a new, “5th-generation minus / 4.5th-generation aircraft.” …


by Ryan Whitwam

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The science of optics has revealed the scale and detail of the universe for centuries. With the right piece of glass, you can look at a distant galaxy or the wiggling flagella on a single bacteria. But lenses need to focus — they need to move. Engineers at MIT have developed a new type of “metalens” that can shift focus without any moving parts. This could change the way we build devices such as cameras and telescopes.

Currently, focusing a lens on objects requires the glass to move in some capacity, and that adds complication and bulk…


by Ryan Whitwam

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NASA’s Perseverance rover has been on the surface of Mars for several days, giving the team here on Earth time to run system checks and download preliminary data from the robot. The agency has now released the first large batch of media from the mission, including hundreds of still images and the first video and audio ever recorded on Mars.

Some past Mars missions have sent back “videos,” but those were actually GIFs stitched together from a handful of still frames. Perseverance has 23 cameras, several of which can record full-motion video. …


by Ryan Whitwam

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The general idea of a stellar object with such intense gravity that even light cannot escape dates back to the late 18th century. However, it wasn’t until Einstein’s contributions in the early 20th century that we had the necessary theoretical underpinnings to go looking for such an object. Cygnus X-1 caught the attention of scientists because of its X-ray signature. Today, Cygnus X-1 is widely accepted to be the first black hole ever discovered, but we might not know as much about it as we thought.

Scientists have been looking for black holes ever since general relativity…

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