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February 9, 2014: Cycling and Climbing Through a Sufferfest, Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury and More

Join radio host Boyd Matson every week for adventure, conservation and green science. This week, they endure a 750-mile climbing and biking Sufferfest, crash during Olympic snowboard halfpipe training leading to a traumatic brain injury, try to save the Great Barrier Reef from dredging, launch the “coolest” space mission ever, chase Shackleton’s legacy across frigid Antarctic waters, enjoy the restorative health benefits of a 30-million person crowd, celebrate with winners’ dominant body language, and investigate 10 deaths high in a Russian mountain pass.

25 Years After Voyager 2, Here’s What We Know About Uranus

Has it been a while since your last physical exam? Consider this: It’s been 25 years since anyone took a close look at Uranus. Uranus, as seen by Voyager 2. —Picture courtesy NASA/JPL The Voyager 2 spacecraft, which launched in 1977, made its closest approach to Uranus on January 24, 1986, coming within 50,600 miles…

Why Did 400 People Volunteer for a One-Way Trip to Mars?

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of the Journal of Cosmology until today, maybe because it only started in 2009. According to the “About” page, the Journal of Cosmology is a peer-reviewed, free, open-access, online publication that gets roughly 50,000 readers a month. The editorial board includes names from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,…

Europe Asks If It Can Probe Uranus

This past September the giant planet Jupiter made its closest approach to Earth since 1951, briefly becoming the brightest object in the night sky, aside from the moon. And not too far from that brilliant dot, sky-watchers with even modest binoculars could easily spot one of Jupiter’s distant relatives: the icy gas planet Uranus. Uranus’…

Mars Science Lab ISO Best-fitting Site

One of the perks of coming to a scientific meeting is that, in addition to press briefings and poster sessions, you get to sit down and just chat with some of the bright minds working on solving the mysteries of the universe. In my case, I ran into planetary scientist James Wray of Cornell University…

In Memoriam: Astronaut William “Bill” Lenoir

William Lenoir, an astronaut who flew aboard the first space shuttle mission to deploy commercial satellites, died August 26 from head injuries sustained during a bicycle accident. —Image courtesy NASA Born March 14, 1939, in Miami, Florida, Lenoir earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ultimately graduating with a Ph.D. in electrical…

Obama’s New Plan for NASA: Why Go to an Asteroid?

Capping off weeks of rumor and speculation, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled his proposed plan for NASA yesterday, an interesting mix of caution and ambition that makes some significant tweaks to his predecessor’s push for a human return to the moon. Among the main points, Obama is saying we should skip the moon and…

Apollo 13 Anniversary: What if NASA Had Failed?

Forty years ago today the collective heart of the nation missed a beat when an oxygen tank on the Apollo 13 service module ruptured as the craft was en route to the moon, nearly 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) from Earth. Famously, NASA held true to their motto that failure is not an option, and the…

Mercury Probe Searches for Vulcanoids, Spies Venus

The closer stuff is to the sun, the harder it is to see. —Image courtesy SOHO (ESA & NASA) That’s the fundamental problem with vulcanoids, a hypothetical band of asteroids orbiting between the sun and the closest planet in, Mercury. In fact, for years that was the problem with studying Mercury, since looking at the…

Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion: 24 Years After the Disaster

The space shuttle has been on my mind a lot lately, since 2010 will see the final five shuttle launches for all time. Already NASA has plans to distribute the decommissioned shuttles to museums and education centers. And the space agency just announced that the Endeavour launch, slated for February 7, will be the last-ever…

Final Mercury Flyby: Earth’s MESSENGER Closing In

At 5:55 p.m. ET today, the MESSENGER spacecraft will make its closest pass in its third and final flyby of the innermost planet. Mercury, as seen from MESSENGER on September 28, 2009 —Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington When images from the flyby start pouring in around midnight, scientists hope…

Saturn’s Equinox Arrives

After a successful four-year mission studying the ringed planet, the Cassini probe was still orbiting Saturn in near perfect health in June 2008. So NASA dug deep and found the funding to keep Cassini gainfully employed. The extension, dubbed the Equinox Mission, is primarily focused on changes wrought on Saturn by the onset of equinox,…

Apollo 11 Mania

Did you hear? Today, July 20, 2009, is the 40th anniversary of the day humans first set foot on the moon. Yeah, I know. If you read newspapers/watch TV/surf the web/opened your door this morning, you’ve probably been flooded with Apollo 11 news by now. On one hand, it’s quite the achievement worth celebrating. On…

Jupiter Moons to Get Some Space Agency Love

It seems fitting that in a year being celebrated worldwide as the 400th anniversary of telescopic astronomy, NASA and ESA have chosen one of Galileo’s first loves, Jupiter, as their next top planet. Cut-away images show the insides of Io, Ganymede, … In January of 1610 the famed Italian Galileo Galilei pointed a homemade ‘scope…

NASA to Send Snarky High-School Girl to Jupiter

Okay, not really, but I couldn’t resist. In reality, the agency has approved a new spacecraft dubbed Juno that will launch in 2011, making it into an elliptical polar orbit around Jupiter by 2016. The mission isn’t named for the teenage darling of independent film, but for the Roman goddess who was the jealous sister-wife…