NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has had it’s pre-ship checkout and delivery to Cape Canaveral milestones completed. It is designed to search for Earth-like planets around other stars – 140,000 stars are on tap to be examined. The mission is currently scheduled to last 3.5 years, but if other recent NASA spacecraft are a guide, that mission could be extended. Just look at Hubble or the Mars rovers. Launch is set for March 5.
Earth’s moon might have had an internal magnetic dynamo, which made lunar rocks magnetic for millions of years. A rock brought back by an Apollo 17 geologist has provided this rather surprising find.
Methane plumes have been found by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter (starting in 2003 and seen every Martian spring to summer since). They do not automatically mean microbes are outgassing them. Their source has not been positively identified. One planetary science team is planning to develop a new device for a future rover to track the origin of the methane (some details here). To do so, the future rover would have to be sent to a site where methane has been detected.
Last month, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. were chosen as the two private companies to develop and launch spacecraft to carry supplies to the International Space Station. A third company, PlanetSpace has filed a protest with the GAO. PlanetSpace earned a higher score and offered a lower price than Oribal Sciences. The GAO decision will be made available by April 24.
An Earth scientist could become the next Chief of NASA, replacing Mike Griffin.