When one door closes…..

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lands for the final time at the Kennedy Space Centre, 5.57am EDT on July 21, 2011 (image: NASA) Thirty years of Space Shuttle flights came to an end earlier this month with the safe landing of Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Centre on July 21. The event was widely covered in…

Onions and Asteroids

Asteroid 4 Vesta (right) and an onion (Vesta image: Ben Zellner, Georgia Southern University; Peter Thomas, Cornell University; NASA) If you want to look inside an onion, all you need to do is cut it with a knife. Easy! But, if you want to look inside an asteroid, the problem is not so straightforward. One…

The darkest hour is just before the dawn

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on its way to Vesta and Ceres after lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7.34 am (EDT) on 27 September 2007 It seems as if unmanned probes are finally getting the media attention they deserve. The long journey home of Hayabusa was, in the truest sense, a space odyssey.…

Gold Dust

The asteroid Itokawa from which the Hayabusa spacecraft has successfully returned sample material to Earth (Image: JAXA) As you may remember, a couple of weeks back, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that, after all, the Hayabusa spacecraft had collected extraterrestrial particles from the asteroid Itokawa. This came as a bit of a shock…