Dedicated Team of Scientists Discover Habitable-Zone Earth-Size Planet in Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) — In a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, co-authored by SETI Institute scientist Jeff Coughlin, astronomers using Kepler data have identified a planet nearly the same size of Earth that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. 

This new world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our Sun.  Only 6% bigger than the Earth, it shares its sun with a planet much like Venus, Kepler-1649b, which was discovered three years ago. Although NASA’s Kepler space telescope was retired in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the signals Kepler detected. 

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NIAC Award: Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus

Image depicting the Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus. (Credits: Eldar Noe Dobrea)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

Heat Exchange-Driven Aircraft for Low Altitude and Surface Exploration of Venus

Eldar Noe Dobrea
Planetary Science Institute

We propose to investigate a fixed wing aircraft platform concept capable of flying over multiple sites in close proximity to the surface of Venus in a cyclic manner. Central to this investigation is the development of a system capable of using the heat from the Venusian atmosphere to power a heat engine capable of supplying propulsion and power to the aircraft.

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NIAC Award: Lightweight Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration

Graphic rendering of the Lightweight Multifunctional Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration and Locomotion. (Credits: Javid Bayandor)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Lightweight Multifunctional Planetary Probe for Extreme Environment Exploration and Locomotion

Javid Bayandor
State University Of New York, Buffalo

With many characteristics similar to Earth, Venus has long been considered of high scientific interest to NASA. The Venus surface temperatures near 460°C and pressures of 93 bar have made long duration surface missions infeasible.

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BepiColombo Takes Last Snaps of Earth en route to Mercury

A sequence of images taken by the MCAM selfie cameras on board of the European-Japanese Mercury mission BepiColombo as it neared Earth ahead of its gravity-assist flyby manoeuvre in April 2020. Images in the sequence were taken in 10-minute intervals from 11:25 UTC until 21:04 UTC on 9 April 2020, less than a day before the closest approach. (Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

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Xplore Selects Orbit Fab’s RAFTI Design Standard for its Exploration Missions

Xcraft (Credit: Xplore)

March 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington (Xplore PR) – Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space As A ServiceTM today announced they are integrating the Orbit Fab RAFTI into the XcraftTM, Xplore’s highly-capable, multi-mission ESPA-class spacecraft.

The RAFTI, which stands for Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, allows for reliable propellant transfers in the harshest space environments. It is ideal for mission destinations in any orbit, and thus aligns with Xplore’s ability to fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, LaGrange points, Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and other locations in our inner solar system, more than 320 million km (200 million miles) from Earth.

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NASA Wants Your Help Designing a Venus Rover Concept

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under a grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, is running a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover. The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge is seeking the public’s designs for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept.

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NASA Selects Four Possible Solar System Missions

Artist concept of the solar system. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for new missions. Although they’re not official missions yet and some ultimately may not be chosen to move forward, the selections focus on compelling targets and science that are not covered by NASA’s active missions or recent selections. Final selections will be made next year.

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The Return to Venus and What It Means for Earth

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Sue Smrekar really wants to go back to Venus. In her office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the planetary scientist displays a 30-year-old image of Venus’ surface taken by the Magellan spacecraft, a reminder of how much time has passed since an American mission orbited the planet. The image reveals a hellish landscape: a young surface with more volcanoes than any other body in the solar system, gigantic rifts, towering mountain belts and temperatures hot enough to melt lead.

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Tethers Unlimited Aims to Put SPIDERs on Mars

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the 1970’s, David Bowie sang about Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars. If Tethers Unlimited has its way, the Red Planet will be crawling with them.

Earlier this month, NASA selected the Bothell, Washington-based company for a small business award to work on its Sensing and Positioning in Deep Environments with Retrieval (SPIDER) surface exploration system.

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NIAC Award: Bioinspired Ray for Venus Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration

Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (Credit: Javid Bayandor)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

BREEZE- Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration
Javid Bayandor
State University of New York

The Bio-inspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (BREEZE) combines inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics to create a highly efficient flier to explore the Venus atmosphere. This flier would take data while below the main cloud layer at approximately 50 km and re-charge using solar panels in the middle atmosphere at approximately 60+ km.

Tensioning cables would control the volume to allow the craft to rise and fall in the atmosphere. The bio-inspired kinematics will maximize flight efficiency while allowing a so-far unattained degree of control for a small inflatable flier in the upper atmosphere of Venus.

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NIAC Award: Ripcord Innovative Power System

Ripcord Innovative Power System (Credit: Noam Izenberg)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

RIPS: Ripcord Innovative Power System
Noam Izenberg
Johns Hopkins University

Descent probe or lander power is a key resource for planetary exploration, and is a particular challenge where solar power is difficult to utilize efficiently and alternative power sources are expensive, risky, or complex. Short duration, battery powered probes have successfully landed and returned data from the surfaces of cloud-shrouded Venus.

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NIAC Award: Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions

Power beaming for long life Venus surface missions (Credit: Erik Brandon)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions
Erik Brandon
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

A new approach to support long duration Venus surface missions will be investigated, which will address the difficult challenge of surface power generation in such an extreme environment. The key mission concept centers on the use of a dual vehicle architecture—one vehicle is a high altitude platform that provides power generation in the more forgiving upper atmosphere of Venus, the other vehicle being a lander that stores and uses the generated power to execute the mission. These two spacecraft (and spacecraft functions) are tied together via an innovative power beaming system.

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Billionaire Milner Eyes Private Missions to Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Hydrothermal activity in Enceladus’ core and the rise of organic-rich bubbles. (Credit: ESA; F. Postberg et al — 2018)

Billionaire Yuri Milner, founder of Breakthrough Initiatives, is eying a private missions to search for life elsewhere in the Solar System, Space.com reports.

Breakthrough Initiatives, which already scans the heavens for possible signals from faraway alien civilizations, is considering looking for E.T. on worlds close to home, founder Yuri Milner said.

“We are thinking very seriously about solar system-based initiatives,” Milner said here Sunday (Nov. 4) at the seventh annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “We’re thinking, within our foundation, is there something we can do, privately funded, which will supplement the government-funded projects?

{…]

So, where might this putative Breakthrough mission go? Milner cited as possibilities Jupiter’s moon Europa and the Saturn satellite Enceladus, both of which have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy shells, as well as Venus.

Venus may seem like an odd choice, given that its surface is bone-dry and hot enough to melt lead. But conditions in the clouds, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) up, are much more life-friendly, Milner noted.











Paragon Developing Advanced Radiator for Inflatable Habitats

Paragon Space Development Corporation will develop a flexible radiator for inflatable habitats and an improved condenser for use on human space missions with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Tuscon, Ariz.-based company for two contracts under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 program. The agreements are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The target market for Paragon’s Flexible Radiator (FlexRAD) is “long duration human spaceflight exploration missions and other spacecraft” that use a single loop  active thermal control system (ATCS).

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