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Stories by John Matson

Space

NASA Figures Show That Commercial Rocket Costs Less Than Half as Much as Government-Run Effort Would

SpaceX has been the darling in the past few years of the so-called NewSpace movement—private companies aspiring to do the spacefaring work that was once limited to the space programs of the world's superpowers.The California-based company, headed by Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, has already completed successful demonstrations of its Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon crew capsule to much fanfare...

September 28, 2011 — John Matson
The Sciences

UARS Satellite Reentered Atmosphere over Pacific Ocean, NASA Says [Updated]

A large, defunct satellite spiraling out of orbit and back to Earth will reenter the atmosphere sometime this afternoon or evening tonight or tomorrow morning Eastern Daylight Time has reentered the atmosphere, NASA says.* The 5.7-metric-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which descended uncontrolled, was expected to drop some 500 kilograms of debris somewhere on Earth, although the chances of harm to human life were slim...

September 23, 2011 — John Matson
The Sciences

Your Friday Forecast: Sunny, with a 1-in-21-Trillion Chance of Getting Hit by Orbital Debris

The orbital realm surrounding Earth is filled with millions of pieces of space junk, some of which occasionally fall back to Earth. Rarely, though, does an entire satellite or spacecraft come back uncontrolled, as NASA expects its Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) to do sometime on Friday.The schoolbus-size UARS [ see artist's depiction at left ] weighs some 5.7 metric tons, and NASA predicts that 500 kilograms of debris will survive reentry and land somewhere on Earth...

September 21, 2011 — John Matson
Sustainability

10 Scientists among 2011 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Winners

Twenty-two individuals will soon each be a half-million dollars richer, having won this year's so-called genius grants. The MacArthur Foundation announced its 2011 fellows September 20, a mix of scientists, artists, musicians and others selected "for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future," according to a prepared statement from the foundation...

September 20, 2011 — John Matson
The Sciences

A Plethora of Planets: Number of Known Exoplanets Soaring

"We are really in the age of discovery of new worlds." That was Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, during a September 12 press conference in which European researchers announced the discovery of about 50 planets new to science.There are now 685 exoplanets, or worlds orbiting distant stars, catalogued in the online Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia...

September 20, 2011 — John Matson
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