Triceratops trio unearthed in Wyoming
The bones being unearthed near Newcastle, Wyoming, may be among the most complete Triceratops skeletons yet found.
June 3rd, 2013
11:05 PM ET

Triceratops trio unearthed in Wyoming

By Matt Smith, CNN

There were three of them, one of them probably a child, and at least one met a gruesome end at the hands of a terrifying predator.

About 67 million years later, a Wyoming rancher led scientists to their remains. Now experts are digging out one of the most complete skeletons yet of a Triceratops, the three-horned, plant-eating dinosaur that was one of the last of the giant reptiles.

"There's only three other skeletons that will match the completeness of one of the specimens we're excavating right now," said paleontologist Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.

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Filed under: Dinosaurs • Discoveries • On Earth
Where life might live beyond Earth
May 15th, 2013
05:12 PM ET

Planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft in trouble

By Matt Smith, CNN

The future of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space observatory was in question Wednesday after a part that helps aim the spacecraft stopped working, the U.S. space agency said.

Controllers found Tuesday that Kepler had gone into a "safe mode" and one of the reaction wheels needed to orient the spacecraft would not spin, Associate NASA Administrator John Grunsfeld told reporters. NASA engineers are trying to figure out whether they can get the balky part back into service or whether they can resume control by another method, Grunsfeld said.

"We're not ready to call the mission over," he said. But at roughly 40 million miles from Earth, "Kepler is not in a place where I can go up and rescue it."

The Kepler mission has identified 132 planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009, leading scientists to believe that most stars in our galaxy have planets circling them. It has gone into a "safe mode" with its solar panels facing back at the sun, giving controllers intermittent communication with the craft as it spins.

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Filed under: In Space • Kepler
All about asteroids
April 12th, 2013
02:15 PM ET

NASA shoots for asteroid, new manned missions

NASA plans to capture an asteroid and start sending astronauts aloft again by 2017, even with a tighter budget, the U.S. space agency announced Wednesday.

The Obama administration is asking Congress for just over $17.7 billion in 2014, down a little more than 1% from the nearly $17.9 billion currently devoted to space exploration, aeronautics and other science.

The request includes $105 million to boost the study of asteroids, both to reduce the risk of one hitting Earth and to start planning for a mission to "identify, capture, redirect, and sample" a small one. The plan is to send an unmanned probe out to seize the asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, where astronauts would study it.

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Planet of sound: Meteor blast resonated around Earth
A large chunk of a meteor that exploded over Russia is found in a lake on Friday, February 15.
February 28th, 2013
09:43 AM ET

Planet of sound: Meteor blast resonated around Earth

By Matt Smith, CNN

The meteor that exploded over the steppes of southwestern Russia sent a low-frequency rumble bouncing through the Earth, giving scientists new clues about the biggest cosmic intruder in a century.

The big boom over Chelyabinsk on February 15 also produced a wave of sound thousands of times lower than a piano's middle C - far below the range of human hearing, according to the international agency that watches for nuclear bomb tests. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said that sound wave showed up on sensors from Greenland to Antarctica, making it the largest ever detected by its network.

Scientists then used that wave to calculate the size of the small asteroid that plunged to Earth, said Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at Canada's University of Western Ontario.

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Space telescope spots smallest planet beyond our Sun
February 20th, 2013
04:06 PM ET

Space telescope spots smallest planet beyond our Sun

By Matt Smith, CNN

It's not the kind of place you'd call home: an airless, rocky planet so close to its sun that some metals will melt on its surface.

But it's a big little discovery for NASA's space observatory Kepler. The space agency says the planet, dubbed Kepler-37b, is the smallest yet found beyond our solar system.

Slightly larger than the moon and about a third the size of Earth, it's one of three planets circling the star Kepler-37, NASA announced Wednesday - and the first of dozens of discovered exoplanets known to be smaller than any that orbit our sun.

The findings were reported in this week's edition of the journal Nature.

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Filed under: In Space • Kepler
NASA cheers new Landsat launch
An Atlas-V rocket carrying a Landsat satellite lifts off Monday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
February 12th, 2013
11:58 AM ET

NASA cheers new Landsat launch

NASA put its newest Landsat satellite into orbit on Monday, extending a long-running program that has been beaming back dramatic images of Earth for more than 40 years.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission - to be designated Landsat 8, once it's up and running - lifted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base atop an Atlas V booster.

The $855 million platform, about the size of a sport-utility vehicle, has been in the works for years amid concerns about maintaining the U.S. suite of geoscience satellites.

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Filed under: In Space
'Fireflies' to scope out space rocks for mining
January 23rd, 2013
05:15 PM ET

'Fireflies' to scope out space rocks for mining

Space, it has been said, is big. Really big.

But big enough for two companies that want to mine near-Earth asteroids?

A venture announced Tuesday in California hopes so.

Deep Space Industries says it wants to start sending miniature scout probes, dubbed "Fireflies," on one-way missions to near-Earth asteroids as soon as 2015. Larger probes, "Dragonflies," that will bring back 50- to 100-pound samples from prospective targets could be on their way by 2016, company CEO David Gump told reporters.

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Filed under: In Space
SpaceX reviews engine failure, but Dragon on course
People watch as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule are readied for launch Sunday in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
October 9th, 2012
01:05 PM ET

SpaceX reviews engine failure, but Dragon on course

The SpaceX Dragon capsule remains on course for the International Space Station despite losing one of nine booster engines, but a satellite launched on the same rocket didn't reach its intended orbit, its operator said Monday.

SpaceX launched the first commercial space cargo mission on Sunday night. But a minute and 19 seconds after the Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, one of the nine Merlin engines that power the rocket "lost pressure suddenly," the company disclosed Monday.

The rocket "did exactly what it was designed to do," as its flight computer made adjustments to keep the Dragon headed into the proper orbit. The unmanned capsule, which is carrying about 1,000 pounds of supplies for the space station, is scheduled to arrive at the orbital platform on Wednesday, SpaceX said.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space
Mercury probe points to different origin for 1st planet
September 18th, 2012
06:33 PM ET

Mercury probe points to different origin for 1st planet

X-ray data from NASA's MESSENGER probe points to high levels of magnesium and sulfur on the surface of the planet Mercury, suggesting its makeup is far different from that of other planets, scientists say.

The unmanned orbiter has been beaming back data from the first planet for a year and a half. Readings from its X-ray spectrometer point to a planet whose northern volcanic plains formed through upwellings of rocks more exotic than those often found on the Earth, the Moon or Mars, said Shoshana Weider, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

"Before this MESSENGER mission, a lot of people assumed it was very like the Moon - it's dark, it's grey," Weider said. But while the Moon's surface formed when light materials floated to the top of an ocean of molten rock, the low level of calcium on Mercury indicates that didn't happen there.

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Filed under: In Space
Astronaut's legacy: A boost for women in science
July 25th, 2012
02:47 PM ET

Astronaut's legacy: A boost for women in science

After two space shuttle flights in the 1980s, astronaut Sally Ride spent much of the rest of her life trying to encourage children, particularly girls, to give the sciences a shot.

Ride, the first American woman in space, was part of a wave of women who entered the traditionally male disciplines of natural sciences and engineering in the 1970s. One of those she inspired was Catherine "Cady" Coleman, who told CNN's "Newsroom" that she never considered becoming an astronaut before meeting Ride in 1982.

"When I'd think of what they look like, it's those Mercury Seven standing in front of an airplane, a bunch of guys that were older than me with not as much hair," she said. "And suddenly you meet Sally Ride, and it became clear to me that maybe this is something I can pursue."

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