A computer-generated image of Cassini entering Saturn's atmosphere.

To Infinity and Beyond: Cornell Astronomers Bid Farewell to Cassini

After 20 years, NASA’s Cassini mission ended with the spacecraft’s spectacular plunge into Saturn. To the very end, Cassini had its antenna pointed back at Earth to relay information about the planet’s atmosphere. Over the years, many Cornell astronomers had the opportunity to work closely on the project and have plenty of memories to share. Among them is Prof. Joseph Burns, astronomy, who is a member of Cassini’s imaging teams.

“Were it not for Saturn’s fleet of 62 satellites, the cloud of dust orbiting Saturn would assume the form of a circular disk in the equatorial plane, rather than discrete rings”, Burns said. “Cassini taught us that in order to understand the behavior of planetary ring systems, we need to observe them continuously over an extended period of time.

Thermal vacuum chamber where the CubeSat was tested.

Research Team Prototypes Spacecraft Propelled by Water

What would you explore if you owned your own spacecraft? The rings of Saturn? The surface of Mars? Research conducted by Cornell University’s Cislunar Explorers could soon make these dreams a reality. By trying to create a spacecraft capable of using water as rocket fuel, Prof. Mason Peck, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his team of engineers, hopes to revolutionize space exploration.

An image of Titan from NASA's Cassini Orbiter

Saturn’s Moon, Titan, Might Be Able to Support Life

Corrections Appended

The presence of life on Earth is tied in multiple ways to the presence of one substance — water. Water is the biggest component in most living organisms and has the power to leave a long-lasting impact on the environment. It is no surprise, then, that astrobiologists have long focused on understanding how exoplanets could develop the right conditions for life. What happens when dynamic cycles of activity are present without water? That is the question that first arose in the mind of one Cornell scientist.

Photo Courtesy of HD Wallpapers

GOOD TASTE ALONE | Science/Fiction

I have to act like I’m typing something because there’s a group of elementary school kids walking by and I want to look responsible. That’s actually the most motivated I’ve felt in weeks, so I’m gonna leave that there. I can only hope that one day, one of those kids will come to Cornell and derive purpose from the nonexistent expectations of a group of kindergarteners. It’s the circle of life. Speaking of the circle of life, but on a cosmic scale that makes ours seem insignificant, yesterday I got to listen to a lecture given by Interstellar producer and renowned astrophysicist Kip Thorne.


Project Team Builds Mars Rover and Provides Interdisciplinary Experience

With the attention that Mars has been getting, lately, a lot of people are now excited about the world of opportunities that it presents. However, even before the discovery of water on Mars in September 2015 or the release of the movie The Martian, a small group of students at Cornell have been working to prepare the next generation Mars rover which can work alongside humans on the planet. The Cornell Mars Rover team participates in the University Rover Challenge, which takes place on the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. The competition encourages college students to design and build a rover that could be used in the field and rovers are tested on the basis of tasks that resemble what a mission from the future might look like. Cornell consistently performs well in the competition, according to John Draikiwicz ’17, the team’s engineering manager.


Laughing in the Face of Solitude: The Martian


I’ve never seen a space movie that made me want to go to space. In space movies, astronauts never head into the unknown, have a pleasant and informative trip, and return on schedule to their families. Instead, nearly every conceivable disaster strikes, leaving the astronauts with the unsettling prospect of their lifeless bodies floating, weightless and irretrievable, somewhere beyond the sky. As a result, space movies are generally grave and somber affairs, from Apollo 13 to Gravity to last year’s Interstellar. Opportunities for humor are scarce when the characters are surrounded by a seemingly limitless abyss which threatens at all times to swallow them.


Student Team Designs Water-Propelled Satellite for NASA Launch Competition

“Shoot for the moon” may be an expression, but for the students working with Prof. Mason Peck, mechanical and aerospace engineering, it could also become a reality. Currently in the top five teams participating in the NASA competition known as CubeQuest, the “Cislunar Explorers” are working to create a satellite capable of orbiting the moon that demonstrates new methods of propulsion and navigation through space. “Ph.D. students and undergraduates with me have the opportunity to engage in basic research that Cornell’s known for and also build something that’s never been flown,” Peck said. “I’m serious when I say flying your senior project is something we do here. And Cornell’s one of relatively few institutions where this is commonplace.”
Hitching a Ride
In 2018, NASA will launch a spacecraft known as the Space Launch System, primarily to test the Orion capsule, which is planned to be the first U.S. human-flight spacecraft since the retirement of the Space Shuttle.

Review: Sins of a Solar Empire

Scientists Seek More Space Exploration

While all presidents since John F. Kennedy have been touting their own space programs, some accomplished their goals and were immortalized in history, but others were never realized and are long since forgotten.