Pathfinder for Autonomous Navigation team members perform tests on spacecraft batteries

NASA To Send 2 Satellites Into Space Designed By Cornell Lab

There’s something about outer space that naturally captures our imagination. From little kids dreaming about becoming astronauts, to full grown adults gazing up at the majesty of the stars, the final frontier timelessly inspires us all. Despite this seemingly natural fascination, few could ever hope to get there because of the exorbitant costs often associated with space flight missions. However, with the advent of 3D printing and work from Space Systems Design Studio – the research lab of Prof. Mason Peck, mechanical and aerospace engineering – this reality is sure to change in the near future. This past March, NASA selected 11 research groups from across the country to partake in their CubeSat launch initiative, which was a project designed to encourage the development of “CubeSats,” or “nano-satellites.” According to NASA, a typical CubeSat unit measures 4×4 inches, and weighs roughly three pounds.

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.


Top NASA Official to Visit Cornell, Speak on Mars Exploration

The organization is currently researching technology — including solar-powered propulsion and space agriculture — that will design long-term missions in which “explorers will be practically independent from spaceship Earth,” according to a release from Cornell’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

A model depicts a prototype of PALLAS as it collects samples

Student Team Crafts Tools to Collect Rocks From Asteroids

In the ongoing quest for space exploration, an asteroid base like Magneto’s Asteroid M from the X-Men universe seems like a distant dream. If NASA hopes to replicate the sophisticated structures built on the asteroid, it’s going to need tools. Plenty of them.  And there’s one team at Cornell that could certainly engineer a few. Cornell University MicroGravity team, one of Cornell’s newest clubs, is collaborating with NASA to create a ‘Float Sample Grabber’ a device that the team hopes will help astronauts safely and securely retrieve rocks from asteroids.

NASA Scientists Discuss New Horizons Spacecraft’s Journey Past Pluto

Nearly 200 Cornell students and faculty members gathered in Schwartz Auditorium Wednesday, to hear Cathy Olkin and Ann Harch — two lead scientists on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto this July — give one of the earliest public presentations about the mission’s history and results. Olkin began the talk by emphasizing the necessity of flying a spacecraft by Pluto, rather than simply observing the dwarf planet from Earth. “This was the best image we had of Pluto at the beginning of this year,” she said, showing a picture of a pixelated white dot. “I spent decades studying this point of light.”

According to Harch, even though New Horizons passed by Pluto quickly, it was able to take pictures, determine the composition of the planet’s surface and atmosphere and gather data about its moons. However, getting New Horizons to Pluto was not easy.