- News Home
5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Deep Space 1 Flames Out
12 November 1998 5:00 pm
The novel ion engine powering NASA's Deep Space 1 asteroid probe unexpectedly shut down on Tuesday, just minutes after being started for the first time. But space agency engineers believe the mysterious failure will only temporarily stall the $152 million mission.
Space scientists knew the 2.5-meter-long spacecraft, launched 24 October, was a risky venture. Its design is testing the feasibility of a dozen futuristic technologies, including artificial intelligence software that will help steer the craft to a rendezvous with an asteroid in July and the innovative ion thruster. The engine, which is lighter and more efficient than conventional combustion motors, uses a spray of ionized xenon molecules to nudge the craft through space. Though the engine's thrust is equivalent to little more than the pressure exerted by a feather resting on a person's skin, in the vacuum of space it can gradually accelerate spacecraft to great speeds over long distances.
But Deep Space 1 won't be speeding up anytime soon unless ground controllers can figure out how to restart the balky engine. Several restart attempts have already failed, but engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are confident they will soon solve the problem, says spokesman John Watson. He notes that similar engines have exhibited temperamental behavior in ground tests. The flame-out, he predicts, will not sink the mission.