This week was a disappointing one for NASA and fans of space exploration, as the space agency announced that two pioneering projects, the Kepler Space Telescope, and the Dawn spacecraft asteroid explorer, have run out of fuel and both will be left to drift in space.
August 11th saw the launch of NASA’s Parker solar probe. A probe with a unique mission; to beam back a record of the plasma that comprises the Sun’s corona and the magnetic fields which shape it. The probe will fly closer to the Sun than any probe has before, facing brutal heat and radiation, even flying through the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere. The research team behind the mission hope that this data will help solve several mysteries surrounding the Sun, such as what heats this plasma to 200 times temperature of the sun’s surface?
The past month has seen several fairly major developments with regards to the discovery of organic molecules at different locations in the solar system. First NASA announced the discovery of variations in methane concentrations on Mars, followed by the discovery of organic molecules in Martian mudstone. More recently it was revealed that the Cassini probe had observed even more massive organic molecules on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. What is it about these discoveries that point to the possibility of life elsewhere in the Solar-system?