Elon Musk probably writes "try to save the world" at the top of his to-do list every day, above running companies that are revolutionizing energy, transportation, and space travel. In the next decade, he's hoping to pioneer humanity's next great adventure: Interplanetary travel, and colonization of other worlds.
Mercury can't get a break. Not only is it the smallest officially recognized planet in our Solar System, but it's also shrinking. In a study published in Nature Geoscience, new analysis of photos taken by NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft show distinct landforms that indicate the planet is still contracting as it slowly cools down from its molten early years at the start of the Solar System.
At 7 o'clock on the morning on April 4, 1968, Apollo 6 thundered off the launch pad. Everything looked perfect until the rocket started vibrating in flight so hard it was almost bouncing up and down. The so-called pogo effect (it's almost like the rocket is bouncing on a pogo stick) increased g-forces in the spacecraft and shook the rocket's frame so hard that loose structural panels on the lunar module adapter section fell off. The irregular launch also destroyed the flight path, leaving the spacecraft in a highly elliptical orbit rather than the planned circular one. Luckily Apollo 6 was unmanned, but the problem was bigger than one mission. NASA had spent years solving the pogo problem only to see it return, this time threatening manned lunar missions.
Pluto's shown us its heart, and its potential for vast liquid water ocean habitats so far from the Sun — on a cosmic body we demoted, no less — is mind-boggling in itself. To add to the "holy wow" of what Pluto can tell us, scientists now have reason to believe that the dwarf planet's ocean is incredibly deep.