The Spacecraft Fly-by Mystery

5 Aug 2010

'The Spacecraft fly-by mystery - is dark matter the culprit or is there new physics waiting to be discovered?' is another headline grabber from Casey Kazan at on August 3rd. When NASA sends its spacecraft across the solar system they save fuel by making use of sling-shot fly-bys. Rather than firing up thrusters the spacecraft changes trajectory by harnessing the gravitational pulls of the planets. However, this clever trick has had an unexpected side-effect. It seems to produce a small change in the speed of the spacecraft that no one has quite figured out. The acceleration is minor and has no effect on NASA missions but no explanation involving conventional physics has been found - yet it has been persistent since the early 1990s.