Geoff Brumfiel

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.

From April of 2016 to September of 2018, Brumfiel served as an editor overseeing basic research and climate science. Prior to that, he worked for three years as a reporter covering physics and space for the network. Brumfiel has carried his microphone into ghost villages created by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. He's tracked the journey of highly enriched uranium as it was shipped out of Poland. For a story on how animals drink, he crouched for over an hour and tried to convince his neighbor's cat to lap a bowl of milk.

Before NPR, Brumfiel was based in London as a senior reporter for Nature Magazine from 2007-2013. There, he covered energy, space, climate, and the physical sciences. From 2002 – 2007, Brumfiel was Nature Magazine's Washington Correspondent.

Brumfiel is the 2013 winner of the Association of British Science Writers award for news reporting on the Fukushima nuclear accident.

New imagery from commercial satellites that was shared with NPR suggests Iran is making repairs and preparing for a space launch, following a recent string of failed attempts.

The imagery, taken Sunday by the commercial firm Planet and shared via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, shows vehicles parked at a building used to assemble Iran's space rockets at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran. A second group of vehicles is visible at a circular launch pad that was heavily damaged during failed launch preparations last year.

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As Franco just mentioned, the president said he wanted to try and persuade remaining partners of the Iran nuclear deal to abandon it. So how far is Iran from actually developing such a weapon? Joining me to parse that out is NPR's Geoff Brumfiel.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

Satellite photos taken Wednesday show that an Iranian missile strike has caused extensive damage at the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which hosts U.S. and coalition troops.

The photos, taken by the commercial company Planet and shared with NPR via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, show hangars and buildings hit hard by a barrage of Iranian missiles that were fired early Wednesday morning local time.

A comet from another star will swing by our sun Dec. 8.

Known as 2I/Borisov, it is the first comet to ever be seen coming from interstellar space. But despite its alien origins, astronomers say it actually looks pretty familiar.

"Borisov is a comet very like what we have in our own solar system," says Michele Bannister, a planetary astronomer at Queen's University Belfast told NPR's Short Wave. Whatever planetary system it formed in, "it's a lot like our own."

Fifty years ago, astronaut Pete Conrad stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.

His first words were: "Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me."

Conrad, who stood at just 5 feet 6 inches tall, was only the third human to set foot on the lunar surface. He did it on November 19, 1969, just four months after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first lunar landing. However, unlike Armstrong and Aldrin, Conrad and fellow astronaut Alan Bean are not household names.

Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET

They look like talk shows, news programs, and comedy accounts, but they all share two common traits: They are unabashedly anti-American, and they carry a warning from YouTube:

"RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian government."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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On the face of it, NASA's newest probe sounds incredible. Known as Dragonfly, it is a dual-rotor quadcopter (technically an octocopter, even more technically an X8 octocopter); it's roughly the size of a compact car; it's completely autonomous; it's nuclear powered; and it will hover above the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.

The first thing Melissa Hanham did when she saw President Trump's tweet last week was take a screen grab.

"My reaction was to immediately save the image to my phone just in case it got taken down," she says.

The wording on the tweet was cryptic: "The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [space launch vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran," the president said. "I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One."

Walmart announced Tuesday that it is ending sales of some kinds of ammunition at its stores. The move came in the wake of two deadly shootings at Walmart stores in recent months, including one in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.

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A commercial satellite image shows just how much of Grand Bahama Island is underwater following days of torrential rain and massive storm surge from Hurricane Dorian.

Amateur satellite trackers say they believe an image tweeted by President Trump on Friday came from one of America's most advanced spy satellites.

The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America's multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites.

President Trump has tweeted what experts say is almost certainly an image from a classified satellite or drone, showing the aftermath of an accident at an Iranian space facility.

"The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [Space Launch Vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran," the president said in a tweet that accompanied the image on Friday. "I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One."

In the latest indication that it may be readying an attempt to launch another space rocket, Iran has given its launch pad a fresh coat of paint.

A satellite image taken by the commercial company Planet shows the pad painted a bright blue. The image, taken August 24, was shared with NPR. Until this month, the launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center had been sporting a burn scar from a previous failed launch attempt. It had also been covered in debris from a possible flash flood at the site this past spring.

On Dec. 14, 1972, a capsule carrying Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface.

It was the day that humans left the moon.

For a long while, they didn't come back, but that's changing. China, India and even smaller nations like Israel and South Korea are all pursuing robotic moon missions. Their lunar ambitions are being driven both by a desire to flex their technological muscles and by the rise of global nationalism.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Victoria Girgis was leading a public outreach session at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., when one of her guests noticed a string of lights moving high overhead.

"Occasionally, you'll see satellites, and they look kind of like shooting stars moving through the sky," Girgis says. "But this was a whole line of them all moving together."

North Korea's newest missile has a striking resemblance to an advanced Russian design, according to experts analyzing images from a test of the weapon on Saturday morning.

The missile, which North Korea describes as a "tactical guided weapon," appears superficially to be nearly identical to Russia's Iskander missile — a highly accurate short-range weapon capable of striking targets more than 150 miles away.

On the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is building what it sees as the future of its energy production.

Earlier this year, President Trump laid out an ambitious plan for U.S. missile defenses. "Our goal is simple," Trump said during a speech in January. "To ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States, anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

To reach that goal, the administration's proposed new defense budget calls for hundreds of millions of dollars to study the use of lasers and particle beams in space. "It's new technology," the president said.

Except it isn't.

India says it shot down one of its own satellites, making it only the fourth country to test an anti-satellite weapon.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful test on Wednesday in a rare national address and on social media. The test would "have a historic impact on generations to come," Modi said in a tweet.

The announcement comes just weeks before national elections in which Modi's party has tried to paint itself as being hawkish on national security.

The Missile Defense Agency says it has conducted another successful test of its ground-based interceptor system.

Monday's test involved a missile carrying a dummy warhead fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean toward the U.S. West Coast. Sensors tracked the missile as it flew, and then two interceptors were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Satellite imagery suggests that North Korea may be taking steps to reactivate a partially decommissioned long-range rocket test site on the country's west coast.

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When President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discuss denuclearization in Hanoi, they are likely to focus on one North Korean nuclear facility in particular. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel introduces us to it.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

Satellite imagery of a space launch center in northern Iran suggests a second attempt to launch a satellite has failed.

The imagery, taken Wednesday by San Francisco-based company Planet and shared with NPR, shows burn scars on a newly painted launchpad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The burns appeared after days of activity at the site, which suggested Iran had been preparing for a launch.

At a Russian base on the Baltic Sea, construction is underway to house a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles.

Tentlike structures have popped up to shelter the mobile missile system, known as Iskander, which is capable of firing weapons with both conventional and nuclear warheads. Recent satellite imagery of the territory, known as Kaliningrad, also shows that old buildings on the base are being demolished.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The U.S. has begun production of a new nuclear weapon. Supporters of the weapon say it's needed to counter Russia, but critics worry it's taking America back to a time when nuclear weapons were more likely to be used. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel has more.

The U.S. Department of Energy has started making a new, low-yield nuclear weapon designed to counter Russia.

The National Nuclear Security Administration says production of the weapon, known as the W76-2, has begun at its Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle. The fact that the weapon was under production was first shared in an e-mail to the Exchange Monitor, an industry trade magazine, and independently confirmed by NPR.

The U.S. Department of Energy has started making a new, low-yield nuclear weapon designed to counter Russia.

The National Nuclear Security Administration says production of the weapon, known as the W76-2, has begun at its Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle. The fact that the weapon was under production was first shared in an e-mail to the Exchange Monitor, an industry trade magazine, and independently confirmed by NPR.

About once a day, little satellites zip over northern Iran and snap a few pictures of the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The satellites, operated by a company in San Francisco called Planet, haven't recorded much — until recently.

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