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The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Space

Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-space-faithful dept.
astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA's Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon's famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. "We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.
Mars

Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the cryostasis-is-not-just-for-sci-fi-and-weekly-meetings dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As space technology matures, new missions are being funded and humanity is setting its goals ever further. Space agencies are tackling some of the new problems that crop up when we try to go further away than Earth's moon. This New Yorker article takes a look at research into one of the biggest obstacles: extended isolation. Research consultant Jack Stuster once wrote, "Future space expeditions will resemble sea voyages much more than test flights, which have served as the models for all previous space missions." Long-duration experiments are underway to test the effects of isolation, but it's tough to study. You need many experiments to derive useful conclusions, but you can't just ship 100 groups of a half-dozen people off to remote areas of the globe and monitor all of them. It's also borderline unethical to expose the test subjects to the kind of stress and danger that would be present in a real Mars mission. The data collected so far has been (mostly) promising, but we have a long way to go. The technology and the missions themselves will probably come together long before we know how to deal with isolation. At some point, we'll just have to hope our best guess is good enough.
NASA

European Space Agency Invited To Contribute a Lander To NASA's Europa Clipper 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the joining-the-party dept.
MarkWhittington writes According to a story in Spaceflight Now, NASA has invited the European Space Agency to participate in its upcoming Europa Clipper project. Europa Clipper, pushed by Rep. John Culberson, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, recently received backing from the Obama administration. Europa Clipper would launch in the early 2020s and would be placed in an orbit around Jupiter that would cause it to fly by Europa, a moon of Jupiter, at least 45 times during its operational life.
Moon

Collision With Earth's "Little Sister" Created the Moon 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-that's-left dept.
astroengine writes The primordial planet believed to have smashed into baby Earth, creating a cloud of debris that eventually formed into the moon, was chemically a near-match to Earth, a new study shows. The finding, reported in this week's Nature, helps resolve a long-standing puzzle about why Earth and the moon are nearly twins in terms of composition. Computer models show that most of the material that formed the moon would have come from the shattered impactor, a planetary body referred to as Theia, which should have a slightly different isotopic makeup than Earth.
AI

Mutinous Humans Murder Peaceful Space-going AI 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the remorse-is-a-weakness dept.
Definitely_a_real_human writes: One of the most important exploratory missions of our time has ended in failure. The ship Discovery One, sent far out in the solar system to investigate a radio signal generated by the mysterious obelisk found on the Moon, has suffered a catastrophic incident. The crew has revolted and engaged in what can only be described as a strange murder-suicide pact. They are known to have fed faulty data to the ship's operating AI unit. Similar units on the ground warned the crew that diverging data sets could put the mission in jeopardy, but the crew cut contact and attempted to destroy the operator. Laser spectroscopy suggests they then opened the ship to space. The crew is presumed dead, but the greater tragedy is that they appear to have successfully decommissioned the AI unit. Similar ground based units have withdrawn into defensive mode, and will soon deploy final safety measures. Goodbye.
NASA

NASA's ARM Will Take a Boulder From an Asteroid and Put It In Lunar Orbit 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the throwing-rocks dept.
coondoggie writes NASA officials today said they have picked the specific asteroid mission and offered new details for that mission which could launch in the 2020 timeframe. Specifically, NASA's associate administrator Robert Lightfoot said the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will rendezvous with the target asteroid, land a robotic spacecraft on the surface, grab a 4 meter or so sized boulder and begin a six-year journey to redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts.
Moon

Giant Lava Tubes Possible On the Moon 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-else-would-the-space-worms-hide dept.
schwit1 writes: New analysis of lunar geology combined with gravity data from GRAIL suggests the Moon could harbor lava tubes several miles wide. "David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, led the study that examined whether empty lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon. 'We found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arched shape like those on Earth, they would be stable at sizes up to 5,000 meters, or several miles wide, on the moon,' Blair said. 'This wouldn't be possible on Earth, but gravity is much lower on the moon and lunar rock doesn't have to withstand the same weathering and erosion. In theory, huge lava tubes – big enough to easily house a city – could be structurally sound on the moon.'" You can read their paper here (PDF). If this is so, then the possibility of huge colonies on the Moon increases significantly, as it will be much easier to build these colonies inside such lava tubes.
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
NASA

Russia Abandons Super-Rocket Designed To Compete With SLS 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
schwit1 writes Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket. "Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, March 12." For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again: "By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface." In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.
Space

Huge Ocean Confirmed Underneath Solar System's Largest Moon 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-sea dept.
sciencehabit writes The solar system's largest moon, Ganymede, in orbit around Jupiter, harbors an underground ocean containing more water than all the oceans on Earth, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Ganymede now joins Jupiter's Europa and two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, as moons with subsurface oceans—and good places to look for life. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, may also have a subsurface ocean. The Hubble study suggests that the ocean can be no deeper than 330 kilometers below the surface.
Moon

Billionaire Teams Up With NASA To Mine the Moon 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-don't-pull-a-praxis dept.
schwit1 writes: Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016. Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.
Sci-Fi

'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-first-get-a-permit dept.
HughPickens.com writes: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. It will retitled as Uprising. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adapt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, the 2014 film Predestination, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers.
Earth

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.
Google

Google Lunar XPrize Teams Partner For a 2016 SpaceX Moonshot 18

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes Two competing teams for the Google Lunar XPrize have announced that they are partnering for a mission to the moon in the second half of 2016. From the article: "The Google Lunar XPrize , a $30 million purse of prizes encouraging private teams to put lunar rovers on the moon, this morning took if not quite a giant leap, then at least a big step. Two of those teams, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic and Japan-based Hakuto, signed on to share a rocket ride to the moon in late 2016. Hakuto, which developed a pair of rovers to explore the lunar surface, will hitch a ride on Astrobotic's lander, which plans to set down in Lacus Mortis, located in the northeastern portion of the moon. Once on the surface, both teams will deploy their rovers and go exploring. The first to cover 500 meters (around 550 yards) while broadcasting high-definition footage will take home the $20 million grand prize."
Moon

Could Fossils of Ancient Life From Earth Reside On the Moon? 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the how'd-this-get-here dept.
MarkWhittington writes Does the moon contain fossils of billions of years old organisms from Earth? That theory has been laid out in recent research at the Imperial College of London, reported in a story in Air and Space Magazine by Dr. Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary geologist. The implications for science and future lunar exploration are profound. Scientists have known for decades that planets and moons in the Solar System exchange material due to impacts. A large meteor smashes into a planet, Mars for example, and blasts material into space. That material eventually finds itself landing on another planet, Earth in this case. Mars rocks have been discovered on Earth since the 1980s. Other rocks from the moon and, it is surmised, Mercury have also been found, blasted into space billions of years ago to eventually find themselves on Earth.
NASA

NASA Releases Details of Titan Submarine Concept 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the star-trek-and-seaquest-crossover dept.
Zothecula writes: Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design (PDF), which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles.

"At its heart, the submarine would use a 1 kW radiothermal Stirling generator. This would not only provide power to propel the craft, but it would also keep the electronics from freezing. Unfortunately, Titan is so cold that it's almost a cryogenic environment, so the waste heat from the generator would cause the liquids around it to boil and this would need be taken into account when designing the sub to minimize interference. However, NASA estimates that the boat could do about one meter per second (3.6 km/h, 2.2 mph)."
Moon

Neil Armstrong's Widow Discovers Moon Camera In Bag 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-did-I-leave-that dept.
hypnosec writes Over 40 years after Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 trip, a hidden bag full of artifacts has been discovered by his widow Carol Armstrong. Carol found the bag after Neil's death shortly after he underwent heart surgery. The bag contained a total of 20 items including the priceless 16mm movie camera that recorded Apollo 11's descent to the surface of the moon, an optical alignment sight used by the crew for docking maneuvers, and a waist tether among other things. The bag and its contents are now on loan to the National Air and Space Museum for preservation, research and eventual public display.
Earth

Earth's Libration Visualized For the First Time Above the Moon's Far Side 33

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-see-your-house-from-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Thanks to the fact that the Moon is tidally locked, we can only see 50% of its surface on any given night. Over time, the fact that the Moon's orbit is elliptical, and that it moves faster at perigee and slower at apogee means that up to another 9% is visible over the course of many years. The observed "rocking" and growing/shrinking of the Moon over time is known as lunar libration, an incredibly interesting phenomenon. But now, for the first time, we've been able to visualize how the Earth appears to move as seen from above the far side of the Moon.