Space

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Urges America To Challenge China To a Space Race 232

Posted by timothy
from the autocorrect-says-neil-degrease-tyson dept.
An anonymous reader writes: According to a Tuesday story in the UK edition of the International Business Times, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist and media personality, advocates a space race between the United States and China. The idea is that such a race would spur innovation and cause industry to grow. The Apollo race to the moon caused a similar explosive period of scientific research and engineering development. You might prefer the Sydney Morning Herald piece on which the IB Times article is based.
Mars

How To Die On Mars 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-coffin-to-mars dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Many space-related projects are currently focusing on Mars. SpaceX wants to build a colony there, NASA is looking into base design, and Mars One is supposedly picking astronauts for a mission. Because of this, we've been reading a lot about how we could live on Mars. An article at Popular Science reminds us of all the easy ways to die there. "Barring any complications with the spacecraft's hardware or any unintended run-ins with space debris, there's still a big killer lurking out in space that can't be easily avoided: radiation. ... [And] with so little atmosphere surrounding Mars, gently landing a large amount of weight on the planet will be tough. Heavy objects will pick up too much speed during the descent, making for one deep impact. ... Mars One's plan is to grow crops indoors under artificial lighting. According to the project's website, 80 square meters of space will be dedicated to plant growth within the habitat; the vegetation will be sustained using suspected water in Mars' soil, as well as carbon dioxide produced by the initial four-member crew. However, analysis conducted by MIT researchers last year (PDF) shows that those numbers just don't add up."
NASA

Hubble Discovers a Fast-Aging Star Nicknamed "Nasty 1" 29

Posted by samzenpus
from the vanity-plate-ideas dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Astronomers have uncovered surprising new clues about a large, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before. The star is so strange in fact that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. Wolf-Rayet stars like NaSt1 are typically large, rapidly evolving stellar bodies that form by shedding their hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing a bright hot, helium-burning core. Nasty 1 is unique because it contains a disk like structure. "We were excited to see this disk-like structure because it may be evidence for a Wolf-Rayet star forming from a binary interaction," said Jon Mauerhan of UC Berkeley, lead author on the new Nasty 1 paper. "There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less."
Mars

Software Patch Fixes Mars Curiosity Rover's Auto-focus Glitch 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the careful-with-those-semi-colons dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have successfully uploaded and applied a software patch to NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars. The patch fixes a focusing problem that cropped up in November when the laser that helps to focus one of its cameras failed. "Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind," said Roger Wiens, ChemCam principal investigator at Los Alamos. "The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet [7.6 meters] from the rover was not affected, but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus." Before the fix, scientists had to shoot images at nine different focus settings to distill a decent set of data. Now, they say the new software results in better images in a single shot than even before the laser broke down. The program that runs the instrument is only 40 kilobytes in size.
The Military

Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the flying-into-a-mystery dept.
mpicpp writes: The United States Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane will carry a NASA experiment into orbit when it launches on its next mystery mission Wednesday. The liftoff will begin the reusable space plane's fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4). Since it's classified it's not entirely clear what the space plane will be doing once it leaves Earth Wednesday. This has led to some speculation that the vehicle might be a weapon, but officials have repeatedly refuted that notion, saying X-37B flights simply test a variety of new technologies. The X-37B looks like a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle. The robotic, solar-powered space plane is about 29 feet long by 9.5 feet tall (8.8 by 2.9 meters), with a wingspan of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a payload bay the size of a pickup-truck bed. Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally, on a runway.
NASA

NASA Announces the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge For Moon and Mars Bases 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the print-for-cash dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Space policy experts are still arguing where American astronauts should go once they venture into deep space. However, there is widespread agreement that once they get there they should be prepared to stay for longer than just a few hours or days, as was the case during the Apollo missions to the moon. Taking all the material to set up habitats, the astronauts' homes away from home, would tend to be expensive. Toward the end of lowering the cost of long duration space travel, NASA has announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, in partnership with America Makes, as part of the ongoing Centennial Challenge program.
NASA

Rockwell Collins To Develop Cockpit Display To Show Sonic Boom Over Land 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Under contract from NASA, Rockwell Collins is developing equipment to let pilots of supersonic craft know where a sonic boom will be produced. The hope is to make supersonic flight over land practical. Flying higher widens impacts but lessens intensity. “In order for supersonic travel over land to happen, pilots will need an intuitive display interface that tells them where the aircraft’s sonic boom is occurring,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins. “Our team of experts will investigate how best to show this to pilots in the cockpit and develop guidance to most effectively modify the aircraft’s flight path to avoid populated areas or prevent sonic booms.”
Space

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?
Space

Planetary Society Wants To Launch a Crowd-Funded Solar Sail 52

Posted by timothy
from the unfurling dept.
jan_jes writes to note that The Planetary Society is attempting to crowdfund its own version of the light-powered space-craft popularized by Carl Sagan as a "solar sailer." (YouTube video, with the Society's CEO Bill Nye.) The current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016. LightSail will be released into an orbit with an altitude of 720 kilometers (450 miles), high enough to escape most of the planet's atmospheric drag. Their crowdfunding goal has been far surpassed (more than $476,000 at this writing), but more can't hurt; maybe NASA could use some of the surplus.
Earth

Larson B Ice Shelf In Antarctica To Disintegrate Within 5 Years 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the grab-some-popcorn dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: A new study (abstract) from NASA scientists predicts an Antarctic ice shelf half the size of Rhode Island will disintegrate around 2020. The shelf has existed for roughly 10,000 years. "Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise." At its thickest point, the ice shelf remnant is a half kilometer tall, and spans approximately 1,600 square kilometers. "The glaciers' thicknesses and flow speeds changed only slightly in the first couple of years following the 2002 collapse, leading researchers to assume they remained stable. The new study revealed, however, that Leppard and Flask glaciers have thinned by 65-72 feet (20-22 meters) and accelerated considerably in the intervening years. The fastest-moving part of Flask Glacier had accelerated 36 percent by 2012 to a flow speed of 2,300 feet (700 meters) a year."
Space

How SpaceX and the Quest For Mars Almost Sunk Tesla Motors 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the rocket-bucks-versus-car-bucks dept.
braindrainbahrain writes: Elon Musk and his rocket company are well known to Slashdottters. This article and book excerpt tell the story of the creation of SpaceX and how it almost sank Musk's other company, Tesla Motors. Musk recalls, "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them. That was a tough decision. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company." But then, at the last moment, years of work at SpaceX finally paid off: "[O]n Dec. 23, 2008, SpaceX received a wonderful shock. The company won a $1.6 billion contract for 12 NASA resupply flights to the space station. Then the Tesla deal ended up closing successfully, on Christmas Eve, hours before Tesla would have gone bankrupt. Musk had just a few hundred thousand dollars left and could not have made payroll the next day." Also, it turns out the inspiration for SpaceX was the idea of sending mice to Mars.
Space

Kepler Observes Neptune Dancing With Its Moons 19

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-put-your-right-moon-in,-you-take-your-right-moon-out dept.
New submitter Liquid Tip writes: NASA's K2 mission has the capability to stare continuously at a single field of stars for months at time. A new video shows K2 observations spanning 70 days from November, 2014 through January, 2015 reduced to a time-lapse of 34 seconds. During this time, we see some distant members of our Solar System passing through the K2 field-of-view. This includes some asteroids and the giant outer planet Neptune, which appears at day 15. A keen-eyed observer will also notice an object circling Neptune: its large moon, Triton, which orbits every 5.8 days. The fainter moon Nereid can be seen tracing Neptune's motion.
Earth

Greenland's Glaciers Develop Stretch Marks As They Accelerate 249

Posted by timothy
from the warp-speed-effect dept.
New submitter dywolf writes: NASA-run Operation IceBridge has been monitoring and mapping ice sheets for the past eight years. They develop these maps in 3D using laser equipped aircraft to measure ice thickness. As glaciers reach the coast, they begin to accelerate, which causes crevasses to appear, which are essentially stretchmarks in the glacial strata. While a natural part of glaciers as they travel to sea, the glaciers of Greenland have increased in speed by 30% in the past decade. Jakobshavn Isbrae is Greenland's fastest glacier, and is now moving four times faster than it did 20 years ago.
Space

Dawn Spacecraft Gets a Better Look At Ceres' Bizarre 'White Spots' 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-not-a-fithp-ship dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Since its discovery as the first asteroid more than 200 years ago, Ceres has been one of the most poorly understood objects in the Solar System as even imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope is unable to resolve very much. But NASA's Dawn mission, since moving on from Vesta, has begun to map Ceres, constructing the highest resolution global map ever, with better data to come. The greatest mystery so far are two bright white spots at the bottom of a deep crater, brighter and more reflective than anything else on the planet's surface. Right now, three leading possibilities for the origin of these features exist, with Dawn possessing the capabilities to teach us which one (if any) is correct, hopefully by the end of the year!
ISS

ISS Crew Stuck In Orbit While Russia Assesses Rocket 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-your-extra-space-vacation dept.
astroengine sends word that the astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be staying up there longer than expected while engineers for Russia's space program try to figure out if it's safe to launch more rockets. The recent Russian cargo mission that spun out of control and eventually fell back into the atmosphere sparked worries that a vessel sent to retrieve the astronauts wouldn't make it all the way to the ISS's orbit. Roscosmos and NASA said the next rocket launch will be postponed at least two months. Even though the Russian cargo ship failed to reach the ISS, they have plenty of food, water, and air to last them to the next scheduled supply run — a SpaceX launch in late June.
Space

Construction At SpaceX's New Spaceport About To Begin 57

Posted by timothy
from the nice-place-for-it dept.
schwit1 writes: SpaceX has begun prepping the construction sites at its private spaceport in Brownsville, Texas. The county has begun work on a road to where the spaceport command center will be, and SpaceX has established its construction headquarters in a double-wide trailer there. It is expected that actual construction of the command center will begin in August, with the launchpad construction to follow. The expected cost for building the entire spaceport: $100 million. Compare that to the billions the Russians are spending for Vostochny, or the billions that NASA spends on comparable facilities.
NASA

Apollo 15 Commander Talks About Developing and Driving Lunar Buggy 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-fun-than-moon-patrol dept.
szczys writes: Greg Charvat recently sat in on an MIT course called "Engineering Apollo". For this set of sessions, David Scott recounted his experience as an astronaut. David was the commander of the Apollo 15 mission, flew several others, and took part in the development of much of the equipment used in the moon missions. The class is basically him hanging around with a bunch of engineers talking in a level of detail rarely heard. From the Hackaday article: "As if you had any doubts, but David confirms the lunar rover was really fun to drive. The vehicle had a wide wheel base, a low center of gravity, and each wheel had its own motor. But there was one occasion that caused a stir when the rover nearly slid down a mountain."
NASA

Messenger Data Says Mercury's Magnetic Past Goes Back Billions of Years 26

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-have-receipts? dept.
Space.com notes a study published in the May 7th issue of Science (abstract) which concludes not only that Mercury has a magnetic history dating back billions of years, but also that the strength of that field means that it once rivaled Earth's own magnetic field, though it is now "about 100 times weaker." The source of this conclusion is data gathered prior to the crash of NASA's Messenger probe into Mercury's surface on April 30 of this year. Says the story: The researchers analyzed magnetic data collected by MESSENGER in the fall of 2014 and 2015, when the spacecraft flew incredibly close to the planet's surface, at altitudes as low as 9 miles (15 kilometers). In contrast, the lowest that MESSENGER flew in previous years was between 125 and 250 miles (200 and 400 km). ... The scientists detected magnetized rocks in a part of Mercury's crust that, due to the presence of many craters from cosmic impacts, appears to be quite ancient. The researchers suggest the rocks were once magnetized by the planet's magnetic field, and based on the age and amount of the magnetized rocks, as well as how strongly they were magnetized, the investigators deduced that Mercury's magnetic field has persisted for 3.8 billion years.
NASA

NASA Images Massive Solar Flare 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-be-in-my-bunker dept.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, has sent back pictures of a massive, X-class solar flare. The X-class flares are the strongest, and this one received an X2.7 rating. It wasn't pointed at us, and there was no notable harm done, but there was a brief radio blackout (and a burst of static) over the Pacific Ocean and western North America.

This flare follows news of a presentation (PDF) from the Space Weather Workshop that there is evidence for a phenomenon known as a "superflare", which can be up to a thousand times stronger than the flares we routinely see. Such behavior is seen in other stars, and may be expected from the Sun once every 10,000 years, on average.
Mars

NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea 156

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-to-mars dept.
coondoggie writes with this snippet from Network World: NASA this week said it would look to the public for cool ideas on how to build a sustainable environment on Mars with the best plan earning as much as $5,000. With the Journey to Mars Challenge, NASA wants applicants to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to set up and establish a technically achievable, economically sustainable human living space on the red planet. Think air, water, food, communications systems and the like.