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  • LADEE Probe Ends Its Mission On the Far Side Of the Moon

    The mission of NASA's LADEE probe was brought to an intentional violent end yesterday, when it smashed into the far side of the moon. As the Ars Technica report explains, "NASA's policy is to treat the locations of the Moon landings as historical sites, and it takes pains to preserve them from possible damage. LADEE didn't have the fuel to control its orbit indefinitely. As a result, the controllers had been preparing to terminate the probe for several weeks. ... The exact moment of impact isn't clear, since the precise terrain it hit couldn't be determined in advance. (If it hit a ridge, it would have happened earlier than if LADEE plowed across a plain. What is clear is that the impact destroyed the probe." Before the end of LADEE's mission, besides close up observations, the craft was used to test a new laser-based communication system.

    3 comments | about half an hour ago

  • RIP, NASA Moon Landing Engineer John C. Houbolt

    The Houston Chronicle reports the death of John C. Houbolt, whose ideas helped guide the U.S. moon-landing programs. Houbolt died on Tuesday at the age of 95, in a nursing home in Maine. Says the Chronicle's obituary: "His efforts in the early 1960s are largely credited with convincing NASA to focus on the launch of a module carrying a crew from lunar orbit, rather than a rocket from earth or a space craft while orbiting the planet. Houbolt argued that a lunar orbit rendezvous, or lor, would not only be less mechanically and financially onerous than building a huge rocket to take man to the moon or launching a craft while orbiting the earth, but lor was the only option to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge before the end of the decade."

    22 comments | 6 hours ago

  • Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space

    KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Iapetus, Saturn's third largest moon, was first photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 31 December 2004. The images created something of a stir. Clearly visible was a narrow, steep ridge of mountains that stretch almost halfway around the moon's equator. The question that has since puzzled astronomers is how this mountain range got there. Now evidence is mounting that this mountain range is not the result of tectonic or volcanic activity, like mountain ranges on other planets. Instead, astronomers are increasingly convinced that this mountain range fell from space. The latest evidence is a study of the shape of the mountains using 3-D images generated from Cassini data. They show that the angle of the mountainsides is close to the angle of repose, that's the greatest angle that a granular material can form before it landslides. That's not proof but it certainly consistent with this exotic formation theory. So how might this have happened?

    Astronomers think that early in its life, Iapetus must have been hit by another moon, sending huge volumes of ejecta into orbit. Some of this condensed into a new moon that escaped into space. However, the rest formed an unstable ring that gradually spiraled in towards the moon, eventually depositing the material in a narrow ridge around the equator. Cassini's next encounter with Iapetus will be in 2015 which should give astronomers another chance to study the strangest mountain range in the Solar System."

    51 comments | 3 days ago

  • Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

    April 15, 2014 isn't just a full moon: it's Tax Day in the U.S. That means most American adults have already submitted a tax return, or an extension request, to the IRS and -- except for a few lucky states -- to their state governments as well. I filed my (very simple) tax return online. After scanning the free options, since I live in a state -- Texas -- that does not collect personal income tax, I chose Tax Act's free services. That meant enduring a series of annoying upgrade plugs throughout the process, but I could live with that; I have no reason to think it was better or worse than TurboTax or any of the other e-Filing companies, but I liked Tax Act’s interface, and it seemed less skeevy in all those upgrade plugs than the others I glanced at. The actual process took an hour and 19 minutes once I sat down with the papers I needed. My financial life is pretty simple, though: I didn't buy or sell a house, didn't buy or sell stocks outside of a retirement account mutual fund, and didn't move from one state to another. How do you do your taxes? Do you have an argument for one or another of the online services, or any cautionary tales? Do you prefer to send in forms on paper? Do you hire an accountant? (And for readers outside the U.S., it's always interesting to hear how taxes work in other countries, too. Are there elements of the U.S. system you'd prefer, or that you're glad you don't need to deal with?)

    385 comments | 4 days ago

  • Saturn May Have Given Birth To a Baby Moon

    astroengine (1577233) writes "NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has imaged something peculiar on the outermost edge of the gas giant's A-ring. A bright knot, or arc, has been spotted 20 percent brighter than the surrounding ring material and astronomers are interpreting it as a gravitational disturbance caused by a tiny moon. "We have not seen anything like this before," said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London. 'We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.'"

    71 comments | 5 days ago

  • The Best Way To Watch the "Blood Moon" Tonight

    An anonymous reader writes "People on the West Coast should be able to watch the beginning of the upcoming total lunar eclipse tonight at 10:20 pm. The entirety of the moon surface will be in Earth's shadow and start to glow red a couple hours later, a little after midnight. From the article: 'A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth align so that Earth's shadow falls across the moon's surface. Monday night's lunar eclipse is a total eclipse, which means Earth's shadow will cover the moon completely. The moon won't be blacked out by our planet's shadow. Instead, it will take on a reddish hue — anywhere from a bright copper to the brownish red of dried blood.'"

    146 comments | 5 days ago

  • Pluto May Have Deep Seas and Ancient Tectonic Faults

    astroengine (1577233) writes "In July 2015 we get our first close look at the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon, Charon — a fact that has scientists hypothesizing more than ever about what we might see there. One of the latest ideas put forward is that perhaps the collision that likely formed Pluto and Charon heated the interior of Pluto enough to give it an internal liquid water ocean, which also gave the small world a short-lived plate tectonics system, like that of Earth."

    47 comments | about a week ago

  • Russia Wants To Establish a Permanent Moon Base

    An anonymous reader writes "Having established its presence in the Crimean Peninsula, Russia is now shooting for a bit loftier goal, a permanent Moon base. 'As reported by the Voice of Russia, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that establishing a permanent Moon base has become one of the country's top space priorities. "The moon is not an intermediate point in the [space] race, it is a separate, even a self-contained goal," Rogozin reportedly said. "It would hardly be rational to make some ten or twenty flights to the moon, and then wind it all up and fly to the Mars or some asteroids."'"

    313 comments | about a week ago

  • NASA Laying Foundation For Jupiter Moon Space Mission

    coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA recently began laying out the groundwork for the technology it will need to fly an unmanned mission to Jupiter's intriguing moon Europa. Scientists say Europa — which orbits the planet Jupiter about 778 million km (484 million miles) from the Sun — could support life because it might have an ocean of liquid water under its miles-thick frozen crust. NASA said in December the Hubble Space Telescope observed water vapor above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter's moon Europa, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon's surface."

    100 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean

    astroengine (1577233) writes "Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. The Cassini data shows the body of water, which is in the moon's southern hemisphere, must be as large or larger than Lake Superior and sitting on top of the moon's rocky core at a depth of about 31 miles. 'The ocean may extend halfway or more toward the equator in every direction,' said planetary scientist David Stevenson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena."

    51 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NASA Snaps Shot of Mars-Bound Comet

    coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA today released images of a comet that will make a pass within 84,000 miles of Mars — less than half the distance between Earth and the moon. NASA said the Hubble Space Telescope captured the image of comet C/2013 A1, also called Siding Spring, at a distance of 353 million miles from Earth. Hubble can't see Siding Spring's icy nucleus because of its minuscule size. The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud that measures roughly 12,000 miles across, NASA said."

    38 comments | about three weeks ago

  • The Mystery of the 'Only Camera To Come Back From the Moon'

    Daniel_Stuckey writes: "After a furious bidding war in Vienna on Saturday, a Japanese camera collector has bought a Hasselblad camera for $910,000 in a record-setting auction of what's been widely called the 'only camera to come back from the moon.' But contrary to claims repeated across the Internet on Monday, this isn't the only camera to come back from the moon. In fact, some think it may have never landed on the moon at all. And because of rules surrounding most NASA property, its sale may actually violate U.S. law. One thing we know: the 70mm Hasselblad 500 is one of fourteen cutting-edge cameras that astronauts used in orbit around the moon and on the lunar surface during the Apollo program. All of the images we have from those moon missions were taken by these machines, which were either mounted inside the command module that circled the moon or were attached to space suits at the chest. This particular camera was, reports the Verge, among many other sources, 'used on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971,' and 'is special in the fact that it's returned to Earth.' That's because astronauts were often instructed to jettison their cameras on the lunar surface in order to save precious kilograms during the return trip."

    54 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Back To the Moon — In Four Years

    braindrainbahrain writes "Gene Grush, a former division chief at NASA Johnson, has written a series of articles on how the U.S. can return to the Moon in four years. He says not only can we land there, but we can actually build a base on the Moon as well. How is this feasible? A public/private partnership between NASA and a private space company. Quoting: 'The biggest obstacle is the lack of a rocket, called a super heavy launch vehicle, to lift it off the planet. NASA is working on one, called the Space Launch System, but the agency is constrained by its budget and the likelihood of it flying in that time frame is slim. But there’s an interim solution: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will have its maiden flight this year and can supposedly launch up to 53 metric tons into orbit.'

    '[I]f NASA makes lowering launch costs its highest priority, escaping the bonds that hold us to Earth will be financially feasible. We don’t do this by controlling the design so much as the frequency -- we are the customer, after all.' 'The development of a lunar base could be a catalyst for lowering our launch cost to space and accelerating the development of automation and robotics. ... If America doesn’t step up to the plate, China’s ambitions for the moon may establish it as the “go-to” nation for space exploration. Many nations of the world privately say they want the moon to be the next step in space exploration -- but they can’t get there on their own. They need a technically savvy and resourceful country to lead.'"

    292 comments | about a month ago

  • Waves Spotted On Titan

    minty3 writes "Planetary scientists believe they have observed waves rippling on one of Titan's seas. The findings, presented on March 17 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, describes how the Cassini spacecraft captured images of sunlight glinting off the Punga Mare (abstract), suggesting they are not reflective sunlight but waves." The Planetary Society recently posted a nice breakdown of the basics about Titan's lakes: "To flow with liquid, those river valleys must have been filled with methane that came from higher elevations; it had to rain methane on Titan. Rainfall runs off, and then what? It must pool somewhere. What we learned from the Cassini orbiter at Saturn is that there are lakes on Titan. ... Rainfall, river runoff, lakes, evaporation into clouds, rainfall again. Cassini has seen clouds make storms on Titan. We have seen the whole cycle -- it's just like Earth's water cycle, but with a completely different substance [methane], and much, much colder."

    73 comments | about a month ago

  • IAU To Uwingu: You Can't Name That Martian Crater Either

    RocketAcademy writes "The International Astronomical Union has thrown a tantrum over a plan to crowdsource names for craters on Mars. The IAU gives official scientific names to craters, but it has only bothered with craters that have 'scientific significance.' The science-funding platform Uwingu has launched a campaign to come up with popular names for the remaining craters. For as little as $5, a member of the public can name one of the craters on Uwingu's map, with the proceeds going to fund space science and education. This caused the IAU to issue a statement condemning such crowdsourcing efforts. The IAU pointed out that it did allow the public to vote on names for two of Pluto's moons, in the past. In that case, however, the IAU rejected the winning name (Vulcan)." Last year, the IAU got into a spat with Uwingu over naming exoplanets. Sounds like the old name a star scam, on Mars.

    125 comments | about a month ago

  • NASA Wants To Go To Europa

    MightyMartian writes "'NASA and the White House are asking Congress to bankroll a new intrastellar road trip to a destination that's sort of like the extraterrestrial Atlantis of our solar system — Jupiter's intriguing moon, Europa.' Since Europa seems one of the most likely worlds in the Solar System other than Earth where we have some hope of finding extant life, let's hope Congress gives the green light to this project."

    216 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • India Plans Mission To Probe Sun By 2020

    An anonymous reader writes "India is planning a mission to probe the Sun before 2020. The nation launched a Moon mission a few years ago and sent a Mars mission late last year. From the article: 'Indian Space Research Organization has lined up over a dozen missions, including its first probe on the Sun, Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan said on Friday. Though, the mission to probe the Sun was already on the cards, the agency now has a clear picture of its plan and had put a timeframe within which it hoped to undertake it, Radhakrishnan said, while addressing students at a private University here. He said the "Aditya" mission to the Sun had been planned between 2017 and 2020.'"

    146 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Astronomers Catch Asteroid Striking Moon On Video

    spineas writes "A 4.5-foot-wide asteroid struck the moon in September 2013, and astronomers were lucky enough to catch the impact flash on video, now confirmed as the brightest ever witnessed from Earth. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the asteroid likely weighed nearly 900 pounds, and exploded on impact with the moon with the force of 15 tons of TNT."

    69 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Confirmed: Earth's Oldest Rock In Australia

    SpamSlapper writes "Australia's ABC Science reports that ancient zircon crystals discovered in Western Australia have been positively dated to 4.374 billion years, confirming their place as the oldest rock ever found on Earth, according to a new study. The research reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, means Earth began forming a crust far sooner than previously thought, following the giant impact event which created the Earth-Moon system 4.5 billion years ago."

    74 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon

    littlesparkvt writes "Harnessing the sun's power is nothing new on Earth, but if a Japanese company has its way, it will build a solar strip across the 11,000 mile Lunar equator that could supply our world with clean and unlimited solar energy for generations." Some of the company's other projects look just as ambitious.

    330 comments | about 2 months ago

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