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  • Rare Astronomical Event Will See Triple Moon Shadows On Jupiter

    hypnosec writes Stargazers are in for a treat: they will be able to witness a rare astronomical event early tomorrow morning (January 24, 2015) where shadows of three of Jupiter's largest moons — Io, Europa, and Callisto — will fall upon Jupiter simultaneously. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will provide a live online broadcast on its Livestream channel. It will begin on January 24 at 0430 GMT (January 23 at 11:30 PM EST, 8:30 PM PST) and end at 0700 GMT (2:00 AM EST, 11:00 PM PST). They've also posted a short animated video of how the event will appear.

    53 comments | 2 days ago

  • Chinese Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around the Moon

    mpicpp sends this report from Scientific American: A Chinese spacecraft service module has entered orbit around the moon, months after being used in the country's landmark test flight that sent a prototype sample-return capsule on a flight around the moon and returned it to Earth. The service module from China's circumlunar test flight arrived in orbit around the moon this week, according to Chinese state media reports. The spacecraft is currently flying in an eight-hour orbit that carries it within 125 miles (200 kilometers) of the lunar surface at its closest point, and out to a range of 3,293 miles (5,300 km) at its highest point. Earlier reports noted that a camera system is onboard the service module, designed to assist in identifying future landing spots for the Chang'e 5 mission that will return lunar samples back to Earth in the 2017 time frame. Reader schwit1 adds a detailed report on Russia's next-gen space station module, writing, "The Russians have always understood that a space station is nothing more than a prototype of an interplanetary spaceship. They are therefore simply carrying through with the same engineering research they did on their earlier Salyut and Mir stations, developing a vessel that can keep humans alive on long trips to other planets."

    152 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Space Policy Guru John Logsdon Has Good News and Bad News On NASA Funding

    MarkWhittington writes According to a story in Medium, Dr. John Logsdon, considered the dean of space policy, addressed a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. The author of a book on President Kennedy's decision to go to the moon and an upcoming book on President Nixon's post-Apollo space policy decisions had some good news and some bad news about NASA funding. The good news is that funding for the space agency is not likely to be slashed below its current $18 billion a year. The bad news is that it is not likely to go up much beyond that. If Logsdon is correct, static NASA funding will mean that beyond low Earth orbit human space exploration will remain an unrealistic aspiration. American astronauts will not return to the moon, not to mention go to Mars, in the foreseeable future.

    78 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Private Russian Company Proposes Lunar Base

    MarkWhittington writes According to an article in Sputnik, a private Russian company called Lin Industrial has announced that it is capable of building a lunar base. However, according to information contained to a recent post in Parabolic Arc, this announcement may be more the result of idle boasting than an objective assessment of actual ability. Nevertheless, Lin seems to be one of the few entrepreneurial startups in Russia in the style of much more robust enterprises in the West such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

    81 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Slashdot Asks: The Beanies Return; Who Deserves Recognition for 2014?

    It's been a long time since Slashdot has awarded the Beanies -- nearly 15 years, in fact. But there's no time like the present, especially since tomorrow edges on the new year, and in early 2015 we'd like to offer a Beanie once again, to recognize and honor your favorite person, people (or project; keep reading) of the past year. Rather than a fine-grained list of categories like in 2000, though, this time around we're keeping it simple: we can always complicate things later, if warranted. So, please nominate below whoever you think most deserves kudos for the last twelve months. Is it ...

    Read on below to see how you can take part, and then nominate your favorite in the comments below.

    299 comments | about three weeks ago

  • DARPA Wants Help Building a Drone That Flies Like a Hawk

    DillyTonto writes DARPA has put out a call for ideas on how to build a fast, autonomous, maneuverable UAV that can fly up to 45 mph, navigate without assistance from humans or GPS into and through buildings that are a labyrinth of stairwells, small rooms, narrow hallways and terrorists. DARPA wants this drone to fly like the bird in this awesome hawk POV video that shows it shooting through gaps narrow enough it has to tuck its wings to get through. If you can watch the video without thinking of the forest moon of Endor, there may be some movies you should watch over the holidays.

    42 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Can Rep. John Culberson Save NASA's Space Exploration Program?

    MarkWhittington writes The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger has published the seventh in his series of articles about the American space program and what ails it. The piece focuses on Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who has two fascinating aspects. The first is that he is taking over the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. The second is that he has a keen appreciation for the benefits of space exploration for its own sake and not just for his Houston area district.

    Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him.

    156 comments | about a month ago

  • NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon and Other Planets

    ErnieKey writes A major application of 3d printing that could revolutionize space travel would be using 3d printers to create structures on non-terrestrial bodies like the moon, other planets, and even asteroids. Researchers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center have been working to develop solutions to materials issues, and recently presented initial findings on the potential for using in-situ materials like basalt for 3D printing. Their innovative method is based on only using in-situ supplies, and not materials that need to be brought into space.

    58 comments | about a month ago

  • Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas

    sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.

    82 comments | about a month ago

  • Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: The Science of Misheard Song Lyrics

    HughPickens.com writes Maria Konnikova writes in The New Yorker that mondegreens are funny but they also give us insight into the underlying nature of linguistic processing, how our minds make meaning out of sound, and how in fractions of seconds, we translate a boundless blur of sound into sense. One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there's a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can't see the musicians' faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. Another common cause of mondegreens is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Steven Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you're not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error.

    Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.

    Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.

    244 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Titan's Dunes Took Tens of Thousands of Years To Form

    sciencehabit writes: Massive dunes, some of them 100 meters tall and a kilometer or more wide at their base, cover about one-eighth of Titan's surface. And they take an exceptionally long time to form, according to a new study. Using radar data gleaned by the Cassini probe when it occasionally swooped past Saturn's haze-shrouded moon, researchers conclude that it would take about 3000 Saturn years (or 88,200 Earth years) to shift Titan's dunes to the extent seen in the images. A similar phenomenon has taken place on Earth, the researchers note: The overall patterns in many large dune fields in the southwestern Sahara and the southwestern United States, shaped by the winds that blew during the most recent ice age more than 10,000 years ago, remain largely unaffected by modern winds that now blow in a different direction.

    12 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • China Plans Superheavy Rocket, Ups Reliability

    hackingbear writes: China is conducting preliminary research on a super-heavy launch vehicle that will be used in its manned missions to the moon. Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, disclosed that the Long March-9 is planned to have a maximum payload of 130 tons and its first launch will take place around 2028, comparable to U.S.'s SLS Block II in terms of capability and likely beating its schedule. The China National Space Administration has started preliminary research for the Mars exploration program and is persuading the government to include the project into the country's space agenda, according to Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the administration. Separately, China's Long March series of rockets completed its 200th flight on Dec 7. It took 37 years for the Long March series to complete their first 100 flights, but only 7 years for the second 100 flights. In addition, the programclaims (link in Chinese) a success rate of 98%, on par with E.U.'s and beating U.S.'s 97% and Russia's 93% success rates.

    86 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

    PaisteUser sends word that NASA's Orion capsule successfully reached orbit this morning after a flawless launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Video of the launch is available on YouTube, and the Orion Mission blog has frequent updates as mission milestones are reached. Mission managers said the rocket and capsule performed perfectly during the initial phases of the test. "It was just a blast to see how well the rocket did," said Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion program manager. After Orion makes its first circuit around the planet, the rocket's upper stage will kick it into a second, highly eccentric orbit that loops as far as 3,600 miles from Earth. Then Orion will come screaming back into Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 mph — 80 percent of the velocity that a spacecraft returning from the moon would experience. This particular Orion is missing a lot of the components that would be needed for a crewed flight, and it won't be carrying humans. Instead, it's outfitted with more than 1,200 sensors to monitor how its communication and control systems deal with heightened radiation levels, how its heat shield handles re-entry temperatures that are expected to rise as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and how its parachutes slow the craft down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

    140 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Fly With the Brooklyn Aerodrome (Video)

    A bit of housing insulation material, a battery, a motor and propellor, a radio receiver and transmitter, and servos to control the motor and a pair of ailerons, and you're ready to fly the Brooklyn Aerodrome way. This isn't a tiny radio-controlled paper airplane, but a big bruiser with a 1:1 power to weight ratio (which means it can climb like a bat out of hell) and enough guts to fly in reasonably windy conditions while carrying a camera -- except we'd better not mention cameras, since Brooklyn Aerodrome creations, whether kits or plans, are obviously intended tohelp you build model airplanes, not drones. Timothy ran into project proponent Breck Baldwin at a maker faire near Atlanta, surrounded by a squadron of junior pilots who may someday become astronauts on the Moon - Mars run -- or at least delivery drone controllers for Amazon. (Alternate Video Link)

    22 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Conglomerate Rock From Mars: (Much) More Precious Than Gold

    An anonymous reader writes It's the oldest rock on Earth--and it's from Mars. A 4.4-billion-year-old martian meteorite, found in a dozen pieces in the western Sahara, has ignited a frenzy among collectors and scientists; prices have reached $10,000 a gram, and museums and universities are vying for slivers of it. It is the only known martian meteorite made of sediment, a conglomerate of pebbles and other clumps of minerals from when the planet was warm, wet, and possibly habitable. The story of the discovery of the rock and its significance is fascinating, as well as the details presented about the economics of rare space materials. Apropos, this older story about missing moon rocks.

    65 comments | about 2 months ago

  • NASA Remasters 20-Year-Old Galileo Photographs of Jupiter's Moon, Europa

    An anonymous reader writes with news that NASA has released remastered pictures of Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft. "Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. This is the first time that NASA is publishing a version of the scene produced using modern image processing techniques. This view of Europa stands out as the color view that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. An earlier, lower-resolution version of the view, published in 2001, featured colors that had been strongly enhanced. The new image more closely approximates what the human eye would see. Space imaging enthusiasts have produced their own versions of the view using the publicly available data, but NASA has not previously issued its own rendition using near-natural color."

    38 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues To Alien Life On Europa

    HughPickens.com writes: Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are studying a mysterious ecosystem at one of the world's deepest undersea hydrothermal vents to get clues about what life could be like on other planetary bodies, such as Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which has a subsurface ocean. At the vents, tiny shrimp are piled on top of each other, layer upon layer, crawling on rock chimneys that spew hot water. "You go along the ocean bottom and there's nothing, effectively," says Max Coleman. "And then suddenly we get these hydrothermal vents and a massive ecosystem. It's just literally teeming with life." Bacteria, inside the shrimps' mouths and in specially evolved gill covers, produce organic matter that feed the crustaceans. The particular bacteria in the vents are able to survive in extreme environments because of chemosynthesis, a process that works in the absence of sunlight and involves organisms getting energy from chemical reactions. In this case, the bacteria use hydrogen sulfide, a chemical abundant at the vents, to make organic matter. The temperatures at the vents can climb up to a scorching 842 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius), but waters just an inch away are cool enough to support the shrimp. The shrimp are blind, but have thermal receptors in the backs of their heads.

    According to the exobiologists, these mysterious shrimps and its symbiotic bacterium may hold clues "about what life could be like on other planetary bodies." It's life that may be similar—at the basic level—to what could be lurking in the oceans of Europa, deep under the icy crust of the Jupiter moon. According to Emma Versteegh "whether an animal like this could exist on Europa heavily depends on the actual amount of energy that's released there, through hydrothermal vents." Nobody is seriously planning a landing mission on Europa yet. But the European Space Agency aims to launch its JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission (JUICE) to make the first thickness measurements of Europa's icy crust starting in 2030 and NASA also has begun planning a Europa Clipper mission that would study the icy moon while doing flybys in a Jupiter orbit.

    75 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely

    MarkWhittington writes: As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman, whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative.

    Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System, NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson's elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur.

    57 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Does Being First Still Matter In America?

    dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.

    247 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Lunar Mission One Proposes To Take Core Sample, Plant Time Capsule On the Moon

    MarkWhittington writes: The U.S. may have foresworn the moon, the venue of its greatest space triumph during the Apollo program, by presidential directive, but that does not mean that other countries and even private organizations are uninterested. The latest proposal for a private moon landing is a British effort called Lunar Mission One, according to a Wednesday story in the New Scientist. Its goal is twofold. The undertaking proposes to drill a 20 meter core sample below the lunar surface for analysis. Lunar Mission One will also deploy the first moon based time capsule. A Kickstarter effort has begun for initial funding.

    69 comments | about 2 months ago

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