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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.

    11 comments | 2 hours 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."

    24 comments | 8 hours ago

  • 3 Former Astronauts: Earth-Asteroid Collisions Are a Real But Preventable Danger

    Three former astronauts — Ed Lu, Tom Jones, and Bill Anders — say that reassuring figures about the rarity of asteroid collisions with Earth are perhaps too reassuring. The B612 Foundation, of which Lu is a director, has been established to draw public awareness to the risks of a large asteroid hitting a population center -- which these three men say is a far more serious public danger than has been acknowledged by NASA and other agencies. And beyond awareness, the Foundation's immediate goal is to raise money to " design and build an asteroid-finding space telescope and launch it by 2017," and then, Armageddon-style, to follow that up with technology to divert any asteroids whose path would threaten earth.

    55 comments | yesterday

  • NASA Proposes "Water World" Theory For Origin of Life

    William Robinson (875390) writes "A new study from researchers at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has proposed the "water world" theory as the answer to our evolution, which describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While the scientists had already proposed this hypothesis called 'submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life' the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory and theoretical research into a grand, unified picture."

    115 comments | 2 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

  • NASA To Send SpaceX Resupply Capsule To ISS Despite Technical Problems

    An anonymous reader writes "Despite a critical backup computer failing on the ISS Friday, an unmanned SpaceX rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral at 4:58 p.m. Monday with more than 2 tons of supplies for the space station. From the article: 'The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to proceed with its resupply mission, despite technical problems with its computer in the International Space Station (ISS), as it needed to deliver necessary supplies.'"

    71 comments | about a week ago

  • GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

    cartechboy (2660665) writes "GM said it has placed two engineers on paid leave in connection with its massive recall probe of 2 million vehicles. Now, GM is asking NASA to advise on whether those cars are safe to drive even with the ignition key alone. Significantly, individual engineers now have their names in print and face a raft of inquiries what they did or didn't know, did or didn't do, and when. A vulnerability for GM: One engineer may have tried to re-engineer the faulty ignition switch without changing the part number—an unheard-of practice in the industry. Is it a good thing that people who engineer for a living can now get their names on national news for parts designed 10 years ago? The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?"

    236 comments | about a week ago

  • NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition

    coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA this week said it is exploring setting up one of its iconic Centennial Challenge competitions for companies to build a robotic Mars landing spacecraft. NASA said it would expect to have about $250,000 worth of prize money for a robotic spacecraft that could land on the Red Planet, retrieve a sample and return it to orbit."

    44 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

    EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "Three scientists and Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew say they were duped into appearing in a controversial documentary which claims the Earth is the center of the Universe. The Principle, a film which describes itself as 'destined to become one of the most controversial films of our time', argues the long-debunked theory of geocentrism – where the earth is the center of the Universe and the Sun resolves around it – is true and Nasa has tried to cover it up. The film features the narration of actress Mulgrew, who played the part of captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, as well as three prominent scientists."

    640 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Rover Curiosity Discovers Australia-Shaped Rock On Mars

    astroengine writes: "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun science operations in a new area of study nicknamed 'the Kimberly' after the Western Australian region. But in a new image uploaded to the Mars Science Laboratory raw image archive, it seems 'the Kimberly' is a little more Australian than mission managers originally thought. As spotted by @CoUdErMaNn on Twitter, Curiosity's Navcam photographed a rather interesting-looking rock formation just in front of the rover. The rock, which appears to have been formed through some erosion process, will likely fascinate geologists for some time. But at first glance the rock also appears to take the shape of Australia."

    99 comments | about two weeks 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

  • NASA To Catalog and Release Source Code For Over 1,000 Projects

    An anonymous reader writes "By the end of next week, NASA will release a master catalog of over 1,000 software projects it has conducted over the years and will provide instructions on how the public can obtain copies of the source code. NASA's goal is to eventually 'host the actual software code in its own online repository, a kind of GitHub for astronauts.' This follows NASA's release of the code running the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer a few years back. Scientists not affiliated with NASA have already adapted some of NASA's software. 'In 2005, marine biologists adapted the Hubble Space Telescope's star-mapping algorithm to track and identify endangered whale sharks. That software has now been adapted to track polar bears in the arctic and sunfish in the Galapagos Islands.' The Hubble Space Telescope's scheduling software has reportedly also been used to schedule MRIs at hospitals and as control algorithms for online dating services. The possibilities could be endless."

    46 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Will Living On Mars Drive Us Crazy?

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "When astronauts first began flying in space, NASA worried about 'space madness,' a mental malady they thought might arise from humans experiencing microgravity and claustrophobic isolation inside of a cramped spacecraft high above the Earth. Now Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic that NASA is hoping to find out what life on Mars does to the human emotional state by putting three men and three women in a 1,000-square-foot habitat shaped like a dome for four months. The volunteers in the second HI-SEAS mission — a purposely tiny group selected out of a group of 700 applicants — include, among others, a neuropsychologist, an aerospace engineer, and an Air Force veteran who is studying human factors in aviation. 'We're going to stress them,' says Kim Binsted, the project's principal investigator. 'That's the nature of the study.' That test involves isolating the crew in the same way they'd be isolated on Mars. The only communication they'll be allowed with the outside world—that is to say, with their family and friends—will be conducted through email. (And that will be given an artificial delay of 20 minutes to simulate the lag involved in Mars-to-Earth communications.)

    If that doesn't seem too stressful, here's another source of stress: Each mission member will get only eight minutes of shower time ... per week. The stress will be compounded by the fact that the only time the crew will be able to leave their habitat-yurt is when they're wearing puffy, insulated uniforms that simulate space suits. In the Hawaiian heat. Throughout the mission, researchers will be testing the subjects' moods and the changes they exhibit in their relationships with each other. They'll also be examining the crew members' cognitive skills, seeing whether—and how—they change as the experiment wears on. Binsted says the mission has gotten the attention of the TV world but don't expect to see much inside-the-dome footage. 'You wouldn't believe the number of producers who called us,' says Binsted. 'Fortunately, we're not ethically allowed to subject our crew to that kind of thing.'"

    150 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts On One-Way Missions To Deep Space

    Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "If NASA is serious about deep space missions, it's going to have to change its safety guidelines, because there's no conceivable way that, within the next few years, our engineering capabilities or understanding of things like radiation exposure in space are going to advance far enough for a mission to Mars to be acceptably "safe" for NASA. So, instead, the agency commissioned the National Academies Institute of Medicine to take a look at how it can ethically go about changing those standards. The answer? It likely can't.

    In a report released today, the National Academies said that there are essentially three ways NASA can go about doing this, besides completely abandoning deep space forever: It can completely liberalize its health standards, it can establish more permissive "long duration and exploration health standards," or it can create a process by which certain missions are exempt from its safety standards. The team, led by Johns Hopkins University professor Jeffrey Kahn, concluded that only the third option is remotely acceptable."

    402 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NASA Halts Non-ISS Work With Russia Over Ukraine Crisis

    An anonymous reader writes "The Verge reports on an internal memo from NASA indicating that they've suspended all contracts and activities with Russia that aren't involved with operating the International Space Station. Quoting: 'Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden argued recently that our dependence on Russia for putting astronauts into space needs to end."

    291 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

  • NASA Puts Its New Spacesuit Design To a Public Vote

    An anonymous reader writes "NASA, in collaboration with ILC and Philadelphia University, has designed three different cover layers for its new spacesuit prototype, Z-2. NASA will let the public decide which of the three designs will actually be built. Voting is open through April 15, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Here are brief descriptions of the three designs: 'The "Biomimicry" design draws from an environment with many parallels to the harshness of space: the world's oceans. Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth's toughest creatures. ... "Technology" pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future. By using Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, this design puts a new spin on spacewalking standards such as ways to identify crew members. ... "Trends in Society" is based off of just that: being reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future. This suit uses electroluminescent wire and a bright color scheme to mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies.'"

    127 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

  • Spacecraft Returns Seven Particles From Birth of the Solar System

    sciencehabit writes "After a massive, years-long search, researchers have recovered seven interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft. The whole sample weighs just a few trillionths of a gram, but it's the first time scientists have laid their hands on primordial material unaltered by the violent birth of the solar system. Once the sample panel was back on Earth, the problem quickly became finding any collected particles embedded in the aerogel. Out of desperation, Stardust team members called on 30,714 members of the general public. The 'dusters' of the Stardust@home project volunteered to examine microscopic images taken down through the aerogel. They used the world's best pattern-recognition system — the human eye and brain — to pick out the telltale tracks left by speeding particles."

    48 comments | about a month ago

  • Google's Project Tango Headed To International Space Station

    itwbennett (1594911) writes "A pair of Google's Project Tango phones, the prototype smartphone packed with sensors so it can learn and sense the world around it, is heading to the International Space Station on the upcoming Orbital 2 mission where they will be used to help develop autonomous flying robots. Work on the robots is already going on at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and this week the space agency let a small group of reporters visit its lab and see some of the research."

    22 comments | about a month ago

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