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Space

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.
Space

Craters Pop As NASA's Dawn Probe Approaches Ceres 52

Posted by timothy
from the ready-for-their-closeup dept.
astroengine writes New features on Ceres' icy surface are popping into view as NASA's Dawn spacecraft slowly spirals in on its final celestial target in the asteroid belt. Due to arrive in a stable Ceres orbit in March, the ion drive-propelled spacecraft is now less than 90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers) from its ultimate goal. Once arrived at Ceres, NASA will insert the probe into a highly stable orbit where, when the mission concludes in a year from now, Dawn will become a permanent man-made moon of the dwarf planet.
Space

The Strangest Moon In the Solar System 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out dept.
StartsWithABang writes Moons in our Solar System — at least the ones that formed along with the planets — all revolve counterclockwise around their planetary parents, with roughly uniform surfaces orbiting in the same plane as their other moons and rings. Yet one of Saturn's moon's, Iapetus, is unique, with a giant equatorial ridge, an orbital plane that doesn't line up, and one half that's five times brighter than the other. While the first two are still mysteries, the last one has finally been solved.
Moon

FAA Could Extend Property Rights On the Moon Through Regulation 283

Posted by timothy
from the legal-fictions-made-of-cheese dept.
MarkWhittington writes When the Outer Space Treaty which, among other things, forbade claims of national sovereignty on other worlds, was signed and ratified by the United States in 1967, little thought was given to the idea of private property rights. Now, with companies like Moon Express and Bigelow Aerospace contemplating private lunar operations, that question has become a concern. According to Reuters, the FAA may have discovered a way to enforce private property rights on the moon without, it is hoped, violating the Outer Space Treaty. The idea is to extend the FAA's current launch licensing authority to cover commercial activities on the moon. The agency would license, for example, a helium 3 mining facility, giving the company running it control over it and as much adjoining territory as necessary to run the operation. The size of that territory, for which a particular company would hold property and mineral rights, could be considerable.
Space

Rare Astronomical Event Will See Triple Moon Shadows On Jupiter 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
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.
China

Chinese Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around the Moon 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-do-you-say-"that's-no-moon"-in-mandarin dept.
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."
NASA

Space Policy Guru John Logsdon Has Good News and Bad News On NASA Funding 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-spare-a-dime? dept.
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.
Moon

Private Russian Company Proposes Lunar Base 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-neighborhood dept.
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.
Open Source

Slashdot Asks: The Beanies Return; Who Deserves Recognition for 2014? 299

Posted by timothy
from the for-contributions-and-general-awesomeness dept.
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.

The Military

DARPA Wants Help Building a Drone That Flies Like a Hawk 42

Posted by timothy
from the why-not-spiders-like-in-minority-report dept.
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.
NASA

Can Rep. John Culberson Save NASA's Space Exploration Program? 156

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-money dept.
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.
Moon

NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon and Other Planets 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-space-nobody-can-hear-you-print dept.
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.
Space

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
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.
Music

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: The Science of Misheard Song Lyrics 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the dirty-dean-and-the-dunder-cheese dept.
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.
Space

Titan's Dunes Took Tens of Thousands of Years To Form 12

Posted by Soulskill
from the home-projects-always-take-longer-than-you-plan-for dept.
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.