NASA

NASA Looking At Nuclear Thermal Rockets To Explore the Solar System 15

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
MarkWhittington writes: Officially, NASA has been charged with sending astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. Toward that end, according to a story in Universe Today, space agency engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center are looking at an old concept for interplanetary travel, nuclear thermal engines. "...according to the report (cached), an NTP rocket could generate 200 kWt of power using a single kilogram of uranium for a period of 13 years – which works out of to a fuel efficiency rating of about 45 grams per 1000 MW-hr. In addition, a nuclear-powered engine could also provide superior thrust relative to the amount of propellant used." However, some doubts have been expressed whether NASA will be granted the budget to develop such engines.
Space

We May Have Jupiter To Thank For the Nitrogen In Earth's Atmosphere 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the jupiter-never-forgets-our-birthday dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. It's also the 4th most abundant element in the human body. But where did all the nitrogen on Earth come from? Scientists aren't sure, but they have a new theory. Back when the solar system was just a protoplanetary disk, the ice orbiting the early Sun included ammonia, which has a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. But there needed to be a way for the nitrogen to get to the developing Earth. That's where Jupiter comes in. During its theorized Grand Tack, where it plunged into the inner solar system and then retreated outward again, it created shock waves in the dust and ice cloud surrounding the sun. These shock waves caused gentle heating of the ammonia ice, which allowed it to melt and react with chromium-bearing metal to form a mineral called carlsbergite. New research (abstract) suggests this mineral was then present when the Earth's accretion happened, supplying much of the nitrogen we would eventually need for life.
Space

Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin' 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-quite-sol-o dept.
astroengine writes: Astronomers have found a star system that bears a striking resemblance to our inner solar system. It's a sun-like star that plays host to a system of five small exoplanets — from the size of Mercury to the size of Venus. But there's something very alien about this compact 'solar system'; it formed when the universe was only 20 percent the age it is now, making it the most ancient star system playing host to terrestrial sized worlds discovered to date.
NASA

Proposed Space Telescope Uses Huge Opaque Disk To Surpass Hubble 124

Posted by timothy
from the world-of-unlimited-resources dept.
Required Snark writes NASA has funded a study of a geo-sychrounous orbit telescope that uses a half-mile diameter opaque disk to provide images with 1000 times the resolution of the Hubble. It uses diffraction at the edge of the disk to focus light, resulting in a very high quality image. It's named the Aragoscope, after the scientist Francois Arago, who first noticed how a disk affects light waves. "When deployed the Aragoscope will consist of an opaque disk a half mile in diameter parked in geostationary orbit behind which is an orbiting telescope keeping station some tens to hundreds of miles behind that collects the light at the focal point and rectifies it into a high-resolution image. 'The opaque disk of the Aragoscope works in a similar way to a basic lens,' says CU-Boulder doctoral student and team member Anthony Harness. 'The light diffracted around the edge of the circular disk travels the same path length to the center and comes into focus as an image.' He added that, since image resolution increases with telescope diameter, being able to launch such a large, yet lightweight disk would allow astronomers to achieve higher-resolution images than with smaller, traditional space telescopes."
ch

Davos 2015: Less Innovation, More Regulation, More Unrest. Run Away! 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes: Growing income inequality was one of the top four issues at the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ranking alongside European adoption of quantitative easing and geopolitical concerns. Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, said there was a consensus that global inequality is getting worse, fueling overriding pessimism at the gathering. The result, he said, could be that the next big revolution will be in regulation rather than innovation. With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people's mind, the world's super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. "I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway," he said. Looking at studies like NASA's HANDY and by KPMG, the UK Government Office of Science, and others, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, warns that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a "perfect storm" within about fifteen years.
Mars

NASA Considers Autonomous Martian Helicopter To Augment Future Rovers 83

Posted by timothy
from the imperial-probe-droid dept.
SternisheFan (2529412) writes with this story at the Verge about an approach being considered by NASA to overcome some of the difficulties in moving a wheeled or multi-legged ground vehicle around the surface of Mars, which has proven to be a difficult task. Rover teams still have a tough time with the Martian surface even though they're flush with terrestrial data. The alien surface is uneven, and ridges and valleys make navigating the terrain difficult. The newest solution proposed by JPL is the Mars Helicopter, an autonomous drone that could 'triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day,' according to NASA. The helicopter would fly ahead of a rover when its view is blocked and send Earth-bound engineers the right data to plan the rover's route.
NASA

The Camera That Changed the Universe 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-it-with dept.
StartsWithABang writes As the Hubble Space Telescope gets set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of opening its eyes to the Universe, it's important to realize that the first four years of operations were kind of a disaster. It wasn't until they corrected the flawed primary mirror and installed an upgraded camera — the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) — that the Universe truly came into focus. From 1993 to 2009, this workhorse camera literally changed our view of the Universe, and we're pushing even past those limits today.
Democrats

SOTU: Community Colleges, Employers To Train Workers For High-Paying Coding Jobs 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the union-is-still-pretty-uniony dept.
theodp writes: Coding got a couple of shout-outs from the White House in Tuesday's State of the Union Address. "Thanks to Vice President Biden's great work to update our job training system," said President Obama (YouTube), "we're connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics." And among the so-called "boats" in the new "River of Content" that the White House social media folks came up with to enhance the State of the Union is a card intended to be shared on Twitter & Facebook which reads, "Let's teach more Americans to code. (Even the President is learning!)." President Obama briefly addressed human spaceflight, saying, "I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay." He also called once more for action on climate change. Politifact has an annotated version of the transcript for more background information on Obama's statements, and FiveThirtyEight has a similar cheat sheet.
Communications

NJ Museum Revives TIROS Satellite Dish After 40 Years 28

Posted by timothy
from the zip-zooming-along dept.
evanak writes TIROS was NASA's Television Infrared Observation Satellite. It launched in April 1960. One of the ground tracking stations was located at the U.S. Army's secret "Camps Evans" Signals Corps electronics R&D laboratory. That laboratory (originally a Marconi wireless telegraph lab) became the InfoAge Science Center in the 2000s. [Monday], after many years of restoration, InfoAge volunteers (led by Princeton U. professor Dan Marlowe) successfully received data from space. The dish is now operating for the first time in 40 years! The received data are in very raw form, but there is a clear peak riding on top of the noise background at 0.4 MHz (actually 1420.4 MHz), which is the well-known 21 cm radiation from the Milky Way. The dish was pointing south at an elevation of 45 degrees above the horizon.
Earth

NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-it-was-cold-this-morning dept.
Titus Andronicus writes: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both announced today that 2014 was the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record, surpassing the prior winners, 2010 and 2005. NASA also released a short video. They said, "Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. ... While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year."
Mars

Lost Beagle2 Probe Found 'Intact' On Mars 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-close-and-yet-so-far dept.
New submitter Stolga sends this report from the BBC: The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact. High-resolution images taken from orbit have identified its landing location, and it looks to be in one piece. The UK-led probe tried to make a soft touchdown on the dusty world on Christmas Day, 2003, using parachutes and airbags — but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. Many scientists assumed it had been destroyed in a high-velocity impact.

The new pictures, acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, give the lie to that notion, and hint at what really happened to the European mission. Beagle's design incorporated a series of deployable "petals," on which were mounted its solar panels. From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully. "Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels," explained Prof Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager from Leicester University.
ISS

Ammonia Leak Alarm On the ISS Forces Evacuation of US Side: Crew Safe 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the send-up-a-plumber dept.
New submitter BabelBuilder writes: An alarm signaling a possible ammonia leak aboard the ISS this morning caused the crew to evacuate the U.S. side of the station. All crew aboard the station are safe. "Flight controllers in Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston saw an increase in pressure in the station's water loop for thermal control system B then later saw a cabin pressure increase that could be indicative of an ammonia leak in the worst case scenario. Acting conservatively to protect for the worst case scenario, the crew was directed to isolate themselves in the Russian segment while the teams are evaluating the situation." They don't yet know whether it was caused by a faulty sensor, a problem in the relay box, or another malfunction.
ISS

The Strange Story of the First Quantum Art Exhibition In Space 69

Posted by timothy
from the emperor's-clothes-are-a-bit-looser-than-usual dept.
KentuckyFC writes When Samantha Cristoforetti blasted towards the International Space Station in November last year, she was carrying an unusual cargo in the form of a tiny telescope just 4 centimetres long and 1 centimetre in diameter attached to an unpowered CCD array from a smartphone camera. The telescope is part of an art project designed by the Dutch artist Diemut Strebe in which he intends to invoke quantum mechanics to generate all of the art ever made. Now MIT physicist Seth Lloyd has stepped forward to provide a scientific rationale for the project. He says the interaction of the CCD with the cosmic background radiation ought to generate energy fluctuations that are equivalent to the array containing all possible images in quantum superposition. Most of these will be entirely random but a tiny fraction will be equivalent to the great works of art. All of them! What's more, people on Earth can interact with these images via a second miniature telescope on Earth that can become correlated with the first. Lloyd says this is possible when correlated light enters both telescopes at the same time. Strebe plans to make his quantum space art exhibition available in several places before attaching the second telescope to the James Webb Space telescope and blasting that off into space too. Whatever your view on the art, it's hard not to admire Strebe's powers of persuasion in co-opting the European Space Agency, NASA and MIT into his project.
United States

Ted Cruz To Oversee NASA and US Science Programs 496

Posted by Soulskill
from the pi-is-exactly-3 dept.
romanval sends word that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will become the new chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA and government scientific research. Cruz has both spoken in favor of NASA and attempted to cut its budget, but he's most notable for his opposition to the science supporting climate change. From the article: His vociferous opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and his support of extreme budget cuts could spell trouble for NASA's less prominent programs, such as its own climate research and sophisticated supercomputers. His role on the front lines of the 2013 government shutdown, which critics say had lasting negative effects on public safety, NASA research and EPA scientists' ability to visit contaminated sites, also suggests at best a narrow focus on NASA's largest projects and at worst a disregard for agencies that require science funding.
NASA

NASA's New Horizons To Arrive At Pluto With Clyde Tombaugh's Ashes 108

Posted by timothy
from the economy-rate dept.
hypnosec writes NASA's New Horizons is bringing with it the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh – its discoverer – as it cruises towards the now dwarf-planet or 'plutoid'. The probe will be close enough on January 15 to start observing Pluto. Clyde Tombaugh discovered the ice and rock-laden Pluto in 1930 and one of his final requests was that his ashes be sent into space. Tombaugh died on January 17, 1997. Fulfilling that wish NASA has fitted the upper deck of New Horizons probe with a small container containing Tombaugh's ashes alongside a total of 7 scientific instruments. "Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system's 'third zone'", reads the inscription on the container.
Space

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission May Not Actually Redirect an Asteroid 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-because-it-is-easy-but-because-it-is-hard dept.
MarkWhittington writes: When President Obama first proposed visiting an asteroid in his 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, many assumed that the mission would be a deep space mission to an Earth-approaching asteroid in its "native orbit" in voyage taking weeks. Then, NASA dropped the idea in 2013 favor of the Asteroid Redirect Mission in which a tiny asteroid would be diverted to lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts. Now, according to a Thursday story in Space News, the ARM might take place without redirecting an asteroid.
NASA

NASA Update Will Deal With Opportunity Flash Memory "Amnesia" 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the patch-it-up dept.
BarbaraHudson writes Computerworld has some details on NASA's latest fix to allow the Opportunity Mars Rover to store data while in overnight "sleep mode." Opportunity has been suffering from a glitch that's causing what NASA scientists describe as memory and data loss — or robotic "amnesia" — caused by flash memory deterioration since early December. Currently any information gathered is stored temporarily in RAM and must be sent to Earth so it's not lost when Opportunity powers down.
Mars

Scientist Says Potential Signs of Ancient Life in Mars Rover Photos 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the did-you-see-that? dept.
mpicpp notes that a scientist named Nora Noffke says she thinks that the Curiosity rover may have found fossils on Mars. "Time and time again, as we carefully scrutinize the amazing high-resolution imagery flowing to Earth from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, we see weird things etched in Martian rocks. Most of the time our brains are playing tricks on us. At other times, however, those familiar rocky features can be interpreted as processes that also occur on Earth. Now, in a paper published in the journal Astrobiology, a geobiologist has related structures photographed by Curiosity of Martian sedimentary rock with structures on Earth that are known to be created by microbial lifeforms."
NASA

SpaceX One Step Closer To Launching Astronaut 70

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-closer dept.
BarbaraHudson writes SpaceX has passed NASA's "certification baseline review," which required the company to outline exactly how it plans to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket under SpaceX's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA. The contract will include at least one test flight with an astronaut in the spacecraft.
Space

Analysis of Spacecraft Data Reveals Most Earth-like Planet To Date 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the nicely-round-just-like-our-planet dept.
sciencehabit writes: Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Kepler satellite have boosted the tally of known or suspected planets beyond our solar system to more than 4000, they reported at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Most are inhospitable — too big, too hot, or too cold for any conceivable life form. But another team seeking to verify Kepler candidates announced they had identified eight new potentially habitable planets, including some close to Earth in size and situation. Unpoetically named 5737.01, one candidate has an orbital period of 331 days and is 30% larger than Earth, Mullally says. That’s good news, because scientists here reported yesterday that planets more than 1.6 times the mass of Earth are unlikely to be dense rocky worlds like ours — assumed to be the only plausible habitats for life.