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China

China Preparing To Send Crewed Shenzhou 11 To Tiangong 2 Space Station In 2016 54

MarkWhittington writes: China has not sent people into space since the mission of the Shenzhou 10 to the prototype space station Tiangong 1 in June 2013. Since then the Chinese have accomplished the landing of the Chang'e 3 on the lunar surface. According to a story in Space Daily, the hiatus in Chinese crewed spaceflight is about to end with the launch of the Tiangong-2 prototype space station in 2016 with the subsequent visit by a crew of Chinese astronauts on board the Shenzhou 11. The mission will be a prelude to the construction of a larger Chinese space station, slated to be completed by 2022.
ISS

Soyuz Heads To Space Station With New Crew 36

An anonymous reader writes: Last night, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to deliver three astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's Sergey Volkov, Denmark's Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov reached orbit without incident, and they'll dock with the ISS in the wee hours of Friday morning. Mogensen and Aimbetov will only stay until 11 September, at which point they and Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka will undock and return to Earth. (Here's a neat time-lapse of changing a Soyuz craft's parking space at the ISS.) Padalka was in charge for the current expedition, but he'll be passing command of Expedition 45 to NASA's Scott Kelly. Kelly and Oleg Kornienko will soon reach the halfway point of their one-year mission at the space station. It's worth noting that this was the 500th rocket launch from the Gagarin launchpad at Baikonur.
Technology

Shape-Shifting Navigation Device Points You In the Right Direction 38

Zothecula writes: Developed by Yale engineer Adam Spiers, the Animotus is a wirelessly-connected, 3D printed cube that changes shape to help direct you like a haptic compass. Gizmag reports: " Spiers designed Animotus when he was involved in a performance of Flatland, an interactive play based on Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 story of a two-dimensional world. As part of the stage production, audience members – both sighted and visually impaired – were kept in complete darkness and walked four at a time though the performance space with narrative voice overs and sound effects telling the story as they wandered through. In their hands, each participant held an Animotus that guided them by changing shape to point them in the right direction. With a multi-sectioned body created in a 3D printer, that Animotus alters shape in response to wireless instructions to indicate the user’s position in their environment. To do this, the top half of the cube twists around to point users toward their next destination and then slides forward to give a relative indication of the distance to get there. As a result, rather than having to look at a device, such as the screen of a smartphone, the user was able to determine their path by touch."
Space

World's Most Powerful Digital Camera Sees Construction Green Light 88

An anonymous reader writes: The Department of Energy has approved the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telecscope's 3.2-gigapixel digital camera, which will be the most advanced in the world. When complete the camera will weigh more than three tons and take such high resolution pictures that it would take 1,500 high-definition televisions to display one of them. According to SLAC: "Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce a wide, deep and fast survey of the night sky, cataloging by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed. During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will observe more galaxies than there are people on Earth – and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details. Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF)."
The Military

F-35 To Face Off Against A-10 In CAS Test 475

An anonymous reader writes: Lara Seligman from Defense News reports that the capabilities of the Joint Strike Fighter are to be evaluated for close-air support (CAS) missions. She writes, "To gauge the joint strike fighter's ability to perform in a close-air support role, the Pentagon's top weapons tester has declared the sleek new fighter jet must face off against the lumbering A-10. The Pentagon's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation plans to pit the full-up F-35 against the legacy A-10 Warthog and potentially other fighter jets to evaluate the next-generation aircraft's ability to protect soldiers on the ground."
Mars

New Horizons' New Target: Kuiper Belt Ice Chunk 2014 MU69 43

Vox reports on the next target destination for NASA's New Horizons probe, an ice chunk in the Kuiper Belt designated 2014 MU69. The plan is not yet final; like any space mission, complications are bound to come up. But if this selection sticks, New Horizons should reach 2014 MU69 in 2019. (Re/Code has the story, too.)
Moon

Kristian von Bengston's New Goal: The Moon 24

Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of DIY manned space program Copenhagen Suborbitals (which he left in 2014) writes with this pithy plug for his newest venture: "This year, we (a great crew) have been preparing for the next adventure with a mission plan going public Oct 1. Go sign up and join the project at moonspike.com." (You may want to check out our video inteview with von Bengston; he's a person who gets things done.)
Space

The View From 2015: Integrated Space Plan's 100-Year Plan 36

garyebickford writes: Wired Magazine has posted an article about the new 2015 version of the Integrated Space Plan, updated 14 years after the last version and descended directly from the original 1989 version. The original one was printed in the thousands, distributed by Rockwell, and appeared on walls throughout the space industry. One even hung behind the NASA administrator's desk. The new one is prettier, great for dorm room walls and classrooms, and Integrated Space Analytics, the company behind it, promises to expand their website into an up-to-date, live interactive tool. This is a great new beginning after over 30 years.
NASA

In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment 81

The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
NASA

How NASA Defended Its Assembly Facility From Hurricane Katrina 59

An anonymous reader writes: Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's arrival in New Orleans. Though that time was filled with tragedy, there were survival stories, and a new article gives an insider's account of how NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility weathered the storm. Michoud was their key fuel tank production location, and if it had been lost, the space program would have gone off the rails. A 17-foot levee and a building with four water pumps capable of moving 62,000 gallons per minute stood between the storm and catastrophe for NASA's launch capabilities. "Water was merely the primary concern of the first 24 hours; Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the facilities even if Michoud was the rare speck of land to escape flooding. Roofs were lost to strong winds, one building even blew out entirely. External Tank 122 took some damage." Members of the "ride out" team spent much of the next month at Michoud, working long days to inspect and repair issues caused by the water. They maintained the facility well enough that it became a base for members of the military doing search and rescue operations. Amazingly, they did it all without any injuries to the team, and NASA didn't miss a single tank shipment.
Space

ISRO Successfully Launches Satellite Into Geostationary Orbit 89

vasanth writes: Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) on Thursday cleared all doubts on its cryogenic capabilities, successfully launching the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D6), placing GSAT-6, a 2,117kg communication satellite in orbit. The GSLV D-6 is the second consecutive successful launch of the GSLV series with indigenous cryogenic upper stage. ISRO had on January 5, 2014 launched GSLV D-5, after a similar attempt failed in 2010. For the country, ISRO perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial, as precious foreign exchange can be saved by launching communication satellites on its own. Currently ISRO flies its heavy communication satellites by European space agency Ariane. ISRO has already perfected its Polar Launching Vehicle for launching lighter satellites, with decades of success stories. It has already put 45 foreign satellites of 9 nations into orbit. ISRO is to put 9 satellites in space using the PSLV launcher for the United States in 2015-2016.
Space

Research Suggests How Alien Life Could Spread Across the Galaxy 105

astroengine writes: As astronomical techniques become more advanced, a team of astrophysicists think they will be able to not only detect the signatures of alien life in exoplanetary atmospheres, but also track its relentless spread throughout the galaxy. The research, headed by Henry Lin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), assumes that this feat may be possible in a generation or so and that the hypothesis of panspermia may act as the delivery system for alien biology to hop from one star system to another.
Moon

You Can Now Be "Buried" On the Moon 72

Dave Knott writes: Space burials are longer the stuff of science fiction (and wealthy science fiction TV show creators.) The cremated remains of more than 450 people have been shot into orbit. Yet, despite the promise of space being a unique "resting place," almost every tiny vial of remains ever sent there has come back down to Earth or burned up upon re-entry. This wouldn't have happened had the ashes landed on Earth's moon — a fact that hasn't been lost on the companies pioneering this futuristic funeral technology. The San Francisco-based company Elysium Space officially launched its 'lunar memorial' service earlier this month, and will soon be sending the remains of a U.S. Army Infantry Soldier's mother upwards as part of its first ever moon burial.

The company's website further explains how the lunar burials will work: "You receive a kit containing a custom ash capsule to collect a cremated remains sample. After we receive the ash capsule back from you, we place your capsule in the Elysium memorial spacecraft. The latter is eventually integrated to the Astrobotic lander during the designated integration event. From here, the lander is integrated onto the launch vehicle. On launch day, the remains are carried to the moon where the lander will be deployed to its dedicated location, preserving our memorial spacecraft for eternity." Because Elysium can only send a small portion of cremated remains to the moon (less than a gram), participants aren't actually paying to have their loved ones literally buried on the moon. However, this has not deterred the company from launching the service, charging $11,950 per "burial".
Space

NASA Mulls Missions To Neptune and Uranus, Using the Space Launch System 77

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in Astronomy Magazine, NASA is contemplating sending flagship sized space probes to the so-called "ice giants" of Uranus and Neptune. These probes would orbit the two outer planets, similar to how Galileo orbited Jupiter and how Cassini currently orbits Saturn. The only time NASA has previously had a close encounter with either of these worlds was when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986 and then Neptune in 1989. Each of these missions would happen after the Europa Clipper, a flagship-class mission scheduled for the mid-2020s.