Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - Pay What You Want for the Learn to Code Bundle, includes AngularJS, Python, HTML5, Ruby, and more. ×

NASA's Robonaut 2 Can't Use Its Space Legs Upgrade 58

BarbaraHudson writes: Robonaut 2, now in orbit on board the International Space Station, has run into problems with the software controlling its new legs. From the article: "The machine ran into a few technical errors. According to NASA, the ground teams deployed Robonaut's software and received telemetry from the robot, but were unable to obtain the correct commands for the leg movement, which are vital to performing every day tasks aboard the International Space Station. Ground teams have begun assessing how to move forward with this issue, though it is unclear if they currently have a fix in mind."

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

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.

Should We Be Content With Our Paltry Space Program? 287

StartsWithABang writes: At its peak — the mid-1960s — the U.S. government spent somewhere around 20% of its non-military discretionary spending on NASA and space science/exploration. Today? That number is down to 3%, the lowest it's ever been. In an enraging talk at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting, John M. Logsdon argued that astronomers, astrophysicists and space scientists should be happy, as a community, that we still get as much funding as we do. Professional scientists do not — and should not — take this lying down.

Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch 71

According to NBC news, "A series of delays held up the maiden launch of NASA's Orion capsule on Thursday, adding some extra suspense to the first test of a spacecraft that's designed to take humans farther than they've ever gone — including to Mars." The much-anticipated launch, which had been scheduled for launch 7:05 a.m. Florida time, is to boost into orbit — empty — an instance of the Orion crew capsule intended to be part of a manned mission to Mars. As of shortly after 9 a.m. eastern time, troubleshooting has been in progress on the Alliance Delta 4 launch vehicle's hydrogen fill and drain valves in attempt to make the launch within today's launch window, which extends to 9:44 a.m. Besides the technical problem with those valves, the launch was delayed by wind, as well as by a boat that strayed into a restricted area. (Shades of the stray-boat delay in October for Orbital Science's ISS delivery launch.) Friday and Saturday have been designated as backup dates. Update: 12/04 15:03 GMT by T : The launch has been scrubbed.

Thanks To the Private Space Industry, Things Are Looking Up For Space City USA 47

gallifreyan99 writes When the shuttle program was ended, and manned space exploration was put on hold, the people of Titusville, Florida were left in big trouble. "Just 20 miles northwest of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it used to have a proud nickname: Space City USA. The dizzying boom of the 1950s and '60s helped create myriad jobs by giving work to nearby aerospace companies. Unfortunately, the past 15 years have seen everything dry up By December 2010, Titusville had one of the America's highest unemployment rates, 13.8 percent." But even though there's been plenty of bad news recently, the city hopes that the private space industry can save it from destruction.

Life Insurance Restrictions For Space Tourists 68

RockDoctor writes: Reuters reports that there are changes afoot for life insurance contracts, which will require additional premiums for "space tourists." While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test. Relatedly, an article at IEEE Spectrum explains why SpaceShipTwo's rocket fuel wasn't the cause of the accident.

NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew 399

globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.
United States

White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization" 352

MarkWhittington writes Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for "bootstrapping a solar system civilization." Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose. The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts.

Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity 549

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk's ambitions for SpaceX keep getting bigger. First he wanted to make the trip to Mars affordable, then he wanted to establish a city-sized colony, and now he's got his eye on the future of humanity. Musk says we need a million people on Mars to form a "sustainable, genetically diverse civilization" that can survive as humanity's insurance policy. He continued, "Even at a million, you're really assuming an incredible amount of productivity per person, because you would need to recreate the entire industrial base on Mars. You would need to mine and refine all of these different materials, in a much more difficult environment than Earth. There would be no trees growing. There would be no oxygen or nitrogen that are just there. No oil." How fast could we do it? Within a century, once the spacecraft reusability problem is solved. "Excluding organic growth, if you could take 100 people at a time, you would need 10,000 trips to get to a million people. But you would also need a lot of cargo to support those people. In fact, your cargo to person ratio is going to be quite high. It would probably be 10 cargo trips for every human trip, so more like 100,000 trips. And we're talking 100,000 trips of a giant spaceship."

NASA Expands Commercial Space Program 24

An anonymous reader writes: Just 10 days after NASA awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for future manned rocket launches, the agency announced today it is expanding its commercial space program to include contracts for delivery missions to the International Space Station. "Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 RFP, NASA intends to award contracts with one or more companies for six or more flights per contract. As with current resupply flights, these missions would launch from U.S. spaceports, and the contracted services would include logistical and research cargo delivery and return to and from the space station through fiscal year 2020, with the option to purchase additional launches through 2024."

Russia Pledges To Go To the Moon 197

An anonymous reader writes: Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has announced it intends to bring humans to the Moon by roughly 2030. Russia plans a full-scale exploration of the Moon's surface. Agency head Oleg Ostapenko said that by the end of the next decade, "based on the results of lunar surface exploration by unmanned space probes, we will designate [the] most promising places for lunar expeditions and lunar bases.

Mangalyaan Successfully Put Into Mars Orbit 173

knwny writes: India's Mars satellite Mangalyaan was successfully placed into orbit around Mars early on Wednesday following a 10-month journey from Earth. India thus joins the U.S., the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union in having successfully completed a Mars mission. It is, however, the only one to have done so on the first attempt. Headed by the Indian space agency ISRO, Mangalyaan was made in 15 months at a cost of just around 74 million USD — the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken.

Elon Musk Hints 1st Person To Mars May Go Via New Brownsville Spaceport 91

MarkWhittington writes If SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has his way, the first astronaut to set foot on Mars may begin his or her journey from the new commercial spaceport being built at Boca Chica Beach, just outside Brownsville, Texas. The Texas Tribune reported on Monday that Musk made the suggestion at the ground breaking ceremony of the commercial spaceport. The ceremony was also attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and various other Texas politicians and dignitaries, Musk's desire to establish a Mars colony and even retire to the Red Planet himself is not a secret.

NASA Inspector General Lobs Big Rocks At Agency's Asteroid Hunting Program 35

coondoggie writes Lack of money, management structure and staff are hampering NASA's ability to effectively identify and track comets, meteorites and asteroids that might threaten Earth. The space agency's Inspector General, Paul Martin, issued a scathing report this week that said while NASA's Near Earth Object program has done substantial work in identifying the sometimes massive rocks hurtling around the planet it is substantially behind in its goal of cataloging 90% of those 140 meters in diameter by 2020, among other issues.

ULA and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Announce Rocket Engine Partnership 19

An anonymous reader writes During an event at the National Press Club, Bezos announced an agreement with Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to continue development of a new rocket engine for ULA's Atlas and Delta rocket lines. From the article: "Called BE-4, the engine has been in the works at Blue Origin for three years and is currently in testing at the company's West Texas facilities. ULA, founded in 2006, has supplied rockets to the US Department of Defense and NASA and will now co-fund the BE-4 project to accelerate its completion. The agreement is for a four-year development process with testing slated for 2016 and flight in 2019."

Make it right before you make it faster.