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Comment: Re:So...only a year to go? (Score 4, Interesting) 79

by fsh (#24445801) Attached to: SpaceX Conducts Full Thrust Firing of Falcon 9

Yeah but NASA are fantastic engineers. Their interface design and validation are orders of magnitude ahead of anybody else.

NASA didn't design the LEM, Northrop Grumman did. Spacecraft are designed by aerospace companies (like Northrop-Grumman, Boeing, Rockwell, and now SpaceX), and then NASA picks the design they like best. The best engineers are typically at the private companies because the pay is better than at government run NASA.

Consider the first shuttle flight. [...] And it worked first time. They were hot at the time, coming off the experience of Apollo.

Well, the first space shuttle, the Enterprise, never went to space. It's easy to have a successful first flight when you have the resources to build a full size scale model to 'test' with. And they weren't coming hot off Apollo; the space shuttle was about a decade later.

The most complex and unlikely machine (pretty much) ever built.

They made it needlessly complex. This is why they have had, and continue to have, so many problems. The designers promised several launches each month and a payload cost in $50-$100 per pound range.

The scientific community at the time said much the same things about the shuttle design that they currently say about the ISS; that it's too much money for too little return. Some even go so far as to suggest these overly-complex plans, pushed on the unsupportive science community are essentially aerospace company welfare.

Space

+ - Mars Rover Churns Up Yellow Soil

Submitted by
SeaDour
SeaDour writes "Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are taking a closer look at images sent back by the Mars rover Spirit nearly a year ago, showing bright yellow soil that had been churned up by the rover's wheels. The soil appears to contain high concentrations of sulfur as well as traces of water. "This material could have been left behind by water that dissolved these minerals underground, then came to the surface and evaporated, or it could be a volcanic deposit formed around ancient gas vents," said Dr. Ray Arvidson. Researchers are planning to see if the soil turns up anywhere else in the area, potentially giving more clues as to its origin."
Mars

+ - Frozen Ocean on Mars

Submitted by
tubapro12
tubapro12 writes "NASA has announced that radar scan indicate enough frozen water on Mars to cover the planet with up to 11 meters. A joint effort between NASA, ESA, and the ASI, has found "[a] frozen mass on Mars' South Pole is more than three and a half kilometres deep." This discovery adds a large part to the equation for any future colonization attempts on the fourth, red rock."
The Courts

+ - Supreme Court to Hear 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Monday

Submitted by
theodp
theodp writes "In 2002, 18-year-old Joseph Frederick held up a 14-foot banner saying 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' as the Olympic torch passed by his Juneau high school, sparking a feud with the principal that heads to the Supreme Court on Monday. Legal experts say Morse v. Frederick could be the most significant case on student free speech since the days of Vietnam War protests."
Media

+ - Girls of Engineering Calendar Released

Submitted by
An anonymous reader writes "According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "The women in the "Girls of Engineering" calendar were accepted to the Downstate campus' nationally ranked engineering program, where students on average scored a 31 on the ACT college entrance exam and graduated in the top 12 percent of their high school classes. " This calendar has upset some people in the engineering community because they find it offensive. Does the slashdot community find a calendar with girls in engineering offensive?"
Media

+ - The Pirate Bay taunts Hollywood with Oscartorrents

Submitted by cursorx
cursorx (954743) writes "Slyck reports that the MPAA loving Swedes from The Pirate Bay have just opened a new site called Oscartorrents.com. Not only do they provide links to torrents of most of this year's Academy Awards nominees, but they're also asking for users' votes. After the ceremony, they intend to publish a list of winners based on the torrent community's collective opinion. According to The Pirate Bay, "this is the way it should be done now that movie distribution is almost free. Hollywoodland might not like it, but some people always have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.""
Education

+ - Scientists Out, Civil War Historian in at Harvard

Submitted by
theodp
theodp writes "The candidates for the Harvard presidency left vacant by Lawrence Summers after his girls-don't-get-math-and-science-like-guys gaffe reportedly included University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman (PhD, Biochemistry), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson (PhD, Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics), and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace President Jessica Tuchman Mathews (PhD, Molecular Biology). But Harvard has tapped Civil War historian Drew Gilpin Faust to be its first woman president, a choice that some may find less than inspiring."
Space

Cosmic Rays and Global Warming 548

Posted by kdawson
from the yet-another-theory dept.
Overly Critical Guy writes "The former editor of New Scientist has written an article in the TimesOnline suggesting that cosmic rays may affect global climate. The author criticizes the UN's recent global warming report, noting several underreported trends it doesn't account for, such as increasing sea-ice in the Southern Ocean. He describes an experiment by Henrik Svensmark showing a relation between atmospheric cloudiness and atomic particles coming in from exploded stars. In the basement of the Danish National Space Center in 2005, Svensmark's team showed that electrons from cosmic rays caused cloud condensation. Svensmark's scenario apparently predicts several unexplained temperature trends from the warmer trend of the 20th century to the temporary drop in the 1970s, attributed to changes in the sun's magnetic field affecting the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere."
Space

+ - Geo-engineering to fend off climate change

Submitted by moon_monkey
moon_monkey (323491) writes "While cutting greenhouse gases might be the best way to halt climate change, it's reassuring to know some scientists are already thinking about ways to combat fend off runaway warming if this doesn't work. NewScientistSpace has an interesting blog post about some pretty crazy-sounding ways for combating climate change. These include pumping sulfur into the atmosphere, sending thousands of tiny mirrors into orbit and even painting all our roads white to reflect the Sun's rays. Could this be the next X-prize?"
Mars

Mars Camera's Worsening Eye Problems 93

Posted by kdawson
from the ringing-in-the-eyes dept.
Mr_Foo writes "According to a Nature article, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE imager is suffering from a loss of peripheral vision. The problem surfaced less than a month after the orbiter reached Mars. One the camera's four color detectors has completely stopped working, and it is feared that the problems are spreading. Currently seven of the fourteen HiRISE's detectors are sending back corrupted data and although the issue is only creating a 2% loss of signal at this time it is expected to worsen. The lead investigator for the mission is quoted as saying the problem is systemic: 'In the broken detectors, extra peaks and troughs are somehow being introduced, causing... a "ringing" in the signal. "We don't know where the ringing is coming from," [the investigator] says.' Warming the electronics before taking images seems to help the problem. This effect might be one reason why the detectors on the cold periphery of the array were the first to pack up."
Software

Recognizing Scenes Like the Brain Does 115

Posted by kdawson
from the software-meets-wetware dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research have used a biological model to train a computer model to recognize objects, such as cars or people, in busy street scenes. Their innovative approach, which combines neuroscience and artificial intelligence with computer science, mimics how the brain functions to recognize objects in the real world. This versatile model could one day be used for automobile driver's assistance, visual search engines, biomedical imaging analysis, or robots with realistic vision. Here is the researchers' paper in PDF format."
Security

US Planning Response To a Cyber Attack 359

Posted by kdawson
from the one-less-cyber-cafe-in-Karachi dept.
We've all heard of Google bombing; the US Government may be taking the expression rather literally. Planning is now underway across the government for the proper way to respond to a cyber attack, and options on the table include launching a cyber counterattack or even bombing the attack's source. The article makes clear that no settled plan is in place, and quotes one spokesman as saying "the preferred route would be warning the source to shut down the attack before a military response." That's assuming the source could be found. From the article: "If the United States found itself under a major cyberattack aimed at undermining the nations critical information infrastructure, the Department of Defense is prepared, based on the authority of the president, to launch a cyber counterattack or an actual bombing of an attack source."

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