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China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit ( 262

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

NBC calls this evidence of "the intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry... With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space."

Pokemon Go Could Add 2.83 Million Years To Users' Lives, Says Study ( 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: A new study from Microsoft Research found that the most interested Pokemon Go players took 26% more steps than before using the app. The largest behavior changes were seen among sedentary users. No matter their gender, age, weight or lifestyle, Pokemon Go users began to move more -- taking an extra 194 steps a day once they started using the app. (That's the equivalent of walking roughly one tenth of a mile.) The researchers estimate that Pokemon Go has added 144 billion steps to U.S. physical activity. That's 143 roundtrips to the moon. The study was published online this month in the Cornell Library University. Since activity reduces mortality risks, the researchers estimated that Pokemon Go could add 2.83 million years to the life expectancy of an assumed 25 million U.S. users. Based off research that showed walking reduces mortality, the researchers calculated that Pokemon Go users who continued to walk an extra 1,000 steps a day would enjoy 41.4 days of additional life expectancy. The Microsoft scientists examined data shared by 31,793 users of Microsoft Band, a wearable device, and Bing, the company's search engine. They compared the movement data from the wearables with users' web search queries. Pokemon Go players were identified by web searches that indicated they were playing the game. The Microsoft team also looked at four of the most popular health apps on Apple and Android devices. They found these apps had little impact on a person's behavior. The activity levels of Pokemon Go users changed far more.

'Space Brain': Mars Explorers May Risk Neural Damage, Study Finds ( 186

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Astronauts making a years-long voyage to Mars may get bombarded with enough cosmic radiation to seriously damage their brains, researchers reported Monday. The damage might be bad enough to affect memory and, worse, might heighten anxiety, the team at the University of California Irvine said. It's the second study the team has done to show that cosmic radiation causes permanent, and likely untreatable, brain damage. While their experiments involve mice, the brain structures that are damaged are similar, they write in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. NASA knows that astronauts risk physical damage from the radiation encountered in space. Earth is enveloped in a large, protective sheath called the magnetosphere, which deflects a lot of the ionizing radioactive particles that speed through space. Teams aboard the International Space Station are inside that envelope. But moon travelers were not, and this summer a study showed the cosmic radiation may have damaged the hearts of many of the Apollo program astronauts. A trip to Mars would expose astronauts to even more radiation -- enough to cause cancer, for sure, and now this research suggests brain damage, as well. They bombarded mice with the same type of radiation that would be encountered in space, and then looked at what happened to their brains. It did not look good. The changes were seen in the connections between brain cells and in the cells, as well. "Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel -- such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."

Boeing CEO Vows To Beat Elon Musk To Mars ( 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg sketched out a Jetsons-like future at a conference Tuesday, envisioning a commercial space-travel market with dozens of destinations orbiting the Earth and hypersonic aircraft shuttling travelers between continents in two hours or less. And Boeing intends to be a key player in the initial push to send humans to Mars, maybe even beating Musk to his long-time goal. "I'm convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said at the Chicago event on innovation, which was sponsored by the Atlantic magazine. Like Musk's SpaceX, Boeing is focused on building out the commercial space sector near earth as spaceflight becomes more routine, while developing technology to venture far beyond the moon. The Chicago-based aerospace giant is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop a heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System for deep space exploration. Boeing and SpaceX are also the first commercial companies NASA selected to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing built the first stage for the Saturn V, the most powerful U.S. rocket ever built, which took men to the moon. Nowadays, Muilenburg sees space tourism closer to home "blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market." The International Space Station could be joined in low-earth orbit by dozens of hotels and companies pursuing micro-gravity manufacturing and research, he said. Muilenburg said Boeing will make spacecraft for the new era of tourists. He also sees potential for hypersonic aircraft, traveling at upwards of three times the speed of sound.

Jupiter's Moon Europa May Have Water Plumes That Rise Up About 125 Miles ( 96

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope released new images Monday, which will be published in The Astrophysicial Journal later this week, that show what appears to be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery is especially intriguing as it means that the ocean below Europa's surface could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. NPR reports: Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast subterranean ocean with twice as much water as Earth's oceans. This saltwater ocean is a tempting target for astrobiologists who want to find places beyond Earth that could support life. The trouble with exploring this ocean is that the water is hidden beneath an icy crust that's miles thick. But if plumes are indeed erupting from Europa, a spacecraft could potentially fly through them and analyze their chemistry -- much like NASA's Cassini probe did recently when it sped close to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that has small geysers. Scientists used Hubble to watch Europa's silhouette as the moon moved across Jupiter's bright background. They looked, in ultraviolet light, for signs of plumes coming from the moon's surface. They did this 10 separate times over a period of 15 months, and saw what could be plumes on three occasions. NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise up about 125 miles, and presumably material then rains back down onto Europa's surface. Using Hubble in a different way, scientists previously saw hints that salty water occasionally travels up to the moon's surface. In 2012, the telescope detected evidence of water vapor above Europa's south polar region, suggesting the existence of plumes that shoot out into space. The agency's Juno spacecraft is currently in orbit around Jupiter, but it isn't slated to take any observations of Europa.

Elon Musk Scales Up His Ambitions, Considering Going 'Well Beyond' Mars ( 289

An anonymous reader writes: For most of its 14-year existence, SpaceX has focused on designing and developing the hardware that will lead to its ultimate goal: colonizing Mars. These plans have remained largely secret from the general public, as company founder Elon Musk has dropped only the barest of hints. But that is expected to change on Sept. 27, during a session at the International Astronautical Congress, when Musk details some of these plans for the first time in a public forum. However, on the eve of the meeting, Musk dropped a surprise on Twitter. The workhorse spacecraft that will carry approximately 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to the surface of Mars, which until now has been popularly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, can't be called that, Musk said. "Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name..." he tweeted on Friday evening. By Saturday evening he had a new name dubbing the spacecraft the "Interplanetary Transport System," or ITS. Mars, it turns out, isn't the solar system's only marginally habitable world for would-be new world colonists. The Moon, Venus, the asteroid Ceres, and outer Solar System moons Titan and Callisto all have some advantages that could allow for colonies to subsist. However, Mars has generally been the preferred destination -- due to its relative proximity to Earth, a thin atmosphere, and sources of water ice. Musk now seems to be suggesting that some of these more distant destinations, especially moons around Jupiter and Saturn, might be reachable with the Interplanetary Transport System.

Alibaba Engineers Fired for Mooncake Hacking ( 85

On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, some people will go to great lengths to get mooncakes, the traditional gift for family, friends and colleagues. At Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., four engineers tried to rig the distribution system of the e-commerce giant's mooncake selloff -- and were fired for their effort (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), reports WSJ. From the report: Alibaba confirmed it fired the four this week, after they hacked into the internal website that allows employees to purchase the company's signature mooncakes, with an orange fluffy Alibaba mascot inside. The Hangzhou-based company allocates one free box to each employee for the holiday, and sells extras on the site at cost -- 59 yuan (about $9) for a box of four.

The Moon's Gravitational Pull Can Trigger Major Earthquakes, Says Study ( 130

schwit1 writes: A careful statistical analysis of when major earthquakes occur has suggested they are more likely to be more powerful if they occur around the full and new moons when tidal forces are at their peak. reports: "Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues investigated three separate earthquake records covering Japan, California and the entire globe. For the 15 days leading up to each quake, the scientists assigned a number representing the relative tidal stress on that day, with 15 representing the highest. They found that large quakes such as those that hit Chile and Tohoku-Oki occurred near the time of maximum tidal strain -- or during new and full moons when the Sun, Moon and Earth align. For more than 10,000 earthquakes of around magnitude 5.5, the researchers found, an earthquake that began during a time of high tidal stress was more likely to grow to magnitude 8 or above." As these results are based entirely on statistical evidence, not on any direct link between tidal forces and actual quakes, they are quite uncertain and unproven.

Can Humankind Establish a Supply Chain in Space? ( 209

Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor shares a new paper by NASA planetary scientist Philip Metzger, "detailing a roadmap for humanity to take control of the Solar System in order to solve problems on Earth" by utilizing the resources that are already on the moon. In a 2013 paper, Dr. Metgzer wrote: "[B]ootstrapping" can be achieved with as little as 12 metric tons landed on the Moon during a period of about 20 years... The industry grows exponentially because of the free real estate, energy, and material resources of space. The mass of industrial assets at the end of bootstrapping will be 156 metric tons with 60 humanoid robots or as high as 40,000 metric tons... Within another few decades with no further investment, it can have millions of times the industrial capacity of the United States...
Dr. Metzger wrote in 2013 that "This industry promises to revolutionize the human condition." (See RockDoctor's original submission for more details.) While Metzger now notes that "It will require a sustained commitment of several decades to complete," his new article points out that a lunar supply chain outpost "will cost about 1/3 or less of the existing annual budgets of the national space programs," thanks to advances in both robotics and artificial intelligence, and will help humanity develop renewable energy and greatly expand the availability of other limited resources.

A Small Asteroid Buzzed Earth Wednesday, But Everything's Cool ( 94

An anonymous reader writes: If the Earth were a person, it might have felt a sudden wind rustling its hair when a small asteroid whizzed past the planet on Wednesday. The asteroid, saddled with the name 2016 RB1, is a new discovery. Astronomers just noticed it on September 5 thanks to the keen eye of a telescope from the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. What makes 2016 RB1 so sneaky is its small size. It's only about 25 to 50 feet (7 to 16 meters) in diameter. It passed within just 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of Earth, which NASA helpfully translates into 1/10th the distance from Earth to the moon. In terms of the massive size of the galaxy, that qualifies as a relatively close shave. An animated GIF of the flyby shows a tiny white dot moving against a grainy space background. The asteroid's trajectory kept it well out of the way of any satellites, and the planet was never in any danger.

Recent College Grads Aim To Land A Robot On The Moon ( 59

Sunday the Indian Space Research Organization successfully test-launched a scramjet rocket, propelled by "an air-breathing propulsion system which uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidizer" rather than carrying a tank of liquid oxygen. "if the need for liquid oxygen is taken away, the space craft can be much lighter, hence cheaper to launch," notes one newspaper, adding that India is only the fourth country to flight-test a scramjet engine after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency.

But in addition, 15 former ISRO scientists are now helping Team Indus, one of the 16 teams remaining in Google's $30 million Lunar XPRIZE competition, who will use ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle to send their spacecraft to the moon. GillBates0 writes: An official designated as "Skywalker", said that such space missions used to be limited to extremely elite people and PhDs in the past. That stereotype is now breaking. "I was just a college student a couple of years ago and now I am working on an actual space mission, how cool is that," said Karan Vaish, 23, who is helping the team to design the lunar rover. Eighty per cent of the team is reported to be less than five years out of college.

Annoying 'Open PDF In Edge' Default Option Puts Windows 10 Users At Risk ( 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Microsoft fixed today a serious security flaw in the Windows PDF Library, a standard library used by Windows 10 to open and render PDF files, embedded by default in Edge. Exploiting this flaw allows attackers to execute code on the user's machine and take over the device, just by tricking a user into accessing a PDF hosted online via Edge. Since Edge is not only the default browser in Windows 10, but also the default PDF reader, this flaw puts countless of users that have not changed those settings at risk. Even worse, Microsoft has the annoying habit of resetting your personal app preferences once in a blue moon, always reverting Edge as the default browser and the default app to open PDF files.

North Korea Hopes To Plant Flag On The Moon Within 10 Years ( 215

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: In an interview with The Associated Press, a senior official at North Korea's version of NASA said international sanctions won't stop the country from launching more satellites by 2020, and that he hopes to see the North Korean flag on the moon within the next 10 years. "Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon," said Hyon Kwang Il, director of the scientific research department of North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration. An unmanned, no-frills North Korean moon mission in the not-too-distant future isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. Outside experts say it's ambitious, but conceivable. While the U.S. is the only country to have conducted manned lunar missions, other nations have sent unmanned spacecraft there and have in that sense planted their flags. Hyon said the current five-year plan, at the order of leader Kim Jong Un, focuses on launching more Earth observation satellites and what would be its first geostationary communications satellite -- which, technologically, would be a major step forward. He said universities are also expanding programs to train rocket scientists. "We are planning to develop the Earth observation satellites and to solve communications problems by developing geostationary satellites. All of this work will be the basis for the flight to the moon," Hyon said on July 28, adding that he personally would like to see that happen "within 10 years' time." Meanwhile, North Korea's southern neighbors are planning a similar mission to place a probe in orbit around the moon and a small lander and rover on the surface of the moon by 2020.

Moon Express Gets FAA Approval For Lunar Mission In 2017 ( 55

coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: The Federal Aviation Administration this week granted permission to a privately-held space firm to launch a robotic spacecraft to the moon. Moon Express expects to launch its MX-1 spacecraft on a two-week mission to the lunar surface in 2017. The MX-1, which is about as large as a suitcase will include instruments and a camera to explore the moon's surface. Moon Express has a contract with Rocket Lab USA for 3 lunar missions between 2017 and 2020. They are the first private company to receive permission to go to the moon. "Moon Express applauds efforts underway by the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch to establish a permanent regulatory framework to authorize commercial activities beyond Earth orbit," said Moon Express cofounder and CEO Bob Richards. "Our 'Mission Approval' process is an interim arrangement that can be implemented quickly enough for our 2017 launch requirements, allowing us to continue to execute on our business plans under U.S. law while ensuring our activities are consistent with U.S. obligations under the Outer Space Treaty."

NASA's 'Journey To Mars' Initiative Might Be Delayed Due To Government Audit ( 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Christian Science Monitor: NASA has taken bold steps toward crewed Mars exploration in recent years. But according to a new audit, the agency may be moving too hastily. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) expressed concerns this past week about the feasibility of NASA's Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System (SLS). In two government-requested audits, the GAO questioned NASA's ability to meet program deadlines, citing insufficient funding and internal management issues. According to the GAO, however, the agency's schedule just isn't realistic. By pushing for earlier launch dates, NASA is increasing the inherent risk of a deep space mission. NASA's budgeting practices are also scrutinized in GAO's audit. In September, the agency asked for $11.3 billion to prepare Orion for launch. "Ideally, if these programs go forward, NASA would be taking actions to reduce the risks we see now, which are being caused by management issues," says Cristina Chaplain, who led the GOA audit, in an interview with the Monitor. "They're going to face the technical issues no matter what. But they're exacerbating them with management concerns, like not having accurate cost estimates." The report adds: "NASA's 'Journey to Mars' initiative has been a source of both excitement and controversy. The Asteroid Redirect Mission, in which the agency will send four astronauts to redirect an asteroid into the moon's orbit, is slated to launch sometime in the next decade. The mission is designed to test new propulsion technology for future crewed Mars missions. In the 2030s, NASA hopes to send an Orion crew to the red planet. NASA plans to complete the first SLS launch in 2018. In the test mission, called Exploration Mission 1, the rocket will carry an empty Orion into orbit around the moon. In subsequent missions, SLS/Orion will launch with a full crew. NASA has scheduled Exploration Mission 2 for April 2023, but administrators hope to launch as early as 2021."

47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon ( 185

An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.

Taiwan Building Lunar Lander For NASA Moon-Mining Mission ( 84

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: According to AFP, the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan is building a $47 million, 3.7 metric ton lunar lander on behalf of NASA. The vehicle is designed to carry a rover called Resource Prospector, which would roll about the lunar surface searching out deposits of oxygen, hydrogen, and water. The Resource Prospector mission is still being formulated but is envisioned to be a joint project with several national space agencies and commercial companies. The lunar lander is the first vehicle of its type to be built in Taiwan. "The Resource Prospector would take samples from about a meter beneath the lunar surface and then heat them in an oven to ascertain what the materials are that comprise it," reports Blasting News. The mission is part of the second stage to NASA's Journey to Mars program called "Proving Ground." "Should the Resource Prospector prove to be successful, the moon could be used as a base for space journeys into Mars," says Han Kuo-change, the head of CSIST's international cooperation program.

Assembly Code That Took America to the Moon Now Published On GitHub ( 74

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it's like a 1960s time capsule," reports Quartz. Two lines of code include the comment "# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE," and there's also a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry VI. In addition, the keyboard and display system program is named PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHT, and "There's also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to 'crank the silly thing around.'"

A former NASA intern uploaded the thousands of lines of assembly code to GitHub, working from a 2003 transcription made from scans inherited by MIT from a Colorado airplane pilot, and developers are already using GitHub to submit funny issue tickets for the 40-year-old code -- for example, "Extension pack for picking up Matt Damon". Another issue complains that "A customer has had a fairly serious problem with stirring the cryogenic tanks with a circuit fault present." Because this issue succinctly describes the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, the issue has been marked "closed".


United Launch Alliance Plans For 1,000 People Working In Space By 2045 ( 135

What if you could produce rocket fuel in outer space -- making it 83% cheaper? One company sees this as the basis a self-sustaining "space economy" based on refueling Earth-orbiting spaceships. Slashdot reader MarkWhittington writes: Jeff Bezos, of both Amazon and Blue Origin, may ruminate about moving a lot of industry off the planet, but the United Launch Alliance, that joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has a concrete plan to do so. ULA is working on an idea to have 1,000 people operating in Earth-moon space by 2045, less than 30 years away...

Microsoft President Brad Smith: Computer Science Is Space Race of Today 171

theodp writes: Q. How is K-12 computer science like the Cold War? A. It could use a Sputnik moment, at least that's the gist of an op-ed penned by Senator Jerry Moran (R., KS) and Microsoft President Brad Smith. From the article: "In the wake of the Soviet Union's 1957 Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower confronted the reality that America's educational standards were holding back the country's opportunity to compete on a global technological scale. He responded and called for support of math and science, which resulted in the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and helped send the country to the moon by the end of the next decade. It also created the educational foundation for a new generation of technology, leadership and prosperity. Today we face a similar challenge as the United States competes with nations across the globe in the indispensable field of computer science. To be up to the task, we must do a better job preparing our students for tomorrow's jobs." Smith is also a Board member of tech-bankrolled, which invoked Sputnik in its 2014 Senate testimony ("learning computer science is this generation's Sputnik moment") as it called for "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund [...] to support the teaching and learning of more computer science," nicely echoing Microsoft's National Talent Strategy. Tying the lack of K-12 CS education to the need for tech visas is a time-honored tradition of sorts for Microsoft and politicians. As early as 2004, Bill Gates argued that CS education needed its own Sputnik moment, a sentiment shared by Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007 as she and fellow Senators listened to Gates make the case for more H-1B visas as he lamented the lack of CS-savvy U.S. high school students.

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