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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 15 declined, 9 accepted (24 total, 37.50% accepted)

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Submission + - Next-gen Mars rover in danger of cancellation 1

OriginalArlen writes: NASA's next-generation rover, the nuclear-powered, laser-equipped Mars Science Laboratory is reported to be at a serious risk of cancellation due to budget and schedule overruns, including non-delivery of vital parts by a subcontractor. Costs are running over $2B so far, and the already thin schedule of Mars missions planned for the next decade — with budget ring-fenced for an outer planets flagship mission — is in danger of further cuts if MSL's budget is expanded.

Submission + - Orion crew capsule chute test fails

OriginalArlen writes: NASA's first attempt to test Orion parachutes didn't go so well. "The result was a landing that severely damaged the test mock-up." (A type of landing also known as 'lithobraking'.) The parachutes, which would be used to safely land the Orion crew capsule in the event of a launch abort after an escape rocket pulls the capsule clear of the booster, failed to open after a drogue earlier in the sequence failed to open properly. A NASA spokesperson pointed out that this was the most complex test of it's type since the '60s, with a total of 18 parachutes involved. (The footage is on YouTube as well.)

Submission + - Arctic to be ice-free within FIVE years, not 40

OriginalArlen writes: The BBC is reporting new research into Arctic warming to be presented at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting which describes current models of arctic sea-ice response to warming as far too conservative. The work predicts that albedo feedback, together with a greater heat input from warmer ocean currents, will lead to ice-free summers as early as 2013. This would go a long way to explaining the dramatic and accelerating loss of sea-ice in the summer of 2007, which is merely the latest in a progressively widening gap between modeled and actual sea-ice loss (as well as presenting a nicely testable short-range prediction.)

Whilst sea-ice obviously doesn't raise the sea level when it melts, a similar runaway feedback that lead to significant reductions in the Greenland or Antarctica ice sheets would cause a 6-7m sea-level rise, indisputably catastrophic for human society as well as the polar bears.

Submission + - Huge offshore wind power programme launched in UK

OriginalArlen writes: The UK government has announced an ambitious plan to expand the existing, already extensive offshore wind turbine farms to an estimated 7000 units, enough to generate 20% of the UK's power needs by 2020. The newly green-friendly Conservative opposition party is also backing the scheme. Wonder what they'll make of it in Oregon...

Submission + - First details of manned Mars mission from NASA (

OriginalArlen writes: The BBC has a first look at NASA's initial concepts for a manned Mars mission, currently pencilled in for 2031. The main vehicle would be assembled on orbit over three or four launches of the planned Ares V heavy lift rocket. New abilities to repair, replace, and even produce replacement parts will be needed to provide enough self-sufficiency a 30 months mission, including 16 months on the surface. The presentation was apparently delivered at a meeting of the Lunar Exploration Management Group, although there's nothing on their site yet.

Submission + - Antarctic ice sheet melt accelerating 1

OriginalArlen writes: The rapidly diminishing extent of Arctic sea-ice has been widely covered here and elsewhere. Now NASA scientists using satellite data have published a paper in 'Science' demonstrating increased melting around the margins (mostly) of the Antarctic ice sheet. This is potentially much more serious, as the margins act as barriers, preventing the much larger land-borne ice-sheets sliding off the continent into the sea — causing a catastrophic 4-6m rise in sea-levels.

Submission + - Spelunking the caves of Mars

OriginalArlen writes: After earlier images caught glimpses of mysterious cave openings on flanks of the Martian volcano Arsia Montes, the MRO's superb HiRISE camera has now captured amazing close-up images of this cave / "skylight" on Arsia Montest. How big is the cavern below? What does it look like inside? Somehow I doubt we'll get data from inside in my lifetime, so let the wild-eyed speculation begin!

Submission + - Six minutes of terror: landing humans on Mars

OriginalArlen writes: Universe Today has a fascinating article discussing the difficulty of executing EDL (entry, descent, landing) on Mars for vehicles bigger than MER, Viking and Pathfinder, and for manned craft in particular. Airbags can't be used for obvious reasons, but the atmosphere is too thin to be used for parachutes or aerobraking by large heavy vehicles, and the stronger gravity (compared to the moon) makes an Apollo-style powered descent impossible. The best current idea is a huge inflatable torus called a hypercone.

Submission + - The impossibility of colonising the galaxy (

OriginalArlen writes: The science fiction writer Charlie Stross has written an excellent and comprehensive explanation of why, a million SF books, movies and games not withstanding, human colonisation of other star systems is impossible. This may seem a controversial idea, although it seems commonsensical to many — fortunately, Charlie makes a clear-headed and unarguable case, so far as I can see.

Nevertheless it would be interesting to see reasoned responses from the community who believe this is not merely possible, but inevitable — and even, as Hawking has said, vital for the survival of the species. So, who's right — Hawking or Stross?


Submission + - Dark matter stars in the early universe?

OriginalArlen writes: UniverseToday reports new research which suggests dark matter could have condensed to form 'dark stars' (nothing to do with black holes) in the early universe. As they would have been very massive and "burned" very slowly, fueled by non-fusion reactions, they could still be with us. Astronomers hope to better constrain theories of early galaxy and star formation with observations of gravitational lensing events caused by these ghosts of the primordial universe. No word from John Carpenter on the prospect of solipsistic thermostellar bombs...

Submission + - XBox live accounts being stolen?

OriginalArlen writes: Kevin Finisterre, a well-known security researcher, reports rumours that XBox Live online accounts have been compromised through an attack against Bungie. When he called XBox Live tech support, he was told: "Hackers have control of Xbox live and there is nothing we can do about it" — a definite contender for "Microsoft Quote of the Year", although sadly that's the modern meaning of 'hacker'. The "Microsoft Points" mentioned in the post apparently have a real dollar value.
The Media

Submission + - Exxon caught lying about climate science

OriginalArlen writes: ExxonMobile, one of the worlds largest oil companies, has been accused by the Royal Society and now by the Union of Concerned Scientists of paying millions of dollars in an attempt to misrepresent and discredit climate science that they presumably feel threatened by. Climate change is a high profile issue these days, but how many other large companies might be seeking to subtly distort public perception or understanding of other sciences for their own ends?

Submission + - London police equipped with 360* cams

OriginalArlen writes: (From the "you couldn't make it up" dept?) In a story so surreal I had to check the primary source, the Register reports that the (London, UK) Metropolitan Police are trialing the use of eight tiny cams, mounted in the police helmet, to provide 360 degree evidence gathering in the event that an officer witnesses a crime. The press release also gives more evidence of the stealth spread of ubiquitous ANPR systems across the country as a spin-off "benefit" to the London car congestion-charging scheme, which is likely to be rolled out across the country in the next few years. Are we already living in a Panopticon Society?

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