Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:So is this a Soyuz thing? (Score 5, Informative) 58

The launch window is small because ISS has to be essentially lined up in orbit in a tight tolerance (called the phase angle) to rendezvous this quickly. Usually the Soyuz plays "catch up" over 2 days by flying lower (and faster) than ISS. You can control the closing rate between the vehicles by altering the altitude difference between them, which allows you to make up differences in the orbits between the vehicles. Those differences are usually just fallouts of other things, like having uncertainty in launch dates, getting the altitude just right for other vehicles (there is about a rendezvous a month at ISS), etc. It's not because Soyuz is slow, it's because spreading the rendezvous over 2 days gives you some targeting flexibility.

You have less margin to work with when you are trying to get there in 4 orbits instead of 34 orbits. Hitting that target with both ISS and Soyuz is hard but it's more about ground targeting than performance of the launch vehicle. The launch vehicle didn't give any extra oomph to get there faster, the ground essentially had the vehicle phasing in a tight tolerance at launch. They also sped up some of the tracking that was being done and turning that around into updated burns for the next orbit instead of coasting to a set of burns the next day, which was a bunch of work for the ground in a short period of time.

The Russians that devised this actually published it - it's an interesting read if you have access to the journal or want to spend $32:

Comment Why doesn't NASA Just.... (Score 1) 226

An awful lot of people in this thread have quick and simple "just do this" solutions for NASA's data encryption challenges.

NASA isn't your standard corporate environment - there are serious challenges to any "Just do X" solution. They DO need to encrypt everything but its not a simple single-answer thing. They have to accommodate every scenario from "HR newbie with PII data in an office envrionment" to "Laptop collecting data on a C-130 as it flies through hurricanes" to "Laptops controlling robots in the desert during field tests sulating Martian environments".

In many of those cases a laptop with broken
encryption software means millions of wasted dollars if the experiment is a wash.

In other cases NOT having crypto means serious secrecy issues.

Anyway, there's no excuse for this loss but could we please stop pretending that NASA literally never considered DAR on mobile devices, and that simply doing {your favorite product} on everything would solve all the problems?


Comment Re:i don't understand... (Score 1) 226

Wow, do you bring the servers with you when you go do field tests of your robot in the desert? Or on the plane when you're doing hurricane fly-through ops?

Wait, you don't have those kinds of complexities in your corp? Interesting.

I wonder if NASA is a really complicated and nuanced sort of place and how that might provide challenges for these sorts of seemingly trivial things.

Comment Re:Google's airport (Score 1) 86

Just to clarify for other readers, you post makes it sound like "NASA Doesn't do much" at NASA ARC.

I work at ARC, and it's a wonderful research facility! In just my short time here I've been involved with groups doing pioneering work in computer science and robotics, supercomputing, avionics, aviation safety, cockpit design, UAVs (for science, not war!), earth science, biology, astrophysics, planetary discovery, and so much more!!

NASA Kepler, which just found a "twin" earth (Google: Kepler 22-b) was begun here, and the science operations are still performed here.

Quite a lot of great stuff comes out of NASA Ames, for a very small overall price tag.

Comment Re:Just out of curiosity... (Score 1) 275

About 10 years ago I was at the VAB when all 4 orbiters were at KSC. There are only 3 bays in the Orbiter Processing Facility, and at the time the fourth shuttle was usually in Palmdale on a maintenance rotation. On the rare occasion where all four were at KSC, one had to be left in a corner somewhere waiting for it's turn in an OPF bay.

So, as I walked into the VAB (which is essentially a 50 story open bay, with a lot of open space) off on the left is Discovery, engines out, parked in the corner with a huge tarp suspended over it to protect it from stuff falling from above. It looked a little forlorn over there - literally "parked with a sheet over it". It was sort of surreal, because it was like seeing someones old project car in the corner of their garage, except it was an orbiter.

Anyways, even in this sort of storage you wouldn't be able to fly it again. The engineering and manufacturing infrastructure which supports the shuttle has been dissolved or is in the process of being dissolved. The physical orbiter was only a small piece of that infrastructure, which ran the gamut of things from trajectory analysts, simulators, manufacturing facilities for tanks, a control center staffed by trained personnel, etc. etc. It's not like pulling an aircraft out of storage, restoring it, and flying it. The space industry and space systems are still very specialized and rely on significant amounts of engineering, specialized equipment, and specialized knowledge on the part of the engineers and technicians supporting a particular system. Hopefully that will change soon.

Comment Re:White Room (Score 1) 275

I'd take it more as the white room crew making a patriotic statement than a religious reference. In many of the employees, there is a pretty significant sense of national service, both on the part of the government and contractor employees. I would say the majority of employees (at least the ones I worked with, who were mainly engineers) were primarily motivated by things other than a paycheck, which in most cases was smaller than a similar private sector position.

One interesting thing about the "God" reference - I'm not particularly religious, but to some it was not all about the science and engineering when there are people onboard. I've worked manned and unmanned launches. When there are people you actually know and work with daily onboard, it's got a whole different sense about it - and it would cause religious feelings to well up in some people who ordinarily were fairly agnostic.

Comment Re:Houston, we have a serious security problem... (Score 3, Insightful) 45

Hi all; I actually work for NASA as an IT Security guy.

While I can't answer specifics about this incident, you should remember that a great many things done by NASA are "General Science", and the data output from them is specifically and consciously made public.

It's possible that the FTP server is meant to be serving those files "to the public".

Why FTP instead of SFTP? Usually when you choose to make data public to the world, you don't bother implementing crypto on the data. And just because it's available via FTP for distribution, does not mean insecure FTP was used to *place* the data on the server.

Comment "What is a datacenter?" (Score 2, Insightful) 246

Before everyone gets all spun up on government waste, inefficiency, etc - I'd like to point out that numbers like these are never accurate. (For the record, I work for the feds, in the IT field).

The problem with "The feds have X datacenters" as a metric is that various audits occur at different times and by different auditors. These auditors almost always have differing definitions for what a datacenter actually is.

In one audit, a group can come through and define "Datacenter" as a big room where servers are co-located and services run on behalf of others. They'll find 2 at my center. Then a year later, a different group comes in and defines "Datacenter" as anywhere that more than 5 computers are running and left on all night. They'll find 200 at my center. Yes, this actually happened! The auditors came through dozens of science labs, found project servers sitting in the labs, and labeled each lab a datacenter.

Now here is the trick to why the statistics are complete mush. A normal IT guy would walk through the lab and say "Hey, that server should be in a datacenter!" -- but the auditors make the reverse conclusion. "Hey, this lab is a datacenter".

Yes, there is waste in the federal sphere and we absolutely need to take action to be more efficient at all levels. However, this article is basically pushing a number that came from someones' imagination, and pretending it's meaningful.

Comment Re:Firefox/Chrome extension? (Score 1) 149

Duh, how could I not think of a prompt + whitelist. :P

Then again, that presents the "NoScript" problem. While techies generally tend to use noscript, I pretty much see non-techies clicking "Temporarily allow all this page" on every page they visit that "doesn't work right" without even looking at the URL lists. So, a prompt to whitelist content would probably just get the same treatment. Better than status quo I suppose, but not a panacea either.


The White House Listed On Real Estate Website 123

Forget visiting the White House, if you have $10 million you can own it. At least that is the price for the president's home on the real estate website Redfin. From the article: "Obviously this is an error. It looks like Redfin software pulled an example listing from the website by mistake. That example listing was the White House. We have e-mailed Redfin for comment." I know it's historic but it still looks a bit on the high side according to the comparables in the area.

Beaver Dam Visible From Space 286

ygslash writes "The Hoover Dam no longer holds the title of the world's widest dam. Satellite photos of northern Alberta, Canada, show that several families of beavers have apparently joined forces to build a dam 850 meters wide, more than twice as wide as the Hoover Dam."

Slashdot Top Deals

Where are the calculations that go with a calculated risk?