Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space

Terrestrial Gamma Ray Bursts Very Common 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the planet-hulk dept.
Rambo Tribble writes It was long thought that gamma ray bursts were the exclusive province of deep space sources. More recently it was found that storms could produce such emissions, but such occurrences were thought rare. Now, data from NASA's Fermi satellite suggest such events happen over a thousand times a day. Per Prof. Joseph Dwyer, from the University of New Hampshire, "These are big, monster bursts of gamma rays, and one would think these must be monster storms producing them. But that's not the case. Even boring-looking, garden-variety, little storms can produce these."
Moon

NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon and Other Planets 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-space-nobody-can-hear-you-print dept.
ErnieKey writes A major application of 3d printing that could revolutionize space travel would be using 3d printers to create structures on non-terrestrial bodies like the moon, other planets, and even asteroids. Researchers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center have been working to develop solutions to materials issues, and recently presented initial findings on the potential for using in-situ materials like basalt for 3D printing. Their innovative method is based on only using in-situ supplies, and not materials that need to be brought into space.
Space

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the billy-dee-williams-volunteers-to-lead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.

The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."
NASA

11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-send-2,000-gallons-of-water-to-california dept.
mrflash818 points out a new study which found that California can recover from its lengthy drought with a mere 11 trillion gallons of water. The volume this water would occupy (roughly 42 cubic kilometers) is half again as large as the biggest water reservoir in the U.S. A team of JPL scientists worked this out through the use of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the article: GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley. ... New drought maps show groundwater levels across the U.S. Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.
Mars

Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes On Mars 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-still-hasn't-killed-any-cats dept.
astroengine writes: A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA's Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. "We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn't significant methane on Mars, but that's where we were," Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
NASA

NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-rest dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In a scathing indictment of NASA's bureaucracy, the Washington Post documents a $349 million project to construct a laboratory tower that was closed as soon as it was finished. From the article: "[The tower was] designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. ... As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially 'mothballed' — closed up and left empty — without ever being used. ... The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010. ... The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn't need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse. ... Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space. In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift."
NASA

NASA Gets 2% Boost To Science Budget 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-money-more-programs dept.
sciencehabit writes For an agency regularly called 'adrift' without a mission, NASA will at least float through next year with a boatload of money for its science programs. Yesterday Congress reached agreement on a spending deal for fiscal year 2015 that boosts the budget of the agency's science mission by nearly 2% to $5.24 billion. The big winner within the division is planetary sciences, which received $160 million more than the president's 2015 request in March. Legislators also maintained support for an infrared telescope mounted on a Boeing 747, a project that the White House had proposed grounding. NASA's overall budget also rose by 2%, to $18 billion. That's an increase of $364 million over 2014 levels, and half a billion dollars beyond the agency's request.
Biotech

Material Possiblities: A Flying Drone Built From Fungus 52

Posted by timothy
from the mushroom-treatment dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes What if you could construct an unmanned aerial vehicle out of biological material, specifically a lightweight-but-strong one known as mycelium? The vegetative part of a fungus, mycelium is already under consideration as a building material; other materials would include cellulose sheets, layered together into "leather," as well as starches worked into a "bioplastic." While a mushroom-made drone is probably years away from takeoff, a proposal for the device caught some attention at this year's International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. Designed by a team of students from Brown, Spelman, and Stanford Universities in conjunction with researchers from NASA, such a drone would (theoretically) offer a cheap and lightweight way to get a camera and other tools airborne. 'If we want to fly it over wildfires to see where it's spreading, or if there's a nuclear meltdown and we want to fly in to see what's going on with the radioactivity, we can send in the drone and it can send back data without returning,' Ian Hull, a Stanford sophomore involved in the project, told Fast Company.
NASA

Curiosity's Mars Crater Was Once a Vast Lake 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the how's-the-fishing? dept.
astroengine writes The mountain that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is exploring appears to have once been a lake, scientists said Monday. Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mound of layered debris rising from the floor of Gale Crater, is believed to have formed billions of years ago, images posted on NASA's website ahead of conference call with reporters show. Sediments to create the mountain likely originated from the crater rim highlands and were transported toward the center of the crater in alluvial fans, deltas, and wind-blown drifts, scientists said. "During wet periods, water pooled in lakes where sediments settled out in the center of crater," NASA said. "Even during dry periods in the crater center, groundwater would have existed beneath the surface. Then, during the next wet period it would resurface to form the next lake. This alternation of lakes, rivers and deserts could have represented a long-lasting habitable environment."
NASA

Pluto-Bound Spacecraft Ends Hibernation To Start Mission 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-get-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes NASA's New Horizons spacecraft awoke from hibernation on Saturday and sent a radio confirmation that it had successfully turned itself back on one and a half hours later. The spacecraft has been traveling for nine years across the solar system towards its destination, Pluto. From the article: "In 2006, with New Horizons already on its way, Pluto was stripped of its title as the ninth planet in the solar system and became a dwarf planet, of which more than 1,000 have since been discovered in the Kuiper Belt. With New Horizons approaching Pluto's doorstep, scientists are eager for their first close-up look at this unexplored domain."
Mars

Orion Capsule Safely Recovered, Complete With 12-Year-Old Computer Guts 197

Posted by timothy
from the why-that's-barely-a-dozen dept.
Lucas123 writes While NASA's Orion spacecraft, which blasted off on a successful test flight today, may be preparing for a first-of-its-kind mission to carry astronauts to Mars and other deep-space missions, the technology inside of it is no where near leading edge. In fact, its computers and its processors are 12 years old — making them ancient in tech years. The spacecraft, according to one NASA engineer, is built to be rugged and reliable in the face of G forces, massive amounts of radiation and the other rigors of space."Compared to the [Intel] Core i5 in your laptop, it's much slower — much less powerful. It's probably not any faster than your smartphone," Matt Lemke, NASA's deputy manager for Orion's avionics, power and software team, told Computerworld. Lemke said the spacecraft was built to be rugged and reliable — not necessarily smart. That's why there are two flight computers. Orion's main computer was built by Honeywell as a flight computer originally for Boeing's 787 jet airliner. Not only was the launch itself successful, but the sensor-laden craft's splashdown was smooth ("bulls-eye," as NASA puts it), and NASA has now recovered the capsule. ABC News has some good photos, too.
NASA

NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the well-done-folks dept.
PaisteUser sends word that NASA's Orion capsule successfully reached orbit this morning after a flawless launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Video of the launch is available on YouTube, and the Orion Mission blog has frequent updates as mission milestones are reached. Mission managers said the rocket and capsule performed perfectly during the initial phases of the test. "It was just a blast to see how well the rocket did," said Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion program manager. After Orion makes its first circuit around the planet, the rocket's upper stage will kick it into a second, highly eccentric orbit that loops as far as 3,600 miles from Earth. Then Orion will come screaming back into Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 mph — 80 percent of the velocity that a spacecraft returning from the moon would experience. This particular Orion is missing a lot of the components that would be needed for a crewed flight, and it won't be carrying humans. Instead, it's outfitted with more than 1,200 sensors to monitor how its communication and control systems deal with heightened radiation levels, how its heat shield handles re-entry temperatures that are expected to rise as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and how its parachutes slow the craft down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
NASA

Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch 71

Posted by timothy
from the despite-not-being-run-by-the-usps dept.
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.
Space

Who Needs NASA? Exoplanet Detected Using a DSLR 108

Posted by timothy
from the small-cheap-everywhere dept.
Iddo Genuth writes Until 20 years ago even the best telescopes in the world could not detect a planet outside our solar system. Now, with the aid of a basic DSLR, low cost lens and some DIY magic, you just might be able to "see" ET's home planet for yourself. Your DSLR can do much more than just take a few nice portraits or the occasional vacation photos – if you have some DIY experience (O.K. a bit more than just "some"), you might be able to repeat what David Schneider was recently been able to do — that is, building his own planet finder using only inexpensive photo gear, low cost electronics, the right kind of software and a lot of patience. Although Schneider was "only" able to rediscover an already known exsoplanet (some 63 light-years away from us), what he did — and more importantly how he did it — might allow planet hunting to become closer to SETI@home than NASA's 550,000 million dollar Kepler space telescope project.
NASA

Test Flight For NASA's Orion Capsule Slated for December 4 59

Posted by timothy
from the big-red-button dept.
Space.com (which will also carry live web-cam coverage) reports that the Orion capsule is scheduled for a test flight, sans passengers, on Thursday, December 4th. For this test flight, Orion will make two orbits of Earth, with the second lap taking the capsule 15 times farther from the planet than the International Space Station. Officials have attached more than 1,000 sensors to the spacecraft to monitor its systems during flight. Orion will also beam down images from its cameras as it is flying through space. NASA will use the information gathered during the test flight to make improvements to the spacecraft before humans set foot onboard. The Houston Chronicle has an article with some excellent diagrams of the planned flight, the Orion capsule itself, as well as some of the technological and political history behind the project.
Supercomputing

NSF Commits $16M To Build Cloud-Based and Data-Intensive Supercomputers 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the petaflops-for-megabucks dept.
aarondubrow writes: As supercomputing becomes central to the work and progress of researchers in all fields, new kinds of computing resources and more inclusive modes of interaction are required. The National Science Foundation announced $16M in awards to support two new supercomputing acquisitions for the open science community. The systems — "Bridges" at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and "Jetstream," co-located at the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center — respond to the needs of the scientific computing community for more high-end, large-scale computing resources while helping to create a more inclusive computing environment for science and engineering. Reader 1sockchuck adds this article about why funding for the development of supercomputers is more important than ever: America's high-performance computing (HPC) community faces funding challenges and growing competition from China and other countries. At last week's SC14 conference, leading researchers focused on outlining the societal benefits of their work, and how it touches the daily lives of Americans. "When we talk at these conferences, we tend to talk to ourselves," said Wilf Pinfold, director of research and advanced technology development at Intel Federal. "We don't do a good job communicating the importance of what we do to a broader community." Why the focus on messaging? Funding for American supercomputing has been driven by the U.S. government, which is in a transition with implications for HPC funding. As ComputerWorld notes, climate change skeptic Ted Cruz is rumored to be in line to chair a Senate committee that oversees NASA and the NSF.
ISS

ISS's 3-D Printer Creates Its First Object In Space 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the made-in-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA reports that the 3-D printer now installed on the International Space Station has finally finished its first creation. After it was installed on November 17th and calibrated over the next week, ground control sent it instructions yesterday to build a faceplate for the extruder's own casing. The process was mostly a success. "[Astronaut Butch Wilmore] Wilmore removed the part from the printer and inspected it. Part adhesion on the tray was stronger than anticipated, which could mean layer bonding is different in microgravity, a question the team will investigate as future parts are printed. Wilmore installed a new print tray, and the ground team sent a command to fine-tune the printer alignment and printed a third calibration coupon. When Wilmore removes the calibration coupon, the ground team will be able to command the printer to make a second object. The ground team makes precise adjustments before every print, and the results from this first print are contributing to a better understanding about the parameters to use when 3-D printing on the space station."
NASA

NASA To Deploy Four Spacecraft To Study Magnetic Reconnection 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the magnets-how-in-space-do-they-work dept.
Zothecula writes: NASA has released a video depicting the initial deployment of an undertaking designed to study a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection. "Reconnection happens when magnetic field lines explosively realign and release massive bursts of energy, while hurling particles out at nearly the speed of light in all directions. Magnetic reconnection powers eruptions on the sun and – closer to home – it triggers the flow of material and energy from interplanetary space into near-Earth space." The launch of the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will see four identical spacecraft deployed from a single Atlas V rocket, set to lift off from cape Canaveral, Florida, no earlier than March next year.
The Almighty Buck

Conglomerate Rock From Mars: (Much) More Precious Than Gold 65

Posted by timothy
from the not-to-mention-the-worth-of-the-nougat dept.
An anonymous reader writes It's the oldest rock on Earth--and it's from Mars. A 4.4-billion-year-old martian meteorite, found in a dozen pieces in the western Sahara, has ignited a frenzy among collectors and scientists; prices have reached $10,000 a gram, and museums and universities are vying for slivers of it. It is the only known martian meteorite made of sediment, a conglomerate of pebbles and other clumps of minerals from when the planet was warm, wet, and possibly habitable. The story of the discovery of the rock and its significance is fascinating, as well as the details presented about the economics of rare space materials. Apropos, this older story about missing moon rocks.
NASA

NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the gold-in-the-sky dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two private companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, have received contracts from NASA to study asteroid redirection and will pursue their plans of asteroid mining. From the article: "Deep Space Industries is planning to build a number of dense spacecrafts called FireFlies, and they plan on sending the satellites on one way missions to gather information about the density, shape, composition and size of an asteroid. They also have plans to build a spacecraft called Dragonfly, which has the purpose of catching asteroids. The asteroid material will be collected and returned to Earth by 'Harvesters'. Planetary Resources, on the other hand, plans to build a number of middle sized and small telescopes that will be capable of examining asteroids near the planet Earth for economic potential. They already have the telescopes Arkyd 300, Arkyd 200 and the Arkyd 100, each having its own specific systems."

All the simple programs have been written.

Working...