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NASA

NASA's ARM Will Take a Boulder From an Asteroid and Put It In Lunar Orbit 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the throwing-rocks dept.
coondoggie writes NASA officials today said they have picked the specific asteroid mission and offered new details for that mission which could launch in the 2020 timeframe. Specifically, NASA's associate administrator Robert Lightfoot said the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will rendezvous with the target asteroid, land a robotic spacecraft on the surface, grab a 4 meter or so sized boulder and begin a six-year journey to redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts.
Moon

Giant Lava Tubes Possible On the Moon 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-else-would-the-space-worms-hide dept.
schwit1 writes: New analysis of lunar geology combined with gravity data from GRAIL suggests the Moon could harbor lava tubes several miles wide. "David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, led the study that examined whether empty lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon. 'We found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arched shape like those on Earth, they would be stable at sizes up to 5,000 meters, or several miles wide, on the moon,' Blair said. 'This wouldn't be possible on Earth, but gravity is much lower on the moon and lunar rock doesn't have to withstand the same weathering and erosion. In theory, huge lava tubes – big enough to easily house a city – could be structurally sound on the moon.'" You can read their paper here (PDF). If this is so, then the possibility of huge colonies on the Moon increases significantly, as it will be much easier to build these colonies inside such lava tubes.
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
NASA

Russia Abandons Super-Rocket Designed To Compete With SLS 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
schwit1 writes Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket. "Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, March 12." For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again: "By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface." In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.
Space

Huge Ocean Confirmed Underneath Solar System's Largest Moon 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-sea dept.
sciencehabit writes The solar system's largest moon, Ganymede, in orbit around Jupiter, harbors an underground ocean containing more water than all the oceans on Earth, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Ganymede now joins Jupiter's Europa and two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, as moons with subsurface oceans—and good places to look for life. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, may also have a subsurface ocean. The Hubble study suggests that the ocean can be no deeper than 330 kilometers below the surface.
Moon

Billionaire Teams Up With NASA To Mine the Moon 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-don't-pull-a-praxis dept.
schwit1 writes: Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016. Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.
Sci-Fi

'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-first-get-a-permit dept.
HughPickens.com writes: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. It will retitled as Uprising. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adapt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, the 2014 film Predestination, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers.
Earth

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.
Google

Google Lunar XPrize Teams Partner For a 2016 SpaceX Moonshot 18

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes Two competing teams for the Google Lunar XPrize have announced that they are partnering for a mission to the moon in the second half of 2016. From the article: "The Google Lunar XPrize , a $30 million purse of prizes encouraging private teams to put lunar rovers on the moon, this morning took if not quite a giant leap, then at least a big step. Two of those teams, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic and Japan-based Hakuto, signed on to share a rocket ride to the moon in late 2016. Hakuto, which developed a pair of rovers to explore the lunar surface, will hitch a ride on Astrobotic's lander, which plans to set down in Lacus Mortis, located in the northeastern portion of the moon. Once on the surface, both teams will deploy their rovers and go exploring. The first to cover 500 meters (around 550 yards) while broadcasting high-definition footage will take home the $20 million grand prize."
Moon

Could Fossils of Ancient Life From Earth Reside On the Moon? 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the how'd-this-get-here dept.
MarkWhittington writes Does the moon contain fossils of billions of years old organisms from Earth? That theory has been laid out in recent research at the Imperial College of London, reported in a story in Air and Space Magazine by Dr. Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary geologist. The implications for science and future lunar exploration are profound. Scientists have known for decades that planets and moons in the Solar System exchange material due to impacts. A large meteor smashes into a planet, Mars for example, and blasts material into space. That material eventually finds itself landing on another planet, Earth in this case. Mars rocks have been discovered on Earth since the 1980s. Other rocks from the moon and, it is surmised, Mercury have also been found, blasted into space billions of years ago to eventually find themselves on Earth.
NASA

NASA Releases Details of Titan Submarine Concept 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the star-trek-and-seaquest-crossover dept.
Zothecula writes: Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design (PDF), which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles.

"At its heart, the submarine would use a 1 kW radiothermal Stirling generator. This would not only provide power to propel the craft, but it would also keep the electronics from freezing. Unfortunately, Titan is so cold that it's almost a cryogenic environment, so the waste heat from the generator would cause the liquids around it to boil and this would need be taken into account when designing the sub to minimize interference. However, NASA estimates that the boat could do about one meter per second (3.6 km/h, 2.2 mph)."
Moon

Neil Armstrong's Widow Discovers Moon Camera In Bag 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-did-I-leave-that dept.
hypnosec writes Over 40 years after Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 trip, a hidden bag full of artifacts has been discovered by his widow Carol Armstrong. Carol found the bag after Neil's death shortly after he underwent heart surgery. The bag contained a total of 20 items including the priceless 16mm movie camera that recorded Apollo 11's descent to the surface of the moon, an optical alignment sight used by the crew for docking maneuvers, and a waist tether among other things. The bag and its contents are now on loan to the National Air and Space Museum for preservation, research and eventual public display.
Earth

Earth's Libration Visualized For the First Time Above the Moon's Far Side 33

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-see-your-house-from-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Thanks to the fact that the Moon is tidally locked, we can only see 50% of its surface on any given night. Over time, the fact that the Moon's orbit is elliptical, and that it moves faster at perigee and slower at apogee means that up to another 9% is visible over the course of many years. The observed "rocking" and growing/shrinking of the Moon over time is known as lunar libration, an incredibly interesting phenomenon. But now, for the first time, we've been able to visualize how the Earth appears to move as seen from above the far side of the Moon.
Space

Craters Pop As NASA's Dawn Probe Approaches Ceres 52

Posted by timothy
from the ready-for-their-closeup dept.
astroengine writes New features on Ceres' icy surface are popping into view as NASA's Dawn spacecraft slowly spirals in on its final celestial target in the asteroid belt. Due to arrive in a stable Ceres orbit in March, the ion drive-propelled spacecraft is now less than 90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers) from its ultimate goal. Once arrived at Ceres, NASA will insert the probe into a highly stable orbit where, when the mission concludes in a year from now, Dawn will become a permanent man-made moon of the dwarf planet.
Space

The Strangest Moon In the Solar System 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out dept.
StartsWithABang writes Moons in our Solar System — at least the ones that formed along with the planets — all revolve counterclockwise around their planetary parents, with roughly uniform surfaces orbiting in the same plane as their other moons and rings. Yet one of Saturn's moon's, Iapetus, is unique, with a giant equatorial ridge, an orbital plane that doesn't line up, and one half that's five times brighter than the other. While the first two are still mysteries, the last one has finally been solved.
Moon

FAA Could Extend Property Rights On the Moon Through Regulation 283

Posted by timothy
from the legal-fictions-made-of-cheese dept.
MarkWhittington writes When the Outer Space Treaty which, among other things, forbade claims of national sovereignty on other worlds, was signed and ratified by the United States in 1967, little thought was given to the idea of private property rights. Now, with companies like Moon Express and Bigelow Aerospace contemplating private lunar operations, that question has become a concern. According to Reuters, the FAA may have discovered a way to enforce private property rights on the moon without, it is hoped, violating the Outer Space Treaty. The idea is to extend the FAA's current launch licensing authority to cover commercial activities on the moon. The agency would license, for example, a helium 3 mining facility, giving the company running it control over it and as much adjoining territory as necessary to run the operation. The size of that territory, for which a particular company would hold property and mineral rights, could be considerable.
Space

Rare Astronomical Event Will See Triple Moon Shadows On Jupiter 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
hypnosec writes Stargazers are in for a treat: they will be able to witness a rare astronomical event early tomorrow morning (January 24, 2015) where shadows of three of Jupiter's largest moons — Io, Europa, and Callisto — will fall upon Jupiter simultaneously. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will provide a live online broadcast on its Livestream channel. It will begin on January 24 at 0430 GMT (January 23 at 11:30 PM EST, 8:30 PM PST) and end at 0700 GMT (2:00 AM EST, 11:00 PM PST). They've also posted a short animated video of how the event will appear.
China

Chinese Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around the Moon 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-do-you-say-"that's-no-moon"-in-mandarin dept.
mpicpp sends this report from Scientific American: A Chinese spacecraft service module has entered orbit around the moon, months after being used in the country's landmark test flight that sent a prototype sample-return capsule on a flight around the moon and returned it to Earth. The service module from China's circumlunar test flight arrived in orbit around the moon this week, according to Chinese state media reports. The spacecraft is currently flying in an eight-hour orbit that carries it within 125 miles (200 kilometers) of the lunar surface at its closest point, and out to a range of 3,293 miles (5,300 km) at its highest point. Earlier reports noted that a camera system is onboard the service module, designed to assist in identifying future landing spots for the Chang'e 5 mission that will return lunar samples back to Earth in the 2017 time frame. Reader schwit1 adds a detailed report on Russia's next-gen space station module, writing, "The Russians have always understood that a space station is nothing more than a prototype of an interplanetary spaceship. They are therefore simply carrying through with the same engineering research they did on their earlier Salyut and Mir stations, developing a vessel that can keep humans alive on long trips to other planets."
NASA

Space Policy Guru John Logsdon Has Good News and Bad News On NASA Funding 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-spare-a-dime? dept.
MarkWhittington writes According to a story in Medium, Dr. John Logsdon, considered the dean of space policy, addressed a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. The author of a book on President Kennedy's decision to go to the moon and an upcoming book on President Nixon's post-Apollo space policy decisions had some good news and some bad news about NASA funding. The good news is that funding for the space agency is not likely to be slashed below its current $18 billion a year. The bad news is that it is not likely to go up much beyond that. If Logsdon is correct, static NASA funding will mean that beyond low Earth orbit human space exploration will remain an unrealistic aspiration. American astronauts will not return to the moon, not to mention go to Mars, in the foreseeable future.
Moon

Private Russian Company Proposes Lunar Base 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-neighborhood dept.
MarkWhittington writes According to an article in Sputnik, a private Russian company called Lin Industrial has announced that it is capable of building a lunar base. However, according to information contained to a recent post in Parabolic Arc, this announcement may be more the result of idle boasting than an objective assessment of actual ability. Nevertheless, Lin seems to be one of the few entrepreneurial startups in Russia in the style of much more robust enterprises in the West such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.