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NASA

Can Rep. John Culberson Save NASA's Space Exploration Program? 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-money dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger has published the seventh in his series of articles about the American space program and what ails it. The piece focuses on Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who has two fascinating aspects. The first is that he is taking over the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. The second is that he has a keen appreciation for the benefits of space exploration for its own sake and not just for his Houston area district.

Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him.
Moon

NASA Tests Feasibility of 3D Printing on the Moon and Other Planets 58

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

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.
Music

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: The Science of Misheard Song Lyrics 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the dirty-dean-and-the-dunder-cheese dept.
HughPickens.com writes Maria Konnikova writes in The New Yorker that mondegreens are funny but they also give us insight into the underlying nature of linguistic processing, how our minds make meaning out of sound, and how in fractions of seconds, we translate a boundless blur of sound into sense. One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there's a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can't see the musicians' faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. Another common cause of mondegreens is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Steven Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you're not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error.

Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.

Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.
Space

Titan's Dunes Took Tens of Thousands of Years To Form 12

Posted by Soulskill
from the home-projects-always-take-longer-than-you-plan-for dept.
sciencehabit writes: Massive dunes, some of them 100 meters tall and a kilometer or more wide at their base, cover about one-eighth of Titan's surface. And they take an exceptionally long time to form, according to a new study. Using radar data gleaned by the Cassini probe when it occasionally swooped past Saturn's haze-shrouded moon, researchers conclude that it would take about 3000 Saturn years (or 88,200 Earth years) to shift Titan's dunes to the extent seen in the images. A similar phenomenon has taken place on Earth, the researchers note: The overall patterns in many large dune fields in the southwestern Sahara and the southwestern United States, shaped by the winds that blew during the most recent ice age more than 10,000 years ago, remain largely unaffected by modern winds that now blow in a different direction.
China

China Plans Superheavy Rocket, Ups Reliability 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
hackingbear writes: China is conducting preliminary research on a super-heavy launch vehicle that will be used in its manned missions to the moon. Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, disclosed that the Long March-9 is planned to have a maximum payload of 130 tons and its first launch will take place around 2028, comparable to U.S.'s SLS Block II in terms of capability and likely beating its schedule. The China National Space Administration has started preliminary research for the Mars exploration program and is persuading the government to include the project into the country's space agenda, according to Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the administration. Separately, China's Long March series of rockets completed its 200th flight on Dec 7. It took 37 years for the Long March series to complete their first 100 flights, but only 7 years for the second 100 flights. In addition, the programclaims (link in Chinese) a success rate of 98%, on par with E.U.'s and beating U.S.'s 97% and Russia's 93% success rates.
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.
Build

Fly With the Brooklyn Aerodrome (Video) 22

Posted by Roblimo
from the it's-not-a-drone-it's-just-a-model-plane dept.
A bit of housing insulation material, a battery, a motor and propellor, a radio receiver and transmitter, and servos to control the motor and a pair of ailerons, and you're ready to fly the Brooklyn Aerodrome way. This isn't a tiny radio-controlled paper airplane, but a big bruiser with a 1:1 power to weight ratio (which means it can climb like a bat out of hell) and enough guts to fly in reasonably windy conditions while carrying a camera -- except we'd better not mention cameras, since Brooklyn Aerodrome creations, whether kits or plans, are obviously intended tohelp you build model airplanes, not drones. Timothy ran into project proponent Breck Baldwin at a maker faire near Atlanta, surrounded by a squadron of junior pilots who may someday become astronauts on the Moon - Mars run -- or at least delivery drone controllers for Amazon. (Alternate Video Link)
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.
Space

NASA Remasters 20-Year-Old Galileo Photographs of Jupiter's Moon, Europa 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-thousand-words dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that NASA has released remastered pictures of Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft. "Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. This is the first time that NASA is publishing a version of the scene produced using modern image processing techniques. This view of Europa stands out as the color view that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. An earlier, lower-resolution version of the view, published in 2001, featured colors that had been strongly enhanced. The new image more closely approximates what the human eye would see. Space imaging enthusiasts have produced their own versions of the view using the publicly available data, but NASA has not previously issued its own rendition using near-natural color."
Space

Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues To Alien Life On Europa 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are studying a mysterious ecosystem at one of the world's deepest undersea hydrothermal vents to get clues about what life could be like on other planetary bodies, such as Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which has a subsurface ocean. At the vents, tiny shrimp are piled on top of each other, layer upon layer, crawling on rock chimneys that spew hot water. "You go along the ocean bottom and there's nothing, effectively," says Max Coleman. "And then suddenly we get these hydrothermal vents and a massive ecosystem. It's just literally teeming with life." Bacteria, inside the shrimps' mouths and in specially evolved gill covers, produce organic matter that feed the crustaceans. The particular bacteria in the vents are able to survive in extreme environments because of chemosynthesis, a process that works in the absence of sunlight and involves organisms getting energy from chemical reactions. In this case, the bacteria use hydrogen sulfide, a chemical abundant at the vents, to make organic matter. The temperatures at the vents can climb up to a scorching 842 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius), but waters just an inch away are cool enough to support the shrimp. The shrimp are blind, but have thermal receptors in the backs of their heads.

According to the exobiologists, these mysterious shrimps and its symbiotic bacterium may hold clues "about what life could be like on other planetary bodies." It's life that may be similar—at the basic level—to what could be lurking in the oceans of Europa, deep under the icy crust of the Jupiter moon. According to Emma Versteegh "whether an animal like this could exist on Europa heavily depends on the actual amount of energy that's released there, through hydrothermal vents." Nobody is seriously planning a landing mission on Europa yet. But the European Space Agency aims to launch its JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission (JUICE) to make the first thickness measurements of Europa's icy crust starting in 2030 and NASA also has begun planning a Europa Clipper mission that would study the icy moon while doing flybys in a Jupiter orbit.
NASA

Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-we-can-land-on-a-comet,-a-moon-should-be-easy dept.
MarkWhittington writes: As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman, whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative.

Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System, NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson's elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur.
Supercomputing

Does Being First Still Matter In America? 247

Posted by timothy
from the by-jingo dept.
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.
Moon

Lunar Mission One Proposes To Take Core Sample, Plant Time Capsule On the Moon 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the since-mars-one-did-so-well dept.
MarkWhittington writes: The U.S. may have foresworn the moon, the venue of its greatest space triumph during the Apollo program, by presidential directive, but that does not mean that other countries and even private organizations are uninterested. The latest proposal for a private moon landing is a British effort called Lunar Mission One, according to a Wednesday story in the New Scientist. Its goal is twofold. The undertaking proposes to drill a 20 meter core sample below the lunar surface for analysis. Lunar Mission One will also deploy the first moon based time capsule. A Kickstarter effort has begun for initial funding.
Space

The Largest Kuiper Belt Object Isn't Pluto Or Eris, But Triton 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-not-a-planet dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Out beyond Neptune, the last of our Solar System's gas giants, the icy graveyard of failed planetesimals lurks: the Kuiper Belt. Among these mixes of ice, snow, dust and rock are a number of worlds — possibly a few hundred — massive enough to pull themselves into hydrostatic equilibrium. The most famous among them are Pluto, the first one ever discovered, and Eris, of comparable size but undoubtedly more massive. But there's an even larger, more massive object from the Kuiper Belt than either of these, yet you never hear about it: it's Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, a true Kuiper Belt object!
Moon

China Completes Its First Lunar Return Mission 109

Posted by timothy
from the rabbit-returns dept.
China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission to the moon has not only taken some beautiful pictures of the Earth from the craft's perspective (hat tip to reader Taco Cowboy) but as of Friday evening (continental U.S. time) returned a capsule to Earth. (The capsule landed in Inner Mongolia.) From the linked article: Prior to re-entering the Earths atmosphere, the unnamed probe was travelling at 11.2 kilometres per second (25,000 miles per hour), a speed that can generate temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,700 degrees Fahrenheit), the news agency reported. To slow it down, scientists let the craft "bounce" off Earths atmosphere before re-entering again and landing. ... The module would have been 413,000 kilometres from Earth at its furthest point on the mission, SASTIND said at the time. The mission was launched to test technology to be used in the Change-5, Chinas fourth lunar probe, which aims to gather samples from the moons surface and will be launched around 2017, SASTIND previously said.
Moon

NASA Spacecraft Images Crash Site of Retired LADEE Probe 26

Posted by timothy
from the she-went-down-in-the-dark dept.
An anonymous reader writes In April, NASA ended the mission of its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission by de-orbiting (read: crashing) it on the far side of the moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has now directly imaged the crash site, showing a small crater and the spray of rocks and dust caused by the crash. "LADEE's grave lies about 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) from the eastern rim of the larger Sundman V crater, just 0.2 miles (0.3 km) north of the spot where mission team members predicted the spacecraft would go down based on tracking data, NASA officials said. ... The new crater is less than 10 feet (3 meters) wide. It's so small because LADEE was just the size of a washing machine, and the probe was traveling relatively slowly (3,800 mph, or 6,116 km/h) when it impacted the surface. The LROC team was able to spot LADEE's impact crater after developing a new tool that compared before-and-after images of the same lunar sites, researchers said."
China

First Commercial Mission To the Moon Launched From China 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-and-back dept.
mbone writes with news about the first privately-funded spacecraft to travel the Moon. Cold War competition between superpowers dominated the first decades of space travel and exploration. Individual governments took the lead, bankrolling most of the process in the name of competition and nationalism. Ultimately international cooperation and collaboration took root, and the landscape is already very different. The present and future of space exploration is more collaborative, more international, and involves both space agencies and private companies. One such project is the combination Chang’e 5-T1 and Manfred Memorial Moon Mission (4M), which launched together last Thursday. Both projects are testbeds for ideas: Chang’e 5-T1 is a prototype for a robotic probe intended to return samples from the Moon to Earth, while 4M is a simple communications experiment encouraging amateur participation. But the intriguing bit is that 4M is a project of the private Luxembourg-based company LuxSpace, while Chang’e 5-T1 is a Chinese project, and the whole endeavor was launched on a Chinese rocket.
Space

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-ocean dept.
astroengine writes With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn's ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust.
The Military

Air Force To Take Over Two Ex-Shuttle Hangers In Florida For Its X-37B Program 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-quarters-on-campus dept.
schwit1 writes In an effort to find tenants for its facilities, the Kennedy Space Center is going to rent two former shuttle processing hangers to Boeing for the Air Force's X-37B program. "NASA built three Orbiter Processing Facilities, or OPFs, to service its space shuttle fleet between missions. All three are located next to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at the Florida spaceport where Apollo Saturn 5 moon rockets and space shuttles were 'stacked' for launch. Under an agreement with NASA, Boeing will modify OPF bays 1 and 2 for the X-37B program, completing upgrades by the end of the year. The company already has an agreement with NASA to use OPF-3 and the shuttle engine shop in the VAB to assemble its CST-100 commercial crew craft being built to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The company says up to six capsules can be processed in the facility at the same time."

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