China

Houston Firm NanoRacks To Take Chinese Experiment To International Space Station 13

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger reports that for the first time a Chinese experiment will fly on the International Space Station, thanks to an arrangement between a research group based at the Beijing Institute of Technology and a private firm in Houston called NanoRacks. The deal seems to have been designed to avoid the prohibition against space cooperation between the Chinese regime and NASA, since the space agency is not directly involved. The experiment, which involves the effects that space radiation has on DNA, will be carried to the ISS by another private firm, SpaceX. Presumably the experiment would be run by a non NASA crew member to avoid any direct involvement with the space agency.
NASA

Buzz Aldrin Publishes Moon Expenses Form 75

An anonymous reader writes: Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation on social media over the past few days, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon. The papers listed him as having been on a "work trip" from his home in Houston, Texas that had taken him to the moon and then back again with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : "Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates."
NASA

Challenger, Columbia Wreckage On Public Display For First Time 42

An anonymous reader writes: A new exhibit at Kennedy Space Center is letting the public see wreckage from the Challenger and Columbia shuttles after keeping it from view for decades. Two pieces of debris from each lost shuttle and personal reminders of the astronauts killed in the flights will be on display. The AP reports: " NASA's intent is to show how the astronauts lived, rather than how they died. As such, there are no pictures in the 'Forever Remembered' exhibit of Challenger breaking apart in the Florida sky nearly 30 years ago or Columbia debris raining down on Texas 12 years ago. Since the tragic re-entry, Columbia's scorched remains have been stashed in off-limits offices at the space center. But NASA had to pry open the underground tomb housing Challenger's pieces — a pair of abandoned missile silos at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — to retrieve the section of fuselage now on display."
NASA

NASA's Drone For Other Worlds 30

An anonymous reader writes: A group of engineers is building a new drone. What sets this apart from the hundreds of other drone development projects going on around the world? Well, these engineers are at the Kennedy Space Center, and the drone will be used to gather samples on other worlds. The drone is specifically designed to be able to fly in low- or no-atmosphere situations. Senior technologist Rob Mueller describes it as a "prospecting robot." He says, "The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are. They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent shadow. Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that's far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb." They face major challenges with rotor and gas-jet design, they have to figure out navigation without GPS, and the whole system needs to be largely autonomous — you can't really steer a drone yourself with a latency of several minutes (or more).
Supercomputing

Obama's New Executive Order Says the US Must Build an Exascale Supercomputer 221

Jason Koebler writes: President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing a new supercomputing research initiative with the goal of creating the fastest supercomputers ever devised. The National Strategic Computing Initiative, or NSCI, will attempt to build the first ever exascale computer, 30 times faster than today's fastest supercomputer. Motherboard reports: "The initiative will primarily be a partnership between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation, which will be designing supercomputers primarily for use by NASA, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and NOAA. Each of those agencies will be allowed to provide input during the early stages of the development of these new computers."
NASA

Voyager's Golden Record For Aliens Now Available On SoundCloud 57

An anonymous reader writes: For years you've been able to listen to the sounds recorded on the golden records carried by the twin Voyager spacecraft online but NASA just made it a bit easier. The orginization just uploaded the recordings to SoundCloud. Now you can listen to a continuous stream of clips instead of clicking back and forth to hear the different tracks.
NASA

German Scientists Confirm NASA's Controversial EM Drive 516

MarkWhittington writes: Hacked Magazine reported that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using "negative matter."
The Almighty Buck

Smithsonian Increases Goal For Spacesuit Crowdfunding Effort 106

An anonymous reader writes: The recently launched Kickstarter campaign by the Smithsonian to preserve Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit has surpassed its goal. As of Saturday, the campaign raised about $525,000, and now The National Air and Space Museum has increased its goal to $700,000 in order to save Alan Shepard's Mercury spacesuit.
NASA

Pluto's Haze 63

Today brings another release of images from NASA's New Horizons probe. This time, it includes an image taken seven hours after closest approach, when the probe was looking back at Pluto. It captured the dwarf planet in silhouette: the body of the planet is in darkness, but the atmosphere is luminous with deflected sunlight. "A preliminary analysis of the image shows two distinct layers of haze -- one about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles (50 kilometers)." Before this picture, scientists didn't expect to see such haze more than 30 kilometers above the surface.

Other findings released today include preliminary indications that Pluto's atmospheric pressure has dropped sharply from early observations. This may indicate that the atmosphere is in the process of freezing and falling to Pluto's surface. Finally, new close-up pictures of the surface transmitted back to Earth show direct evidence of nitrogen ice floes reminiscent of glacier movement on Earth. The dwarf planet also seems to be rich in methane ice and carbon dioxide ice.
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Space

NASA Spies Earth-Sized Exoplanet Orbiting Sun-Like Star 134

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has announced that a new Earth-like planet has been discovered that may be the closest thing yet to a first true "Earth twin." Kepler 452b is located 1,000 light years away, is 60% larger than Earth, and orbits Kepler 452 at a distance similar to that between Earth and the Sun. "It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun," says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
Space

Astronauts' Skin Gets Thinner In Space, Scientists Say 60

An anonymous reader writes: Living in space can be hard on the human body. Muscles atrophy, bones lose density and new research suggests that spending time in space can make your skin thinner. Professor Karsten Koenig from the Department of Biophotonics and Laser Technology at Saarland University, has used high-resolution skin imaging tomography to look into the skin cells of several astronauts before and after a trip into space. "NASA and ESA came to us and asked, 'is it possible to also look in the skin of astronauts? Because we want to know if there's any ageing process going on or what kind of modifications happened to astronauts as they work for six months out in space.' Because many astronauts complain about skin problems," he said.
Medicine

How Drug Companies Seek To Exploit Rare DNA Mutations 93

An anonymous reader writes: With so many people in the world, humanity can't help but generate a large amount of genetic outliers. Most random mutations are undetectable, and many of the rest lead to serious diseases. But there's another class of mutation that has drug companies salivating. For example: a few dozen people worldwide have a condition that prevents them from feeling any pain. Another condition called sclerosteosis affects less than 100 people, giving them incredibly dense bone structure. Both of these conditions have serious downsides, but drug companies are beginning to see the dollar signs behind isolating these mutations and making them safe.

"People with sclerosteosis lack a protein that acts as a brake on bone growth. Without that protein, bones grow abnormally thick. It stood to reason, researchers thought, that a drug that could block the protein in patients with osteoporosis would encourage bone regrowth. Amgen's scientists created hundreds of antibodies that they tested to determine which might be able to get in the way of the protein. It took them three and a half years of research before they were able to identify the best antibody to inhibit the protein. Then NASA came calling." It's an unfortunate situation for those with the rare conditions; there's a lot more potential profit in finding a way to genetically prevent pain for billions of people than it is to cure the handful with the condition.
Space

New Horizons Returns Best Images of Pluto's Moons Hydra and Nix 33

An anonymous reader writes: Over the weekend, the New Horizons probe sent back more data from Pluto, including two of the best images we'll get of its small moons Nix and Hydra. Nix measures about 42km long by 36km wide, and has a large reddish spot on it. The resolution allows us to see features about 3km across. Hydra is slightly bigger, and the pictures were taken with a different instrument, so resolution is a bit better. "Although the overall surface color of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint. Hints of a bull's-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater. ... Meanwhile, the sharpest image yet received from New Horizons of Pluto's satellite Hydra shows that its irregular shape resembles the state of Michigan. ...Although the overall surface color of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint. Hints of a bull's-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater." Images have been taken of Styx and Kerberos, the most recently discovered moons of Pluto, but they won't be transmitted back for a while, yet. NASA has also released an image of a mountain range inside Pluto's heart-shaped region.
NASA

Smithsonian Using Kickstart Campaign To Save Armstrong's Moon Suit 231

qpgmr writes: The Smithsonian is appealing for assistance to raise enough money to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon suit. The "Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit" campaign launched Monday on Kickstarter, marking 46 years since Armstrong's moonwalk in 1969. Smithsonian reports: "....on the anniversary of that 'small step for a man,' the Smithsonian Institution announced a plan of action that is, in its own way, a giant leap for funding the job with what the Institution’s first federal Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of raising $500,000 in 30 days—by offering incentives such as exclusive updates to 3D printed facsimiles of the space suit gloves—museum officials hope to be able to unveil a restored spacesuit by the time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing four years from now, in 2019."
NASA

NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion 248

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.
Space

Elon Musk: Faulty Strut May Have Led To Falcon 9 Launch Failure 220

garyisabusyguy writes: This Forbes article provides the best analysis of the loss of the last Falcon 9 mission based on information released by Elon Musk to reporters. Highlights include:
  • 1. Sound triangulation led them to identify a strut holding helium tank as root cause where the falling helium tank pinched a line causing overpressure in the LOX tank.
  • 2. The failure occurred at 2,000 pounds of force, and the struts were rated at 10,000 pounds of force. They initially dismissed this as a cause until sounds triangulation pointed back to the strut
  • 3. Further testing of struts in stock found one that failed at 2,000 pounds of force, with further analysis identifying poor grain structure in the metal, which caused weakness
  • 4. It will be months before the next launch while SpaceX goes over procurement and QA processes all struts and bolts, and re-assesses any "near misses" with Air Force and NASA
  • 5. Next launch will include failure mode software, which will allow recovery of the Dragon module during loss of the launch vehicle since they determined that it could have saved the Dragon module in this lost mission

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Space

The Frozen Plains of Pluto's 'Heart' 42

New Horizons has sent back new images of Pluto, including a close-up view of the "Tombaugh Regio," which resembles a giant, pale heart stretching 1,600 km across the dwarf planet's surface. The new images show a broad plain free of any craters, broken into irregular segments by shallow troughs. Scientists don't know how they formed, but here are two leading theories: "The irregular shapes may be the result of the contraction of surface materials, similar to what happens when mud dries. Alternatively, they may be a product of convection, similar to wax rising in a lava lamp." This image comes alongside new data on Pluto's extended atmosphere.

NASA has released other new findings from the Pluto region, as well. Pluto is trailed by a region of cold, ionized gas ripped away from its atmosphere by the solar wind. We've also gotten a close look at Charon, Pluto's biggest moon. One unusual feature is a sizable mountain rising from an even larger depression in the moon's surface. On top of that, NASA has released the first look at Nix, a tiny satellite of Pluto roughly 40 km in diameter. The image is highly pixelated, but we should get a better image tomorrow, during New Horizon's Saturday downlink. The NY Times has a gallery of images, which also includes pictures of Hydra (another small moon) and a different shot of the Pluto's plains area.
Image

'Pluto Truthers' Are Pretty Sure That the NASA New Horizons Mission Was Faked Screenshot-sm 321

MarkWhittington writes: Forget about Apollo moon landing hoax theories. That is so 20th Century. Gizmodo reported that the "Pluto Truthers" have followed the astonishing images being sent back by NASA's New Horizons probe and have come to the conclusion that they are faked. After all, if the space agency could fake the entire moon landing, it would be child's play to fake a robotic probe to the edge of the Solar System.