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Space

First Human Colonies Should Be Among Venus' Clouds 106 106

StartsWithABang writes: When we talk about humans existing on worlds other than Earth, the first choice of a planet to do so on is usually Mars, a world that may have been extremely Earth-like for the first billion years of our Solar System or so. Perhaps, with enough ingenuity and resources, we could terraform it to be more like Earth is today. But the most Earth-like conditions in the Solar System don't occur on the surface of Mars, but rather in the high altitudes of Venus' atmosphere, some 50-65 km up. Despite its harsh conditions, this may be the best location for the first human colonies, for a myriad of good, scientific reasons. NASA proposed something similar last year and released a report on the subject.
Education

Struggling University of Phoenix Lays Off 900 123 123

An anonymous reader writes: The struggles facing for-profit colleges continue. The University of Phoenix announced poor quarterly earnings yesterday, and the institution has laid off 900 workers since September. Enrollment is down 14% since last year, and the CEO of its parent company, Apollo Education Group, says enrollment is likely to drop from 206,000 to about 150,000 next year. Apollo's stock has lost more than half its value since the beginning of the year. "Tighter regulations on for-profits and the Obama administration's push to make community college free top the list of headwinds. And non-profit universities have entered the online education space, where for-profit schools once held center stage."
The Military

Test Pilot: the F-35 Can't Dogfight 741 741

schwit1 sends this report from the War Is Boring column: A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can't turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy's own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January. And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn't even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet's cramped cockpit. "The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft." That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him. The test pilot's report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history's most expensive weapon. Your tax dollars at work.
Space

What If You Could See Asteroids In the Night Sky? 53 53

An anonymous reader writes: As part of Asteroid Day a 360-degree video rendering the night sky with the population of near-earth asteroids included has been created by 'Astronogamer' Scott Manley. The video shows how the Earth flies through a cloud of asteroids on its journey around the sun, and yet we've only discovered about 1% of the near earth asteroid population.
The Courts

Lawsuit Filed Over Domain Name Registered 16 Years Before Plaintiff's Use 187 187

HughPickens.com writes: Cybersquatting is registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else's trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses. Now Andrew Allmann writes at Domain Name Wire that New York company Office Space Solutions, Inc. has filed a cybersquatting lawsuit against Jason Kneen over the domain name WorkBetter.com that Kneen registered in 1999 although Office Space Solutions didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015. "Workbetter.com is virtually identical to, and/or confusingly similar to the WORK BETTER Service Mark, which was distinctive at the time that the Defendant renewed and/or updated the registration of workbetter.com," says the lawsuit. But according to an Office Space Solutions' filing with the USPTO, it didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015. Office Space Solutions is making the argument that the domain name was renewed in bad faith. According to Kneen, Office Space previously tried to purchase the domain name from him and after it failed to acquire the domain name, is now trying to take it via a lawsuit.
Earth

Asteroid Day On June 30 Aims To Raise Awareness of Collision Risks 75 75

benonemusic writes: International organizers--including Queen's Brian May, an astrophysicist--have organized the world's first Asteroid Day on June 30, as a means to raise awareness for future collision risks and encourage actions to minimize the threats from such events. "If we can track the trajectories of asteroids and monitor their movement in our solar system, then we can know if they are on a path to impact Earth," former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart told the organizers of Asteroid Day in a statement. "If we find them early enough, we can move them out of Earth's orbit, thus preventing any kind of major natural disaster."
Space

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid 88 88

New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.

If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
ISS

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 308 308

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
Earth

Weather Promising for Sunday Morning SpaceX Launch 49 49

USA Today reports that the weather looks good for Sunday morning's planned launch at 10:21, Florida time (14:21 GMT) of SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule, loaded with a docking adapter intended for future manned-crew access to the International Space Station. An excerpt: "The forecast calls for a 90% chance of weather good enough to permit SpaceX's 208-foot Falcon 9 rocket to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during an instantaneous launch window. ... "This is actually pretty cool, because it does play right into our next Crew Dragon program," [Hans] Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for mission assurance, said of the docking adapter in a separate news briefing. "It's something that we bring up for our own future, and so we're really motivated to bring this up." Related: astroengine points out that as part of this launch, SpaceX will make another attempt at landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform off the coast of Florida after sending the Dragon cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Although SpaceX is hoping to achieve something the rocket industry has never done before (true usability of rocket engines, cutting costs), it's not the only game in town — Blue Origin, ULA and Airbus all have rocket return desires.
Space

Why Didn't Voyager Visit Pluto? 98 98

Flash Modin writes: NASA built the twin Voyager spacecraft for a rare planetary alignment that put Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within reach at once. Originally, Voyager 1 was programmed to see Pluto in 1986, but managers targeted Saturn's planet-like moon Titan instead. That choice made Pluto impossible by vaulting Voyager 1 from the orbital plane. Interestingly, Voyager 2, which couldn't reach Pluto, made the case for New Horizons by revealing Neptune's moon Triton as a kidnapped Pluto. "I'm very glad that they chose not to go to Pluto in 1986," says New Horizons head Alan Stern. "We'll do a better job at Pluto with modern instruments than they would have, and they did a much better job at Saturn..."
Science

Protesters Block Effort To Restart Work On Controversial Hawaii Telescope 303 303

sciencehabit writes: An attempt to restart construction on what would be one of the world's largest telescopes was blocked yesterday, after state authorities escorting construction vehicles clashed with protesters blockading the road to the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano. Officers from Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and construction workers for the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), turned back from the summit shortly after noon Wednesday, citing concerns for public safety after finding the road blocked by boulders. The withdrawal followed several hours of clashes with Native Hawaiian protesters blockading the road, culminating in the arrests of 11 men and women, including several protest organizers. The protesters have said the $1.4 billion TMT would desecrate sacred land.
NASA

Touring NASA's Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer 18 18

An anonymous reader writes: Now that the space shuttles have been retired, NASA has been shutting down and cleaning out all of the equipment dedicated to keeping them in service. One such tool was the Crew Compartment Trainer II, a full-size replica of a space shuttle cockpit. Astronauts trained on it to become familiar with the operation of many onboard systems. Just before it was removed, Ars got a chance to tour it, and took a ton of pictures in the process. Quoting: "The forward windows are surprisingly small, and visibility dead ahead is limited to a very narrow section of the window. Both the pilot and commander have fighter-style HUDs (heads-up displays), which are used mainly during landing to keep them lined up and on target with the runway. ... Bloomfield walked me through a few procedures, and it was fascinating how complex the shuttles were in some areas and how primitive they were in others. The on-board computers of course received numerous updates throughout the vehicles' lives, but even in their final iteration they wouldn't have won any speed awards."
Space

SpaceX Breaks Down Its Rocket Landing Attempts 72 72

An anonymous reader writes: Twice now, SpaceX has attempted to land one of its rockets on a barge in the ocean after it delivered a payload to orbit. Each attempt came very close, and provided some fascinating imagery. In a new post on their website, SpaceX explains where they're at with rocket landing technology, and what went wrong with the earlier trials: "That controlled descent was successful, but about 10 seconds before landing, a valve controlling the rocket's engine power (thrust) temporarily stopped responding to commands as quickly as it should have. As a result, it throttled down a few seconds later than commanded, and—with the rocket weighing about 67,000 lbs and traveling nearly 200 mph at this point—a few seconds can be a very long time. With the throttle essentially stuck on 'high' and the engine firing longer than it was supposed to, the vehicle temporarily lost control and was unable to recover in time for landing, eventually tipping over." They believe they've solved the issues that cropped up in the earlier tests, and they're looking forward to the next attempt, which will happen on Sunday if the weather cooperates.
Space

Black Hole Awakens After 26 Years 58 58

schwit1 writes: For the first time since 1989, the black hole in V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star, has reawakened, suddenly emitting high energy outbursts beginning on June 15. The outbursts are probably occurring because the black hole is gobbling up material that has fallen into it. While the 1989 outburst helped astronomers gain their first understand of the behavior of a black hole in a star system, this outburst will help them understand how such systems evolve and change over time. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: "First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope. Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky. These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum."
Space

OneWeb Secures "Largest Ever" Rocket Acquisition For Satellite Internet Launch 45 45

Mickeycaskill writes: Virgin, Airbus and Qualcomm-backed satellite Internet venture OneWeb has acquired 65 rockets and $500 million in funding to launch its satellites by 2019. OneWeb has partnered with Airbus to produce 900 microsatellites which will provide "affordable", fast, low-latency Internet to remote parts of the world and to ships, planes and oil rigs. It has also been suggested the network will be a cheaper way for mobile operators to expand coverage in rural areas. Other partners include Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Coca-Cola and Totalplay, all of whom have committed financial, technical or manufacturing support to the project.
Space

Stellar Rejuvenation: Some Exoplanets May Get Facelifts 29 29

astroengine writes: Astronomers may have discovered an exoplanet that has found the elixir to planetary youth, knocking billions of years off its age. Until now, stellar rejuvenation has been pure conjecture, but after studying a white dwarf star called PG 0010+280, it turns out that one very interesting explanation for an excess in detected infrared radiation may be down to the presence of an exoplanet that was given a facelift. "When planets are young, they still glow with infrared light from their formation," said Michael Jura of the University of California, Los Angeles, co-author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal. "But as they get older and cooler, you can't see them anymore. Rejuvenated planets would be visible again." This rejuvenation happens when stellar material shedding from a dying red giant star falls onto an exoplanet, causing heating and making it appear younger.
Mars

DARPA Is Already Working On Designer Organisms To Terraform Mars 136 136

MarkWhittington writes: Space visionaries dream of a time when human beings will not only settle Mars, but will terraform the Red Planet into something more Earth-like, with a breathable atmosphere, running water, and a functioning biosphere. Evidence exists that Mars was more or less Earth-like billions of years ago before the atmosphere leached away into space and the water became frozen under the ground and at the poles. Terraforming Mars is decades away from the beginning and probably centuries away from the end. But DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already genetically engineering organisms that will help turn the Red Planet blue, according to a story in Motherboard.
The Almighty Buck

The Vicious Circle That Is Sending Rents Spiraling Higher 937 937

jones_supa writes: Skyrocketing rents and multiple roommates — these are the kinds of war stories you expect to hear in space-constrained cities such as New York and San Francisco. But the rental crunch has been steadily creeping inland from coastal cities and up the economic ladder. Bloomberg takes a look at the vicious cycle that keeps rents spiraling higher. People paying high rents have a harder time saving for a down payment, preventing tenants from exiting the rental market. Low vacancy rates let landlords raise rents still higher. Developers who know they can command high rents (and sales prices) are spurred to spend more to acquire developable land. Finally, higher land costs can force builders to target the higher end of the market. The interesting question is how long can this last before we reach a level that is not affordable to the majority of the demographic that is being serviced.