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NASA

In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment 20

The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
NASA

How NASA Defended Its Assembly Facility From Hurricane Katrina 59

An anonymous reader writes: Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's arrival in New Orleans. Though that time was filled with tragedy, there were survival stories, and a new article gives an insider's account of how NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility weathered the storm. Michoud was their key fuel tank production location, and if it had been lost, the space program would have gone off the rails. A 17-foot levee and a building with four water pumps capable of moving 62,000 gallons per minute stood between the storm and catastrophe for NASA's launch capabilities. "Water was merely the primary concern of the first 24 hours; Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the facilities even if Michoud was the rare speck of land to escape flooding. Roofs were lost to strong winds, one building even blew out entirely. External Tank 122 took some damage." Members of the "ride out" team spent much of the next month at Michoud, working long days to inspect and repair issues caused by the water. They maintained the facility well enough that it became a base for members of the military doing search and rescue operations. Amazingly, they did it all without any injuries to the team, and NASA didn't miss a single tank shipment.
Space

ISRO Successfully Launches Satellite Into Geostationary Orbit 82

vasanth writes: Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) on Thursday cleared all doubts on its cryogenic capabilities, successfully launching the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D6), placing GSAT-6, a 2,117kg communication satellite in orbit. The GSLV D-6 is the second consecutive successful launch of the GSLV series with indigenous cryogenic upper stage. ISRO had on January 5, 2014 launched GSLV D-5, after a similar attempt failed in 2010. For the country, ISRO perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial, as precious foreign exchange can be saved by launching communication satellites on its own. Currently ISRO flies its heavy communication satellites by European space agency Ariane. ISRO has already perfected its Polar Launching Vehicle for launching lighter satellites, with decades of success stories. It has already put 45 foreign satellites of 9 nations into orbit. ISRO is to put 9 satellites in space using the PSLV launcher for the United States in 2015-2016.
Space

Research Suggests How Alien Life Could Spread Across the Galaxy 93

astroengine writes: As astronomical techniques become more advanced, a team of astrophysicists think they will be able to not only detect the signatures of alien life in exoplanetary atmospheres, but also track its relentless spread throughout the galaxy. The research, headed by Henry Lin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), assumes that this feat may be possible in a generation or so and that the hypothesis of panspermia may act as the delivery system for alien biology to hop from one star system to another.
Moon

You Can Now Be "Buried" On the Moon 72

Dave Knott writes: Space burials are longer the stuff of science fiction (and wealthy science fiction TV show creators.) The cremated remains of more than 450 people have been shot into orbit. Yet, despite the promise of space being a unique "resting place," almost every tiny vial of remains ever sent there has come back down to Earth or burned up upon re-entry. This wouldn't have happened had the ashes landed on Earth's moon — a fact that hasn't been lost on the companies pioneering this futuristic funeral technology. The San Francisco-based company Elysium Space officially launched its 'lunar memorial' service earlier this month, and will soon be sending the remains of a U.S. Army Infantry Soldier's mother upwards as part of its first ever moon burial.

The company's website further explains how the lunar burials will work: "You receive a kit containing a custom ash capsule to collect a cremated remains sample. After we receive the ash capsule back from you, we place your capsule in the Elysium memorial spacecraft. The latter is eventually integrated to the Astrobotic lander during the designated integration event. From here, the lander is integrated onto the launch vehicle. On launch day, the remains are carried to the moon where the lander will be deployed to its dedicated location, preserving our memorial spacecraft for eternity." Because Elysium can only send a small portion of cremated remains to the moon (less than a gram), participants aren't actually paying to have their loved ones literally buried on the moon. However, this has not deterred the company from launching the service, charging $11,950 per "burial".
Space

NASA Mulls Missions To Neptune and Uranus, Using the Space Launch System 77

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in Astronomy Magazine, NASA is contemplating sending flagship sized space probes to the so-called "ice giants" of Uranus and Neptune. These probes would orbit the two outer planets, similar to how Galileo orbited Jupiter and how Cassini currently orbits Saturn. The only time NASA has previously had a close encounter with either of these worlds was when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986 and then Neptune in 1989. Each of these missions would happen after the Europa Clipper, a flagship-class mission scheduled for the mid-2020s.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 273

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
NASA

Dawn Drops To 1470km Orbit, Snaps Sharper Pictures of Ceres 43

An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Dawn spacecraft, after an extensive series of high orbits around Ceres, has now dropped to just 1,470 kilometers over the dwarf planet's surface. It has begun an 11-day process to map the entirety of Ceres, which it will repeat several times over the next couple months. Its lower orbit now allows photo resolution of ~140 meters per pixel, and it has sent back some great images. "Engineers and scientists will also refine their measurements of Ceres' gravity field, which will help mission planners in designing Dawn's next orbit — its lowest — as well as the journey to get there. In late October, Dawn will begin spiraling toward this final orbit, which will be at an altitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers)."
NASA

Calls For Funding NASA Commercial Crew Grow 71

MarkWhittington writes: As summer starts to give way to fall and the end of the current fiscal year draws nigh, demands that NASA's commercial crew program be fully funded are being heard with greater frequency and urgency. Astronaut Scott Kelly took time off from his year-long sojourn on the International Space Station to entreat Congress to pony up. IO9 was a little more caustic, stating "Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA its Own Space Taxi, Already." Monday, Slate became the latest media outlet to take up the cause

The situation is depressingly familiar to those who have followed the fortunes of the space program since the Apollo moon landings. When President Obama started the commercial crew program in 2010, NASA estimated that it would take a certain amount of money to get government funded and commercially operated spacecraft running by 2015. Then the space agency would no longer be dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Congress has decided to allocate less money than NASA feels it needed for commercial crew. This situation is not unusual, as Congress often does this to space projects. However, the politics surrounding the creation of the commercial crew program, which featured the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, has exacerbated the conflict between NASA's will and Congress' won't. President Obama did not consult Congress when he cancelled President Bush's return to the moon program. Congress has displeased ever since.
Space

Some Observers Perceive the Universe To Be Much Younger Than We Do 138

StartsWithABang writes: It's been 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang for us, and when we look out at a distant object in the Universe, we're seeing it as it was in the past. Its age — as it appears — is determined only by how long the light took for it to travel from that object to our eyes, but to someone living there, it will also appear that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old. But it is actually possible for an observer living on another planet, star or galaxy to perceive that significantly less time has passed since the Big Bang, so long as they were moving close to the speed of light relative to the CMB. Paradoxically, if they slowed their speed, they'd find that they themselves were very young, but living in a 13.8 billion year-old Universe.
Software

Ask Slashdot: Maintaining Continuity In Your Creative Works? 95

imac.usr writes: I recently rewatched the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons and laughed as always at the scene where Homer pulls into his parking space — right next to his house. It's such a great little comic moment. This time, though, it occurred to me that someone probably wrote in to complain that the power plant was normally in a completely different part of town, no doubt adding "I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder." And that got me to wondering: how do creators of serial media — books, web comics, TV shows, even movie serials — record their various continuities? Is there a story bible with the information, or a database of people/places/things, or even something scribbled on a 3x5 card. I know Slashdot is full of artists who must deal with this issue on a regular basis, so I'd be interested in hearing any perspectives on how (or even if) you manage it.
Space

Re-Examined IceCube Data Firms Up Case For Extra-Galactic Neutrinos 27

In 2013, the IceCube neutrino telescope detected dozens of high-energy neutrinos. Now, reports Astronomy magazine, researchers "have sorted through the billions of subatomic particles that zip through its frozen cubic-kilometer-sized detector each year to gather powerful new evidence in support of [those] 2013 observations confirming the existence of cosmic neutrinos." According to the report, Albrecht Karle from UW-Madison notes that while the neutrino-induced tracks recorded by the IceCube detector have a good pointing resolution, within less than a degree, the IceCube team has not observed a significant number of neutrinos emanating from any single source. ... “The plane of the galaxy is where the stars are. It is where cosmic rays are accelerated, so you would expect to see more sources there. But the highest-energy neutrinos we’ve observed come from random directions,” said Karle. “It is sound confirmation that the discovery of cosmic neutrinos from beyond our galaxy is real.”
Space

John S. Lewis On the Space Commodities Market 61

John S. Lewis -- Deep Space Industries' chief scientist, author, and University of Arizona professor -- speaks in an interview with Air & Space magazine about the practicalities and possibilities of deep-space mining, a topic on which he is unapologetically bullish. He points out, though, that some of the artist's-conception version of space mining skips over some of the economic realities of getting back to Earth metals that are scarce here. From the interview: But—and here’s the big conditional—if we develop an industrial capability in space such that we’re processing large amounts of metals to make solar-powered satellites, for example, then as a byproduct, we would have very substantial quantities of platinum-group metals, which are extremely valuable. So if you have a market for the iron and the nickel in space, that would liberate the precious metals to be brought back to Earth. So the scheme is not based on the idea of retrieving platinum-group metals—that is simply gravy."
Space

JAXA Prepares To Try Making Whiskey In Space 67

schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.
Mars

The Real NASA Technologies In 'The Martian' 60

An anonymous reader writes: On October 2, movie audiences will get to see Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's brilliant sci-fi novel The Martian, about a near-future astronaut who gets left for dead on the planet Mars. (Official trailer.) Both book and film are rooted in actual science, and NASA has now posted a list of technologies featured in the movie that either already exist, or are in development. For example, the Mars rover: "On Earth today, NASA is working to prepare for every encounter with the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has been used in NASA's analog mission projects to help solve problems that the agency is aware of and to reveal some that may be hidden. The technologies are developed to be versatile enough to support missions to an asteroid, Mars, its moons and other missions in the future." They also show off their efforts to develop water reclamation, gardens in space, and oxygen recovery.
Displays

A New Take on Wearable Devices 29

minstrelmike writes: A company called Polyera is working on a wrist-worn device with a flexible, fabric-like screen that uses e-Ink technology and can go days without recharging. "Right now we design electronic devices that are built on rigid little bricks, so our devices end up looking like rigid little bricks. We wanted to make a fundamental technology that would completely open up the design capabilities. Now we're playing with materials that are more warm, and integrating electronics with materials that are more like leather than they are metal or glass." Their device is touch-sensitive and has much more usable screen space than most wrist-borne devices, which comes at the cost of being lower-resolution and grayscale.
Transportation

The Boeing 747 Is Heading For Retirement 345

schwit1 writes: After 45 years of service, Boeing's 747, the world's first jumbo jet, is finally facing retirement as airlines consider more modern planes for their fleets. The article gives a brief but detailed outline of the 747's history, and why passengers and pilots still love it. From the article: "The 747 was America at its proud and uncontaminated best. 'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air. There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus. Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus. There's an old saying: 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going.' A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating. The supersonic Anglo-French plane was an elite project created for elite passengers to travel in near space with the curvature of the Earth on one hand and a glass of first growth claret on the other. The 747 was mass-market, proletarianising the jet set. It was Coke, not grand cru and it was designed by a man named Joe. Thus, the 747's active life was about twice that of Concorde."
NASA

How Viking 1 Won the Martian Space Race 53

derekmead writes: NASA launched the Viking 1 spacecraft to Mars forty years ago. The probe was the first to achieve a soft landing on the planet, providing the first images and data from Mars. Politically the Viking 1 success was a huge win for the U.S. against the competing Soviet space program. Motherboard reports: "Viking 1 went on to become one of the most productive landers ever deployed on Mars, operating for 2,307 days before it finally shut down on November 13, 1982. It held the record for the longest Martian surface mission for decades, until the Opportunity rover finally beat it out in 2010 (and that little trooper is still going, by the way)."
Space

Tiny Pebbles Built the Gas Giant Behemoths 32

astroengine writes: Scientists have long puzzled over how gas planets like Jupiter and Saturn got to be so big. Current theories suggest the cores of these behemoths are comprised of mini-planets, some 62- to 620 miles in diameter, which collided and gradually merged together over time. But computer simulations show this process is more likely to produce hundreds of Earth-sized worlds. Instead, a new study suggests "slow pebble accretion" is a more likely process.