NASA

Voyager's Golden Record For Aliens Now Available On SoundCloud 54 54

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 443 443

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 106 106

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 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 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 133 133

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 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 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 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 229 229

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 246 246

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 220 220

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 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 309 Screenshot-sm 309

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.
NASA

NASA Unveils Historic Pictures of Pluto 108 108

An anonymous reader writes: The New Horizons team held a press briefing today and released new data and high-resolution photographs of Pluto. Alan Stern, lead researcher of New Horizons said: "We now have an isolated, small planet that's showing activity after four and a half billion years. We've settled the fact that these very small planets can be active for a long time, and I think that's going to send a lot of geophysicists back to the drawing board."
Space

New Horizons Phones Home After Pluto Flyby -- Craft Healthy, Data Recorded 134 134

Tablizer was one of several readers to note that the New Horizons probe has completed its flyby of Pluto and radioed home to confirm that it went without incident. Mission Ops manager Alice Bowman said the spacecraft was healthy, full of data, and sharing telemetry. The images New Horizon collected haven't been downloaded yet, but NASA decided to tide us over by releasing this high-resolution view from the day before. It was taken when the probe was still 768,000 kilometers away with a resolution of 3.8km per pixel. (Closest approach was approximately 12,500km.) They also released an exaggerated-color image of Pluto and Charon which highlights the non-uniformity of both worlds.

Pictures from closest approach are not yet available. Expect another post late Wednesday or early Thursday with those images. The reason for this is that New Horizons can't take pictures and send them to us at the same time, so imaging activity is interspersed with downlinks to Earth to transmit data. Emily Lakdawalla has posted a downlink schedule. On Wednesday afternoon (ET), the probe will transmit three images of Pluto that were taken from 77,000km away, with a resolution of 0.4 km per pixel. They'll be the first three pieces of a mosaic of Pluto's surface, and the dwarf planet will fill all three frames. It will take a full 16 months for New Horizons to transmit all the data it collects. (Lakdawalla also added Pluto to a montage of the biggest non-planets in the solar system. New Horizon's measurements indicate Pluto is slightly larger than we thought. It's now considered the largest of the Kuiper Belt objects.)
NASA

NASA's New Horizons Focuses On Pluto's Largest Moon Charon 77 77

MarkWhittington writes: New Horizons has already discovered much of what was previously unknown about Pluto, the dwarf planet that is the former ninth planet from the sun. NASA reported that the space probe has also uncovered some of the secrets of Pluto's largest moon, Charon. It has found indications of impact craters on the moon's gray surface as well as a chasm that seems to be bigger than the Grand Canyon on Earth. Charon has a diameter of just 1440 miles. By contrast, Earth has a diameter of 7918 miles.
NASA

New Horizons Gets Closer to Pluto, But Mystery Spots Now Out of Sight 98 98

The L.A. Times reports that the strange spots spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons mission will be on the wrong side of the planet for the approaching fly-by that the craft will make of the smallest planet (or dwarf planet, depending) of our solar system. (The BBC makes a similar observation.) That doesn't mean that New Horizons' approach is anything short of "a spectacular event."