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Earth

Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical 266

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
schwit1 writes: Scientists have found that, despite a complete ban since 2007, ozone-depleting chemicals are still being pumped into the atmosphere from some unknown source. "Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012. However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons (about 43,000 U.S. tons) per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect. "We are not supposed to be seeing this at all," said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study published online in the Aug. 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. "It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources."
Mars

Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the wheels-on-the-rover-go-round-and-round dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The folks in charge of the Mars rover Curiosity have been trying to solve an increasingly urgent problem: what to do about unexpected wheel damage. The team knew from the start that wear and tear on the wheels would slowly accumulate, but they've been surprised at how quickly the wheels have degraded over the past year. Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed report on the team's conclusions as to what's causing the damage and how they can mitigate it going forward. Quoting: "The tears result from fatigue. You know how if you bend a metal paper clip back and forth repeatedly, it eventually snaps? Well, when the wheels are driving over a very hard rock surface — one with no sand — the thin skin of the wheels repeatedly bends. The wheels were designed to bend quite a lot, and return to their original shape. But the repeated bending and straightening is fatiguing the skin, causing it to fracture in a brittle way. The bending doesn't happen (or doesn't happen as much) if the ground gives way under the rover's weight, as it does if it's got the slightest coating of sand on top of rock. It only happens when the ground is utterly impervious to the rover's weight — hard bedrock. The stresses from metal fatigue are highest near the tips of the chevron features, and indeed a lot of tears seem to initiate close to the chevron features."
Space

ISS Earth at Night Photos Crowdsourced For Science 13

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-thousand-words dept.
teleyinex writes The Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) is leading a project called Cities at Night to catalog the images taken by astronauts from the ISS. The project uses the platform Crowdcrafting powered by the open source software PyBossa to catalog images in cities, stars or other objects, as well as geo-reference them."
NASA

The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-NASA-starts-looking-like-the-USPTO dept.
schwit1 writes: Rather than work in NASA, the best young engineers today are increasingly heading to get jobs at private companies like SpaceX and XCOR. This is a long article, worth reading in its entirety, but this quote sums it up well: "As a NASA engineering co-op student at Johnson Space Center, Hoffman trained in various divisions of the federal space agency to sign on eventually as a civil servant. She graduated from college this year after receiving a generous offer from NASA, doubly prestigious considering the substantial reductions in force hitting Johnson Space Center in recent months. She did have every intention of joining that force — had actually accepted the offer, in fact — when she received an invitation to visit a friend at his new job with rising commercial launch company SpaceX.

Hoffman took him up on the offer, flying out to Los Angeles in the spring for a private tour. Driving up to the SpaceX headquarters, she was struck by how unassuming it was, how small compared to NASA, how plain on the outside and rather like a warehouse. As she walked through the complex, she was also surprised to find open work areas where NASA would have had endless hallways, offices and desks. Hoffman described SpaceX as resembling a giant workshop, a hive of activity in which employees stood working on nitty-gritty mechanical and electrical engineering. Everything in the shop was bound for space or was related to space. ... Seeing SpaceX in production forced Hoffman to acknowledge NASA might not be the best fit for her. The tour reminded her of the many mentors who had gone into the commercial sector of the space industry in search of better pay and more say in the direction their employers take." At NASA, young engineers find that they spend a lot of time with bureaucracy, the pace is slow, their projects often get canceled or delayed, and the creative job satisfaction is poor. At private companies like SpaceX, things are getting built now.
NASA

NASA's Greenhouse Gas Observatory Captures 'First Light' 143

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the captain-planet-will-find-you dept.
mdsolar (1045926) writes with news that NASA's second attempt to launch a satellite to map carbon dioxide levels across the globe succeeded, and its instruments are operating properly. From the article: NASA's first spacecraft dedicated to studying Earth's atmospheric climate changing carbon dioxide levels and its carbon cycle has reached its final observing orbit and taken its first science measurements as the leader of the world's first constellation of Earth science satellites known as the International 'A-Train. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is a research satellite tasked with collecting the first global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) — the leading human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change. The 'first light' measurements were conducted on Aug. 6 as the observatory flew over central Papua New Guinea and confirmed the health of the science instrument.
Space

3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-you-go-back-to-not-passing-legislation dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports that a trio of U.S. Congressmen are asking NASA to investigate what they call "an epidemic of anomalies" at SpaceX. They sent a memo (PDF) demanding that SpaceX be held accountable to taxpayers for mission delays stemming from the development of new rockets. Plait notes, "[A]s a contractor, the rules are different for them than they would be if NASA themselves built the rockets, just as the rules are for Boeing or any other contractor. In fact, as reported by Space News, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did." He adds, "Another reason this is silly is that every rocket ever made has undergone problems; they are fiendishly complex machines and no design has ever gotten from the drafting board to the launch pad without issues. Sure, SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems, but the critical thing to remember is that those problems are noted, assessed, and fixed sometimes within hours or minutes." Plait accuses the congressmen of trying to bury private spaceflight under red tape in order to protect established industries in their own states.
Entertainment

Is "Scorpion" Really a Genius? 391

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the watch-out-I-know-html dept.
An anonymous reader writes CBS's upcoming hacker show Scorpion is pitched as based on the real life of Irish 'eccentric genius' Walter O'Brien a.k.a. "Scorpion". Some of the claims made for the real Scorpion are extraordinary. A child prodigy with an IQ of 197, hacking Nasa at age 13, [supplying] Ireland with more Personal Computers than DELL and Gateway together. Searching online I wasn't able to find anything which, for me, clearly backed up any of these (or other) claims. For example, rather than being the sixth fastest programmer in the world in 1993, his team ranked 90th out of 250 teams. Curiously, his degree grade was an ok, but hardly stellar B+ (II-I). Does anyone know anything to back up the genius claims being made about Scorpion?
Mars

NASA Releases Footage of "Flying Saucer" Braking Test, Declares Success 55

Posted by timothy
from the you-can-have-mars-I'll-stay-here dept.
According to the AP, in a story carried by the San Jose Mercury News, NASA engineers insisted Friday that a test of a vehicle they hope to one day use on Mars achieved most of its objectives, despite a parachute that virtually disintegrated the moment it deployed. The engineers laid out at a news conference what they've learned in the six weeks since the $150 million high-altitude test of a vehicle that's designed to bring spacecraft -- and eventually astronauts -- safely to Mars. Engineers said they achieved the main objective: getting a flying saucer-shaped craft to 190,000 feet above the Earth at more than four times the speed of sound under test conditions that matched the Martian atmosphere. Ars Technica has (beautiful, high-speed, high-definition) video of the test that shows the parachute tearing itself apart, as well as the many parts that went as planned.
Space

Can We Call Pluto and Charon a 'Binary Planet' Yet? 115

Posted by timothy
from the complex-gyrations dept.
astroengine writes The debate as to whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet rumbles on, but in a new animation of the small world, one can't help but imagine another definition for Pluto. As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft continues its epic journey into the outer solar system, its Kuiper Belt target is becoming brighter and more defined. Seen through the mission's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, this new set of observations clearly shows Pluto and its biggest moon Charon locked in a tight orbital dance separated by only 11,200 miles. (Compared with the Earth-moon orbital separation of around 240,000 miles, you can see how compact the Pluto-Charon system really is.) Both bodies are shown to be orbiting a common point — the "barycenter" is located well above Pluto's surface prompting a new debate on whether or not Pluto and Charon should be redefined as a "binary planet".
Space

Study Finds That Astronauts Are Severely Sleep Deprived 106

Posted by timothy
from the loud-snoring-small-space dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 85 crew members aboard the International Space Station and space shuttle and found that despite an official flight schedule mandating 8.5 hours of sleep per night, they rarely got more than five. In fact, getting a full night's rest was so difficult that three-quarters of shuttle mission crew members used sleep medication, and sometimes entire teams were sedated on the same night. Given that sleep deprivation contributes to up to 80% of aviation accidents, it's important to better understand why sleep is so difficult in space, the authors say."
NASA

Why the "NASA Tested Space Drive" Is Bad Science 315

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
StartsWithABang writes Just over a century ago, N rays were detected by over a hundred researchers and discussed in some three hundred publications, yet there were serious experimental flaws and experimenter biases that were exposed over time. Fast forward to last week, and NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive is front page news. But a quick analysis shows that it isn't theorists who'll need to struggle to explain this phenomenon, but rather the shoddy experimentalists who are making the exact same "bad science" mistakes all over again.
Mars

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload 109

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the forgot-the-alien-attack-cannon-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that the Mars 2020 experiments have been chosen: In short, the 2020 rover will cary 7 instruments, out of 58 proposals in total, and the rover itself will be based on the current Curiosity rover. The selected instruments are: Mastcam-Z, an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will also contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) — This one will have a UV laser! The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). This one is basically a weather station. The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

Can't decide if the UV laser or the ground radar is the coolest of the lot.
NASA

NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive 201

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the onward-to-the-stars dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes with news that NASA scientists have tested the EmDrive, which claims to use quantum vacuum plasma for propulsion. Theoretically improbable, but perhaps possible after all. If it does work, it would eliminate the need for expendable fuel (just add electricity). From the article:Either the results are completely wrong, or NASA has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion. A working microwave thruster would radically cut the cost of satellites and space stations and extend their working life, drive deep-space missions, and take astronauts to Mars in weeks rather than months. ... [According to the researchers] "Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma." Skepticism is certainly warranted: NASA researchers were only able to produce about 1/1000th of the force the Chinese researchers reported. But they were careful to avoid false sensor readings, so something is going on. The paper declined to comment on what that could be, leaving the physics of the system an open problem.
The Military

Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So 165

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the spying-as-a-hobby dept.
New submitter IMissAlexChilton (3748631) writes Frank Malina masterfully led the World War II effort to build U.S. rockets for jet-assisted takeoff and guided missiles. As described in IEEE Spectrum, Malina's motley crew of engineers and enthusiasts (including occultist Jack Parsons) founded the Jet Propulsion Lab and made critical breakthroughs in solid fuels, hypergolics, and high-altitude sounding rockets, laying the groundwork for NASA's future successes. And yet, under suspicion by the Feds at the war's end, Malina gave up his research career, and his team's efforts sank into obscurity. Taking his place: the former Nazi Wernher von Braun. Read "Frank Malina: America's Forgotten Rocketeer". Includes cool vintage footage of early JPL rocket tests.
NASA

NASA's JPL Develops Multi-Metal 3D Printing Process 32

Posted by timothy
from the just-use-a-photoshop-gradient dept.
yyzmcleod (1534129) writes The technology to 3D print a single part from multiple materials has been around for years, but only for polymer-based additive manufacturing processes. For metals, jobs are typically confined to a single powdered base metal or alloy per object. However, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say they have developed a 3D printing technique that allows for print jobs to transition from one metal to another in a single object. From the article: In JPL’s technique, the build material’s composition is gradually transitioned as the print progresses. For example, the powdered build material might contain 97 percent titanium alloy and 3 percent stainless steel at the beginning of the transition. Then, in 1 percent increments between layers, the gradient progresses to 97 percent stainless steel and 3 percent Ti alloy by some defined point in the overall 3D printing process.
Mars

Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the rollin'-rollin'-rollin' dept.
schwit1 writes: "With a drive of 157 feet on Sunday, the Mars rover Opportunity broke the Soviet record, set by Lunokhod 2 in 1973, for the longest distance traveled by a vehicle on another planet. "If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission scientists have dubbed "Marathon Valley." Observations from spacecraft orbiting Mars suggest several clay minerals are exposed close together at this valley site, surrounded by steep slopes where the relationships among different layers may be evident. The Russian Lunokhod 2 rover, a successor to the first Lunokhod mission in 1970, landed on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, where it drove about 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) in less than five months, according to calculations recently made using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2's tracks."
Space

Enceladus's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.
astroengine writes: New observations from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus' crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface "hotspots" but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. "Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. "It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots." And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions.
NASA

Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission 84

Posted by timothy
from the in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-access-facebook dept.
Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.
NASA

SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget 114

Posted by timothy
from the only-tax-dollars-after-all dept.
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called "The US Space Enterprise Partnership" at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA's budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online's Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency's limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics' Jeff Foust added a tweet, "Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s." The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

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