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17/02/2019 01:16:40  

Nine private spaceflight companies are bidding on contracts to deliver robotic NASA payloads to the moon -- and Thursday NASA said they'd like them to start flying "this calendar year." Discover magazine reports NASA envisions this "as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good." The first tasks will be to practice launching and landing on the moon, as well as answering questions about its surface... They will test habitation for future crewed missions. They'll prove that they can collect materials from the lunar surface and return them to space or Earth. And they'll establish communication networks between robots on the moon's surface, way stations in lunar orbit, and mission control on Earth. But NASA also wants to deploy demo technology that can mine the moon's resources "to pave the way for human settlement," Space.com reports: The main lunar resource to be exploited, at least initially, is water. The lunar surface has lots of this stuff, locked up as ice on the permanently shadowed floors of polar craters. This water will aid lunar settlement and further exploration, and not just by slaking astronauts' thirst, NASA officials say. Water can also be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program is just part of NASA's broad moon-exploration plan, which prioritizes an open architecture that encourages cooperation with many commercial and international partners. (Indeed, NASA wants to be the commercial landers' first, but not only, customer.) One of the most critical pieces of this plan is a small space station, called the Gateway, which NASA aims to start building in lunar orbit in 2022. Gateway will be a hub for many kinds of lunar exploration, including sorties to the surface by landers both crewed and uncrewed. If everything goes according to plan, NASA astronauts will take their first such sortie in 2028 -- 56 years after Apollo 17 crewmembers left the last boot prints on the lunar surface

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16/02/2019 15:15:26  

US president’s latest ploy is the product of an immature, egotistic mind, and is based on a lie

The phrase “national emergency” conjures up images of riots in the streets and burning cities, a disease pandemic killing millions, or an inter-planetary invasion by little green men from Mars.

Donald Trump’s national emergency, over his thwarted plans to build a border wall with Mexico, is prompted by none of these horrors. According to him, the safety and wellbeing of the world’s richest, most powerful country is threatened with utter destruction by penniless Guatemalans.

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16/02/2019 08:15:11  

From Arafura to Timor, test your knowledge with the Weekend quiz

1 In 1981, who was declared to have been 70% right, 30% wrong?
2 What degree is a DD?
3 Which countries share the Caribbean island of Saint Martin?
4 A government bounty was introduced in 1953 on what animals?
5 Whose HQ is the J Edgar Hoover Building?
6 The furthest point from the Sun in a planet’s orbit is called what?
7 Carolyn Davidson was paid $35 in 1971 for designing which sportswear logo?
8 The 85m-high statue, The Motherland Calls, is in which city?
What links:
9 Arafura; Coral; Tasman; Timor?
10 Whyteleafe; St Clare’s; Malory Towers?
11 Common or bread; durum; einkorn; emmer; spelt?
12 Louis VII; John Grey; Edward of Westminster; Prince Arthur; Edward Burgh?
13 Pitman writing; Eric Clapton; Ulster heraldic symbol; secret Serbian society?
14 1950 (13); 1954-78 (16); 1982-94 (24); 1998-2018 (32)?
15 Japanese print; pipe; felt hat; straw hat; bandaged ear?

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16/02/2019 06:14:31  

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: [R]esearchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown. "These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale," said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. "When you're living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It's vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It's mission critical." Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in U.S., Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases. "These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don't, the group does very badly," he said. Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency's mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas. Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or "beakers" as the contractors called them.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

15/02/2019 22:15:03  

Researchers are working with Nasa to see if clowns help team cohesion on long space missions

Wanted: smart, fit and unflappable applicants for humanity’s first mission to Mars. Must have: crazy wig, oversized boots and a big red nose.

It is enough to make Neil Armstrong spin in his grave, but researchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown.

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15/02/2019 22:14:33  

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #836 15 February 2019 (Space Life Science Research Results)
15/02/2019 22:14:28  

NASA Space Biology Program Awards Four Grants for Lunar Orbit Mission Experiments
15/02/2019 22:14:27  

NASA Announces Opportunities to Advance ‘Tipping Point’ Space Technologies through Public-Private Partnerships with American Industry
15/02/2019 22:14:26  

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #836 15 February 2019 (Space Life Science Research Results)
15/02/2019 18:14:30  

NASA announced this week that it will create the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer: SPHEREx for short. It'll look at how our universe has changed, and how common the ingredients of life are in the Milky Way. From a report: The space agency is aiming for a 2023 launch and has already earmarked $242 million for the project, not including launch costs, which is supposed to last for at least two years. Once SPHEREx is already in orbit, it will observe and collect data on over 300 million galaxies, some as far as 10 billion light-years away from Earth, and 100 million stars in our own Milky Way every six months. It will use technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft to survey the sky in optical and near-infrared light. Since it will use 96 wavelengths in all, it will give NASA a way to create an extremely detailed sky map with a resolution that's much, much higher than previous ones.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

15/02/2019 17:15:29  

Dead probe swinging around Ceres wins Jack Swigert Award

Less than a year after NASA's Dawn mission sent its last squawk back to Earth, the probe is to receive the Space Foundation's 2019 John L "Jack" Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration.…

15/02/2019 17:14:27  

Florida Students to Speak with NASA Astronaut Aboard International Space Station
15/02/2019 16:18:16  

What do attempts to establish a human colony on Mars, a $9bn blood-test startup and the Fyre festival have in common? Sheer chutzpah

If you were hoping to escape Brexit Britain with a one-way ticket to Mars, I am afraid you’re out of luck. Mars One Ventures, the company that wanted to start a permanent human settlement on the red planet in the next few years, has gone bankrupt, although its not-for-profit sister company, the Mars One Foundation, continues to operate. No doubt you are as shocked by this as I am.

A quick recap of the space saga: Mars One was launched in 2012, when the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp decided that, instead of dealing with his midlife crisis by getting a motorcycle, he would colonise the fourth planet from the sun. How he planned to do this was questionable, as Mars One didn’t make any space technology. It was a bit like the Brexit ferry firm that didn’t own any ferries, just on an interplanetary scale. Also unclear was how he thought Mars One could start a space colony on a budget of just $6bn; Nasa has estimated that a manned mission to Mars would cost between $80bn and $100bn (£62bn and £78bn). Mind you, Nasa clearly wasn’t doing the sort of galaxy-brain thinking Lansdorp was: the entrepreneur had the brilliant idea of making a reality show out of the colonisation process to fund the endeavour. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch a space-based mashup of Love Island and Lord of the Flies?

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15/02/2019 06:15:17  

They're dropping like flies: First Opportunity, now NASA's Van Allen craft

NASA’s twin probes studying Earth’s radiation belts are in the last stages of their mission – and will end their lives by nosediving into our planet’s atmosphere, the US space agency announced Thursday.…

14/02/2019 23:14:17  

NASA Administrator Message: A Great Week for Lunar Work and a Salute to Opportunity
14/02/2019 23:14:16  

NASA Tours Highlight Ohio's Role in Moon Missions
14/02/2019 18:14:19  

Last night, NanoRacks successfully completed the Company’s sixth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.
14/02/2019 15:15:07  

Self-hammering spike to see what weather's like 5m down

Unfazed by the outpouring of grief over NASA's admission that its teenaged Opportunity rover had likely trundled its last, the agency's lander, InSight, managed to position its second instrument on the surface of the Red Planet.…

14/02/2019 00:15:58  

Amazing what you can achieve on unforgiving dust world over 15 years with a 20MHz RISC CPU and a bunch of probes

NASA’s beloved Mars rover, Opportunity, has been officially laid to rest more than seven months after it was engulfed by a gigantic dust storm and fell silent.…

13/02/2019 22:14:19  

NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe
13/02/2019 22:14:18  

Mars Rover Opportunity Ends Mission After 15 Years
13/02/2019 22:14:18  

NASA Astronauts Available for Interviews Before Space Station Mission
13/02/2019 20:14:24  

For more than 14 years, the Opportunity rover crawled up and down craters, snapped pictures of a strange landscape and revealed surprising glimpses into the distant past of Mars. On Wednesday, NASA announced that Opportunity, the longest-lived robot ever sent from Earth to the surface of another planet, is dead. The New York Times: "It is therefore that I am standing here with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission is complete," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science. That ends a mission of unexpected endurance: it was designed to last only three months. Opportunity provided scientists a close-up view of Mars that they had never seen: finely layered rocks that preserved ripples of flowing water several billion years ago, a prerequisite for life. The steady stream of photographs and data from Opportunity -- as well as its twin, Spirit, which survived until 2010 -- also brought Mars closer to people on Earth. Because the rovers continued so much longer than expected, NASA has now had a continuous robotic presence on Mars for more than 15 years. That streak seems likely to continue for many more years. A larger, more capable rover, Curiosity, arrived in 2012, and NASA is planning to launch another in 2020. Live telecast here.

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13/02/2019 20:11:02  

The 15-year mission of "Oppy" the robot is declared over after repeated failed attempts to contact it.
13/02/2019 18:15:37  

hackingbear writes: The world is literally a greener place than it was twenty years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage. A new study shows that China and India -- the world's most populous countries -- are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues first detected the greening phenomenon in satellite data from the mid-1990s, but they did not know whether human activity was a chief cause. The research team found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China. "China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet's land area covered in vegetation," said lead author Chi Chen of Boston University. "That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation." China's outsized contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part from its programs to conserve and expand forests (about 42 percent of the greening contribution). These programs were developed in an effort to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution, and climate change.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.