February 16, 2015

NASA Video Shows Rocket It Says Will Take Astronauts to Mars (Source: Washington Post)
When it's finished, NASA's new rocket will be a beast. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, with the same amount of thrust as 13,400 locomotive engines and able to carry 154,000 pounds of payload, the same, as the space agency points out, as 12 elephants.

In an effort to show the progress of the new rocket, called the Space Launch System, NASA released a video showing crews building the rocket. And it also added a scene from a 2011 test of one of the three boosters giving an impressive display of its fire power at a Utah test range. Click here. (2/13)

'Cloud' Over Mars Leaves Scientists Baffled (Source: Phys.org)
Plumes seen reaching high above the surface of Mars are causing a stir among scientists studying the atmosphere on the Red Planet. On two separate occasions in March and April 2012, amateur astronomers reported definite plume-like features developing on the planet.

The plumes were seen rising to altitudes of over 250 km above the same region of Mars on both occasions. By comparison, similar features seen in the past have not exceeded 100 km. "At about 250 km, the division between the atmosphere and outer space is very thin, so the reported plumes are extremely unexpected," says Agustin Sanchez-Lavega of the Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco in Spain, lead author of the paper reporting the results in the journal Nature.

The features developed in less than 10 hours, covering an area of up to 1000 x 500 km, and remained visible for around 10 days, changing their structure from day to day. (2/16)

Contacting Aliens - War of the Worlds or War Over Cash? (Source: New Scientist)
"It's not the Klingons you should be worried about, it's the Borg. We could take the Klingons." In a bar in San Jose, the beer flows and talk turns to the latest controversy from the SETI Institute. On Friday Doug Vakoch of SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) broached the subject. He proposed that instead of merely searching and listening for signals from aliens, we should actively direct signals to promising exoplanet locations where they might live.

The project is also known as METI - messaging extraterrestrial intelligence. The idea is to use the world's largest radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, to message stars within 82 light-years of Earth. This has caused a bit of a stink. What we might call the "Klingons argument", made against Vakoch's plan, goes that if we alert a super-intelligent race of aliens to our presence they'll come here and harvest us. Click here. (2/15)

Mars One Picks 100 to Compete for One-Way Red Planet Trips (Source: NBC)
The Dutch-based Mars One venture says it's winnowed down its list of applicants to 50 men and 50 women who will compete for the chance to take a one-way trip to Mars. Yes, that's the reward — not the punishment. The Mars One project plans to put on a reality-TV competition to select 24 prospective crew members for missions to Mars, starting as early as 2024. Winners would be expected to start up a permanent colony on the Red Planet.

Thousands signed up for Mars One consideration in 2013, and the 100 competitors (full list here) were chosen after going through interviews with chief medical officer Norbert Kraft. "Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and work together in the upcoming challenges." Kraft said. (2/16)

The Psychology of Mars One Hopefuls (Source: Pacific Standard)
A slew of personality traits have also been linked to risk-taking behavior, including narcissism, impulsivity, extroversion, aggression, and sensation seeking. Or, as another Mars hopeful, Dina, told Stateless Media: “It might put me in danger. But that’s the whole point.” Click here. (2/16)

Cryptographers Could Prevent Satellite Collisions (Source: Scientific American)
In February 2009 the U.S.'s Iridium 33 satellite collided with the Russian Cosmos 2251, instantly destroying both communications satellites. According to ground-based telescopes tracking Iridium and Cosmos at the time, the two should have missed each other, but onboard instrumentation data from even one of the satellites would have told a different story. Why weren't operators using this positional information? Click here. (2/16)

Russia to Launch ISS Resupply Mission (Source: SEN)
Black caviar, favorite of Russian czars, will be among more than two tons of supplies scheduled for delivery to the Space Station on Feb. 17. The launch of the Progress M-26M cargo ship is scheduled from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The first Russian re-supply mission of the year will deliver propellant, food, water and other essentials for two women and four men from three countries comprising the 41st long-duration expedition onboard the outpost. (2/16)

Giant Hydrogen Cloud Headed for Milky Way (Source: Science News)
A high-speed hydrogen cloud on a crash course with the Milky Way appears to be an exotic interloper, preliminary data suggest. The cometlike streak, called the Smith Cloud, is as massive as a million suns and is shooting toward the galaxy at just over 828,000 kilometers per hour. At about 40,000 light-years away, the cloud is on schedule to collide with the one of the galaxy’s spiral arms in roughly 30 million years. (2/16)

Japan Prepares Another Attempt to Insert Spacecraft in Venus Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced that their spacecraft Akatsuki will be attempting once more to reach an orbit around Venus. The news comes almost 5 years after the spacecraft was first launched aboard their H-IIA flagship rocket out of Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The next attempt is planned for Dec 7, 2015. The agency has been closely looking for another opportunity for Akatsuki to complete its mission ever since the first attempt was made. (2/15)

New Technology Could Make Space Travel More Affordable (Source: The Battalion)
January’s attempt saw SpaceX’s signature Falcon 9 rocket successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station while its first stage attempt to land on a remote-controlled ocean barge. The rocket maneuvered itself to the target but crashed when it ran out of hydraulic fluid. David Kanipe said the test showcased SpaceX’s ability to innovate and react quickly as a company despite failure — two important traits in the space industry.

“Beyond the accident, what struck me about it was that commercial companies are really able to be pretty nimble when it comes to things like this,” David Kanipe said. “They can recover and turn things around a lot faster than the government can. I worked at NASA for 38 years so I have seen a lot of this kind of thing. It is refreshing to know that they can come back pretty quickly.” (2/15)

UF Students Help Build Computer for Upcoming NASA Missions (Source: Alligator)
For a group of UF students, work is actually rocket science. The National Science Foundation Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing, or CHREC, has created a computer that NASA will use in three upcoming missions in 2016 and 2017. Alan George, creator of CHREC and a UF professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the CHREC Space Processor, or CSP, is what collects and sends the satellite’s data to earth.

“UF technology from UF research has been adopted by them and is being featured by them,” he said, “and that’s really how we see our role in the space program.” George said creating successful technology for space missions is the ultimate challenge. (2/16)

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