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Mars

Laser-Armed Martian Robot Now Vaporizing Targets of Its Own Free Will (dailymail.co.uk) 44

Slashdot reader Rei writes: NASA -- having already populated the Red Planet with robots and armed a car-sized nuclear juggernaut with a laser -- have now decided to grant fire control of that laser over to a new AI system operating on the rover itself. Intended to increase the scientific data-gathering throughput on the sometimes glitching rover's journey, the improved AEGIS system eliminates the need for a series of back-and-forth communication sessions to select targets and aim the laser.
Rei's original submission included a longer riff on The War of the Worlds, ending with a reminder to any future AI overlords that "I have a medical condition that renders me unfit to toil in any hypothetical subterranean lithium mines..."
Moon

47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon (foxnews.com) 184

An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.
Moon

Taiwan Building Lunar Lander For NASA Moon-Mining Mission (blastingnews.com) 84

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: According to AFP, the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan is building a $47 million, 3.7 metric ton lunar lander on behalf of NASA. The vehicle is designed to carry a rover called Resource Prospector, which would roll about the lunar surface searching out deposits of oxygen, hydrogen, and water. The Resource Prospector mission is still being formulated but is envisioned to be a joint project with several national space agencies and commercial companies. The lunar lander is the first vehicle of its type to be built in Taiwan. "The Resource Prospector would take samples from about a meter beneath the lunar surface and then heat them in an oven to ascertain what the materials are that comprise it," reports Blasting News. The mission is part of the second stage to NASA's Journey to Mars program called "Proving Ground." "Should the Resource Prospector prove to be successful, the moon could be used as a base for space journeys into Mars," says Han Kuo-change, the head of CSIST's international cooperation program.
Space

Astronomers Say There Could Be At Least Two More Mystery Planets In Our Solar System (sciencealert.com) 84

schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: A team of astronomers has performed new calculations on the data that originally gave rise to the Planet Nine hypothesis, and these new numbers suggest that the hypothetical extra planet might not be alone -- there could be multiple planets hiding at the edge of our Solar System that we've yet to discover. If the researchers are correct -- which nobody knows for sure right now -- it could really mean a do-over for the high school textbooks. The scientists estimate that Planet Nine is 10 times more massive than Earth, and think it performs an extremely elongated orbit of the Sun, that takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years to complete. The Caltech researchers based their hypothesis for the existence of Planet Nine on the unusual movement of six large objects floating in the Kuiper belt, suggesting that their orbits are being shaped by a hidden planet.
Mars

First SpaceX Missions To Mars: 'Dangerous and Probably People Will Die' (arstechnica.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As we get close to the end of September, when Elon Musk has promised to lay bare his plans for colonizing Mars at an international space conference, it seems like the ambitious founder of SpaceX can hardly contain his excitement. In an interview with The Washington Post, Musk gushed, "I'm so tempted to talk more about the details of it. But I have to restrain myself." SpaceX fandom has speculated for years about details of Musk's ideas, which include the Mars Colonial Transporter concept. The Transporter likely consists of a large first stage rocket and an upper stage spacecraft meant to deliver hundreds of people to the surface of Mars during the late 2020s and 2030s. Unlike NASA, which relies on public money and is therefore risk averse when it comes to "loss of crew" requirements for human missions into space, SpaceX appears to be willing to take some risks with the unprecedented exploration to Mars. Those first explorers would understand the perils, just as the pioneers who explored the New World or the poles of Earth did. "Hopefully there's enough people who are like that who are willing to go build the foundation, at great risk, for a Martian city," Musk told Washington Post. "It's dangerous and probably people will die -- and they'll know that." Eventually it will be safe to go to Mars, Musk said, and living there will be comfortable. But this is many years into the future, he acknowledged.
Mars

NASA And The UAE Will Collaborate On A Journey To Mars (gizmodo.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes an article from Gizmodo: The United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced an agreement Sunday that would allow the two nations to collaborate on matters of space and aeronautics research, including the potential journey to Mars... "NASA is leading an ambitious journey to Mars that includes partnerships with the private sector and many international partners," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "I am confident this new framework agreement with the UAE Space Agency will help advance this journey."
Bolden recently wrote on his blog that "Every single nation can play a part in our journey to Mars, in our scientific journey of discovery and in the next phase of humanity's development as a spacefaring people." UAE Space Agency Chairman Dr. Khalifa Al Romaithi added today that "we believe that working alongside international partners is the best way to accelerate the development of space technologies and the space sector within the UAE." Vice notes that the UAE has had a small "presence" in outer space for about 30 years, and had been working on becoming the first Arab Islamic country to send an unmanned probe to Mars.
Earth

Researchers Say The Aliens Are Silent Because They Are Extinct (theconversation.com) 559

HughPickens.com writes: The Conversation reports that according to research by Dr. Charles Lineweaver and Dr. Aditya Chopra, a plausible solution to Fermi's paradox is near universal early extinction of life on exoplanets, which they have named the Gaian Bottleneck. "The universe is probably filled with habitable planets, so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens," says Chopra. "The mystery of why we haven't yet found signs of aliens may have less to do with the likelihood of the origin of life or intelligence and have more to do with the rarity of the rapid emergence of biological regulation of feedback cycles on planetary surfaces." According to the researchers, most early planetary environments are unstable. To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable. About four billion years ago, Earth, Venus and Mars may have all been habitable. However, a billion years or so after formation, Venus turned into a hothouse and Mars froze into an icebox. Even if wet rocky Earth-like planets are in the "Goldilocks Zone" of their host stars, it seems that runaway freezing or heating may be their default fate. Large impactors and huge variation in the amounts of water and greenhouse gases can also induce positive feedback cycles that push planets away from habitable conditions. The difference on Earth may be that as soon as life became widespread on our planet, the earliest metabolisms began to modulate the greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere. "The emergence of life's ability to regulate initially non-biological feedback mechanisms could be the most significant factor responsible for life's persistence on Earth, conclude Lineweaver and Chopra. "Even if life does emerge on a planet, it rarely evolves quickly enough to regulate greenhouse gases, and thereby keep surface temperatures compatible with liquid water and habitability."
Earth

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Predicts People On Mars In 9 Years (cnn.com) 224

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says his company should be able to land humans on Mars in nine years from now. "If things go according to plan, we should be able to -- we should be able to -- launch people in 2024, with arrival in 2025," Musk said. "That's the game plan," he added. CNN Money reports: Musk said he's planning to share an architectural plan for the colonization of Mars at a conference in September. The tech conference audience was enthralled by Musk's comments. He told interviewers Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that plotting travel throughout the Solar System, and "ultimately other star systems," provides the kind of inspiration that makes life worth living.
Space

We Need To Build Industrial Zones In Space In Order To Save Earth, Says Jeff Bezos (cnbc.com) 306

Onstage at the Code Conference, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said that we have to start bringing parts of the industrial economy to space in order to "save Earth." Bezos also said that we must protect our planet, adding that we don't want to live in a retrograde world where "we have to freeze population growth." From the report: Bezos says tasks that require lots of energy shouldn't be handled on Earth. Instead, we should perform them in space, and that will happen within the next few hundred years. "Energy is limited here. In at least a few hundred years... all of our heavy industry will be moved off-planet," Bezos added. "Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial. You shouldn't be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space." Solar energy, for instance, is more practical for factories in space, he said. "We don't have to actually build them here," he said. "The Earth shades itself, [whereas] in space you can get solar power 24/7. ... The problem with other planets ... people will visit Mars, and we will settle Mars, and people should because it's cool, but for heavy industry, I would actually put it in space."
Earth

Mars Is Coming Out Of An Ice Age (reuters.com) 166

Taco Cowboy quotes a report from Reuters: An analysis of radar images that peered inside the polar ice caps of Mars shows that Earth's neighbor is coming out of an ice age that is part of an ongoing cycle of climate change, scientists said on Thursday. Using images taken by satellites orbiting Mars, the researchers determined that about 20,872 cubic miles (87,000 cubic km) of ice has accumulated at its poles since the end of the ice age, mostly in the northern polar cap. Scientists are keenly interested in piecing together the climate history of Mars, which contains strong evidence that oceans and lakes once pooled on its surface, bolstering the prospects for life. From the perspective of an Earthling, every day on Mars may feel like an ice age. According to NASA, temperatures on Mars may hit a high at noon at the equator in the summer of roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), or a low of about minus-225 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-153 degrees Celsius) at the poles. The Martian ice began its retreat about 370,000 years ago, marking the end of the last ice age, according to the research published in the journal Science
Mars

There Were Mega-Tsunamis On Mars (popularmechanics.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: Today, a team of scientists has announced the first discovery of extraterrestrial tsunamis. A team of astronomers and geologists led by J. Alexis Rodriguez at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona has uncovered evidence of massive tsunamis on Mars billions of years ago. As Rodriguez reports, two separate mega-tsunamis tore across the red planet around 3.4 billion years ago, a time when Mars was a mere 1.1 billion years old and nearby Earth was just cradling its first microbial lifeforms. The two tsunamis created 150-foot-high shore-break waves on average, and some absolutely monster waves up to 400 feet tall. Rodriguez and his colleagues outline their tsunami findings today in the journal Scientific Reports. From the report: "Rodriquez and his colleagues stumbled across evidence of these tsunamis while scouring over images of Mars' relatively flat northern planes. Two regions called Chryse Planitia and Arabia Terra. Using detailed infrared maps rendered by the thermal camera on the 15-year-old Mars Odyssey orbiter, the scientists identified the high water marks of the tsunamis -- features that look a lot like ancient ocean coastlines." Within the last year alone, scientists have spotted the signs of flowing water on Mars, recently discovering how water flows on the red planet. NASA has detected atomic oxygen in the atmosphere of the planet, too.
Earth

ISS Completes 100,000th Orbit of Earth (phys.org) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The International Space Station, the space laboratory that showcases cooperation between Russia and the United States, on Monday orbited Earth for the 100,000th time, Russian mission control said. Traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) and a speed of about 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour, the space station circles the Earth once every 90 minutes. The ISS has now traveled 2.6 billion miles "or about the distance of 10 round trips to Mars," NASA said on the station's official Twitter feed. From two modules, it has grown to 15 modules, occupying a space the size of a football pitch and represents around $100 billion in investment. "Such a long lifespan of the ISS proves that mankind has the necessary technologies for constant presence in orbit, that we have the potential for further space exploration," said Matyushin.
Mars

Atomic Oxygen Detected In Martian Atmosphere (cnn.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Atomic oxygen has been detected in the atmosphere of Mars, according to NASA. The atoms were discovered in the Martian mesosphere, the upper layers of the red planet's atmosphere. This discovery will enable researchers to have a better understanding of the elusive Martian atmosphere. Atomic oxygen can help scientists determine atmospheric erosion and how other gases escape Mars. It also affects the radiative cooling from the carbon-dioxide bands in the Martian thermosphere, which is above the mesosphere. The atomic oxygen discovery was made using an instrument on board the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jet that has been modified for research purposes to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. Using the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, known as GREAT, allowed researchers to distinguish between oxygen from our atmosphere and that of the Martian atmosphere. They discovered half the amount of atomic oxygen expected, most likely due to variations in the atmosphere itself, and scientists will continue to use SOFIA to study the Martian atmosphere.
Mars

Researchers Solve One Of The Biggest Mysteries About How Water Flows On Mars (gizmodo.com) 99

An anonymous reader writes: Not only is water flowing on Mars, it's also boiling. This experiment published today in Nature Geoscience solves one of the major mysteries about the surface of the red planet. Gizmodo writes, "Researchers built a chamber simulating the conditions and atmosphere of Mars, then put ice in there to melt. The ice did melt and the water from it flowed -- but there was also a surprise. The surface of the water boiled as it flowed, and that boiling was strong enough to move not just the water but also dirt and debris surrounding the streams. Importantly, temperature was not the major factor in this boiling water, it was due to the pressure of the atmosphere." You may remember pictures of flowing water on Mars which surfaced last year. One would think the summer temperatures should be too cold for water to flow on Mars (as seen in the images), however, the water that flows on Mars is a salty-brine which lowers the freezing point of the water. So how does the water manage to carve out the landscape so quickly and visibly? Easy: the boiling water theory. Boiling water hits a boiling stage along its surface, where it kicks up dust and dirt and debris in the water's wake. The research team did see the boiling water move debris, but they also saw collapses along the sides of the flows. The boiling and disturbance it causes etches those lines on Mars clearly enough for satellites to notice them.
Space

SpaceX Intends To Send a Red Dragon To Mars As Early As 2018 (blastingnews.com) 119

Reader MarkWhittington writes: SpaceX has announced that it intends to send a version of its Dragon spacecraft, called "Red Dragon," to Mars as early as 2018. The mission, to be launched on top of a Falcon Heavy rocket, would be the first to another planet conducted by a commercial enterprise. The flight of the Red Dragon would be the beginning of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's long-term dream of building a settlement on Mars.Ars Technica reports: According to the company, these initial test missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars. This series of missions, to be launched on the company's not-yet-completed Falcon Heavy rocket, will provide key data for SpaceX as the company develops an overall plan to send humans to the Red Planet to colonize Mars. One of the biggest challenges in landing on Mars is the fact that its atmosphere is so thin it provides little braking capacity. To land the 900kg Curiosity rover on Mars, NASA had to devise the complicated sky crane system that led to its "Seven Minutes of Terror." A Dragon would weigh much more, perhaps about 6,000kg. To solve this problem, SpaceX plans to use an upgraded spacecraft, a Dragon2 powered by eight SuperDraco engines, to land using propulsion.
NASA

NASA Gives Solar Ionic Propulsion A Monster Boost (networkworld.com) 52

coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: NASA this week took a giant step toward using solar electric power for future space missions by awarding a $67 million contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop an advanced electric propulsion system. Network World writes, "Specifically, Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop and deliver an integrated electric propulsion system -- known as the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) -- consisting of a thruster, power processing unit (PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness. Such a system would deploy large solar arrays that can be used to convert sunlight into electrical power that ionizes atoms of xenon which is the propellant for the spacecraftâ(TM)s thrusters. In addition, such a power plant could potentially increase spaceflight fuel efficiency by 10 times over current chemical propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to current electric propulsion systems, NASA said." NASA's plan is to use this propulsion system on its future Asteroid Redirect Mission, as well as on its mission to Mars.
China

China Plans To Reach Mars by 2020 and Eventually Build a Moon Base (techinsider.io) 105

Rebecca Harrington, writing for Tech Insider: China has plans to orbit the moon, land people on it, and eventually settle a moon colony. But that's just part of the nation's vision for space exploration: China intends to get a spacecraft to Mars by 2020. "Our long-term goal is to explore, land, and settle [on the moon]," Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's moon and Mars missions, told the BBC. "We want a manned lunar landing to stay for longer periods and establish a research base." Weiren didn't specify when the country plans to accomplish these goals, but he did say they will "check out" the far side of the moon before attempting to land astronauts there. This mission already has concrete plans. He also said China wants to reach Mars by 2020, and implied that the country has finally settled on a mission to send a rover to the Red Planet. "We will orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover -- all in one mission," Weiren told the BBC.
Republicans

Sarah Palin Says 'Bill Nye Is As Much A Scientist As I Am' (cnn.com) 634

ClickOnThis quotes a report from CNN: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin mocked Bill Nye on Thursday, using the premier of a film that criticizes climate change scientists to call into question Nye's credentials. "Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am," the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee said, according to The Hill. "He's a kids' show actor, he's not a scientist." Palin, who was speaking at the Washington premiere of the anti-climate change film "Climate Hustle," targeted Nye during a rant against the "alarmism" of climate change activists. Palin urged parents to teach their children to "ask those questions and not just believe what Bill Nye the Science Guy is trying to tell them" about climate change. Just because Bill Nye may be best known for his role in the popular educational TV series "Bill Nye the Science Guy," doesn't mean he isn't a scientist. In fact, he graduated from Cornell University's School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. From Wikipedia: In the early 2000s, Nye assisted in the development of a small sundial that was included in the Mars Exploration Rover missions. He holds several U.S. patents, including one for ballet pointe shoes and another for an educational magnifying glass created by filling a clear plastic bag with water.
ISS

SpaceX Delivers World's First Inflatable Room For Astronauts (go.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship which launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday delivered the world's first inflatable room for astronauts. It arrived at the ISS on Sunday after station astronauts used a robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 250 miles above Earth. The compartment should swell to the size of a small bedroom once filled with air next month. It will be attached to the space station this Saturday, but won't be inflated until the end of May. NASA envisions inflatable habitats in a couple decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be restricted from the six on-board astronauts while NASA tests the chamber to see how it performs. The rocket used to launch the cargo ship successfully landed on a floating drone ship for the first time ever. It was the second time SpaceX successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space.
Open Source

Infographic: Ubuntu Linux Is Everywhere 185

prisoninmate writes: To celebrate the launch of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, due for release later this month, on April 21, Canonical put together an interesting infographic, showing the world how popular Ubuntu is. From the infographic, it looks like there are over 60 million Ubuntu images launched by Docker users, 14 million Vagrant images of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS from HashiCorp, 20 million launches of Ubuntu instances during 2015 in public and private clouds, as well as bare metal, and 2 million new Ubuntu Cloud instances launched in November 2015. Ubuntu is used on the International Space Station, on the servers of popular online services like Netflix, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, Dropbox, PayPal, Wikipedia, and Instagram, in Google, Tesla, George Hotz, and Uber cars. It is also employed at Bloomberg, Weta Digital and Walmart, at the Brigham Young University to control the Mars Rover, and it is even behind the largest supercomputer in the world.

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