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  • A Look At Orion's Launch Abort System

    An anonymous reader writes: With the construction of Orion, NASA's new manned spacecraft, comes the creation of a new Launch Abort System — the part of the vehicle that will get future astronauts back to Earth safely if there's a problem at launch. The Planetary Society's Jason Davis describes it: "When Orion reaches the apex of its abort flight, it is allowed to make its 180-degree flip. The capsule of astronauts, who have already realized they will not go to space today, experience a brief moment of weightlessness before the capsule starts falling back to Earth, heat shield down. The jettison motor fires, pulling the LAS away from Orion. ... Orion, meanwhile, sheds its Forward Bay Cover, a ring at the top of the capsule protecting the parachutes. Two drogue chutes deploy, stabilizing the wobbling capsule. The drogues pull out Orion's three main chutes, no doubt eliciting a sigh of relief from the spacecraft's occupants."

    21 comments | 8 hours ago

  • NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew

    globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.

    298 comments | yesterday

  • The Largest Ship In the World Is Being Built In Korea

    HughPickens.com writes Alastair Philip Wiper writes that at 194 feet wide and 1,312 feet long, the Matz Maersk Triple E is the largest ship ever built, capable of carrying 18,000 20-foot containers. Its propellers weigh 70 tons apiece and it is too big for the Panama Canal, though it can shimmy through the Suez. A U-shaped hull design allows more room below deck, providing capacity for 18,000 shipping containers arranged in 23 rows – enough space to transport 864 million bananas. The Triple-E is constructed from 425 pre-fabricated segments, making up 21 giant "megablock" cross sections. Most of the 955,250 liters of paint used on each ship is in the form of an anti- corrosive epoxy, pre-applied to each block. Finally, a polyurethane topcoat of the proprietary Maersk brand color "Hardtop AS-Blue 504" is sprayed on.

    Twenty Triple-E class container ships have been commissioned by Danish shipping company Maersk Lines for delivery by 2015. The ships are being built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering factory in the South Korean port of Opko. The shipyard, about an hour from Busan in the south of the country, employs about 46,000 people, and "could reasonably be described as the worlds biggest Legoland," writes Wiper. "Smiling workers cycle around the huge shipyard as massive, abstractly over proportioned chunks of ships are craned around and set into place." The Triple E is just one small part of the output of the shipyard, as around 100 other vessels including oil rigs are in various stages of completion at the any time." The vessels will serve ports along the northern-Europe-to-Asia route, many of which have had to expand to cope with the ships' size. "You don't feel like you're inside a boat, it's more like a cathedral," Wiper says. "Imagine this space being full of consumer goods, and think about how many there are on just one ship. Then think about how many are sailing round the world every day. It's like trying to think about infinity."

    250 comments | yesterday

  • The Woman Who Should Have Been the First Female Astronaut

    StartsWithABang writes We like to think of the Mercury 7 — the very first group of NASA astronauts — as the "best of the best," having been chosen from a pool of over 500 of the top military test pilots after three rounds of intense physical and mental tests. Yet when women were allowed to take the same tests, one of them clearly distinguished herself, outperforming practically all of the men. If NASA had really believed in merit, Jerrie Cobb would have been the first female in space, even before Valentina Tereshkova, more than 50 years ago. She still deserves to go.

    190 comments | yesterday

  • NASA Cancels "Sunjammer" Solar Sail Demonstration Mission

    An anonymous reader writes "Space News reports that NASA has cancelled its solar sail demonstration mission (also known as Sunjammer) citing "a lack of confidence in its contractor's ability to deliver." "Company president Nathan] Barnes said that in 2011 he reached out to several NASA centers and companies that he believed could build the spacecraft and leave L'Garde free to focus on the solar sail. None of those he approached — he only identified NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — took him up on the offer. Rather than give up on the opportunity to land a NASA contract, L'Garde decided to bring the spacecraft development in house. It did not work out, and as of Oct. 17, the company had taken delivery of about $2 million worth of spacecraft hardware including a hydrazine tank from ATK Space Systems of Commerce, California, and four mono-propellant thrusters from Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California."

    72 comments | 2 days ago

  • Watch Comet Siding Spring's Mars Fly-By, Live

    From the L.A. Times, and with enough time to tune in, comes this tip: Comet Siding Spring's closest approach to the red planet will occur at 11:27 a.m. [Pacific Time] on Sunday. At its closest approach, the comet will come within 87,000 miles of Mars. That's 10 times closer than any comet on record has ever come to Earth. Sadly, this historic flyby is not visible to the naked eye. People who live in the Southern Hemisphere have a shot at seeing the comet if they have access to a good telescope six inches or wider. However, most of us in the Northern Hemisphere will not be able to see the comet at all, experts say, no matter how big a telescope we've got. Here to save the cometary day is astronomy website Slooh.com. Beginning at 11:15 a.m PDT on Sunday, it will host a live broadcast of the comet's closest approach to Mars, as seen by the website's telescopes in South Africa and in the Canary Islands. Later in the day, beginning at 5:30 p.m. PDT, Slooh will broadcast another view of the comet from a telescope in Chile.

    33 comments | 2 days ago

  • Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

    HughPickens.com writes Erik Karjaluoto writes that he recently installed OS X Yosemite and his initial reaction was "This got hit by the ugly stick." But Karjaluoto says that Apple's decision to make a wholesale shift from Lucida to Helvetica defies his expectations and wondered why Apple would make a change that impedes legibility, requires more screen space, and makes the GUI appear fuzzy? The Answer: Tomorrow.

    Microsoft's approach with Windows, and backward compatibility in general, is commendable. "Users can install new versions of this OS on old machines, sometimes built on a mishmash of components, and still have it work well. This is a remarkable feat of engineering. It also comes with limitations — as it forces Microsoft to operate in the past." But Apple doesn't share this focus on interoperability or legacy. "They restrict hardware options, so they can build around a smaller number of specs. Old hardware is often left behind (turn on a first-generation iPad, and witness the sluggishness). Meanwhile, dying conventions are proactively euthanized," says Karjaluoto. "When Macs no longer shipped with floppy drives, many felt baffled. This same experience occurred when a disk (CD/DVD) reader no longer came standard." In spite of the grumblings of many, Karjaluoto doesn't recall many such changes that we didn't later look upon as the right choice.

    360 comments | 2 days ago

  • India Successfully Launches Region-Specific Navigation Satellite

    vasanth writes India has successfully launched IRNSS-1C, the third satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), early on October 16. This is the 27th consecutively successful mission of the PSLV(Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). The entire constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2015. The satellite is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in the country as well as in the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area. In the Kargil war in 1999, the Indian military sought GPS data for the region from the U.S. The space-based navigation system maintained by the U.S. government would have provided vital information, but the U.S. denied it to India. A need for an indigenous satellite navigation system was felt earlier, but the Kargil experience made India realise its inevitability in building its own navigation system. "Geopolitical needs teach you that some countries can deny you the service in times of conflict. It's also a way of arm twisting and a country should protect itself against that," said S Ramakrishnan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.

    82 comments | 2 days ago

  • Making Best Use of Data Center Space: Density Vs. Isolation

    jfruh writes The ability to cram multiple virtual servers on a single physical computer is tempting — so tempting that many shops overlook the downsides of having so many important systems subject to a single point of physical failure. But how can you isolate your servers physically but still take up less room? Matthew Mobrea takes a look at the options, including new server platforms that offer what he calls "dense isolation."

    56 comments | 4 days ago

  • White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

    MarkWhittington writes Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for "bootstrapping a solar system civilization." Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose. The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts.

    348 comments | 4 days ago

  • Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean

    astroengine writes With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn's ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust.

    48 comments | 4 days ago

  • Android On Intel x86 Tablet Performance Explored: Things Are Improving

    MojoKid writes: For the past few years, Intel has promised that its various low-power Atom-based processors would usher in a wave of low-cost Android and Windows mobile products that could compete with ARM-based solutions. And for years, we've seen no more than a trickle of hardware, often with limited availability. Now, that's finally beginning to change. Intel's Bay Trail and Merrifield SoCs are starting to show up more in full-featured, sub-$200 devices from major brands. One of the most interesting questions for would-be x86 buyers in the Android tablet space is whether to go with a Merrifield or Bay Trail Atom-based device. Merrifield is a dual-core chip without Hyper-Threading. Bay Trail is a quad-core variant and a graphics engine derived from Intel's Ivy Bridge Core series CPUs. That GPU is the other significant difference between the two SoCs. With Bay Trail, Intel is still employing their own graphics solution, while Merrifield pairs a dual-core CPU with a PowerVR G6400 graphics core. So, what's the experience of using a tablet running Android on x86 like these days? Pretty much like using an ARM-based Android tablet currently, and surprisingly good for any tablet in the $199 or less bracket. In fact, some of the low cost Intel/Android solutions out there currently from the likes of Acer, Dell, Asus, and Lenovo, all compete performance-wise pretty well versus the current generation of mainstream ARM-based Android tablets.

    97 comments | 4 days ago

  • MAVEN Spies Mars' Atmosphere Leaching Out Into Space

    astroengine writes: Early results from NASA's recently arrived MAVEN Mars spacecraft show an extensive, tenuous cloud of hydrogen surrounding the red planet, the result of water breaking down in the atmosphere, scientists said Tuesday. MAVEN, an acronym for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, arrived on Sept. 21 to help answer questions about what caused a planet that was once warm and wet to turn into the cold, dry desert that appears today. "It's measurements like these that will allow us to estimate the escape rate of hydrogen from the Martian atmosphere to space today. It's an important measurement to make because the hydrogen ... comes from water lower down in the atmosphere," MAVEN scientist Mike Chaffin, with the University of Colorado, Boulder, told reporters on a conference call.

    63 comments | about a week ago

  • Amazon Web Services To Build Two New Aussie Data Centers

    Bismillah writes: Sydney will get two new AWS data centers in the western and south-western parts of the city. AWS apparently decided to build the new DCs after it struggled to find enough Tier III space for rapid expansion in the region.

    27 comments | about a week ago

  • Rosetta Takes Stunning Self-Portrait 10 Miles From Comet's Surface

    astroengine writes: At a distance of only 10 miles from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's surface, the European Rosetta mission has captured yet another dazzling self portrait with the dark comet lurking in the background. But the orbiter couldn't have snapped this picture without the help of a little friend — the attached Philae lander that is currently undergoing preparations for its historic comet surface landing in November.

    62 comments | about a week ago

  • Secretive X-37B Military Space Plane Could Land On Tuesday

    schwit1 writes After twenty-two months in orbit, on its second space mission, the Air Force plans to bring the X-37B back to Earth this coming Tuesday. From the article: "The exact time and date will depend on weather and technical factors, the Air Force said in a statement released on Friday. The X-37B space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, blasted off for its second mission aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 11, 2012. The 29-foot-long (9-meter) robotic spaceship, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is an experimental vehicle that first flew in April 2010. It returned after eight months. A second vehicle blasted off in March 2011 and stayed in orbit for 15 months."

    81 comments | about a week ago

  • Hawking Radiation Mimicked In the Lab

    Annanag writes *Nothing* escapes a black hole, right? Except 40 years ago Stephen Hawking threw a spanner in the works by suggesting that, courtesy of quantum mechanics, some light particles can actually break free of a black hole's massive pull. Then you have the tantalizing question of whether information can also escape, encoded in that so-called 'Hawking radiation'. The only problem being that no one has ever been able to detect Hawking radiation being emitted from a black hole. BUT a physicist has now come closer than ever before to creating an imitation of a black hole event horizon in the lab, opening up a potential avenue for investigating Hawking radiation and exploring how quantum mechanics and general relativity might be brought together.

    64 comments | about a week ago

  • First Man To Walk In Space Reveals How Mission Nearly Ended In Disaster

    wired_parrot writes Nearly fifty years after the first spacewalk by soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, he's given a rare interview to the BBC revealing how the mission very nearly ended in disaster. Minutes after he stepped into space, Leonov realised his suit had inflated like a balloon, preventing him from getting back inside. Later on, the cosmonauts narrowly avoided being obliterated in a huge fireball when oxygen levels soared inside the craft. And on the way back to Earth, the crew was exposed to enormous G-forces, landing hundreds of kilometres off target in a remote corner of Siberia populated by wolves and bears.

    122 comments | about a week ago

  • Microsoft's Quantum Mechanics

    New submitter catchblue22 writes MIT Technology Review has an excellent article summarizing the current state of quantum computing. It focuses on the efforts of Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs to build stable qubits over the past few years. "In 2012, physicists in the Netherlands announced a discovery in particle physics that started chatter about a Nobel Prize. Inside a tiny rod of semiconductor crystal chilled cooler than outer space, they had caught the first glimpse of a strange particle called the Majorana fermion, finally confirming a prediction made in 1937. It was an advance seemingly unrelated to the challenges of selling office productivity software or competing with Amazon in cloud computing, but Craig Mundie, then heading Microsoft's technology and research strategy, was delighted. The abstruse discovery — partly underwritten by Microsoft — was crucial to a project at the company aimed at making it possible to build immensely powerful computers that crunch data using quantum physics. "It was a pivotal moment," says Mundie. "This research was guiding us toward a way of realizing one of these systems."

    39 comments | about a week ago

  • The Cult of Elon Musk Shines With Steve Jobs' Aura

    HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."

    181 comments | about a week ago

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