Posts tagged NASA

NASA launches 100-year quest to send humans to the stars

100 Year Starship

A NASA center and the Pentagon’s lead research group are striking financial flint to steel in hopes of sparking a sustained effort to make interstellar space travel a reality.

On Thursday, an official with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that the agency will award a $500,000 grant to the person or group who can lay out the most effective road map for financing and implementing a research and development program to lead to interstellar travel by early next century.

At that point, the government will bow out, leaving it up to the winner to turn the ideas on Powerpoint slides to a sustainable research program – one that also is likely to focus on the ethical, economic, and legal issues surrounding the prospect of launching humans to other stars.

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NASA concludes first Open Source Summit, aims to make openness the default

NASA has been implementing an Open Government Plan for nearly a year, and this week they held the first NASA Open Source Summit in Mountain View, CA. But the roots of open source at NASA go back much further, to its founding legislation in 1958, which designed NASA as a source that would “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information”–a goal perfectly suited to an open approach.

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The Clue to the Missing Matter of the Nearby Universe

In May of 2010, Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton detected a vast reservoir of gas lying along a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. In the image above the spiral and elliptical galaxies are shown in the Sculptor Wall along with the newly detected intergalactic gas, part of the so-called Warm Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM), shown in blue. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.

The Sculptor Wall, a type of galaxy filament, the largest known structures in the universe, is a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. The wall is faint beyond 500 million light years because the data is incomplete beyond that distance. The nearest part of the wall (the Phoenix supercluster) lies next to a large rectangular void, the Sculptor Void -one of the largest voids in the nearby universe.

Read more at the dailygalaxy.com

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Rare solstice lunar eclipse just in time for the Holidays

Everyone knows that “the moon on the breast of new-fallen snow gives the luster of mid-day to objects below.” That is, except during a lunar eclipse.

The luster will be a bit “off” on Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter, when the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth’s shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth’s shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the “bite” to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

If you’re planning to dash out for only one quick look -­ it is December, after all -­ choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That’s when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red.

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NASA: Definition of life has just expanded

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Micro-organism found in Mono Lake, California View loc8id map: loc8id.com/7zjI8E Source: Sathish J

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything. Updated.

NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.

Continue reading at Gizmodo.com

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The Probability of Finding Aliens Is Now Three Times Higher

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The total number of stars in the Universe “is likely three times bigger than realized.” Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum says there are “possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars,” dramatically increasing the possibility of finding alien civilizations.

According to the new study just published in Nature, new observations on the red end of the optical spectrum at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii show an overwhelming population of red dwarfs in eight massive nearby elliptical galaxies. The team has discovered that these galaxies hold twenty times more red dwarfs than the Milky Way.

Van Dokkum says that “there are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars” which are “typically more than 10 billion years old.” According to him, that’s long enough for complex life to evolve, which is “one reason why people are interested in this type of star.” In fact, astronomers discovered the first exoplanet similar to our own Earth—and therefore capable of harboring complex life—orbiting the Gliese 581 red dwarf star system, 20.3 light years from our home planet.

Continue reading at Gizmodo.com

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Two large asteroids narrowly miss earth, NASA said

Asteroid flight path nearly missing earth

The two objects were only identified at the weekend by the Nasa-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, during a routine sky scan.

The first asteroid, christened 2010 RX30, was about 65 feet (20 metres) in diameter and flew past at a distance of 154,000 miles early at 9:51am on Wednesday.

The second, called 2010 RF12, was roughly two-thirds the size of its big brother and estimated to pass within just 49,088 miles of Earth hours later.

While they were visible to many amateur stargazers, space agency researchers said neither asteroid posed a risk to earth.

Read the rest of the story at The Telegraph

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NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon’s North Pole

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

The Mini-SAR has imaged many of the permanently shadowed regions that exist at both poles of the Moons. These dark areas are extremely cold and it has been hypothesized that volatile material, including water ice, could be present in quantity here. The main science object of the Mini-SAR experiment is to map and characterize any deposits that exist.

Read more at www.nasa.gov

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NASA Offers Shuttles at Clearance Prices, Is Investigating Cocaine Found in Hangar

For nearly three decades (since 1981), the Space Shuttle was an iconic symbol of the American space program and the country’s primary way of reaching space. Now as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is working on its replacement, it’s putting the famous spacecraft up for sale.

NASA in December 2008 first offered the Shuttles for sale, hoping to find buyers among museums, schools and elsewhere. In total, NASA reportedly was offering two of its current fleet of three shuttles for sale for $42M USD a piece (as well as potentially offering the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype).

Over its history NASA has built five operational shuttles. The first shuttle, OV-102 Columbia flew 27 times before tragically disintegrating (killing all crew aboard) upon reentry in 2003. NASA also lost its second Shuttle, OV-099 Challenger to a tragic disaster back in 1986. Currently, there are three Shuttles that have survived their service — OV-103 Discovery, OV-104 Atlantis, and OV-105 Endeavour, which last flew in September, November, and July of 2009, respectively.

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Endeavour’s payload shipped out to launch pad 39A

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The container with Tranquility is lifted into pad 39A’s gantry this morning. Credit: NASA-KSC

The Tranquility module that’ll be a new room with a view for the International Space Station was trucked to space shuttle Endeavour’s launch pad overnight, destined for blastoff next month.

Packed in a special transport canister shaped like the shuttle’s 60-foot-long payload bay, Tranquility was moved out of Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility last week. After a layover at the rotating building, where the container was turned upright, and then a weather-related hold, the module reached pad 39A before dawn today.

Ground crews went to work hoisting the canister up the gantry to unload Tranquility into the pad’s cleanroom for its eventual insertion into the shuttle bay later this week.

The module was built in Italy by Thales Alenia Space as part of the collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA in the space station program. It was delivered to KSC in May to undergo final testing and preps for flight.

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