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MST3K Kickstarter Poised To Break Kickstarter Record ( 4

New submitter the_Bionic_lemming writes: Recently Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science 3000 -- which had a successful run of over 197 shows -- has after 15 years launched a kickstarter to relaunch the series. In just over two weeks Joel has been wildly successful in not only having over 25000 fans contribute, but actually scoring the second-highest show kickstarter on record — he has just under two weeks to shoot past the Number 1 kickstarter, Veronica Mars.

NASA Prepares To Launch an Orion and 3 Cubesats To Deep Space: 3 Years To Go ( 51

MarkWhittington writes: As NASA has noted, the space agency and its contractors are working diligently on the first launch of the heavy-lift Space Launch System. The launch, officially called EM-1, or Exploration Mission 1, will loft an unpiloted version of the Orion spacecraft around the moon. also noted that a number of secondary payloads, known as CubeSats, will be along for the ride as well. NASA considered EM-1, scheduled for 2018, a crucial step in its Journey to Mars which will, it is hoped, reach its ultimate destination sometime in the 2030s.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Touches Off Debate With Remarks On Commercial Space ( 346

MarkWhittington writes: In an interview published in The Verge, celebrity astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson touched off a firestorm when he suggested that commercial space was not going to lead the way to open up the high frontier. Tyson has started a live show that he calls "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" in which he touched on, among other things, why the Apollo program did not lead to greater things in space exploration such as going to Mars. Tyson repeats conventional wisdom about Apollo and the Cold War. In any case, it is his remarks on commercial space that has caused the most irritation.

Lori Garver Claims That NASA Is 'Wary' of Elon Musk's Mars Plans ( 103

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reports that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are "wary" of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX's Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. Garver herself disagrees with that sentiment: "I thought, fundamentally, you just don’t understand. We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another. We're in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes."

How Close Are We To a Mars Mission? ( 173

destinyland writes: NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s," reads the official NASA web site. But National Geographic points out that "the details haven't been announced, in large part because such a massive, long-term spending project would require the unlikely support of several successive U.S. presidents." And yet on November 4th, NASA put out a call for astronaut applications "in anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil, and in preparation for the agency's journey to Mars," and they're currently experimenting with growing food in space. And this week they not only ordered the first commercial mission to the International Space Station, but also quietly announced that they've now partnered with 22 private space companies.

NASA Selects Universities To Develop Humanoid Robot Astronauts ( 21

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades. Spoiler alert: the robots are both going to Greater Boston, to teams at MIT and Northeastern University respectively.

MIT Helping NASA Build Valkyrie Robots For Space Missions ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: NASA announced that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of just two institutions that will receive "R5," a six-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot also known as "Valkyrie" that will serve on future space missions to Mars and beyond. A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot as part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans "extreme space" missions. While R5 was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, its main goal is now to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain — deep space exploration.

Inside the Mission To Europa ( 106

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica details the political and engineering battles being waged to make it possible for NASA to land a probe on Jupiter's moon Europa. They have new information about mission plans; it sounds ambitious, to say the least. "First, the bad news. Adding a lander to the Clipper will require additional technical work and necessitate a launch delay until late 2023. At that time, the massive Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing could deliver it to Jupiter in 4.6 years. Once there, the lander would separate from the Clipper, parking in a low-radiation orbit.

The Clipper would then proceed to reconnoiter Europa, diving into the harsh radiation environment to observe the moon and then zipping back out into cleaner space to relay its data back to Earth. Over a three-year period, the Clipper would image 95 percent of the world at about 50 meters per pixel and three percent at a very high resolution of 0.5 meters per pixel. With this data, scientists could find a suitable landing site. ...The JPL engineers have concluded the best way to deliver the lander to Europa's jagged surface is by way of a sky crane mechanism, like the one successfully used in the last stage of Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars. With four steerable engines and an autonomous system to avoid hazards, the lander would be lowered to the moon's surface by an umbilical cord."


Journalist: NASA Administrator Has Short Memory on Changing Space Policy ( 87

MarkWhittington writes: Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated that NASA would be "doomed" if the next president were to deviate in any way from the current Journey to Mars program. Space journalist and founder of the America Space website Jim Hillhouse took exception to Bolden's assertion in a letter to the aerospace newspaper Space News. In the process, Hillhouse provides a good summary of how space policy has evolved during the past five years under the Obama administration.

Louis Friedman Says Humans Will Never Venture Beyond Mars ( 378

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars," an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.

Lunar Scientist Proposes Dozens of Impact Probes To Map Moon's Water ( 35

MarkWhittington writes: Water ice believed by scientists to reside at the lunar poles is the key to opening up the solar system to human activity. The water could help sustain a lunar settlement. It could also be refined into rocket fuel, not only to sustain travel to and from the moon but to make it a refueling stop for spacecraft headed deeper into the solar system. A recent MIT study suggested that lunar fuel would simplify NASA's Journey to Mars. Lunar scientist Paul Spudis, writing in Air and Space Magazine, pondered the next step in determining the extent and composition of the lunar ice. Spudis' idea is to deploy several dozen impact probes across one of the lunar polar regions.

NASA's Maven Mission Solves the Mystery of Mars' Lost Atmosphere 120

StartsWithABang writes: If you came to the Solar System some 500 million years after its formation, you would've found two world with oceans of liquid water, continents and all the conditions we know of for life to begin thriving: Earth and Mars. But unlike our own world, Mars' organic history was cut short when it lost its atmosphere and became a barren, desert wasteland. While we had some pretty compelling theories as to how this happened, it was only with the advent of the Maven mission and its first science results that we discovered exactly how, how fast and when Mars lost its atmosphere. One cool discovery: aurorae appear diffuse and all over the entire night sky on Mars!

NASA's Bolden Claims NASA Is 'Doomed' Unless It Stays the Course To Mars ( 162

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in Space News, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a speech at the Center for American Progress in which he declared that if the next president deviated from the Journey to Mars program, the space agency would be "doomed." The point he was making, that programs of that nature, have to have consistent support over several presidencies and congresses, was a valid one. The point was equally valid in 2010 when President Obama abruptly and without warning canceled the Constellation space exploration program. Bolden, however, had a ready answer for that, which may not be convincing on close examination.

A Real-Life Space Botanist Comments On the Potato Garden In 'The Martian' ( 134

MarkWhittington writes: In the hit movie, The Martian, stranded astronaut Mark Watney famously survives on Mars by creating a potato garden using Martian soil mixed in with composted human excrement. According to a story in CNET, NASA believes that the movie is on the right track as far as astronauts growing their own food on long-duration space missions. However, some caveats exists concerning how the film depicted space agriculture.

NASA Picks Winners For 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Design Contest ( 65

schwit1 writes: NASA has picked the three winners in a design contest for 3D-printed habitats that could help future astronauts live on Mars. The $25,000 first prize in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition went to Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office for the 'Mars Ice House' design, which looks like a translucent, smooth-edged pyramid. That pyramid would be built of Martian ice and serve as a radiation shield, protecting the lander habitat and gardens inside it, team members said. The Mars Ice House's ribbed interiors and exteriors glow with diurnally determined hues at various times of sol (Martian day). In one illustration from the team's proposal, the outer shell is washed in Mars’ inky blue sunset, and in another it looks like it was dipped in the tea-tinged pink of the high noon on Mars.

Europe and Russia Are Headed Back To the Moon Together ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: Russia is turning its attention to the moon again for the first time in about 40 years. The first Russian mission to the moon since long before the end of the Cold War will be Luna 27, a robot lander that will touch down on the edge of the lunar South Pole as early as 2020. Russia is looking for international partners to help make Luna 27 a reality and may have found one in the European Space Agency, according to a story on the BBC. "The initial missions will be robotic. Luna 27 will land on the edge of the South Pole Aitken basin. The south polar region has areas which are always dark. These are some of the coldest places in the Solar System. As such, they are icy prisons for water and other chemicals that have been shielded from heating by the Sun. According to Dr. James Carpenter, ESA's lead scientist on the project, one of the main aims is to investigate the potential use of this water as a resource for the future, and to find out what it can tell us about the origins of life in the inner Solar System."

China Looks To Deep Space Missions, Including More Lunar Landings and Robot Ants ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: China has already landed a rover on the moon and has launched numerous crewed space missions in low-Earth orbit. It is looking ahead to building a space station and landing more probes on the moon, including the lunar farside. According to a story in Xinhua, the Chinese are already looking beyond to deep space missions to destinations including the moon, Mars, and asteroids. The idea is that China will not be a respected space power until it starts accomplishing things in space that no other country has done before.

Going To Mars Via the Moon ( 151

An anonymous reader writes: Getting anywhere in space is a difficult proposition — at least, if you want to get there in a timely manner. Rocket propulsion requires combustion mass. The more mass you take, the more you need. A team at MIT has found that establishing fuel-generating infrastructure on the Moon could reduce launch mass for missions to Mars by up to 68%. "They found the most mass-efficient path involves launching a crew from Earth with just enough fuel to get into orbit around the Earth. A fuel-producing plant on the surface of the moon would then launch tankers of fuel into space, where they would enter gravitational orbit. The tankers would eventually be picked up by the Mars-bound crew (PDF), which would then head to a nearby fueling station to gas up before ultimately heading to Mars." The technology to make this happen is not difficult to build; it just requires a lot of money. Once it's in place, it'll cut down on expensive launch costs. As the commercial space industry gets going and launches happen more often, such an investment starts to make more and more sense.

NASA Releases 'Journey To Mars' Plan -- But Not a Budget ( 170

MarkWhittington writes: NASA released a document describing the steps involved in its Journey to Mars program (PDF). But, as the Wall Street Journal suggests, the "plan" has a conspicuous lack of specifics. It doesn't go into how much the program will cost or what intermediate steps have to be taken before human beings set foot on Mars in the 2030s. This is likely because of the upcoming and subsequent changes of governing administrations — the space agency's deep space exploration goals are likely to get a reevaluation. The plan serves as a public relations document more than anything else.

What Happened To the Martian Ocean and Magnetic Field? ( 142

schwit1 writes with this story at The Atlantic that explores what may have destroyed the Martian atmosphere and ocean. The question of whether there is life on Mars is woven into a much larger thatch of mysteries. Among them: What happened to the ancient ocean that once covered a quarter of the planet's surface? And, relatedly, what made Mars's magnetosphere fade away? Why did a planet that may have looked something like Earth turn into a dry red husk? “We see magnetized rocks on the Mars surface,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the InSight mission to Mars, which is set to launch in March. “And so we know Mars had a magnetic field at one time, but it doesn't today. We would like to know the history—when that magnetic field started, when it may have shut down.”