The Almighty Buck

Smithsonian Increases Goal For Spacesuit Crowdfunding Effort 105 105

An anonymous reader writes: The recently launched Kickstarter campaign by the Smithsonian to preserve Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit has surpassed its goal. As of Saturday, the campaign raised about $525,000, and now The National Air and Space Museum has increased its goal to $700,000 in order to save Alan Shepard's Mercury spacesuit.

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.

Smithsonian Using Kickstart Campaign To Save Armstrong's Moon Suit 226 226

qpgmr writes: The Smithsonian is appealing for assistance to raise enough money to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon suit. The "Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit" campaign launched Monday on Kickstarter, marking 46 years since Armstrong's moonwalk in 1969. Smithsonian reports: "....on the anniversary of that 'small step for a man,' the Smithsonian Institution announced a plan of action that is, in its own way, a giant leap for funding the job with what the Institution’s first federal Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of raising $500,000 in 30 days—by offering incentives such as exclusive updates to 3D printed facsimiles of the space suit gloves—museum officials hope to be able to unveil a restored spacesuit by the time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing four years from now, in 2019."

NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion 241 241

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.

The Frozen Plains of Pluto's 'Heart' 42 42

New Horizons has sent back new images of Pluto, including a close-up view of the "Tombaugh Regio," which resembles a giant, pale heart stretching 1,600 km across the dwarf planet's surface. The new images show a broad plain free of any craters, broken into irregular segments by shallow troughs. Scientists don't know how they formed, but here are two leading theories: "The irregular shapes may be the result of the contraction of surface materials, similar to what happens when mud dries. Alternatively, they may be a product of convection, similar to wax rising in a lava lamp." This image comes alongside new data on Pluto's extended atmosphere.

NASA has released other new findings from the Pluto region, as well. Pluto is trailed by a region of cold, ionized gas ripped away from its atmosphere by the solar wind. We've also gotten a close look at Charon, Pluto's biggest moon. One unusual feature is a sizable mountain rising from an even larger depression in the moon's surface. On top of that, NASA has released the first look at Nix, a tiny satellite of Pluto roughly 40 km in diameter. The image is highly pixelated, but we should get a better image tomorrow, during New Horizon's Saturday downlink. The NY Times has a gallery of images, which also includes pictures of Hydra (another small moon) and a different shot of the Pluto's plains area.

'Pluto Truthers' Are Pretty Sure That the NASA New Horizons Mission Was Faked 309 Screenshot-sm 309

MarkWhittington writes: Forget about Apollo moon landing hoax theories. That is so 20th Century. Gizmodo reported that the "Pluto Truthers" have followed the astonishing images being sent back by NASA's New Horizons probe and have come to the conclusion that they are faked. After all, if the space agency could fake the entire moon landing, it would be child's play to fake a robotic probe to the edge of the Solar System.

NASA's New Horizons Focuses On Pluto's Largest Moon Charon 77 77

MarkWhittington writes: New Horizons has already discovered much of what was previously unknown about Pluto, the dwarf planet that is the former ninth planet from the sun. NASA reported that the space probe has also uncovered some of the secrets of Pluto's largest moon, Charon. It has found indications of impact craters on the moon's gray surface as well as a chasm that seems to be bigger than the Grand Canyon on Earth. Charon has a diameter of just 1440 miles. By contrast, Earth has a diameter of 7918 miles.

Lifting the Veil On Pluto's Atmosphere 79 79

New submitter Pedro Braganca sends an update on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, now less than four days to closest approach. While we're waiting, NASA has published the best images of Pluto and Charon yet seen. We're starting to be able to make out surface details: A high-contrast array of bright and dark features covers Pluto's surface, while on Charon, only a dark polar region interrupts a generally more uniform light gray terrain. The reddish materials that color Pluto are absent on Charon. Pluto has a significant atmosphere; Charon does not. On Pluto, exotic ices like frozen nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide have been found, while Charon's surface is made of frozen water and ammonia compounds. The interior of Pluto is mostly rock, while Charon contains equal measures of rock and water ice. A countdown to closest approach is present on the New Horizons mission page, as well as the raw image feed.

Is NASA Planning To "Terraform" Part of the Moon? Not Quite 65 65

MarkWhittington writes: A story in Popular Science suggested that NASA is mulling a plan to "terraform" part of the moon. The term is more than a little misleading, as it implies making a portion of the moon livable for humans. The actual plan, being funded by the space agency as part of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is exciting nevertheless. The idea is to deploy reflectors around the rim of the Shackleton Crater, a region at the moon's South Pole where ice is thought to exist in permanent shadows. The reflectors would focus light onto select areas to provide power for robotic explorers. In this manner, the robots would not have to be equipped with protection against the cold inside the crater and would not have to be powered by plutonium-fueled RTGs. Temperatures inside the shadowed regions of Shackleton plunge to minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit.

First Human Colonies Should Be Among Venus' Clouds 256 256

StartsWithABang writes: When we talk about humans existing on worlds other than Earth, the first choice of a planet to do so on is usually Mars, a world that may have been extremely Earth-like for the first billion years of our Solar System or so. Perhaps, with enough ingenuity and resources, we could terraform it to be more like Earth is today. But the most Earth-like conditions in the Solar System don't occur on the surface of Mars, but rather in the high altitudes of Venus' atmosphere, some 50-65 km up. Despite its harsh conditions, this may be the best location for the first human colonies, for a myriad of good, scientific reasons. NASA proposed something similar last year and released a report on the subject.

Why Didn't Voyager Visit Pluto? 98 98

Flash Modin writes: NASA built the twin Voyager spacecraft for a rare planetary alignment that put Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within reach at once. Originally, Voyager 1 was programmed to see Pluto in 1986, but managers targeted Saturn's planet-like moon Titan instead. That choice made Pluto impossible by vaulting Voyager 1 from the orbital plane. Interestingly, Voyager 2, which couldn't reach Pluto, made the case for New Horizons by revealing Neptune's moon Triton as a kidnapped Pluto. "I'm very glad that they chose not to go to Pluto in 1986," says New Horizons head Alan Stern. "We'll do a better job at Pluto with modern instruments than they would have, and they did a much better job at Saturn..."

Color Movie Made of Pluto-Charon System 41 41

VernonNemitz writes: Today NASA released a color movie of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, as the New Horizons probe approaches its July 2015 rendezvous date. "It's exciting to see Pluto and Charon in motion and in color," said New Horizons principal examiner Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) at Boulder, Colorado. "Even at this low resolution, we can see that Pluto and Charon have different colours - Pluto is beige-orange, while Charon is grey. Exactly why they are so different is the subject of debate," Stern said.

Russian Official Calls For "International Investigation" of the Apollo Program 307 307

MarkWhittington writes: According to a Tuesday article in the Moscow Times, a spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee named Vladimir Markin suggested that an international investigation be mounted into some of the "various murky details surrounding the U.S. moon landings between 1969 and 1972." Markin would particularly like to know where some of the missing moon rocks went to and why the original footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing was erased. Markin hastened to add that he is, of course, not suggesting that NASA faked the moon landings and just filmed the events in a studio.

Astrobotic To Take Mexican Payload To the Moon 51 51

MarkWhittington writes: One of the great results of the commercial space revolution, which promises to lower the cost of space travel, is the opportunities it opens for countries and private entities to operate in space who would not otherwise be able to do so. The latest example of this phenomenon is the agreement by Astrobotic, one of the competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize, to take a yet to be determined payload provided by the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The arrangement will help Mexico become the first Latin American country to land and operate a payload on the lunar surface.

Pluto's Outer Moons Orbit Chaotically, With Unpredictable Sunrises and Sunsets 92 92

StartsWithABang writes: Few things in this world are as regular as sunrise and sunset. With the application of a little physics, you can predict exactly where and when the sun will rise or set from any location on Earth. Thus far, every world in our Solar System — planet, moon and asteroid — has had the exact same experience as us. But out in the Kuiper belt, Pluto is different. The only known world in the Solar System where a significant fraction of the system's mass is not in a single component, the outer moons of the Pluto-Charon system provide a unique environment to study how planets might behave in orbit around binary stars. The amazing takeaway? The rotational part of the orbit is chaotic; the worlds tumble, and hence sunrises and sunsets are no longer predictable.

Mystery Moon Swirls Caused By Blasts of Comet Gas? 11 11

astroengine writes: Strange bright swirls have long been known to exist on the moon's surface and their origin is steeped in mystery. Often stretching thousands of miles across the lunar landscape, scientists have tried to make connections with the elegant curved shapes with the moon's interior magnetism or interactions between moon dirt and the solar wind, but these explanations have fallen short. Now, inspired by the Apollo moon landings and armed with a powerful computer model, researchers at Brown University think they have an alternative answer for these swirly patterns. Over the past 100 million years, many small comets impacted the moon's pockmarked surface. Along with the icy nuclei that carved craters into the moon rock, the gaseous comet atmospheres — known as a comet's coma — would have also blasted into the moon's uppermost layer of regolith, possibly leaving the swirly imprint. "We think this makes a pretty strong case that the swirls represent remnants of cometary collisions," said planetary geoscientist Peter Schultz, at Brown University.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Urges America To Challenge China To a Space Race 275 275

An anonymous reader writes: According to a Tuesday story in the UK edition of the International Business Times, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist and media personality, advocates a space race between the United States and China. The idea is that such a race would spur innovation and cause industry to grow. The Apollo race to the moon caused a similar explosive period of scientific research and engineering development. You might prefer the Sydney Morning Herald piece on which the IB Times article is based.

India Ends Russian Space Partnership and Will Land On the Moon Alone 119 119

An anonymous reader writes: The Russian space program has experienced numerous accidents and delays recently, leading Indian officials to call into question its long term viability. Now India has decided to pull out of a partnership with Russia for a mission to the moon. According to the Examiner: "Previously, India was scheduled to launch a Russian lander on one of its rockets and send it to the lunar South Pole. Now, according to a story in Russia and India Report, India will go it alone, building its own lander to touch down on the lunar surface within the next few years.

NASA Announces the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge For Moon and Mars Bases 46 46

An anonymous reader writes: Space policy experts are still arguing where American astronauts should go once they venture into deep space. However, there is widespread agreement that once they get there they should be prepared to stay for longer than just a few hours or days, as was the case during the Apollo missions to the moon. Taking all the material to set up habitats, the astronauts' homes away from home, would tend to be expensive. Toward the end of lowering the cost of long duration space travel, NASA has announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, in partnership with America Makes, as part of the ongoing Centennial Challenge program.

Kepler Observes Neptune Dancing With Its Moons 19 19

New submitter Liquid Tip writes: NASA's K2 mission has the capability to stare continuously at a single field of stars for months at time. A new video shows K2 observations spanning 70 days from November, 2014 through January, 2015 reduced to a time-lapse of 34 seconds. During this time, we see some distant members of our Solar System passing through the K2 field-of-view. This includes some asteroids and the giant outer planet Neptune, which appears at day 15. A keen-eyed observer will also notice an object circling Neptune: its large moon, Triton, which orbits every 5.8 days. The fainter moon Nereid can be seen tracing Neptune's motion.