Tag Archives: U.S.

Why NASA Redesigned Its Website

Nasawebsite

The new NASA.gov has a light blue color palette, one you may not immediately associate with deep space. The agency rolled out a website redesign over the weekend, which included tossing out the black background that shadowed NASA‘s website for years.

“The common complaint about our design was that there was too much going on,” NASA Internet Services Manager Brian Dunbar told Mashable via email. “The lighter color palette seemed to open things up without us having to remove too much content. So far the reaction has been mixed, as is often the case.”

Heavy text and a column of navigational buttons made NASA.gov — which had not been updated since 2007 — feel cluttered. Dunbar fixed this by grouping all those icons into one drop-down menu.

Before

NASA.gov Website 2012
NASA.gov homepage on May 13, 2012.

After

NASA Website July 2013
NASA.gov homepage on July 1, 2013.

NASA also asked the public what they wanted in a redesign, and one of the top responses was a dedicated area on the homepage for live events.

“We were able to increase the emphasis on live events on the homepage. We did an Ideascale implementation late last year to solicit input on changes to the site, and people told us more than anything they wanted to know more about what’s happening ‘right now’ at NASA,” Dunbar said. “We had it on the site, but apparently it wasn’t that visible to a lot of users.”

While the aesthetic switches may be the most obvious change to NASA’s website, the design team completely overhauled NASA.gov’s infrastructure. According to Dunbar, NASA switched from an old proprietary CMS to a customized Drupal implementation and replaced NASA’s commercial on-demand video service with a YouTube-based approach.

The most impressive figure of the redesign, however, is hidden from the eye. The redesign only took 13 weeks to complete — a highly efficient timeline for a government agency.

“We started that whole effort in earnest in late March,” Dunbar said. “We had been experimenting with the graphical changes for a few weeks before that.”

The short timeline had a catch-22, though. The team wasn’t able to optimize the website for discovering and sharing content on social media, which took a backseat in this initial rollout.

“Those considerations will be part of the upcoming redesign,” Dunbar said. “We want to be able to share our content across platforms, but we’ve also got user data that clearly shows we have a web audience that doesn’t really use social media and is distinct from our social media audience.”

As with most trickle-down redesigns, NASA.gov — which logs about 12 million visits per month — still has a long way to go. Expect to see a few 404 errors while browsing around as the team makes piecemeal changes through September.

Dunbar noted that this first transition is only a small part the massive changes to NASA.gov coming early next year. “When we’re done, we expect to have a vastly improved site, both for users and editors,” he said.

NASA.gov in 1997

NASA Website 1997
NASA.gov homepage on Jan. 5, 1997.

In 1999

NASA Website 1999
NASA.gov homepage on April 17, 1999.

In 2007

NASA Website 2007
NASA.gov homepage on Jan. 3, 2007.

Mashable composite; images courtesy of NASA/JPL

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/01/nasa-website-redesign/

Space Shuttle Enterprise Damaged by Superstorm Sandy

Space-shuttle-enterprise-damaged-by-superstorm-sandy-pics--dc1ca48500

Superstorm Sandy, the storm that continues to wreck havoc across the American northeast on Tuesday, caused intense flooding and wind damage across the tri-state area, leaving several people dead. Among its apparent victims: The Space Shuttle Enterprise.

The Enterprise has been housed under a protective structure at New York’s Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum since July. That structure appears to have gone completely missing in the storm’s aftermath, leaving the Enterprise exposed to the elements.

Image Credit: John de Guzman

Image Credit: Denise Chow

Oddly, the Intrepid Museum’s own “live webcam” shows the structure still intact. Most likely, the camera stopped updating as the storm was rolling in.

Despite the loss of the protective structure, the Enterprise looks to be mostly fine, save some possible damage to the vertical stabilizer. Mashable has several messages out to the museum about the status of the Enterprise, and we’ll update this post with any response.

For reference, here’s what the Enterprise looked like under the protective shell:

Hubble Spies Huge Explosion on Faraway Star

T-pyxidis-sept-2011

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers a rare look at an enormous stellar eruption, allowing them to map out the aftermath of such blasts in unprecedented detail.

Hubble photographed an April 2011 explosion in the double-star system T Pyxidis (T Pyx for short), which goes off every 12 to 50 years. The new images reveal that material ejected by previous T Pyx outbursts did not escape into space, instead sticking around to form a debris disk about 1 light-year wide around the system.

This information came as a surprise to the research team.

“We fully expected this to be a spherical shell,” study co-author Arlin Crotts of Columbia University said in a statement. “This observation shows it is a disk, and it is populated with fast-moving ejecta from previous outbursts.”

The erupting T Pyx star is a white dwarf, the burned-out core of a star much like our own sun. White dwarfs are small but incredibly dense, often packing the mass of the sun into a volume the size of Earth.

T Pyx’s white dwarf has a companion star, from which it siphons off hydrogen fuel. When enough of this hydrogen builds up on the white dwarf’s surface, it detonates like a gigantic hydrogen bomb, increasing the white dwarf’s brightness by a factor of 10,000 over a single day or so.

This happens again and again. T Pyx is known to have erupted in 1890, 1902, 1920, 1944, and 1966, in addition to the 2011 event.

Such recurrent outbursts are known as nova explosions. (Nova is Latin for “new,” referring to how suddenly novas appear in the sky.) Novas are distinct from supernovas, even more dramatic blasts that involve the destruction of an entire star.

The new study clarifies just what happens to the material ejected by such outbursts.

“We’ve all seen how light from fireworks shells during the grand finale will light up the smoke and soot from shells earlier in the show,” co-author Stephen Lawrence of Hofstra University said in a statement. “In an analogous way, we’re using light from T Pyx’s latest outburst and its propagation at the speed of light to dissect its fireworks displays from decades past.”

The study represents the first time the area around an erupting star has been mapped in three dimensions, researchers said.

The new Hubble Space Telescope observations also help refine the distance to T Pyx, pegging it at 15,600 light-years from Earth. (Past estimates have ranged between 6,500 and 16,000 light-years.)

The team presented its results on June 4 at the 222nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Indianapolis. The study will also be published in the June 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, A. Crotts, J. Sokoloski, and H. Uthas (Columbia University) and S. Lawrence (Hofstra University)

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/05/hubble-star-explosion/

Radiation Exposure Won’t Stop a Manned Mission to Mars

Rover1

The risk of radiation exposure is not a show-stopper for a long-term manned mission to Mars, new results from NASA’s Curiosity rover suggest.

A mission consisting of a 180-day cruise to Mars, a 500-day stay on the Red Planet and a 180-day return flight to Earth would expose astronauts to a cumulative radiation dose of about 1.01 sieverts, measurements by Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument indicate.

To put that in perspective: The European Space Agency generally limits its astronauts to a total career radiation dose of 1 sievert, which is associated with a 5% increase in lifetime fatal cancer risk.

“It’s certainly a manageable number,” said RAD principal investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., lead author of a study that reports the results Monday in the journal Science.

A 1-sievert dose from radiation on Mars would violate NASA’s current standards, which cap astronauts’ excess-cancer risk at 3 percent. But those guidelines were drawn up with missions to low-Earth orbit in mind, and adjustments to accommodate trips farther afield may be in the offing, Hassler said.

“NASA is working with the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine to evaluate what appropriate limits would be for a deep-space mission, such as a mission to Mars,” Hassler told SPACE.com. “So that’s an exciting activity.”

The new results represent the most complete picture yet of the radiation environment en route to Mars and on the Red Planet’s surface. They incorporate data that RAD gathered during Curiosity’s eight-month cruise through space and the rover’s first 300 days on Mars, where it touched down in August 2012.

The RAD measurements cover two different types of energetic-particle radiation — galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), which are accelerated to incredible speeds by far-off supernova explosions, and solar energetic particles (SEPs), which are blasted into space by storms on our own sun.

RAD’s data show that astronauts exploring the Martian surface would accumulate about 0.64 millisieverts of radiation per day. The dose rate is nearly three times greater during the journey to Mars, at 1.84 millisieverts per day.

But Mars’ radiation environment is dynamic, so Curiosity’s measurements thus far should not be viewed as the final word, Hassler stressed. For example, RAD’s data have been gathered near the peak of the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, a time when the GCR flux is relatively low (because solar plasma tends to scatter galactic cosmic rays).

Curiosity’s radiation measurements should help NASA plan out a manned mission to Mars, which the space agency hopes to pull off by the mid-2030s, Hassler said. And they should also inform the search for signs of past or present life on the Red Planet — another top NASA priority.

For example, the new RAD results suggest that microbial life is unlikely to exist right at the Martian surface, Hassler said. But future missions may not have to drill too deeply underground to find pockets of Mars life, if it ever existed.

“These measurements do tell us that we think it could be viable to find signs of possible extant or past life as shallow as 1 meter deep,” Hassler said.

The new study is one of six papers published in Science Monday that report new results from Curiosity. Most of the other studies present evidence that the rover has found an ancient freshwater lake that could have supported microbial life for tens of thousands, and perhaps millions, of years.

Image: Euclid vanderkroew

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/12/09/radiation-mars-curiosity-rover/

Ann Coulter Calls Obama a ‘Retard’ on Twitter

Ann-coulter-calls-obama-a-retard-on-twitter-5e5db1171a

Ann Coulter, conservative political commentator and author who’s known for making incendiary remarks, called Barack Obama a “retard” on Twitter after Monday night’s presidential debate.

Coulter was trying to comment on the overall civil behavior of the two candidates during Monday’s debate when compared with the interruptions and arguing of the second debate. However, the term is widely considered offensive and derogatory. There’s even a movement, R-Word, asking people to pledge not to use the word.

Coulter’s tweet immediately sparked a harsh reaction from many Twitter users that continues Tuesday morning:

Michelle Malkin, another outspoken conservative political commentator, dismissed Coulter’s remarks as “stupid” and “shallow.”

Coulter’s next and only tweet since the offensive message was a promotion for her book tour, inviting further criticism:

This is not the first time a poorly phrased tweet set off controversy on Twitter. Should Coulter have been more careful about her choice of words? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Special Report: Politics Transformed E-Book

Mashable explores the trends changing politics in 2012 and beyond in Politics Transformed: The High Tech Battle for Your Vote, an in-depth look at how digital media is reshaping democracy.

Read a few of the top posts from the series:

Take it with you, buy Politics Transformed: The High Tech Battle for Your Vote on e-book and get access to four exclusive interviews!

Images courtesy of Flickr, Gage Skidmore

window._msla=window.loadScriptAsync||function(src,id){if(document.getElementById(id))return;var js=document.createElement(‘script’);js.id=id;js.src=src;document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0].parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);};
_msla(“//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”,”twitter_jssdk”);

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/23/ann-coulter-obama-retard-twitter/

Lighter-Than-Air Material Could Drastically Change Tech

Lighter-than-air-material-could-drastically-change-tech-fd4e4daa3d

German scientists have developed a sturdy material called Aerographite made mostly of air, opening up huge implications for the future development of electronics.

The jet-black, non-transparent porous carbon material — which was created by scientists at Kiel University and Hamburg University of Technology — was detailed in the July edition of scientific journal Advanced Materials.

Since Aerographite is electrically conductive and so lightweight, the scientists hope it could be used in the future as lightweight batteries. They believe these small batteries could be used in green transportation such as electronic cars and e-bikes in the future.

It weighs in at 0.2 milligrams for each cubic centimeter, making it the lightest material in the world. It’s lighter than a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago.

The news comes as researchers last year at the University of California Irvine developed a material as strong as metal while 100 times lighter than Styrofoam.

“Our work is causing great discussions in the scientific community. Aerographite weights four times less than world-record-holder up to now,” Matthias Mecklenburg, co-author and Ph.D. student at the TUHH, said on Kiel University’s website.

Made by developing a linked chain of carbon nanotubes onto a zinc-oxide template, it is extremely resilient. If you were to compress Aerographite, it would bounce back to its natural state without any damage. Most other materials weaken when they undergo such stress.

“It is able to be compressed up to 95% and be pulled back to its original form without any damage,” said Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University. “Up to a certain point, the Aerographite will become even more solid and therefore stronger than before. Also, the newly constructed material absorbs light rays almost completely. One could say it creates the blackest black.”

How do you think this new material will impact the tech world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Futuristic Products in Development Now

Randi Zuckerberg: Stop Being the Crazy Cat Lady and Other Facebook Don’ts

Randi-zuckerberg-stop-being-the-crazy-cat-lady-and-other-facebook-don-ts-report--64916fb439

Randi Zuckerberg — Internet entrepreneur and sister of Mark — discussed during a conference in Australia things not to do on Facebook, from bragging about your accomplishments and taking pictures of food to posting about your cats.

According to the Melbourne-based Herald Sun, Zuckerberg offered tips on what people should avoid doing on social media sites that could prevent them from growing their networks. Also on her list: posting cheesy motivational posters, humble bragging and depressing messages about being tired, sick or stuck in traffic.

Zuckerberg is the former chief marketing officer at Facebook, but left the company last August to pursue other projects. She is an executive producer for Silicon Valley, a Bravo reality TV show that follows inspiring entrepreneurs in the tech industry.

Hinting at sibling rivalry, Randi told conference attendees that she was reluctant to join Facebook in its early start up days. Her brother even sought help from their mother to help convince her to join.

“I graduated from Harvard University in 2003 and the only reason that I mention that is that I have a sibling who did not graduate. So I always have to take that one,” she said.

Randi and Mark aren’t the only Zuckerbergs in tech. Their youngest sibling Arielle is now a Google employee, following a recent acquisition the search engine giant made of Wildfire Interactive, a social media management company.

As for what not to do on Facebook, Mashable also recently compiled a list of things that annoy us the most on the site. Check out the gallery below and let us know what you think your Facebook friends should stop posting.

Image via Facebook

BONUS: 20 Things Your Most Annoying Friends Do on Facebook

Facebook Stats Reveal Men Most Interested in Mars Rover Landing

Facebook-stats-reveal-men-most-interested-in-mars-rover-landing-cef27e0b5e

As space enthusiasts worldwide tuned in online to watch and follow the historic landing of the NASA rover Curiosity on Mars earlier this week, Facebook found that men were significantly more interested in the event than females.

Although Facebook didn’t provide percentages for the male to female ratio, it said men ranked 6.08 on a buzz scale of one to 10, compared to an overall score for women of 4.76.

Using a tool called the Talk Meter, Facebook examined how much buzz the Mars landing generated across the social network and noted trends in age, demographic and location. It tracked search terms such as “Curiosity” and “Mars” and conducted searches during the time period that the rover landed around 10:00 p.m. PT.

“We looked at the increase in the fraction of chatter containing these terms compared to the baseline, which is what the chatter was for these terms one week before,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. “We take the difference in fractions and hit it with a logarithm scale (1-10).”

Although teenagers expressed the least interest in the landing, Facebook said buzz surrounding Curiosity occurred across all adult age ranges. It was most popular among the 25 to 34 age group.

Due to the local timing, chatter was significantly higher in the Western part of the United States with California, Oregon and Washington state bringing in the most general interest on Facebook. But Washington, D.C. — the home of NASA’s headquarters — brought in similar scores to California, and spikes were also seen in Utah and Colorado.

Meanwhile, U.S. Facebook members cheered on their home country’s journey to Mars more than any other nation, bringing in a buzz score of (5.45). Facebook users from Canada (5.37) showed the second most interest, followed by Costa Rica (5.29), New Zealand (4.94), Australia (4.88), China (4.54) and Israel (4.53).

European countries didn’t top the list because most were asleep while the events took place, Facebook noted.

To put those scores in perspective, Facebook did previous analysis on other major events such as the Royal Wedding in the U.K. (8.4), the U.S. Super Bowl (8.7) and the Hunger Games premiere (6.4).

Did you use social media to follow the rover landing? Which sites did you use? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Curiosity Lands on Mars: NASA’s Behind the Scenes Images

Napolitano: Congress ‘Got Stuck’ on Cybersecurity

Napolitano-congress-got-stuck-on-cybersecurity-c5f68653d9

United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano took a jab at Congress for failing to act on cybersecurity during a panel on the subject Monday at the 2012 Social Good Summit.

Congress has so far failed to pass cybersecurity legislation this year. Both chambers have their own versions of cyber bills, but they have yet to pass in the opposite chamber due to a partisan divide on the appropriate role of the government in cybersecurity.

“This has been a very interesting and troubling discussion in Congress,” she said. “It gets to the question which is ‘how does the government, which has overall security responsibly, interact with the private sector when an attack on private sector could have multiple rippling effects throughout the country?’ When you get into this debate, it’s a Washington, D.C. thing about government regulating the private sector.”

A bill supported by many Senate Democrats first called for government-set cybersecurity standards for private businesses deemed crucial to national security, such as power grids. Republicans balked at the idea, deeming it excessive government regulation of private business. The Senate bill was later rewritten to offer a compromise between the two camps, but that version also stalled.

Meanwhile, House Republicans passed their own cybersecurity bill, designed to encourage information-sharing between private businesses, under a veto threat from the White House. That bill hasn’t been passed by the Senate.

Napolitano’s position in this debate is somewhere in the middle: She doesn’t see absolute government regulation as the right answer for cybersecurity, but rather wants to build a cooperative cybersecurity relationship between businesses and the government with some government oversight of crucial industries.

“I think regulation in the traditional sense isn’t the right relationship,” she said. “It has to be one of mutually beneficial partnership and responsibility… if you’re doing the balance statement for a private company, security for others isn’t something you can reflect on your own balance sheet, but it is a responsibility. That’s what government has: responsibility is shared equally.”

She added that Barack Obama is weighing an executive order on cybersecurity — a possible move that privacy experts are watching closely, but a step Napolitano supports.

“Congress wasn’t able to act this year, it got stuck in the regulatory versus non-regulatory dichotomy,” said Napolitano. “The president is considering moving forward with an executive order that would help with this.”

When asked if private businesses would need to experience a cataclysmic cyberattack in order for them and politicians to make progress on cybersecurity, Napolitano said that it would spur progress, but added that’s not her preferable path.

“It’s only going to take one takedown for need for that partnership to become apparent,” she said. “An example from the non-cyber world: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is within the Department of Homeland Security. It became clear after Katrina and the response, or or lack thereof, that it was broken. What’s happened is that we’ve used that crisis to fix FEMA. FEMA is now very agile, astute and target-oriented. That crisis crystallized action.”

“I hope there’s an alternative,” she added. “The problem with [cybersecurity] is that if you have a crisis, first of all it could be multiple crises happening simultaneously, second is that it could have damaging rippling effects that puts life and limb at risk, third is that we don’t have all the protocols in place to deal with a truly massive problem.”

About Ericsson

Read more of Mashable’s coverage of the 2012 Social Good Summit:

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/24/napolitano-cybersecurity/

7 Space Tech Experiments to Launch Friday

Up-aerospace

Seven space technology experiments are slated to blast off Friday on a NASA-funded suborbital research flight.

A SpaceLoft sounding rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace Inc., is scheduled to launch from New Mexico’s Spaceport America between 9 a.m. and noon EDT.

The 15-minute flight is expected to reach a maximum altitude of 74 miles (119 kilometers) and provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for the onboard experiments. Landing is targeted for the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, about 320 miles (515 km) from Spaceport America according to NASA officials.

Among the seven payloads aboard the 20-foot-long (6 meters) rocket is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a tracking device being developed for use in air traffic control systems. Current plans call for all aircraft operating in U.S. airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by 2020.

Two high school science experiments are also riding along on Friday’s flight, as is Diapason, an instrument developed by DTM Technologies in Italy to study the movement of very tiny particles in Earth’s atmosphere. Diapason could help identify and monitor atmospheric pollution and contaminants, NASA officials said.

UP Aerospace isn’t the only company with a NASA contract to make technology-testing suborbital research flights. The space agency has also signed deals with Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems, Near Space Corporation, XCOR Aerospace, Whittinghill Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace.

NASA manages such launches via its Flight Opportunities Program, which matches payloads with flights and pays launch costs (though no funds are provided for development of the payloads). The program should help the burgeoning American private spaceflight industry get off the ground, agency officials say.

“The Flight Opportunities Program fosters the development of the commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry, an important step in the longer-term path that envisions suborbital reusable launch vehicles evolving to provide the nation with much lower-cost, more frequent, and more reliable access to orbital space,” NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program website states.

Image courtesy of Leslie Williams/NASA

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/21/space-experiments-launch/