Tag Archives: U.S.

FAA’s new drone rules could be very restrictive, report says

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Image: Flickr, Walter

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will soon release new rules on the use of drones in the U.S., and they might be more restrictive than the current ones, potentially making the use of a flying robot much more difficult.

Drone pilots will need a license, will only be able to fly during the day, and can only operate below 400 feet, and in the operator’s line of sight, according to a Wall Street Journal report published on Monday. The FAA is reportedly also going to group all unmanned aerial vehicles — regardless of weight or size — under these rules, meaning that flying a small toy drone will be subject to the same restrictive rules as flying a bigger commercial one.

The drone licenses are likely to require “dozens of hours” flying traditional aircrafts, the WSJ reports citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the rule-making process. In other words, forget about buying a drone at Best Buy and flying it on your own for any commercial purpose. These restrictive rules will also affect companies like Amazon or Google, which have been long working on delivery drones.

As we have reported before, drones fly in a murky legal area right now, and the FAA is expected to issue new rules before the end of the year.

The nascent drone industry, as well as the large cadre of UAVs aficionados, probably won’t like these rules. Although it’s important to stress that the FAA hasn’t published any rules yet, and the details could still change before then. Moreover, these rules will just be a proposal, meaning they will still need to go through a public commenting period, after which the FAA will issue the final rules based on the feedback from the public and stakeholders. All in all, it could take one or two years until the final regulations are issued.

The FAA declined to comment on the report.

“Sorry, but we can’t discuss specifics of the upcoming proposed rule,” FAA spokesman Les Door told Mashable. “We can say that the proposed regulations and standards will make a start toward broader commercial use of UAS.”

BONUS: An animated history of drones

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/11/24/faa-new-drone-rules/

Astronauts Plant Trees in Russia That Tower Above Politics

Cosmonaut-grove

Trees line the path of Cosmonaut Grove at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia.
Image: Flickr, Eugene Kaspersky

In their last days on Earth before launching to the International Space Station, astronauts sees the same thing: two rows of trees that punctuate the otherwise austere landscape outside the space launch facility in Baikonur, Russia.

The trees that outline the T-shaped path are mismatched in size, but that’s for a reason. Each one was planted by an astronaut just before he or she launched to space, a tradition that Yuri Gagarin started 50 years ago when he planted the first tree just before he became the first human in space. His tree is the largest.

A fresh three-member crew — Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European astronaut Alexander Gerst — will launch to the ISS on Wednesday. All three astronauts planted their trees last week.

Expedition_40_tree_planting

Expedition 40/41 crew (from left) NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during the traditional tree-planting ceremony in the run-up to their launch to the ISS on May 28.

Image: European Space Agency

“There’s a whole wealth of Russian traditions,” NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, who planted a tree before his mission in 2012, told Mashable. “Some are funny, some are beautiful.”

Marshburn-Hadfield-Tree

t the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 34 crew members Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (left), Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko (center) and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn (right) pose for pictures Dec. 13, 2012 at the site of their tree planting.

Image: NASA

Many Russian traditions are based on the success of what a cosmonaut did before. “In a lot of ways, it’s about honoring the person who came before you,” Marshburn said.

The simple ceremony always takes place shortly before launch, no matter the environment. Be it a harsh Russian winter or an even colder political standoff, the tree will be planted.

But given the current political climate between the U.S. and Russia, these trees have a deeper meaning within the space community, which, until very recently, has been able to operate above bureaucratic squabble.

As the U.S. continues to unleash sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the crisis in Ukraine, both nations have put targets on the backs of each other’s space programs.

In April, NASA sent a memo to employees stating that it was cutting all ties with Russia, except for when it comes to the space station — as the U.S. depends on Russia to launch its astronauts to the ISS.

At the same time, NASA made a grandiose public statement that it would return spaceflight to the U.S. by 2017, completely nixing the need for Russian involvement at all.

“We’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017,” NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel told Mashable in April. “The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple.”

Although NASA, at the time, said politics wouldn’t make it to the space station, Russia unveiled a different plan just weeks later. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters on May 13 that Moscow would deny U.S. requests to use the ISS after 2020. He also said he would prevent the U.S. from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites.

Astronauts, however, have subtly voiced their continued commitment to teamwork — a seemingly passive protest to the two countries’ efforts to drag the ISS into their battle.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who planted his own tree alongside Marshburn, is among the most vocal. In an April interview with RT, the ISS commander condemned weaponizing space.

And just hours after the news broke that Russia wanted to ban the U.S. from the ISS — coincidentally, that was on the same day a crew of both American and Russian astronauts was returning to Earth — Hadfield tweeted this:

And just on day after the U.S. issued its first round of sanctions against Russia, NASA released the photo below before a scheduled launch, showing the two flags together.

Russia-US-Space

The flags of the countries representing the crew members of Soyuz TMA-12M are seen at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Image: NASA

“Living in space really does break down barriers,” Marshburn said. “It is a family up there. We have to survive.”

Even NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in March — around the time Russia invaded Crimea — that the space station has been the cornerstone of peaceful relations.

During a press conference, Bolden, who commanded the first U.S.-Russian space shuttle mission in 1994, told the story of flying with Russian cosmonauts only a few years after the Cold War. The men talked of their families and of their aspirations for the world over dinner.

“I found that our relationship with the Russians in the space program has been the same ever since,” Bolden said. “We have weathered the storm through lots of contingencies.”

For his part, Marshburn, who is currently training in Houston for a future ISS mission, said he will continue to work as though the next trip will be with Russia. He’ll still study Russian, and he’ll work with Russian cosmonaut colleagues on site.

“We are well padded from the political goings on,” said Marshburn. “So, I just don’t think about it because who knows where it’s going to go.”

And as long as NASA astronauts climb into a Russian spacecraft, they’ll continue to add their tree to the growing grove around the Baikonur Cosmodrome as well.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/05/28/nasa-russia-tree-cosmodrome/

How NASA Keeps Earth’s Germs Out of Space

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In 1967, the United States joined the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in signing the “Outer Space Treaty,” which remains the closest thing the world has to “space law.” It stipulates, among other things, that as countries explore space they should avoid contaminating it with the microbial life of Earth.

So while we may talk, with a mixture of fantasy and inevitability, about the colonization of other planets by humans, NASA takes great pains to avoid colonizing those bodies with life of a different variety: bacteria and spores that might hitchhike their way through the galaxy via American spacecraft.

But keeping space free of earthly critters is a difficult task. In fact, it’s an effectively impossible one. Curiosity, for example, was not completely sterile at its launch; rather, the rover was built to ensure that it would “carry a total of no more than 300,000 bacterial spores on any surface from which the spores could get into the Martian environment.”

In that way, Curiosity is like the Mars landers that preceded it: just a tiny bit dirty. “When we clean these things, it’s virtually impossible to get them completely, totally, 100% clean, without any organic material at all,” says Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration.

Instead, he says the agency enforces “allowable limits” — a kind of controlled biological chaos — that aims to mitigate, rather than eliminate, microbial life on its vehicles. The margins here are extraordinarily slim: When you’re talking about microorganisms, 300,000 across the entire spacecraft is actually a remarkably low number. (A human adult, after all, can play host to a href=”http://discovermagazine.com/2011/mar/04-trillions-microbes-call-us-home-help-keep-healthy” target=”_blank”>as many as 200 trillion microorganisms. Trillion, with a T.)

To keep the Mars Science Laboratory mission within its 300,0000-critter range, the technicians who built Curiosity regularly cleaned the rover’s surfaces — and those of the spacecraft that delivered it to Mars — by wiping them with an alcohol solution.

They baked the mechanical components that could tolerate high heats to kill the microbes that remained. And they sealed off Curiosity’s core box, which contains its main computer and other key electronics, to prevent any traveling microbes from escaping its confines.

Pictured in the video below, the clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is where Curiosity spent much of its pre-Martian existence. Note the bunny suits worn by the technicians, the better to ensure that human microbes wouldn’t be transferred to NASA’s now-rove-ready rover.

For its standard antibiotic regimen, Lavery says NASA has three main goals. First, of course, there’s scientific accuracy — since, for many of the agency’s missions, the subtext if not the stated objective is to learn about the life that might exist beyond our atmosphere. “If we’ve taken Earth bugs with us, it defeats the entire purpose,” he says.

Second, there’s the Outer Space Treaty and the desire to be a good steward of space — by avoiding contamination of the world beyond Earth’s borders. Third, there’s protecting Earth itself — not just by preventing the passage of earthly life into space, but also by preventing any extraterrestrial life from coming back. (Hence those amazing photos of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins hanging out in their decontamination module after completing the Apollo 11 mission.)

Planetary protection has been one of the protocols that has unified NASA’s missions since they started as missions in the first place. It’s been a priority, Lavery notes, “since the very beginning of the space program.”

And yet sterilization, just like other NASA protocols, varies significantly by mission. The particulars are determined by two broad considerations: where a mission is going and what kind of spacecraft it’s using to get there. There’s an overall cleanliness standard that’s in place for every mission, Lavery notes — no earth bugs being the general goal — but beyond that, there’s a procedural spectrum NASA employs to determine its approach to decontamination.

For vehicles like the Voyager crafts, wandering the void of space with no planetary destination in mind, standards can be (relatively) less stringent. For a lander like Curiosity, however — or like the lunar modules that brought human life to the moon during the Apollo missions — the sterilization standards are stricter. Because, harsh as those environments may be to earthly life, large or small, there’s a far greater chance that life would find a way to survive in those environments than elsewhere.

We already know, for example, about the space-surviving skills of the tardigrade. And just recently, scientists discovered a species of bacteria able to survive in a lava tube, gleaning energy from a chemical reaction with the iron from basalt rock — precisely the kind of rock abundant on Mars.

Given all that, NASA ranks its missions into five general Planetary Protection categories:

nasa_pp.png

So why not simply give every mission, by default, the highest cleanliness standard, just to be safe? Because sterilization, like pretty much every protocol NASA goes through, isn’t cheap. It’s budgetary concerns, ultimately — and resource concerns more generally — that make decontamination a matter of calculated risk.

Because of that, NASA’s attempts at preventing cross-planet contamination have relied not just on antibiotic practices, but also on a near-universal feature of earthly life: its fragility. Catherine Conley, NASA’s planetary protection officer, last year told Becca Rosen about the slim likelihood of biological commerce between Earth and Mars.

While Conley suspects NASA has transported things like bacteria and pollen spores and other pieces of life inside its spacecraft, there’s been a big caveat to the potential of contamination: “The surface conditions on Mars are pretty hostile to Earth life,” Conley says. Which means that “it’s not very likely that those organisms could actually reproduce, or even survive if they came off the spacecraft.”

Curiosity relies on the same slim odds. And the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, with a roving lander as its vehicle, is ranked as a Category IV. There are subclasses within that category, Lavery points out, based on the different environments Curiosity will be exploring within Mars itself. Just like on Earth, some areas of Mars are more (potentially) hospitable to life than others.

But protocols can also evolve. For Curiosity, the process of selecting exploration sites on Mars took place simultaneously with the process of its design — meaning that a shift in one led to a shift in the other. The Mars Science Laboratory mission started out as a Category IVa — the most stringent possible for landers and probes. (“We wanted to give ourselves as much leeway as we could,” Lavery explains.)

But when the Gale Crater was chosen as Curiosity’s landing site, NASA engineers realized that the IVa classification was “a little bit of overkill,” Lavery says, and downgraded the category — since, given the crater’s aridity, there was virtually no chance that Curiosity would encounter water or ice or anything else that could potentially foster life.

At the same time, engineers at JPL began to rethink the strategy they’d built for the rover’s drill bits. Growing increasingly concerned that a rough landing could damage the rover and the drill mechanism it would rely on so heavily to do much of its work on Mars, the engineers decided to open its previously sterilized box to add a new drill bit to Curiosity’s suite — thus ensuring that, even if one got damaged, another would remain to carry out the mission.

This switch-up, which wasn’t communicated until later to NASA’s planetary protection staff, is the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times article about the “rift” between microbiologists and engineers at the agency.

The notion of a strong divide at NASA might have been a bit overblown, though. The changes made to Curiosity, being not immediately communicated to Conley, were indeed a bureaucratic “slip-up.”

But, beyond that, not only did the implemented changes follow NASA procedure, Lavery says; they were also standard practice — part of the normal evolution of spacecraft design as it accounts for changes made to mission objectives. The mission changed; the vehicle changed along with it. And there’s always that magic 300,000-critter standard. Before Curiosity was launched, “We were able to do an assay that said we were well under that number,” Lavery says. “And we were good to go.”

The question remains, though: What if Curiosity does find water? Probabilistically, that’s unlikely. But Martian water — or Martian ice — is certainly not an impossibility. Particularly given the fact that Curiosity’s work involves drilling into the Martian crust. If the rover does encounter water, any earth-borne microbes lingering on its drill might simply perish in the harsh temperatures and atmosphere of the Red Planet. On the other hand, though … they could survive.

NASA will deal with that possibility when — and, more likely, if — it comes. There are procedures for that circumstance, too. As Lavery points out, those procedures would include NASA’s mission operators, its scientists and its planetary protection officers in a discussion about the best way to move forward. Procedures meant to avoid terraforming of the unintentional variety — procedures meant to ensure that, as we explore Mars, we don’t end up colonizing it, as well.”

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/11/nasa-space-germs/

NASA Orders Spacewalks to Fix International Space Station

Space-walk

Astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) will attempt to fix the craft’s broken cooling system during a series of three spacewalks in the coming days, NASA has announced.

The agency said it would delay a cargo resupplying mission until after the spacewalks, which are scheduled from Dec. 21 to Dec. 25, the agency announced Tuesday.

The cooling system began experiencing problems last week, when it shut down in response to low temperatures. Officials warned at the time that a spacewalk might be necessary to fix it.

The plan is for NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins to remove a pump with a failed valve and replace it with a spare that is currently stored on an “external stowage platform,” the agency said.

“The pump is associated with one of the station’s two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool,” NASA said in its announcement.

Judd Frieling, lead flight director of the current ISS expedition, describes the problem in more detail in this video.

The Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft resupply mission will be delayed until “no earlier than mid-January,” NASA said. The agency will provide more details about the spacewalks Wednesday at a preview briefing from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Image: NASA

BONUS: 20 Epic Space Photos From Astronaut Chris Hadfield

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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