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How Activists Tried To Destroy GPS With Axes

HughPickens.com writes Ingrid Burrington writes in The Atlantic about a little-remembered incident that occurred in 1992 when activists Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine snuck into a Rockwell International facility in Seal Beach, California and in what they called an “act of conscience” used wood-splitting axes to break into two clean rooms containing nine satellites being built for the US government. Lumsdaine took his axe to one of the satellites, hitting it over 60 times. The Brigade’s target was the Navigation Satellite Timing And Ranging (NAVSTAR) Program and the Global Positioning System (GPS). Both men belonged to the Lockheed Action Collective, a protest group that staged demonstrations and blockaded the entrance at the Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. test base in Santa Cruz in 1990. They said they intentionally took axes to the $50-million Navstar Global Position System satellite to bring the public’s attention to what they termed the government’s attempt to control the world through modern technology. “I had to slow the deployment of this system (which) makes conventional warfare much more lethal and nuclear war winnable in the eyes of some,” an emotional Kjoller told the judge before receiving an 18-month sentence. “It’s something that I couldn’t let go by. I tried to do what was right rather than what was convenient.”

Burrington recently contacted Lumsdaine to learn more about the Brigade and Lumsdaine expresses no regrets for his actions. Even if the technology has more and more civilian uses, Lumsdaine says, GPS remains “military in its origins, military in its goals, military in its development and [is still] controlled by the military.” Today, Lumsdaine views the thread connecting GPS and drones as part of a longer-term movement by military powers toward automated systems and compared today’s conditions to the opening sequence of Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor laments that the survivors of Skynet’s nuclear apocalypse “lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines.” “I think in a general way people need to look for those psychological, spiritual, cultural, logistical, technological weak points and leverage points and push hard there,” says Lumsdaine. “It is so easy for all of us as human beings to take a deep breath and step aside and not face how very serious the situation is, because it’s very unpleasant to look at the effort and potential consequences of challenging the powers that be. But the only thing higher than the cost of resistance is the cost of not resisting.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova

astroengine writes Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. “Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses,” Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova

astroengine writes Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. “Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses,” Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Water once covered one-fifth of Mars, new research shows

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New maps of water in the atmosphere of Mars reveal that the Red Planet might once have had enough to cover up to a fifth of the planet, researchers say.

Further research to refine these maps could help guide the quest to identify underground reservoirs on Mars, the scientists added. A new NASA video describes the ancient ocean on Mars.

Although the Martian surface is now cold and dry, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that rivers, lakes and seas covered the Red Planet billions of years ago. Since there is life virtually wherever there is liquid water on Earth, some researchers have suggested that life might have evolved on Mars when it was wet, and life could be there even now, hidden in subterranean aquifers Read more…

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Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System

astroengine writes “For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. “About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving,” said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Could Saturn’s moon Titan host an alternate type of life?

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In a world first, chemical engineers have taken a different look at a question astronomers and biologists have been pondering for decades: Does Saturn moon Titan host life?

Of course, Titan is way too hostile for life as we know it to eke out an existence — it is a frigid world awash with liquid methane and ethane and a noxious atmosphere devoid of any liquid water. But say if there is a different kind of biology, a life as we don’t know it, thriving on the organic chemistry that is abundant on Titan’s surface?

Normally, astrobiologists combine what we know about Earth’s biosphere and astronomers zoom in on other stars containing exoplanets in the hope that some of those alien world have some similarities to Earth. By looking for small rocky exoplanets orbiting inside their star’s habitable zones, we are basically looking for a “second Earth” where liquid water is at least possible. Where there’s liquid water on Earth, there’s inevitably life, so scientists seeking out alien life ‘follow the water’ in the hope of finding life with a similar terrestrial template on other planets. Read more…

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This could be the year of Pluto’s planetary comeback

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Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive at this dwarf planet on March 6, 2015.

Pluto is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will arrive at this dwarf planet on July 15, 2015.

These two events will make 2015 an exciting year for solar system exploration and discovery. But there is much more to this story than mere science. I expect 2015 will be the year when general consensus, built upon our new knowledge of these two objects, will return Pluto and add Ceres to our family of solar system planets.

The efforts of a very small clique of Pluto-haters within the International Astronomical Union (IAU) plutoed Pluto in 2006. Of the approximately 10,000 internationally registered members of the IAU in 2006, only 237 voted in favor of the resolution redefining Pluto as a “dwarf planet” while 157 voted against; the other 9,500 members were not present at the closing session of the IAU General Assembly in Prague at which the vote to demote Pluto was taken. Yet Pluto’s official planetary status was snatched away. Read more…

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UK narrows down list of locations for first spaceport

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LONDON — Plans for the UK’s first spaceport have taken a big step forward

A government revealed on Tuesday a shortlist of locations, with sites in England, Wales and Scotland under consideration

Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick and Stornoway in Scotland all made the list, as well as Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales.

Politicians have ambitious plans to establish a spaceport by 2018 for commercial space flights from the UK

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Visualisation of a UK spaceport.

It’s envisaged that the spaceport will be a base for manned flights using reusable spacecraft, such as those being developed by Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace. Read more…

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Rosetta Photographs Its Own Shadow On Comet 67P/C-G

mpicpp notes an image release from the European Space Agency showing the shadow of its Rosetta probe on the comet it’s currently orbiting. The probe snapped the picture from a very low flyby — only six kilometers off the surface. The image has a resolution of 11cm/pixel.
The shadow is fuzzy and somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, measuring approximately 20 x 50 metres. If the Sun were a point source, the shadow would be sharp and almost exactly the same size as Rosetta (approximately 2 x 32 m). However, even at 347 million km from 67P/C-G on 14 February, the Sun appeared as a disc about 0.2 degrees across (about 2.3 times smaller than on Earth), resulting in a fuzzy “penumbra” around the spacecraft’s shadow on the surface. In this scenario and with Rosetta 6 km above the surface, the penumbra effect adds roughly 20 metres to the spacecraft’s dimensions, and which is cast onto the tilted surface of the comet.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Vomit comets and 43-foot pools: NASA astronaut training over the decades

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It’s been 100 years since the founding of NASA’s predecessor — the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA

While NACA, which was formed in 1915, doesn’t have the same recognition that NASA does for, say, landing on the moon or launching Space Shuttles, the organization helped lay the groundwork for U.S. accomplishments in aeronautics and space exploration. During and after World War II, the NACA helped develop vital innovations like retractable landing gear and jet engine compressors, according to a NASA press release

NACA’s 7,500 employees and $300 million in assets transitioned to NASA on Oct. 1, 1958. Eventually, one former NACA employee — Neil Armstrong — was the first human to set foot on the moon Read more…

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