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You Can Now Be "Buried" On the Moon 71

Dave Knott writes: Space burials are longer the stuff of science fiction (and wealthy science fiction TV show creators.) The cremated remains of more than 450 people have been shot into orbit. Yet, despite the promise of space being a unique "resting place," almost every tiny vial of remains ever sent there has come back down to Earth or burned up upon re-entry. This wouldn't have happened had the ashes landed on Earth's moon — a fact that hasn't been lost on the companies pioneering this futuristic funeral technology. The San Francisco-based company Elysium Space officially launched its 'lunar memorial' service earlier this month, and will soon be sending the remains of a U.S. Army Infantry Soldier's mother upwards as part of its first ever moon burial.

The company's website further explains how the lunar burials will work: "You receive a kit containing a custom ash capsule to collect a cremated remains sample. After we receive the ash capsule back from you, we place your capsule in the Elysium memorial spacecraft. The latter is eventually integrated to the Astrobotic lander during the designated integration event. From here, the lander is integrated onto the launch vehicle. On launch day, the remains are carried to the moon where the lander will be deployed to its dedicated location, preserving our memorial spacecraft for eternity." Because Elysium can only send a small portion of cremated remains to the moon (less than a gram), participants aren't actually paying to have their loved ones literally buried on the moon. However, this has not deterred the company from launching the service, charging $11,950 per "burial".

Calls For Funding NASA Commercial Crew Grow 71

MarkWhittington writes: As summer starts to give way to fall and the end of the current fiscal year draws nigh, demands that NASA's commercial crew program be fully funded are being heard with greater frequency and urgency. Astronaut Scott Kelly took time off from his year-long sojourn on the International Space Station to entreat Congress to pony up. IO9 was a little more caustic, stating "Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA its Own Space Taxi, Already." Monday, Slate became the latest media outlet to take up the cause

The situation is depressingly familiar to those who have followed the fortunes of the space program since the Apollo moon landings. When President Obama started the commercial crew program in 2010, NASA estimated that it would take a certain amount of money to get government funded and commercially operated spacecraft running by 2015. Then the space agency would no longer be dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Congress has decided to allocate less money than NASA feels it needed for commercial crew. This situation is not unusual, as Congress often does this to space projects. However, the politics surrounding the creation of the commercial crew program, which featured the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, has exacerbated the conflict between NASA's will and Congress' won't. President Obama did not consult Congress when he cancelled President Bush's return to the moon program. Congress has displeased ever since.
Star Wars Prequels

Death Star Science: The Physics Of Destroying An Earth-Sized Planet 173

StartsWithABang writes: The ability to destroy an Alderaan-like (or, ahem, Earth-like) planet has long been the dream of slashdotters everywhere. But generating the power necessary to unbind a planet — some 2.24 x 10^32 Joules — is simply impossible on board an object only the size of a small moon. But if, instead, you could house a 1-2 trillion ton asteroid (about 5-7 km across) made of antimatter and deliver it to the planet's core, Einstein's E=mc^2 ensures that the planet will be destroyed in seconds.

Video Tim O'Reilly and the 'WTF?!' Economy (Video) 111

This is a conversation Tim Lord had with Tim O'Reilly at OSCON. Tim O'Reilly wrote an article titled "The WTF Economy,", which started with these words: "WTF?! In San Francisco, Uber has 3x the revenue of the entire prior taxi and limousine industry." He talks about Uber and AirbnB and how, with real-time measurement of customer demand, "The algorithm is the new shift boss." And then there is this question: "What is the future when more and more work can be done by intelligent machines instead of people, or only done by people in partnership with those machines?"

My (late) father was an engineer. Politically, you could have called him a TechnoUtopian. He believed -- along with most of his engineer, ham radio, and science fiction writer and reader friends -- that as machines took over the humdrum tasks, humans would work less and create more. O'Reilly seems to have similar beliefs, even though (unlike my father) he's seen the beginnings of an economy with self-driving cars and trucks, factory machines that don't need humans to run them, and many other changes the 1950s and 1960s futurists didn't expect to see until we had flying cars and could buy tickets on Pan Am flights to the moon. Listening to these conversations, I remember my father's dreams, but O'Reilly isn't as optimistic as a full-blown TechnoUtopian. He takes a "Something's happening here; what it is ain't exactly clear" view of how work (and pay for work) will change in the near future. Please note that Tim O'Reilly has been called "The Oracle of Silicon Valley," so he's totally worth watching -- or reading, if that's your preferred method of taking in new information.

NOTE: Today we have a "main video," plus a "bonus video" that is viewable only with Flash. But we have a transcript that covers both of them. Enjoy!

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks August 12-13 19

The Perseids have been active in our skies for a couple of weeks already, but the peak of the meteor shower is coming up in just a few days. Overnight at the end of August 12th and the beginning of August 13th, observers in clear and dark conditions can expect to see up to 100 meteors per hour. The meteor shower should be particularly good this year because it occurs just a day before the new moon, so the sky should be even darker than usual. Forbes has an article on how astronomers figured out where such meteor showers were coming from: In 1833, the regular Leonid meteor shower became spectacular, with 1000 meteors per hour creating a meteor storm. For the next 32 years, the Leonids were normal and quiet again, but in 1866, another storm appeared. John Couch Adams, the British astronomer who failed to find Neptune, correctly surmised where meteor showers came from, a picture that's been spectacularly confirmed for all known meteor showers, including this week's coming Perseids!

An Epic View of the Moon In Earth's Orbital Embrace 77

astroengine writes: As a suitably impressive follow-up to the new "blue marble" image of our world released in July, NASA shared a gorgeous animation created from pictures captured by NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft positioned nearly a million miles (1.5 million km) away — over four times farther than the moon. In a series of images acquired between 3:50 and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, 2015, the moon can be seen passing in front of a rotating Earth, the warm gray face of its far side framed by the swirling-cloud-covered blue water of the eastern Pacific Ocean. The north pole is at the 11 o'clock position, illustrating our planet's 23.5-degree axial tilt.

Buzz Aldrin Publishes Moon Expenses Form 100

An anonymous reader writes: Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation on social media over the past few days, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon. The papers listed him as having been on a "work trip" from his home in Houston, Texas that had taken him to the moon and then back again with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : "Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates."

Currently Quantum Computers Might Be Where Rockets Were At the Time of Goddard 112

schwit1 writes: If quantum computing is at the Goddard level that would be a good thing for quantum computing. This means that the major fundamental breakthrough that would put them over the top was in hand and merely a lot of investment, engineering and scaling was needed. The goal of being able to solve NP-hard or NP-Complete problems with quantum computers is similar to being able to travel to the moon, mars or deeper into space with rockets. Conventional flight could not achieve those goals because of the lack of atmosphere in space. Current computing seems like they are very limited in being able to tackle NP-hard and NP Complete problems. Although clever work in advanced mathematics and approximations can give answers that are close on a case by case basis.
The Almighty Buck

Smithsonian Increases Goal For Spacesuit Crowdfunding Effort 106

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

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 231

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 248

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

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 Screenshot-sm 321

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.