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Space

Hunt For Ninth Planet Reveals Distant Solar System Objects (carnegiescience.edu) 38

schwit1 writes: Astronomers have discovered several new objects orbiting the Sun at extremely great distances beyond the orbit of Neptune. The most interesting new discovery is 2014 FE72: "2014 FE72 is the first distant Oort Cloud object found with an orbit entirely beyond Neptune," reports Carnegie Institution for Science. "It has an orbit that takes the object so far away from the Sun (some 3000 times farther than Earth) that it is likely being influenced by forces of gravity from beyond our Solar System such as other stars and the galactic tide. It is the first object observed at such a large distance." This research is being done as part of an effort to discover a very large planet, possibly as much as 15 times the mass of Earth, that the scientists have proposed that exists out there.
Space

SETI Has Observed a 'Strong' Signal That May Originate From a Sun-like Star (arstechnica.com) 112

An anonymous reader writes: The RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia has detected a strong signal around 11 GHz (which is very unlikely to be naturally-caused) coming from HD164595, a star nearly identical in mass to the Sun and located about 95 light years from Earth. The system is known to have at least one planet. If the signal were isotropic, it would seem to indicate a Kardashev Type II civilization. While it is too early to draw any conclusions, the discovery will be discussed at an upcoming SETI committee meeting on September 27th. According to Paul Gilster, author of the Centauri Dreams website, "No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study. Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization. The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target."
Transportation

Vienna Airport Says Glitch That Disrupted Dozens Of Flights Resolved (reuters.com) 13

On Sunday, Vienna Airport was at the receiving end of a number of flight delays and cancellations due to data transmission issues. On Monday, it announced that all the issues have been resolved. Reuters reports:"Austrian air traffic control has solved the issue," the airport said on its website early on Monday. "At the moment there are no delayed or canceled flights. We advise passengers to contact their airline." The automated transfer of flight planning data between air traffic control centers in Brussels and Vienna collapsed completely for a while on Sunday afternoon, said a spokesman for Austro Control, which monitors Austrian air space.
Space

ISRO Successfully Test-fires Scramjet Rocket Engine (thehindu.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes: Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), on Sunday, successfully tested two indigenous scramjet engines. India has become the fourth country to demonstrate the flight testing of scramjet engine after the US, Russia and European Space Agency.
According to a report, the scramjet will bring down the launch cost of weather satellite INSAT-3DR which is a weather forecast system designed for enhanced meteorological observations and disaster warning. The satellite scheduled to be launched in August earlier, but it has been postponed to September.

NASA

Isolated NASA Team Ends Year-Long Mars Simulation In Hawaii (bbc.com) 173

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since August 29th, 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy... Having survived their year in isolation, the crew members said they were confident a mission to Mars could succeed. "I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic," Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, told journalists. "I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome."

The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans -- a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist... the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts. They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna.

Robotics

Recent College Grads Aim To Land A Robot On The Moon (thehindu.com) 59

Sunday the Indian Space Research Organization successfully test-launched a scramjet rocket, propelled by "an air-breathing propulsion system which uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidizer" rather than carrying a tank of liquid oxygen. "if the need for liquid oxygen is taken away, the space craft can be much lighter, hence cheaper to launch," notes one newspaper, adding that India is only the fourth country to flight-test a scramjet engine after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency.

But in addition, 15 former ISRO scientists are now helping Team Indus, one of the 16 teams remaining in Google's $30 million Lunar XPRIZE competition, who will use ISRO's polar satellite launch vehicle to send their spacecraft to the moon. GillBates0 writes: An official designated as "Skywalker", said that such space missions used to be limited to extremely elite people and PhDs in the past. That stereotype is now breaking. "I was just a college student a couple of years ago and now I am working on an actual space mission, how cool is that," said Karan Vaish, 23, who is helping the team to design the lunar rover. Eighty per cent of the team is reported to be less than five years out of college.
Data Storage

RIP John Ellenby, Godfather of the Modern Laptop (nytimes.com) 33

John Ellenby managed the development of the Alto II before starting the company that built the world's first successful "clamshell" laptop. Slashdot reader fragMasterFlash quotes the New York Times: Ellenby, a British-born computer engineer who played a critical role in paving the way for the laptop computer, died on August 17 in San Francisco. He was 75... Mr. Ellenby's pioneering work came to fruition in the early 1980s, after he founded Grid Systems, a company in Mountain View, California. As chief executive, he assembled an engineering and design team that included the noted British-born industrial designer William Moggridge.

The team produced a clamshell computer with an orange electroluminescent flat-panel display that was introduced as the Compass. It went to market in 1982. The Compass is now widely acknowledged to have been far ahead of its time.

Back in the 1980s, NASA used them as backup navigational devices on the space shuttle -- one was recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger -- and John Poindexter, America's national security advisor during the Reagan administration, described them as "built like an armored tank". Data storage cost $8,150 -- equivalent to $20,325 today.
Communications

Juno Probe To Get First Up-Close Look At Jupiter On Saturday (space.com) 32

NASA's Juno spacecraft will get its first up-close view at Jupiter this Saturday. Space.com reports: "At 8:51 a.m. EDT (1251 GMT) on Saturday (Aug. 27), Juno will zoom within 2,600 miles (4,000 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops -- closer than the probe is scheduled to come during its entire mission, NASA officials said. And Juno will have all of its science instruments during Saturday's flyby. This was not the case during the spacecraft's only previous close approach to Jupiter, which occurred July 4 when Juno arrived in orbit around the giant planet. During Saturday's close pass, all eight of Juno's science instruments will be collecting data, and the probe's visible-light imager, known as JunoCam, will take close-up photos." You can also look forward to Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2016, an event happening on August 27 where Venus and Jupiter's respective orbits will bring the two planets the closest that they'll be to each other until 2065. The two planets will be positioned roughly five degrees above the Western horizon on August 27.
Democrats

Hillary Clinton Used BleachBit To Wipe Emails (neowin.net) 560

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: The open-source disk cleaning application, BleachBit, got quite a decent ad pitch from the world of politics after it was revealed lawyers of the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, used the software to wipe her email servers. Clinton is currently in hot water, being accused of using private servers for storing sensitive emails. "[South Carolina Representative, Trey Gowdy, spoke to Fox News about Hillary Clinton's lawyers using BleachBit to wipe the private servers. He said:] 'She and her lawyers had those emails deleted. And they didn't just push the delete button; they had them deleted where even God can't read them. They were using something called BleachBit. You don't use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridesmaids emails. When you're using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.'" Two of the main features that are listed on the BleachBit website include "Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery," and "Overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files." These two features would make it pretty difficult for anyone trying to recover the deleted emails. Slashdot reader ahziem adds: The IT team for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the open source cleaning software BleachBit to wipe systems "so even God couldn't read them," according to South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News. His comments on the "drastic cyber-measure" were in response to the question of whether emails on her private Microsoft Exchange Server were simply about "yoga and wedding plans." Perhaps Clinton's team used an open-source application because, unlike proprietary applications, it can be audited, like for backdoors. In response to the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, privacy expert Bruce Schneier advised in an article in which he stated he also uses BleachBit, "Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software." Ironically, Schneier was writing to a non-governmental audience. Have any Slashdotters had any experience with BleachBit? Specifically, have you used it for erasing "yoga emails" or "bridesmaids emails?"
Earth

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS (floridatoday.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.
Books

Belgians Are Hunting Books, Instead Of Pokemon (reuters.com) 37

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report:Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian primary school headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead of cartoon monsters, attracting tens of thousands of players in weeks. While with Pokemon Go, players use a mobile device's GPS and camera to track virtual creatures around town, Aveline Gregoire's version is played through a Facebook group called "Chasseurs de livres" ("Book hunters"). Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they "release" it back into the wild. "While I was arranging my library, I realized I didn't have enough space for all my books. Having played Pokemon Go with my kids, I had the idea of releasing the books into nature," Gregoire told Reuters. Though it was only set up a few weeks ago, more than 40,000 people are already signed up to Gregoire's Facebook group.
AI

Amazon, NVIDIA and The CIA Want To Teach AI To Watch Us From Space (technologyreview.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Satellite operator DigitalGlobe is teaming up with Amazon, the venture arm of the CIA, and NVIDIA to make computers watch the Earth from above and automatically map our roads, buildings, and piles of trash. MIT Technology Review reports: "In a joint project, DigitalGlobe today released satellite imagery depicting the whole of Rio de Janeiro to a resolution of 50 centimeters. The outlines of 200,000 buildings inside the city's roughly 1,900 square kilometers have been manually marked on the photos. The SpaceNet data set, as it is called, is intended to spark efforts to train machine-learning algorithms to interpret high-resolution satellite photos by themselves. DigitalGlobe says the SpaceNet data set should eventually include high-resolution images of half a million square kilometers of Earth, and that it will add annotations beyond just buildings. DigitalGlobe's data is much more detailed than publicly available satellite data such as NASA's, which typically has a resolution of tens of meters. Amazon will make the SpaceNet data available via its cloud computing service. Nvidia will provide tools to help machine-learning researchers train and test algorithms on the data, and CosmiQ Works, a division of the CIA's venture arm In-Q-Tel focused on space, is also supporting the project." "We need to develop new algorithms for this data," says senior vice president at DigitalGlobe, Tony Frazier. He goes on to say that health and aid programs are to benefit from software that is able to map roads, bridges and various other infrastructure. The CEO of Descartes Labs, Mark Johnson, a "startup that predicts crop yields from public satellite images," says the data that is collected "should be welcome to startups and researchers," according to MIT Technology Review. "Potential applications could include estimated economic output from activity in urban areas, or guiding city governments on how to improve services such as trash collections, he says."
NASA

NASA's Voyager 2 Flew By Saturn 35 Years Ago Today (space.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: Thirty-five years ago today, a NASA spacecraft got an up-close look at beautiful, enigmatic Saturn. On Aug. 25, 1981, the Voyager 2 probe zoomed within 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers) of the ringed planet's cloud tops. The discoveries made by Voyager 2 -- and by its twin, Voyager 1, which had flown past Saturn nine months earlier -- reshaped scientists' understanding of the Saturn system and planted the seed for NASA's Cassini mission, which began orbiting the ringed planet in 2004, NASA officials said. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched a few weeks apart in 1977, tasked with performing a "grand tour" of the solar system's big planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The two spacecraft accomplished that goal, eyeing all four gaseous worlds up close, and also studying 48 of their moons. (Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 had close encounters with all four planets.) The Voyagers weren't the first spacecraft to fly by Saturn; that distinction belongs to NASA's Pioneer 11 probe, which did so in 1979. But the Voyagers broke a lot of new ground; they discovered four new Saturn moons, for example, and revealed an incredible diversity of landscapes on satellites such as Dione, Tethys and Iapetus, NASA officials said. August 25th appears to be a good day for nerds. You can view some out-of-this-world photos from NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 probes here.
ISS

NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams Sets New US Space Endurance Record With 521 Days (cbsnews.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Space station commander Jeff Williams set a new U.S. space endurance record Wednesday, his 521st day in orbit over four missions, eclipsing the 520-day record set earlier this year by astronaut Scott Kelly at the end of his nearly one-year stay aboard the lab complex. Williams now moves up to 17th on the list of the world's most experienced astronauts and cosmonauts. The overall record is held by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who logged 878 days in orbit over five missions. Williams, Soyuz TMA-20M commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Oleg Skripochka were launched to the space station March 18. They plan to return to Earth Sept. 6 (U.S. time), landing in Kazakhstan to close out a 172-day mission. At landing, Williams will have logged 534 days aloft, moving him up to 14th on the space endurance list. Williams first flew in space in 2000 aboard the shuttle Atlantis, the third shuttle flight devoted to station assembly. He served as a flight engineer aboard the station in 2006 and completed a second long-duration stay in 2010, serving as a flight engineer and then commander of Expedition 22. "I wanted to congratulate you on passing me up here in total number of days in space," Kelly radioed Williams Wednesday. "It's great to see another record broken. [...] But I do have one question for you. And my question is, do you have another 190 days in you?" Kelly was referring to the time Williams' current mission would have to be extended to equal Kelly's U.S. single-flight record. Williams laughed, saying "190 days. That question's not for me, that's for my wife!"
Earth

Earth-Like Planet, With Ambitious Life Possibility, Found Orbiting the Star Next Door (nature.com) 218

There's another Earth out there. For real, this time. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star's "Goldilocks zone," they said, a place that hints that it may not be too hot nor too cold. Which in turn means that liquid water could exist at the surface, and by extension, it raises the possibility of life. Nature reports:"The search for life starts now," says Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery. Humanity's first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes in the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri. Proxima's planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star -- much smaller and dimmer than the Sun -- every 11.2 days. "If you tried to pick the type of planet you'd most want around the type of star you'd most want, it would be this," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. "It's thrilling."Much about the planet is still unknown. Astronomers have some ideas about its size and distance from its parent star. Scientists say they are working off computer models that offer mere hints of what's possible. Also, there's no picture available for this planet as of yet.
The Military

The US Army Has Too Many Video Games (vice.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report:The US Army sees itself in a transitional period. Unlike a decade ago, soldiers are training less today on how to conduct "stability" operations for a counter-insurgency campaign, and more on what the Army does best: fighting other armies. But training is expensive and requires time and a lot of space. Training a gunner for an M-1 Abrams tank means reserving time on a limited number of ranges and expending real ammunition. So to lower costs and make training more efficient -- in theory -- the Army has adopted a variety of games to simulate war. There's just a few problems. Some of the Army's virtual simulators sit collecting dust, and one of them is more expensive and less effective than live training. At one base, soldiers preferred to play mouse-and-keyboard games over a more "realistic" virtual room. Then again, the Army has cooler games than you do. M-1 tank gunners, for example, can train inside a full-scale, computerized mock-up of their station called the Advanced Gunnery Training System, which comes inside a large transportable container. Instead of looking through real sights down a range, the soldier squints through a replica and sees a virtual simulacrum of, say, an enemy tank. Push a button and the "cannon" fires. The Army fields similar systems for the Stryker, a wheeled armored troop transport that fits an optional 105-millimeter gun. Soldiers train inside another simulated gunnery station for the M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle. Another system, Common Driver, simulates a variety of military vehicles.
HP

NASA's Outsourced Computer People Are Even Worse Than You Might Expect (arstechnica.com) 252

Eric berger, writing for ArsTechnica: As part of a plan to help NASA "modernize" its desktop and laptop computers, the space agency signed a $2.5 billion services contract with HP Enterprise Services in 2011. According to HP (now HPE), part of the Agency Consolidated End-User Service (ACES) program the computing company would "modernize NASA's entire end-user infrastructure by delivering a full range of personal computing services and devices to more than 60,000 users." HPE also said the program would "allow (NASA) employees to more easily collaborate in a secure computing environment." The services contract, alas, hasn't gone quite as well as one might have hoped. This week Federal News Radio reported that HPE is doing such a poor job that NASA's chief information officer, Renee Wynn, could no longer accept the security risks associated with the contract. Wynn, therefore, did not sign off on the authority to operate (ATO) for systems and tools.A spokesperson for NASA said: "NASA continues to work with HPE to remediate vulnerabilities. As required by NASA policy, system owners must accomplish this remediation within a specified period of time. For those vulnerabilities that cannot be fully remediated within the established time frame, a Plan of Actions and Milestones (POAM) must be developed, approved, and tracked to closure."
Space

NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite (businessinsider.com) 107

NASA lost contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft twenty-two months ago during a routine 72-hour test. On Sunday, the spacecraft reconnected with NASA roughly 189 million miles away from Earth. While that would seem like a cause for celebration, "the very hard and scary work is just the beginning, says Stereo project scientist Joe Gurman, as the agency has to turn on the computer to learn more about the current state of the spacecraft -- a process that may make the craft lose contact with them again. Slashdot user bongey writes: NASA may have only two minutes or less to fix a STEREO-B satellite before the computer causes it to lose contact again. NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again. A more detailed technical summary can be found here. "We have something like two minutes between when STEREO-B receives the command to boot up one of its computers and when it starts doing what we don't want it to do," Gurman said. Business Insider writes, "Making matters worse, it takes about 20 seconds to send commands to the spacecraft -- a data rate that makes a dial-up modem seem lightning fast."
Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Mars

NanoRacks Plans To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org) 130

An anonymous reader writes from a report via IEEE Spectrum: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters. For more details, IEEE Spectrum spoke with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, and Mike Johnson, NanoRacks' Chief Designer. You can read their responses here.

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