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47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon ( 184

An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.

Taiwan Building Lunar Lander For NASA Moon-Mining Mission ( 84

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: According to AFP, the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan is building a $47 million, 3.7 metric ton lunar lander on behalf of NASA. The vehicle is designed to carry a rover called Resource Prospector, which would roll about the lunar surface searching out deposits of oxygen, hydrogen, and water. The Resource Prospector mission is still being formulated but is envisioned to be a joint project with several national space agencies and commercial companies. The lunar lander is the first vehicle of its type to be built in Taiwan. "The Resource Prospector would take samples from about a meter beneath the lunar surface and then heat them in an oven to ascertain what the materials are that comprise it," reports Blasting News. The mission is part of the second stage to NASA's Journey to Mars program called "Proving Ground." "Should the Resource Prospector prove to be successful, the moon could be used as a base for space journeys into Mars," says Han Kuo-change, the head of CSIST's international cooperation program.

Assembly Code That Took America to the Moon Now Published On GitHub ( 74

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it's like a 1960s time capsule," reports Quartz. Two lines of code include the comment "# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE," and there's also a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry VI. In addition, the keyboard and display system program is named PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHT, and "There's also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to 'crank the silly thing around.'"

A former NASA intern uploaded the thousands of lines of assembly code to GitHub, working from a 2003 transcription made from scans inherited by MIT from a Colorado airplane pilot, and developers are already using GitHub to submit funny issue tickets for the 40-year-old code -- for example, "Extension pack for picking up Matt Damon". Another issue complains that "A customer has had a fairly serious problem with stirring the cryogenic tanks with a circuit fault present." Because this issue succinctly describes the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, the issue has been marked "closed".


United Launch Alliance Plans For 1,000 People Working In Space By 2045 ( 135

What if you could produce rocket fuel in outer space -- making it 83% cheaper? One company sees this as the basis a self-sustaining "space economy" based on refueling Earth-orbiting spaceships. Slashdot reader MarkWhittington writes: Jeff Bezos, of both Amazon and Blue Origin, may ruminate about moving a lot of industry off the planet, but the United Launch Alliance, that joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has a concrete plan to do so. ULA is working on an idea to have 1,000 people operating in Earth-moon space by 2045, less than 30 years away...

Microsoft President Brad Smith: Computer Science Is Space Race of Today 171

theodp writes: Q. How is K-12 computer science like the Cold War? A. It could use a Sputnik moment, at least that's the gist of an op-ed penned by Senator Jerry Moran (R., KS) and Microsoft President Brad Smith. From the article: "In the wake of the Soviet Union's 1957 Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower confronted the reality that America's educational standards were holding back the country's opportunity to compete on a global technological scale. He responded and called for support of math and science, which resulted in the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and helped send the country to the moon by the end of the next decade. It also created the educational foundation for a new generation of technology, leadership and prosperity. Today we face a similar challenge as the United States competes with nations across the globe in the indispensable field of computer science. To be up to the task, we must do a better job preparing our students for tomorrow's jobs." Smith is also a Board member of tech-bankrolled, which invoked Sputnik in its 2014 Senate testimony ("learning computer science is this generation's Sputnik moment") as it called for "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund [...] to support the teaching and learning of more computer science," nicely echoing Microsoft's National Talent Strategy. Tying the lack of K-12 CS education to the need for tech visas is a time-honored tradition of sorts for Microsoft and politicians. As early as 2004, Bill Gates argued that CS education needed its own Sputnik moment, a sentiment shared by Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007 as she and fellow Senators listened to Gates make the case for more H-1B visas as he lamented the lack of CS-savvy U.S. high school students.

Europa's Ocean Chemistry Could Be Earth-Like ( 73

An anonymous reader writes: Alien life in the universe could be close to home, swimming around Europa's ocean. The idea has been floating around scientific minds for more than a decade: beneath the icy surface of the Jovian moon could slosh a deep, wide ocean with the perfect environment for life to develop. In new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, NASA scientists studied how the chemical composition of the Europan ocean may have evolved and what chemicals it possibly contains, assuming similar geochemical processes as on Earth are at play. Europa is thought to possess a rocky core fractured with deep cracks that have filled with water. Since the formation of the moon, the core has continued to cool, creating more cracks and exposing more rocks to chemical processes with this water."We're studying an alien ocean using methods developed to understand the movement of energy and nutrients in Earth's own systems," said planetary scientist Steve Vance, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The cycling of oxygen and hydrogen in Europa's ocean will be a major driver for Europa's ocean chemistry and any life there, just it is on Earth."

Wikipedia May Get Delivered To The Moon ( 52

A new Meta page on reports: "A group of science enthusiasts from Berlin, Germany, are planning to send their own custom-built rover to the Moon. And they want to take Wikipedia with them." Sort of. Wikimedia Deutschland has been offered space on a data disc to be carried by one of the five image-gathering rovers still competing to land on the Moon by 2017 for the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. But there's only 20 gigabytes of space, so they're calling on the Wikipedia communities to agree on which content should be included by June 24. "Even if only a snapshot of Wikipedia can be brought to the Moon, its content will equal a genuine snapshot of the sum of all human knowledge..." the Meta page explains "This is an anniversary gift to all Wikipedia communities all over the world."

China Plans To Reach Mars by 2020 and Eventually Build a Moon Base ( 105

Rebecca Harrington, writing for Tech Insider: China has plans to orbit the moon, land people on it, and eventually settle a moon colony. But that's just part of the nation's vision for space exploration: China intends to get a spacecraft to Mars by 2020. "Our long-term goal is to explore, land, and settle [on the moon]," Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's moon and Mars missions, told the BBC. "We want a manned lunar landing to stay for longer periods and establish a research base." Weiren didn't specify when the country plans to accomplish these goals, but he did say they will "check out" the far side of the moon before attempting to land astronauts there. This mission already has concrete plans. He also said China wants to reach Mars by 2020, and implied that the country has finally settled on a mission to send a rover to the Red Planet. "We will orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover -- all in one mission," Weiren told the BBC.

Despite Lean Space Budgets Russia Is Headed For the Moon ( 108

MarkWhittington writes: Thanks to the collapse of oil prices that has ravaged the Russian economy, dependent as it is on fossil fuel exports, Russia's space program is facing draconian budget cuts... Still, the country that lost the race to the moon still has ambitious plans for Earth's closest neighbor... The Russians even have hopes of landing cosmonauts on the lunar surface by the end of the 2020s.
New evidence of subsurface ice helped fuel their interest in human moon landings, according to Science magazine, which reports that Russia is first planning five robotic missions to the moon over the next nine years. Three of these will be conducted with the European Space Agency, including one which will drill for underground samples in the new areas of the lunar surface, and the director of Russia's space agency says "the next decade will be quite busy for us."

The 'Human Computer' Behind the Moon Landing Was a Black Woman ( 269

Reader bricko writes: The 'Human Computer' Behind the Moon Landing Was a black woman (video). She calculated the trajectory of man's first trip to the moon by hand, and was such an accurate mathematician that John Glenn asked her to double-check NASA's computers. To top it off, she did it all as a black woman in the 1950s and 60s, when women at NASA were not even invited to meetings. And you've probably never heard of her. Meet Katherine Johnson, the African American woman who earned the nickname 'the human computer' at NASA during its space race golden age.

How Space-Based Solar Power Plants Could Be Built By Robots On the Moon ( 159

MarkWhittington writes: The concept of space based solar power has been around for decades. The late Gerard K. O'Neill proposed building them as a way to finance space colonies in the 1970s. Recently Popular Science reported on a modern approach to building space based solar energy stations. Instead of relying on massive, orbiting space colonies filled with construction workers to put the plants together, why not automate the entire process?

Pale Moon Devs Ponder Dropping Current Codebase And Starting From Scratch ( 167

An anonymous reader writes: The developers of the Palo Moon browser are thinking of scratching their current codebase due to the fact that it doesn't support many of today's current Web standards, and because future Firefox plans will introduce incompatibilities within its codebase. The team plans to build a new browser from scratch, which they'll use to replace Pale Moon when it reaches a stable version. As with the old Pale Moon, the browser will keep Firefox's pre-Australis interface and still support many features removed in Firefox, like Tab Groups and full themes.

Dutch Researchers Grow Crops In Simulated Lunar and Martian Soil ( 120

MarkWhittington writes: When people start living on the moon and Mars on a permanent basis, they are going to need to grow their own crops to produce food to eat. Indeed, in the recent hit movie, "The Martian," Matt Damon's character grew potatoes to survive long enough to be rescued. With that in mind, researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have been trying to grow crops in simulated lunar and Martian soil. The first attempt was not successful. The second, however, proved to have promising results.

How Astronomers Used the First Concorde Prototype To Chase a Total Eclipse ( 55

tedlistens writes: On Wednesday, a solar eclipse gave people across a swath of Indonesia and the South Pacific the chance to see a generous 4 minutes and 9 seconds of totality: the awe-inspiring sight of the moon completely covering the sun, turning day into night and offering a rare glimpse of the corona, the gas swirling in the Sun's outer atmosphere. But in 1972, a small group of astronomers from around the globe sought a way for seeing a longer eclipse than ever before: a prototype Concorde, capable of chasing the eclipse for a whopping 74 minutes across the Sahara Desert, at twice the speed of sound.

South Korea Plans Moon Landing By 2020 ( 74

MarkWhittington writes: The Korean Herald has reported that the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has started a lunar exploration program, allocating funding to place a probe in orbit around the moon and a small lander and rover on the surface of the moon by 2020. The United States and the government of South Korea have also made a space cooperation agreement, fueling speculation that NASA will participate in the South Korean moon shot.

Russia's Moon And Mars Exploration Ambitions Hobbled By A Lack Of Money ( 114

MarkWhittington writes: Phys.Org reports that the ambitions of the Russian Space Agency continue to exceed its financial wherewithal to carry them out. A Russian rocket is due to launch the first element of the European ExoMars program, which consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter and the Italian-built Schiaparelli lander, in March. Both are due to arrive at Mars in October. After that, Russia's space exploration plans are a bit hazy, hobbled by a lack of money.

NASA Compared Pluto's Moon Charon To 'The Incredible Hulk' ( 28

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's New Horizon spacecraft has shown Pluto to be an active world that is far more interesting to scientists than anyone imagined when the probe was launched about ten years ago. Pluto's moon Charon has also proven to be a world of interest, not the least because of how it formed and then expanded billions of years ago.

The surface of Charon is covered with ridges, scarps, and valleys. One of the latter is, at least, four miles deep. Scientists suggest that in the distant past Charon expanded, pulling about much like the comic book character Bruce Banner bursting through his clothes as he changes into the Incredible Hulk.


Apollo Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Sixth Man On the Moon, Dies At 85 ( 113

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 85. He flew as lunar module pilot on board Apollo 14, which flew to and from the moon between January 31, 1971 and February 9, 1971. His crewmates were Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa. Apollo 14 was the return to flight for the moon landing program after the near disaster of Apollo 13 in April 1970, and explored the Fra Mauro highlands on the lunar surface. NASA marks Mitchell's passing as well.

Congressional Testimony Says NASA Has No Plan For the Journey To Mars ( 310

MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA's Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet, almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.

Russia Begins Work On a Lunar Lander ( 93

MarkWhittington writes: Whether and when Russia will try to send cosmonauts to the moon is an open question. The Putin government has heavily slashed spending on the Russian space program, a measure brought on by declining oil and gas revenues. But, as Popular Mechanics reports, Russian engineers have gone ahead and have started to design a lunar lander for the eventual Russian lunar surface effort. When money is going to be forthcoming for such a vehicle is unknown, though Russia could partner with another country with lunar ambitions, such as China or the European Union.

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