How Analog Tide Predictors Changed Human History ( 27

szczys writes: You'd think Tide prediction would be quite easy, it comes in, it goes out. But of course it's driven by gravity between the moon and earth and there's a lot more to it. Today, computer models make this easy, but before computers we used incredible analog machines to predict the tides. The best of these machines were the deciding factor in setting a date for the Allies landing in Europe leading to the end of the second world war. From the Hackaday story: "In England, tide prediction was handled by Arthur Thomas Doodson from the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It was Doodson who made the tidal predictions for the Allied invasion at Normandy. Doodson needed access to local tide data, but the British only had information for the nearby ports. Factors like the shallow water effect and local weather impact on tidal behavior made it impossible to interpolate for the landing sites based on the port data. The shallow water effect could really throw off the schedule for demolishing the obstacles if the tide rose too quickly. Secret British reconnaissance teams covertly collected shallow water data at the enemy beaches and sent it to Doodson for analysis. To further complicate things, the operatives couldn’t just tell Doodson that the invasion was planned for the beaches of Normandy. So he had to figure it out from the harmonic constants sent to him by William Ian Farquharson, superintendent of tides at the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy. He did so using the third iteration of Kelvin’s predictor along with another machine. These were kept in separate rooms lest they be taken out by the same bomb.

Privately Funded Lunar Mission Set a Launch Date For 2017 50

merbs writes: If all goes according to plan, the world's first private lunar mission will be launched just two years from now. SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit, has secured a launch contract with Spaceflight Industries, and will aim to land a rover on the moon in the second half of 2017. It's the first such launch contract to be verified by the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Another group called Moon Express has signed a deal with New Zealand-based company, Rocket Lab, to launch and put a lander on the lunar surface 2017.

Moon Express Signs Launch Contract For Possible First Private Lunar Landing 73

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in, Moon Express, one of the leading contestants in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, has made a giant leap toward its goal of being the first private group to land on the moon. The company has signed a contract with Rocket Lab, a new launch company based in New Zealand, for five launches of its upcoming Electron rocket. The first two launches will take place in 2017 and will be attempts to land the MX-1 lander on the lunar surface in time to win the prize by the current deadline by the end of that year.

NASA's New Horizons Shows Pluto's Moon Charon Is a Strange, New World 94

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's New Horizons has returned a stunning series of images of Pluto, the dwarf planet that resides on the edge of the solar system, revealing a strange new world of ice mountains and glaciers of frozen nitrogen. NASA also released images of Pluto's largest moon Charon. Scientists expected a plain ball of rock pockmarked with craters, but what they saw was anything but plain and monotonous.

The Case For Going To Phobos Before Going To Mars 149

MarkWhittington writes: The current NASA thinking concerning the Journey to Mars program envisions a visit to the Martian moon Phobos in the early 2030s before attempting a landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s, as Popular Mechanics noted. The idea of a practice run that takes astronauts almost but not quite to Mars is similar to what the space agency did during the 1960s Apollo program. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 each orbited the moon but did not land on it before the Apollo 11 mission went all the way to the lunar surface, fulfilling President John. F. Kennedy's challenge.

Tonight's Dazzling 'Supermoon' Lunar Eclipse: What You'll See 95

An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers are gearing up to spot a rare phenomenon, as a lunar eclipse coincides with a so-called "supermoon". Whether you think it marks the beginning of the apocalypse or is just a neat thing to look at tonight, Live Science has some tips and a timetable for best viewing in your area. The moon enters Earth's full shadow, called the umbra, starting at 9:07 p.m. EDT (6:07 p.m. PDT). The total eclipse begins at 10:11 p.m. EDT (7:11 p.m. PDT). Totality lasts an hour and 12 minutes, at which point a bright sliver of the moon will emerge and grow.

Why NASA's Road To Mars Plan Proves That It Should Return To the Moon First 194

MarkWhittington writes: published the results of current NASA thinking concerning what needs to be launched and when to support a crewed mission to Phobos and two crewed missions to the Martian surface between 2033 and 2043. The result is a mind-numbingly complex operation involving dozens of launches to cis-lunar space and Mars using the heavy lift Space Launch System. The architecture includes a collection of habitation modules, Mars landers, propulsion units (both chemical rockets and solar electric propulsion) and other parts of a Mars ship.

Making Mining the Asteroids and the Moon Legal 162

MarkWhittington writes: Popular Science reported on a bill called the Space Act of 2015 that has passed the House and may soon pass the Senate that will allow private companies to own the natural resources that they mine in space. The idea would seem to be a no-brainer. However, the bill is causing some heartburn among some space law experts, especially in other countries. Fabio Tronchetti, a lawyer at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, argues that the law would violate the Outer Space Treaty.

Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS? 211

MarkWhittington writes: While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.

NASA's Resource Prospector Mission Could Land On the Moon In 2020 57

MarkWhittington writes: Ever since President Obama foreswore interest in returning to the moon in his April 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, lunar exploration has been on the back burner at NASA. According to a story at Space News, that may change starting around 2020 thanks to a project called RP15, the letters standing for "Resource Prospector," a rover designed to drill into the lunar regolith and collect samples for analysis. The rover, originating at NASA Ames Research Center, was recently tested on a simulated lunar surface at the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston. RP15 was built by the same team at JSC that developed Robonaut 2, now being tested on the International Space Station, with the software being written at Ames. The tests at JSC involved the rover being controlled by engineers at NASA Ames, half way across the country in California.

Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Global Subsurface Ocean 72

An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Cassini probe has made another fascinating discovery: Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, has an underground ocean spanning its entire globe. Researchers were trying to explain why the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn, and they eventually came to the conclusion that its outer shell must be completely detached from its core. "The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus' ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Thomas and his colleagues suggest a few ideas for future study that might help resolve the question, including the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn's gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought."

India Mulls Using Nuclear Power For Its Chandrayaan-2 Mission To the Moon 93

MarkWhittington writes: India is preparing its second mission to the moon, the Chandrayaan-2, as Space Insider noted. The mission will consist or an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. It will be launched on an Indian-built Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in late 2017 or early 2018. Defense Daily reported that officials at the Indian Space Research Organization are mulling making the lunar mission nuclear powered, presumably with plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). RTGs use the heat of the decaying fuel to create electricity. Both the American and the Soviet space programs have used RTGs in their various spacecraft, the most recent one being the New Horizons space probe that recently flew past Pluto.

Cliff Bleszinski's Boss Key Productions Unveils LawBreakers Game Trailer 36

MojoKid writes: Boss Key Productions has posted its first trailer of LawBreakers (formerly Project Bluestreak), a futuristic game title that's set to release on multiple platforms in 2016. The trailer shows off some of the characters and classes that you'll have access to on both sides of the law — yes, you'll have to decide whether you're fighting for the law or the lawbreakers. The game's setting is Earth, though not as you know it now. This is a future version of Earth where gravity is busted. The government, in its infinite wisdom, screwed up some testing on the moon and managed to split its surface, an event that came to be known as "The Shattering." Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski is one of the co-founders of Boss Key Productions, the other of which is Arjan Brussee, the main coder behind Jazz Jackrabbit games and a co-founder Guerrilla Games.

Kristian von Bengston's New Goal: The Moon 24

Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of DIY manned space program Copenhagen Suborbitals (which he left in 2014) writes with this pithy plug for his newest venture: "This year, we (a great crew) have been preparing for the next adventure with a mission plan going public Oct 1. Go sign up and join the project at" (You may want to check out our video inteview with von Bengston; he's a person who gets things done.)

You Can Now Be "Buried" On the Moon 72

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!