NASA taps Orbital Sciences, SpaceX for ISS resupply missions

The firms not mentioned here are just as important as the ones that are, as the privatization of space has just inched closer to reality. Rather than NASA handling ISS resupply chores itself or farming the job out to mega-corps such as Lockheed Martin or Boeing, the agency has instead awarded one contract each to Virginia-based Orbital Sciences (valued at around $1.9 billion) and California's own SpaceX ($1.6 billion). The two will be responsible for 20 service flights between 2009 and 2016, with each trip requiring delivery of "a minimum of 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station." The agreements also call for "delivery of non-standard services in support of the cargo resupply, including analysis and special tasks as the government determines are necessary." So yeah, if FedEx / UPS have been balking at your request to ship to a Martian eBay winner, you now know who to call.

[ Via: TG Daily ]

Retromodo: The Apollo 8 Original Press Kit

Used to a thousand inane press kits announcing useless pieces of junk, I wish it was 1968. Then, I could have received this Apollo 8 Press Kit, detailing the first manned mission to the Moon. Forty years ago the crew of the Apollo 8 was—right now—on their trip back to Earth after the successful mission that took them to the Moon. In the Command Module, Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell—who later became Mission Commander for the ill-fated Apollo 13—, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders were probably talking about what they just did in their four-day trip. Or maybe they were just sitting there, checking buttons and counters, in silence, reflecting on their journey, the most amazing ever in the history of mankind.

Like all great trips, theirs came completely out of the blue. Originally, they weren't going to the Moon at all. Apollo 8 was going to be a low-earth orbit to test the Lunar Module and Command Module but, since the Lunar Module wasn't ready, NASA decided to change the mission objectives and send the crew to the Moon. As a result, they had to retrain in record time for a completely new mission. They did, they were cool, and they kicked ass, becoming the first three humans to see the dark side of the Moon a whole five years before Pink Floyd had their other trip to the Dark Side of the Moon. Their unexpected voyage was the first ever to escape Earth's gravitational force and visit another celestial body. And if you kids think that's not cool, I don't know what is. Fortunately, nothing went wrong and their risky odyssey saved 1968 along with Johnny Cash's live concert at Folsom Prison—a terrible year in which the Vietnam War exploded, the Soviet Union invaded Prague, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Richard Nixon was elected the thirty-seventh President of the United States. Here's the original press release and the illustrations from the 101-page press kit announcing the crazy mission: Back on Earth, Neil Amstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Fred Haise Jr.—their backup crew—were probably waiting, maybe talking with them from ground control. And that, my friends, that's a complete different story for next year.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

How to Prepare the Space Shuttle for Another Mission to the ISS [Space]

The Big Picture has a photo essay showing us every step that the Space Shuttle Endeavor goes through between missions, from touching down to taking off again. Endeavor has gone through this process a whopping 22 times in the past 16 years and will hopefully go through it many more times in the future. This batch of photos show it as it progresses from its landing from its last mission on March 26th through its return from its following mission, 9 months later. Incredible stuff.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Huge Hole Found on Earth's Magnetic Field, Run Around In Panic Now [Nasa]

NASA's Themis, a satellite flotilla studying geomagnetic disturbances, have discovered a large hole on Earth's magnetic field, which protects us against solar particles, which can cause severe disturbances in power grids, computers, and communication. But don't fret, dear readers, because according to Marit Oieroset—Professor of the University of California at Berkeley— even while "it was growing rather fast" the hole only lasted for an hour. During that time, the amount of solar wind getting into the Earth's surface was twenty times higher than usual. The news here is that while scientists thought that the solar breach happened when the Earth's and the sun magnetic fields were in opposite directions, the data gathered from Themis has found exactly the opposite. In other words: These people don't have a clue!

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Mars in 3D, Deathmatch For Charity, Closing

Today is already the last day of the Gizmodo Gallery, and we've got a few special things happening before we close up shop today at 4PM and send all the gear back to its makers. • More showings of NASA's Mars Rover images, for the first time in 3D. And to Bowie!
• More Deathmatch for Charity.
• Raffle prize collection starts near the end of the day, so check your emails if you donated earlier in the week or earlier today. (Those of you showing up today, we'll save you some goodness, probably dispensed on the spot.)
• Also, I've got another favor to ask. Chris and I and the gang are very tired from working on planning and running the Gallery for a few weeks straight now — we're almost out of steam, and if Kaiser, SteveDave or any of our other star commenters in the NYC area can come and help us close up shop later on, we wouldn't say no to the help. Thank you ladies and gents, we love you more than we love big TVs.
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Inside NASA's 747 Flying Telescope [Nasa]

Although still three years from starting actual scientific missions, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne observatory is tenaciously getting closer to its first job day. After two decades of research and $500 million modding a Boeing 747—including the 2.5-meter telescope itself that you can see tested in this video—SOFIA got a High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultation two weeks ago, an instrument that will help it to measure objects' surfaces and atmospheres. Now, NASA is completing final tests at their Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility before its first open-door flight later this year. Why twenty years and so much money spent in this observatory? Well, while it's not as spectacular as a space telescope, the daily challenges that SOFIA will face are greater than those of Hubble. From the high-tech door system in the modified 747 to the technology needed to compensate for the extreme in-flight vibration, SOFIA needs a lot more daily love than Hubble does. In fact, it's not that expensive: The $500 million price tag is a bargain when you consider the $2.5 billion paid for the Hubble Space Telescope's construction. Not to talk about the Hubble's total bill, including the servicing missions, which is estimated at between $4.5 billion to $6 billion without the more than half billion dollars that Europe put into the project. For sure, SOFIA is not as flexible and won't take the same kind of breathtaking photos that Hubble does. The telescope is designed to only work on the infrared and far-infrared light spectrums. But then again, in those light ranges, flying will allow it to get results as good or better than Hubble (it's mirror is almost 4 inches larger than Hubble's). After all, SOFIA won't have to deal with 99% of the atmospheric vapor that disturbs these kind of instruments at ground level. On the other side, repairing it won't require dangerous and costly space missions. If it breaks down, they will fix it in the hangar. Tests for SOFIA will being this month, while actual science missions will start in 2011, getting into full capability in 2014. [NASA]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Dealzmodo: $10 FireFly Christmas Ornament

FireFly may have gone down in flames, but the Serenity flies on with a little help of string and your Christmas tree. Usually going for upwards of $20—not that we obsessively check prices on all FireFly gear—the Serenity ornament is now on sale for a sweet $10. And just in case Joss Whedon stops by as part of some magical Christmas miracle, he'll recognize that he should vacate the premises immediately, lest you request him to play the role of Angel in a Buffy Season 2 Episode 13 reenactment.
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

How the Weird Mars Science Laboratory Floating Sky Crane Works

When I read that the UFO-looking Mars Science Laboratory's aeroshell would use a floating crane—called Sky Crane by NASA—to softly land the rover on Mars, I couldn't believe it. Now, watching this hyperrealistic NASA simulation, I still can't believe how the whole thing works: The rockets of the aeroshell—a protective armor that will protect the MSL and guide it through its descent—will fire to steer the capsule towards the desired angle. When this is achieved, a long parachute will open to slow down the Mars Science Laboratory as it enters zooms down the Martian atmosphere. As soon as the capsule slows down, the heat shield will eject leaving the rover exposed inside the aeroshell, attached to the floating crane mechanism. That's when the whole landing process gets weird: The floating crane's rockets will fire up to further slow the descent. The top part of the aeroshell will then detach completely, leaving the sky crane alone holding the MSL rover, slowly descending towards the planet's surface. A few hundred meters above the terrain, the floating sky crane will start lowering the rover down using "a trio of bridles and one umbilical cord" until it touches down. At that time, the sky crane will detach from the rover and fly away, probably to fall over the home of some poor old Martian grandma. I don't know about you, but the whole operation mesmerizes me to no end.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

NASA's New Ejector System Borrows Tech From Yesterday's Apollo Program [Nasa]

If something goes wrong with the upcoming space shuttle replacement program, and we hope it does not, this is what could save the astronauts' lives. As they hurdle hundreds of miles per hour into the heavens, and their ship begins to break apart, mission control will scream "ABORT!" (or perhaps something a bit more technical), and the astronauts will be ejected from the capsule with a force that's actually much greater than the g's they'll experience during launch. What you're seeing above is a test of this new ejector seat system, dubbed the Launch Abort System. It burns through half of its fuel in three seconds flat, NASA says, but then again if you're escaping from an exploding, disintegrating tin can filled with jet fuel, that's kind of the idea.

Fun fact: Like much of the Orion capsule/Areas rocket program, this ejector mechanism is also an example of NASA going back in time to deliver tomorrow's explorers to the moon. In the LAS's case, the Apollo program's old-school abort system is the inspiration.
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Astronauts Jiggle ISS Water Recycler Handle But Crew Can't Drink Pee Just Yet [Space]

The multimillion dollar water recycler recently installed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station is still experiencing some minor issues this evening, meaning crew members will just have to wait to have their first peetinis, Long Island Iced Pees, Whiskpee Sours and other lame pee-themed drinks I have yet to think of. The prototype recycler, which separates waste from water using a centrifuge system, was brought to the station aboard the latest shuttle mission. It malfunctioned two hours after installation, although a separate sweat and waste water recycler is working as expected. Phew! An early fix was attempted today by shuttle captain Michael Fincke and fellow astronaut Don Pettit (*no $100,000 tool bags were harmed in the making of this repair). The two astronauts reported hearing a "new sound" from the machine after the repair, and three hours later it shut down again. It was able to process "about a gallon of urine" in that time period. Under optimal conditions, the recycler is supposed to run four hours a pop. Now, we joke about drinking urine, but this is actually a pretty serious issue—especially if the ISS crew is going to double from three to six in 2009 as planned. Theoretical missions to Mars will also rely on the prototype, because water is heavy, and lugging it between planets is prohibitively expensive. And, making matters worse is the fact that this urine-cleansing uber-gadget is one-of-a-kind. There is no cosmic Home Depot that NASA can go to for a replacement. "We haven't started talking about when we'd stop troubleshooting on orbit and decide to bring the unit home," Courtenay McMillan said. "That's a pretty big decision to make." Indeed. And so is taking that first sip of urine water. Cheers!
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

NASA Scales Up 1966's Moon Image to Amazing Ultra-High Resolution [Sunday Eye Candy]

When NASA released this image from their Lunar Orbiter 1 back in 1966, the first photograph ever of the Earth rising above the Moon's surface, it was low resolution but they still amazed the world. This week, they have surprised every space aficionado re-releasing the same image in ultra-high definition. The cool part now is that NASA hasn't used any upscaling or magical infinite zoom-in filter from CSI. Instead, they have created a new technology that uses refurbished analog machines and a new digital process that fully extracts the information stored in the program's old magnetic tapes, something that was impossible to do in the 60s. Click on the image to watch it in its 3673 x 1740 pixel glory. The Lunar Orbiter missions included five spacecrafts dedicated to map the entire lunar surface, a task necessary to select the landing sites for Apollo. The first three missions focused on twenty potential landing sites, while the two last ones—which flew high altitude polar orbits—took photographs of 99% of the surface with a resolution that ranged from 60 meters to an stunning 2 meter. While these probes were not as sophisticated as the HD cameras of the Selene spacecraft developed by the Japanese space agency, the NASA orbiters had a clever imaging system that achieved similar results four decades ago. It included a dual lens camera—one 610 millimeter narrow angle for high resolution and an 80 millimeter wide angle for medium resolution—, a film processor, and a scanner. Both lenses were aligned to expose the same part of the 70 millimeter film roll, so the high resolution image area was centered with the medium resolution area. This was more complicated that it sounds: Since the spaceship was cruising above the lunar surface, they had to compensate for that motion. Using an electro-optical sensor to measure the distance while a small motor shifted the film so the second exposure exactly matched the first one. After that, the film was processed, scanned, and the information send back to Earth, where it was stored in analog tapes. Now, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA's Ames Research Center, is retrieving and analyzing all the data stored in those tapes. To do this, first they restored the original tape recorders and 1,500 of these tapes. Then they digitized the data into modern computer, putting it through special software designed to extract all that information to produce the image you are seeing here. Their goal is to do this with every single image lurking inside those tapes, which then will be mapped to standard coordinates and sent to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Their objective is not only preserving and enhancing these historical documents, but also provide the scientific community with refreshed information prior to next year's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. [NASA] More Gizmodo Sunday Eye Candy

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Keepin' it real fake, part CLXVII: 2PG PSP knockoff adds second controller, nothing else

The 2PG TC8281 is one hard working portable game console -- and trust us, it ain't easy trying to make a living under the shadow of the PSP and its less expensive (and downright irreputable) siblings. Don't blame the poor guy if he was born with "brand name style," as they say in the business -- what he lacks in originality, or in technological ability, he more than makes up for in hard work. Yours for just under $50, this handheld is compatible with the ever-popular Cool Boy game console, and ships with 117 games (5 on-board, 112 on the cartridge) including Milk Nuts, Space ET, Zippy Race and perennial favorite Mappy. And if all that weren't enough, the device includes A/V outputs for bringing the party to your television, and a separate Playstation-like controller so you can get your game on multi-player style. Ready to take a chance? More pictures after the break.

[ Via: Technabob ]

Mars Phoenix lander goes silent, NASA ends mission

The inevitable has happened. Our friend, the loved and loving Mars Phoenix lander has gone quietly into that long, good night once and for all. Even though we joyfully joined the lander on its adventures as it Tweeted from beyond the stratosphere, and thrilled at its explorations, pitfalls, and pratfalls, try not to feel the familiar sting of humanity at the thought of our little robotic buddy facing that call to interminable sleep we all must answer one day. Let's rest easy knowing that the NASA-spawned craft served dutifully and fearlessly right up to the end, when it was overpowered by a horde of space zombies and turned into an undead killing machine. We'll miss you, pal.

[ Via: Engadget ]

Spherical Satellites Aboard the ISS are Gary Gygax Approved [ISS]

It's too bad Gary Gygax is no longer with us, because it would be interesting to get his opinion on SPHERES (for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). These prototype devices are currently floating around aboard the ISS as part of an experiment developed by MIT students. The goal is to test flight formations that could one day lead to autonomous maintenance satellites capable of building large spacecraft while in orbit.

Smaller, multiple satellite missions are economical and provide redundancy. Instead of launching one big, heavy satellite, launching lots of little is easier. They can orbit Earth in tandem, each doing their own small part of the overall mission. If a solar flare zaps one satellite—no problem. The rest can close ranks and carry on. Launch costs are reduced, too, because tiny satellites can hitch a ride inside larger payloads, getting to space almost free of charge.
The idea sounds great, but I can't help but want to see numbers painted all over these things.

NASA's Ares 1 Rocket in Trouble Again: Could Crash Into Launch Tower [Nasa]

NASA's Ares 1 rocket may be facing another large technological hurdle before it can take part in the future lunar missions: it's apparently in danger of banging into its own launch tower if the wind is up. Actually, the wind needs only be a gentle-sounding 12.7mph from the south-east to cause problems, and it's all to do with how the rocket's solid fuel motor causes it to "hop" on ignition, before it powers upwards. Computer models are reportedly showing that during this crucial moment, the wind could cause enough "liftoff drift" that the rocket could get dangerously close to the tower. And if it managed to avoid an impact, there's still the danger of the flaming rocket gas output badly damaging the tower's structures. NASA itself seems confident it can overcome this problem (if it ultimately proves to be a significant enough one) by positioning the tower differently or redesigning the launchpad: both requiring time and money that could impact the bigger program. After the earlier reports of "tuning-fork" problems with the manned missile, the calls for an alternative solution to the whole Constellation program begin to look interesting again: what's your opinion chaps? My take on this: this sort of hurdle comes up frequently when you're in a program of this scale and complexity—some sort of better workaround will surface eventually.

Popular Science Names 100 "Best of What's New" Technologies [Popular Science]

Just last week, Time announced what they considered the 50 most important technological breakthroughs of 2008. Not to be outdone, today Popular Science has named their 100 "Best of What's New." Unlike Time, PopSci has categorized their awards into achievements in Automotive, Aviation & Space, Computing, Engineering, Gadgets (of course!), Green Tech, Home Entertainment, Home Tech, Health, Recreation and Security. But you've had enough of a tease; you just want to see the winners: Automotive

Aviation & Space
Green Technology
Home Entertainment
Home Technology
  • Honeywell Specialty Materials Storm-a-Rest
  • Craftsman VibraFree Sander
  • Home Comfort Zones MyTemp
  • Festool Lapex Miter Saw
  • Remington PowerMower
  • Gorilla Super Glue
  • FreshAire Paint
  • PF WaterWorks PermaFLOW

Personal Health
  • Recellularized Heart
  • CellScope
  • SensAble
  • Toshiba Aquilion One CT
  • Fraunhofer Institute’s Magnet-Controlled Gut Camera
  • BioXcell INVOcell Fertility Assist Device
  • Pro-Neck-Tor
  • Nintendo Wii Fit
  • Electronic Taste Chip
  • Hewlett Packard Smart Drug Delivery


  • Thruvision T5000 Camera
  • Noblepeak Vision Triwave
  • Rotundus GroundBot
  • Ingenia Technology Laser Surface Authentication System
  • Lumidigm Venus Series Sensors
  • Raytheon Controlled Impact Rescue Tool (CIRT)
  • Landshark IED Robot
  • RedX Spray-On Bomb Detector
  • ARA Safety FIT-5
  • The Streetlab Mobile

So what do you think? Was PopSci dead on or dead wrong? Lay it out in the comments. We were personally affronted that disemvowling didn't make this particular list. [PopSci]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

23 NASA Missions Omega Watches for <i>Just</i> $125,000 [NASA Watches]

Absolute. Spacenerdgasm. 23 Omega Speedmaster Watches. In a cool space suitcase. The first is a replica of the original 1957 Speedmaster Broad Arrow, while the next 22 of them are the NASA missions ones, with patches on the 9 O'Clock position from the coolest NASA missions ever. From the 1965 Gemini V launch to the November 1973 Skylab SL-4 mission, and going through the Apollo 11 watch, you have them all:

Gemini VI, Gemini VII, Gemini VIII, Gemini IX, Gemini X, Gemini XI, Gemini XII, Apollo 7, Apollo 8, Apollo 9 “Gumdrop & Spider”, Apollo 10 “Snoopy and Charlie Brown”, Apollo 11 “Columbia and Eagle”, Apollo 12 “Intrepid and Yankee Clipper”, Apollo 13 “Odyssey and Aquarius”, Apollo 14 “Kitty Hawk and Antares”, Apollo 15 “Endeavour and Falcon”, Apollo 16 “Casper and Orion”, Apollo 17 “America and Challenger”, Skylab 1, Skylab 2, and Skylab 3
They are being sold on eBay for $125,000. To give you an idea of how much these precision time machines are worth, the previous set in the series was sold in Switzerland last year for 368,900 Swiss Francs. A whooping $313,000 and they are not even the ones that went into space. []

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

A MySpace portable audio player? (Design your own!)

MySpace has long been associated with music, and the site's recent push into commercial sales has prompted rumors that it might release a device of its own -- "it's possible," said the site's co-founder Chris DeWolfe when asked about it yesterday. For the time being, however, the social networking site will be wisely concentrating on what it does best: maintaining the world's foremost photographic archive of suburban tweenagers flashing gang signs and providing a much needed creative outlet for people with names like IfUaHATERthenDon'tbeHatin, « ASHLEE » and Psycho♥Rée. And to keep you entertained as you wait for another episode of MySpaceTV's Sorority Forever, feel free to check out the MySpacePMP Blingee after the break.
Update: We've found ourselves so visually inspired by the concept of a MySpace player that we've decided to run a Photoshop contest (that grandest of traditions) to see what you can come up with. Fire your best 'shops on over to contests at engadget dawt com, and together we can create a brighter future.

[ Via: Electronista ]

Dell affirms plans to integrate white space radios into future wares

Barely 24 hours after the FCC voted yes to unlicensed white space use, we've already got one powerhouse lined up in support. According to PC World, Neeraj Srivastava, director of technology policy at Dell, has stated that the company "intends to integrate white space radios into future Dell products." As for what "products" actually means? We could see the modules in anything from laptops to netbooks to "any other devices that provide wireless network access." Sadly, he wouldn't say when the technology would be added, but we'll go out on a limb and suggest sometime after the impending digital TV transition.
[Image courtesy of mhzkid]

[ Via: Engadget ]

ESA Reveals Next-Gen Reentry Pod, Makes NASA's Plans Look Kinda Low-Tech [Space]

This is ESA's video unveiling of its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, a test-bed for a next-generation reentry pod. The IXV is due to rocket aloft on Europe's new small Vega launcher in 2012 and test out a range of systems for a "proper" future vehicle. Ditching the simplicity and limitations of the now old-fashioned conical-pod-with-heat-shield design, it's a lifting-body shape with a thermal protection system somewhat like the Shuttle's. The wingless pod is steered by aerodynamic body flaps with reaction jets as backup and for orbital maneuvers, and when it's low and slow enough it'll pop a 'chute and plop into the Pacific. And it'll do it all autonomously. Clever stuff. [ESA via Slashdot]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Anthropomorphized Mars lander in terminal "Groundhog Day" mode, tugging heartstrings

Dear Phoenix lander, you always find new ways to both delight and torture us. We listened anxiously for your updates about the weather on Mars, watched you "think" your way out of nearly fatal situations, and marveled at your liquid discoveries. It seems like only yesterday we were preparing for your send off. And what new violence is this you're doing upon our souls? Oh, that's right: you're dying. Not shutting down. Dying. Not quickly, either. And you're going to suffer from what is essentially a NASA-induced nightmare terminal case of Alzheimer's now, too. As early as tonight, the NASA team will upload repeating commands designed to "wring a few additional weather measurements" out of Phoenix by placing it in "terminal science mode," meaning that the lander will repeat the same sequence of actions over and over again, every day before shutting down for 19 hours. The team has also discovered that the craft is now unable to fully recharge its batteries, causing it to lose its memory each night when it shuts down. So the lander wakes up in the morning, does some science, goes to sleep, wakes up again, doesn't remember a thing, does some science... oh, you get the idea. The Phoenix team doesn't know how much longer the lander is going to survive, but they indicated that it could be "several weeks." Please, just let the pain end. Hit the read link for the long, sad story.

[ Via: Engadget ]

LaCie's Internet Space is sparse, available (in the UK)

We don't blame LaCie for continuing Neil Poulton's 2001-esque drive designs -- they're pretty attractive -- but they're not exactly taking us on a mind-bending trip through space and time, if you know what we mean. "Internet Space," the newest entry to the line, is nearly exactly the same as their previous "Network Space" product -- in both looks and specs. The drives clock in at 500GB, 750GB or 1TB sizes with a single gigabit Ethernet port for looping into your network, but unlike the old version, data stored on this model can be accessed via a portal on LaCie's internet website. They're only available in the UK right now (as far as we can tell), and retail for £114.99 ($183) for the 500GB, £129.99 ($207) for the 750GB, and £159.99 ($254) for the 1TB models, respectively.

[ Via: New Launches ]

Election '08 coming home in HD like never before

Sure, not every station's pulled out the Star Wars / Iron Man-style holograms for the 2008 election, but they're all trying to put shiny new HD studios to full use and get as many eyeballs as possible until things are decided. NBC & ABC immediately jumped out front at 7 p.m. with data pouring in on the widescreen edges of their HD feeds, with CNN waiting until states were decided to begin updating their lists. ABC's chosen to lean on its touchscreen display and forgo side graphics altogether, while despite Fox's claim as "America's Election HQ", with totally bare shoulders and boring sets, we're pointing our flatscreens elsewhere. PBS, despite airing the clearest, most high quality video available of three old guys at a table, has no slick touchscreens or HD graphics packages to speak of. Think about that as you check out the rest of the screens after the break, and during the next donation drive. Big Bird deserves better.

[ Via: Engadget ]

FCC votes yes on unlicensed white space use

You win some, you lose some -- so says FCC chairman Kevin Martin (pictured), in a roundabout way, at least. The hard-fought campaign for using the freed "white spaces" from the upcoming DTV transition in America has at long last led to victory for proponents such as Google, Microsoft and Intel, but suffice it to say, not everyone is thrilled about the decision. Essentially, the approval will allow unlicensed use of the soon-to-be-liberated spectrum, would could pave the way for mobile broadband access in rural locations (for example). Fuming TV broadcasters will theoretically be protected from any unwanted interference, as any device "offered by a technology company for use on the white spaces will have to go through a rigorous certification process." More wireless in '08 -- now isn't that something we can all agree on?

[ Via: TechCrunch ]

Spaceship "force field" could protect astronauts on trip to Mars

While there's certainly no shortage of folks working on sending robots to Mars, there's also thankfully a few researchers focusing on making the trip a bit more bearable (and survivable) for us humans, and a group from a consortium of different institutions now say they've made some real progress on that front. Their idea is to use a portable "mini-magnetosphere," which would protect a spacecraft from harmful solar storms and cosmic rays in much the same way the Earth's magnetosphere naturally protects the planet. That is actually an idea that has been around for decades, and was shown last year to be at least theoretically possible, but it has only now been taken beyond the realm of computer simulations. That was apparently possible thanks to the use of an unspecified "apparatus originally built to work on fusion," which allowed researchers to recreate "a tiny piece of the Solar Wind" and confirm that a small "hole" in the wind would indeed be all that would d be necessary to keep astronauts safe. Of course, the leap from the lab to an actual spacecraft is another matter entirely, but the researchers seem to think that there's quite a bit of promise in the idea.

[ Via: PhysOrg ]

Intelsat retires Marisat-F2 satellite after 32 years of service

The Marisat-F2 satellite may not have garnered quite the fame of other mission-defying spacefarers like the Mars Opportunity rover (it even seems to have been a bit camera shy), but it's earned it's own little place in the history books nonetheless, with it stretching its original five-year design life to a hefty 32 years of service. That apparently made it the oldest commercial communications satellite still actively operating in space but, sadly, that streak has now come to an end, with Intelsat announcing that it has decommisioned the satellite and is using its remaining bit of fuel to raise it to "disposal altitude" in order to keep it out of the way of other satellites. Originally built by Hughes Aircraft in 1976, the 700-pound satellite had been primiarly serving ships at sea and scientists at the South Pole, who were using it for internet access in more recent years, since it had actually proven to be more capable than the two other more recent satellites serving the area.

[ Via: Engadget ]

At Last, Space Football Is Coming! [Sports]

Stand aside Michael Jordan, because ex-Washington Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey has been pitching NASA scientists and venture capitalists alike on a high concept sport: Float Ball. Planned for venues including space shuttles, the Moon and even Mars, needless to say, it's a crazy idea. Actually, scratch that. It's only a half-crazy idea. Float Ball is a combination of football and basketball in a zero gravity environment. Players bounce their way through the court, ricocheting off the floor, ceiling, obstacles and other players. The goal is to throw the ball through the hoop. The bigger goal is to throw your player with the ball through the hoop—a maneuver we're coining right this second as the space jam. Despite Harvey's popularity space entertainment circles, he has no plans on how to fund the space sport. But he doesn't expect the vision to actualize over night. Astronaut fitness programs coupled with VR simulators would naturally progress into high stakes competitive sportutainment. And while he may be right, Harvey forgets about one thing: Geeks hate jocks. So go build your own spaceship, a'hole. [NYT]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Debunk: Xbox 360 streams HD Netflix over component just fine

There's some hysterical outrage out there right now over the New Xbox Experience's HD Netflix HDCP restrictions -- apparently it only works with HDCP-compliant digital displays, which is prompting a lot of hand-wringing about copyright restrictions and whether older 360s will get "locked out." Well, we're here to make it all better -- that's our NXE-equipped 360 connected over component, happily playing back HD Netflix at 1080i. See? Works fine. The problem is that some older LCD monitors don't support HDCP over DVI, so if you're in the minority of people using an HDMI to DVI adapter to drive an older display that doesn't do HDCP, HD Netflix won't work, since it can't authenticate. That's not the best situation, but DVI isn't a default supported 360 output, so we wouldn't expect 100 percent compatibility -- and besides, you can always run VGA. We're waiting on official confirmation from Microsoft of all this -- we want to get things absolutely right -- but in the meantime you can console yourself with another shot of HD Heroes over component after the break.
Update: Yes, it works with movies too -- we just tried it with The Orphanage (above), and it looked great.

[ Via: Engadget ]

Google, NASA Team Up to Bring Internet to Space [Space]

Google and NASA are partnering up to let space beings (and astronauts) wander the web from up in orbit. Google VP Vint Cerf and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have started working together to create a standardized internet for space, which can finally replace the one-time-use radio equipment system we've been shooting up there since the 1970s. Communicating in space presents a bunch of problems—the Earth's rotation causes senders and receivers to be constantly changing positions, and the long distance causes equally long delays. Our current radio-based network is tailored to almost every new mission, meaning that older equipment can't be repurposed for newer shuttles. Cerf, who more or less co-created the internet, is now figuring out new protocols that'll work in the final frontier. The project, called Interplanetary Internet, will be tested aboard the International Space Station in 2009. If it works out, space missions in the future will be able to use the same systems, ultimately making communicating from above much, much cheaper and easier. I wonder what their ping rates will be. [Technology Review]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

EA-18G Fighter Jet Growls Enemy Networks Away [Airplanes]

When I first came across this photo I thought it was a new classified starfighter being tested by the Navy and Boeing Phantom Works in a secret underground anechoic chamber in the Moon. Then I realized it had the shape of something closer to Earth: It looked like an F-18 but it is not. It's an EA-18G Growler, a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet Block II that is not designed to kill kill faster faster, but for airborne electronic attacks. Now finishing its testing phase as it gets ready to enter action next action, the EA-18G will replace the current and aging EA-6B Prowler. With its two F414-GE-400 engines, totalling 44,000-pound of trust, it's a much more powerful beast than the 4-seater Prowler. The EA-18G's mission is to jam the enemy networks from the air, using a variety of systems installed on a pallet in the gun bay and in two wingtip pods. The remaining nine weapons stations are available for other pods containing the electronics necessary for standoff jamming, escort jamming, time critical strike, and communications countermeasures. In the cockpit, it has an active electronically scanned array radar, which is capable of pinpointing the targets that need to be jammed (or destroyed using specialized radio-bound missiles) with greater accuracy than ever before. In other words, to give mess with the Wi-Fi network of all those terrorist living in their desert caves.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

NASA demos 2020's 12-wheeled, pressurized lunar rover concept car

We've all seen black and white footage of astronauts on the moon hot doggin' it over craters and dunes in a trick electric buggy, but that was over thirty years ago. In 2020, when a new generation of astronauts head there, they'll need a new generation of whip too, and that's just what NASA recently demonstrated to the public. Called the Small Pressurized Rover Concept, it looks to be an evolution of the 12-wheeled Chariot prototype we saw earlier this year, pimped out with an air-tight cabin that sleeps two and some bitchin' gold dubs. Inside a pair of explorers can go lunar RVing for up to two weeks at a time, covering 625 miles on one charge at a leisurely 6 mph, hopping out through rear-mounted (non-next-gen) spacesuits when something interesting catches their eye. You know, like aliens or something. Could happen.
[Thanks, Peter D.]

[ Via: Engadget ]
[ Tag: lunar rover, lunar vehicle, LunarRover, LunarVehicle, moon, nasa, small pressurized rover concept, SmallPressurizedRoverConcept ]

Hubble's 486 Computer Blue Screens (i.e. Fails), Repair Efforts Remain in Limbo [Hubble Space Telescope]

Hold the phone, people, the Hubble is still broken. There was word early Thursday morning that a Monkey Island-era 486 backup computer was going to take the reigns and begin mission critical operations, but a day later NASA scientists revealed the dusty old thing was better suited for minesweeper than capturing awe-inspiring deep field images of the observable universe. The 486 was activated Thursday, and that went well, NASA scientists said. It was everything else on board the aging space telescope that pooped the bed, unfortunately. When the 486 fired up, a low-voltage power supply issue sidelined one of Hubble's cameras, and prevented it from rebooting properly. Not good. After that, further unidentified "computer trouble" hit Hubble hard, and ended all recovery efforts instantly. Now NASA is tasked with going through piles of data beamed back from Hubble since the malfunction on Friday to find a cure. Today the best case scenario for Hubble is that engineers get it up and running late next week, said Art Whipple, a Hubble manager. The worst case scenario is Hubble has to wait for human hands to arrive next year as part of a shuttle mission. And fixing the telescope with astronauts is no joke. As we noted in September when this mess first started, fixing Hubble by hand is more risky that you could possibly imagine. Unless you're an astronaut, of course. [MSNBC]

NASA Returns to the Moon as Indian Spacecraft Stowaway [Space]

The Chandrayaan-1, literally "Lunar Craft", launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, on the southeastern coast of India. The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for two years, charting its mineral composition, searching for ice, and helium-3, all three fundamental for the establishment of a lunar outpost. Or a call center. It can go either way. Chandrayaan-1 is India's first mission to our satellite, and it's also NASA's return to the moon after the Apollo missions:

Two NASA instruments to map the lunar surface will launch on India's maiden moon voyage. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper will assess mineral resources, and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or Mini-SAR, will map the polar regions and look for ice deposits.
Apart from these two NASA instruments and three European Space Agency instruments, the Chandrayaan-1 is carrying the C1XS, an X-ray Spectrometer to get high-quality, X-ray spectroscopic mapping of the Moon, a near infrared spectrometer called SIR-2 to study the chemical composition of the Moons crust and mantle, and SARA, the Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser which will study plasma-surface interactions in space for the first time. [ISRO and NASA]

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]
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NASA Preparing to Service Hubble for the Last Time, In Glorious Pictures [Nasa]

The Boston Globe's Big Picture blog continues its incredible coverage of all things wonderful to look at today with a spread relating to the space shuttle Atlantis and the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis is scheduled to launch on October 8, equipped with all manner of instruments, batteries and gyroscopes for Hubble. Pictured above is one of the massive Atlantis engines being moved to the main bay for installation. That's just one engine, though—there's plenty of space-related tech porn to be found in the rest of the spread, too.

Servicing Mission 4 astronaut Drew Feustel uses the "Pistol Grip Tool," a computer-controlled power tool, to install the Wide Field Camera 3 into a high-fidelity Hubble model. Just another day at the office.

Feustel gets all the fun gadgets, apparently. In this image he's practicing with one of the cameras for the mission. It's certainly no Nikon D90, but—what am I saying. This thing is one of the most advanced pieces of gear in the solar system. It's Labor Day today. I need this thing for a barbecue.
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]