Science & technology

Why the U.S. Gave Up on the Moon

The tendency to want to skip a lunar settlement is not a new phenomenon. Even before the first landing on the moon, U.S. and NASA political leadership was contemplating the future of manned space, and few of the visions involved a lunar base. The early space program was driven by Cold War competition with Moscow, and the kinds of ideas that circulated at the time involved milestones that seemed novel such as reusable spaceplanes, nuclear-powered rockets, space stations and missions to Mars. When the United States was on the verge of a series of landings on the moon, building a permanent base just didn’t seem like much of a new giant leap.

NASA Announces New Partnerships with U.S. Industry for Key Deep-Space Capabilities

Building on the success of NASA’s partnerships with commercial industry to date, NASA has selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites. Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars.

Pentagon S&T Workforce - Smaller Older

The United States has seen its technological edge erode as other nations caught up while the U.S. was preoccupied with counter-insurgency. Of equal concern to Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon's principal deputy assistant secretary for research and engineering, is that "the DoD has lost 10,000 scientists and engineers since 2011." Also, beginning in 2013, the average age of DoD S&Es started to climb. See his and other R&D officials testimony.

Source: Department of Defense congressional testimony.

Internet outages reveal gaps in US broadband infrastructure

When vandals sliced a fiber-optic cable in the Arizona desert last month, they did more than time-warp thousands of people back to an era before computers, credit cards or even phones. They exposed a glaring vulnerability in the nation's Internet infrastructure: no backup systems in many places.

Astronaut Kelly launches on record-setting trip

Astronaut Scott Kelly's year in space has begun. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, commander of the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft who will visit for a standard six-month expedition, joined them on the ride up.  By doubling that mission duration for two crew members for the first time on the International Space Station — four cosmonauts lived for at least a year on Russia's Mir station — NASA and its partners hope to learn more about the issues astronauts might face on even longer voyages to Mars. An eventual mission to Mars would last at least 500 days.

White House pushes STEM, marks broadband milestone

Obama took the occasion of the fifth annual White House science fair to make the announcement, making the case that high-speed Internet access and education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math are critical to the country's economic future. The new Broadband Opportunity Council, which will include representatives from more than two dozen departments and agencies, is billed as a coordinated government effort to work with the private sector to develop a policy landscape that fosters investment in high-speed networks.

NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover Finishes Marathon, Clocks in at Just Over 11 Years

There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday -- 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

How does a long time in space affect human health?

As NASA astronaut Scott Kelly launches for the International Space Station Friday, March 27, Northwestern University scientists will be watching with more than a passing interest. Scott Kelly is half of their experiment. A Northwestern-led research team is one of 10 NASA-funded groups across the country studying identical twins Scott and Mark Kelly to learn how living in space for a long period of time — such as a mission to Mars — affects the human body. While Scott spends a year in space, his brother, Mark, also a veteran NASA astronaut, will remain on Earth, as a ground-based control.

Amazon blasts U.S. agency for slowness on drone regulation

E-commerce power blasted federal regulators on Tuesday for being slow to approve commercial drone testing, saying the United States is falling behind other countries in the potentially lucrative area of unmanned aviation technology. Less than a week after the Federal Aviation Administration gave the green light to test a delivery drone outdoors, the company told U.S. lawmakers that the prototype had already become obsolete while the company waited more than six months for the agency's permission.

NNI Releases Supplement to the President's 2016 Budget

The President’s 2016 Budget provides $1.5 billion for the NNI, a continued investment in support of the President’s priorities and innovation strategy. Cumulatively totaling more than $22 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001 (including the 2016 request), this support reflects nanotechnology’s potential to significantly improve our fundamental understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale and to translate that knowledge into solutions for critical national needs.

NASA Announces Next Steps on Journey to Mars: Progress on Asteroid Initiative

NASA Wednesday announced more details in its plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago.

White House eyes faster Internet speeds with new push

The White House is launching a new effort to speed up Americans’ access to the Internet. President Obama on Monday signed an order creating a new council cutting across more than 25 different agencies to focus exclusively on ways to speed up companies’ ability to connect people to high-speed Web access.

Did the National Broadband Plan spur innovation?

How has the U.S. done overall since 2010?  Here’s what we found: Deployment – The plan’s audacious goal of encouraging private investments to provide 100 million homes access to the Internet at speeds of 100 Mbps by 2020 now appears to be a foregone conclusion. Operators have installed hundreds of thousands of miles of new fiber optic cables, with incumbent communications companies all offering full or hybrid fiber broadband in much of the United States.

Tesla Software Upgrade To Feature Automated Steering

Expected "within three months," the Version 7 software update will enable Automatic Steering. The new features will make it "almost" possible to "travel from San Francisco to Seattle with the driver barely touching the wheel at all," Musk said. Several autopilot features, including self-parking and collision prevention, are already standard on the Model S. The next Model S update to come early this summer will also enable remote vehicle summoning on private property, according to Tesla.

Tesla leads the charge in Web-connected cars

The market for Web-enabled electronics in cars is expected to skyrocket, and by 2017 more than 86 percent of the vehicles on the road will be connected, according to a forecast by IHS. By 2021, every new car sold in the U.S. will be connected. "It's a sign of the times we live in where personal wireless connectivity is kind of a part of life," said Richard Wallace, director of Transportation System Analysis at the Center for Automotive Research, in an interview.


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