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Gravity Gets Congratulations From ISS And Lookalike Imagery From NASA

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This past Sunday saw the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences giving sciencey fiction its just rewards by granting Gravity seven Oscars, including the technical line-up of editing, sound, visual effects and music, with Alfonso CuarĂ³n taking the trophy for Best Director. Though 12 Years a Slave ended up winning Best Picture, it was still a huge victory for space thrillers, and the film’s successes earned a video congratulations from Expedition 38’s three-astronaut team on board the International Space Station, as seen above. That’s as high-up a thumbs up can possibly get, I’m assuming.

NASA’s Michael S. Hopkins starts off the cheers, pointing out that all three of them are pretty familiar with what it feels like to float around in zero gravity. He then wafts the mic over to JAXA’s Koichi Wakata and begins to flip around in the background. He explains they watched a copy of the film onboard the ISS and loved its depiction of space. Then NASA’s Richard A. Mastracchio gives the formal congrats to the stars and crew for the Academy’s recognition.

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Wowzers: Zero Gravity LED Light Toy Makes Trippy Space Art

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spiral topOf all the myriad reasons why no one is letting me go into space right now, there are two battling it out for first place. The first: I’m not and never have been trained to be an astronaut. The second: Instead of doing anything like “missions” or “smart things,” I would probably spend all my time figuring out what it feels like getting trashed in space, and no one would want to be my friend. And these reasons existed before I ever even knew that the ridiculously amazing Spiral Top device existed. As you can imagine after looking at the picture above, I’m going to have to make a very specific type of amendment to that second reason.

Developed a few years ago by artist Takuro Osaka, the Spiral Top is a device that spins a set of mounted LEDs affixed to it. I have no idea what it looks like when it isn’t floating around in space, but I don’t really need to, since I’ve seen it floating around in space.

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Our Majestic Planet Spins Beneath The ISS In Another Visually Stunning Time-Lapse Video

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You know what time it is, probably because you read the headline before clicking onto this story. It’s time for another visually spectacular trip into space with some crews of the International Space Station! This time it’s a splendor-filled time-lapse photography montage from film student and computer programmer David Peterson. If you’re not watching it in high definition on a screen the size of a refrigerator, you’re doing it wrong. Well, I guess you’re doing something right by watching it at all. Crisis averted.

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Space Station Astronaut Describes Nearly Drowning In Outer Space

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parmitano space stationA little over a month ago, we reported that a maintenance spacewalk outside the International Space Station had to be cancelled due to astronaut Luca Parmitano experiencing leakage in his helmet. At the time, it definitely sounded like a problem, but it was reported to be a non-emergency and that the astronaut was never in any danger. Of course, that news didn’t come from the Parmitano himself, who recently wrote a harrowing blog post about the experience that makes me wonder who doesn’t consider a near-drowning in outer space an emergency. Probably the people who didn’t nearly drown in outer space.

With a talent for prose that one might not expect, Parmitano details the entire experience, from the anticipation he felt before leaving the airlock, up until when he returned to it with a helmet full of water. “It is pitch black outside,” he writes, “not the color black but rather a complete absence of light. I drink in the sight as I lean out to attach our safety cables. I feel completely at ease as I twist my body to let Chris [Cassidy] go by.” The two men separated and went on their planned routes around the space station in order to complete their tasks.

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NASA Is Taking Leisurely Virtual Reality Strolls Around Mars

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nasa oculus riftIf you think you’ve missed the train to Mars, don’t bother settling for counting stars. (Hum reference!) Just head on over to NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they’re walking around Mars like nobody’s business. Well, they aren’t actually setting foot on the red planet, but rather virtually traversing the dusty ground with the combined use of an Oculus Rift VR headset and Virtuix’s Omni treadmill. When combined, you get all of the high-resolution planetary exploration with none of the eye-bulging death by suffocation.

This experience is made possible by the massive amounts of imagery obtained over the last year by the Curiosity rover, as well as satellite imagery from above. The lab had previously combined all this into a panorama which could be “explored” in two dimensions using an Xbox 360 controller, and before that even, they allowed Xbox users to land the rover on Mars last year. But after getting hands-on with the Oculus Rift and feet-on with the Omni, NASA contacted both products’ companies to get the equipment in the lab.

And now, a fully immersible experience can be had, though neither of these products is on the market just yet. (The headset is planned to ship out pre-orders in September, while the treadmill is set to ship in January 2014.)

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Zero Gravity Coffee Cups Coming To A Space Station Near You

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coffee cupAs I’m writing this, I’m downing my fourth cup of coffee for the day. (Yawn.) This is perhaps one of the only times in my life when I have an advantage over astronauts, as liquids like coffee are hard to control in places where gravity is absent. But my advantage has an expiration date, as Portland State University physics professor Mark Weislogel and his colleagues have conceived the Capillary Flow Experiment, which is being conducted onboard the International Space Station, and their goal is to find a proper vessel to drink coffee from in zero gravity.

Coffee, like other liquids, is not easily handled in space. You can’t really pour it into a regular coffee cup to begin with, and even when it’s in the cup, getting it into your mouth requires quite a bit of work. If you try and simply drink it, “the coffee would be very hard to control,” says Weislogel. “You’d have to shake the cup towards your face and hope that some of the hot liquid breaks loose and floats toward your mouth.” This sounds like a terrible accident waiting to happen. Since liquid behavior in zero-g is so non-intuitive, he and his team had to think…well, inside the box in order to find a solution.

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