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NASA’s Morpheus Project Successfully Completes Test Flight

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project morpheusIt won’t get astronauts to the ISS anytime soon, but NASA’s Morpheus is pretty darn cool, and it’s always good to see the agency working on new spacecraft technology. In addition to sounding like a Matrix spin-off, the Morpheus Project is NASA’s planetary lander development program. Among other goals, the space agency wants a device that can take off and land vertically, like SpaceX’s Grasshopper. A few days ago, Morpheus completed a successful test flight at the Kennedy Space Center.

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Russia Bailing On The ISS

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ISSSix weeks after NASA announced that it would be cutting ties with Russia, except for their collaboration on the ISS, Russia has gone a step further, saying that it plans to stop participating in the ISS after 2020.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia will use its resources to focus on other projects. In the statement, he said, “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything.” He also mentioned “inappropriate” sanctions, including plans to deny the export of high-tech equipment to Russia. In turn, Russia says that while it is ready to deliver engines used to build widely-used Atlas V rockets, it will only do so on the “condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites.” Um…

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NASA Reveals Crowdsourced Spacesuit Design Winner

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nasa spacesuitIt’s astounding to me that more big decisions aren’t solved by crowdsourcing opinions. I mean, it doesn’t always work so well when it comes to politics, but that’s because politics are evil. I’m talking about good decisions, like what should happen to characters on TV shows, what robots deserve their own stamps, and what NASA‘s spacesuits should look like. That last one actually was decided by the general public over the last couple of weeks, and NASA just announced the winner. With over 233,000 votes (63%), the “Technology” design takes the prize, and also happens to look like a cross between Tron and a Futurama robot in biker shorts.

You have may have seen this design for the Z-2 suit prototype already here on GFR, when we first talked about the voting process. All three potential designs also included a “Biomimicry” design and an extremely goofy looking “Trends in Society” option. It turns out people are way more into the cool, calming color blue for their electroluminescent lights than they are white and yellow. The “Technology” one was my favorite, though I didn’t even cast my vote. (The problem with voters today is…)

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NASA Recruits R2-D2 To Help Send Star Wars Day Message

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Today’s news cycle may have been dominated by the official announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII’s cast, but I’d hate to let any smaller stories fall into the cracks. Like, how a NASA astronaut decided to send out a celebratory video in anticipation of May the Fourth — Star Wars Day!

Yes, ISS flight engineer Rick Mastracchio figured the perfect way to celebrate Star Wars day was to beam a special message down from the ISS while hanging weightlessly in the way all us jealous landlubbers wish we could. But wait! The communications array is failing! Thankfully R2-D2 just happened to be hanging around NASA, so he just hopped a right on a conveniently timed launch, zipped up to the ISS, and saved the day. Thanks, little buddy!

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NASA Builds Inflatable Saucers And Giant Parachutes For Mars Landings

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LDSDThe Opportunity and Curiosity rovers are triumphs for NASA, but why should the space agency rest on its laurels? Even though both rovers are rolling around on the Red Planet, NASA is hard at work on other vehicles for future Martian exploration, particularly spacecraft to deliver payloads. Their efforts are currently focused on supersonic parachutes and inflatable saucers to help slow and gently deposit cargo on the planet’s surface.

The technologies are a part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project. As we continue to explore Mars, and other planets, we’ll need a way to transport larger loads. Spacecraft move at incredibly high speeds through the Martian atmosphere, so they need to decelerate quickly and safely, allow for a soft landing for whatever they’re carrying. Previous missions, such as the one that delivered Curiosity, have relied on the Viking parachute, which NASA has used since 1976. But a simple parachute doesn’t generate enough drag for the heavier equipment that future endeavors will need, especially if humans do try to colonize Mars.

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Crowdfunding Mission Seeks To Resurrect ISEE-3 Space Probe

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ISEE-3A long time ago (1978) in a galaxy…well, pretty close to us, NASA launched the ISEE-3 (International Sun/Earth Explorer 3) probe, sending it to space to study the magnetic field and solar winds of Earth. Since then, ISEE-3 has done NASA proud, accomplishing firsts such as flying through a comet’s tail. It collected data until 1999, when NASA decided it would party no more and switched it off. It’s been sleeping ever since, but if a crowdfunding project turns out to be successful, NASA may wake the ISEE-3 up as it passes near Earth later this year and put it back on the job.

The ISEE-3 Reboot Project, which is sponsored by Space College, Skycorp, and SpaceRef, is currently running on RocketHub. It’s currently a third of the way to meeting its $125,000 goal, with 22 days left to fund the project. The idea is pretty simple, especially since a team has already been assembled, and they’ve got a radio telescope that can make contact with the probe. Scientists working on the project want to contact the probe, which is now generally known as the ICE (International Comet Explorer), fire it up, and get it back in orbit around the Earth where it can continue harvesting information and chasing comets.