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Leave Your Permanent Mark On Space By Naming This Historic Site

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RosettaHave you always wanted to leave your mark on outer space but didn’t know how? If you’re anything like us, you spend a lot of time in a dark room (it’s like we live in caves scattered around the country), scouring the Internet, and are hardly any kind of astronaut material (I shudder to think what astronaut training would do to my questionably shaped body, I imagine I would wind up looking like Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in Spies Like Us). But now none of that matters, and you can help named the landing site for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. But you better hurry, because the competition ends today.

The Philae lander is scheduled to set down on Comet 69P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the middle of next month on November 12. This will mark the first soft landing on a comet ever by a manmade object, which is pretty memorable, and will, inevitably, lead to more and more Armageddon style adventures in real life. Right now the location is designated Site J, which is hardly befitting of such a momentous occurrence, so ESA and their mission partners want your help in coming up with a better moniker.

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Book Review: Packing For Mars Explores Your Bodily Functions In Space

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PFMcoverWhen I read Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars two thoughts kept coming up: one, that I so wish I’d written the book, and two, that going to space is a royal pain in the ass. I’m amazed anyone has ever wanted to or, in fact, done it. Going to the bathroom alone—a topic Roach delights in investigating in spite of, or perhaps because of, the associated awkwardness—is a major feat in zero gravity. Her book answers all of the practical and embarrassing questions you could ever think to ask about space. Best of all, she gets those answers through correspondence with astronauts and visits to various NASA outposts around the country, as well as a visit to JAXA headquarters.

If you don’t know Roach’s work, do yourself a favor and read one of her books. You’ve got plenty to choose from beyond Packing for Mars. I first found out about her when her first book, Stiff, which examines “the curious lives of human cadavers” made an appearance on Six Feet Under. Her next book, Spook, is all about ghosts and the afterlife. There’s Bonk, which is all about the science of sex and features crazy studies about things such as pig orgasms (and is my favorite of all her books so far), and Gulp, which explores eating and digestion.

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SpaceX To Bring Zero-G 3D Printer To The ISS

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zerogprinterSpaceX will be bringing the first 3D printer to space on Friday, delivering it to the ISS. Once it’s up and running, astronauts will be able to print new parts for the station and for repairs, rather than wasting precious space storing spares or having to wait for a supply run.

Private companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Science make cargo delivery runs to the ISS every few months, but every inch of cargo space is valuable. If there’s room, then the additional cost is difficult to calculate and depends on the size and mass of the parts being delivered. Generally, though, it costs anywhere from $3,000-$13,000 per kilogram to send objects into low Earth orbit (depending on the rocket and its manufacturer). So the only question regarding having a 3D printer on the ISS is, what took them so long?

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NASA Reveals Three Potential Habitats You Could Live In On Mars

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Martian HabitatsIf we, as the collective human race, are ever going to get to Mars, there are some massive challenges that we will have to overcome. Actually getting there is only the first part of the problem, once we arrive on the Red Planet, we’ll have to deal with other issues, like where the hell do we live? Now we have a look at three designs that could, in the future, prove to be habitats for humanity while we vacation on our nearby neighbor.

NASA has joined forces with MakerBot to issue the Mars Base Challenge, which allows anyone willing to go through the effort the chance to submit their own design for possible Martian domiciles. In doing so, the contestants have to take a number of factor into consideration, like bitterly cold temperatures (down to negative 70 Fahrenheit), the constant, deadly radiation, vicious dust storms, and other things that I probably haven’t even considered that will make life on Mars rather difficult.

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Breaking Bad’s Walter White Bobblehead Goes To Space

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Walter White BobbleheadWhat we choose to send into space is a fascinating representation of our culture. From professional astronauts and Mars One applicants to plants and a soda can masquerading as a time capsule to robots, every individual and object we send into the cosmos becomes a symbol for qualities we hold dear. Thus, it comes as no surprise that employees from TVtag, a social networking site and app whose users check in and unlock information about the shows they watch, recently launched a Walter White bobblehead into space.

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Microwave Propulsion Breakthrough Could Revolutionize Space Travel

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EmDrive

EmDrive

“Game changer” has become an overused buzz term. Every innovation or advancement is either a definite game changer, or at least a possible a game changer. But the fact is, the “game” (and by game, I think we’re loosely referring to all of science, if not all of life itself) changes all the time no matter what, though admittedly certain inventions, such as the internet, could be credited with catalyzing particularly significant shifts. Most often, it takes hindsight to accurately identify such innovations, so lofting that descriptor at the outset can prompt skepticism. That said, I’m always on the lookout for advancements that might indeed prove to be major breakthroughs, and NASA just verified one: a microwave-powered, propellant-less thruster.

U.S. scientist Guido Fetta devised a microwave thruster called the “Cannae Drive”—a reference to the Battle of Cannae or perhaps to Star Trek’s Scotty—that operates without propellant. After some cajoling, he got NASA to agree to give it a try, and at the recent Joint Propulsion Conference, the space agency presented the results of its validation testing, which confirms that this system, once thought to be impossible, actually works. NASA spent eight days “investigat[ing] and demonstrat[ing] viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”

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