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Monkey Business: Iran Sends Primate Into Space

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Iran monkeyIran made the news today, but thankfully not for their nuclear program or economic sanctions. Today Middle Eastern nation announced that it successfully launched a monkey into space for the second time, and that the monkey has returned home safe and sound. Phew. I’d hate to think of that monkey trying to fly a Soyuz capsule.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran launched Fargam, a monkey named for the Farsi word for “auspicious,” into space to celebrate the country’s Research Week. Fargam took a 75-mile ride into space and came back within 15 minutes. And he didn’t have to pay $250,000 for a seat.

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Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s Superhero Robot

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ValkyrieWe’ve done lots of posts here on GFR about NASA, many of which bemoan the state and the budget of the beleaguered agency. Now NASA has something that just may solve all of its problems — a superhero robot.

Valkyrie, who shares a name with female characters from Norse mythology who decide which soldiers die and which live, but who looks more like Iron Man, has the stature of a superhero at 6 feet tall and 275 pounds — it even sports a glowing NASA logo on its front. Engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston built Valkyrie in just nine months as part of this month’s DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. This means Valkyrie will have to prove its disaster-thwarting meddle by driving vehicles, clearing debris, cutting through obstructions, climbing ladders, turning valves and knobs, and other physical tasks that any life-saving superhero needs to be able to perform.

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Overview Video Has Astronauts Talking About How Space Changed Their View Of The World

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If you’ve seen Gravity, you undoubtedly spent some of that time marveling at the views of Earth. Who cares if they were CGI? Even George Clooney’s astronaut Matt Kowalski, fully aware that he was approaching the end of his life, caught a glimpse of the Ganges and remarked over its beauty. People who have been to space report all kinds of effects that the experience has on their lives, and in the video called Overview, assembled by Planetary Collective, astronauts articulate how space changed their perspectives on the world.

In 1968, just before America put a man on the Moon, Apollo 8 astronauts circled the Moon and took photos of Earth, prompting the famous “Earthrise over the Moon” image. It was the first time people got to see Earth as a whole — not as countries delineated by boundaries and borders, not as people clashing over religion or other beliefs, but as one unified system. The astronauts in Planetary Collective’s short documentary Overview, which serves as a teaser for their feature-length documentary Continuum, talk about this pivotal moment and how their experiences in space changed their understanding of the world, themselves, and what it means to be human.

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Scientists Appeal To Congress To Support Technology To Search for Extraterrestrial Life

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candidate planetsGiven how many candidate planets Kepler has identified, and the recently announced estimate that billions of habitable planets may exist in the Milky Way alone, scientists are understandably excited about the prospect of finding alien life. They’re so excited, in fact, that they made a plea to Congress this week to embark on the next phase of searching for life.

Sara Seager, MIT’s exoplanet expert who came up with her own equation to express the probability of finding extra-terrestrial life, spoke at the “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond” hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and argued that while we have some technology capable of detecting candidate planets and other life forms, we need more. “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” she said. “People will look back at us as the ones who found Earth-like worlds.” NASA’s head of astrobiology seconded that, saying that humans finally have the means to gather data about other life forms in the universe, which means it’s incumbent upon us to do so.

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British Interplanetary Society Wants To Build Rotating Space Colonies

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space colonyMars One is currently the only thoroughly developed Mars colonization proposal currently on the table. The selection process for the first Mars colonists is currently underway, and if all goes according to plan — and that’s a big if — the Dutch non-profit would land the first humans on the Red Planet in 2023. Elon Musk, who echoes Stephen Hawking’s argument that humans need to colonize Mars to avoid eventual extinction, has grand plans to transport about 80,000 people to Mars via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsules at about $500,000 a ticket. But some people, such as Mars Society Founder and President Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars, thinks that we’re better prepared to send humans to Mars now than we were to send humans to the Moon in the ’60s. He has argued this for a long time, and is impatient at the lack of progress in landing colonists on Mars. And while Mars seems like a clear choice for colonization, other ideas have been circulating, such as colonizing the clouds of Venus. A recent proposal from the British Interplanetary Society is actually the resurrection of a 40-year-old idea to create rotating space colonies in space.

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Asteroid Mining Could Launch Us Even Deeper Into Space

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asteroid miningThere’s been quite a bit of talk of asteroids lately, and not in the usual one’s-about-to-slam-into-Earth-thus-obliterating-all-life-dear-god-Bruce-Willis-can-you-save-us kind of way. Well, sort of that way. The news hasn’t necessarily been about landing people on fast-moving space rocks in order to destroy them, it’s been more about landing people on the fast-moving space rocks and mining them for all they’re worth. The immediate benefits are well and good, but according to this new infographic and short educational video, mining asteroids could just the boost we, as a species, need to start pushing further and further into the reaches of space.

No lie, this sounds a little bit like the beginning of a Red Dwarf type scenario, where I become the last human alive, living aboard a derelict mining ship with an uptight robot, an even more uptight hologram of my old bunk mate, and, of course, a humanoid creature that descended from a common house cat. So basically, my future has never looked so bright, and I can’t wait to start having all manner of wacky deep space adventures.