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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.

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The U.S. Has A Space Plane That Has Been In Orbit Since 2012

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X37BI don’t know about every craft the U.S. sends into orbit, nor am I familiar with all of the missions, but I do keep a pretty close watch on space news. Thus, I’m pretty surprised to learn that the U.S. Air Force has a space plane that’s been in Earth orbit for nearly 500 days.

The X-37B plane, which looks like a much smaller version—roughly 25% of the size—of a typical space shuttle, is carrying out a classified Orbital Test Vehicle 3 mission. It’s unclear what that means, given that it’s classified, but this is the third trip to the cosmos for the unmanned vehicle, which launched in December of 2012. In March, the shuttle took the title for the longest spaceflight. It’s also the world’s smallest robotic space plane.

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DARPA’s Huge Folding Telescope

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MOIRA DARPA’s doing more than working on robots and super soldiers. It’s also developing the biggest space telescope in history, with the hopes of launching it to join the majority of communications satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit in the Clarke belt, about 22,000 miles above Earth’s surface.

The MOIRA (Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation) telescope is being designed with something called membrane optics, which allow for higher resolution magnification, lighter weight, cheaper launches, and fewer deployment challenges. Membrane optics are a cutting-edge field in telescope lens development, and the main difference between them and conventional lenses is that membrane optics use diffraction, rather than the more conventional reflection or refraction.

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Pluto May Have A Subsurface Ocean, Saturn May Be Forming A New Moon

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pluto oceanSome of you might have woken up on April 1 to find that Pluto had been reinstated as a planet. Of course, it wasn’t true — neither was the rumor that Richard Branson bought Pluto, thank the stars. But here’s some information about Pluto that appears to be totally legit: astronomers now think it has a subsurface ocean.

A new study proposes that, after a massive object smashed into Pluto, creating its moon Charon, the heat released by the collision warmed up a region in Pluto’s interior, creating an ocean that may still be there and may actually exist in liquid form. It seems crazy to think that a planet so far from the sun could have liquid water, but come on, it’s the Cosmos — strange and crazy are its bailiwick.

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At The Edge Of The Galaxy New Stars Are Being Born

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Magellanic CloudsThere’s some cool stuff happening in space. That’s true in a general sense, but scientists have recently discovered our best look yet at the process of stars being born at the edge of our galaxy, which is exciting. A gas stream from another, nearby galaxy has collided with our own, and the result is brand spanking new stars to brighten up the night sky, unless you live in a city, then you’re just lucky to see a star at all, what with all the light pollution.

Astronomers have now identified the enormous gas flow as coming from the Magellanic Clouds, which are the nearest two galaxies that orbit around the Milky Way. When the gas collided with the gas in our own solar system, they formed the new stars. Since they’re so young and near, scientists can observe them more readily, and the results have yielded some stirring news.

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Urgent Launch Of Air Force Satellites Delays NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Flight Test

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orionNASA’s next manned spacecraft — its first new model in 40 years — is called the Orion, or “Apollo on steroids.” Presuming that it passes the various stages of unmanned flight tests, this may be the spacecraft that brings humans to Mars or to the asteroid belt for mining. To put it mildly, there are a lot of eggs in Orion’s basket, so much so that not even the government shutdown halted work on the craft. Even Universe Today dubbed 2014 “the Year of Orion.” Despite its importance, there are higher-priority matters, such as national security. Orion’s first exploration flight test, due to take place in September, has been pushed back to allow the U.S. Air Force to launch two Space Situational Awareness satellites.