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NASA Hiring New Astronauts, Do You Have The Right Stuff?

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Yesterday we told you here that, somehow in spite of ongoing budget cuts, NASA is working on resuming its manned space program by 2014. That means they’ll need Astronauts, and so now they’re hiring.

Today NASA posted the following “help wanted” notice on their website

Want a career that’ll take you full circle? Adventure. Commitment. Leadership. Achievement. These are the core values of NASA’s distinguished astronaut corps. They’re also the rewards of fulfilling work. The 21st century astronaut will serve on long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station – and future deep space missions. NASA is going places where there are no boundaries. Your unique talents and experiences can take you there too.

Because NASA understands it is what makes us different that makes us successful as a nation, it seeks fresh perspectives to take us out of this world.

All U.S. civilians and active duty military personnel with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math and three years of professional experience meet the requirements to apply to become the next highest class of astronaut candidates on Earth.

Apply to explore with us. Fly NASA, where the sky is not the limit.

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NASA Returns To Space In 2014

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For an organization that was supposedly going the way of the dodo bird, NASA sure is in the news a lot lately.  They’re announcing new solar sails experiments, working on tractor beams, and (maybe?) getting what funding they still have slashed some more.  Well, here’s another NASA news item:  an unmanned test flight of the Orion spacecraft in 2014, three years earlier than originally planned.  Yes, it’s an unmanned flight, but one with great implications for future human deep space exploration.  The Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) features a new Space Launch System (SLS), which the NASA press release says “will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create U.S. jobs, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human spaceflight efforts.”

Orion will be launched into space, orbit twice “to a high-apogee” (basically, to a good distance from the Earth), then bust back through the atmosphere at high speeds.  Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla, and make a water landing after re-entry.  The hope with EFT-1 is that it will provide essential data in figuring out how to design a spacecraft that can survive speeds upwards of 20,000 mph and return astronauts safely from greater distances outside of Earth’s orbit.  NASA says it’s developing Orion to bring humans to the moon, asteroids, Mars, “and other destinations” via SLS, but being able to travel at high speeds and still re-enter safely is also a basic requirement for any kind of craft for manned deep space exploration.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for space exploration and NASA nerds of late, but moving a test flight up instead of postponing it might show there is hope yet.

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Timelapse Video Of Earth From Space: An Astronaut’s View

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The video below is a breathtaking look at our little planet. Iconic imagery of Earth from space has become almost mundane, but this timelapse video of photos taken between August and October from the International Space Station is awe-inspiring. The planet looks ethereal and beautiful while simultaneously appearing to be a violent and turbulent place.

The photos were taken by astronaut Ron Garan, and show off how our planet looks today from space. From natural events like lightning storms flashing across the planet and the aurora’s covering portions of the planet in a Technicolor blanket, to the mapping of civilization via lighted arrays all over the Earth. Our world is a wonder to behold.

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Obama Killing What’s Left Of NASA, Shutting Down Planetary Exploration?

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Earlier this week I opined the death of NASA, and a lot of you responded by insisting that even though they were no longer well funded enough to do manned space exploration, their new mandate of exploration of the solar system’s planets by robot was as good or better than anything they could have done with manned missions. Bad news: That may be dead too.

The Washington Times reports that the Obama administration plans to end all planetary exploration by NASA and the United States of America, by the year 2013. Worse, word is that they plan to position the space astronomy program for destruction too. American won’t just stop exploring outer space, we aren’t even going to look at it anymore.

The story published in the Washington Times doesn’t cite any sources and merely says that this “leaked out” in the Obama administration’s budget, so we’ll need more details before we can call this a done deal. But, this move isn’t entirely unexpected, and seems pretty much in keeping with the Obama administration’s overall attitude towards space exploration in recent years.

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German ROSAT Satellite Hurtling Towards Earth Will Crash As Early As Tomorrow

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When we as Earthlings put satellites in space it’s usually to further our race and improve the technology we use to survive. Rarely do we expect to wind up in an extra-terrestrial game of chicken with pieces of said satellite once it’s outlived its use, but that’s the situation we currently find ourselves in with ROSAT.

ROSAT, a German satellite that was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999, and used to expand our knowledge of black holes and neutron stars, is on its way back to Earth but not in any sort of controlled manner. It has been out of commission for over a decade and its decaying orbit has finally diminished enough for the satellite to begin reentry into our atmosphere. According to the Huffington Post, experts don’t know where exactly the pieces will come down, but they don’t expect them to hit in the U.S. or Europe…because they have their fingers crossed.

Andreas Schuetz was able to give some super vague details about where it will hit and what exactly will make its way to the surface and not burn up in the atmosphere. Anyone between 53 north and 53 south longitude could potentially get whacked with ROSAT’s heat resistant mirror, which will likely be the largest piece to make it to the surface. And since 53N to 53S comprises just about all of the world aside from the arctic and antarctic zones, we are all targets.

Does this not feel a little irresponsible to anyone else, just letting 1.87 tons of metal and glass smash into the Earth and hoping for the best? Currently the satellite is traveling at 17,400 miles per hour, and of course that will slow down drastically once it enters the atmosphere, but this could still potentially cause a fair amount of damage, injury or death. Recently, a NASA satellite splashed down in the Pacific ocean, but even then pieces of the satellite were strewn about a 500-mile stretch of Earth. Should they not have gone up to get it?

Moving forward I’d like to think that a multi-billion dollar government program would be able to make this process a little more safe. But until then, your chances of being struck by one of these is about 1 in 14 trillion, but still be ready to duck and cover this weekend just in case.

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Russia Planning A Moon Colony Built Inside Lunar Lava Tubes

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The United States may have won the first leg of the space race, but the Russians are winning the space marathon. While America mothballs its space program and cuts funding, the Russians are not only continuing on with theirs… they’re making plans to be the first country to establish a base on the moon.

Researchers have recently discovered volcanic tunnels on the moon and Russia is considering using those tunnels to house a moon colony. The head of Russia’s Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow tells Reuters that this discovery could make establishing a permanent colony easier. He explains, “There wouldn’t be any need to dig the lunar soil and build walls and ceilings. It would be enough to use an inflatable module with a hard outer shell to — roughly speaking — seal the caves.”

It sounds like this plan is still in early stages but Russia’s cosmonauts seem to think they can get this done by as soon as 2030. Remember, unlike the United States they still have a space fleet. This may seem far fetched, but while they’re still running missions to the International Space Station, American scientists are forced to do little more than hitch rides on their ships. The idea makes a lot of sense, and with America out of the picture, Russia may be the only nation in the world which can actually pull it off.