Search results for: "orion"

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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 Developing New Biotech Unit

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darpa soldierSome government agencies struggle with budget constraints, while others reap the benefit of prioritization. DARPA clearly falls in the latter camp, having received a budget boost from the Pentagon. A hefty chunk of that money will go toward establishing a Biological Technologies Office for bolstering national security.

DARPA has previously dabbled in biotech, but the new office makes it a priority and will expand on the existing offices of Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology. The mission of the Biotechnical Technologies Office (BTO) is to “foster, demonstrate, and transition breakthrough fundamental research, discoveries, and applications that integrate biology, engineering, and computer science for national security,” and includes “human-machine interfaces, microbes as production platforms, and deep exploration of the impact of evolving ecologies.” This opens up a host of different directions and technologies for DARPA to pursue.

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Giant Freakin’ Bookshelf: Week Of February 24, 2014

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As much as we love science fiction on TV, on the big screen, on the comics page, and in video game form, there’s just something irreplaceable about digging into a good book. There’s no shortage of new sci-fi adventures hitting shelves on a regular basis, but GFR is your one-stop shop to keep up with what’s hitting shelves in a given week. Here’s what’s new on the Giant Freakin’ Bookshelf!

HammerAngelsHammer of Angels” by G.T. Almasi

In G. T. Almasi’s thrilling alternate reality, the United States, the USSR, and the Republic of China share a fragile balance of power with Greater Germany, which emerged from World War II in control of Europe and half of the Middle East. To avoid nuclear Armageddon, the four superpowers pursue their ambitions with elite spies known as Levels, who are modified with mechanical and chemical enhancements.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, code-named Scarlet, is a kick-ass superheroine with killer Mods and an attitude to match. She’s considered one of America’s top Levels, even though her last mission nearly precipitated World War III. So now Scarlet and her new partner, Darwin, have been sent to Greater Germany to help sow the seeds of anarchy and prevent Germany’s defection to Russia and China.

But where Scarlet goes, chaos follows — and when her mission takes an unexpected turn, she and Darwin must go ever deeper into enemy territory. As Scarlet grapples with a troubling attraction to her new partner, explosive information comes to light about the German cloning program and one of its prisoners — a legendary American Level who just happens to be Scarlet’s father.

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NASA May Slam An Asteroid Down On The Moon Like A Giant Domino

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asteroidUsing up resources then getting rid of the evidence has become such prevalent behavior in the U.S. that we may as well change the definition of “The American Way.” Instead of doing it with the usual goods such as food and water, NASA is planning on capturing an asteroid, getting all it needs out of it, and then throwing it away like a common Earth rock. But how do you logically get rid of something that massive? You crash it into the moon, that’s how. But chances are, anyone reading this won’t be alive by the time that happens. Not the silver-est of linings.

The plan is to metaphorically grab a hold of a near-Earth asteroid and get it into a stable orbit around the moon. There, it can be used for exploratory and research purposes, remaining in place for multiple visitations during its years of use. “We think we have a lot of options,” said Steve Stich, deputy director of engineering at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We haven’t really talked about it in detail about all those kinds of things we can go do, but certainly we have enabled, by the way we have designed this mission, multiple visits to the asteroid.”

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Astronomy Pictures Of The Year Are Gorgeous And Humbling

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EarthSpaceSpace is just awesome and amazing and stupefying and beautiful. Since you’re currently reading GFR, I think we can all probably agree with those statements. One of the great joys of writing for this site is that I’m constantly exposed to new wonders our ambitious species has captured and dragged down into our clumsy, surface-bound existence. Sometimes it’s new discoveries which could fundamentally change our world for the better. Sometimes it’s a new science fiction story which uses the metaphor of the fantastic to comment on the day-to-day questions and crises we all have to deal with. Sometimes it’s just a freakin’ gorgeous picture of our awe-inspiring cosmos…and sometimes it’s a whole bunch of those.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition has just announced the winners of their annual competition across multiple categories, and they’re just as stunning as you might expect. The picture above, entitled “Guiding Light to the Stars,” was shot by Mark Gee of Australia, and is the “Overall Earth and Space” winner. It shows the Milky Way rising over the horizon of New Zealand’s North Island, in the hours before dawn. The bright light on the right is a lighthouse, but even with that extra light creeping in, Gee’s panoramic shot shows gorgeous detail of the heart of our galaxy, clustered together some 26,000 light years away. As Keanu Reeves has been known to say, “Woah.”

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Keanu Reeves Serves Up A Surreal Bill & Ted 3 Update

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Excellent!More than a year ago, Keanu Reeves revealed that a long-awaited sequel to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was in the works. Reeves’ co-star, Alex Winter, and the original writers, Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon, are all on-board working on a script for Bill & Ted 3. One year later and the sequel film is still in development with no signs of progress. Will Bill & Ted ever see the light from the Circle K again?

In an interview with MTV, Reeves, who played Ted “Theodore” Logan in the film series, updated fans on Bill & Ted 3‘s development and what to expect from the third installment of the franchise. Apparently, the project is currently shrouded in “darkness.” Here’s Reeves:

It’s a long story. There’s lots of subterfuge and conspiracy theories. There’s a whole thing… I might have to do one of those independent press, conspiracy, other-name kind of [statements] explaining why it hasn’t happened yet, because it’s pretty dark out there… There is [a script]. There’s all sorts of stuff and it just can’t — it’s just — there’s darkness out there that’s keeping it from happening… It’s that part of the story where it’s looking grim. It’s the dark period of the idea!