Search results for: NASA +budget

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Gravity’s Filming Cost More Than India’s Mars Mission

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gravityHere’s a newsflash: Going to space is expensive. And it should be — second-hand or knock-off rockets seem like a pretty bad idea, no? Still, the cost of space exploration and various missions, from satellite launch contracts to manned missions to Mars, generate constant debate, especially as NASA struggles to amass a budget that will make it possible to push the space frontier. So it blows my mind — and not in a good way — to read that filming Gravity cost more than launching India’s probe to Mars.

First off, let me just say that I loved Gravity. I haven’t been that riveted in a theater for a long time — for 90+ minutes I didn’t think about my job, what I was going to do for the rest of the night, the weather. Gravity is nothing short of completely engrossing, and stunningly beautiful to boot. I also think it’s an important film — despite its factual inconsistencies, it does make audiences aware of some of the bigger truths about space, such as its dangers and its rewards, and the perspective one gets from looking at the Earth from beyond it. The price tag for the film is something around $100 million, which isn’t even all that surprising in the age of Hollywood blockbusters. But when you think about what that $100 million could have been spent on, especially when it comes to research, development, and space exploration, it’s pretty sobering.

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The House Seems To Be Supporting Manned Flight To Mars

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man on marsPerhaps the recent National Research Council report lambasting NASA’s plan to get humans to Mars was the wake-up call the government needed. That report (which somewhat ironically cost upwards of $3 million to assemble) couldn’t have been clearer in stating that, under current circumstances, NASA’s manned Mars missions were nothing but a pipe dream, and an invitation to “failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.” Yikes. But sometimes, a kick (or ten) in the ass is what the government needs, and when the House passed a new NASA reauthorization bill last week, it took the step in providing a more feasible budget for putting people on Mars.

Just before the bill passed the House, Steven Palazzo, Chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said, “We are committed to once more launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil,” and argued that the bill would “serve as a pathway to Mars.” The bill also reinforces Obama’s previous commitment to developing a cutting-edge heavy-lift rocket launcher, as well as the new generation of Orion spacecraft, which is currently undergoing testing.

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SpaceX Will Unveil The Dragon V2 Spacecraft Tonight

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unveilWhat are you doing tonight at 10:00 PM EST? For most of us science and tech geeks, that’s a rhetorical question. We’ll be gathered around our computers, watching SpaceX unveil the Dragon V2—the next generation of the Dragon Spacecraft. This iteration isn’t for shuttling cargo to the ISS, it’s for taking astronauts there, and beyond.

Dragon has been proving its worth for years, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the ISS and serving as regular cargo service to the station. But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has always had grander plans. Since the U.S. currently relies on Russian Soyuz capsules to get astronauts into space—a method of transportation that won’t be available to us for much longer—now is the perfect time to reveal the spacecraft that may take its place and restore the U.S.’s ability to launch its own astronauts into space by 2017. The V2, which Musk will unveil himself tonight via the webcast, is also known as the “Space Taxi.”

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Russia Bailing On The ISS

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ISSSix weeks after NASA announced that it would be cutting ties with Russia, except for their collaboration on the ISS, Russia has gone a step further, saying that it plans to stop participating in the ISS after 2020.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia will use its resources to focus on other projects. In the statement, he said, “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything.” He also mentioned “inappropriate” sanctions, including plans to deny the export of high-tech equipment to Russia. In turn, Russia says that while it is ready to deliver engines used to build widely-used Atlas V rockets, it will only do so on the “condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites.” Um…

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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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China’s Moon Rover Delivers More Stunning Photos From The Lunar Surface

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Chang'e-3 Lander

Chang’e-3 Lander

In mid-December, China became the third country to land a craft on the moon. But given the holidays and the general madness of the end of the year, it’s easy to forget about that rover and what it might be seeing and doing. The Chinese Academy of Sciences is more than happy to remind us, though, and has released a slew of stunning photos taken by Yutu.