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TCM Spotlighting Science In The Movies Throughout January

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CurieWe’ve been highlighting several ongoing science fiction marathons this week, but those will be drawing to a close with the end of the holidays. If you still want to keep your DVR stocked with science- and science fiction-related programming, you’ll want to figure out where the hell TCM is on your cable or satellite. Beginning tomorrow night, and continuing throughout the month of January, TCM will be filling their Friday-night lineup with classic movies that “delve into issues of scientific discovery, exploration and alteration, with some side trips into science fiction.”

Sure, that description sounds kind of broad, so let’s get specific. Each of the Friday-night events will focus on different scientific themes, ranging from “Scientists on a Mission” to “Great Inventors” to “Mad Scientists.” And as we all know, mad science is the very best science. Tomorrow night’s themes are “Nobel Prize Winners” and one of our favorites here at GFR, “Rocket Science.”

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NASA Prepares Orion For Unmanned Flight Tests

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Orion capsule mock-upDespite the government shutdown, NASA was able to continue working on the Orion, NASA’s next manned spacecraft. Before any humans step aboard the ship sometimes referred to as “Apollo on steroids,” the space agency will continue working on the ship in preparation for its debut test flight in September of next year.

Next fall, a Delta IV heavy rocket will launch the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Exploration Flight Test is designed to assess a number of critical functions, including the capsule’s heat shield, which will be tested as it plunges into Earth’s fiery atmosphere at speeds of 20,000 mph. Orion’s heat shield, like Apollo’s features “Avcoat,” which essentially removes the heat of reentry and stores it in a honeycomb matrix. This latest model will be the largest in the world, roughly 17 feet across. The flight will also test other structural components of the craft, as well as avionics and software. Ideally the results will allow developers to assess risks and ways to mitigate them.