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A Plan Make The Moon A Hub For Solar Power By Putting A Ring Around It

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Luna Ring
America may not be sending people to the moon anytime soon, but recently NASA has been interested in how we can use the moon to advance the scientific and space frontiers. From growing plants to using the moon as a way to destroy threatening asteroids to establishing a national park there, scientists seem to be realizing that there’s more to be done on Earth’s favorite space rock than simply sticking a flag in it. The latest idea for the moon, proposed by Japan’s Shimizu Corporation, involves turning it into a major hub for solar power by putting something called a Luna Ring around it. Would that make us married to the moon?

The moon is an advantageous venue for harvesting solar power, given that it’s constantly sunbathing. Solar-powered instruments, such as some used by Apollo astronauts and China’s recently launched Yutu moon rover have successfully harnessed the endless sunlight available to the moon. So why not increase the scale? Shimizu Corporation’s proposal involves wrapping a 250-mile-wide ring of solar panels around the moon’s equator and then beaming the solar power back to mother Earth.

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NASA Will Try To Grow Plants On The Moon In 2015

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plants on the moonIn President Obama’s 2010 speech on the country’s space program, he undid the previous administration’s plan to send American astronauts back to the moon: “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” My favorite comedy show of all time, Mr. Show (starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross) has a sketch about blowing up the moon, in which a former Apollo astronaut says, “I walked on the moon. I did a push-up, I ate an egg on it… What else can you do with it?” Well, NASA has an answer to that question — it intends to grow plants on the moon.

The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, comprised of NASA scientists, as well as contractors, volunteers, and students, will try to grow a couple of plants such as basil, sunflowers, and turnips in specially constructed cylindrical aluminum planters that contain sensors, cameras, and other equipment that will broadcast images of the plants as the grow (or don’t grow). The plant habitats are intended to be self-sufficient, able to monitor and regular temperature, moisture, and their own power supply.

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Catch Sunday’s Rare Hybrid Solar Eclipse—It Won’t Happen Again For 159 Years

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annular solar eclipseIt’s a good thing we’re getting an extra hour tonight — I plan on waking up before 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning to watch a rare hybrid solar eclipse. If you live in the Eastern U.S., rising early tomorrow just might give you a chance to see a pretty strange and awesome sunrise eclipse, and if you live in an 8,345-mile-long corridor that passes through Northern South America, Africa, or the Middle East, at some point tomorrow you’re likely to see a full solar eclipse.

Hybrid eclipses like this, for which geographical location determines whether it’s a partial or full eclipse, are quite rare. This century, less than five percent of all central solar eclipses will be hybrid or annular-total eclipses. Most of these eclipses begin by looking like a ring of fire, in which the moon passes in front of the sun, but is too far away from Earth to completely block it out. Instead, the moon blocks out about 95% of the sun, leaving a halo of sun around its dark edges. This is how the eclipse will start, but it won’t stay this way for long.

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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.

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The Moon Is Covered In Human Feces

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Moon

You look at it a little differently when you know it’s covered in human poo.

Those of you who saw Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity this past weekend—and if the box office numbers are any indication there were a lot of you—then you’re well aware of the hazards of the random junk that we as a species leave floating out in space. There appears to be a bunch, though not all of it is zipping around at 50,000 miles per hour, threatening to shred Sandra Bullock. In the course of our history, twelve humans has walked on the Moon, and, much like a Labor Day campsite, we’ve used our only organic satellite as a de facto garbage dump. One item in particular that we’ve left on the Moon may catch your attention is human feces. That’s right, we flew all the way to the Moon—all 238,900 miles—and pooped on it.

In order to lighten the load—not intended as a euphemism—for the return home, astronauts ditched what is commonly known as their “defecation collection devices,” or emesis bags, which, as you probably guessed, are used to store human waste. And these nifty little sacks of human poo are still there, chilling on the surface of the moon. Most of us will get a ticket if we don’t clean up after our dogs at the park, so it seems a little unfair that astronauts can fling their crap around space with impunity. You have to look no farther than what happened to Dave Matthews to see the consequences of adopting a similar practice here on Earth.

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NASA’s LADEE Moon Probe Puts On Show For The Eastern U.S.

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LADEELate Friday night, NASA launched a Minotaur V rocket carrying a lunar orbiter called LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer). The rocket was visible to much of the northeast seaboard as it arced through the sky.

LADEE, which despite its adorable acronym is unmanned (and unwomaned), is a “modular common spacecraft bus” that weighs roughly 850 pounds and is the length of a small car. The modular components and parallel assembly keep design costs down and shortens launch preparation time. It only takes 295 watts to power—that’s akin to five 60-watt light bulbs.