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U.S. Committee Wants Your Opinions Of The Future Of Human Spaceflight

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NASAWe here at GFR are obviously huge supporters of advancing exploration of and expansion into space in whatever form it can take. And while the private sector seems more ambitious about space exploration than ever before, it seems like every other day we hear a new story about how NASA’s funding has dwindled to a stack of scratch-off lotto tickets and $0.73 in loose change. Since it’s a government entity, NASA will always be subject to the whims of politicians, and there’s generally not much we can do about that other than voting for people who support the space program. Now a U.S. government committee has invited space proponents to speak up about what role human spaceflight should play in our future.

Given how prevailing anti-science attitudes seem to be these days, the space program could use all the proponents it can get. It’s a chance to speak up, for whatever that’s worth. You can submit your thoughts, no more than four pages in length, via the U.S. National Academies of Science website right here. The deadline for submissions is July 9. Here are the details:

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LEGO And NASA Want Your Designs For Future Spacecraft

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legoLife imitates art, and art imitates life. What about toys equal future, and future equals toys? Besides making me sound like I have something missing upstairs, that notion is the product of an all-caps partnership between LEGO and NASA that indirectly highlights how important having a hobby can be.

From now until the morning of July 31, 2013, LEGO and science enthusiasts can enter a design into NASA’s Missions: Imagine and Build program, with prizes given from both organizations. There are two different categories for you to enter, assuming you match the age requirements. The judges include LEGO execs, as well as an as-yet-unnamed NASA astronaut and another NASA expert.

“Imagine Our Future Beyond Earth” invites anyone 16 and older to open their imagination up to the universe and design what future NASA missions should look like. Of course, the imagination should be tethered to existing mission plans taking place through the 2030s. Remember to keep it classy as well. Rockets are already phallic, so there’s no reason to go overboard. The grand prize winners gets the LEGO CUUSOO Hayabusa kit (modeled after the unmanned Japanese craft) signed by its designer Melody Louise Caddick, recognition and honorable mention on NASA.gov, and a personalized signed lithograph of the unnamed astronaut judge.

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NASA Is Sending A 3D Printer To Space Next Year

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3d
Say you’re on the International Space Station and you manage to break every single coffee cup on board. No one is mad at you for practical reasons, since drinking from a cup in space is more difficult than it seems. But one of the cups was for your fellow astronaut’s favorite sports team, and he’s been giving you the stinkeye all day. What are you going to do, call NASA and tell them to ship one up, ASAP? Nope.

You just print one out, that’s all. NASA teamed up with Made In Space Inc. out of Mountain View, California to bring 3D printing into outer space. They’re calling it the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment, or 3D Print for short. It’s already been tested here on Earth in simulated microgravity, and now they’re getting ready to send the equipment to the International Space Station, which should happen at some point after certification next year.

NASA, already a government leader in engineering-based 3D printing, hopes for a future where entire spacecraft can be manufactured off-planet, saving on transportation and shipping. For smaller projects, they foresee a merge with robotics to allow for the construction of recyclable tools and temporary habitats for manned missions to the Moon, to Mars, or even asteroids.

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Warner Bros. Developing A Movie About The Apollo 11 Spacesuit Designers

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Apollo 11Before NASA could launch a successful mission to the Moon in 1969 with Apollo 11, scientists and engineers had to figure out certain problems and logistics for the highly risky mission. One of the problems NASA had to tackle was designing a spacesuit for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, so they could survive the unknown and deadly elements of space and the lunar surface. The problem was solved by an unlikely source, Playtex.

Warner Bros is developing the bra manufactures’ story of designing a spacesuit for NASA into a full-length feature film based on the author Nicholas de Monchaux’s book “Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo.” According to Deadline, the film will follow an unlikely team of former TV repairman, a car mechanic, and their crew of spirited seamstresses who figured out how to properly design a spacesuit for NASA’s manned-missions to the Moon.

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Sally Ride Honored In National Tribute, With Posthumous Presidential Medal Of Freedom Coming

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sallySally Ride was the kind of person about whom you’ll probably never see a negative word written. A physicist, astronaut, and pioneer, Ride gave space travel to women in the early 1980s, inspiring millions by the trails she blazed. And though she died last year of pancreatic cancer, her name will live on as long as this planet keeps turning. A little less than a month away from the 30th anniversary of Ride’s first space flight, NASA and President Obama made sure of that by holding a national tribute earlier this week called “Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy,” which was held at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

“Sally Ride Science is thrilled to be presenting a National Tribute to Sally to honor her lifelong commitment to space exploration, but also to improving science education and to supporting science literacy for all students,” said co-founder and chair member of Sally Ride Science Tam O’Shaughnessy, who was also Ride’s life partner.

It wasn’t just a one-night celebration, either. Ride will posthumously be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest award presented to civilians — later this year, and a new NASA internship program will bear her name. The Sally Ride Internship is intended to help students from less-than-ideal backgrounds get a leg up in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by allowing them to work with practicing members of the scientific community around the country.

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NASA And Google Will Try To Figure Out Artificial Intelligence Together

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aiSo apparently I was way off when I thought the limits of artificial intelligence were met whenever Teddy Ruxpin made the cassette tape crossover. How was I supposed to know what they were when the bear didn’t tell me?!?

There is still a lot to learn about A.I., though, and two of the greatest think tanks in the world are coming together to see if they can’t just crack the metaphorical code. NASA and Google have teamed up to launch the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, to be hosted by the Ames Research center, where they’ll house a quantum computer that international researchers are encouraged to spend time with. The goal is to study quantum computing’s role in how an artificial system can adapt to learning. You can’t know what’s in a room unless you give it a door or a window, and they’re hoping the Lab offers insight previously untapped. It’s something people like Alan Turing are probably spinning in their graves over.

The press release talks a bit about what makes designing smart computers so challenging, though the language is on a a sub-layman’s level that doesn’t really give any details about anything. Here’s the most useful paragraph as far as getting into what they’re working with:

We’ve already developed some quantum machine learning algorithms. One produces very compact, efficient recognizers — very useful when you’re short on power, as on a mobile device. Another can handle highly polluted training data, where a high percentage of the examples are mislabeled, as they often are in the real world. And we’ve learned some useful principles: e.g., you get the best results not with pure quantum computing, but by mixing quantum and classical computing.