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China Will Land A Probe On The Moon By The End Of 2013

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china rocketWhile we here at Giant Freakin’ Robot would never claim to be xenophobic, we admit that a good portion of our news about China has to do with their box office totals and their heinous censorship of movies. But we should have been paying more attention to their ascent in the space race, as they’ve moved past exoplanet hunts and their manned trip to the Chinese space station Tiangong 1. In a press statement, the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense said they are now finished with their plans and construction of an unmanned rover which they intend to land on the moon by the end of this year. (Cue dramatic theremin note.)

The mission is called Chang’e-3, after a mythological character who resided in a lunar palace. The implications of the name are clear, even though it’ll be years before they’re able to send their own astronauts there. But the point is, they aren’t held back by having a lower budget than NASA, or by getting a later start than the U.S. and Russia in the galactic rush. They’re setting goals and they’re reaching them, which has got to make their citizens proud. Incidentally, they set 2020 as the date for their manned lunar mission.

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Exoskeletons Aren’t Just for Iron Men Anymore—Now They’re For Astronauts Too

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exoskeleton
While Elysium raises some frightening possibilities about the implications of the class divide, it did present a pretty awesome futuristic possibility in Matt Damon’s exoskeleton. A possibility that, like so many others from sci-fi, seems poised to become reality.

NASA, along with engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, is developing the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton, intended to make astronauts more like Iron Man.

The device weighs 57 pounds and attaches to the astronaut via a back and shoulder harness and fittings over the legs. The knee and hip joints are motorized, and the exoskeleton has other passive joints that enable turning, flexing, and other adaptive and reactive movements. All told, it has 10 joints or degrees of freedom.

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Comet Dives Into The Sun, Scores A 9.8

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Comets sure are dramatic sometimes — last week, one dove right into the sun! Scientists from NASA and the ESA observed the comet via the cooperative Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which was launched in 1995 to study the Sun’s internal structure, atmosphere, solar winds, and ionized gases. The comet was relatively tiny — a few tens of meters across, according to a U.S. Naval Research Lab scientist. And while that may seem big to us, it wasn’t anywhere near big enough to survive the solar radiation.

The video below shows the dramatic nosedive. It takes close to 40 seconds for the comet to appear at the bottom right of the screen, where it quickly heads into the sun with a dramatic finish.

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Mars’ First Settlers? Meet The People Who Want To Move To The Red Planet Permanently

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Mars OneIf you’ve been reading GFR for a while, or any science- or space-related publication, you’ve likely heard of Mars One, a Dutch non-profit organization that plans to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Four rigorously vetted applicants will launch in 2022 on a mission to become the first permanent residents of the red planet. And by permanent, I mean permanent — this is a one-way mission. These folks aren’t coming back.

Like everything else nowadays, their travels and travails will be documented in a round-the-clock reality television program, but unless things go very wrong, no one will be kicked off the island.

Mars One started accepting applications in April and the deadline is August 31. If you’re on the fence about whether you want to go to Mars forever, it’s time to decide. The selection process will last two years and will involve medical clearances, interviews, a televised national selection round, and a televised international selection round. Ultimately, 24 people will be picked and divided into six teams of four to start preparing for their new life on Mars. One team will leave for Mars in the fall of 2022, with the other teams on-deck for their trips. By then, hopefully the radiation-preventing deflector shields will be in place.

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield Reflects On Sounds In Space

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If you frequent this site, along with most other science/space-based areas of the Internet, then you’re familiar with the name (and the sounds of) Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who commanded the International Space Station from December 2012 through May 2013. While up there, Hadfield almost single-handedly gave astronauts social media relevancy, assisted by his son Evan, by releasing videos and soundbites of just how differently things worked in space, from crying to conservation. He recently released a video through SoundCloud, thanking them for allowing him to share his with the world things that regular citizens don’t get to see or hear everyday.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Humans Might Be Too Stupid For Aliens To Contact

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The Fermi Paradox illustrates the apparent contradiction between the high likelihood that there is intelligent life somewhere out there and our lack of contact (or proof of contact) with any of those civilizations. The Paradox rests on the ideas that there are billions of stars and galaxies much, much older than ours, and that many of them contain habitable planets (the Kepler telescope has confirmed this), and some of those must support life. And where there’s intelligent life, there’s technology, particularly in terms of interstellar travel.

The key question, then, of the Fermi paradox is: why haven’t we been visited by aliens? In a recent interview with Business Insider, astrophycisist Neil deGrasse Tyson shares some “unorthodox” thoughts about why that might be.