Space Exploration

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

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Starting in the fall of 2014, astronauts on the International Space Station won't have to wait months for replacement parts to be launched from Earth. Instead, they can use a newly arrived 3D printer to fabricate the tools and materials they need.
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"The 3D printer that we're going to fly on space station will actually be the first-ever 3D printer in space," Niki Werkheiser, 3D Print project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said about the space station 3D printer.  "It is the first step toward the 'Star Trek' replicator," Werkheiser added, referring to the machine in the science-fiction franchise capable of creating meals and spare parts.The 3D printer headed to the space station in August 2014 — a joint project between NASA Marshall and the California-based company Made in Space — would be limited to parts only, rather than edible objects.

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SpaceX unveiled its Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, the next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Earth orbit and beyond. The spacecraft will be capable of carrying up to seven crewmembers, landing propulsively almost anywhere on Earth, and refueling and flying again for rapid reusability. As a modern, 21st century manned spacecraft, Dragon V2 will revolutionize access to space.

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Elon Musk, the chief executive of Hawthorne-based SpaceX, revealed its new Dragon V2 capsule on May, 2014.  Musk hopes it will one day ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and expects its first manned test flight by the end of 2016.   "I'm hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it's certainly possible for that to occur," he said. "But the thing that really matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars. To make life multi-planetary," expressed Musk.

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The universe is huge. Travelling at light speed to the nearest star would take more than four years. Venturing to the other side of the galaxy? More than 100,000 years. So what's an intrepid space traveller to do?

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One option is a cosmic shortcut called a wormhole, a tunnel through the fabric of space and time that can connect far-flung corners of the universe. It's the chosen route of many fictional space travellers, including the characters in the upcoming film "Interstellar,"  directed by Christopher Nolan. Hopping through a wormhole would be incredibly difficult, say scientists, but they have yet to rule it out. So, what would it take in reality, and what exactly is stopping us now?

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Comet ISON is headed for a close encounter with the sun in 2013 and might become a spectacular sight from all of Earth around November and December, 2013.   Astronomers are excited about a sun-grazing comet discovered late in 2012. Around the time of its perihelion – or closest approach to the sun – on November 28, 2013, it could become a striking object visible to the eye alone even in broad daylight.  All of us around the globe should be able to see it.

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ISON Image Captured by

Hubble Space Telescope (4/13)

Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of our sun's surface on November 28. That's over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. This close pass to the sun might cause Comet ISON to break to pieces. If it doesn't break up, Comet ISON should become very bright. It might bright enough to see in daylight, near the sun, briefly. If it survives, it should go on to have a dazzling showing in December 2013.

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Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining venture backed by director James Cameron and two partners at Google among other well-know investors, announced the company plans to launch exploratory spacecraft within two years and a few years later could extract valuable materials from visit near-Earth asteroids.

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"This company is not about paper studies," said Eric Anderson, who co-founded Planetary Resources with fellow commercial spaceflight advocate Peter Diamandis. "It's not about thinking and dreaming about asteroid mining.