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Asteroid Mining

An asteroid mining operation of the future

An asteroid mining operation of the future (Credit: NASA)

There’s gold in them thar asteroids – also iron, nickel, copper and, most valuable of all, water. According to the proponents of asteroid mining, these space rocks are a virtual El Dorado in the sky with more obtainable minerals in the largest three in our solar system than on the entire Earth. The question is, where exactly is all this mineral wealth and how do you get it without going broke in the process?

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Mars Capsule Being Tested

Nasa has conducted the second to last splashdown test for its Orion spacecraft as the agency prepares to eventually send humans to Mars.

Scientists at NASA’s Langley facility on Thursday used a pendulum and explosives to fling a test capsule into a pool of water at about 25 mph.

The 11-foot craft disappeared behind a bowl-shaped splash before bouncing buoyantly against safety netting.

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A mockup of NASA's Orion spacecraft, a deep space vessel that is slated to eventually travel to Mars, hits the water in a simulated ocean splashdown test at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. An unmanned test flight is scheduled for 2018 with the first crewed flight is slated for 2023.

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Wiped Out Without Warning

Releasing more energy in one second than the sun will in its entire ten-billion-year-lifetime, gamma ray bursts are some of the universe’s most powerful phenomena.

The energy is released in a focused jet of electromagnetic waves, meaning they can travel billions of light years and still look bright to us on Earth.

While all the bursts we see come from distant galaxies, there is a slight chance the same thing could happen much closer to home – and if it does, life on Earth will be wiped out without warning.

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A gamma ray burst is the equivalent of taking all the stars within a hundred million light years and focusing it into one kind of energetic 'laser beam'
A gamma ray burst is the equivalent of taking all the stars within a hundred million light years and focusing it into one kind of energetic ‘laser beam’

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Private Moon Mission Cleared

Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development
Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development (Credit: Moon Express)

For the first time ever, a private company has been given permission to land on the moon. The authorization from the US Government means next year’s planned lunar mission by Moon Express will not only be the first by a private company, but the first time a private company will leave Earth’s orbit. read more

Space Station Renderings from the ’70s

The archetypal space colony image? Don Davis' depiction of a Stanford torus space station
The archetypal space colony image? Don Davis’ depiction of a Stanford torus space station (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Those of a certain age and a certain bent can’t fail to look at this beautiful depiction of the interior of a space station without a sense of nostalgia. Because, though Don Davis (in this case) depicts a presumably far-future vision of human space colonies, the art itself is very much of its time: the 1970s.

It’s easy to mistake as being conceptual art for speculative fiction, but in fact this image, and the others here, come about as a result of successive summer studies from the collective brains of NASA, Princeton and Stanford. Here’s some of what they came up with. read more

Proton Powered Spacecraft

Nasa engineers have revealed new details of a radical new propulsion system that could slash the time it takes for spacecraft to reach interstellar space.

The system would interact with particles released by the sun, repelling protons to create thrust and achieve unprecedented speeds.

Researchers say this could bring spacecraft to the heliopause in just 10 years – a feat that took the Voyager craft 35 years.

They hope to test their idea by 2020.

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 Nasa engineers have begun testing the concept for a new propulsion system that could slash the time it takes for spacecraft to reach interstellar space. The system would interact with particles released by the sun, repelling protons to create thrust and achieve unprecedented speeds
Nasa engineers have begun testing the concept for a new propulsion system that could slash the time it takes for spacecraft to reach interstellar space. The system would interact with particles released by the sun, repelling protons to create thrust and achieve unprecedented speeds

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Neutron Star Discovered in the Crab Nebula

View of the Crab Nebula made up of three separate Hubble images
View of the Crab Nebula made up of three separate Hubble images (Credit: NASA, ESA)

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of the super-dense neutron star at the heart of the famous Crab Nebula. The nebula resulted from one of the earliest supernovae to be recorded by human beings, and its striking form has made it a popular target for amateur and professional astronomers alike. read more

A Lunar Map Used by Apollo 11 Surfaces After 47 years

A lunar map used by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to help them navigate their historic moon landing has surfaced, 47 years after the mission.

The section of photographic film shows Lunar Module Eagle’s projected descent path as it approached the moon’s surface, carrying the men who would become the first to walk on the moon.

The map is even signed by Buzz Aldrin himself, with the words ‘Carried in the Eagle to the Lunar Surface on Apollo XI’.

Aldrin used the map in the minutes prior to them touching down, calling out instructions to Armstrong, who was piloting the spacecraft. Moments later Armstrong confirmed their lunar arrival to mission control at Houston with the famous words 'the Eagle has landed'

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Cleaning Up Space

The net gun was demonstrated using a drone as a target
The net gun was demonstrated using a drone as a target (Credit: ESA)

ESA has provided a preview of its plan to net space debris by unveiling a prototype net gun designed to envelope and capture tumbling dead satellites. Wojtek Gołebiowski of Poland’s SKA Polska, which is developing the gun under a contract with the space agency, used a small version to target and take down a low-flying drone at the Industry Days event for ESA’s Clean Space initiative. read more