Future spacecraft could repair its own skin

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The International Space Station occasionally has to dodge pieces of debris floating in space.
The International Space Station occasionally has to dodge pieces of debris floating in space.
Photo: NASA

To see a satellite image of the field of space debris that floats around the earth is like looking at fleas swarming an unfortunate dog. About a half-million pieces of debris are the size of a marble, but even tiny pieces that travel more than 17,000 miles per hour could be deadly to a spacecraft with astronauts.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and NASA have developed a self-healing material that could instantly plug up a hole in the hull of a ship just milliseconds after impact.

NASA’s space shuttle to fly again – or at least pieces of it

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NASA recently pulled the water tanks from the space shuttle Endeavor.
NASA recently pulled the water tanks from the space shuttle Endeavor.
Photo: California Science Center

If you get to a museum to see one of the shuttles that actually flew in space, your jaw may drop. Just don’t mind the guys pulling parts from it.

NASA recently sent engineers to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to dust off the mothballs of the space shuttle Endeavor and remove four water storage tanks for future use aboard the International Space Station.

NASA needs a smartwatch app for its astronauts

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ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked with iPad during a recent mission on the International Space Station. NASA wants astronauts to start using smartwatches for some of their tasks.
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked with iPad during a recent mission on the International Space Station. NASA wants astronauts to start using smartwatches for some of their tasks.
Photo: NASA

There’s a smartwatch app for almost everything, but very few are useful to the men and women who work in microgravity.

So NASA is asking the pubic to design a smartwatch app for its astronauts to do everything from keeping them organized during science experiments to alerting them to space debris approaching.

At the International Space Station, it’s Suntory time

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Suntory whiskey mellows with age, but the company wants to know how it tastes after time in space.
Suntory whiskey mellows with age, but the company wants to know how it tastes after time in space.
Photo: Suntory

We should pity the astronauts on the International Space Station, especially the two who are currently there for a year.

Just feet away from where they probably drink their Tang, the Japanese Experiment Module will soon hold samples of that country’s legendary Suntory whiskey to see how it ages in microgravity.

Suntory announced last week that it was sending whiskey samples on a Japanese transfer vehicle that will take off on Aug. 16 to rendezvous with the ISS. Some of the whiskey will be stored for up to two years to see how it mellows in space.

NASA flyby gives closer look at Pluto’s mysterious ‘heart’

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When NASA shared this image of Pluto with its Instagram followers Tuesday, scientists called it a love letter.
When NASA shared this image of Pluto with its Instagram followers Tuesday, scientists called it a love letter.
Photo: NASA/APL/SwRI

We downgraded its status, but Pluto still showed us its heart.

A spartan but warm-toned orb with a prominent heart-shaped terrain came into clear view Tuesday morning after NASA’s New Horizons snapped a picture some 476,000 miles from its surface after nearly a decade of travel.

Pluto was still considered a planet when New Horizon’s took off in 2006 for the end of our solar system. Since then, astronomers changed its status to a dwarf planet, but that did not diminish the excitement scientists and fans of star-gazing as the probe approached Pluto and its moons.

Hubble finds football-shaped moons in the end zone of our solar system

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An artist's rendering shows the wobbble and oblong shape of Pluto's moon, Nix.
An artist's rendering shows the wobbble and oblong shape of Pluto's moon, Nix.
Illustration: NASA

Just because Pluto lost its planetary status doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting to astronomers.

NASA on Wednesday reported two football-shaped moons that wobble so unpredictably that the sun could rise in a different direction every day from either of the moons.

The Hubble Telescope recorded the oddball orbits of the oblong moons Nix and Hydra, which wobble because they are embedded in a constantly shifting gravitational field created by dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. Pluto and Charon share a common center of gravity.

Apollo mission patches put stars in the eyes of a family

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The Apollo 11 mission patch. Photo: NASA/Neil F. Smith/YouTube
The Apollo 11 mission patch. Photo: NASA/Neil F. Smith/YouTube

I had the kind of dad who brought his work home with him. That was exciting since he was in the business of putting men on the moon.

Each time there was a scheduled launch, my two brothers and I could always expect our dad to come home with mission patches. Robert Pierini was an engineer in the late 1960s and early ’70s with an electronics company in Milwaukee that developed the guidance system for the Apollo mission.

So when filmmaker Neil F. Smith recently posted a video to YouTube, bringing animated life to each mission emblem, I immediately felt the same rush I had as a kid when I held a patch in my hand.

NASA’s new Mars mission technology looks like a flying saucer

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NASA is testing a saucer-like space craft that could bring heavy payloads to Mars. Photo illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA is testing a saucer-like spacecraft that could bring heavy payloads to Mars. Photo illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Flying saucers from Mars is the stuff of science fiction. But a flying saucer from Earth is part of the mission to get astronauts to the Martian surface.

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory completed a successful spin test of a saucer-shaped experimental craft in front of a live web audience Tuesday. The saucer will next lift off by balloon from Hawaii, where from 120,000 feet it will be dropped to test a new kind of parachute and an inflatable Kevlar ring to add drag for a slower descent.

Diva takes her singing to new heights — space

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British singer Sarah Brightman during training at Star City in Russia. Photo: Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
British singer Sarah Brightman during training at Star City in Russia. Photo: Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

British singer Sarah Brightman has a five-octave vocal range and millions have paid top dollar to hear her sing. But to hit the highest note of her career, Brightman is spending her own money.

Brightman is paying a reported $52 million to become the first singer to travel in space. She will board a Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 1 for a 10-day trip aboard the International Space Station. It is the most expensive space tourist trip on record, according to the TASS Russian News Agency.

Photos of Brightman’s training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City near Moscow, can be found on her website and in Wednesday’s Daily Mail, which gave a detailed account of her training.

50 years ago, this amazing event showed us the future

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The 1964-65 World's Fair in New York was mid-century snapshot of American industry and a first-look at technological wonders we take for granted today. Photo: worldsfairmovie.com
The 1964-65 World's Fair served up a midcentury snapshot of American industry and a first look at today's technological wonders. Photo: After the Fair

Mitch Silverstein would have many visions of the future in 1964 and the first would appear in full-color wonder, his big 6-year-old eyes staring back at him in disbelief.

He was seeing himself on a color television at the RCA Pavilion at the World’s Fair at Corona Park in Queens, New York.

“It left such a big impression on me,” Silverstein said. “That was a first for most people because that was a pretty major technological step.”

For all the things the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65 was said to get wrong, the fair showcased several technological wonders that, some 50 years later, we take for granted.