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NASA Centaur art competition

413px Centaur rocket stage

Above is the Centaur rocket, "America's Workhorse in Space," that NASA used in more than 200 missions, from Voyager to Viking, Cassini to New Horizons. To celebrate the Centaur's 50th anniversary, NASA and our friends at Ingenuity Cleveland are holding an art competition to creatively convey the unique engineering and features of the Centaur Program. The prizes include tours of NASA, viewing of rocket test-fires, and display at IngenuityFest 2014 and NASA Glenn Research Center. Artists of all disciplines and ages are encouraged to submit proposals or finished work! More details: NASA Centaur Art Challenge

How do Muslims pray in space?

Pesco's post earlier today about a cleric who issued a fatwa against one-way trips to Mars got me wondering about how Muslim prayer works off-planet. After all, the timing and orientation of those daily prayers are based on Earth time and Earth geography. Fascinatingly, the Malaysian Space Agency actually convened a conference of 150 Islamic scientists and scholars to answer those very questions back in 2006. In a video, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the first Malaysian astronaut, explains how life on the ISS changed (and didn't change) his religious life. (Thank you, Ty!)

Fatwa against one-way trip to Mars

Muslims aren't permitted to take a one-way trip to Mars, at least according to a Khaleej Times report about a fatwa they say was issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates. “Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam... there is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.” From the Khaleej Times:
Whoever opts for this “hazardous trip”, the committee said, is likely to perish for no “righteous reason”, and thus will be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”.

The committee, presided by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said: “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”

One-way trip to Mars prohibited in Islam

India sending spacecraft to Mars for about 75% of 'Gravity' film budget


The Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Spacecraft mounted in a rocket at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in India. Photo: Indian Space Research Organization, via NYT.

Saritha Rai, reporting for the New York Times on India’s recent launch of a spacecraft to Mars: "It is the $75 million mission’s thrifty approach to time, money and materials that is getting attention. Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, Gravity.” [NYTimes.com]

Like a zombie, China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover hops to life again after malfunction


A photograph of the giant screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows photo of the Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" lunar rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e 3 probe during the mutual-photograph process, in Beijing December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Earlier this week, it looked like China's malfunctioning lunar rover might be headed for the junk pile. But the week ends with great news: "Yutu has come back to life!" spokesperson Pei Zhaoyu told a Chinese state-run news agency. The probe " went into sleep under an abnormal status," he added.

The rover isn't out of the space woods yet: While normal signal reception capabilities have reportedly been restored, the cause of the initial issues remains unclear -- as does whether they can be fixed. But Pei says Jade Rabbit "stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive."
A well-linked roundup at the Washington Post.

Victorian mansion for sale with spaceship attic


There are lots of £3,250,000 mansions around London's Crystal Palace, but there aren't many whose attics have been converted to spaceship control rooms. The estate-agent-ese in the posting is enough to melt your eyeballs, but I gather that this place is has 8 bedrooms, is about 7,000sqft, and is both Gothic Grade II and Victorian Grade II listed (or possibly these are interchangeable).

11 bedroom detached house for sale (via Geekologie)

Digitized items from the Carl Sagan archive go live on the Library of Congress site


The Library of Congress has acquired The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive, and has begun to catalog and digitize the materials in it, posting them to the library's website. The scanned materials include Sagan's personal papers, and are divided into three categories: models of the cosmos throughout history; history of the possibility of life on other worlds; Carl Sagan's life and contributions to science and society."

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Model spaceships inspired by classic science fiction paperback covers

Grant Louden is an artist in Milton Keynes who is working on a series of incredible sculptures based on the spaceships from classic sf pulp covers. The first one is Star Dwellers, based on Colin Hay's cover for James Blish's novel. Louden collaborated with Hay on the piece, and officially licensed it. The build is an amazing mix of Fimo, model parts, car body filler, and custom castings in rubber and resin. Needless to say, the detail is fantastic.

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Remembering the space shuttle Challenger disaster, 28 years later

[Click for large size.]

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HOWTO wash your hair in space

NASA flight engineer Karen Nyberg shot this video aboard the International Space Station, showing how she washes her hair in space. I love the escaping, mischievous blobs of water, and the awesome spectacle of Nyberg's hair rising up in a might, vertical pillar. Best part, though, is how the space station itself is a huge hair dryer that sucks the moisture out of her hair and recycles it into drinking water.

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Lunar panorama stitched from Chinese Chang'e lander images

Jeffrey sez, "Our esteemed interplanetary panorama enthusiast, Andrew Bodrov, has done it again (previously, this time being the first to stitch a 360 from the new Chinese moon lander!

Lunar panorama: Chang'e 3 lander (Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Everyday wear spacesuit jacket


Chris from Betabrand sez, "While humanity waits for the space industry to hurry the hell up and allow it to freely travel through the cosmos, the fashion industry is already prepared. Today, Betabrand released the Space Jacket by Steven B. Wheeler -- a Tyvek and silver nylon masterpiece that's inspired by astronaut EVA suits and satellite insulation."

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Virgin Galactic reaches new supersonic heights, completes third powered flight


Feathered Flight during SpaceShipTwo's third powered flight on 10 January 2014 over the Mojave desert. .This image was taken by MARS Scientific as part of the Mobile Aerospace Reconnaissance System optical tracking system..More infomation on MARS Scientific and the Mobile Aerospace Reconnaissance System can be found at: www.MarsScientific.com

Richard Branson's commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic today completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). Here's the company's news brief, from Mojave:

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Canada's former defense minister: aliens will give us tech if we quit wars

Paul Hellyer was Canada's Minister of Defense in the mid-1960s. He is now a critic of the United States' willingness to trigger an interstellar war with aliens—aliens who might give us more advanced technology if only we were less belligerent.

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What the Chinese Moon landing teaches us about American lunar orbiter

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer was watching as China's Chang'e 3 landed on the Moon. But the landing didn't register on any of LADEE's sensors. Why? The answer teaches us a lot about both the orbiter and the Moon itself.

Astronauts prepare for spacewalk Tuesday to finish ISS repairs


NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is seen during the spacewalk in this photo courtesy of NASA.

"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are planning a second and final spacewalk to fix the outpost's cooling system early on Tuesday." More at Reuters. Also, read our earlier post on Saturday's successful spacewalk.

How is China's lunar mission going? Here's a rover postcard from the moon.


"The Chang'e 3 lander took this photo of the rover Yutu on December 22, 2013. The rover had completed a semicircular tour of the lander and was departing the lander due south. This version of the image has been white-balanced and color-corrected." Image: CNSA / Gordan Ugarkovic

Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla has posted a roundup of what China's lunar rover Yutu has been up to on the Chang'e 3 unmanned space exploration mission. Lots of pictures.