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NASA's Kepler spacecraft sends home data suggesting odds of space life are better than we thought


Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Dennis Overbye, in the New York Times: "Astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy, based on a new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft."

Indian spacecraft soars on historic journey to Mars


The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST; 2:38 p.m. local time) from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center. Photo: ISRO

Today, India makes space history: its low-cost Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off with the nation's first mission to Mars. More at Spaceflight Now.

Tweet your ideas for the future of human spaceflight!

Mars expedition

BB colleague Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack and global instigator of Science Hack Day says:

I'm an appointed National Academy of Sciences committee member of a congressionally-requested study on the future of human spaceflight. The Committee on Human Spaceflight has been tasked with a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program. Committees regularly request white papers as a way of soliciting public input - however, I'm leading the charge on the NAS's first ever endeavor to solicit public input via Twitter!

On Tuesday, October 29, any tweets with the hashtag #HumansInSpace will be used as *direct input* to the Committee on Human Spaceflight. Specifically, we'd like people to respond to: "What are your best ideas for creating a NASA human spaceflight program that is sustainable over the next several decades?". The official website for the campaign is here.

To me, this is a huge (and more accessible) way to make sure we hear from a wide array of people, and I'd absolutely love to make sure to get everyone who follows Boing Boing to have their voice be included.

#HumansInSpace at Twitter

Kazakhstan's decaying Soviet space murals


Esquire Kazakhstan features photos of the country's decaying Soviet space murals, which do not have protected status, and are coming to bits. They're still towering, heroic Soviet Realist paeans to space travel, sorrowful as they may be.

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Jellyfish born in space get vertigo on Earth


Jellyfish born in space have "massive vertigo" when they are brought to Earth, and apparently lack the gravity-sensing capabilities that their terrestrial cousins develop early on. They display "abnormal pulsing and movement" in gravity, apparently due to a malfunctioning of a mechanism that uses small calcium sulfate crystals to sense up and down (similar to our own otoliths). This does not bode well for human babies born in space.

Plus, as JWZ notes, "Space-Born Jellyfish Hate Life On Earth" is the greatest science headline ever.

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Rocket launch filmed by drone

The SpaceX Grasshopper's latest launch—and graceful descent!—captured by a drone-mounted camera. Grasshopper was most recently seen terrifying the cows.

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Send a Togolese 3D printer made out of ewaste to Mars

Afate is a Togolese hacker who uses the WoeLab makerspace in Lome, Togo (the first makerspace in west Africa). He's invented a 3D printer made out of the ewaste that is piled high in neighborhood-sized ewaste dumps in Agbogbloshie, near Accra, Ghana. He's raised money on Ulule to standardize the printer, called the W.AFATE, so that anyone can turn ewaste into a 3D printer. The W.AFATE design has already won NASA's Space App challenge with a concept for building trashbot 3D printers on distant planets.

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Asteroid named after Randall "XKCD" Munroe

Holy. Smokes. Randall "XKCD" Munroe has had an asteroid named after him. Good old 4292 is big enough to wipe out life on Earth, but alas, its Mars/Jupiter orbit is boringly stable. Still, there's hope it will decay eventually, and create the splash Randy deserves!

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A rather horrible accounting of what happens if an astronaut floats off into space

The good news: There's a contingency plan for this sort of thing, involving the use an emergency jetpack that can (hopefully) stabilize you and help you maneuver back to the ISS. The bad news: If the jetpack fails, you're pretty much screwed. And you've got 7.5 hours of breathable air to consume while you think about that fact.

Dinosaur toy, made in space


This lovely stuffed toy dinosaur was created by ISS/Nasa flight engineer Karen Nyberg for her three year old son, created from scraps left aboard the station. She uploaded the pic to Pintrest. As Collectspace recounts, this may be the first stuffed toy made in space.

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Lee Billings — exoplanet-obsessed science journalist — on Reddit's AMA

At 3:00 Eastern today, science journalist Lee Billings will be doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Lee has been a guest blogger at BoingBoing in the past. His specialty is exoplanets, the worlds that exist beyond our own solar system. Bring him your questions about the Kepler space telescope, human exploration of the galaxy, the likelihood of alien life (and of us finding it), and more.

Two good reasons to question the claim that alien life has been found in Earth's atmosphere

First, neither the authors of the paper, nor the journal its published in, have the best track record for careful work, well-documented research, or non-hyperbolic results. More important, the actual paper, itself, makes claims it can't back up. Case in point, says Phil Plait, the alien in question is a particle the authors assume is part of a diatom — a single-celled plant. The paper actually says "assume", and, from the sounds of things, they haven't even checked out that basic, important idea with a diatom expert.

Inside NASA's rubber room

If a Saturn V rocket had ever exploded on the launchpad, it would have been a catastrophic event. NASA engineers once calculated that the resulting fireball would have been 1048 feet wide and would have hit temperatures as high as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. In the hopes of not losing astronauts or launch crew to the inferno, NASA tricked out the Apollo launchpad with some safety systems that still exist today, including an underground, rubber-lined bunker that was accessible from the launch platform via a 200-foot twisty slide. (Which almost sounds like fun, until you consider the context.)

Amy Shira Teitel is one of the few people who have been inside the rubber room recently. In the video above, and she shares photos and stories about it in the video above, at her blog, and on Discovery.com.

Video Link

Do you have what it takes to get in bed with NASA?

Are you the kind of person who could lie in bed for 70 days for science? If so, you could make $18,000 in a NASA study of microgravity. The catch (because lying on your back for 70 days wasn't already enough of a catch): The bed will be tilted 6 degrees towards your head, forcing bodily fluids upwards and replicating what happens to your cardiovascular system in microgravity environments.

Peak plutonium and a fuel shortage in space

Whether or not Voyager I has actually left the solar system, one thing is certain — it never would have made it far enough to have a debate if it weren't for the help of plutonium-238. The isotope has been crucial for powering spacecraft — there's 10 pounds of the stuff in the batteries of Curiosity. But supplies are very, very limited. In fact, the US scientific stockpile is down to 36 pounds. All of it spoken for. What happens to space exploration when there's no more plutonium-238? Dave Mosher investigates at Wired.

Unfortunate Frog was not the first amphibian to have bad luck with the US space program

By now, you've seen the amphibian invariably referred to in the press as "an unfortunate frog" being lifted towards the heavens after it wandered too close to a NASA launch pad in Virginia. But did you know that this frog was not the first to try (and fail) to reach space?

At The Guardian, Jason Goldman writes about the history of frogs in space (or, at least, frogs that were briefly pointed at space), which dates all the way back to September 19, 1959, when the US Air Force attempted to send up two frogs on board a Jupiter AM-23 rocket. Why frogs? Goldman explains:

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Breathtaking animation of the Moon's rotation

This stunning animation of the Moon's rotation was made from images captured by NASA's Lunar Reconissance Orbiter's Wide Angle Camera (WAC). "A Unique View of the Moon" (Arizona State University)