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Astronauts complete successful ISS repair spacewalk

NASA: "Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool. A second spacewalk to install a replacement pump module, originally planned for Monday, is now scheduled for Tuesday."

More at SpaceFlightNow and NYT.

[Image: NASA TV]

Real-life 'Gravity' on ISS this weekend? Drama surrounds repair spacewalks

Alan Boyle, NBCNews.com's science editor: "Several factors, including a scary spacewalk in July involving water in a spacesuit helmet, have combined to add some extra drama to the repair operation that begins Saturday" on the International Space Station. Xeni 1

Cecil Castelucci's Tin Star: first five chapters free


Every new Cecil Castellucci book is cause for celebration around here, and her latest, Tin Star -- the first volume in a new young adult science fiction series -- is no exception. Castellucci's got a gift for characters and dialog (this being part of her success in her extensive work in comics) and a stellar imagination. The story -- researched in part through workshops with NASA for science fiction writers -- is a tale of romance, escape and adventure on a remote space station where the charismatic leader of a colony ship is revealed for a monster.

The first five chapters of Tin Star are a free download (other formats here), so you can make up your own mind. But I know that my copy of Tin Star's going straight into my Christmas holiday reading pile.

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The color of the Sun

A beautiful, informative, and surprising video from NASA. [link]

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Space stinks

TIL: Astronauts fart a lot, because weightlessness hampers your ability to burp and, thus, any gas that builds up in your digestive system has to come out the other way. Maggie 28

The Moon is terrifying, and that's why I love it

Former NASA developer Katy Levinson explains why we should care about the Moon as much as Mars–even if its dust is a killer problem.

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Panoramic image of Curiosity Rover under Mars's night sky

Jeffrey sez, "360Cities' intrepid member Andrew Bodrov, stitching master of interplanetary awesomeness, has constructed this composite image (i.e. 'fake view') of the Curiosity Rover at night under the Milky Way. You can even see Phobos, Mars' own moon in the night sky."

Mars Panorama - Curiosity rover: Martian night

China's on the Moon

A little after 8:00 am Eastern Time today, China's Chang'e 3 became the first object to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon since 1976. That's a shot of the Moon's surface above, taken by the lander after it made touchdown. Emily Lakdawalla has GIFs of the actual landing and continuing coverage. You should also be able to watch some live footage on the Chinese state television streaming website later this afternoon. (Word is that it will pick back up around 4:00 pm Eastern, but Lakdawalla points out that estimated times haven't been precise, so if you're really into seeing the footage live, you should keep checking the site.) NasaSpaceFlight.com has some more technical information about the landing.

Kinetic solar system jewelry


Norwegian jeweler Miriel Design (AKA Josephine Ryan) has created a bunch of kinetic solar system necklaces, available in her Etsy store. Here's a set of photos of them, and here's her discussion on Reddit. The pieces vary in price, from $380-$500, depending on their complexity, but they're all flat-out gorgeous, and represent a tremendous amount of precision labor.

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The crazy storm on Saturn

Fun fact: Saturn has a storm that's every bit as big as Jupiter's better-known Great Red Spot. It's been spinning over Saturn's north pole for 30 years. And it's shaped like a hexagon. Maggie 8

Museum-grade replica Apollo-era NASA flight jacket


Robert sez, "An Apollo astronaut, looking to keep the 'right stuff' forefront in the public's eye, has recreated his iconic NASA-issued blue flight jacket down to the last button. Al Worden, who in 1971 flew to the moon as the pilot of the Apollo 15 command module Endeavour, wore out his original flight jacket years ago. But working with a space enthusiast out of London, Worden has now reproduced the distinctive NASA outerwear as a museum-quality replica, which is being offered for sale.

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SpaceX completes first mission to geostationary transfer orbit


FALCON 9 SES 8 LAUNCH

An announcement from SpaceX today:

"Space Exploration Technologies successfully completed its first geostationary transfer mission, delivering the SES-8 satellite to its targeted 295 x 80,000 km orbit. Falcon 9 executed a picture-perfect flight, meeting 100% of mission objectives.

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How we know what atmosphere is like on a planet outside our solar system

WASP-19b is an exoplanet whose atmosphere is probably super hot and super poisonous — filled with methane and hydrogen cyanide instead of water. This video explains how astronomers can even begin to guess at the composition of the atmospheres of far away worlds. (Bonus: A soothing elevator music soundtrack!)

Requiem for a comet

Alas, poor ISON. The comet that flew too close to the Sun on Thanksgiving Day appears to have suffered the fate of Icarus — if Icarus had been ripped apart by a solar flare. The video above, taken by space probes on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, provides a great view of the comet hurtling toward the Sun and then disintegrating. Although there's still some discussion over whether or not ISON still survives as a much smaller ball of rock, ice, and dust, NASA has officially declared the comet dead. Astrophysicist Karl Battams wrote a very nice eulogy.

China launches lunar probe

The China National Space Administration has launched Chang'e 3, a plutonium-powered lunar lander on-board a 185-foot-tall Long March 3B rocket. The lander is on a four-day trajectory for the lunar surface, and will brake and enter lunar orbit on December 6th. It is scheduled to land on December 14th, in the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). The rover masses 140kg, with nuclear heaters to keep systems alive during the two-week-long lunar nights, and will use radar to probe the lunascape as it roves during its mission. It is also outfitted with high-resolution panoramic cameras and telescopes. The Chinese space program's stated goal is to establish a space-station and autonomous landers that can return to Earth with samples.

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