Good news: NASA and ESA's Mars500 inspires film. Bad news: Starring Dane Cook.

Photo: ESA. Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy resting before starting their first 'Marswalk' on 14 February 2011.


Photo: ESA. Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy resting before starting their first 'Marswalk' on 14 February 2011.

cookdane__140609170333A real-life mock Mars mission created by NASA and the European Space Agency to test the psychological stresses of long-distance space travel has inspired an action movie starring comedian-turned-serious-guy Dane Cook.

From our archives, Miles O'Brien's report for PBS NewsHour on Mars500.

Welcome to the Mars500 isolation experiment, where they are simulating many of the psychological aspects of a real mission to the red planet five miles from Red Square. Three Russians, two Europeans and one Chinese, all volunteers, stepped into a windowless, hermetically sealed mock spacecraft at the Institute of Biomedical Problems on June 3 of 2010, hoping not to break the seal for 520 days. That matches the six-month flight to and from Mars, plus a month to explore the surface.

And today, on Deadline.com:

Production is just getting underway on 400 Days, a sci-fi thriller that stars Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Arrow‘s Caity Lotz , Mad Men‘s Ben Feldman, Ed‘s Tom Cavanagh, Grant Bowler and Dane Cook. New Artists Alliance and XLrator Media are backing the film, which is written and directed by Ghost From The Machine‘s Matt Osterman. The psychological pic centers on four astronauts sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew’s mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all.

The 2011 crew of Mars500.


The 2011 crew of Mars500.

The Mars 500 Experience Simulator.


The Mars 500 Experience Simulator.

[HT: Jeff Foust]

Rocket-ship pour-over coffee drip


Thinkgeek's Rocket Fuel Pour-Over Coffee Drip ($10) is a great, science-fictional way to make your single-cup pour-overs. Why flange when you can fin? It's made by the fine folks at Gama-Go.

Hello, World: NASA transmits video from space via laser

This week, NASA beamed a high-def video from the International Space Station to Earth, a distance of 260 miles, using a new laser communications instrument. The "Hello, World!" video was the first video message transmitted from space to earth using Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), "a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves."

More about the video transmission, and the system it uses:

"The International Space Station is a test bed for a host of technologies that are helping us increase our knowledge of how we operate in space and enable us to explore even farther into the solar system," said Sam Scimemi, International Space Station division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Using the space station to investigate ways we can improve communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit is another example of how the orbital complex serves as a stepping stone to human deep space exploration."

Optical communication tools like OPALS use focused laser energy to reach data rates between 10 and 1,000 times higher than current space communications, which rely on radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Because the space station orbits Earth at 17,500 mph, transmitting data from the space station to Earth requires extremely precise targeting. The process can be equated to a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking.

To achieve this extreme precision during Thursday’s demonstration, OPALS locked onto a laser beacon emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California, and began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-watt, 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video. The entire transmission lasted 148 seconds and reached a maximum data transmission rate of 50 megabits per second. It took OPALS 3.5 seconds to transmit each copy of the "Hello World!" video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional downlink methods.

"It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station," said Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions."

The OPALS Project Office is based at JPL, where the instrument was built. OPALS arrived at the space station April 20 aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft and is slated to run for a prime mission of 90 days.

Skeletons in space-suits


The Skeletons in Space Suits is a fabulous collection from a very diverse set of sources. I'm sure they could use your contributions -- do you have anything that'd work?

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Parliament Funkadelic Mothership soon to be on display at Smithsonian

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The Mothership made famous in George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic golden years will soon be available for viewing at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

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NASA spaceflight review concludes agency lacks ability to get humans to Mars

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Washington Post: "A sweeping review of NASA’s human spaceflight program has concluded that the agency has an unsustainable and unsafe strategy that will prevent the United States from achieving a human landing on Mars in the foreseeable future. The 286-page National Research Council report, the culmination of an 18-month, $3.2 million investigation mandated by Congress, says that to continue on the present course under budgets that don’t keep pace with inflation 'is to invite failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.'”

More here.

The report bolsters the case for manned missions to the moon, which President Obama oppose. “I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before,” the president said in a space policy speech in 2010.

Vintage photos of NASA Apollo astronauts training in Hawaii

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In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA astronauts spent time training in the moon-like volcanic landscape of Hawaii's Big Island; the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems dug out fantastic photos from NASA's archives (thanks, Bob Pescovitz!).

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These entries in a NASA kid space art contest are the best thing ever

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The NASA Langley Research Center held a space art contest for kids K-23 in the Hampton Roads, VA region, and their Flickr Pool of entries provide me with endless happy web browsing.

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Violent birth of a star, as seen from NASA Hubble Space Telescope

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An image released from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star shrouded in golden gas and dust.

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SpaceX unveils new Dragon V2 manned spacecraft

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In a carefully choreographed event that felt more like an pop music awards show or an Apple product launch than anything we're used to with space flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tonight unveiled the newest edition of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

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Spaceship docks with ISS, astronaut immediately tweets awesome photos

A Russian spacecraft carrying three people docked successfully at the International Space Station today after a flawless launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Our guy in space, NASA's Reid Wiseman, got right to work tweeting totally awesome photographs that masterfully convey the wonder and beauty of being, holy crap, an astronaut in space.

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Photos of Russia's Rocket Town

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For Air & Space Magazine, photographer James Hill visited Russia's "Rocket Town," the city of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, where, he says, "everything you see is related to space."

Russian Soyuz rocket launches 3 crewmembers on trip to ISS

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A Russian Soyuz rocket today launched three new crewmembers toward the International Space Station.

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Ohio man: goddamn meteorite bashed my Buick

Photo: Dee Moorman


Photo: Dee Moorman

Joe Massa said he was driving home Sunday morning around 2AM when his Buick was struck by something. And that something, he says, was a freakin' meteorite.

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NASA to space nerds: you may now drive this space probe

ISEE-3, artist's rendition.


ISEE-3, artist's rendition.

NASA is giving a group of citizen scientists permission to take over ISEE-3, a 36-year-old decommissioned robotic space probe that will fly by the Earth in August.

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