This Podcast Was Written by an AI

Today we do something weird, in honor of the end of the second season of Flash Forward! Instead of coming up with a future and then finding experts to talk about it, I asked an AI to write a future for us. And the AI apparently wants us to talk about space travel, witches, and the occult.

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In this episode we feed all the past Flash Forward episodes to a neural network, and ask it to write a script for us. And that script is full of space travel, Mars conspiracy theories, future witches, and a whole lot of theories about cutting someone’s hands off.

▹▹ Full show notes Read the rest

Inside a Martian house on Earth

For a year, six people lived inside a small dome on the desolate side of a volcano on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The aim of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) was to approximate life on Mars (albeit with much more surface gravity). This week, the team stepped out of the dome and National Geographic's Nadia Drake took a tour:

Inside the 1,200-square-foot habitat, they dealt with a 20-minute communications delay, limited water supplies, and a few strict house rules. But as we saw on a recent tour, this habitat is the lap of luxury for Martian hopefuls. And if this two-story house were on the earthbound market, it would be a total steal, considering that room, board, and utilities are all free....

Itching for some entertainment? The living room has a bookshelf full of Russian language guides, DVDs, astronaut jigsaw puzzles, and board games, which are perfect for a wild night on the mountain with your five favorite roommates. There’s also a virtual reality setup where you can explore 30 different environments, in addition to creating your own personal getaway.

Finally, Wi-Fi is already installed. Although there’s that pesky 20-minute delay, you can send emails, texts, and video messages, completely Comcast-free.

"Take a Look Inside a House Meant for Mars" (Nat Geo)

photos above and below by Nadia Drake

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Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None, Reports NASA JPL

A Mars science news update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California. Read the rest

NASA publishes 44,000 Mars surface images

The HiRise imager in orbit around Mars shoots a continuous stream of data about its surface our way. Nasa's posted 44,000 images so far, each available in all sorts of formats and projections. You could have one a day as your desktop background and never run out.

Gullies in Dunes Dubbed Kolhar.

Yardangs South of Olympus Mons

Crater-Exposed Rocks of Yalgoo Crater in Isidis Basin Read the rest

Europe and Russia just launched a Mars space mission to sniff out signs of life

A European-Russian spacecraft headed out from our humble little planet to space today, in search for life on Mars. Read the rest

Ordnance Survey map of Mars

Ordnance Survey, Britain's official mapping agency, has made available for download a massive map of Mars in its classic style.

The planet Mars has become the latest subject in our long line of iconic OS paper maps. The one-off map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions.

Sadly, they're not selling it in foldable print map form. They should!

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Why are there no bearded astronauts?

To mark the January 12 Blu-ray and DVD release of The Martian, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has created the 'Life in Space' video series, a lighthearted look at the burning questions troubling all space fans. Read the rest

How far away is Mars?

Mars is currently 2.24 astronomical units away.

We tend to think of places as being a fixed distance from one another, and this works on scales terrestrial (it's 3,459 miles from London to New York) and cosmic (it's 4.36 light years to Alpha Centauri). But within the solar system, things change quicker. John D. Cook offers the code to let you calculate Mars' distance from Earth at any given time. [via Hacker News]

Some interesting take-home facts for the laymen among us: the two worlds orbit anticlockwise; Martian years last 687 days, and the is Earth traveling about 20% faster to boot; and there is no evidence that Mars needs women, though it does show evidence of running water.

Here's code for all the planets, sans the useful explanation.

Make it easy on yourself with this solar system visualizer. Read the rest

Water on Mars, NASA reveals

Well, this is big. NASA today revealed that new findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” Read the rest

Yet another Martian UFO found, say UFO enthusiasts

Mars Curiosity Rover has spotted many interesting things on its mission, like this UFO, a tiny Millennium Falcon type star freighter, heavily modded for use on Mars. Read the rest

Photo of ancient wheels and axle found on Mars

Earlier this morning David posted a photo of a woman on Mars. We now know why she's there. Her 4-wheeled pareidoliaopede broke down and she is walking home. This is a photo of the axle and two wheels that broke off.

Here's the original photo at NASA's site. Read the rest

Humanoid figure photographed on Mars

This mysterious humanoid figure was photographed on the red planet by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Read the rest

The mysterious Face on Mars was first spotted in 1959

Comic master Jack Kirby showed us the mysterious "Face on Mars" decades before it was imaged by the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976 and ultimately became an iconic example of pareidolia or proof of an ancient civilization on the red planet. Read the rest

NASA completes rocket design review for future Mars journey

NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) is about to go into full-scale fabrication after a detailed review. SLS Block 1, which just passed a design review milestone, will go to an asteroid placed in lunar orbit, and eventually to Mars. Read the rest

Time-lapse: 11 years of the Opportunity Mars Rover's collision-avoidance camera

The brave little robot's covered 42.2km on its suicide mission to the Red Planet; this footage spans Jan 2004 to Apr 2015. (Thanks, Robbo!)

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Trailer for The Martian starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott

Here's the trailer for The Martian, based on the excellent novel by Andy Weir about an astronaut stranded on Mars. It's coming out in November.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, The Martian features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

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NASA is testing a new Mars lander set to launch next March to study planet's mysterious core

Examining the planet's deep interior could reveal clues about how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

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