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Going Really, Really Green: Earth's Plant Life, as Seen From Space

June 26, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The Earth is the "Blue Planet" because more than 70 percent of its surface is covered in water. But what does the Blue Planet look like without the blue? How would Earth appear as ... the Green Planet? Something like this, apparently. The Suomi NPP satellite, NASA's Earth-observing research satellite,...

Here You Go, Taxpayers: A Billion-Pixel Image of Mars

June 21, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The main purpose of the Mars Science Laboratory's mission to the red planet is exactly what its name suggests: science. There's a secondary mission, too, though, something that has less to do with laboratories and more to do with Mars itself: inspiration. Excitement. Wonder. The simple fact that humans put...

Video: Here's What Happens When You Light a Fire in Space

June 18, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow "When it comes to fire," says physics professor Forman A. Williams, "we're just getting started." Take the flame of a candle, the kind you might find on a birthday cake. The flame takes the familiar shape -- as, basically, a gaseous teardrop -- because of gravity. The hot air rises...

A Prosthetic Limb, Controlled by an Amputee's Thoughts

June 14, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Cyborgs are here -- or, at least, they're in DARPA laboratories. For a while now, the Defense Department agency, alongside civilian researchers, has been working to develop prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brains -- as in, the thoughts -- of their wearers. And one of the most...

Oops! This Lab Neglected to Return the Samples of Moondust NASA Loaned It

May 31, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow In 1969, after the Apollo 11 crew returned from their historic mission to the moon, the rocks and soil samples they collected were put to use in scientific research. NASA divided the lunar spoils Armstrong and Aldrin had gathered so painstakingly into small vials, sending the samples out to more...

The Future of the Spacesuit

May 30, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow NASA's first spacewalk, during the Gemini IV mission of 1965, came uncomfortably close to losing an astronaut. Ed White, stepping out into the abyss, found himself overcome with the joy that is sometimes referred to, fittingly, as "space euphoria." Floating in space was "the most natural feeling," he enthused to...

Your Smartphone, Made of Cement

May 28, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Straw into gold. Water into wine. Servant into princess. It's a longstanding obsession of human myth-making: turning one thing into another thing -- a lowly thing into a vaunted thing -- by way of miracle or magic. Well, someone get Joseph Campbell. Because science has just found another way to...

A Robot Just Broke the Human Record for Miles Driven in Space

May 17, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow In December of 1972, the Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt got to do something awesome: They took a joyride on the moon. A long one. The pair piloted their mission's Lunar Roving Vehicle 19.3 nautical miles (which is also 22.210 statute miles, or 35.744 kilometers) over the...

Space Is Now a Reality TV Show

May 14, 2013 "Why are people so fascinated with @Cmdr_Hadfield?" the tweeter asked. "Can someone enlighten me?" The answers were swift and sharp and unsurprising. "Dude, he's a frigging astronaut!" one replied. "Um, he's an astronaut?" another offered. "What else do you need?" Someone else explained things with a little more detail: "He's...

Would You Take a One Way Ticket to Mars?

April 29, 2013 If you are at least 18 years of age and curious and capable and resourceful, with a capacity for self-reflection, an ability to trust other people, and a deep sense of purpose, then you can to go to Mars. Maybe. The Mars One project, which is planning to send a...

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