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  2. Happy 55th birthday, NASA! 

    Unfortunately, the government shutdown means not many employees will be around, and the space agency could wind up losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Keith Wagstaff writes:

    If the shutdown drags on, the Mars MAVEN mission could miss its Nov. 18 launch date — an event that can’t be easily rescheduled, seeing as Earth and Mars are only in the right position once every 26 months.

    That means NASA’s $671 million mission — which is supposed to provide information about Mars’ atmosphere, including whether it might have once supported life — could be delayed until 2016.

     

  3. As if space travel weren’t risky enough already, now astronauts have to grapple with the fear that being in deep space might fry their brains.

    The radiation in space is similar to what might be experienced in a nuclear explosion, but here on Earth, we’re protected by our planet’s magnetic field. When astronauts leave Earth’s orbit, however, that layer of protection is gone, and human bodies are bombarded by radioactive particles, which have already been linked to increased cancer risk and cardiovascular issues. But “perhaps the greatest danger of such prolonged exposure,” says Alasdair Wilkins at io9, is “the degeneration of the brain itself.” 

    Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center wanted to study how prolonged time spent in deep space could affect astronauts. So they exposed mice to levels of radiation similar to what humans would encounter on a three-year round trip to Mars, then tested the mice’s memories. The results were startling. Mice exposed to radiation failed to recall objects and places, and their brains showed an increased buildup of beta amyloid, a protein considered one of the clearest indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. ”These findings clearly suggest that exposure to radiation in space has the potential to accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher M. Kerry O’Banion.

    Are cosmic rays giving astronauts Alzheimer’s?

     

  4. Cartoon of the day — Curiosity’s bold move 
    MIKE LUCKOVICH © 2012 Creators Syndicate

    More cartoons

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  5. "If anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of U.S. leadership in space, well there’s a one ton automobile-sized piece of America to say otherwise." —NASA administrator Charles Bolden

    Does NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover make the U.S. number one in the space race? This and other important questions to ask after Curiosity’s historic landing.

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  6. One of the first images captured by NASA’s Curiosity shows the rover’s own shadow as cast on the surface of Mars. 

    Sticking the landing
    After years of speculation, anxiety, and planning, NASA’s Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars. [New York]

    Your bearded brethren
    Researchers find that facial hair provides an effective barrier to the sun’s U.V. rays. [The Frisky]

    Pixar superfans
    A robot enthusiast creates a life-sized, fully-functioning version of Pixar’s adorable, lonely Wall-E. [TIME]

    BAD DAY FOR:

    Insisting that “the flag was still there”
    The American flag blows off its mount as “The Star Spangled Banner” plays during Serena Williams’ medal ceremony. [Gawker]

    Appreciating the local wildlife
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is chased out of Malawi by a swarm of bees. [BuzzFeed]

    Olympic overexcitement
    An allegedly drunken spectator at the 100-meter men’s final in London gets a chop from a judo medalist after he throws a water bottle onto the track. [Discovery News

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  7. This is an intense video. 

    NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover isn’t set to touch down on Mars until Aug. 5, after a 354-million-mile journey that began inside a rocket last November, but its creators are already biting their nails in anticipation of the extraordinarily tricky landing. The odds aren’t great: 60 percent of NASA’s missions to the surface of the red planet have fallen apart. NASA experts have dubbed Curiosity’s planned descent “seven minutes of terror,” and just released a blockbuster new video explaining the obstacles that the car-sized mobile lab must overcome.

    Keep reading

     

  8. With NASA taking a backseat to private enterprises like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the future of space exploration is essentially in the hands of anyone with deep enough pockets and an overflow of ideas.

    Now, a new Dutch group calling itself Mars One is throwing its hat into the mix, and has announced an earnest (yet ”achievable”) plan to set up a fully manned station on the Red Planet by the year 2023.

    On the “surprisingly specific date” of September 14, 2022, Mars One aims to send four astronauts on a 10-month, one-way journey to set up permanent residence on Earth’s closest neighborsays Chris Taylor at Mashable. What separates this particular undertaking from earlier projects is that no one comes back, saving invaluable time and expensive equipment; consider the Mars base the “Plymouth Rock” of a new era. 

    Read on

     

  9. Ten years of work by 1,000 people, and NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars rover might not even launch.

    The rover, nicknamed Curiosity and known as “the most ambitious Mars project NASA has ever mounted,” is a nuclear-powered, car-sized vehicle meant to drive long distances over rough terrain to hunt for Martian life. It’s supposed to launch in November, but that might not happen.

    Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

     

  10. Humans will likely never colonize space, NASA scientists say.

    Why? Becauseany child conceived and born in space is likely to be born sterile. The high levels of radiation in space would kill any female fetus’ lifetime supply of eggs, while males in the womb would likely become sterile. The child could also suffer “mental and physical defects” from exposure to harmful radiation. Space is “simply not a good place to have sex.”

    Oh, bummer. More info here.