“Since the end of the Cold War, America has been space’s sole superpower, and it’s not ceding that status without a fight. But in this hushed race for control of the orbit around Earth, China doesn’t need to control everything to win; it just needs to take away the U.S.’ strategic advantage. And it’s doing so by turning the U.S.’ own strength against it.”
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.
If we’re ever going to explore the universe’s far corners in cool spaceships that look like giant pizza cutters, we’re first going to need more efficient engines. On Tuesday, NASA took the wraps off a potential next-gen thruster system that looks like something described in Trekkie fanfic: A solar-electric ion propulsion engine.
You could argue that the different eras of human history have been defined by a few key innovations. Advancements in agriculture some 10,000 years ago allowed our nomadic ancestors to finally stay put in one place. Alexander Graham Bell and his rivals changed telecommunications forever in the 19th century with the advent of the phone. The Internet’s rise in the ’90s sparked an era of boundless information, and the smartphone in 2007 put that information in the palm of our hands.
All of which is sure be to eclipsed by what could be mankind’s greatest achievement to date. Behold: The 3D pizza printer.