Astronauts Can Power Their Bodies and Their Spacecrafts With Pee

Astronauts have been able to drink their own (treated and filtered) urine for years, but thanks to a new technique, scientists have managed to squeeze one more benefit out of an inevitable byproduct. Now, astronauts can use their urine to keep both their bodies and their spaceships running smooth. » 4/11/14 11:00am 4/11/14 11:00am

What Four Months on Mars Taught Me About Boredom

The scene: I'm in my closet-sized cabin, inside a white dome built to house a crew of six for four months as part of an isolation experiment. As a crew, we are working and living as 'explorers' stationed on the surface of 'Mars'. Our colony is lifelike and NASA-funded, but it is situated in a place quite a bit closer… » 2/26/14 3:00pm 2/26/14 3:00pm

Why It's So Hard to Find Alien LIfe

A big reason why the Fermi paradox has punch is the matter of time. Max Tegmark gets into this in his excellent new book Our Mathematical Universe (Knopf, 2014), where he runs through what many thinkers on the subject have noted: Our Sun is young enough that countless stars and the planets that orbit them must have… » 2/14/14 11:00am 2/14/14 11:00am

How Space Heat Helps Us Hunt Down Alien Technologies

My colleagues and I have begun the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies (G-HAT) SETI program, which has been written about here on Centauri Dreams and in other places, like in this nice summary article. I describe some of the foundations of the search here on my blog, but I have written up this short primer for … » 2/10/14 2:20pm 2/10/14 2:20pm

How Low Earth Orbit Astronauts Are the New Pioneers

The first element of the International Space Station (ISS) launched over fifteen years ago, on November 20, 1998. For more than thirteen years at least two human beings have been continually living off the surface of our planet. Assembly of the Space Station is now complete. It is being utilized by its crews and… » 1/17/14 3:00pm 1/17/14 3:00pm

Science Finds the Universe's Best French Fries Would Come From Jupiter

Just because we can't fry food in the vacuum of space doesn't mean that the entire universe has to be devoid of its greasy wonder. In fact, turns out us Earthlings live in an environment damned to produce subpar french fries without even realizing it. According to a new study, if you're really jonesing for the good… » 1/08/14 12:40pm 1/08/14 12:40pm

This Fantastic Timelapse Takes You on the Space Shuttle's Final Flight

It may be hard to believe, but it's already been a full two years since the Space Shuttle Program completed its final mission and put its magnificent fleet of ships into retirement. The last of these to settle into its final resting place was Endeavor, and professional launch photographer Scott Andrews caught it all… » 10/14/13 12:41pm 10/14/13 12:41pm

Scientists Just Discovered a Key Plastic Ingredient--In Space

NASA's Cassini spacecraft just detected propylene on Saturn's moon Titan. You might recognize the name of the chemical as part of polypropylene, the material that the food storage containers in your cupboard are probably made of. It's the first time that the plastic ingredient has ever been observed anywhere other… » 10/01/13 12:20pm 10/01/13 12:20pm

What We Used to Think the Earth Looked Like From Space

It's nearly impossible for us to imagine how the Earth might look to someone who's only ever seen it from a local's vantage point. But thanks to the Library of Congress, we don't have to imagine—newly posted images of 19th century drawings show us exactly what humans thought the Earth looked like far before we could… » 9/13/13 3:01pm 9/13/13 3:01pm

How the Speed of Light was First Measured

The speed of light in a vacuum stands at “exactly 299,792,458 metres per second“. The reason today we can put an exact figure on it is because the speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant that has been measured with lasers; and when an experiment involves lasers, it’s hard to argue with the results. As to… » 8/14/13 3:50pm 8/14/13 3:50pm

7 Ways NASA Making the Mars Rover Sing Itself "Happy Birthday" Is Sad

As you may know, yesterday was Curiosity's one-year anniversary on Mars, where it's been spending its time wandering the desolate, barren Martian desert in inconceivable levels of solitude. And how did NASA decide to commemorate the occasion? Happy birthday, idiot. Now dance, monkey—dance! » 8/06/13 6:34pm 8/06/13 6:34pm

Curiosity's Greatest Hits in Its One Year on Mars

Can you believe it's been a full year since the Mars Curiosity rover made its absolutely spectacular red, dusty landing? Millions watched with bated breath the day that NASA's Mars Science Laboratory began its historical journey. It may have taken everyone's favorite interplanetary robot a little while to get up and… » 8/05/13 1:40pm 8/05/13 1:40pm