• Fan-Designed Lego Saturn V Moon Rocket Qualifies for Product Review
    Fan-Designed Lego Saturn V Moon Rocket Qualifies for Product Review Tue, Nov 24, 2015

    A fan-designed scale model of NASA's historic Saturn V rocket has landed on Lego's launch pad and is now waiting an official "go/no-go" call as to whether it will lift off as a commercial set. The 3-foot-tall (1 m) version of the iconic Apollo 11 booster climbed to its qualifying 10,000th vote on Friday (Nov. 20) on the Lego Ideas website. The rocket, designed by Felix Stiessen and Valerie Roche, will now be considered by the Danish toymaker for possible production when it convenes its next review in January. More »

  • Mars May Become a Ringed Planet Someday
    Mars May Become a Ringed Planet Someday Tue, Nov 24, 2015

    In a few tens of millions of years, the Red Planet may completely crush its innermost moon, Phobos, and form a ring of rocky debris, according to the new work. Phobos is moving closer to Mars every year, meaning the planet's gravitational pull on the satellite is increasing. Some scientists have theorized that Phobos will eventually collide with Mars, but the new research suggests that the small moon may not last that long. More »

  • Curiosity Rover Headed to Dark Sand Dunes on Mars
    Curiosity Rover Headed to Dark Sand Dunes on Mars Wed, Nov 18, 2015

    NASA's Curiosity rover will soon get history's first up-close look at Martian sand dunes. Curiosity is headed toward the dark Bagnold Dunes, which lie in the northwestern foothills of the towering Mount Sharp, and should begin investigating the sandy feature in the next few days, NASA officials said. Curiosity will study one dune that's as wide as a football field and as tall as a two-story building, NASA officials said. More »

  • 'Stretch Marks' on Phobos Show Martian Moon Is Falling Apart
    'Stretch Marks' on Phobos Show Martian Moon Is Falling Apart Wed, Nov 18, 2015

    Long, thin "stretch marks" on the surface of Phobos are early signs that the Martian moon is falling apart, new research suggests. Phobos is a tiny moon that is closer to Mars than any other moon in the solar system is to its planet. "We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves," Terry Hurford, a research assistant at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who led the study, said in a statement. More »

  • Mars atmosphere chipped away by solar activity Nasa says Fri, Nov 6, 2015

    Charged particles released by the Sun have gradually stripped away Mars's once-rich atmosphere and made it the desolate and lifeless place it is today, Nasa says. Scientists working on the US space agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) mission say the solar wind – comprising mainly of streams of electrons and protons – has all but destroyed the planet's upper atmosphere. This is because unlike the Earth, Mars does not possess a substantial magnetic field to shield its atmosphere from the bombardment of solar particles. More »

  • Mars Lost Atmosphere to Space as Life Took Hold on Earth
    Mars Lost Atmosphere to Space as Life Took Hold on Earth Thu, Nov 5, 2015

    The window for life to take root across broad stretches of the Martian surface may have closed shortly after the first microbes evolved on Earth. New results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft suggest that the Red Planet lost most of its carbon dioxide-dominated atmosphere — which had kept Mars relatively warm and allowed the planet to support liquid surface water — to space about 3.7 billion years ago. "We think that all of the action took place between about 4.2 to 3.7 billion years ago," MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky, of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, told More »

  • LEGO Won't Be Making Fan's Space Station Despite 10,000 Votes
    LEGO Won't Be Making Fan's Space Station Despite 10,000 Votes Wed, Nov 4, 2015

    LEGO will not be launching a model of the International Space Station, passing on the orbiting outpost during its most-recent review of fan-suggested and supported projects. The company announced its decisionon Friday (Oct. 30), just days shy of the anniversary of the real space station's first crew taking up residency on Nov. 2, 2000, beginning 15 years of a continuous human presence in space. "This is usually when we happily announce which project will become the next LEGO Ideas product," stated Connie Solheim Lykke, marketing manager with the LEGO Group. More »

  • The best movies a Hulu Plus subscription can buy
    The best movies a Hulu Plus subscription can buy Mon, Nov 2, 2015

    The streaming wars seem destined to rage on forever, which also means cinephiles eager to expand their horizons have never been better off. Hulu, once merely an experiment among a swath of veteran broadcasters, now features a particularly robust library of films to choose from. Sturgeon’s law still applies as with any catalog, though, and it might seem difficult to find the real gems housed within Hulu’s massive library. That said, our strictly curated list is a one-stop guide to the best, smartest, and most intriguing films currently streaming on the landmark service. Eat your heart out, Netflix. Related: Forget Netflix, these are the best shows currently streaming on Hulu Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Drama Apocalypse Now Please enable Javascript to watch this video There is some irony in the fact that Apocalypse Now is perhaps the most iconic film regarding Vietnam, given the movie actually says very little about the politics of the conflict. Instead, Francis Ford Coppola’s film centers on a relatively small mission, using a trip deep into the heart of the jungle to explore the madness that grows in the hearts of men. The plot follows Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), a special operations officer assigned a peculiar task. A special forces commander, Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) has gone AWOL, establishing his own private army in Cambodia. Willard is ordered to journey to Kurtz’s compound and assassinate the rogue colonel. Along the way he must survive the perils of war, both physical and spiritual. Coppola was an old hand at filmmaking by the time he directed Apocalypse Now, and the film shows the touch of a master. As Willard ventures further into the wilds, the film takes on a more surreal edge, the camera capturing the portentous evening light dripping down through the trees. Sheen’s measured portrayal of Willard grounds the film, but Brando’s legendary (if brief) performance alone is worth seeing. Blood Simple Please enable Javascript to watch this video Love makes people do crazy things. Sometimes criminal things, and who better examines criminal behavior in all its eccentricities than the Coen Brothers? Despite being their first film, Blood Simple feels like the work of veterans, a tightly plotted thriller that sets many of the themes and character elements the Brothers continue to include today. The story begins when a jealous husband hires a PI to follow his cheating wife. As is typical of a Coen Bros. production, the situation spirals out from there with bloody consequences. Smartly written, well-acted, and with its share of twists, Blood Simple is an expertly-made thriller from two of America’s greatest living filmmakers. Boyhood Please enable Javascript to watch this video Richard Linklater’s films have always explored the meaning in commonplace aspects of life, ranging from the optimism of the last day of school ( Dazed and Confused) to the tensions of an aging romance ( Before Midnight). Like his other projects, Boyhood explores the mundane, yet is one of the most ambitious films of the decade. Filmed over the course of 12 years, the movie traces the life of protagonist Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from young child to college freshmen, using a series of vignettes to explore his growth and relationships with those around him. The film famously uses the same cast throughout, so the actors age as the characters do. Linklater’s devotion to naturalism pays off, as Boyhood captures the messy odyssey of adolescence. Blue Velvet Please enable Javascript to watch this video David Lynch’s style has always been defined by vivid, often startling imagery. Exhibit A: Blue Velvet, which opens with an idyllic suburban neighborhood, all smiling firemen and emerald lawns. Then the camera zooms in, and the soil beneath those lawns is teeming with insects, clicking and writhing. It’s a thesis for the film to come, as college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns home to find a human ear in a field near his neighborhood. Eager to play detective, his curiosity leads him down the rabbit hole toward a mysterious lounge singer (Isabella Rossellini) and the violent underworld she inhabits. Blue Velvet is one of Lynch’s most grounded films, but it doesn’t lack for nightmarish imagery. It’s a surreal take on the noir formula, the result of a virtuoso operating at the top of his game. Valhalla Rising Please enable Javascript to watch this video In the olden days of cartography, maps would often use dragons or other intimidating creatures to mark regions beyond the scope of common knowledge. It is in these regions, outside the reach of “civilization,” that Valhalla Rising sets its scene. The film opens with its silent protagonist, a Norse warrior named One Eye, imprisoned and forced to fight for the amusement of his captors. After escaping with the aid of a young slave, he murders the men responsible in a staggering display of brutality. It should be noted, this is only the opening of the film. One Eye and The Boy join up with a group of crusaders on a quest for the holy land, and as they journey across a fog-smothered sea, they also wade through meditations on God, war, and man’s animal nature. Valhalla Rising is a deliberately paced (some might call it ponderous), philosophical, and occasionally gruesome descent into hell. Seven Samurai Please enable Javascript to watch this video A frequent hallmark of just about every “Greatest Films of All Time” list, Seven Samurai is arguably Akira Kurosawa’s most famous film. A romantic portrayal of the samurai ideals, the film bears all the essential traits of Kurosawa’s work: larger-than-life protagonists, carefully edited action, and expansive shots of nature. Set in Japan during the Warring States period, the film finds a small village beset by bandits. Tired of having their crops stolen, the villagers hire seven wandering samurai to help them. The samurai and the villages grow close as they train and prepare for a massive battle against the outlaws. This tale of a ragtag group teaming up against tremendous odds has been influential on everything from westerns and heist films to underdog sports stories. Though many have tried to imitate it, none have Seven Samurai’s subtlety, nor Kurosawa’s sublime vision. Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Comedy This Is Spinal Tap Please enable Javascript to watch this video The mockumentary format has become so diluted in recent years — even filtering into works like Modern Family, where the documentary conceit seems completely tangential to the show — it’s almost hard to remember a time when it seemed fresh. One need only watch This Is Spinal Tap, one of the genre’s first big successes, to remember how fake documentaries ought to be done. Following the career of fictional arena band rock band Spinal Tap, the film centers on a particularly disastrous tour as the band tries to thwart a steep decline in popularity (they’re still big in Japan, though.) Undersized stage props and exploding drummers are among the many pitfalls the band endures. The dialogue is largely improvised yet exceedingly clever, and the film remains eternally quotable despite satirizing a genre and lifestyle that is long out of fashion. Dear White People Please enable Javascript to watch this video When Barack Obama was elected president, intellectuals around the country proclaimed that America had become a post-racial society. Nearing the end of President Obama’s second term, that thesis seems to have fallen entirely out of favor, with racial tensions in America seeming more fraught than ever. Dear White People, a project of rookie director Justin Simien, explores the difficult social structures young black people in 21st century America must navigate. Set in a prestigious university, the film follows four characters with varying perspectives on “blackness” as they try to fit in at a predominantly white school. Though the film could easily fall into preachy, after school special territory, it never does. Rather than indicting racism, the film focuses on the protagonists and their attempts to sort out their identities. Like many recent indie comedies, the emphasis on irony can become a bit precious, but the film’s talented cast and sadly relevant subject matter — the climactic blackface party would seem absurd were it not based on recent events — put Dear White People a cut above. In a World… Please enable Javascript to watch this video Films about Hollywood are a dime a dozen. The struggles of actors, directors, and other temperamental artists are well documented. Part of what makes In a World… stand out is its focus on an obscure branch of the film industry: the clandestine, apparently petty world of people who do voice-overs for trailers. Writer/director Lake Bell plays the lead, Carol Solomon, a vocal coach and the daughter of a prolific (and arrogant) voice-over artist. Weary of helping other people find their voices, Carol auditions to voice a trailer for an upcoming blockbuster, a move that puts her in direct contention with her father. The film walks a difficult line between comedy and melodrama, a balance maintained by clever writing and strong performances from the entire cast. In a World… weaves together a number of themes (the struggling artist, female empowerment, father/daughter relationships) into a profound tapestry. The Trip Please enable Javascript to watch this video The premise for The Trip is absurdly simple. Comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, go on a tour of restaurants in England. That’s about it as far as plot goes, but The Trip doesn’t need twists to keep things exciting. Coogan and Brydon are masters of dry wit, and they have an easy rapport that makes every conversation  — whether mocking the traditions of wine tasting or comparing Michael Caine impressions — delightful. Sharp writing and two charming leads are all The Trip has on offer, and thankfully, all it really needs. Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Action/Adventure Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior Please enable Javascript to watch this video The Mad Max trilogy perfectly embodies that sensibilities of ’80s action films, with all the explosive car chases, gunfights, and leather jackets one could want. Mad Max 2 stands out as the best, with a more fleshed out vision of dystopia than the first, and without veering into self-parody as Beyond Thunderdome did. Set some time after war and an energy crisis have rendered Australia a desolate wasteland, the film follows the eponymous protagonist as he wanders the Outback, eventually being drawn into a conflict between settlers and a gang of vicious raiders. Naturally, car chases and violence ensue. A post-apocalyptic western with a strong visual identity, Mad Max 2 is a roaring storm of diesel and gunpowder. 13 Assassins Please enable Javascript to watch this video This period piece from Takashi Miike bears a suspiciously similar naming scheme to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and in many ways 13 Assassins can be seen as an homage to that classic film. When a corrupt lord’s violent tendencies alienate too many government officials, a plan is hatched to eliminate him and lure him into a trap arranged by the eponymous assassins, a group of samurai led by the wily Shinzaemon. Arming an entire town with traps, they hope to waylay the lord on his journey, but word reaches him of the plot and he brings an army along with him. Needless to say, the results are bloody. Miike has a reputation for cartoonishly violent films, and while 13 Assassins is a bit more subdued than some of his other fare, the action is still frenetic, masterfully choreographed, and quite gory. It’s a taut film, giving the band of samurai just enough characterization to make their climactic struggle as profound as it is fun to watch. Centurion Please enable Javascript to watch this video Historical mysteries are fertile soil for fiction writers. They provide an opportunity to tell stories that are fantastical but still plausible, stories that make the real world seem a bit more magical. The disappearance of the Ninth Legion, a group of Roman soldiers that vanish from historical records circa 120 AD, has inspired a number of wild theories ranging from the mundane (they were wiped out by Celts) to the insane (they fell through a portal into another dimension). Neil Marshall’s Centurion postulates that they ended up in a chase film. After an ambush deep in Britain wipes out most of the legionnaires, the survivors, led by Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), try to flee back to Roman territory. Along the way they are hounded by Pictish warriors, including a vengeful hunter named Etain (Olga Kurylenko), who seems as much wolf as woman. A novel setting and director Marshall’s energetic touch add some spice to what would otherwise be a meat-and-potatoes action film. Highlander Please enable Javascript to watch this video A film that started a franchise that, like its protagonist, just won’t die, Highlander chronicles the life of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), a Scottish warrior who discovers he is immortal after being wounded in a battle in 1536. The film jumps back and forth between Connor’s early years and his eventual present in New York, 1985. Mentored by the mysterious swordsman Juan Ramirez — aka Sean Connery, playing an ancient Egyptian pretending to be a Spaniard — Connor learns that he is one of many immortal warriors who must fight until only one is left standing. Throughout the ages Connor is hunted by The Kurgan, an ancient, evil warrior who is determined to be the victor. Despite being a fantasy film that is quintessentially ’80s, Highlander has an ageless charm that only benefits from Queen’s synth-laced soundtrack. Bunraku Please enable Javascript to watch this video A nameless drifter (Josh Hartnett) walks into a bar, looking for a drink and some fun. Soon he finds himself at odds with the local crime boss. Seems like the premise of any old western, but Bunraku mixes things up, setting the film in a postapocalyptic world where guns are illegal and people fight with martial arts. Accompanied by a Japanese swordsman (Gackt) and a sardonic bartender (Woody Harrelson), The Drifter fights his way through a number of increasingly manic set pieces. Influenced by Japanese puppet-plays, Bunraku has a distinct visual style that suits its over-the-top subject matter. Fans of martial arts films will not want to miss this singular work. Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Sci-Fi 12 Monkeys Please enable Javascript to watch this video Time travel is well-trod ground for science fiction, but it can be a tough row to hoe. Our enjoyment of a narrative, and even our perception of the universe in general, depends on the principle of cause and effect, an idea that time travel stories often explore and just as often trample over. Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys compounds the issue by making its time-traveling protagonist possibly insane, haunted by dreams and seemingly false memories as he tries to stop a virus from destroying humanity. Recruited by scientists in the year 2027 to stop a virus unleashed by a group called “The Army of the Twelve Monkeys,” James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back to 1990, where his ravings about the apocalypse land him in a mental hospital. Cole, now an institutionalized Cassandra, must discover the origins of the virus and the motives of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. Hanging over his head is the possibility that he might actually be imagining the whole scenario. The film’s vision of the future is grim. Given the film’s portrayal of a present dominated by bureaucracy and greed, however, it might be a just fate for humanity. Solaris Please enable Javascript to watch this video Based on the novel Stanislaw Lem’s novel of the same name, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a somber meditation on death, grief, and what it means to be human, one set against the backdrop of a bizarre sci-fi scenario. When the crew of a research vessel orbiting the ocean planet Solaris begin to send strange messages back to Earth, psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is assigned to aid them. Arriving on the station, he finds some of the crew have killed themselves and the others are crazed. Kelvin himself is soon visited by his deceased wife, who has no idea how she got on the station. The situation only gets more bizarre from there. Set in a sterile, claustrophobic environment, Solaris is an expertly crafted, cerebral film from one of cinema’s greatest visionaries. Scanners Please enable Javascript to watch this video David Cronenberg is one of the pioneers of body horror, molding the human body into all sorts of grotesqueries in his films, usually to reflect the psychological crises of characters. In his 1981 film, Scanners, he uses human flesh not as a canvas, but a battlefield for a uniquely disturbing superhuman conflict. In the world of Scanners, the titular mutants are people with psychic abilities, ranging from merely reading a person’s thoughts to making their heads explode (as in the film’s most famous scene/GIF). Naturally, the corporations of the future want to control this power, but a group of rebellious scanners have other plans. One of Cronenberg’s most straightforward films, Scanners is nevertheless a disturbing sci-fi thriller, with neither a conventional protagonist nor conflict. Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Animation Ghost in the Shell Please enable Javascript to watch this video As technology becomes more and more integrated into everyday life, the lines between humanity and machine tend to blur. Ghost in the Shell, a groundbreaking film that helped anime broach the mainstream, takes this posthuman idea to a somewhat frightening conclusion, depicting a world in which cybernetic bodies are readily available and many people have converted their consciousness to electronic data. The Japan of the future is regulated by a pervasive government that oversees all aspects of cybernetic life, which includes fighting cyber-criminals. In this brave new world, Major Motoko Kusanagi commands a task force charged with hunting down an enigmatic criminal called the Puppet Master, so named for his ability to hack into other people’s bodies. Ghost in the Shell is a heady film, examining what it means to be human in a world where people are programs. It’s also one of the most beautiful anime films ever made, with a distinct visual style that would serve as a template for later sci-fi films like The Matrix. Watership Down Please enable Javascript to watch this video An epic adventure film and source of trauma for many children, Watership Down follows a group of anthropomorphic rabbits as they wander the earth in search of utopia. Inspired by the rabbit Fiver’s apocalyptic visions, a small group of rabbits break away from their warren and search for a new home. Along the way, they are beset by beasts, automobiles, and hunger, as well as rival rabbits. The story is notable for giving the rabbits a fairly deep cultural history, with their own mythology and worldview that incorporates other animals and even humans as mythical creatures. The animation is richly detailed, although recognizable as a product of the ’70s. Ostensibly a family film, Watership Down is surprisingly dramatic and often veers into dark territory. Redline Please enable Javascript to watch this video Anime is known for often veering into the absurd. Sometimes, the results are embarrassing. Other times, as is the case with Redline, the results are thrilling. Set in a very distant future, the film follows adrenaline-junkey JP, who competes in the intergalactic racing circuit using a futuristic Trans Am. JP, along with his rival and love interest Sonoshee MacLaren, qualify for the Redline, the most elite race in the universe. The only problem? It’s being held on Roboworld, a desolate wasteland inhabited by homicidal robots. It’s an explosive premise, with the production quality to match. The characters are exceptionally detailed, and the animation is slick, perfectly conveying the speed and insanity of the contestants. Redline is slim on plot, but everything presented is amped up to such an astounding degree, one has little time to think about the story. Sometimes, style does matter more than substance. Choose your genre: Drama Comedy Action/Adventure Sci-Fi Animation Horror/Suspense Horror/Suspense Eraserhead Please enable Javascript to watch this video Parenthood is scary for many people, yet there is a tendency to speak of it as an ultimately beautiful process. No work dives so deep into the existential dread of raising a newborn as David Lynch’s first major film, Eraserhead. Set in a bizarre industrial dreamworld, the film follows Harry Spencer (Jack Nance), whose girlfriend has given birth to their child (if it can be called that), a grotesque, reptilian creature that proves difficult to care for. As Harry struggles to adjust to fatherhood, he is tormented by vivid hallucinations and a lack of satisfaction in his life. Lynch is famous for conjuring terrifying imagery, and Eraserhead is probably his most nightmarish film. While the imagery is compelling, the film’s sound design is its secret weapon. Between the constant whirring of machines or the piercing wails of the child, the film keeps the audience constantly on edge and as stressed as Harry himself is. The Innkeepers Please enable Javascript to watch this video Too many modern horror films are all sound and fury, hoping to shock the viewer with spurts of gore and and jump scares. The Innkeepers, from indie horror darling Ti West, avoids going for cheap thrills, taking the time to establish its protagonists and ratchet up the tension as they venture further into danger. Set in a dilapidated hotel about to close down, the film follows caretakers Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) as they celebrate their last weekend on the job by investigating the hotel’s resident ghost story, that of a spurned bride who hung herself in the hotel. Claire and Luke both come across as affable, making the danger that slowly encompasses them all the scarier. The Innkeepers unfolds slowly, letting dread build up before the ectoplasm hits the fan. A trite ending is the only thing that mars an otherwise intelligent, gripping ghost story. The Blair Witch Project Please enable Javascript to watch this video The story of three college students who end up lost in some very haunted woods, The Blair Witch Project is notable for two big innovations. First, it popularized the now-ubiquitous found footage genre — a trend which seems destined to end with Paranormal Activity…in Space! Secondly, it served as the first major example of viral marketing, with fake police reports and interviews dispersed around the Internet to make the film appear to be authentic. Today, the mystique surrounding the film is gone; what’s left is a grim horror movie that achieves a sense of terror by leaving just enough to the imagination. In contrast to more recent imitators, which often show off the monsters and strange phenomena, Blair Witch keeps things simple and obscure: strange stick figures dangling from the trees, the occasional spooky sound at night. The film is never overt in its attempts to scare, preferring to keep the protagonists (and the audience) guessing. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Please enable Javascript to watch this video A murder mystery for the information age, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows an unlikely pair of detectives — Michael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a middle-aged investigative journalist, and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a brilliant but disturbed hacker — as they try to solve the disappearance of a wealthy client’s niece. The cold case has a limited list of suspects, all members of the girl’s family, and only one possible crime scene, the family’s bleak island estate. The film’s original Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women, which was chillingly apt considering the case drags the protagonists into an underworld of sexual violence. There are dark places in society, and like Blomkvist and Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wants to shine a light on them. More »

  • MIT says NASA could save billions by using the moon as pit stop for Mars mi …
    MIT says NASA could save billions by using the moon as pit stop for Mars mi … Fri, Oct 23, 2015

    The trip to Mars is a long one. The distance between our planet and the red one is roughly 34 million miles — so it’ll require a lot of fuel and other resources to be carried on board during launch. A team at MIT evaluated this trip and proposed the idea of using the moon as a refueling spot to help lighten the initial launch load of any future Mars-bound spacecraft. The results of this strategic engineering study were recently published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. Instead of following the traditional carry-all approach that requires a crew to bring all the items they need, the MIT team worked off the idea of in-situ resource utilization, which relies on the production and collection of supplies such as fuel, water and oxygen during a trip. Even though it requires an extensive infrastructure to build a supply network in space, the MIT researchers believe the investment will pay off in the long run, especially when traveling between the Earth and Mars becomes routine. “Most of the benefits come from a 68 percent reduction in the launch mass of a vehicle, which could save NASA $5.8 billion per mission,” said Olivier de Weck, MIT professor of aeronautics, astronautics, and engineering systems; and also the paper’s second author. Related: NASA just unveiled its three-step plan for getting humans on Mars The MIT plan would have any Mars-bound spacecraft to take a detour to the moon instead of heading straight for Mars. This detour would take the vessel to the Earth-moon libration point 2 (EML-2), an area where the the combined gravitational pull of the Earth and moon cancel each other out, creating a parking area for spacecraft. This space-based depot would provide fuel created by a facility on the surface of the moon that would generate propulsion fuel from lunar soil and water ice deposits in select moon craters. Other operational hardware would include “a propellant depot, a reusable lunar lander, a propellant tanker, and an orbital transfer vehicle with aerobraking capability.” Following its first pit stop to refuel, the vehicle would then stop at additional outposts strategically placed along the route to Mars. The “moon as a space outpost” is not an idea from the pages of science fiction. While other scientists have hinted at using the moon in such a way, even NASA has explored the idea of using EML-2 as an outpost. According to the authors, the MIT study is the first one to prove mathematically that a moon-based rendezvous may provide the optimal route to Mars. More »

  • Has NASA’s Mars Rover Just Found A Stream Of Running Water?
    Has NASA’s Mars Rover Just Found A Stream Of Running Water? Thu, Oct 22, 2015

    It’s only weeks since NASA announced there might be flowing water on the planet More »

  • Obama Greets Young Stargazers for White House Astronomy Night
    Obama Greets Young Stargazers for White House Astronomy Night Wed, Oct 21, 2015

    Last night on the White House's chilly South Lawn, under a vividly glowing crescent moon, future scientists and astronaut-hopefuls gathered to learn and celebrate the science of the stars — and across the country more than 80 other sites joined in with their own stargazing events. The event featured NASA astronauts, science celebrities and President Barack Obama. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…" began the president in a speech to the attendees, referencing the famous starting line of the "Star Wars" movies. More »

  • Astronomy Night: Watch President Obama call ISS for chat with astronaut Scott …
    Astronomy Night: Watch President Obama call ISS for chat with astronaut Scott … Tue, Oct 20, 2015

    US President Obama called the International Space Station (ISS) to speak with Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly to congratulate him on becoming the American who has spent the most number of days living in space. The call was made ahead of Astronomy Night at the White House, which was held to celebrate science, technology and space. Kelly is also set to become on 29 October the record-holder for the single longest space-flight by an American, overtaking Michael Lopez-Alegria. More »

  • Mars Water Discovery Sparks Exploration Debate
    Mars Water Discovery Sparks Exploration Debate Tue, Oct 20, 2015

    The revelation that dark streaks flowing downhill on Mars are signs of present-day liquid water has sparked debate on how best to investigate the Red Planet features. These dark streaks, called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), flow down steep slopes during warm seasons and fade when the weather is cooler. The streaks are caused by liquid water laden with salts, scientists announced last month. More »

  • Comet's Close Encounter with Mars Dumped Tons of Dust on Red Planet
    Comet's Close Encounter with Mars Dumped Tons of Dust on Red Planet Thu, Oct 15, 2015

    Comet Siding Spring's close shave by Mars last year provided a rare glimpse into how Oort Cloud comets behave, according to new research. Comet Siding Spring also left behind a substantial quantity of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water that couldn't be detected because Mars' atmosphere is also made up of those elements. Siding Spring's journey from the Oort Cloud — a collection of comets beyond the orbit of Neptune that stretches for hundreds of astronomical units — meant it was pristine when it showed up beside Mars. More »

  • Pebbles on Mars Shaped by Ancient Long-Gone Rivers Dozens of Miles Long
    Pebbles on Mars Shaped by Ancient Long-Gone Rivers Dozens of Miles Long Wed, Oct 14, 2015

    NASA's Mars rover Curiosity discovered the small, round stones near its landing site in Gale Crater on the Red Planet in 2013. Researchers previously determined that these stones resemble those found in rivers on Earth, which become round as they slide, roll and hop down riverbeds and scrape other rocks. Now, a new study suggests the Martian rocks rolled in the river for quite a while — a finding that should help scientists reconstruct what ancient Mars was like and shed light on the Red Planet's past potential to support life, study team members said. More »

  • Rolling Stones: Curiosity sends images from Mars showing pebbles which rolled …
    Rolling Stones: Curiosity sends images from Mars showing pebbles which rolled … Tue, Oct 13, 2015

    Following on from Nasa's recent announcement that there is flowing water on Mars, the Curiosity rover has revealed that rounded pebbles on the Red Planet had been carried for tens of kilometres by a river. The Curiosity rover discovered small pebbles in formations that suggest that they had been carried downstream by a stream or river. "We determine that the Martian basalt pebbles have been carried tens of kilometres from their source, by bed-load transport on an alluvial fan," read the report published in Nature Communications. More »

  • Ancient river on Mars carried rounded pebbles 30 miles, research suggests
    Ancient river on Mars carried rounded pebbles 30 miles, research suggests Tue, Oct 13, 2015

    An ancient river on Mars carried rounded pebbles discovered by the American space agency Nasa's Curiosity rover a distance of some 30 miles, new research has shown. More »

  • How NASA and 'The Martian' Teamed Up to Inspire Students About Mars
    How NASA and 'The Martian' Teamed Up to Inspire Students About Mars Tue, Oct 13, 2015

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? More than 10,000 students from across the country recently participated in a digital learning network at Kennedy Space Center with NASA scientists, astronauts and cast members from the new film "The Martian." More »

  • NASA unveils (some) missing pieces in journey to Mars
    NASA unveils (some) missing pieces in journey to Mars Fri, Oct 9, 2015

    In the Hollywood movie "The Martian" an American astronaut survives on Mars against all odds, but in reality NASA admits that huge obstacles remain before humans can reach the Red Planet. More »

  • Putting Astronauts on Mars: NASA Lays Out Three-Phase Plan
    Putting Astronauts on Mars: NASA Lays Out Three-Phase Plan Fri, Oct 9, 2015

    NASA aims to put boots on Mars in the 2030s after first gathering human-spaceflight experience and expertise in low Earth orbit and the "proving ground" of cis-lunar space near the moon. NASA has been working on this three-stage path to the Red Planet for some time, and the space agency lays out the basic plan in a 36-page report called "Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration," which was released Thursday (Oct. 8). "This strategy charts a course toward horizon goals while delivering near-term benefits and defining a resilient architecture that can accommodate budgetary changes, political priorities, new scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs and evolving partnerships," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement. More »

  • Ancient Mars Had Long-Lasting Lakes, Boosting Chances for Life
    Ancient Mars Had Long-Lasting Lakes, Boosting Chances for Life Thu, Oct 8, 2015

    Ancient Mars harbored long-lasting lakes, boosting the odds that life could have existed on the Red Planet billions of years ago, a new study suggests. A series of freshwater lakes within Mars' 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater likely persisted for hundreds or thousands of years at a time, and perhaps even longer, according to the new study, which is based on observations made by NASA's 1-ton Curiosity rover. While these individual lakes were apparently transient, drying out and filling up repeatedly over time, the overall lake-and-stream system inside Gale Crater existed for a quite a long time, researchers said. More »

  • Mars crater 'used to contain lakes that existed for thousands of years& …
    Mars crater 'used to contain lakes that existed for thousands of years& … Thu, Oct 8, 2015

    A Martian crater now being explored by the Nasa rover Curiosity once contained lakes that remained for up to 10,000 years at a time - long enough to support life. More »

  • ‘Leaked NASA Film’ Shows Manned Mission To Mars In 1973
  • Mars' Missing Atmosphere Likely Lost in Space
    Mars' Missing Atmosphere Likely Lost in Space Tue, Oct 6, 2015

    The mystery of Mars' missing atmosphere is one big step closer to being solved. A previous hypothesis had suggested that a significant part of the carbon from Mars' atmosphere, which is dominated by carbon dioxide, could have been trapped within rocks via chemical processes. "The biggest carbonate deposit on Mars has, at most, twice as much carbon in it as the current Mars atmosphere," study co-author Bethany Ehlmann, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. More »

  • Curiosity Rover Snaps Stunning Mountain Vista on Mars (Photo)
    Curiosity Rover Snaps Stunning Mountain Vista on Mars (Photo) Mon, Oct 5, 2015

    NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has beamed home a gorgeous postcard of the mountainous Red Planet landscape it's exploring. The car-size Curiosity rover has been studying the foothills of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp since September 2014. Slowly but surely, the robot is making its way up the mountain, and the new photo — which was taken on Sept. 9 but just released Friday (Oct. 2) — shows some of the terrain Curiosity will investigate in the future. More »

  • The Real Mars Lander in 'The Martian': Fact Checking the Film's …
    The Real Mars Lander in 'The Martian': Fact Checking the Film's … Fri, Oct 2, 2015

    A historic NASA spacecraft makes more than just a cameo appearance in "The Martian," the new Ridley Scott movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. The 20th Century Fox film, which opened in U.S. theaters on Friday (Oct. 2), follows NASA's third crewed mission to land on the Red Planet in 2035. By the movie's timeline, Ares 3 crew member Mark Watney (Matt Damon) walks on Mars 23 years after the space agency's most recent real-life "martian," the robotic rover Curiosity, arrived to search for environments habitable to supporting past and present life. More »

  • Dazzling Rocket Launch Marks 100th Liftoff for United Launch Alliance
    Dazzling Rocket Launch Marks 100th Liftoff for United Launch Alliance Fri, Oct 2, 2015

    A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket blasted a communications satellite into orbit today (Oct. 2), marking the 100th consecutive successful liftoff for the company. More »

  • 'The Martian' and Reality: How NASA Will Get Astronauts to Mars
    'The Martian' and Reality: How NASA Will Get Astronauts to Mars Fri, Oct 2, 2015

    NASA wants the world to know that putting boots on Mars is not just a sci-fi dream. Setting up a crewed outpost on Mars is NASA's chief long-term goal in the realm of human spaceflight. Indeed, the space agency's operational robotic Mars craft — the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, and the orbiters Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) — can be seen as scouts for the human pioneers to come, NASA officials say. More »

  • Search for Mars life stymied by contamination threat
    Search for Mars life stymied by contamination threat Thu, Oct 1, 2015

    A multi-billion-dollar robot dispatched to Mars to search for life must steer clear of promising "hot spots" for fear of spreading microbes from Earth, NASA project scientists said Thursday. More »

  • Making 'The Martian': Exclusive Interview with Director Sir Ridley  …
    Making 'The Martian': Exclusive Interview with Director Sir Ridley  … Thu, Oct 1, 2015

    In "The Martian," stranded astronaut Mark Watney must use his knowledge of science to survive for several years alone on the Red Planet, in a classic castaway scenario created by book author Andy Weir. The film of the same name is directed by Sir Ridley Scott, who began his screen career production-designing the BBC television series "Doctor Who" (1963) and directing the episodic police drama "Z Cars" (1965). Scott gained worldwide attention upon directing the movie "Alien" (1979), and solidified his sci-fi reputation with "Blade Runner" (1982). More »

  • Mars H2O: How Scientists Discovered Salty Water on the Red Planet
    Mars H2O: How Scientists Discovered Salty Water on the Red Planet Thu, Oct 1, 2015

    This week's announcement that salty liquid water flows on Mars has reinvigorated debates about whether the Red Planet's environment could support life. Scientists announced yesterday (Sept. 28) that dark, narrow streaks that appear on Mars are caused by flowing water. The mysterious streaks were first spotted on the planet in 2011, but it was the chemical signature of the enigmatic lines that helped researchers make their discovery. More »

  • There May Be Water On Mars But No One Is Allowed To Go Near It
    There May Be Water On Mars But No One Is Allowed To Go Near It Thu, Oct 1, 2015

    According to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, no one is allowed to approach any potential water source on another planet, in case of contamination More »

  • How NASA's 'Real Martians' Are Preparing for Manned Trips to Ma …
    How NASA's 'Real Martians' Are Preparing for Manned Trips to Ma … Wed, Sep 30, 2015

    NASA is working to get the agency ready for a human mission to the Red Planet in a few decades, and is showcasing its personnel and projects online. Among NASA's many spotlights is a fascinating new video that zooms in on a NASA power system engineer's quest to create enough electricity to power a Mars base. To Alleyne, the International Space Station showcases many different kinds of research, ranging from biology to physics to Earth and space science. More »

  • Water on Mars Could Help Put Astronaut Boots on Red Planet
    Water on Mars Could Help Put Astronaut Boots on Red Planet Wed, Sep 30, 2015

    Yesterday (Sept. 28), scientists announced that the strange dark streaks — called recurring slope lineae (RSL) — that appear on steep Red Planet slopes when the weather is warm are caused by salty liquid water. More »

  • Mars water find boosts quest for extra-terrestrial life
    Mars water find boosts quest for extra-terrestrial life Tue, Sep 29, 2015

    The search for extra-terrestrial life just got a big boost from NASA's stunning announcement that it now has its strongest evidence yet of liquid water on Mars. More »