NASA plans to crash a space probe into the moon in 2009. The collision, so violent it will be visible on Earth through a telescope, should excavate a hole about a third the size of a football field and hurl a plume of debris into space.

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The moon crash is a quest for ice, as water is the key ingredient for future human outposts on the moon.

After the crash, the mother ship that released the probe will fly through the plume and look for traces of water ice or vapor. The lunar spacecraft will target the south pole, releasing its SUV-sized impactor probe in January 2009 on a suicide plunge at about 5,600 miles per hour toward a frozen crater believed to contain hidden ice.

If ice is found, it could be melted and the water used to help make rocket fuel or oxygen.

Thanks Jonah.

Via CNN.

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Now that we got used to the idea of having one day space elevators, Gianmarco Radice and Prof Matthew Cartmell at the University of Glasgow have come up with plans to develop a giant slingshot to replace rockets and catapult material from the earth to the moon.

The study will explore whether it is theoretically possible to create massive cables then use the power of the earth's orbit to catapult raw materials for mining, food, water and aerospace equipment into space.

The cables could be up to 250,000km long and made of extra strong materials.

"These 'tether' systems are an extremely attractive possibility for space transportation as they don't need any fuel. The cargo is transferred from one orbit to the other using the orbital velocity of the system, explained Radice. "There are issues that have to be addressed, as the cables are very long and have to be highly resistant, but this could provide an efficient method of transporting goods between the earth and moon."

Via The Scotsman.

Players of Operation Cntrcpy[tm] have to navigate a space ship to Mars as fast as possible and to land there, by using a web interface and a mobile phone. Throughout the whole mission the pilot is responsible for the space ship and crew.

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The journey is impeded by aliens, black holes and fields of asteroids. When the spaceship heads towards one, the cosmonaut is immediately informed by SMS – at unpredictable times, day or night. The pilot has to log into the "Virtual Mission Control Center" via the internet as fast as he can, and avert the danger. The quickness of reaction and the quality of solving a problem decide the course of the journey.

Another project is also to transfer Operation Cntrcpy[tm] into "real space". In the past a propaganda video and space food were produced, space trainings were realized and a operation headquater was installed in several galleries.

Furthermore, a goal is to criticize efforts pursued by states for spaceflight activities without having any real social benefit. For them, the conquest of space is only part of the game of power between states. This is also stressed in an ironic form by the fact that the traveler enters the cosmos and represents a country which in reality no longer exists, the former Soviet Union.

More images.

A work by Rainer Prohaska together with Martin Sägmüller, Konstantin Demblin and Eva Grumeth.

On Feb. 3rd, astronauts onboard the International Space Station will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.

The spacesuit is the satellite -- SuitSat for short.

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"Some Russian partners in the ISS program had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites," explains Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Scientsits have equipped an outdated Russian Orlon spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power. As it circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground.

To listen to SuitSat, all you will need is a big antenna and a radio receiver that you can tune to 145.990 MHz FM. "A police band scanner or a hand-talkie ham radio would work just fine," added Bauer.

Use Science@NASA's J-Pass utility to find out when the ISS is going to orbit over your area.

Via Eyeteeth and The Raw Feed. More information and images.

I've uploaded on Flickr the images i took at the retrospective dedicated to Antwerp-based artist Panamarenko. Funky aeroplanes, air balloons, inflatable vehicles, flying saucers, weird cars and backpacks that Daedalus could have engineered...

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Be quick if you want to check the show, it closes on January 29, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels. More images in Pixagogo.

Extremes of temperature can cause small cracks to open in the superstructure of spacecraft, as can impacts by micrometeroids. Cracks build up, weakening the spacecraft until a catastrophic failure becomes inevitable.

However, engineers at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol, UK have taken a step towards the spacecraft that could fix itself.

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To replicate the human process of healing small cracks before they can open up into anything more serious, the team replaced a few percent of the fibres running through a resinous composite material with hollow fibres containing adhesive materials. Ironically, to make the material self-repairable, the hollow fibres had to be made of an easily breakable substance: glass. "When damage occurs, the fibres must break easily otherwise they cannot release the liquids to fill the cracks and perform the repair," says Christopher Semprimoschnig, at the European Space Technology Research Centre.

In the airless environment of space, the mechanical "veins" have to be filled with resin and a hardener that leak out and mix when the fibres are broken. Both must be runny enough to fill the cracks quickly and harden before it evaporates.

"We have taken the first step but there is at least a decade to go before this technology finds its way onto a spacecraft," says Semprimoschnig.

Doubling spacecraft lifetimes means that mission planners could contemplate missions to far-away destinations in the Solar System that are currently too risky.

Via ESA.

Related: Self-healing paint for cars.

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