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.

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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.

An "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the US government.

The hypothetical device could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days.

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The engine would create an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas developed by Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

The US air force has expressed an interest in the idea and scientists working for the American Department of Energy - which has a device known as the Z Machine that could generate the kind of magnetic fields required to drive the engine - say they may carry out a test if the theory withstands further scrutiny.

Professor Jochem Hauser believes that a working engine could be tested in about five years.

"But this thing is not around the corner; we first have to prove the basic science is correct and there are quite a few physicists who have a different opinion," warned the scientist.

Via Scotsman.

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