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Space agencies have shown a great interest in manned missions to Mars, even though the technology and resources available will need to greatly advance in coming years. Some critics wonder if we should try to send humans to a planet so far away - especially since Earth and Mars were 34.8 million miles apart at their known closest pass to one another.
However, the European Space Agency (ESA) feels like mankind has the ambition - and evolving technological prowess - to make a manned mission possible. It would take up to 10 months to reach the Red Planet, and a crew could stay up to one year, and then take up to 10 months to make a return trip home again.
"Humans will go to Mars, I'm very sure of this," said Alexander Gerst, an astronaut for the ESA, in a statement published by Euronews. "You just have to look back in human history and you'll know. As soon as we learned to build ships, we took them not only to go to the next island, we took them to sail over the horizon."
Famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin is working on a so-called "master plan" to help colonize the Red Planet of Mars sometime in the next 25 years. Aldrin, the second person in history to walk on the moon, hopes for a Mars settlement by 2039, but admitted it's an "adjustable" schedule.
If a Mars settlement can be created, it wouldn't be a one-way mission, and believes a 10-year duration could be created. NASA hasn't spoken publicly about Aldrin's plans, however, he believes the US space agency would at least listen to the mission plan. NASA is actively working on a next-generation rocket and spacecraft that would allow for the long journey to Mars.
Aldrin has partnered with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) to develop the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute - designed to promote manned missions to Mars. The new university program backs the following mission: "commercial and international development of lunar resources to support an eventual Mars settlement."
The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) experiment has started on Earth, designed to simulate a Mars mission.
The six participants, three men and three women, are scientists - and will be in tight quarters, living inside a 36-foot-wide dome that is 20-feet high. The project began on Friday and will last 365 days. Researchers will collect information regarding cognitive, social and emotional factors between each participant - and how they interact with one another.
NASA believes a mission to Mars could take more than three years to complete, so this is an important step to gather data.
Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State member reportedly in charge of the Cyber Caliphate hacker division, was killed earlier this week by a US drone strike. Hussain served a 6-month sentence after sharing former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's contacts in 2012.
The 21-year-old convicted computer hacker was the No. 3 person on an IS kill list, because he served as an important part of the Islamic State's infrastructure. Hussain also reportedly played an important role in recruiting members for the group, in addition to influencing "lone wolf" attacks.
"If you don't have anybody who is kind of fluent in computer operations, you've got a problem," said Michael Sulmeyer, project director at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. "The ballgame is pretty much the coder or the individual."
There is growing concern that space nations may show increased interest in militarizing space, creating an awkward situation between the United States, Russia, China, and other agencies currently conducting space research.
"If the United States starts developing and launching its battle stations into space, Russia will have to respond in kind - namely with the development of high-performance Electronic Warfare (EW) tools on different types of bases; the use of these tools will be a distinct advantage," said Igor Nasenkov, the Russian Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (RETC) department, according to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.
Nasenkov reportedly noted Russia already has plans for EW tools, but is waiting for allocated funds - and a political motivation - to begin developing such weapons.
As China develops new space technologies, including anti-satellite capabilities, it's up to the United States to prepare for a possible space race against China and other rivals, political leaders believe.
"We must treat space for what it is, it is a domain in which we must be prepared to fight and win," said Henry Obering, EVP at Booz Allen Hamilton, in a statement during the Hudson Institute conference. "We should dramatically expand our investment in the battle space [that] is growing into space."
China, which became the third country after the United States and former Soviet Union to send men into space, has dramatically ramped up space technology research. The country developed an anti-satellite interceptor missile capable of hitting targets in low-Earth orbit, and missiles reportedly able to hit high-Earth orbit targets.
Researchers from Germany and Korea are developing a new exoskeleton able to be controlled by the wearer's brain waves.
Using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, wearers are able to move forward, turn left and right, or sit and stand while looking at a computer screen. The five flickering LEDs operate at different frequencies, which are identified in an EEG readout - once the signal is accurately identified, the exoskeleton is able to operate normally.
"Exoskeletons create lots of electrical 'noise,'" said Klaus Muller, a researcher and author of a paper published in the Journal of Neural Engineering, in a statement published by Phys.org. "The EEG signal gets buried under all this noise - but our system is able to separate not only the EEG signal, but the frequency of the flickering LED within this signal."
The six crew members stationed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) became the first humans to eat space-grown food, after munching on a harvested crop of red romaine lettuce.
Using technology built with partner company Orbital Technologies, the lettuce was grown without soil in an air or mist environment. Growing plants aeroponically, they don't require as much water or fertilizer, grow faster, and tend not to have a high rate of disease.
Prior to eating the lettuce, astronauts used citric acid-based sanitizing wipes to clean their fresh veggies. This is an important glimpse towards the future, as NASA looks for new ways to provide a sustainable food supply that can be created aboard the space station.
Researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are researching new ways to get things to stick in space, and have found inspiration from geckos.
Unlike tape, which loses its ability to adhere objects together after several uses, geckos have tiny hairs on the bottom of their feet so they are able to easily cling to objects over and over again. Researchers now hope a new material with thin synthetic hairs is able to make the material stick to desired surfaces - even in space.
The new technology has a great advantage over Velcro, a popular solution used in space, as it doesn't leave residue and there is no mating surface required on intended targets. The new gecko-inspired gripping technology is being tested during microgravity tests, including on a 20-pound cube and 250-pound person.
Don't worry, no asteroids will be slamming into the Earth in September, NASA has confirmed following a recent viral video caused a bit of a stir.
In the video, it was falsely reported that an asteroid would impact around Puerto Rico, with the incident expected to take place from September 15 to September 28 - but there is no immediate threat to Earthlings. The video made it sound like there would be a threat to the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America.
"There is no scientific basis - not one shred of evidence - that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," said Paul Chodas, manager of the Near-Earth Object office for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).