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The more you go to space, the cheaper it gets. Hurtling through space is easy. But getting started? Chemical propellants are great for an initial push, but your precious kerosene will burn up in a matter of minutes. After that, expect to reach the moons of Jupiter in, oh, five to seven years. Propulsion needs a radical new method. But before you break into outer space, a rogue bit of broke-ass satellite comes from out of nowhere and caps your second-stage fuel tank.

No more rocket. Launch adapters, lens covers, even a fleck of paint can punch a crater in critical systems. Whipple shields—layers of metal and Kevlar—can protect against the bitsy pieces, but nothing can save you from a whole satellite. Some 4, orbit Earth, most dead in the air. So starting now, all satellites will have to fall out of orbit on their own. That might be a century hence—or a lot sooner if space war breaks out. If someone like China?

Essential to the future of space travel: world peace. The Deep Space Network, a collection of antenna arrays in California, Australia, and Spain, is the only navigation tool for space. Everything from student-project satellites to the New Horizons probe meandering through the Kuiper Belt depends on it to stay oriented.

Tools of the (Astronaut) Trade

But as more and more missions take flight, the network is getting congested. The switchboard is often busy. So in the near term, NASA is working to lighten the load. Atomic clocks on the crafts themselves will cut transmission time in half, allowing distance calculations with a single downlink.

And higher-bandwidth lasers will handle big data packages, like photos or video messages. The farther rockets go from Earth, however, the less reliable this method becomes.

Sure, radio waves travel at light speed, but transmissions to deep space still take hours. When these particles knock into the atoms of aluminum that make up a spacecraft hull, their nuclei blow up, emitting yet more superfast particles called secondary radiation. A better solution? One word: plastics. NASA is testing plastics that can mitigate radiation in spaceships or space suits.

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Or how about this word: magnets. Scientists on the Space Radiation Superconducting Shield project are working on a magnesium diboride superconductor that would deflect charged particles away from a ship. It works at — degrees Celsius, which is balmy for superconductors, but it helps that space is already so damn cold. Lettuce got to be a hero last August. But large-scale gardening in zero g is tricky.

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Also, existing vehicles are cramped. Some veggies are already pretty space-efficient ha! Proteins, fats, and carbs could come from a more diverse harvest—like potatoes and peanuts. GMOs could help here too. He likens it to how your small intestine recycles what you drink.

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Weightlessness wrecks the body: It makes certain immune cells unable to do their jobs, and red blood cells explode. It gives you kidney stones and makes your heart lazy. Artificial gravity would fix all that. Creating an environment that can sustain human life in the almost total absence of gravity, as well as no electrical outlets or oxygen, takes a lot of experimentation. We compiled 30 common items that were invented for use in the race for space.

Unlike modern inventions we no longer use, these inventions are employed daily to save lives, improve environmental sustainability, and keep humans healthy. After NASA developed scratch-resistant astronaut helmets, the agency gave a license to Foster-Grant Corporation to continue experimenting with scratch-resistant plastics, which now comprise most sunglasses and prescription lenses. Needing to monitor astronauts' vital signs in space, the Goddard Space Flight Center created monitoring systems that have been adapted to regulate blood sugar levels and release insulin as needed.

The polymers created for use in space suits have been valuable in creating flame-retardant, heat-resistant suits for firefighters.

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Newer suits also feature circulating coolant to keep firefighters from succumbing to heat and advanced breathing systems modeled after astronaut life support systems. This led to the creation of the ultra-light, compact, cordless DustBuster. Technology used to track astronauts' eyes during periods in space in order to assess how humans' frames of reference are affected by weightlessness has become essential for use during LASIK surgery. The device tracks a patient's eye positions for the surgeon. Shock absorbers designed to protect equipment during space shuttle launches are now used to protect bridges and buildings in areas prone to earthquakes. Out of a need to power space missions, NASA has invented, and consistently improved, photovoltaic cells, sharing the advancements with other companies to accelerate the technology.

In the s, NASA developed filtration systems that utilized iodine and cartridge filters to ensure that astronauts had access to safe, tasteless water. This filtering technology is now standard. The material is stronger than steel and adds thousands of miles of life to the tires. Astronomy and space. Our research Radio astronomy For more than 60 years we've been a world leader in radio astronomy: managing observatories, developing new technologies and revealing the structure of the Universe.

ASKAP and the Square Kilometre Array We're building a next-generation radio telescope in remote Western Australia and playing a leading role in developing the world's largest observatory. Astronomy education programs Our astronomy education programs are supporting teachers and inspiring students to learn about science and the Universe.

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