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Space

NASA has launched a public challenge with the aim of innovating technologies vital for the establishment of a colony on Mars. The agency is focused on a mission to the Red Planet, and has already taken the first vital steps. However, whilst simply reaching Mars with a cargo of healthy astronauts would be a monumental triumph, maintaining a permanent presence on so inhospitable a planet could prove to be a much greater technological challenge.

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Space may be big, but in our neck of the woods it's getting crowded. There are thousands of active and inactive satellites in orbit around Earth, and while Mars may not exactly be Piccadilly Circus, it now has five active satellites circling it. To prevent any unfortunate collisions around the Red Planet, NASA is working on a new traffic management system.

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More details have been revealed about the X-37B spaceplane's upcoming OTV-4 mission. When it launches on May 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the (not entirely) secret X-37B will carry a NASA experiment called Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) designed to test new materials for use in future spacecraft.

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The unmanned Progress 59 (M-27M) cargo spacecraft has burned up somewhere over the central Pacific ocean according to the Russian Federal Space Agency. Launched 10 days ago, it failed to reach the ISS due to a malfunction that prevented mission control from establishing contact shortly after launch.

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Around one week after it smashed spectacularly into Mercury, NASA's MESSENGER probe has posthumously turned up valuable observations revealing some of the planet's long-held secrets. Using data gleaned from the spacecraft's closest pass of the planet earlier this year, scientists have established its magnetic field to be almost 4 billion years old, shedding new light on how Mercury has evolved over its 4.5 billion year lifespan.

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that its Proba-V satellite has successfully picked up signals from thousands of aircraft around the globe. The findings of the mission, which was primarily tasked with watching changes in vegetation across the planet, could pave the way for a more accurate air traffic control system.

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Mornings on the International Space Station (ISS) got a bit brighter as the first cup of espresso coffee in space was brewed and drank on the station by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. To celebrate, Cristoforetti tweeted back to Earth a photo of her imbibing the brew, saying, "'Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised.' Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup! To boldly brew…"

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SpaceX has carried out a successful test of its Launch Abort System (LAS) for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The test, which took place at Space Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station represents a major stop towards getting the spacecraft human rated under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract. NASA hopes that commercial spacecraft such as the Crew Dragon will return manned spacecraft launches back to American soil sometime in 2017.

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When the first Orion astronauts stare back at Earth, they'll be looking through windows made mostly of plastic. Because Orion is designed to carry out manned deep-space missions and even a possible Mars voyage, NASA decided it was time to replace the conventional glass windows with panes of acrylic that are lighter, less expensive, and more structurally sound than previous designs, and is more suited to long-duration missions.

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Repeated attempts by Russian mission controllers have failed to rescue the stricken Progress 59 cargo spacecraft. It is now expected that the unmanned resupply ship will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at some point over the next few weeks, resulting in the complete destruction of both the spacecraft and its cargo. Read More
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