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NASA

Commercial passenger spaceflight has gone on the books with Boeing announcing that it's received the first contract ever issued to a private company to carry out a manned space mission. The NASA task order means that Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft will ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS) on up to six missions.

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NASA has begun a comprehensive series of tests for its Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander. Once on the Red Planet, the lander will operate as a stationary science platform, attempting to answer a plethora of questions regarding the interior structure of Mars, and hopefully granting us some of the information needed to make a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s a reality.

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Mankind's most remote outpost underwent a significant remodel this week, as an entire module of the International Space Station was relocated in order to make way for the next generation of American commercial spacecraft. The move didn't require a spacewalk, with operators instead making use of the 16-m (52-ft) robotic arm to grapple and maneuver the Leonardo, or Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).

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NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has been forced to alter its route after being faced with dangerous terrain. The current objective of the robotic explorer is to investigate a geological boundary between two distinct forms of bedrock as a part of its mission to explore the heights of Mount Sharp, and ultimately unlock the secrets of the Red Planet's ancient past.

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Even though it is around the same size as our own Moon and a whole lot farther from the Sun, Jupiter's moon Europa is considered one of our solar system's most likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. A deep and mysterious ocean is thought to exist below its icy crust and has beckoned scientists for more than a decade. NASA is in the process of conceptualizing a future mission to explore Europa, and has now confirmed which scientific instruments it will send along to do the job.

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A fresh study examining data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft has led to to the discovery of the brightest galaxy in the universe. The galaxy, dubbed WISE J224607.57-052635.0, is believed to contain in excess of 300 trillion stars, and has given rise to a new group of astronomical objects – Extremely Luminous Infrared Galaxies, or ELIRGs.

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NASA has partnered with DARPA to develop technology that allows for the indexing of Deep Web content. The agency plans to turn the tool towards the wealth of data collected by its numerous spacecraft, as well as its huge archive of published scientific data, allowing researchers to better analyze findings while making it easier to confirm they're breaking new ground.

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CubeSats, tiny satellites about the size of a loaf of bread or smaller, hold the promise of opening space up to low-budget space missions, but currently they're largely restricted to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). To broaden the scope of these pint-sized spacecraft, NASA is developing its CubeSat Application for Planetary Entry Missions (CAPE) concept, which would see the development of miniature space probes that can be sent in fleets on interplanetary missions for multi-point sampling, as opposed to the bus-sized, do-it-all probes that are currently in service.

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The Concorde may be just a memory, but some aircraft manufacturers still see supersonic aircraft as the future of civilian aviation. To allow for widespread supersonic flight over populated areas without shattering windows and frightening chickens, electronics firm Rockwell Collins has been awarded a two-year NASA contract to develop a 3D cockpit display to help pilots of future supersonic aircraft to mitigate or eliminate sonic booms.

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An international team of astronomers from Europe, Israel and the United States has succeeded in shedding light on the origin of Type la supernovae – powerful nuclear explosions in deep space that allow us to chart the vast distances between galaxies. It is known that a white dwarf star is responsible for creating the distinctive, intensely bright explosion, but the cause of the supernovae are still a topic of hot debate.

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