Japan wants to land an electronic man on the moon!

The US landed men on the moon six times between 1969 and 1972. In recent years, China, India and the US have announced plans to put humans on the moon once again sometime around the year 2020. Japan (being Japan) plans to send not a man to the moon, but a walking humanoid robot! (Also by 2020.) And if I know Japan, they’ll send along a robot-dog sidekick, too, who will run around the surface of the moon sniffing for minerals and wagging his robotic tail.

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Bat Hitches Ride to Space on Shuttle Discovery

A small bat that was spotted blasting off with the space shuttle Sunday and clinging to the back side of Discovery’s external fuel tank apparently held on throughout the launch. NASA hoped the bat would fly away before the spacecraft’s Sunday evening liftoff, but photos from the launch now show the bat holding on for dear life throughout the fiery ride.

“He did change the direction he was pointing from time to time throughout countdown but ultimately never flew away,” states a NASA memo obtained by SPACE.com. “Infrared imagery shows he was alive and not frozen like many would think … Liftoff imagery analysis confirmed that he held on until at least the vehicle cleared [the] tower before we lost sight of him.”

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Teens capture images of space with camera and balloon

Proving that you don’t need Google’s billions or the BBC weather centre’s resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere. Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year. Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

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747-400 in your living room?

Too much money and too much time on your hands and you can have one too!

Sydneysider Matthew Sheil has built what could easily be one of the most elaborate big boy’s toys in the world, and his efforts have earned him a Guinness world record. Sheil is the top gun in the surreal world of flight simulator enthusiasts, where virtual pilots join virtual airlines, fly virtual routes and are assisted by virtual air traffic controllers. For most, a joystick and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator PC software is sufficient, but, over the past 10 years, Sheil has built what Guinness describes as the “world’s most expensive home flight simulator”.

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NASA Ares Super-chute

NASA and U.S. Air Force test pilots have just dropped a 50,000-pound “dummy” rocket booster on the Arizona desert–and stopped it before it crashed. It’s all part of NASA’s plan to return to the Moon. “NASA’s new Ares moon rocket is going to have a reusable booster stage that we plan to recover after each mission,” explains James Burnum of Marshall Space Flight Center. “To ‘catch’ the booster before it crashes back to Earth, we need a super-reliable parachute system.”

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Asteroid’s passing was a cosmic near-miss

An asteroid about the size of one that leveled more than 800 square miles of forest in Siberia a century ago just buzzed the Earth. The asteroid named 2009 DD45 was about 48,800 miles from Earth when it zipped past early Monday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported. That is just twice as high as the orbits of some telecommunications satellites and about a fifth of the distance to the Moon. “This was pretty darn close,” astronomer Timothy Spahr of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said Wednesday. But not as close as the tiny meteoroid 2004 FU162, which came within 4,000 miles in 2004.

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What is it like to live in isolation for months on end?

What challenges will face future travellers to Mars? To find out, planetary scientist Pascal Lee leads yearly NASA-funded expeditions to Haughton Crater in the Canadian Arctic, where the barren, rocky terrain bears an uncanny resemblance to Martian landscapes. There, Lee and a few dozen others carry out simulated Mars expeditions and conduct scientific investigations of the crater and its environment. Lee spoke to New Scientist about lessons learned from the Haughton Mars Project and about an upcoming Mars isolation experiment set up by the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow in partnership with the European Space Agency.

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