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Could the future of fusion driven rockets for interplantary or even interstellar travel be near at hand? Engineers at the Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works believe they will have a compact fusion reactor prototype operational in five years and in use within 10 years. (Illustration Credit:© David A. Hardy/www.astroart.org,  Project Daedalus)

Could the future of fusion driven rockets for interplantary or even interstellar travel be near at hand? Engineers at the Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works believe they will have a compact fusion reactor prototype operational in five years and in use within 10 years. (Illustration Credit:© David A. Hardy/www.astroart.org, Project Daedalus)

The Farnsworth Fusor; Pons and Fleishmann. It seems the trail to fusion energy has long gone cold — stone cold, that is, and not cold as in cold fusion. Despite the promise of fusion providing a sustainable and safe energy source, fusion reactors are not a dime a dozen and they won’t be replacing coal fired power plants any time soon. Or will they? Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works announced a prototype compact fusion reactor that could be ready within five years. This revelation has raised eyebrows and sparked moments of enthusiasm.

But, let’s considers this story and where it all fits in both the history and future.
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How NASA and SpaceX are Working Together to Land on Mars

Thermal imagery of Falcon 9 rocket. Image Credit: NASA/Scifli Team/Applied Physics Laboratory Images

Thermal imagery of Falcon 9 rocket. Image Credit: NASA/Scifli Team/Applied Physics Laboratory Images

It is no secret that NASA is seeking out private space contractors to help bring some of its current plans to fruition. Naturally, these involve restoring indigenous launch capabilities to the US, but also include the more far-reaching goal of sending astronauts to Mars. Towards that end, NASA and SpaceX participated in an unprecedented data-sharing project that will benefit them both.

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A radar view of Venus taken by the Magellan spacecraft, with some gaps filled in by the Pioneer Venus orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL

A radar view of Venus taken by the Magellan spacecraft, with some gaps filled in by the Pioneer Venus orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL

Talk about using old data for a new purpose! Researchers re-examining information from the completed NASA Magellan mission found signs of what could be “heavy metal” frost on the hell-like surface. What the researchers saw in radio-wave reflectance is the highlands appear brighter, with dark spots in the tallest locations.

What substance exactly is causing the patches on the surface is unknown, and it is extremely hard to make predictions given the difficulty of simulating Venus’ 900-degree Fahrenheit (500-degree Celsius) surface temperature, which is also 90 times Earth’s air pressure at sea level.

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The Partially eclipsed Sun rising over the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Florida Space Coast on November 3rd, 2013.

The partially eclipsed Sun rising over the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Florida Space Coast on November 3rd, 2013. Photo by author.

Get those solar viewers out… the final eclipse of 2014 occurs this Thursday on October 23rd, and most of North America has a front row seat. Though this solar eclipse will be an exclusively partial one as the Moon takes a ‘bite’ out the disk of the Sun, such an event is always fascinating to witness. And for viewers across the central U.S. and Canada, it will also provide the chance to photograph the setting crescent Sun along with foreground objects. [click to continue…]

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Frost deposits in Louth Crater appears to remain through the year, as found in Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE photos of the region. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Frost deposits in Louth Crater appears to remain through the year, as found in Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE photos of the region. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars was once thought to be a fairly unchanging planet, similar to the Moon. But now we know it is a planet that was shaped by water and other forces in the past — and that these forces still come into play today.

Above is a picture of permafrost deposits just discovered in Louth Crater. This find comes from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and you can see some of its latest water- and dust- shaped environments imaged below.

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