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For those following all the habitability results from the Curiosity rover lately, here’s a special treat — the Discovery Channel will air a behind-the-scenes documentary on the mission tonight (Dec. 18) at 10 p.m. Eastern.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage rocket will attempt precison landing on this autonomous spaceport drone ship soon after launch set for Dec. 19, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage rocket will attempt precison landing on this autonomous spaceport drone ship soon after launch set for Dec. 19, 2014, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

In a key test of rocket reusability, SpaceX will attempt a daring landing of their Falcon 9 first stage rocket on an ocean platform known as the “autonomous spaceport drone ship” following the planned Friday, Dec. 19, blastoff on a high stakes mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo freighter is slated to liftoff on its next unmanned cargo run, dubbed CRS-5, to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. In a late development, there is a possibility the launch could be postponed to January 2015. [click to continue…]

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This (in blue) is where the Philae lander came to rest on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The graphic is based on topographic modelling of the comet's nucleus and Philae's picture of a nearby cliff (in white). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CNES/FD/CIVA

This (in blue) is where the Philae lander came to rest on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The graphic is based on topographic modelling of the comet’s nucleus and Philae’s picture of a nearby cliff (in white). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CNES/FD/CIVA

In scientific style, researchers are slowly narrowing down where the Philae lander arrived on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Earlier today (Dec. 17) at the American Geophysical Union meeting, more pictures from the European spacecraft were released showing its landing site and also what the terrain looked like underneath Philae as it bounced to its destination. The pictures were also placed on NASA’s website.

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The Universe’s Tour Guide

Satellites swarm around the Earth on the Hayden Planetarium's dome. Credit: AMNH.

Satellites swarm around the Earth on the Hayden Planetarium’s dome. Credit: AMNH.

The hazy, white horizon lifts away slowly, giving way to the blue and green, cloud-swept marble we call home. I take in a deep breath, astonished by the Earth’s staggering beauty in stark contrast to the sprinkled backdrop.

People are still shuffling into the 429-seat Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, their shadows projected onto the arched ceiling. A voice resonates in the dome’s spacious cavity. Brian Abbott, the planetarium’s assistant director, is welcoming everyone to the show. It’s a “highlights tour,” he says, covering most of the known universe in one fell swoop.

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After a 20 month trek across Mars and careful analysis of data, NASA scientists have announced two separate detection of organics - in the surface and the air of Mars. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL, Illustration - T. Reyes)

After a 20 month trek across Mars and careful analysis of data, NASA scientists have announced two separate detection of organics – in the surface and the air of Mars. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL, Illustration – T. Reyes)

On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, NASA scientists attending the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco announced the detection of organic compounds on Mars. The announcement represents the discovery of the missing “ingredient” that is necessary for the existence – past or present – of life on Mars.

Indeed, the extraordinary claim required extraordinary evidence – the famous assertion of Dr. Carl Sagan. The scientists, members of the Mars Science Lab – Curiosity Rover – mission, worked over a period of 20 months to sample and analyze Martian atmospheric and surface samples to arrive at their conclusions. The announcement stems from two separate detections of organics: 1) ten-fold spikes in atmospheric Methane levels, and 2) drill samples from a rock called Cumberland which included complex organic compounds.

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