Science Saturday: Moon Base + Commercial Mars + SETI On Hold + LeVar @ NASA + Universal Translator/Browser

While Kayla is busy in Germany, your humble editor takes on Science Saturday starting off with renewed hope for a Moon Base. We also look at commercial plans for manned trips beyond Earth, visit NASA with LeVar Burton, find out why SETI has is putting aliens on hold, get ready to say goodbye to Endeavor, and see how Google turns your browser into a universal translator.

 

Moon Base Bill Introduced

As we have reported here before, the Obama Administration has scrapped  NASA’s Constellation project, including a mission to return to the Moon. The new plan for manned spaceflight was to put the focus into creating new technologies to send humans beyond the moon to asteroids and Mars. However, this plan has been controversial with some space enthusiasts as well as members of congress with districts impacted by the Constellation cancellation. And one of those house members (Bill Posey R-FL) has introduced the "Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act," which is also being referred to as the "Back To The Moon Bill." The bill attempts to reverse the Obama administration and change NASA’s priorities by law stating:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall plan to return to the moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence on the moon in order to promote exploration, commerce, science and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations. The budget requests and expenditures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be consistent with achieving this goal.

So far the bill has only four co-sponsors and it is unclear if it will make it out of committee to revive a full vote. If it does it would also need to make it through the Senate and be signed by the president.


Bill introduced to bring back the Moon Base plan

Commercial Trips to Moon and Mars?

While the US government debates over where to send humans next, private companies are already making their Moon and Mars plans. Space Adventures, the company that first pioneered space tourism with Dennis Tito in 2001, is mapping out a tourist Trip around the moon. The price? Only $150 million, but Space Adventures tells Space.com they have already signed up one passenger and are looking for just one more. The mission will use a Soyuz spacecraft commanded by a Russian cosmonaut. 


Space Adventures nine-day trip around the moon plan

Moon not good enough for you, want to get your a– to Mars? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX co-founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk spoke about sending a man (or woman) to Mars, watch the interview below.

Speaking of space tourism, Miles O’Brien (the space journalist not the space engineer) has put together this video on the 10th anniversary of that first space tourist.

Final Endeavor Launch delayed – Burton on hand to inspect

The final launch of Shuttle Endeavor was scheduled for Friday, however it was delayed due to concerns over the shuttles heating system. As part of NASA’s examination of the problem, the shuttle’s external fuel tank will be drained of its oxygen and hydrogen propellants. A new launch has not yet bet set, but it will be no earlier than Monday, May 2nd. For it’s 25th (and final) mission Endeavour is carrying the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. It will be attached to the International Space Station and detect anti-matter and dark matter, which will help scientists better understand how the universe began and evolved.


"Endeavors Final Flight" video examines Shuttle Endeavor’s career

Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Levar Burton was one of the dignitaries on hand for the launch on Friday. Burton participated in a NASA Livetweet event, including a number of pictures of his time. Here are just a couple.

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Burton inspecting Shuttle Atlantis in the Orbiter Processing Facility

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LeVar hangin’ with a space suit

Budget Cuts Force SETI To Shut Down – seeking new donations

The SETI Institute (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) announced this week that federal and state cutbacks at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory have forced a "hibernation" for the Allen Telescope Array, which they use to listen for alien signals from space. SETI is asking for public donations in order to help return the ATA to operation. 

Video of the Week: V’Gers Ready To Go Interstellar

More than 30 years after they were launched, NASA’s two Voyager probes have traveled to the edge of the solar system and are on the threshold of interstellar space. This week NASA Science released a video about the next step for the fully functional (and soon-to-be inter-stellar) probes.

Gadget of the Week: Google’s Universal Translator Browser

Our gadget of the week isn’t new, but a new feature for Google’s Chrome Browser, which now includes speech to text and translation – in other words: a Star Trek-like universal translator. This video from Tech Harvest demonstrates.

Science Bits:

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