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20 Aug

Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk But Most Dangerous EVA Ever Could Lie Ahead

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev completed a 5-hour, 11-minute spacewalk Monday, launching a Peruvian nanosatellite and installing and retrieving various science experiments from the International Space Station's exterior.

Artemyev shared photos from his second spacewalk on Twitter, including a stunning shot of sunset from outside the ISS:

The tiny Chasqui-1 satellite measures just 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches and weighs only 2.2 pounds. According to NASA,

"Shortly after the spacewalk began at 10:02 a.m., Artemyev manually deployed Chasqui 1, a Peruvian nanosatellite designed to take pictures of the Earth with a pair of cameras and transmit the images to a ground station. The project is part of an effort by the National University of Engineering in Peru to gain experience in satellite technology and emerging information and communication technologies."

While spacewalks may seem routine these days, an extra-vehicular activity is still the most dangerous activity an astronaut can do in space... and spacewalks of the future could get even more menacing. Tonight on "Man vs. the Universe" (10/9c), learn about scientists' efforts to stop an asteroid from crashing into Earth. One method calls for catching an impending asteroid in a giant bag, then sending astronauts on the most dangerous spacewalk ever.

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19 Aug

America, The Beautiful Revealed In Breathtaking Timelapse of Milky Way, Northern Lights

When you live in a city, it can be hard to remember that the brightest lights aren't downtown -- they're right above you.

Photographer Randy Halverson breathtaking timelapse video, shot in some of the most remote parts of America, reveal the incredible astral show happening in the sky, from the glorious Milky Way to the rumbling of thunderstorms.

Wednesday night on How the Universe Works, dive deep inside the Milky Way for a closer look at the galaxy we call home. Here's a sneak peek at tomorrow night's episode: "Did a black hole create the Milky Way?"

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18 Aug

This Is For Everyone Who Asks, "Why Aren't There Stars When Astronauts Take Photos From Space?"

We get this question a lot when we share astronauts' pictures on social media: "Why can't you see any stars in the photos astronauts take from space?"

The fact that there are no visible stars in photos and videos from the moon landing has also fueled some conspiracy theorists' suspicions, though NASA scientists explain that "the camera was unable to capture the light emitted from the stars because the bright sunlight hitting the moon's surface washes out the light from the stars."

That same bright light is the reason many astronauts' photos from the International Space Station appear to show space as pitch black and void of stars, write experts at

"The reason why no or very little stars can be seen is because of the Earth. The Earth, when lit by the Sun, is many thousands times brighter than the stars around it. As a result the Earth is so bright that it swamps out most if not all of the stars."

"The reason that the stars do not show up on the film is that the stars are so dim that the camera cannot gather enough of their light in a short exposure. Our eyes are a lot more sensitive to light than photographic film."

So American astronaut Reid Wiseman's latest space snapshot, taken with a longer exposure, shows that, yes, of course there are stars in space:

Question: Why aren't stars extinct?


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13 Aug

Commercial Spacecraft Prepare to Mine the Moon

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

-President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

More than 50 years after President Kennedy's famous moon speech, his words continue to inspire. Now a new generation prepares to heed the president's call and aim for the lunar surface, not for human exploration but to mine the moon for its precious minerals.

Among the rare earth elements found on the moon are titanium, magnesium and iron; there's also helium-3, which "could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products."

Silicon Valley titans like Google are looking toward the lunar surface and offering scientists prizes "designed to inspire pioneers to do robotic space transport on a budget."

Is this the start of a new space race?

Tonight at 10/9c, Science Channel's three-part special Man vs. The Universe looks at commercial spacecraft preparing to mine the moon and the benefits these groups hope to reap. Here's a sneak peek:

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11 Aug

This Is What The Supermoon's 'Moonset' Looks Like From Space

Amid all the photos of this weekend's supermoon -- the biggest and brightest of 2014 -- one set of snapshots stands out: images of the supermoon setting behind the Earth taken from the International Space Station by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.

Artemyev shared the jaw-dropping photos on Twitter and in a blog post with the understated title, "Full moon. Lunar orbit sunset (photo)."

Sunday night's massive moon was 14 percent closer to Earth and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of the year, NASA tweeted.

Lunar lovers, here's a Moon 101 primer:

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6 Aug

After 10 Years And 4 Billion Miles, Rosetta Space Probe Reaches Comet 67P

"We're in orbit!"

"Hello, Comet!"

With those words, the European Space Agency confirmed that Rosetta had reached its destination after a 10-year, four-billion-mile journey.

The Rosetta space probe arrived at comet 67P at 09:02:29 UTC Wednesday morning, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.

"After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here,'" ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.

"Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start."

Now that Rosetta is in orbit, it could help scientists on Earth collect vital information about the source of life itself:

"Comets are believed by astrophysicists to be ancient ice and dust left from the building of the Solar System around 4.6 billion years ago. This cosmic rubble is the oldest, least touched material in our stellar neighborhood.

Understanding its chemical ID and physical composition will give insights into how the planets coalesced after the Sun flared into light, it is hoped.

It could also determine the fate of a theory called "pan-spermia," which suggests comets, by smashing into the infant Earth, sowed our home with water and precious organic molecules, providing us with a kickstart for life."

On November 11, 2014, Rosetta's Philae lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P.

Love learning about outer space? Tune in for a new episode of How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 10/9c on Science Channel. Here's a sneak peek at tonight's episode:

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4 Aug

Mars 2020 Rover Takes Red Planet Research To The Next Level

NASA's next generation Mars rover will feature some fancy new instruments to take Red Planet to greater heights.

The Mars 2020 Rover will carry seven new high-tech tools, it was announced Thursday; these instruments were selected from 58 proposals submitted to NASA.

Among the tools is MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment), a machine that will generate oxygen from the carbon dioxide found in Mars' atmosphere.

"It's extremely useful for future production of rocket fuel, or for when humans explore Mars," Mars Exploration Project lead scientist Michael Meyer told Gizmodo. "It's a real step forward in helping future human exploration of Mars, being able to produce oxygen on the surface of Mars."

Mars_2020_roverOther instruments include ground-penetrating radar and Mastcam-Z, "an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom."

After sending a congratulatory tweet to the Mars 2020 team, NASA's current Mars rover, Curiosity, checked in Friday from Hidden Valley:

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Image Credit: NASA

23 Jul

NASA Seeks Proposals To Hunt For Alien Life On Jupiter Moon Europa

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.58.25 AMIf there's life out there, will we find it on Jupiter's icy moon Europa?

NASA recently put out a call for proposals for science instruments to "address fundamental questions about the icy moon and the search for life beyond Earth."

"The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: are we alone in the universe?"

It's believed that Europa has a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life; a mission to Europa is planned for the 2020s and could cost $1 billion.

About 20 proposals will be selected in April 2015 and $25 million divided among their creators for development.

Tonight, How the Universe Works delves deep into Jupiter's core and in one segment, examines Galileo and the first time NASA dropped a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere:

Watch How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 9/8c on Science Channel

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18 Jul

Where Were You During the Apollo 11 Moon Landing?

Forty-five years ago this weekend, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and humans entered a new era of exploration.

In a video commemorating the anniversary, celebrities, politicians and other prominent figures share their memories of that historic event.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 11.47.43 AM

Years of work -- and a lot of trial and error -- went into creating spacesuits capable of withstanding a trip to the moon.

The final product, which was better than any that came before it, consisted of three separate garments: a water-cooled layer, a pressurized inner suit and a nylon outer layer that provided protection from extreme temperatures.

In this clip from "Moon Machines," step into the factory that developed this suit:

Should America go back to the moon?

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16 Jul

Will the Universe End With a Bang or a Whimper?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

- 'The Hollow Men,' T. S. Eliot

When the universe finally ends, will it be through the powerful forces of gravity or the unendeding pull of expansion?

It's an ongoing debate, but one study suggests that the universe shouldn't even exist -- at least not according to Higgs physics.

"During the early universe, we expected cosmic inflation -- this is a rapid expansion of the universe right after the Big Bang," study co-author Robert Hogan told LiveScience. "This expansion causes lots of stuff to shake around, and if we shake it too much, we could go into this new energy space, which could cause the universe to collapse."

An analysis by our colleagues at DNews explains the quandary in-depth and concludes:

"So, if BICEP2′s observations are real and Higgs boson theory continues to strengthen, perhaps theorists will be buoyed-up in the knowledge that something else — something exotic — prevented cosmological inflation from collapsing the universe back down to a dot. Might there be another mechanism that counteracts the Higgs field’s universe-killing potential?"

Tonight, "How the Universe Works" explores different ways the universe might end and presents a picture of our universe as it looked 13 billion years ago, just after the Big Bang.
Here's a sneak peek:

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