space stories

 
In August of 1883, an astronomer in Mexico named José Bonilla spotted hundreds of fuzzy objects passing in front of the sun that nobody could explain. A new analysis of these observations suggests that what Bonilla saw was anywhere from a billion to a trillion tons of comet passing as close as a few hundred miles from the surface of the Earth.
 
Today is day 2,816 of Opportunity's 90 day mission to Mars. If you do the math, it means that we've been surprised by how awesome this robot is doing about 30 times over. It's traveled a staggering 20 miles over the last six or seven years, and JPL has put together this time-lapse of a three-year, 13-mile section of that journey.
 
That mysterious robotic spaceship that the U.S. Air Force sent into orbit for seven straight months last year may get a bit of an upgrade. Boeing is toying with the idea of expanding the X-37B into the X-37C, which could carry up to six astronauts into space and back. We could be looking at the next generation of space shuttle.
 
Uranus isn't just gassy, it's also tilted completely sideways, such that instead of rotating like a spinning top, it rolls around the plane of the solar system more like a giant ball. Now astronomers think they know how this happened, and it means that Uranus has been pounded really, really hard not once, but twice.
 
Think being part of the mile high club sounds exciting? Imagine joining the 62-mile high club (technically at that altitude, you're in space). James Bond definitely qualified for having a climatic congress with Holly Goodhead in the 1979 film Moonraker. But in reality just how enjoyable, or realistic, is sex in space?
 
Astronomers in Chile have just fired up the ALMA radio telescope array for the very first time. ALMA is destined to be the largest, most expensive, and most powerful telescope array on the planet, and when the array of 66 telescopes is completed in 2013, ALMA will be able to resolve images of galaxies that are an incredible ten times sharper than the best that we can get from Hubble.
 
Today we can all breathe a little easier thanks to a new survey of near-earth asteroids by NASA's Wide-field Infared Survey Explorer (WISE). After a year of scanning the celestial sky with infrared light between January 2010 and February 2011, the study has shown there are significantly fewer mid-size near-Earth asteroids than thought. That's not even the best news.
 
The man who almost single-handedly made the environmentally-conscious electric vehicle sexy with the Tesla, is now hoping to do the same for space flight, but with a twist, reusable launch vehicles.

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