Fabbing tools in orbit and with memory materials, and new structural configurations of DNA.

A couple of weeks ago before Windbringer's untimely hardware failure I did an article about NASA installing a 3D printer on board the International Space Station and running some test prints on it to see how well additive manufacturing, or stacking successive layers of feedstock atop one another to build up a more complex structure would work in a microgravity environment. The answer is "quite well," incidentally. Well enough, in fact, to solve the problem of not having the right tools on hand. Let me explain.

In low earth orbit if you don't have the right equipment - a hard drive …

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The first successful 3D print job took place aboard the ISS!

There's a funny thing about space exploration: If something goes wrong aboard ship the consequences could easily be terminal. Outer space is one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable, and meat bodies are remarkably resilient as long as you don't remove them from their native environment (which is to say dry land, about one atmosphere of pressure, and a remarkably fiddly chemical composition). Space travel inherently removes meat bodies from their usual environment and puts them into a complex, fragile replica made of alloys, plastics, and engineering; as we all know, the more complex something is, the more things can …

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The final flight of the Space Shuttle.

I realize how late this is in coming, but I haven't had time to go through the photographs on my phone in several months. Here are some pictures of the last flight of the Space Shuttle as it passed over the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland on 17 April 2012:

Yes, they're kind of crappy, I took them with my cellphone.

Hubble 3D and the Baltimore waterfront.

Last Tuesday I scored a couple of tickets at work to reserve seats at the Maryland Science Center to watch Hubble 3D in their IMAX theatre. Navigating rush hour traffic in Baltimore is actually much easier than the DC Beltway because the cars aren't nearly as densely packed, but if you don't know your way around already you're in for a rough time. At any rate, Lyssa and I got there in time to meet up with Kash, walk halfway around the building to find the front door (which faces the Baltimore waterfront) and head inside. We got our VIP …

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Data recovery in extremis: Space Shuttle Columbia

On 1 February 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere following a touch-and-go mission due to the damage incurred by the orbiter during lift off some days earlier. The crew was killed and the shuttle lost, presumably with all of the data collected while in orbit going with it. Save for the data from experiment CXV-2, which gathered information pertaining to the point of critical viscosity of xenon gas.. while poring over the wreckage of the Columbia, the recovery team operating out of the Johnson Space Center found most of the fragments of a 400 …

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Gary McKinnon's leave for appeal granted.

Gary McKinnon, the cracker famous for infiltrating NASA and United States military networks in search of information pertaining to UFOs was granted leave so that he could appeal his extradition to the House of Lords. McKinnon is facing multiple counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (18 USC 1030) as well as the USA PATRIOT Act.. if extradited to the United States, in all likelihood he's facing years at Guantanmo Bay as they try to figure out to their own satisfaction what he was up to. Knowing the state of cyber-law enforcement these days, it'll take …

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They let me sit in the cockpit of an F-18!

Earlier today I was gifted with a unique experience that I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd ever do, much less squee like a rabid fangirl over - I got a tour of the hangar and they let me sit in the cockpit of an F-18 in the facility's air fleet. With the permission of my PoC and the hangar chief, I was allowed to bring my camera in and be photographed while sitting in the (very tiny) cockpit of a fully operational F-18 jet. First off, I had to remove everything that might possibly fall out of my pockets …

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NASA project for the International Space Station sabotaged.

A couple of days ago it was discovered by NASA that someone had sabotaged a hardware upgrade destined for the International Space Station. Specifically, someone cut the wiring inside of a sensor package designed to monitor physical stress upon the ISS' superstructure and relay the data back to Mission Control. While being able to keep an eye on the overall status of the space station would be a good thing, it's unlikely that it would have directly placed the crew in harm's way, barring unforseen circumstances. The sabotage was first discovered in a test unit in the lab; a subsequent …

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