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The Martian atmosphere presents a slew of problems to engineers trying to safely land heavy cargo on the planet’s surface. Its atmosphere is much less dense than that of Earth’s, so parachutes that would slow a spacecraft’s descent would need to be prohibitively large.

That’s why aerospace researchers are investigating the best ways to fire a descending vehicle’s engines to slow it down, a technique called retropropulsion. Figuring it out would let cargo ships touchdown without destroying the tons of equipment and habitats that human astronauts need to create a base on Mars.

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U.S. Marines Fire Rockets on Iwo Jima

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Horrifying photos and video capture the escalating crisis between Israel and Gaza

Monday night, Israel escalated its attacks on Gaza, with the Israeli army saying that 50 targets were hit overnight. The Israeli army is now contemplating a ground invasion, in an offensive against Hamas. While plans have not been announced yet, the country’s government approved permission to mobilize 40,000 reservists. The video below captures IDF infantry and tanks massing on the border of Gaza.

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NASA Tests 3-D Printed Engine Components

3-D printing isn’t just for toys and plastic models of your head. Witness a hot fire of NASA’s newest design for rocket engine injectors, 3-D printed to up performance in a way that traditional manufacturing of the parts couldn’t attain.

The agency, which tested the experimental injectors last month at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., used a type of 3-D printing called direct laser melting. To make the parts, a machine fires a laser at metal powder under the direction of a computer design program. This deposits layers of the metal one on top of the other until the part is complete.

NASA says the technique is letting engineers build the injector out of just two parts instead of the 163 formerly needed using traditional manufacturing methods.

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One of my favorite parts of any space center, a rocket garden provides a peaceful setting to observe and inspect the flight hardware that mankind has used in its quest to conquer the stars. Kennedy Space Center’s rocket garden was the best I have ever seen it when I visited yesterday, 23 July, 2014.

Since I last visited, every rocket has been repainted. The bright red colors of the vehicle markings on the Saturn IB stood out to the most to me. One of my favorite rockets, I remember the IB at Kennedy Space Center severely deteriorated, paint faded and metal rusted. Not the case anymore.

The relatively recently refurbished Gemini Titan II has as it’s most defining feature it’s single LR-87 engine. Since the engine compartment faring was omitted on the Titan missile, the engines and nozzles are exposed more than on other rockets. This allows for great inspection of its complicated system of tubes, pipes, and wires.

One element of the garden I was not able to capture recently are the rockets illuminated at night. The Saturn IB is draped in a dark blue, with each vertical rocket different illuminations of white. Ground lighting adds another level of beautiful ambiance to the garden, which takes on a totally different atmosphere after dark.

About two weeks ago Rocket Lab, an NZ firm based in Auckland, announced a new satellite launching rocket. 

The super-light weight design is comprised of advanced carbon fibre technology, combined with the efficiency of the patent pending Rutherford engines, (named after NZ born physicist Ernst Rutherford) the rocket will be able to deliver a 110kg (242 pounds) payload to a 500km (310 miles) orbit for an amazing $4.9 million! 

This probably doesnt sound like much, but with todays electronics 110kg is enough for any satellite, and the amazing thing is - $4.9m is barely anything compared to the $56-$100 million of other launch systems. $4.9 million is approximately 1000 times cheaper than each of the apollo missions.

Not to mention the incredibly low amount of fuel use - less than it takes to fly a 737 from San Fran to LA!

The figures speak for themselves, and as such rocketlab have already booked over 37 launches, with the first scheduled for next year. The ultimate goal is to be launching 100 a year.

And on a personal note - as i actually live in Auckland - I am So excited to see this happen! 100 launches a year = 2 a week, from what will hopefully be a launchpad within driving distance of home!

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