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Credit: Inspiration Mars

Credit: Inspiration Mars

Billionaire Dennis Tito, who is known as the first-ever space tourist, unveiled on Wednesday Inspiration Mars, a plan to launch two people, likely a married couple, on mission to Mars in 2018. The best part: the spaceship in which they travel will be lined with the couple’s own shit! This whole idea sounds incredibly far-fetched, and I even mentioned my doubt of its feasibility last week when the “teaser” press release about the press release made some headlines. It still sounds kinda crazy because of the part about the shit (I’ll get to that in a minute), but they left out one really important detail last week- the couple won’t actually be landing on Mars, just flying around it once in a spacecraft. Actually landing on Mars is really, REALLY,¬†REALLY¬†hard in terms of engineering and feasibility, but just sending a couple of people on a slingshot around it? Not quite as hard. Tito is very committed to making it happen, and is even prepared to fund the first two years of mission development, so this could work. More details on the project can be found in this New Scientist article.

Now, as far as the shit goes… it’s really not as crazy as it sounds. One of the biggest challenges to deep space exploration like this is that the crew members will get bombarded with genetic mutation-inducing cosmic radiation. We’re talking X-rays and Gamma rays, along with the ever-present solar wind of ions. It’s practically a death sentence if you can’t shield the crew from all that, and as it turns out, dried up human waste is actually pretty good at just that! Rather than just jettison it into space, why not seal it up in (fully sanitary, of course) bags and line your spaceship with it to add to the shielding of your spaceship? Astronauts onboard the ISS are already using a reactor system that recycles the water from their urine, and gross as it may seem, this mission will do that AND recycle the moisture from their poop. When you’re going on a 500 day mission to Mars, you have to be very resourceful. For more on the poop shield, see this other article on New Scientist.

In other Mars-related news, unfortunately the Curiosity Rover has suffered a computer glitch which has forced the team to switch everything over to the rover’s backup computer. In short, they will slowly reboot all the rover’s systems from the backup computer, make sure everything checks out, and continue with normal operations. Meanwhile, another team will investigate the problem with the primary computer and attempt to fix it so that it’s operational and can be used in case the backup computer fails. For more, check out this post on Universe Today.

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I’ve been loving the Morning Benders for at least a year now, and it’s good to know that they’re working on new material. Their debut record Talking Through Tin Cans is absolutely excellent and this demo for Hand Me Downs on their myspace page shows promise for the follow-up. Let’s hope they don’t have a sophomore slump. I enjoyed their live set quite a bit at SXSW, though I’d like to see them do a full-length set eventually. (Via You Ain’t No Picasso)

Brooklyn Vegan posted several photographs of Michael Jackson taken by Kevin Mazur during one of his last rehearsals prior to his death last Thursday. Kind of creepy… I can’t imagine being that photographer. Obviously he will profit greatly from the licensing of those images. It’s certainly an ethical dilemma that I would struggle with, were I in his shoes. The value of those images went way up due to his death, but if I were the photographer, I would want to sell those licenses at a “normal” going rate, even though publications would obviously be willing to pay an inflated amount for them because they’re essentially the last images of him alive. I would definitely feel guilty for “cashing-in” on someone’s death.

From Yale University comes some good news in the world of computing. They’re testing the first version of a quantum processor that could potentially offer a way around Moore’s Law. At least for a while. This team of scientists has their quantum processors already doing basic algorithms, so hopefully it won’t be long before these amazing pieces of technology start showing up in personal computing devices. With this type of processor, I’d surmise that a device the size of an iPhone could potentially have the processing power of today’s supercomputers. I won’t get into exactly how quantum processors work (mainly because I have a hard time grasping it myself) but if you’re really into it, check out the original article on Science Daily. (Via io9)

It’s been a while since we really learned anything cool/crazy about the moon, but now that interest in our only natural satellite has been renewed due to NASA’s plan to put a base there, we’re starting again to uncover interesting things. One such discovery is that there is Uranium there. And it’s even on the surface. Scientists made the discovery after seeing the tell-tale signature of gamma radiation in the data from the recently-crashed Japanese Kaguya Probe. (Via Bad Astronomy)

Also from Bad Astronomy comes this insanely cool optical illusion video that utilizes your eye’s natural blind spot (where the optic nerve connects to your retina). It works best if you view it full screen.

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