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NASA announced that it has selected the InSight Mars lander for its next Discovery mission. (Discovery missions are NASA’s lowest cost tier of science missions, such as Kepler, Dawn, Messenger, Mars Pathfinder, and more.) You may be thinking, “ANOTHER mission to Mars? What for?” Well, despite all the awesome science that Curiosity will do, it can’t tell us much about the deep interior of Mars, or what Mars’ seismic activity is like. The InSight lander will be a stationary robot much like the Phoenix lander. In addition to measuring seismic activity, it will deploy a probe that will drill deep below the surface to measure the flow of heat inside Mars. These measurements will help scientists understand how Mars formed and what happened in the past that changed the surface from one of flowing water (and possibly life) to the barren dry wasteland it is today. (Via Universe Today)

Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA/JPL

Curiosity completed its first set of driving maneuvers on Mars. This image was the first that showed the wheel tracks, confirming that the rover drove successfully. This was only a test of Curiosity’s driving systems, the first of several. Tests of every science instrument and every other system on the rover will continue for at least a month or so before they’ve established a solid baseline for how everything behaves now that it’s actually on Mars. Only then can the scientists begin run the real experiments the rover was designed to carry out. Science is sometimes very tedious and slow, but the results and knowledge gained is very much worth it.

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Thomas Bangalter

Thomas Bangalter

For all those who seriously hoped Daft Punk were real robots, I guess you’ll just have to cry now. Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter was spotted doing a quick DJ set at L.A. club Cinespace for the birthday party of Ed Banger owner Busy P…. sans the robot costume. That’s him behind the shades. Pitchfork has the full story. Twitter obviously went bonkers. Oddly, though, there’s no mention of the apparent brawl that went down afterwards… Hipster Runoff posted several photos of an apparent clash between the bouncers and the Ed Banger crew. The Pitchfork article posted some video clips but those have since been made private and un-embeddable. Robot Drama!

In other music-related news, Record Store Day was a big success. Billboard reports on the various statistics. Check it out if you’re really interested in all the numbers, but in summary there was a small but substantial increase in indie records store sales compared to last year’s RSD. Vinyl sales are way up compared to last year. A big part of it is the fact that so many artists/bands did special limited-edition releases specifically for that day. If this kind of thing keeps happening, I’d say record stores aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Kudos Record Store Day!

The Scene has a great story on the “band that almost was,” The Remains. They came out of Boston, appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, and opened for the Beatles on all 19 shows of their 1966 tour. Then they broke up. They’re playing tonight at the Cannery. I may be there, hopefully taking photos…

Short post today.

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano on Mars (though no longer active), and is also the largest volcanic feature we’ve ever discovered in our entire solar system. It’s so big that you wouldn’t even know you were on a mountain if you were standing on it- it would just look like a vast gently sloping plain, as far as your eye could see. Well, not only is it the most badass volcano ever… it’s also the latest location to exhibit the possibility for life on Mars. According to this Universe Today article, a couple of scientists from Rice University have found evidence that liquid water may be trapped in clay deep underneath the giant moutain, and is the only explanation for its assymetry. The only life that could survive there would be heat-loving microbes called thermophiles, much like the algae that lives in the thermal pools at Yellowstone.

NASA is seriously considering sending a fleet of robots to the moon to do some preparatory construction on what will eventually be a manned moon base. There are some who think going back to the moon is pointless, and that we should just shoot straight for Mars, but I tend to agree with the government that we should take our expansion into the solar system one step at a time. Yes we’ve been to the moon, but we haven’t built a base there, and I think we need to build a base somewhere close before we try to build a base on Mars.

Speaking of robots, The Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” has a series of awesome robot photographs. My favorite is the very last one, which shows NASA’s next Mars mission, the Mars Science Laboratory. The cool thing about it is that there’s a woman in the photo, giving you perspective on the actual size of the thing, which is much bigger than anything we’ve sent to Mars before.

Now for some music-related news…

Wired.com reports that Ticketmaster and Live Nation are running into some problems with their proposed merger (thank god). In a recent hearing they were unsuccessful in convincing Sen. Herb Khol (D-Wisconsin) of the legality of the merger. One of their biggest arguments for the merger is that it will result in lower ticket prices. I’m no economic expert by any means, but even I know that the only thing that really keeps prices low is competition.

Check out this Rolling Stone blog post with a clip from Michael Jackson’s “comeback announcement” yesterday. I wonder just how many shows he can make it through… I’m betting not as many as he promised.

Lastly, if you’re in Murfreesboro this weekend, be sure to check out the YEAH benefit show at the Vine, featuring JEFF the Brotherhood and And The Relatives, and then head over to the Grind for a FREE show featuring the Tits, my band Tigers Con Queso, and Mean Tambourines. Have a great weekend!

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