The buzz surrounding the race to Mars has mostly focused on what explorers will do once they get there. But astronauts will spend significant time aboard the spacecraft transporting them there, leading to long-overdue speculation about plans for a shuttle.

Boeing recently unveiled its own plans for both a shuttle and a lunar outpost. The outpost has a dual purpose. First, it will reside in the Moon’s orbit, serving in a capacity similar to NASA’s Space Station. Secondly, the outpost will serve as a resting place for vehicles on their way to Mars when those missions finally begin. Not only are Boeing’s concepts visually appealing, but they use solar electric propulsion technology, making them a winner with environmentalists.

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For anyone who has ever spent years chasing a dream, the recent story of Sierra Nevada’s win of a NASA contract is inspiring. The company’s spaceship, ironically called the Dream Chaser, recently joined SpaceX and Orbital ATK in landing a contract to haul cargo to the International Space Station.

Originally, Sierra Nevada’s goal was to provide transportation to astronauts, but those contracts went to Boeing and SpaceX. Even after an appeal, NASA still went with the company’s competitors. Instead of giving up, however, Sierra Nevada took the feedback it received from NASA to rethink its design and come up with a craft that would fly supplies instead of people. The process made the company’s design stronger, as well as helping it land a coveted NASA contract.

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By now, many people realize that a layer of debris circles the Earth. This debris exists within approximately 2,000 kilometers of the Earth’s surface, with most of it found within 750-800 kilometers. For the most part, this debris poses no danger to the planet’s residents, but the mess does pose a danger to spacecraft and satellites.

A group of scientists aim to do something about that. They plan to combine a telescope developed by a team in Japan with a high-efficiency laser system to detect and blast pieces of debris.

This isn’t the first time a proposal has been developed to get rid of the debris. Previous proposals have recommended tools like gas clouds, nets, and sails. While these solutions would help collect the debris, it would be most useful in grabbing larger pieces. Smaller pieces would likely remain.

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