SpaceNews: November 6, 2015

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This humanoid robot might travel to space to help astronauts

German researchers are creating a humanoid robot designed to assist astronauts on the International Space Station.

Named AILA, the robot is designed to assist with not-so-complicated, day-to-day tasks so that astronauts can spend their time doing projects requiring more thought.

Like any new hire, AILA will first need to be taught how to perform assignments. After watching a human demonstrate a task, AILA will be able to perform the job herself.

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The sun will blast Mars’ entire atmosphere into space

A solar storm that missed Earth but smashed into Mars last March dramatically confirmed long-held suspicions that the sun is blasting away the Martian atmosphere, and doing so at a rate that will leave the planet airless in another couple of billion years, if not sooner.

The finding, reported among a quartet of papers in this week’s Science and detailed in another 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters, has huge implications for understanding how Mars transitioned from a warm and wet climate early in its history — one that is believed to have been suitable to support Earth-type life — into the cold and dry planet that exists today.

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At $27 billion, mining in space could cost less than a gas plant

Getting a mine up and running on the moon or an asteroid would cost less than building the biggest gas terminals on Earth, according to research presented to a forum of company executives and NASA scientists.

A mission to Ceres, a dwarf planet 257 million miles from the Sun and the size of Texas, may cost about $27 billion. The expense includes 10 rocket launches to convey equipment, the extraction of metals and water, and the construction of an in-orbit facility to process the raw materials.

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‘Hardware Store in Space’: Lowe’s wants to send commercial 3-D printer to ISS

The home-improvement industry will soon get its first foothold in space.

California-based startup Made In Space is partnering with home-improvement giant Lowe’s to launch a commercial 3-D printer to the International Space Station (ISS) early next year, representatives of both companies announced on October 29.

Made In Space built the 3-D printer, which is called the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), and will retain ownership of the machine. But the AMF sports a Lowe’s logo, and the company will use it to make branded tools.

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Fire in engine doomed Orbital rocket on space station flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A fire and explosion in a rocket engine are being blamed for a botched commercial space station shipment last October.

NASA released an investigation report this week, a full year after the Virginia launch accident.

NASA’s independent review team said the initial fire was caused by friction from rubbing parts in a liquid oxygen turbopump. The pump was in one of the old Russian-built engines of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s unmanned Antares rocket.

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