The Reds, The Red Planet, And Some Monkeys: Russia's Plans For Mars

From Hollywood to low earth orbit, Mars is a major source of speculation for space travel.  Everyone from misguided reality TV-star wannabes to Elon Musk wants to have a part in pioneering the red planet.  Now, Russia has thrown down a space-gauntlet of their own, and recently announced that they are training monkeys for a mission to Mars.

Ground Control to Major Kong...Ground Control to Major Kong...
(Image courtesy

Power For The People: New "Powerwall" Battery To Revolutionize Energy Usage

The dynamics of power are changing.  While unfortunately that doesn't mean much for our government, it may be having a great impact for those in need of electricity (a.k.a. all denizens of the modern world...)

The fact that it looks a bit like the monolith from "2001" might be intentional.
(Image courtesy

Freedom For Threesomes: New App Finds Hookups à Trois

Everyone's heard of (or been involved in) an online romance that, despite the impersonal initial interface, works out for the best. Now, you can use an app to add to such notions of a little extra...

Get extra cozy this winter.
(Image courtesy

Space Station Sunday: Eye Of The Storm, Eyes Of The Astronauts

Good afternoon, space fans!  We're back in action with news from all of the above!  Let's examine what was happening on our favorite orbital outpost this week...

When the space station astronauts warn you about a hurricane, it's time to be careful.
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

NASA got the jump on keeping humanity safe by analyzing the possible effects of Hurricane Patricia, which made landfall on Friday before getting downgraded to a tropical storm.  Using the Aqua satellite, the Suomi satellite, and the Global Precipitation Measurement core satellite, they were able to track where the hurricane would hit and with what projected force.  Fortunately, the hurricane's worst wailing (an average 16 inches of rain) occurred over the Pacific Ocean, while it only accrued an average 8 inches of rain during its landfall in Mexico.

"Strongest hurricane EVER!"  -NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite.
(Image courtesy NASA - Goddard Spaceflight Center / UW/CIMSS/William Straka III.)

"That's cute."  -the high-pressure star-forming region of Messier 94 galaxy.
(Image courtesy NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Center.)

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren are preparing to make two spacewalks, the first of which will occur this Wednesday.  They have spent significant time over the last week ensuring that their spacesuits are trouble-free and ready to perform the microgravity dance that is an EVA (extravehicular activity.)  The first EVA, which will last six and a half hours, will have the astronauts adding a cover to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (a dark matter experiment outside the station), lubing the Canadarm-2 robotic arm, and installing cables that will aid a future docking port for the station.

"Did you modify my spacesuit radio to default to the David Bowie playlist?"
-"Maybe I made a few little ch-ch-ch-ch-changes."
(Image courtesy

Bio-science studies were, as always, of importance this week on the ISS, with Kelly, Lindgren, and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko undergoing exams for the Ocular Health Study.  This is a critical experiment that reflects how astronauts' eyes adapt to life in microgravity.  As Kelly and Kornienko have now been in space for over 200 consecutive days (with Kelly recently breaking the American record for most days spent in space in total), significant science on their long-term ocular health, vascular and central nervous systems will continue to be compiled as part of this study.  Cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Oleg Kononenko also performed cardiovascular and respiratory experiments while riding on the station's exercise bike.

So much spacetime, but still sharp!  Congrats to Astronaut Kelly on his record-breaking space stay.
(Image courtesy

Another interesting bit of bio-science taking place aboard the ISS is the Neuromapping study.  Operating on the observations that microgravity life is more difficult for achieving tasks both physical and mental, the experiment seeks to assess how and why the human brain takes time to adapt to not inherently knowing which direction is "up."  

“On Earth, your vestibular - or balance - system tells you how your head moves relative to gravity, but in space, the gravity reference is gone,” principal investigator Dr. Rachel Seidler said. “That causes these perceptual illusions, as well as difficulty coordinating movement of the eyes and head.

For instance, from space, humanity's rampant industrialization of its natural resources can, at times, appear beautiful.
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

Thus, spacial memory and sensory-motor adaptation tests are undertaken to see how astronauts can reconfigure shapes when their orientation has been thoroughly messed with, as well as how effectively they can make critical decisions while remaining mobile in microgravity.  All of these tests will aid future space station inhabitants, as well as pioneers on long-duration missions who might need to make these diverse dynamics their new reality.  The tests may even shed light on how those with injury or illness on Earth may have had their perceptions altered, and what could be done to fix their conditions.

That's all for this week, space fans!  We'll see you next Sunday with reports on the American spacewalk and more news from 220 miles up.  Watch this space!

Australia from space, or somewhere deep inside the human mind?  Only Scott Kelly knows for sure...
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

How To: Install an Ubuntu Server Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

In this tutorial, we'll walk through the process of installing an Ubuntu Server virtual machine in VirtualBox. We'll then install open-ssh server on the server so we can access it from the host. I'll also be installing MongoDB in preparation for a database project.

We'll use Ubuntu Server our guest operating system for its relative ease of use and because there is already a large amount of support information that can be found online for its setup and maintenance in VirtualBox. I'll be using the 64-bit version of Ubuntu Server 14.04.3. Make sure you choose the version with the correct architecture for your system: 32 vs. 64 bit. Download a copy of Ubuntu Server from the link.