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Koichi Wakata, the astronaut who didn't change his underwear for one month  (Source: AP)
China outlines certain requirements for astronauts; astronaut's underwear used in study; and a 10-person panel discusses the future of NASA

China is now recruiting new astronauts to send into space, with each candidate forced to meet a laundry list of rules and requirements -- both expected rules and rather obtuse ones.  Astronauts cannot have bad breath, body odor, tooth cavities, or scars, as they may burst open while in orbit.  The space agency hopes to recruit so-called "super human beings," though all married astronauts must have supportive wives, or they're automatically disqualified.

"Bad body odour will affect the colleagues in the narrow confines of a space shuttle," according to Shi Binbin, 454th Air Force Hospital doctor recently said.

Specifically, there are 100 physical and mental requirements that must be satisfied before advancing in the program, including no runny noses.  China isn't currently involved in the International Space Station (ISS) project, but the country plans to launch a space module in 2010, then hopes to dock with it in 2011.

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, who recently returned to Earth aboard shuttle Endeavour, didn't change his underwear for one month, which will allow scientists to better evaluate the development of new high-tech underwear.  Wakata said there were no complaints, and the underwear worn has built-in anti-bacterial, odor-eliminating, anti-static, water-absorbent, flame retardant features.

For long-term space missions -- including possible trips to Mars -- underwear that doesn't require frequent washing may be vital, and similar experiments could be possible.

A new panel looking into future NASA space missions plan to tell President Barack Obama it would be wiser to research deep space and stop putting so much emphasis into moon and Mars landing missions.  The panel believes sending astronauts to unexplored, far-reaching parts of the solar system may be better than focusing on the moon and Mars, which would likely be delayed for several decades.

The future of NASA has been widely discussed, especially as the retirement of the current shuttle fleet is less than one year away.  In the near future, the U.S. space agency plans to work on the ISS, then will shift focus to a possible moon landing by 2025.  Other space nations, including China, Japan, India, and Russia also plan to launch missions to the moon -- including manned shuttle launches, probes, and possible rovers.

Aside from missions, money also has been widely discussed.

“In fact, it is unclear whether NASA has the financing for any scenarios that do anything important beyond low-Earth orbit prior to 2020,” said Princeton professor Christopher Chyba, who serves on the 10-person panel.  “If we really want to do this, we have to provide a realistic budget for it. Otherwise, let’s be clear about the limits placed on us by the actual budget.”



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Reality sucks
By 3minence on 8/3/2009 8:54:46 AM , Rating: 4
Forget about the moon and Mars? Although I'm unhappy about it, I must agree. If you want it, you must pay for it. If you won't pay for it, quit dreaming.

I really must disagree with Mr. Obama on this. Animals care only about the moment, like filling their stomachs and procreating. We are more than animals because we understand things like morals, we question our place in the universe, we try to learn. The current administration only seems to be interested in the here and now, not about what makes us better in the long run. I really think by focusing on our problems here, we are losing what made this country great, and that is imagination and a drive to achieve the unachievable.

I know, naivety at its worse.




RE: Reality sucks
By justadcomics on 8/3/2009 9:26:23 AM , Rating: 5
Not naive at all. I think that this country has lost something vital, its sense of exploration & wonder. I know that the space race in the 1960's was mostly national chest-thumping, but ... look at the amazing things that were accomplished in an incredibly short period of time!

This country needs something bigger than every day problems to focus its amazing creative powers on. Instead of turning ever-inward, we should be heading out to see what's out there, for crying out loud.

I miss the excitement that gripped not only this country, but the entire civilized world when Gemini & Apollo were going full-tilt (not quite old enough to remember Mercury :) )

The Space Shuttle, while an amazing piece of equipment, just ... doesn't GO ANYWHERE! Probably the biggest mistake we as a nation took when we went from going to the Moon, to driving a delivery truck. We should have been to Mars by now, if not even further out.

When a country or a culture ceases to explore, it's not only lost something vital, it's on a slippery slope to senescence and eventual collapse.

We need to head back out!


RE: Reality sucks
By jkostans on 8/3/2009 9:49:30 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't have said it better than the previous two posts


RE: Reality sucks
By Bateluer on 8/3/2009 9:54:15 AM , Rating: 2
Seconded. At the rate NASA is going, by the time they're able to put a human on the Moon again, the environmentalist nuts will force an environmental impact study and delay it for another few decades.

Anyone else get ticked off that on the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Landing, head line news was dominated by the death of a pedophile and conspiracy theorists articles? The greatest thing Humans have ever done in our entire history pushed aside for nonstop coverage of a singer that no one will remember a scant few decades.


RE: Reality sucks
By MrPoletski on 8/4/2009 8:59:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think that this country has lost something vital, its sense of exploration & wonder. I know that the space race in the 1960's was mostly national chest-thumping, but ...


????

The moon landings were a fantasticly amazing thing to have done. When I first saw the ball game announcement (we interrupt this game to tell you that the apollo 11 mission has landed, safely, on the moon) I felt the tear ducts tingle a little and I'm not even American. I don't care who did it. It didn't so much prove 'american superiority' or come across as an act of 'national chest thumping' it proved it could be done and that us humans are more than just ants crawling around on an oversized dung-ball.

For the first time in the history of EVER - millions of years of human history - we got off this rock and went 'check this place out!'.

\o/ Armstrong, Aldrin, collins \o/


RE: Reality sucks
By Tsuwamono on 8/3/2009 3:03:14 PM , Rating: 2
Its not just your country. Canada had Trudeau who was extremely disliked at the time because he did many unpopular things. He was the only prime minister who has unanimously hated by the french AND the english during his term but after the fact was considered one of the greatest of Prime Ministers.

Thinking ahead sometimes requires doing things that are unpopular at the moment and true patriots think about the COUNTRY'S best interests and not about re-election. Trudeau is the type of leader who got things done here in Canada. I'm not sure if americans have an equivalent.


RE: Reality sucks
By JediJeb on 8/3/2009 6:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ronald Reagan is probably the closest we have receintly had who got things done here. He did things that people did not like at the time then took for granted later on such as getting inflation under control. Just like Arnold is doing in California with cutting programs to get their deficit under control. Sometimes you have to make the unpopular decisions to do what is best.

As for space, I think there should be more focus on it right now. If there had been $800billion put into space research that money would have made its way into the economy and been a stimulus and kick started some serious new space R&D. What could companies like SpaceX do with a few billion in research funds?


RE: Reality sucks
By MrPoletski on 8/4/2009 8:51:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I really must disagree with Mr. Obama on this. Animals care only about the moment, like filling their stomachs and procreating. We are more than animals because we understand things like morals, we question our place in the universe, we try to learn.


If animals are only about the moment, then where did the phrase an elephant never forgets come from?

How is it that an dog can come to know you as a companion/master and not bark at you like a burglur every time it sees you? That relationship is not created overnight.

My cats used to love balloons when they were kittens. 15 years after the first one popped in their face and they are STILL petrified of them.

Animals dream, animals have emotions and animals have there own, if primitive, sense of right and wrong which is in line with their survival characteristics.

The difference between us and animals is that our brain is far, far more developed from a social interaction perspective. We have developed far beyond simple tool making (such as made by birds and chimps) to produce computers etc.. which are still just tools to achieve our ends. We are able to do this because our brains have a much greater ability to process complex logic problems than other animals.

In other words, the ability 'to think' is orders of magnitude superior in humans vs your average anaimal. Cognative function, logical thought, planning, task specialisation and a built in level of curiosity are what have dragged us out of our caves and into our sports cars. All of which we appear to do better than any other animal. We are the only animal that appears to share all these qualities, but we are not the only animal to share some of these qualities, all of these qualities exist in the animal kingdom.

We are far greater than any other animal living on this planet, but don't assume that there is something 'special' about us that could never appear in an animal because that's just kidding yourself.


RE: Reality sucks
By JediJeb on 8/4/2009 10:02:05 AM , Rating: 2
I am also am fond of my animals, but the last part of your post just confirmed what the original poster said. Though animals show traits of personality and bonding it still doesn't mean they aspire to higher learning. My animals for all their personality and uniqueness are still mainly focused on eating, sleeping and procreating. If they are playing with a toy and I throw some food down for them they leave the toy and run to the food. The same is not true with most humans. In fact if we are limited to only satisfying our basic needs then we usually become bored and restless. We work puzzles, explore, compete in sports and games and many other things to keep our minds active and growing that most animals do not do, nor need to do. It is what separates us from them.


Typo?
By modus2 on 8/3/2009 10:22:22 AM , Rating: 2
"A new panel looking into future NASA space missions plan to tell President Barack Obama it would be wiser to research deep space and stop putting so much emphasis into moon and Mars landing missions. The panel believes sending astronauts to unexplored, far-reaching parts of the solar system may be better than focusing on the moon and Mars, which would likely be delayed for several decades."

Should that read sending robotic probes? Seems that it should be harder by a serious margin to send humans far out rather than to Moon/Mars.




RE: Typo?
By Tsuwamono on 8/3/2009 3:04:56 PM , Rating: 2
or they may be idiots? Possibly watching too much Star trek, StarGate and star wars.. lol


RE: Typo?
By GeorgeH on 8/3/2009 3:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
"Astronauts" is correct.

Unless we're going to establish a moonbase, sending astronauts back to the moon to hit more golf balls is pointless. If it's for exploration or experimental purposes, automated vehicles would be able to explore and experiment much more effectively at much lower risk and cost.

A cost effective mission to Mars would require a large amount of self-sustainability. Going to the outer planets would therefore be only marginally more expensive, with the only added difficulty being increased transit times. At the same time, the rewards could be much, much greater as Mars has already been very well explored relative to the outer solar system.

Finally any such mission would land probes, not astronauts. This would vastly reduce the difficulty of the overall mission while also being a huge improvement over current probes, which are hampered by very high communications latency and very low mission flexibility. Real-time local control would increase the effectiveness and decrease the cost of robotic exploration by orders of magnitude over past missions.


RE: Typo?
By grath on 8/4/2009 3:59:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
...automated vehicles would be able to explore and experiment much more effectively...


From a recent NPR interview, Andrew Chaikin quoting Steve Squires, Principal Investigator for the Mars rovers.

Chaikin: "And I'll never forget this. He said, are you kidding me? It took us four years to do a month and a half of field work. You know, no. I feel strongly as I ever did. You've got to send robots when robots are the only thing you can send. But then eventually there is no substitute for the human mind and human hands and human intellect."

quote:
Unless we're going to establish a moonbase...

quote:
...to Mars would require a large amount of self-sustainability


Humans have absolutely no business going into deep space without spending a decade or more learning how to do it properly. The most suitable and accessible place to gain that experience is on the lunar surface. Our almost 50 years of spaceflight have not prepared us to safely go farther than that. A premature mission to Mars, before a return to the Moon, is like telling a child who just learned to swim to jump off a boat in the middle of the ocean.

quote:
Going to the outer planets would therefore be only marginally more expensive, with the only added difficulty being increased transit times.


Thats typical human arrogance and overconfidence, the same reasoning that thinks going to Mars is only marginally more difficult than going to the Moon.

quote:
Finally any such mission would land probes, not astronauts.


So we spend billions to send a crew to Europa, subject the crew to frightening amounts of radiation during the trip, and we dont even land them to dig a hole in the ice?


RE: Typo?
By GeorgeH on 8/4/2009 1:13:34 PM , Rating: 2
Rovers:
There's a large difference between a robot assigned to do an automated task and a robot that operates under real-time control. That's why an astronaut in orbit of Mars or other body, while not as good as one on the surface, is still a leap forward.

Moon before Mars:
The two biggest difficulties in a Mars landing are the transit time and getting back up. One week in space (Moon) is vastly different from one year in space (Mars, a rough guess using current propulsion systems.) The Martian atmosphere and increased gravity make any Moon launch solution almost useless there. There's not much Mars applicable knowledge to be learned from a Moon landing that we don't already know.

Moon/Mars v. Mars/Elsewhere:
1 week vs 1 year is vastly different from 1 year to ~4 years (Jupiter guesstimate.) If we're ready to go to Mars, we're ready for a few of the other planets as well. It's not overconfidence, just the same order of magnitude.

No Landing:
If the point is to demonstrate the magnificence of mankind's collective phallus, then yes, not landing is silly. If the point is to learn and explore then it's anything but - remote-controlled probes can dig holes in ice too.

Closing:
My intention isn’t to launch an ad hominem attack, but your post oozes with the overly cautious timidity that is an enormous pet peeve of mine. Space isn’t safe, and trying to make careful, timid little pokes at it is a sure way to make something take centuries that should take decades. We need to grow a pair and just go for it already - we have the technology, all we lack is the courage and will.


RE: Typo?
By MrPoletski on 8/4/2009 9:05:15 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Astronauts" is correct.


An odd name really, one might expect that to mean somebody who has nought to do with astro..:)


...
By DuctTapeAvenger on 8/3/2009 9:13:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
the underwear has odor-eliminating, flame retardant features


Quite useful for Mexican food night.

That aside, if they are not going to fund NASA properly, they should be required to cease all complaining that it does nothing useful. Dragging them along on the bare minimum to survive means they can't dedicate resources to developing new breakthroughs that will help to shape the future of humanity.




RE: ...
By Smartless on 8/3/2009 3:21:33 PM , Rating: 2
As great an invention as that was, I don't want to be famous for it. Imagine getting recognized for it later.

I do agree with the resources issue. Like maybe privatizing NASA so unless you're shareholder, stop complaining.


By deputc26 on 8/3/2009 3:22:56 PM , Rating: 2
"Nearly all organizations, after achieving success, lose sight of the principles that created that success. The organizational focus shifts from achieving a goal greater than the organization, to simply achieving self preservation. Ironically, the goal of self preservation results in slow decline and slow decay until the once rising star has faded from relevancy. Risk is inseparable from groundbreaking success."
-Alan Hirsch




Same underwear for a MONTH?
By MrPoletski on 8/4/2009 8:37:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Koichi Wakata, the astronaut who didn't change his underwear for one month


There comes a point where not changing your underwear becomes CANNOT change your underwear dude, a month sounds pretty close ;)




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