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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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RE: Typo?
By grath on 8/4/2009 3:59:39 AM , Rating: 2
...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."

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

quote: 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.

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.

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
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.

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.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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