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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 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.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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