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Txch This Week: Voyager Out, ISS Crew Back and Some Weird Science

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by Ysabel Yates

Health and materials innovations abounded this week on Txchnologist. On the healthcare front, we saw how a device that runs on solar-powered nanoparticles is being used to sterilize medical equipment, met a doctor who is inventing injectable oxygen and looked at how the technology employed in airport security scanners might be used to better diagnose skin cancer.

In the realm of materials, scientists announced they had reinforced spider silk with carbon nanotubes. Others revealed that they had accidentally discovered a nanoparticle that looks like a sea urchin and grows like a snowflake.

Now, we’re bringing you the essential news from around the web so you can end your week without any FOMO, which some of us benighted editors here at Txchnologist just learned means “fear of missing out.”

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by Michael Keller

This is Major Tom to Ground Control, I’m stepping through the door

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different today

For here am I, sitting in a tin can, far above the world

Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.

-“Space Oddity” by David Bowie

The words to the song Space Oddity have been sweeping across the Internet since May 12. But the voice doesn’t belong to the song’s creator, David Bowie, who originally released it in 1969.

Instead, they were sung by Canadian astronaut and International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, who recorded it and the accompanying video as part of turning over control of the station on May 12. Hadfield was scheduled to return to Earth on May 13 after an inspiring five-month tour aboard the ISS.

The farewell rendition of Bowie’s long popular song might go down as the most epic and thought-provoking transfers of command in human spaceflight history.

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SpaceX’s Musk Gives Minute-by-Minute Replay on Saving Dragon Spacecraft

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by Matthew Van Dusen

It wasn’t quite Apollo 13 redux, but the emergency maneuvers to save SpaceX’s tumbling Dragon capsule minutes after its March 1 launch were terrifying nonetheless for space entrepreneur Elon Musk.

“We had this spacecraft just going through free drift in space, like just tumbling,” the SpaceX CEO recounted at the South by Southwest Interactive festival Saturday.

Musk recalled the minute-by-minute maneuvers the SpaceX team took to save the tumbling craft, which included borrowing a U.S. Air Force antenna array, hastily rewriting code and making the risky call to unfurl the solar panels before they froze.

The Dragon eventually docked with the International Space Station, the third flight by SpaceX to do so, and delivered its roughly 2,000-pound cargo of spare parts and plants. These were the minutes in between.

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International Space Station’s Boon to Scientific Achievement Just Beginning, NASA Open to Support Citizens’ Research Aboard

by Rachel Nuwer

Look to the sky just before sunrise or right after sunset, and you may spot a slow-moving, bright dot. Hovering 220-miles above the earth, this distant spot is the International Space Station. Scientific research is the priority for the six-person crew that lives and works there. It’s a laboratory like no other, where researchers can test technologies for traveling deeper into space or find unique insight into questions about life on Earth.

ISS scientist Tara Ruttley says research into astrophysics, biology, technology and other disciplines are tested within the station’s microgravity laboratories “We’re the only orbiting lab ever…where all these disciplines are connected together,” she says.

Now, NASA is calling for research proposals on how the ISS may be used to develop improved exploration technologies. “The research pursuits that get me the most excited are the ones that enable us to go somewhere deeper out into space,” says George Nelson, manager of the ISS Technology Demonstration Office. “You’re basically having to transport an entire ecosystem wherever you go, so environmental support systems play a big role in the type of technologies we need to develop.”

Since its creation, the ISS has distinguished itself for novel and interesting breakthroughs towards scientific understanding of our world and the beyond. While NASA is already planning for future ISS research efforts, it is worthwhile to note the station’s significant scientific achievements from the past 14 years.

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