As if jumping from a plane wasn't heart-stopping enough, a plan is afoot, via a company called Orbital Outfitters, to create "life jackets" that could allow astronauts to enter Earth atmosphere without a vehicle and without being torn apart. The plan is for space diving to be used both for sport and as an emergency escape for astronauts in low Earth orbit. Orbital Outfitters plan to make an initial jump of 120,000 feet in 2009. [GT]
Only 4.4 metres long and 1.9 metres across at launch, the Russian Genesis II spaceship is now expanded to 11.5 cubic meters of usable volume. While that still sounds (and is) small, the ship is designed as a 1/3 scale proof-of-concept so that in the future we can look more to ships that start out small and grow with age. Part of how Genesis II was funded was with the "Fly your Stuff" campaign where the public could pay to send their belongings into space. It'll also literally be running a space bingo game. Cutting edge! [GT]
Are you interested in experiencing isolation, confinement, close quarters, lack of privacy, high workload, repetitive food, and limited communication with the outside world? Are you highly motivated, a non-smoker, not in jail, shorter than 185cm, physically and psychologically fit, and a fluent speaker of English or Russian (preferably both)? The Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow seeks volunteers to pretend they are living on Mars for 520 days, on behalf of the European Space Agency. It includes 250 days to 'reach Mars', 30 days 'on Mars' and 240 days to 'return to Earth'. Compensation is "in line with international standards for participation in clinical studies." Serious inquiries only. [GT]
An elementary school science teacher from Palatine, Ill. is picking up something odd on her baby monitor. Since Sunday, one of the two channels on Natalie Meilinger's baby monitor has been picking up black-and-white video from inside the space shuttle Atlantis. The other still lets her keep an eye on her baby. NASA has said that the feed is not coming from the shuttle directly, so it is possible the monitor is picking up the signal from somewhere. Maybe it's her teeth. [GT]
Gliese 581 C is a temperate planet like Earth, according to recent findings from the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile. With temperatures ranging from 0 to 40 C, if it has water, the water would be liquid, making it habitable for us, and probably other life forms as well. Future missions will analyze the planet for signs of biological activity such as chlorophyll and methane. Gliese 581 C is 20 light years away, so it'll be a while before we can actually go there - unless we have a breakthrough, in which case, party at Marklar's place.