It turns out NASA is using LEGO to help inspire the space fights of tomorrow. NASA is currently running two competitions for those interested in designing one of NASA’s future planned excursions into space using one of the coolest toys around.

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The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA offers this quick 60-second video to help answer that question.

Mars in a Minute: How Do You Get to Mars? via Coudal Partners

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In honor of the final takeoff of Atlantis, the final space shuttle launch, NPR gives us this compilation using footage of the space shuttle program from the past three decades.

A Blast From The Past: Shuttle Through The Decades

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Here’s some footage of the liftoff of Space Shuttle Endeavour‘s final flight to International Space Station.

Endeavour Lifts Off on its Last Mission

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s personal crusade aside, NASA has a pretty steep mountain to climb in terms of returning its reputation back to the glory days of the Space Race. I love me some NASA, but I have to admit they’ve done a terrible job at selling themselves to a country that’s ever more distrustful of hard science (but addicted to pseudo-science CSI shows. Weird.). Now that the shuttle is just months away from full-retirement, there’s no better time for NASA to re-introduce itself to the American public as an institution that helps us embrace the wonders of science and exploration, not to mention inspires us to reach ever farther.

And guess what? Someone is apparently already on it, as NASA has just released the first of many free games in the Learning Technologies via the oh-so-excellent Steam platform. Moonbase Alpha puts you in the moonboots of an astronaut working to restore life-support systems to a lunar settlement after a pesky meteorite strike. Resource management! Co-op play! Not a single Aerosmith song to be found! In your face, upcoming StarCraft 2!

Check out the trailer (which, to be fair, isn’t exactly dripping with excitement):

But oh, hell yes it’s cool to have a NASA game catalog coming our way, and even my short run through of the game was entertaining.

Ars Technica has a great interview with the Learning Technologies project manager, Daniel Lauglin, that goes into detail about why NASA has finally embraced the gaming culture as a platform for building renewed interest in the struggling institution. Check it out (or better yet, just go download it through Steam).

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Neil deGrasse Tyson knows the answer.

I love this guy. The passion he has for driving our intellectual curiosity (and subsequent achievements) forward needs to be replicated and pushed throughout this nation.

Other statements of note from this session: God & Science, and Bias in Science.

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General Motors may be getting their ass kicked around the block on the auto-industry, but you have to admire the smarts in pursuing robotics as a model. Think about it: They’ve got factory after factory filled with robots patiently waiting for SkyNet to send out the “KILL” command, so why not get on their good side by developing even more hardcore ‘bots? Yup, GM & NASA* have been working together to build more dexterous and agile robots capable of operating in the cold, hard embrace of space. I’ll be kind and just assume it’s for a better reason than that they couldn’t figure out how to outsource space-walks south of the border. Check out a clip of our future lords in action:

via Wired

That’s some seriously cool stuff, though I question the whole “Not only have we made a robot, but we went ahead and gave it the cudgel with which it will crush our fragile skulls” thinking…

*Wow, that’s not like a perfect combination of inefficiency, huh?

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