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Hot Topic Exploration Missions
Five Steps Toward Future Exploration
Topic: Missions
The NASA Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program has announced a set of new projects to develop and test technologies that will enable the astrobiological exploration of the Solar System. By exploring Earth's extreme environments, astrobiologists advance the search for life on other planets.

Rage Against the Dying of the Light
Topic: Missions
Astronomers have found hundreds of planets orbiting far-distant stars, but the road to discovery has been rough, and often led to dead-ends. Geoff Marcy, a planet-hunting pioneer, stomped a few miles down this road at a recent exoplanet symposium.

Setting Sight on a Single Star
Topic: Missions
NASA recently selected 20 small satellites to fly as auxiliary cargo aboard rockets that are planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. The 'CubeSats' include the ExoPlanetSat, which will aid in the search for Earth-like planets by monitoring a single star.

Beaming Rockets into Space
Topic: Missions
An advanced rocket propulsion concept calls for heating a rocket´s propellant by focusing energy on it from ground-based lasers or microwave sources. The technology could cut the cost of putting payloads into orbit by a factor of five or more.

Setting Sail in the Sun
Topic: Missions
Propelled by sunlight pressure, large lightweight sails made of ultrathin aluminum-coated plastic could one day take probes to the edge of our solar system and other stars.

Tiny Satellites for Big Science
Topic: Missions
The shrinking technology of cell phones, laptops and cameras are now leading to palm-sized satellites. Easy to build and affordable, these small satellites offer a new way to conduct astrobiology research. They also could change the way we explore the universe.

Up, Up and Away with Aerobots
Topic: Missions
Unmanned blimps or balloons flying for thousands of kilometers could offer a bird´s eye view of planets and moons.

The Stars My Destination
Topic: Missions
The Voyager spacecraft are now in the outermost layer of the heliosphere, traveling toward interstellar space – the first man-made spacecraft to travel such a vast distance from Earth.

Migrating Microbes
Topic: Missions
With every spacecraft that leaves Earth, millions of microbes hitch a ride into space. As astrobiologists search for life in other worlds, preventing forward and back contamination remains a key priority.

Space Hand-Me-Downs
Topic: Missions
Much of the biology on Earth involves molecules that are oriented in a left-handed direction. A proposed nano-satellite would carry up some of these bio-molecules to see if something in space might be responsible for this left-handed excess.
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