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Yes, I am going to add an Orbital Report here, and this is my first attempt, embedding it in a page rather than inserting a widget into the sidebar. If I get this part working properly, I will go for the widget. Assuming I can compress it down enough to fit without losing the raw data or the readouts.

Track ISS, everything is default, except the NORAD id:

Track ISS, Hubble, NOAA, small widget (use the drop-down to select the satellite:

Track Funcube, large widget, don’t care if next pass is optically visible or

NASA has assembled the surface of Mars as a Mixed-Reality environment (VR and RL) Called OnSight for scientists all over the world. They are using it not only to explore the Red Planet, but also to design the next set of landers (and other spacecraft) to visit it. Not content to stop there, they will be making it public this summer at the “Destination: Mars” exhibit, which will open at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. I feel an expedition coming on! For a little more insight into OnSight, check out this story at the Upload VR site, and watch their video. Thanks to VR Scout for the original heads up!

It looks like SpaceX is gearing up to colonize Mars, with the first flight targeted for 2018 (the next time the Red Planet is close enough to give us an orbital shot at getting there quickly). That will just be the first unmanned test flight and attempted non-exploding landing, if they can even make that incredibly close deadline, but damn, I am excited! My favorite article about it so far is the one put together by Space Flight Now, who always do a great job of analyzing all the pros and cons of a proposed space mission. The Dragon 2 spacecraft could possibly deliver 4 tons of supplies to mars per launch (you wouldn’t want to use that craft for the actual mission, since the crew capsule is the size of an SUV), building up to enough food, water, and equipment to make the project viable. No word on when the first humans would head that way quite yet, but I expect them to make some comments once we see how the initial mission goes.

If you aren’t an Astronaut, you probably haven’t seen the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis from Space. But luckily there are some serious camera fanatics in orbit these days, here is a glimpse of what they have been up to where the Auroras are concerned. If you pay attention, you will also get to see some far ranging lightning strikes from a gods-eye view, so you can take in how a single strike can hit 50 places across a continent at once. Also, here is the link for the full 4K version at YouTube, or you can go directly to NASA for the best possible quality. Visit the NASA TV Gateway to check what is coming up on each of their channels and link directly in. You need at least 13MBps down to watch 4K TV online even if nothing else is trying to use the internet from your house, but most broadband services these days give you 10 times that or better, on the theory that your whole family will be trying to do things at that resolution at the same time.

Using solar sails with a laser driven power system to launch from orbit, and traveling at 20% of the speed of light, tiny little Starships will visit Alpha Centauri. There will be a swarm of postage stamp sized nanocraft sent to our nearest neighbor to look for signs of life and give us more detailed information about the resources available there. If you are asking When will this happen?, they are working on it now, with the goal of launching within a decade or two. The folks involved in Breakthrough Starshot include Steven Hawking, Freeman Dyson, Yuri Milner, Ann Druyan, and a host of others.

The 1975 documentary film by Orson Wells on Aliens and Extraterrestrial Civilizations called Who’s Out There? was apparently authorized by NASA. Even if it wasn’t, it really is a treat to watch, and it held the title of another Hugo Award winning story that was later turned into the movie The Thing. If you have the chance to watch it some time it is an interesting video.