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Will we colonize Mars by 2039?

This week's Question: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a "master plan" to colonize Mars within 25 years. Aldrin envisions using Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, as preliminary stepping stones for astronauts. The program would culminate with a landing at a Mars base that had been prepared with robots tele-operated by astronauts on Phobos. A spacecraft would travel between Earth and Mars on a continuous basis using “cycling orbits,” with astronauts boarding them from space shuttles and riding across interplanetary space and then leaving the spacecraft behind at the destination. Aldrin hopes that the plan will lead to the first Mars settlement by 2039, the 70th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. What do you think? Will we colonize Mars by 2039?  

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Will elevators take us to the edge of space?

This week's Question: Last month, the Canada-based company Thoth Technology received a US patent for its 12-mile space elevator design. The elevator, enclosed in a tunnel, includes a landing pad on its roof. Spacecraft would refuel and take on passengers and cargo from the pad. Some of the elements of the elevator, however, have yet to be invented, including a tether cable that is lightweight and can withstand the tension of the lift technology. There is also concern about high winds and the possibility of the tower buckling under its own weight. What do you think? Will elevators take us to the edge of space?  

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Are Internet-connected cars worth the risk?

This week's Question: Last week, researchers from the University of California - San Diego discovered a vulnerability that allowed a 2013 Corvette to be hacked. The security flaw was found in dashboard hardware commonly used by insurance firms and transportation companies to monitor location, speed, and efficiency. By sending carefully crafted SMS messages, the hackers were able to control the vehicle's driving components, including its wipers, locks, and even brakes (when driving at slow speeds). The Corvette hack is one of a recent string of vulnerabilities found in vehicles, including cars from automakers like Tesla, GM, and Jeep. What do you think? Are Internet-connected cars worth the risk?  

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Can an app improve your mood?

This week's Question: Smartwatches allow users to track exercise, heart rate, and other health factors, but what about mood? The design studio Ustwo has a new app that aims for a more approachable model of delivering psychological therapy. The technology, called Moodnotes, acts as a basic journaling app. The user responds to Moodnotes prompts, such as "How are you?" and "What's happening at the moment?" The entries are archived and shown in a "Moodtrends" chart, which potentially reveals thinking patterns. If a thought pattern is determined to be affecting a user’s mood, the technology encourages the person to rethink a situation. What do you think? Can an app improve your mood?  

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Will Google Glass make a comeback in the workplace?

This week's Question: According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has been distributing a new version of its smart eyewear, Google Glass, to companies, engineered specifically for professionals in workplaces like health care, manufacturing, and energy. The new version will have improved battery life, a faster processer, and a hinge that attaches the device to an existing pair of glasses. When first introduced on a limited basis in 2013, the device raised privacy concerns, even causing some establishments to enact "No Glass" policies. What do you think? Will Google Glass make a comeback in the workplace?  

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Is long-term Mars living possible?

This week's Question: A recent study created by the Arizona-based Paragon Space Development Corporation says its life support system could help humans survive on Mars. The proposed Environmental Control and Life Support System, the company says, could extract water from Mars’ rocky material and convert some of the water to breathable oxygen. The habitat would be built by autonomous rovers. The study was commissioned by Mars One, a Dutch company that proposes to send colonists on a one-way trip to Mars. What do you think? Is long-term Mars living possible?

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Will robots be suitable emotional companions?

This week's Question: In June, Softbank sold its first 1,000 Pepper robots in less than a minute. Using cameras, touch sensors, an accelerometer, and other sensors in its neural network, Pepper has the ability to read (and develop its own) emotions. According to the company's Web site, the social companion is able to converse, recognize emotions, and move autonomously. Softbank recently announced that the technology will be available for sale beginning August 1st, at the rate of 1,000 per month. What do you think? Will robots be suitable emotional companions?

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