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Images from NASA: Looking to the future of space travel

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    Images from NASA: Looking to the future of space travel - Reuters | of | Share this photo

    Robonaut 2 is shown in the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory during a round of testing for the first humanoid robot in space, as seen in this 2013 handout picture provided by NASA. Ground teams put Robonaut through its paces as they remotely commanded it to operate valves on a task board. Robonaut is a testbed for exploring new robotic capabilities in space, and its form and dexterity allow it to use the same tools and control panels as its human counterparts do aboard the station.

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    A prototype of a free-flying space robot equipped with a smartphone, known as Smart SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites), is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of NASA. NASA has been testing SPHERES on the space station since 2011.

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    An undated artist's concept shows the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions.

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    Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft mothership, which landed safely after splitting from SpaceShipTwo, is seen in a hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. During a 2014 test flight, VSS Enterprise, the first SpaceShipTwo craft, broke into pieces over California's Mojave Desert and crashed north of Los Angeles. SpaceShipTwo, developed by the fledgling space tourism company of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, was designed to carry wealthy passengers on short rides into space.

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    The unmanned SpaceX Crew Dragon lifts off from launch pad 40 during a Pad Abort Test at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in May.

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    NASA astronauts Cady Coleman and Ricky Arnold step into the Orion crew module hatch during a series of spacesuit check tests conducted at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston in 2013. The Orion crew module will serve as both transport and a home to astronauts during future long-duration missions to an asteroid, Mars and other destinations throughout our solar system.

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    An undated U.S. Air Force handout graphic depicts the X-51A Waverider in flight. The X-51A WaveRider, an unmanned aircraft that could reach speeds up to 3,600 mph, was launched from the wing of a B-52 on a test flight over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

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    The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is displayed during a media briefing where it was announced that the BEAM expandable space habitat technology will be tested on the International Space Station. The U.S. government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon. According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches. Bigelow Aerospace is expected to begin testing a space habitat aboard the International Space Station in 2015. The company intends to then operate free-flying orbital outposts for paying customers, including government agencies, research organizations, businesses and even tourists.

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    NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) 70-metric-ton configuration is seen launching to space in this undated artist's rendering released in 2014. NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, designed to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars, likely will not have its debut test flight until November 2018, nearly a year later than previous estimates.

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    NASA's Earth-bound rover, GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, in Summit Camp, the highest spot in Greenland, is shown in this 2013 photo. GROVER is an autonomous, solar-operated robot that carries a ground-penetrating radar to examine the layers of Greenland's ice sheet. Its findings will help scientists understand how the massive ice sheet gains and loses ice.

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    The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser flight vehicle is readied for 60 mph tow tests at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, in this 2013 handout photo. The privately owned prototype space plane aced its debut test flight in California but was damaged after landing when a wheel did not drop down. The Dream Chaser is one of three space taxis under development in partnership with NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

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    A NASA picture taken through the window in the sidewall of the 8- by 6-foot supersonic wind tunnel at NASA's Glenn Research Center shows a 1.79-percent scale model of a future concept supersonic aircraft built by the Boeing Company. In tests, researchers evaluated the performance of air inlets mounted on top of the model to see how changing the amount of airflow at supersonic speeds through the inlet affected performance. The inlet on the pilot's right side (top inlet in this side view) is larger because it contains a remote-controlled device through which the flow of air could be changed. The work is part of ongoing research in NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to address the challenges of making future supersonic flight over land possible.

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    A 2012 computer-generated image of a EADS Atrium aircraft expected to carry passengers briefly outside the earth's atmosphere. The aircraft, about the size of an executive jet, was expected to carry four passengers around 100 kilometers from the Earth, where they would experience about three minutes of weightlessness and see the curve of the earth at a price of between $199,500-$265,900.

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