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Heroes

A trip to Mars will require people to use these 8 bizarre inventions.

Scientists are working on some really cool technology to get us to Mars.

Sure, visiting other countries is great. Trying new cuisines, seeing the sites, good times all around.

But what about traveling to a place far beyond our own lonely planet? You know what I'm talking about: Mars.


But surely we are still hundreds, if not thousands of years away from actually being able to live on the Red Planet?

Before you jump to any conclusions, check out these eight groundbreaking astronomic advances that could mean life on Mars might not be too far away.

1. First of all, you need a way to get there. Let me show you an ion thruster that goes 90,000 mph.

GIF from "Spaceballs."

NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) is a powerful new ion thruster, which is the fastest, most fuel-efficient propulsion engine ever built.

The thruster is lightweight, which means more room on spaceships for storing equipment. In addition, it can propel a spacecraft at speeds of up to 90,000 mph, which means getting to Mars (or beyond) a heck of a lot faster.

Oh yeah, it's also capable of running for five and a half years nonstop. We're getting into "Star Trek" territory here!

2. Of course, if your ship gets jacked up, you're out of luck. So bring along this crazy "Terminator"-style material that can repair itself when damaged.

GIF from "Terminator Genisys."

In addition to developing newer, more mobile, and highly efficient spacesuits last year, NASA-funded research has also led to the creation of a "Terminator"-style self-healing material.

NASA combined two layers of polymer with a reactive liquid called thiol-ene-trialkylborane, which solidifies upon contact with the air to form a sort of next-level Silly Putty.

This technology could be used to defend astronauts (and their ships) from hurtling debris, but it has practical applications back here on Earth as well — it could be used for everything from bulletproof armor to exhaust pipes on cars.

3. Fuel — you need a lot of it. So this company wants to create a space elevator to save on consumption.

GIF from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

The Canadian tech company Thoth Technology was recently awarded a U.S. patent to begin developing a 12.4-mile-high, inflatable “space elevator" to transport astronauts and materials much closer to orbit to launch and refuel ships. If completed, the elevator would save roughly 30% of the rocket fuel that is usually burned up exiting our atmosphere — not to mention provide one heck of a view.

4. We can now grow lettuce in space, which could be a step toward farming on Mars.

GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Say goodbye to astronaut ice cream and powdered orange juice because NASA scientists have now successfully grown the first fresh greens in zero gravity.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station used tightly packed pouches of soil, seeds, and slow-release fertilizer called “plant pillows" to grow nearly four dozen red romaine lettuce heads over 33 days.

Three astronauts on the space station shared the snack on Aug. 10, and NASA's Scott Kelly said, "It tastes like arugula." Add some croutons and you're good to go.


5. Farming with artificial intelligence is a real thing.

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Speaking of space farming, I give you AstroGro. Presented at this year's NASA-sponsored International Space Apps Challenge, AstroGro is essentially a self-contained pot for growing plants both in and outside of a spaceship.

Here's how it works: A network of sensors monitor and optimize plant growth within the pot by mimicking Earth's environment in unearthly conditions — recycling water, replenishing air, and automatically adjusting to gravitational differences. This means fresh, organic produce that can be grown using far less water than in traditional methods here on Earth.

The best part? The AstroGro could be built from existing 3D printers onboard the ISS.

6. Another culinary advance: We can possibly create food out of urine. (Let me explain.)

"Man vs. Wild" star Bear Grylls has long extolled the replenishing power of one's own urine in survival situations, and it appears that NASA feels the same way.

Mark Blenner, an assistant professor at Clemson University, and his team are attempting to prove that too. They were just awarded a $200,000 yearly grant by NASA to engineer a strain of yeast capable of growing from human waste products. (Yep, food made from urine. Mmmmmm.)

The yeast would not only produce much-needed food for lengthy missions, but it could also be used to generate omega-3 fatty acids and even polyester plastics capable of being used as a resource for 3D printing. Talk about whizardry, amiright?

7. Of course, you'll need somewhere to live. That's where these pre-packaged living quarters come into play.

The Paragon Space Development Corporation is in the early stages of building an “environmental control and life support system" that could provide astronauts with ready-made, breathable living quarters on planets that are currently uninhabitable.

"If the will and the means are provided, we will see humans begin to explore and even colonize other planets in our lifetime," Grant Anderson, Paragon CEO and president, said in July. Sounds crazy, I know, but you have to credit the guy for being ambitious.

8. And finally, you're going to need some booze to toast once you get there. Grab some space-aged whiskey.

GIF from "Breaking Bad."

Because what good is traveling to Mars if we can't have a drink or 10 to celebrate our incredible accomplishments?

That's not the only reason Suntory — Japan's oldest and most highly awarded distillery — recently said it would send six samples of its whiskies to the International Space Station. The goal here, according to a Suntory spokesperson, is to learn what effect zero-gravity will have on the aging process of whiskey.

Previous research seems to imply that whiskey aged in environments with little change in temperature or convection tends to have a distinctly smoother taste than those aged the traditional way. So the next time you find yourself raising a glass of the good stuff with your family and friends, maybe take a moment to thank the scientists who made it go down so easy.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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