A scientist discusses how to die on Mars, a telescope spots lava waves on Io, and NASA officials talk about a yearlong crewed mission around the moon. Here are our favorite space stories from the past week.The Red Planet would be a tough place to live, and an easy place to die, said a NASA scientist who recently described five life-threatening ways in which Mars differs from Earth. NASA has awarded $100,000 to two engineering teams as part of a competition to design a 3D-printed space habitat made from materials that will be available in space. The next phase of the competition offers a winning prize of $1.1 million.NASA has announced plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, but first, the agency may conduct a yearlong crewed orbital mission around the moon, agency officials said. The mission would allow the agency to test the vehicle that would carry astronauts to the Red Planet, and learn more about problems that could arise during a Mars mission. A lake of molten lava on Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io appears to have waves moving across its surface. Swells of lava spreading across the surface of the lake, called Loki Patera, could help explain the periodic changes in brightness seen on the lake.Astrophysicist and eclipse expert Fred Espenak, also known as Mr. Eclipse, has traveled the world chasing total solar eclipses and is gearing up for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse that will cross the United States from coast to cast. This spectacular celestial event is a life-changing experience for many people, and Espenak about why he dedicates so much of his life to observing these spectacles.Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson is investing in a startup company that aims to make supersonic commercial airliners. The proposed jet would reach speeds of about 1,450 mph (2,340 km/h), which is faster than the retired supersonic Concorde jet. The company, called Boom Technology, said it plans to test a prototype of the jet in 2018.
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