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When it comes to space, somehow even the mundane can be fascinating. We all know All-American Hero™ Neil Armstrong as the man who took humanity's first steps on the moon, but by all accounts he was a mild-mannered, highly skilled engineer who kept to himself in real life. Yet, you've seen First Man, right? Amazing (and mostly accurate).

Or, what about paint? It only earns more than two seconds of thought on Earth if someone famous uses it or AI comes up with goofy color names. But for space? The paintshop at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab sounds fascinating, and that team just finished some work on the Mars 2020 rover that will allow it to withstand UV rays, jolts, vibrations, and Martian temperatures without emitting any organic compounds. (Ask the paintshop about such things, and they maintain good perspective: "I think my paint is just about everywhere in the solar system.")

Yes, we still have an entirely separate newsletter dedicated to spaceflight happenings. But the last few weeks have brought so much out of this world news—from SpaceX's 17th successful launch of 2018 to ISS leaks to NASA celebrating its 60th anniversary—that this week's Orbital Transmission is looking towards the skies, too. (We swear it's not just some excuse to remind everyone our mission logo mug recently received a discount in the Ars store... though that never hurts, right?.)

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Orbital Transmission 10.16.2018
A still from First Man

First Man is a first rate space movie

As Ars' Space Guru Eric Berger put it, "I'm passionate about space history, NASA, commercial space, and the whole enterprise of trying to push things and people off this planet and deeper into space—and I absolutely loved this movie." The production team combined a devotion to research and accuracy with a flair for creative effects and visuals. As such, First Man does perhaps the best job to date of conveying the unfathomable stakes and accomplishments of early spaceflight.

A safe return home for two ISS-bound space travelers

What happens next after the Soyuz rocket failure?

Last Thursday, a rocket carrying an astronaut and a cosmonaut to the International Space Station failed, forcing a dramatic return to ground. So what's next for NASA? No one is ready to say, but Berger read the tea leaves at Houston the day after: "I think they believe the Russians, who have flown the Soyuz vehicle for half a century, will identify the issue with Thursday's launch, fix what needs to be fixed, and get back into service within a few months."


If First Man is too serious, try Laika instead

The real-life story of the first creature sent to space is a sad, likely even tragic tale. But what if the Soviets didn't send historic pup Laika on a suicide mission to space? What if, instead, she choose to help humanity progress and ended up saving an alien planet in the process? Debuting at Fantastic Fest 2018, Laika is stop-motion alternative history equal parts weird and charming.

RIP Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and space pioneer

Allen, 65, died from complications related to his treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though the entrepreneur will be best remembered for founding Microsoft alongside Bill Gates and bringing sports to the Pacific northwest with the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers, his recent work showed a deep value for space exploration. In 2011, for instance, he funded the Stratolaunch system, a space initiative to launch rockets from a giant airplane.

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