December 10, 2013
This Sleek Spiderman Spacesuit Could Take Astronauts To Mars
Even though they perform superhuman feats, astronauts always look a little ridiculous. Their clunky pressurized spacesuits are functional--they provide oxygen, scrub CO2, and keep astronauts safe from the elements--but they aren't exactly well-suited for the kind of intensive exploration that astronauts will conduct when humans finally reach Mars.
Dava Newman, a speaker at this year's TEDWomen event in San Francisco, has spent more than a decade working on a sleeker, better spacesuit for Mars exploration. The MIT aerospace engineering professor's Spiderman-like "BioSuit" will finally make astronauts look sexy, and ensure that they can explore difficult terrain without tripping over the bulk of the nearly 300-pound suit in use today.
November 26, 2013
Historic Demonstration Proves Laser Communication Possible
In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622 Megabits-per-second (Mbps). That download rate is more than six times faster than previous state-of-the-art radio systems flown to the moon.
“It was amazing how quickly we were able to acquire the first signals, especially from such a distance,” said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager. “I attribute this success to the great work accomplished over the years by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) and their partnership with NASA.”
October 15, 2013
World Space Walk simultaneously puts three Mars-capable spacesuits to the test
On October 8, three teams in various parts of the world participated in an unprecedented simultaneous test of three experimental spacesuits. Coordinated from a mission control center in Innsbruck, Austria run by the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), World Space Walk 2013 aims at setting standards for developing suits for the future exploration of the planet Mars. "If we are going to prepare for a human mission to Mars in the future, we need to have as much knowledge as possible on the practicalities and limitations of working in spacesuits on planetary terrains," says Gernot Groemer, the President of the Austrian Space Forum. "For World Space Walk 2013, we have had the amazing opportunity to work with four different teams who are developing spacesuits and to collaborate on the same set of tasks. This technical test is a simple, yet important, first milestone to compare different analogue suit systems worldwide and to contribute to a growing area of research."
October 8, 2013
Quick Fusion-Powered Trips to Mars No Fantasy, Scientists Say
Sending astronauts to Mars aboard a superfast spacecraft powered by nuclear fusion may seem like a sci-fi dream, but it's entirely attainable, scientists say.
The physics behind a fusion-driven rocket have been demonstrated in the laboratory, so such a device may well be propelling people on 90-day trips to the Red Planet in a matter of decades, according to a team of researchers working on the technology.
"This is a reality, basically," Anthony Pancotti, of the space-propulsion company MSNW, said Sept. 25 during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations working group. "Fusion occurs in the sun, and also in our labs."
October 7, 2013
3-D printing seen as key to sustaining human colony on Mars
NBC News Science
Mars pioneers could use 3-D printing to create a sustainable human colony on the Red Planet, advocates say.
A team of scientists is developing a plan to use 3-D printing to build locally made houses and food on the Martian surface. These resources would support the lives of people leaving the confines of Earth for the Red Planet.
To make things out of Martian raw materials, however, the first arrivals will need to bring some equipment. Once settlers put industrial cutters and 3-D printers in place, subsequent visitors could start making a variety of objects needed for shelters, greenhouses and even parts for new 3-D printers built on the Red Planet, said Bruce Mackenzie, founder of the Mars Foundation, an organization that aims to build and operate the first permanent settlement on Mars.
September 24, 2013
Mars hopper concept 'is feasible'
A UK team is developing its idea for a Mars "hopper" - a robot that can bound across the surface of the Red Planet.
At the moment, landing missions use wheels to move around, but their progress can be stymied by sand-traps, steep slopes and boulder fields.
A hopper would simply leap across these obstacles to the next safest, flat surface.
The research group is led from Leicester University and the Astrium space company.
They propose the use of a vehicle powered by a radioisotope thermal rocket engine.
August 22, 2013
The Deep-Space Suit
For human beings to push farther into the solar system—to an asteroid, to a Martian moon, or even to Mars itself—they will need a new space suit: one that will allow them to travel through deep space, move easily across alien surfaces, and survive a wide range of potentially lethal hazards. “If a small hole appeared in a gas-pressurized suit, it’s a major emergency. Mission over; get back to your safe haven ASAP,” says Dava Newman, an aerospace biomedical engineer and director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program.
August 12, 2013
Scientists make ‘impossible material’ … by accident
Researchers in Uppsala, Sweden accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend and ended up resolving a century-old chemistry problem. Their work has led to the development of a new material, dubbed Upsalite, with remarkable water-binding properties. Upsalite promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing in industry.
Maria Strømme and colleagues at Uppsala University, whose work appears in the journal PLOS ONE, have modified a procedure dating back to 1908 to make a powdered and dry form of magnesium carbonate (MgCO3). The reaction ingredients are all cheaply available: magnesium oxide (MgO) and carbon dioxide (CO2), dissolved in methanol, a common industrial solvent. The result is pure, dry MgCO3.
August 7, 2013
Fly to Mars in a month, ex-astronaut's Kickstarter bid says
NBC News Science
A former astronaut's rocket company is raising money via Kickstarter to make a short documentary that explains the technology behind a propulsion system that could fly people to Mars in just over a month.
"Our goal is to produce a full-length video, full of stunning animations that describe the way in which we intend to use our technology to transform space transportation," Franklin Chang-Diaz, a retired NASA astronaut and the founder of the company Ad Astra, says in a video describing the Mars rocket documentary.Chang-Diaz earned a doctorate in plasma physics from MIT before he became an astronaut in 1980 and flew on seven space shuttle missions. He founded Ad Astra in 2005 to work on VASIMR, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket.
July 30, 2013
NASA wants to bring a 3D printer to the International Space Station in 2014
Next year, a 3D printer is set to boldly go where no MarketBot or RepRap has gone before — beyond the earth's atmosphere and aboard the International Space Station (ISS). NASA has approved a custom shoe-box sized 3D printer — which it helped design — for the micro-gravitational conditions of space flight and the environment found on the ISS. But before the 3D printer can actually be shipped into space, it has one more test to pass. Later this summer, NASA and Made in Space — the company that will produce the printer — will take the experimental hardware aboard a final test flight to observe it's ability to safely handle microgravity.
July 3, 2013
International Space Station Technology to "Hear" Potential Leaks
The hiss of air escaping from a leaky car tire is no one's favorite sound.
Even less pleasant? Hearing that hiss of escaping air 250 miles above Earth's surface while inside the pressurized confines of the International Space Station.
According to Eric Madaras, an aerospace technologist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., if an air leak were to occur aboard the station, alarms would sound, and the astronauts would locate and correct the problem according to procedures. But with only the crew's eyes and ears to go on, pinpointing the source of a leak could be tricky.
Madaras is trying to fix that problem. As the principal investigator for the Ultrasonic Background Noise Test (UBNT) he's leading a study that potentially could help prevent a catastrophic loss of air pressure on a crewed spacecraft.
June 14, 2013
Power Pocket prototypes use body heat & movement to charge a smartphone
Vodafone UK has unveiled its Power Shorts and Recharge Sleeping Bag ahead of the Isle of Wight Festival - two innovations that have the capability to harvest body heat and movement to boost the battery life of mobile devices at summer events.
The technology is being developed in partnership with the Electronics and Computer Science experts at the University of Southampton, with the aim of providing a 24-hour source of power for people camping at outdoor music events.
State of the art materials and smart fabrics are being trialled to enable the Power Pocket to function via two different energy-gathering methods – thermal for the sleeping bag and kinetic for the shorts.
May 20, 2013
Human Mars Lander Must Break New Ground
Aviation Week & Space Technology
For all the attention focused on how hard it will be to keep astronauts alive while they fly from Earth to Mars, the challenge of setting them safely down on the Martian surface will be just as difficult.
Entry-descent-and-landing (EDL) experts who spoke at a Humans To Mars symposium here say the “sky crane” that landed the robotic Curiosity rover on Mars last year will not scale to the huge sizes need for humans. And even if it did, the “seven minutes of terror” controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory experienced at a distance during the first sky-crane landing may be a little too tame for a human mission.
May 1, 2013
Amgen Drugs May Boost Survival During a Nuclear Attack and Trips to Mars
Amgen Inc. (AMGN)’s Neulasta and Neupogen and a similar blood-boosting drug from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) may help people survive after a nuclear attack, U.S. regulators said.
Medications known as leukocyte growth factors, which also include Sanofi (SAN)’s Leukine, may help decrease death rates from radiation exposure, Food and Drug Administration staff said today in a report. FDA staff reviewed a National Institutes of Health study on monkeys exposed to radiation that were given Neupogen. Agency advisers plan to meet May 3 to discuss whether the animal study is sufficient to approve the use for humans.
April 26, 2013
NASA proves 3D printing is headed to the stars
3D-printed space technology is no longer science fiction, as NASA and other space companies are making it a reality.
Engineers and researchers at the Ames Research Center are already working with 3D printing technology to make it applicable for use in both space travel and the study of our universe, according to a recent CNET report.
Earlier this year, MakerBot, one of the foremost producers of 3D printers, confirmed that NASA engineers were using the technology to build parts for models, including the Mars Rover Curiosity. NASA is now the company’s biggest customer, the company told Forbes.
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