April 3, 2014
NASA Designs a Robot for Mars
Product Design & Development
Valkyrie stands more than six feet tall, weighs 286 pounds, and has an 80 inch wingspan. “It feels human-like, you can look her in the eyes,” says Reg Berka, deputy project manager of Valkyrie, the NASA built robot destined for the red planet.
Designed at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), Valkyrie competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) [See sidebar] trial round in December 2013, with hopes of one day setting foot on Mars.
March 24, 2014
The NASA Z-2 Suit Voting Now Open
After the positive response to the Z-1 suit's visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance. The cover layer of a prototype suit is important as it serves to protect the suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing. With the Z-2, we're looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before. The designs shown were produced in collaboration with ILC, the primary suit vendor and Philadelphia University. The designs were created with the intent to protect the suit and to highlight certain mobility features to aid suit testing. To take it a step further, we are leaving it up you, the public, to choose which of three candidates will be built. Voting is open through April 15, 2014 at 11:59pm EDT.
February 18, 2014
Supersonic Jet Ditches Windows for Massive Live-Streaming Screens
Spike Aerospace is in the midst of building the first supersonic private jet. And when the $80 million S-512 takes off in December 2018, it won’t have something you’d find on every other passenger aircraft: windows.
The Boston-based aerospace firm is taking advantage of recent advances in video recording, live-streaming, and display technology with an interior that replaces the windows with massive, high-def screens. The S-512’s exterior will be lined with tiny cameras sending footage to thin, curved displays lining the interior walls of the fuselage. The result will be an unbroken panoramic view of the outside world. And if passengers want to sleep or distract themselves from ominous rainclouds, they can darken the screen or choose from an assortment of ambient images. But this isn’t just a wiz-bang feature for an eight-figure aircraft.
While windows are essential for keeping claustrophobia in check, they require engineering workarounds that compromise a fuselage’s simple structure. And that goes two-fold for a supersonic aircraft. An airplane is stronger sans windows, which is one of the reasons why planes carrying military personnel or packages fly without them. Putting passenger windows on an airplane requires meticulous construction — the ovular shape, small aperture, and double-pane construction are all there to maintain cabin pressure and resist cracking while flying 500 mph at 35,000 feet.
It would be much simpler and safer to have a smooth-skinned, window-less fuselage, but frequent fliers have become accustomed to a calming view of the clouds and tiny cities during takeoff and landing.
February 5, 2014
How Marscoin can help fund the first colony in the Solar System
The more people that adopt Marscoin and use it in their daily lives, the more the early stake-holders, in this case MarsOne, would benefit and grow in value and thus quite naturally be able to fund the development of the first Mars colony. Just by using Marscoin private individuals would participate in the biggest kickstarter project of all times, funding themselves and mankind's first colony on another planet. Just by using Marscoin, the first extra-terrestrian colony in the Solar System could be boostrapped. As of Jan. 2014 the market cap of Bitcoin is 10 billion, Litecoin 0.5 billion and Dogecoin 10 million USD - any growth in Marscoin will bring humans closer to taking a step among the stars.
February 3, 2014
The spacesuit inspired by medieval armor, made for walking on Mars
It takes Dr Gernot Groomer three hours to put on the spacesuit he hopes will, one day, walk across the surface of Mars.
It's worth taking time when you're wearing a suit made from roughly 10,000 parts, designed for the most treacherous environment yet to be encountered by a human being.
Groomer is the Austrian astrobiologist responsible for building a spacesuit for the Mars explorers of tomorrow -- and he's taking inspiration from armor worn by medieval knights.
He explains that -- after the titanic effort required to get there -- simply surviving on the red planet will be a grueling battle.
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.
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