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Launched by NASA in 2006 and tasked to study Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft captured unique footage of Charon revolving around Pluto, filmed from 265 million miles. Pluto has five moons, but Charon, at 750-miles across and is just 11,200 miles from Pluto.
A total of 12 photos were captured and researchers are using images to help accurately identify where Pluto is and the path it takes around the sun. Only one-third of the dwarf planet's orbit around the sun has been accurately recorded, space researchers have noted.
The New Horizons is expected to arrive at Pluto around 2015, and is finalizing its pre-Pluto annual systems instrument calibration before arriving. The spacecraft will be placed into "hibernation" mode from late August until early December, which is when it will be used for two years to conduct flyby missions while relaying information back to researchers.
When a certain type of animal is near extinction, scientists often try to prevent them from going extinct by capturing them and putting the animals into a controlled environment where they can be protected. The problem with this is that some animals won't reproduce when they are in a closed environment meaning that no little animals can be born.
SeaWorld in San Diego, California has made a scientific breakthrough that could help prevent animals from going extinct and allow baby's to be born in captivity. The breakthrough came with the first baby penguin to be born using artificial insemination. The penguin is currently only 12 weeks old and is the first penguin of any species to be reproduced this way. There is no word on if this technique might be used on other types of animals at this time.
"Artificial insemination and semen preservation allows us to maximize the genetic diversity of these populations, and that means that they remain healthy and stable into the future," said one of the researchers at the SeaWorld Reproductive Research Center, Justine O'Brien.
If you are familiar with the ISEE-3 spacecraft we have talked about a few times around here, you might like this. Google has announced that it has launched a new Chrome Experiment that is called "A spacecraft for All" that allows you to follow the incredible odyssey of the ISEE-3 using Chrome interactive WebGL graphics and video.
ISEE-3 is a spacecraft that launched in 1978 with the original mission for studying the sun; it was retasked after launch to study a comet. A group of amateur scientists established contact with the satellite to get it back on its original mission, but the spacecraft thrusters failed to get the craft back into the correct orbit. The spacecraft did recently fly past the moon for the first time in decades.
"In a new Chrome Experiment called A Spacecraft for All, you can follow the unlikely odyssey of the ISEE-3 using Chrome's interactive WebGL graphics and video. You can re-live its story, read its re-activated data instruments, learn about its current position and trajectory - and explore space along the way. It's all designed to make space science simple, fun and accessible enough for anyone eager to learn - whether you're a PhD or grade school student", says Suzanne Chambers, executive producer and space cadet, Creative Lab New York.
The Orion capsule is the spacecraft that will help American astronauts get back into space in the future. It's first flight is set for December, but preparations for other aspects of Orion operations are underway. One of those practice aspects is the recovery of the capsule after a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
This week, US Navy dive teams aboard the USS Anchorage recovery vessel successfully recovered the Orion capsule during a practice test using a cradle and winch system. This test is the last time the Navy and NASA get to practice before the Orion is sent 3600 miles above the earth.
During that unmanned test flight, Orion will land in a splashdown in the ocean where it will be recovered and used again. NASA hasn't performed an at sea recovery of a spacecraft in a real mission since 1975.
Robots that are able to do things all by themselves are nothing new. DARPA has been pushing for robots that can autonomously operate in all sorts of environments. A group of researchers from Harvard and MIT have been working together to develop a new small robot that is able to assemble itself and walk away without human help.
The robot starts out as a flat sheet of paper and polystyrene plastic that has been etched with hinges. Along with that material is a flat and flexible circuit board, a pair of motors, a microcontroller, and two batteries.
The microcontroller activates the circuits that produce heat on command and that heat is required to fold the plastic to shape. Once done the little bot can amble off. Right now, the transformation process is triggered by connecting the battery. The team wants to make the bot smarter so it will transform in response to pressure or temperature changes.
SpaceX has become a big name in the modern space race with a contract to send supplies to the ISS with NASA and the company sells its services to put satellites into orbit. SpaceX has announced that it is set to build a new launch facility in southern Texas where it will launch its Falcon 9 rockets in the future.
Texas was chosen in part because the state offered $15.3 million in incentives to a location on the gulf coast east of Brownsville. The location is near Boca Chica Beach and is only a few miles away from the US-Mexico border.
Texas plans to offer $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund and another $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure development. SpaceX plans to spend $85 million in the area and create 300 jobs. The launch site could eventually be a location where astronauts head into space and to the ISS.
Back in 2004, the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft called Rosetta that had a mission to meet up with a comet and land on its surface. The comet that was the target for the mission is called 67P/CG and after a decade of traveling through space, Rosetta has entered the gravitational pull of the comet.
Rosetta is set to land on the surface of the comet in November. When Rosetta is ready to start the next phase of the mission, it will fire an explosive harpoon into the surface of the comet to send the Philae lander down to the surface of the comet.
Mission controllers are putting the spacecraft into a series of triangular paths around the comet that will each take 3-4 days to complete. The goal is to gather all the data possible so we can learn more about comets.
A University of California, Santa Barbara professor has created a robot that is capable of scoping out an environment or building, using just Wi-Fi signals. In order for this to work, there needs to be two robots, with one broadcasting wireless transmissions to another robot positioned on the opposite end, which measures them.
Walls and objects within a building or house usually reduce the signal strength of Wi-Fi, but the receiver can distinguish between empty and occupied spaces to create an accurate map of the area. This isn't the first time that robots have been able to brag about x-ray vision superpowers, with the Cougar20-H surveillance robot from a few years ago that used a bunch of sensors to get the work done.
Researchers believe that in the near future, this type of technology will be used for search and rescue missions, where people could be trapped under rubble after an earthquake or explosion. The technology could also be advantageous in archaeological digs, too.
A top Dell Research and Development executive has claimed the company is working on technology to read people's moods, and a commercial application may be on the shelves by 2017.
According to Jai Menon, Dell is actively developing software that can interpret brain activity and register when a user is in different emotional states. He expects this kind of technology to find potential applications at home and at work. "If I can sense the user is working hard on a task, an intuitive computer system might then reduce distractions, such as allowing incoming phone calls to go directly to voicemail and not letting the user be disturbed," he told the BBC. "Similarly, if they've been concentrating for a long time, maybe it could suggest a break."
The claims will certainly have privacy advocates on edge, as critics suggest some computer companies already know too much about users. But Menon insisted there will be positive uses for consumers, such as in the gaming sector. "If someone is playing a game and it sense they are bored, it could ratchet up the level of challenge automatically," he said.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has recorded another success for placing a satellite in orbit above the Earth. SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket after an early delay this week. The Falcon rocket placed the AsiaSat 8 satellite into orbit without further issues.
The launch of the rocket was delayed from 1:25 am EST to 4am EST due to a last minute issue with the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage issue was fixed, and the launch went off without a hitch. AsiaSat 8 was placed in orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth.
At that altitude, the satellite will be used to provide satellite TV service and telecom service to customers in China, India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East for the next 15 years. SpaceX will launch another AsiaSat later this month.