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NASA's Curiosity rover has been doing burnouts all over Mars' surface for a while now, but it looks like it has hit a snag - the rover will be switching to its backup computer in the coming days after it suffered a corrupted file that caused the primary "A-side" computer to glitch.
This all happened on February 27, with Curiosity not sending its daily dump of data back to Earth - instead, it switched into sleep mode. Mission Control of course had to act, and made the decision to switch the rover over to its backup, suspending their scientific research until the rover is fixed. NASA posted through their Twitter acccount:
Don't flip out: I just flipped over to my B-side computer while the team looks into an A-side memory issue
Curiosity has two computer systems on board, with the first "A-side" system used primarily for daily operations and the back up "B-side" used as a backup. The B-side now has to be updated with all of the data required to assume control of the rover and when it does, we'll be back in Mars exploration business.
In five years time, Dennis Tito's plan of a private flyby of Mars will come to fruition, and as any journey into the dark beyond that is space, there are logistical issues that will have to be planned for its 501-day journey.
One of the most important issues is blocking the crew from deadly radiation, so how would you do this? Well, Tito's idea is to use human waste. Yes, human waste as in your bodily fluids. The Inspiration Mars spacecraft will be built with its walls lined in water-filled bags that would eventually be filled with the crews' waste, protecting them against cosmic rays. The water-filled bags will eventually get replaced with the crews' waste, which will then be dehydrated, purified and prepared as drinking water.
Water-based materials are better at stopping the deadly radiation, so it's a better solution than pure metal. It definitely sounds like an interesting way to solve the issue, but would you want to float through space knowing that your walls are covered in not only your waste, but your crew mates' waste? Delicious. In space, no one can hear you scream, I guess.
It's that time again folks - Science Friday is here, and today's post is coming a little early thanks to SpaceX. At 10:10am EST, Elon Musk's successful space flight company will be launching its next Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on its way to the International Space Station and we can all watch it live!
Beginning at 9:30am EST, SpaceX will begin streaming live from the launch pad located at NASA's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS on March 2nd and is filled with about 1,200 pounds of supplies including materials for about 160 new experiments.
When it returns to Earth three weeks later, on March 25th, it will be carrying about 2,300 pounds of spent cargo, trash and completed experiments. If everything goes as planned, this will be SpaceX's third successful trip to the ISS. For the true space geeks out there, each Falcon 9 rocket weighs 735,000 pounds, generates a thrust of 1,320,000 foot-pounds and cost roughly $133 million each mission.
We've been hearing about flexible smartphones and displays, but before we can even imagine them in the consumer space, we need batteries to be flexible and stretchable. Well, it looks like that wait might be getting closer to an end, with researchers announcing the development of such a technology.
Using a process called "ordered unraveling", John A. Rogers from the University of Illinois and Yonggang Huang from Northwestern University say that their battery can be stretched by up to 300% of its original size, all without losing any functionality. Energy storage islands and "serpentine" wire connections are placed in a sheet of polymer. Polymer is flexible and stretchy by default, with the overlapping wiring can be installed without being damaged.
What can we expect in terms of battery life? According to the engineers, their solution performs close to a standard lithium-ion battery of the same physical size. So we're looking at around 8-9 hours, as well as the ability to charge it wirelessly, but the current prototype they're using loses some capacity after just 20 recharges.
On Monday, a Google Nexus One was launched into orbit aboard a CubeSat named STRaND-1. Surrey Satellite Technology and the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Center are the two entities behind the launch and now hold the record for putting the first PhoneSat and UK CubSat into orbit.
In addition to the HTC manufactured handset, is an altitude and orbit control system, two propulsion systems and a Linux based computer. Once some test are ran, and everything checks out, the Linux computer will relinquish control to the Android based Nexus One.
The mission will test several experiments including how well off the shelf electronics survive the extreme conditions of space as well as some apps written by winners of a competition held last year. There is even an app called 360 will let users back on Earth request snapshots of our big blue ball taken from the phone's camera.
It's no secret that 3D printing is one of the hottest trends in recent history, and it should be no surprise that anyone and everyone is coming up with new ways to capitalize on the 3D printing revolution. Makexyz is a new service that has been launched to help connect those who need 3D printed items with 3D printer owners.
Makexzy creator Nathan Tone told VentureBeat "Instead of being printed at some Orwellian factory, our objects are printed by real people." Tone said the idea for the service came to him when a part he designed, took weeks to be printed and shipped to him through traditional 3D printing services. "Theres's a big benefit to just printing locally. Objects are half as expensive and you get them twice as fast", he said.
Tone says that services like Shapeways take too much time and cost over double as something printed on a personal machine sourced locally. With most services charging as much as $1.50 per cubic centimeter having something printed is just out of reach for some designers. "We've been careful to make sure that our prices are lower than working through a big company", Tone said.
The highly destructive meteorite that blasted into Earth's atmosphere last week, exploding near Chelyabinsk, Russia is quite the event according to NASA. The US space agency have said that it is one of the biggest to strike in over 100 years.
The actual size of the object was 10,000 tons with the energy released from the event hovering at around 500 kilotons - nearly 30 times the size of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima. The meteor impact that previously wielded this type of power, was in 1908 in Tunguska, Siberia.
The Voice of Russia has reported that over 1200 people have been injured, and 3724 buildings damaged by the impact. On top of this, a combined 200,000 square meters (2.15 million square feet) of shattered glass is the result from the intense shockwave. Damage is pegged at an estimated $33 million.
Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office has stated that "we would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average." What I don't understand, is that with all of the technology we've got - why we didn't see it coming? Are you telling me that if this asteroid was poised as a direct strike on the White House, that the President and hundreds of people would perish because NASA, or any other space agency for that matter didn't see it coming?
Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory are working on something truly incredible, where they are converting plastic bags into batteries - yes, you read that right. Vilas Pol, a Chemist with the laboratory was interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he cut a plastic bag and eventually turned it into a battery.
Pol did this by cutting plastic bags into bits, puts the pieces of plastic bag into a metal tube, adds a 'catalyst', and heats it to 700C. In three hours, a fine black-colored powder - carbon. This carbon sells for $150 per gram, making it worth more than gold. Within a few minutes, the carbon can be converted into a watch battery. Scientists are now working on making this technology cheaper.
The more energy pushed into the battery, the cheaper the battery can get - which is the main driving force of storing more energy into the battery itself. The US government is set to invest $120 million into the project, to create smaller batteries that would eventually be used in smartphones, right up to electric cars.
For Raspberry Pi prototypers, it's sometimes hard to remember which GPIO pin is which. That's where Dr. Simon Monk's Raspberry Leaf comes in handy. This simple piece of paper that can be printed at home goes over the top of the pins and reminds you which is which. You can see it in action below:
It's these simple ideas that can make people millions. Luckily, Dr Monk is part of the DIY community and is releasing the idea and template for everyone to use. You can download the image file and print it out at home from Dr. Monk's website.
While the awesome animated GIF images I posted earlier are fresh in your mind, I would like to bring something else I consider awesome to everyone's attention. My friends at the Melton Memorial Observatory of the University of South Carolina will be hosting a live video feed of their public observing session tonight.
If you tune in to their USTREAM page tonight between 8pm and 10pm US EST, you will be able to see live images of the moon as well as the planet Jupiter as seen from one of the telescopes on campus. They generally hold a live streaming session every Monday with the activities beginning shortly after dark.