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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 13

Curiosity rover finds evidence of ancient glaciers on Mars

NASA has been operating the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars for an entire Martian year, which is 687 Earth days. Curiosity is currently rolling across Gale crater and has found new evidence that millions of years ago the crater was covered by an icy glacier and liquid water. Glacial evidence shows that they were particularly prominent in areas around the central mound of Gale crater called Aeolis Mons.

 

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NASA has evidence that these glaciers exist thanks to images captured with the HiRISE and CTX cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the HRSC on the Mars Express probe. Images for those spacecraft have revealed evidence of a concave basin and lobated structures along with moraines and fan-shaped deposits.

 

All of that evidence hints that glaciers once covered the area. The team of scientists say that the glacier on Mars was likely similar to one that is on Iceland today here on Earth, that glacier is called Breiðamerkurjökull. This evidence supports the theory that millions of years ago, Mars was a much colder and wetter environment.

MIT students to send three satellites to Mars in three years

Students from MIT and other universities are preparing to make a time capsule mission that will go much further than putting something in the ground on Earth to be dug up years later. These students will be sending three satellites to mars that will be packed with stuff having to do with life on Earth.

 

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The contents taken to the red planet by the satellites will include video, messages, voice recordings, and pictures. Students will encapsulate the content in CubeSats and the project will have the assistance of NASA and Explore Mars. Currently, the launch date for the project is set for 2017.

 

Executive director of Explore Mars Chris Carberry wants this project to spark curiosity of the public. He said: "Every member of this team wants to send humans to Mars one day, and this is one way to inspire the public. A group of students having the motivation to put together a viable mission like this and raise the funds themselves, that in itself is inspiring."

White dwarf star may be the coldest and dimmest ever discovered

Astronomers have discovered what might be the coolest and dimmest white dwarf star ever discovered. The faint star is believed to be so cool that its carbon has crystallized making it into something akin to a diamond the size of the Earth.

 

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The star was discovered by David Kaplan and colleagues using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Green Bank Telescope and Very Long Baseline Array. Other observatories were also used to make the discovery.

Continue reading 'White dwarf star may be the coldest and dimmest ever discovered' (full post)

SpaceX postpones Falcon 9 satellite launch again

SpaceX has officially postponed the planned launch of its Falcon 9 rocket with six commercial satellites onboard marking the third time that the launch has been postponed. The launch was supposed to take place on Sunday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

 

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The six satellites aboard the Falcon 9 rocket are owned by Orbcomm Inc and are designed to provide messaging services around the world. SpaceX is a private firm owned and operated by Elon Musk, the same man who is head of EV maker Tesla.

Continue reading 'SpaceX postpones Falcon 9 satellite launch again' (full post)

U.S. ballistic missile defense system test touted as a success

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency used the Boeing-led Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) System, which intercepted and destroyed a dummy target over the Pacific Ocean. Military researchers have big hopes of using the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), attached to the intercept booster, to help prevent ballistic missiles from hitting the mainland United States.

 

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If the test was unsuccessful, the Pentagon would have likely reevaluated deploying more interceptors on the west coast - there are 30 of them in silos located in California and Alaska.

 

"The operational complexity of the GMD system is a major engineering challenge, but we have drawn upon our unmatched expertise to work toward today's successful intercept," said Norm Tew, Boeing VP and VMD program director, in a press statement. "This test enables us to continually modernize and improve the system, providing even greater capabilities to protect this country."

Continue reading 'U.S. ballistic missile defense system test touted as a success' (full post)

Drones banned in U.S. national parks because of safety, noise issues

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will no longer be allowed to fly over U.S. national parks, with concerns of safety and noise complaints. The ban covers all 84 million acres of land the National Park Service manages, so visitors won't be able to fly their drones while visiting parks.

 

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A visitor at the Grand Canyon National Park crashed into the canyon and disrupted park visitors observing a sunset. Later in the month, Zion National Park officials noted an unmanned aircraft frightened bighorn sheep at the park.

 

"We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care," said Jonathan Jarvis, National Park Service Director, in a press statement. "however, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience."

Continue reading 'Drones banned in U.S. national parks because of safety, noise issues' (full post)

Report: More than 400 military drones have crashed since 2001

The U.S. military uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for training, reconnaissance and coordinated strikes, but there is something that is often overlooked: when these large aircraft spiral out of control and slam into the ground. There have been at least 400 military drone crashes since 2001, according to a Washington Post report.

 

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Acquiring data through the Freedom of Information Act, drones typically crash due to mechanical issues, human mistake, or rough weather, among other reasons. The published report comes at a critical time, when the federal government wants to allow drones to fly in the same airspace as commercial aircraft.

 

"Flying is inherently a dangerous activity," said Dyke Weatherington, Pentagon director of unmanned warfare, in a statement. "You don't have to look very far, unfortunately, to see examples of that. I can look you square in the eye and say, absolutely, the [Defense Department] has got an exceptional safety record on this and we're getting better every day."

Continue reading 'Report: More than 400 military drones have crashed since 2001' (full post)

UV rays can be as addictive as heroin, scientists claim

People can become addicted to ultraviolet rays from the sun and that stimulates endorphin production in the same way someone abusing heroin or other opiate-based drugs, according to scientists.

 

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"This information might serve as a valuable means of educating people to curb excessive sun exposure in order to limit skin cancer risk as well as accelerated skin ageing that occurs with repeated sun exposure," said Dr. David Fisher, Harvard Medical School, in a statement. "Our findings suggest that the decision to protect our skin or the skin of our children may require more of a conscious effort rather than a passive preference."

 

Using mice during his experiments, Dr. Fisher found mice placed under a sunlamp would go into withdrawal if removed from their light fix - and sunlight helped ease pain. This might help reveal why humans want to sit on the beach or visit the local tanning salon, even though it increases the potential of skin cancer.

Continue reading 'UV rays can be as addictive as heroin, scientists claim' (full post)

Cassini spacecraft gathers data on Saturn's moon Titan

NASA has been planning to gather data on one of Saturn's moons called Titan for a while now. The Cassini spacecraft recently flew past Titan and was able to bounce a radio signal off the surface of the moon and send it towards the Earth. That signal was then received by a telescope array on Earth.

 

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Cassini's radio signal traveled about a billion miles back to Earth. The team controlling the mission says that by looking at the echo of the radio signal that bounced off the surface, researchers can learn about the nature of the surface of Titan.

Continue reading 'Cassini spacecraft gathers data on Saturn's moon Titan' (full post)

SolarCity and Elon Musk to build world's biggest solar farm in NY

SolarCity has signed an agreement to acquire Silevo, which is a solar panel technology and manufacturing company, where the two are now in discussions with the state of New York to build an initial manufacturing plant in the state.

 

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This plant will eventually be generating 1GW of solar power in the next two years, making it one of single largest solar panel production plans in the world. Better yet, it will be followed in the years after by another one or more significantly larger plants, "at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity", according to a blog post on SolarCity written by Elon Musk, Peter Rive and Lyndon Rive. Musk being the founder of SpaceX, eBay and Tesla Motors.

 

The problem with companies of today, is that they are producing "relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs" but the work between SolarCity and Silevo should hopefully see a change to that. They continue, saying: "Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed".

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