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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 34

Curiosity back in contact with NASA handlers, NASA discuss what the next steps are

Everybody's favorite little rover, Curiosity, is back in contact with its handlers on Earth, now that Mars and Earth are in an alignment where communication is possible. Curiosity had previously been sitting mostly idle for the last four weeks while the sun blocked communications between Earth and Mars.

 

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The first step NASA has to complete is to update Curiosity's software. After Curiosity is brought up to speed, its handlers will instruct the rover to continue analysis on Yellowknife Bay. Yellowknife Bay is the location that Curiosity has already found the basic building blocks of life.

 

We just didn't stumble into this area. This was something that took a lot of planning. In case something happened with the rover we needed to make sure we had science to do in that landing ellipse. What was serendipitous was landing in a past aqueous environment and finding sulfates and clays...The hope is we find some other examples of habitable environments. There are a bunch of different geological reasons why there could be more of less carbon in one place.

 

Eventually, scientists want Curiosity to climb up Mount Sharp.

 

Say we find something that looks like another attractive ancient potentially habitable environment and it's 200 meters above the base of Mount Sharp. We can go up there and then from there we can go not just upward but also downward again. So if you're looking for something, you can explore in both directions of time's arrow.

Anti-gravity has been through its first test at Cern's Alpha experiment

Researchers at Cern in Switzerland have some interesting things to play with, and have now proved the merits of a way to test antimatter as a source of the thing we all want to see in our futures: "anti-gravity".

 

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Antimatter particles are the "mirror image" of normal matter, but have an opposite electric charge. Antimatter and its relationship with gravity is still a mystery, but it may just simple "fall up" rather than down. Researchers reporting in Nature Communications have made a few steps toward solving this notion.

 

Antimatter continues to be one of the biggest question marks in physics, where equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created at the Universe's beginning. But, if the two were to shake hands, they destroy each other in what is called annihilation, turning into pure light. Cern's Alpha experiment is here to help the researchers hopefully solve this.

Continue reading 'Anti-gravity has been through its first test at Cern's Alpha experiment' (full post)

Over 20,000 people apply for a one-way trip to Mars on the Mars One project

It was just a week ago that applications opened up for Mars One, a manned one-way mission to Mars. Mars One is on the search for two men and two women from different nationalities on a one-way mission to the red planet in 2023.

 

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After just a week, there have been over 20,000 applications with 600 applications coming in from China alone. Requirements for candidates are as follows: If you show resilience, adaptability, and curiosity, you might qualify. Scientific and astronaut's skills, however, are not required. In the last twelve months, 10,000 people from 100 different countries have expressed interest in the one-way ticket to Mars, with many applications coughing up the application fee submitting and sharing their one-minute videos which you can watch on the Mars One website.

NASA extends ISS crew transportation contract with Russians, says domestic flights not likely until 2017

In a disappointing announcement, NASA has said they have renewed a contract with Russia. The contract with Russia is for Rocosmos to transport US crews to the International Space Station and has been used since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. The extended contract will cost NASA $424 million.

 

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NASA believes they will be able to send up US crews in US ships sometime in 2017, as long as they get the funding proposed in Obama's 2014 budget.

 

NASA is committed to launching U.S. astronauts aboard domestic spacecraft as soon as possible. Full funding of the administration's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request is critical to making these domestic capabilities possible by 2017.

 

It's rather sad that the United States has to rely on our allies to send up our astronauts to space. Many good inventions have come out of the NASA space program and it's a shame to see funding cut.

NASA's Cassini probe checks out a gigantic super cyclone on Saturn

NASA's Cassini probe sure is clocking up some serious frequent flier miles, but as the probe was circling Saturn for nine years, NASA's probe managed to capture some spectacular video of a gigantic storm on Saturn's north pole.

 

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Our cyclones don't last anywhere near as long as this monster, which was spinning for several years, and at speeds that exceeded 300MPH. This cyclone is also locked to Saturn's north pole, and is fueled by small amounts of water vapor versus having an actual ocean to suck it up from. The hurricane's eye measures 1250 miles wide and is surrounded by fluffy white clouds that are the size of Texas.

Virgin Galactic successfully completes first test flight of its commercial space plane

Our readers seem to have quite an interest in space, and who wouldn't? As part of the commercialization of space and space travel, Virgin Galactic has successfully completed the first test flight of its space plane, which will eventually be used to take ordinary citizens into space.

 

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Don't start packing your bags quite yet, though, as Virgin Galactic didn't even make it into space on this first test flight. The plane behaved as expected and flew for around 10 minutes before returning to the ground. It was shuttled to an altitude of 47,000 feet before being released to fly on its own.

 

After being released, the plane flew up to 55,000 feet and broke the sound barrier. Virgin Galactic expect to test the plane in space by the end of the year and plan to have real flights for everyone available starting in 2015.

 

Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson:

The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date. For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today's supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship's powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year's end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn't be more proud of everyone involved.

University of Wyoming researchers discover 'vast' lithium deposit, best case has the supply meeting current global production for 720 years

A group of researchers from the University of Wyoming Carbon Management Insitute have discovered a "vast new lithium resource" located near Rock Springs in Wyoming. The discovery was made during a geological carbon dioxide storage site characterization project that was sponsored by the US Department of Energy.

 

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Lithium is an important component in the construction of lithium-ion batteries, the current battery technology used by smartphones, laptops, and hybrid cars. The US currently imports about 80 percent of all lithium used domestically. Estimates for the 25-square-mile area surveyed place the total amount of lithium at about 228,000 tons of lithium, which is enough to meet annual US demand.

 

To help put this number in perspective, the lithium reserves at Silver Peak, Nev. -- the largest domestic producer of lithium -- total 118,000 tons in a 20-square-mile area. In a best-case scenario, the 2,000-square-mile Rock Springs Uplift could harbor up to 18 million tons of lithium, equivalent to about 720 years of current global lithium production.

 

I highly recommend checking out source #1 below to see the full press release from the University of Wyoming.

NASA goes low-budget, launches three smartphones into orbit

NASA have just launched three Nexus One smartphones into orbit as part of a low-budget, experimental satellite program that uses off-the-shelf components.

 

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The three Android-powered devices are now circling high above the Earth, encased in 4-inch metal cubes, at an altitude of around 150 miles and will burn up on re-entry within the next two weeks. NASA's mission of each PhoneSat is easy, they just have to take photos of the Earth and send back periodic radio messages.

 

The mission is to see if the smartphones are capable of supplying the "brains" of future satellites, which would make satellites much cheaper in the future. NASA launched the smartphones into orbit on Sunday when Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket lifted off from Virginia. Amateur radio operators had begun notifying NASA that they could pick up radio signals from the satellites within hours of the launch.

Continue reading 'NASA goes low-budget, launches three smartphones into orbit' (full post)

SpaceX launch their Grasshopper VTOL rocket, hovers in the air at 840 feet then lands safely

SpaceX are making leaps and bounds with their technology, with their Grasshopper rocket taking off and tripling its previous altitude mark of 263 feet by jetting up to 840 feet.

 

 

Once it reached that height, it hovered for little while, then gently touched down on the spot it launched from. Impressive, you'd hate to be the one coding everything inside of that thing - the amount of precision to sit there and hover without spinning out of control must have caused quite a bunch of grey hairs for the SpaceX team. Impressive stuff!

Continue reading 'SpaceX launch their Grasshopper VTOL rocket, hovers in the air at 840 feet then lands safely' (full post)

SpaceTT: Mars One officially announces astronaut search for one-way trip to Mars

This afternoon Mars One officially announced the opening of its search and application process for the first manned mission to the planet Mars. Mars One is looking for two men and two women from different nationalities to man a one-way trip to Mars in 2023.

 

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The trip to Mars is not for the light hearted, or those who are not willing to give up everything they have known. "While it is possible that, within the lifetime of the early settlers on Mars, there will be opportunity to bring one or more back to Earth, it cannot be anticipated nor expected", reads part of the mission briefing on the Mars-One.com website.

 

 

While I fully support this endeavor, and am immensely excited about humans leaving the planet Earth and populating another world, I still feel that a colonization mission is nothing more than suicide and will remain so until we develop a form of terraforming that would render the Martian atmosphere more hospitable for human life. I think a more technology appropriate approach would be for an orbital mission where we send explorers on a mission to orbit the planet before returning home.

Continue reading 'SpaceTT: Mars One officially announces astronaut search for one-way trip to Mars' (full post)

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