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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 38

NASA to launch another rover destined for Mars in 2020

If you thought NASA's Curiosity rover was already cool, checking in on Foursquare on Mars and all, well, they're looking to launch another rover in 2010. NASA have announced the news at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, but haven't provided many more details unfortunately.

 

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NASA's Management Astronaut and the Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters (imagine that on your resume), John Mace Grunsfield, did tease the world by saying that the next-generation rover would be "based on Curiosity". The current budget for the currently-dubbed "Science Rover" will hover at around $1.5 billion, with no funding coming in from other departments.

Continue reading 'NASA to launch another rover destined for Mars in 2020' (full post)

Researchers to dig for organisms isolated from the world for over 100,000 years

It looks as though some UK researchers are about to get a taste of the real The Thing with their latest adventures in one of the harshest environments on the Earth.

 

 

The mission leads them to Lake Ellsworth in the Antarctic in the search for life with Lake Ellsworth being 3km (2 miles) below the glacier. The team will have to drill through the ice before December 12 using a high pressure sterile water jet that needs to be heated to 90 degrees Celcius (194 Fahrenheit) and sterilize the patch of lake with intense ultraviolet light before they even attempt to retrieve a sample.

 

This is all in the mission to find life - and if they do find organisms, it'll be quite the discovery as they've been completely isolated from the outside world for at least 100,000 years according to the team, and most likely - a lot longer. This adventure could help scientists better understand how life evolves on Earth, and even off-planet.

Continue reading 'Researchers to dig for organisms isolated from the world for over 100,000 years' (full post)

NASA details findings in new post, found organic compounds on Mars, but no 'definitive evidence' of life, yet

Our little Curiosity rover is all grown up now. Sitting on the surface of Mars, it has gone to work analyzing soil samples collected from a drift known as Rocknest. The sampling at this location served two purposes. One, it tested the equipment and provided data. Two, the fine sand particles were used to scrub the equipment of any lingering substances that came with the rover from Earth.

 

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"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

 

"We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp."

 

While not fully detecting organic compounds from life, the tool set did detect "the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate." This chemical, combined with with others, was heated in SAM and formed chlorinated methane compounds. So, while there does appear to be organic materials on Mars, it's not definitive evidence of life.

 

Check out the source link, direct from NASA, for more information.

Space geeks take note: NASA to unveil Curiosity findings tomorrow, 12/3

Curiosity is awesome from many different standpoints. It's one hell of a robot, a feat of engineering, and a great way to increase our knowledge about Mars and space in general. Rumors of a massive discovery, according to NASA and Curiosity's Twitter account, have been a bit overblown, but never-the-less, NASA will be presenting its findings so far tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. EST, 9:00 a.m. PT.

 

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The press conference will be held during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which takes place in San Francisco. NASA has been trying to dial-in expectations and has said that there won't be any unbelievable findings presented tomorrow. "Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote. "The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil."

 

The rumors of a massive discovery started making their rounds two weeks ago when an NPR story used a quote from John Grotzinger, mission chief scientist, that said the SAM tool had found data "for the history books." If an earth-shattering discovery is presented tomorrow, you'll be able to read about it here.

MIT's new discovery could see a future of truly sustainable solar power

Solar power, up until now, has not really been all that great - sure, it provides a different method of powering things, but it doesn't capture anywhere near enough light to truly replace coal, oil or nuclear power. But, this week a team of MIT researchers hope to put us on the path of truly sustainable solar power.

 

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Current solar power technology is not that efficient, with the latest development in solar systems delivering around 32% efficiency. This was met with titles of a "major breakthrough" in solar power - but in reality, it's still nowhere near as good as it should be. At this rate, solar farms need to be gigantic, taking up valuable space, in order to collect a useful amount of energy. The price per square foot has always been another issue altogether.

 

The main issue is that solar energy collectors can only absorb a small amount of the energy being blasted onto it from our star, with the rest of the potential energy not being captured. A recent MIT study has proposed an "atomically thing" sheet of semiconducting material that would be stretched by pushing a pin down onto the center. This may not sound like much, but it has endless possibilities for the future of our species.

Continue reading 'MIT's new discovery could see a future of truly sustainable solar power' (full post)

Disney has taught a humanoid robot to play catch, juggle - doesn't look like Arnie, thankfully

Here I am thinking we're getting closer to the end of the Mayan long-count calender, and the world won't end - but now Disney have taught one of their humanoid robotic subordinates how to play catch and juggle with human participants.

 

 

Yes, I'm not trolling - Disney have just unveiled this new effort, and designers have given the unit (not named the T100) a cup-shaped, human-like hand which helps with the catching and juggling. The robot uses an ASUS Xtion Pro Live camera which tracks faces and incoming balls - technology similar to Microsoft's Kinect.

 

The project started off with Kinect, but researchers switched to the ASUS Xtion Pro Live because they didn't need the Kinect's panning motor or microphone.

Continue reading 'Disney has taught a humanoid robot to play catch, juggle - doesn't look like Arnie, thankfully' (full post)

NASA might have big news from the red planet but won't talk about it just yet

NPR ran a story this morning after talking with scientists at NASA. It seems as though the Curiosity rover has found something incredible on the surface of Mars while analyzing soil. The SAM instrument, which is a miniature chemistry lab, is capable of figuring out what a sample is made of.

 

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Data from SAM is currently coming back to NASA and it "looks really interesting." Of course, the scientists don't want to jump the gun announcing something that later turns out to be false. They almost had this happen back when the rover detected methane. It turned out the methane had come from air Curiosity had brought from Florida.

 

John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the rover mission: "We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting. The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down." He adds: "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good."

 

We won't know the details of what Curiosity has potentially discovered until a few weeks have passed. Until then, look forward to some potentially big news coming out of NASA. Let's hope the discovery is enough to get congress to increase funding for the space group.

Man films UFO over Denver, tells CNN who are skeptical, check it out themselves and film the same UFOs on camera

News outlet CNN were notified by a Denver Metro area man of a UFO he recorded on his digital camera. He stood on the hilltop of Federal Heights, Denver and pointed his camera south toward downtown Denver capturing caught footage of an unidentified flying object. The man caught the UFOs flying at between noon and 1pm. The UFOs are flying too fast to see with the naked eye, and can only be spotted when played back on video.

 

 

Steve Cowell, Aviation Expert, former commercial pilot, instructor and FAA accident prevention counsellor. "That is not an aeroplane, that is not a helicopter, those are not birds, uhhh, I can't identify it". Cowell told CNN that he knows of no aircraft that can fly that fast. Cowell did state that there was one other possibility, "perhaps there's some sort of debris, that is being raised up by some of the atmospheric winds".

 

But in his professional opinion, he tells CNN "it is an unidentified flying object". The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) monitors all air traffic across the entire of the United States, and sent the CNN a statement saying:

 

We've checked with Air TrafficControl and no one has had any reports of the activity you described. Nor have any of our employees observed any of this nature either visually or on their radar displays.

Continue reading 'Man films UFO over Denver, tells CNN who are skeptical, check it out themselves and film the same UFOs on camera' (full post)

Panasonic is live streaming a solar eclipse today, check it out

Panasonic is on uStream live streaming a video of a solar eclipse taking place in Australia. This is the first Australian solar eclipse since 2002, and will be the last until 2028. Even though solar eclipses are a common occurrence, most of the occurrences happen over water, so they aren't easily observed.

 

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Numerous people are planning on getting married under the full solar eclipse, a common occurrence. It's a bit cloudy, so the viewing is perfect, but it should still make for a spectacular sight. It's just about 30 minutes away from the total eclipse, so I recommend you tune into the Live Stream now.

 

UPDATE - there is a clearer view at this link of their second feed.

NASA & ESA test "interplanetary Internet" connection, controlled a Lego robot in Germany from the ISS

NASA and the European Space Agency have just gone where no man has ever gone before, by testing out an "interplanetary Internet" connection. It wasn't quite Mars to Earth, but involved an astronaut on the International Space Station controlling a small robot here on Earth.

 

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NASA is trying to respark the imagination of Americans, and with this latest mission showing off a new communications protocol, it is definitely on the right path. A new communications protocol capable of transmitting data between planets and spaceships - just typing this feels odd, but quite exciting at the same time.

 

The new protocol is known as Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), and is capable of allowing for many disconnections and errors that would occur when a signal travels long distances through space. NASA deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, Badri Younes, said in a statement:

 

The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot. The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations.

Continue reading 'NASA & ESA test "interplanetary Internet" connection, controlled a Lego robot in Germany from the ISS' (full post)

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