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Google offer $20 million for the first privately-funded company to land a robot on the moon and send back high-def video
Google of all companies are offering a $20 million prize to the first privately-funded company to land on the moon, explore its surface by moving at least 500 meters, and send back high-definition video back to us here on Earth by 2015.
There's a second-place prize too, with $5 million to whoever completes the same mission. Bonus prizes are on offer for who can travel more than 5km, find water or discover any traces of man's past on the moon, such as the Apollo site. The possibilities are endless, and exciting for those of us who won't be involved with the trip.
High-def video from the moon? I'd love for a company to install a 4K-capable camera on the moon, live-streaming 24/7 - now that would be something.
2013 is being called "the year of the comets" and tonight, those of us in the northern hemisphere, will get our first glimpse of the long anticipated first performer of the year. Comet Pan-STARRS will be visible in the horizon in the northern hemisphere tonight at sunset.
Originating from the Oort cloud, Pan-STARRS is the first major comet of the year and has already been putting on quite a show for those living in the southern hemisphere. Visible for the next few days, the comet can be seen in the west at sunset just to the left of the sun.
Over the next few days, Pan-STARRS will appear to rise higher in the sky, with it aligning vertically with the moon on March 14th. I have included a few info-graphics in the gallery below to help you better find the passing visitor. If you manage to take a nice photo of Pan-STARRS, send them over to my email (charlesgantt at tweaktown dot com) with the title (Comet Pan-STARRS Images) and I will show them off in a later post right here on TweakTown!
Amidst massive budget cuts, and an overall reduction in funding, NASA somehow manages to continue to be able to wow us on a regular basis. This time the space agency has released the first full map of the planet Mercury's surface.
The first planet in our solar system has not received much scientific attention over the course of modern space science mostly because it is too close to the sun to properly observe from earth. NASA's Messenger spacecraft has managed to negate that issue and since 2011 has been hard at work mapping the surface of Mercury.
NASA's Mariner spacecraft had previously imaged the surface of Mercury, but only managed to capture less than half the surface during a flyby in 1974 and 1975. Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit the closest planet to the sun and used modern technology to image the surface.
We reported yesterday that NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover hit a snag, and was forced into "safe mode" after an issue with its flash memory, but the Rover has now successfully come out of safe mode and will resume full operations next week.
NASA engineers still don't know why the primary system experienced a memory problem, but they do hope they can restore it to some working order. The Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager for JPL, Richard Cook, says:
One path of progress is evaluating the A-side with intent to recover it as a backup. Also, we need to go through a series of steps with the B-side, such as informing the computer about the state of the rover - the position of the arm, the position of the mast, that kind of information.
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.