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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.
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.
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 have just launched three Nexus One smartphones into orbit as part of a low-budget, experimental satellite program that uses off-the-shelf components.
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.
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!
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.
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.
SpaceTT: Hubble Telescope takes a new look at the Horse Head Nebula, resulting image will blow your mind
This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the Hubble Telescope taking flight in orbit around the earth. To celebrate the occasion it revisited one of my favorite monuments in the night sky; the Horse Head Nebula (IC 434).
Located within the Orion Nebula (M42), the Horsehead is a massive star forming region which is comprised of dust and gas. The Hubble first imaged the Horse Head about 20 years ago and the resulting visible light image can be seen above. The red or pinkish glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left.
The new image of the great Horse Head can be seen above. It shows the region in infrared light, which is made up of longer wavelengths than visible light and can see through the dusty cloud that usually obscures the nebula's inner regions. The result is a rather amazing, and stunning looking structure, made of delicate folds of gas.
NASA has used their Kepler telescope to discover three "super-Earth-size" exoplanets that are close enough to their star to possibly have water on them. Two of the planets, Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, orbit a K2 dwarf estimated to be around 7 billion years old.
This star measures in at around two-thirds the size of our sun, and is orbited by a total of five planets, three of which are too close to be habitable for life to form. Kepler-69c, the biggest of the three new planets discovered, is estimated to be around 70% larger than Earth, and takes 242 days to circle its star. This isn't the biggest news NASA has had, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Recent research at the University of Illinois has led to a breakthrough in lithium-ion battery technology. Researchers have developed a lithium-ion micro-battery that leaves all of its competition in the dust in both size and recharge rate.
A team headed up by professor William P. King has devised a new fast-charging cathode using 3D micro-structure, which resulted in an anode of similar design. When paired up, the result is a unit that is being touted as the most powerful battery in the world.
The new Li-ion micro-battery bucks current trends and avoids the usual tradeoff between longevity and power and has a footprint of just a couple of millimeters. This will ultimately lead to batteries for mobile devices that are 30 percent smaller, could broadcast radio signals 30 percent farther and could recharge in minutes compared to hours.
Maker Ruben van der Vleuten has just published a very cool video showing a recent experiment he conducted on the process of a package being shipped from point A to point B. I am still unsure of the legality of this type of thing here in the US, so beware if you attempt this yourself.
Ruben did not document the electronics very well, but from what I can tell, he used an Arduino to build an intervalometer, that would trigger the camera to take a photo at regular intervals. If the package stopped moving for a period of time, the Arduino would only trigger the camera for three seconds every minute to prevent an excess of dark / duplicate frames.
Finally, Ruben very cleverly hid it all inside a very inconspicuous brown box. He tackled the task of hiding the camera by drilling a hole smaller than the size of a pea into the side and masked it by writing his name in black permanent marker around it. This camouflaged the dark hole leading to the camera lens. As an avid Maker myself, I tip my hat to Ruben for a simple, yet awesome project.
The Navy has successfully completed a test of its upcoming laser weapon system that is set to debut in 2014. The laser system successfully shot down a drone. We have embedded video of the test below for your viewing pleasure:
Previous experiences with laser technology haven't been so successful. Part of the issue is that high-power lasers are large, require massive amounts energy, and large amounts of cooling. There have been some experimental laser weapon systems mounted in airplanes and on ships.
All I can think about is how cool lasers are. Pew, pew! Pew, pew!