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It looks like the US skies are about to get a little scarier, with next-generation military drones being unveiled by a top US manufacturer. These new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will sport an ultra-light laser, which is capable of reportedly destroying an object at the speed of light - yikes.
Someone close to the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) told Time magazine "it would give us an unlimited magazine".
The Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA), over the last four years, have handed contractor General Atomics over $60 million to develop, and then scale the HELLADS project, which contains a very powerful 150kW laser. Lasers available at that strength contain the power to destroy an incoming rocket or plane, but are very big and heavy - meaning they're only capable of being deployed on stationary defense systems.
SpaceX have become the light of space travel recently, with NASA's budget planned to be slashed by now second-term President Obama. SpaceX is a private company who can now run rings around NASA.
The company have been awarded two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions from the United States Air Force and Missile Systems Center.
These two missions are the DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2). The two missions will take place in 2014 and 2015 and will be launched on SpaceX's Falcon vehicles.
NASA, in conjunction with the US Air Force Research Labs, has developed a new flight simulator that is much better than the previous iterations used by the Air Force and NASA for training. Most flight simulators offered up a 20/40 vision, which is worse than the standard 20/20 vision, or the 20/13 that pilots usually have.
This makes training a bit difficult because images displayed in the flight simulator are blurry. The latest simulator developed by NASA and the US Air Force Research Labs displays images in 20/10 vision, so those with good sight will not see blurry images for up to twice as far away as most people.
The new flight simulator makes use of nine 4K projectors that are driven by numerous NVIDIA Quadro GPUs and Quadro Sync cards. Of course, they have massive amounts of frame buffers because the flight simulator pushes out 60 frames per second. NASA has been able to reduce the number of computers required from 36 to just five.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.