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NASA's next step into the dark beyond is with their Orion capsule, which is looking to enter its first test flight in 2014. NASA's Apollo missions are behind them, so the space agency are looking into the future with their Orion spacecraft and Delta IV rockets to send man into space.
Part of the process is to make sure that the Orion capsule will survive the extreme temperatures of re-entry, and even though Orion is one of the most advanced spacecraft ever designed, testing is still necessary.
The Apollo missions most important part of surviving re-entry is thanks to its heat shield which protects the ship during re-entry. The Orion capsule takes it a step further where it's composed of two parts: a Titanium skeleton that is bolted to a carbon fiber skin. This takes nearly 3,000 bolts to hold the skeleton to the skin, after this the heat shield is shipped to Textron Defense Systems just outside of Boston, where they'll add the final layer of albative material.
NASA apparently doesn't believe in the Mayan prophesy that the world will cease to exist on December 21, 2012. They don't believe in it so much that they have actually taken time out of their busy schedule to produce a video to explain to you and me why the world will not actually be ending as predicted.
The video is titled "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday" and was set to be released on December 22, but NASA has decided to release it early, maybe as a sign they aren't so confident that they will be around on the following day to release it. The video goes over many reasons that the world won't be ending as "predicted."
However, it's likely that this still won't dispel most conspiracy theorists' theories on how the world is going to end. After all, the Mayans had access to much better technology than we do today, and would be able to predict our demise just about as well as they did theirs. Do you believe the world is ending on December 21, 2012? How will it happen?
40 years ago today, the last men to walk on the surface of the moon blasted off and headed for home. Apollo 17 was the last of the Apollo missions to the moon, a feat we have not ventured to repeat since.
After three days exploring the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan (pictured above) and Harrison Schmitt lit the engine on the upper (ascent) stage of their lunar module "Challenger" and launched off the surface at 5:55 p.m. EST (2255 GMT) on Dec. 14, 1972. The word "Ignition" which was voiced by Schmitt was the last words ever spoken by man on the surface of the moon.
Schmidt was also the first geologist and professional scientist to fly on an manned NASA mission. Eugene Cernan, commander of the mission was the last human to leave a footprint on the surface and with his words "Lets get off" an era came to an end.
Raspberry Pi, an ARM based micro computer that runs Linux, has seen a huge surge in its user base since its release. The reason for this is no doubt its price point of $35, which gets you a fully capable Linux machine with 512mb of memory, USB, Ethernet, and SD Storage. Well the Pi just got cheaper, with the model A costing a mere $25.
The Raspberry Pi model A is a slimmed down version of the model B. The model A features only 256mb of memory, and lacks an ethernet chip and jack. The Raspberry Pi Foundation did this because they know that not all projects will need the networking hardware and that by removing the Ethernet chip, they save 200mA of power consumption [video][/video]with the model A consuming just 100mA of power.
The model A has not yet been released for sales yet, but some boards did wind up in the hands of Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries as well as Pete Wood of Design Spark. Both of whom has released videos covering the new little ARM board.
Skywatchers across the globe are in for a major treat tonight as the Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight along with a new unnamed meteor shower. With the moon at its new phase tonight the skies will be as dark as possible for the breathtaking event which is expected to produce around 100 "shooting stars" an hour.
To view the event you simply need to lay on your back and watch the constellation of Gemini. The meteors will seem to magically appear from that constellation. The action will be taking place all night with things really heating up starting at 10:00 local time and going into full effect around 2am. "Meteors from the new shower (if any) will be visible in the early evening, with the Geminids making their appearance later on and lasting until dawn," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a statement.
For those of you unfortunate enough to have cloudy skies tonight like me, NASA will host a live web chat overnight from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST (0400 to 0800 GMT), complete with live video of streaking meteors captured by a special camera at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It will all happen here:
A couple of months ago, we reported that a team of physicists were going to see if The Matrix were more real than meets the eye - well, we've gotten a little further now and another team of physicists have found another way to experiment if we're all living within a computer.
There has been a philosophical thought experiment that has for quite some time shown that it is more likely that we're actually living in a machine - yes, that the real world is not so "real". This theory goes onto a path that any civilisation which would get as far as a 'post-human' stage would end up with the ability to run simulations on the scale of a universe. Considering the scale of what is out there, billions of stars, suns, worlds, and more - it is not only possible, but it is likely that it has already happened.
Then we tumble further down the rabbit hole, and it is statistically possible that we're (the human race, our universe) is within a chain of simulations within simulations. Inception springs to mind, so does The Matrix. The alternative to this is that we are the first civilisation, within the first universe - and this is virtually impossible.
Caltech engineers have developed a cheap X-ray technology that will allow it to see through solid materials. The engineers, Ali Hajimiri and Kaushik Sengupta, have tweaked silicon microchips to emit terahertz waves. These high power waves can go through solid materials and send back an image of what is inside.
The wave used by the engineers is also quite a bit safer than ionizing X-rays, and has actually been used for a while now. Current systems, however, are bulky and costly. This new chip uses a microchip like you would already find in your phone, making it cheap and compact and able to be put into a mobile device.
"We are not just talking about a potential," Hajimiri said. "We have actually demonstrated that this works. The first time we saw the actual images, it took our breath away."
Think about the potential. You twist your ankle and think it's broken. Now you can do a quick check to see if it is. If you're not sure, you could send the image off to your doctor who could respond via text whether you need to come in or not. This, along with many other uses, make this an awesome advancement of technology.
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.