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.
The highly destructive meteorite that blasted into Earth's atmosphere last week, exploding near Chelyabinsk, Russia is quite the event according to NASA. The US space agency have said that it is one of the biggest to strike in over 100 years.
The actual size of the object was 10,000 tons with the energy released from the event hovering at around 500 kilotons - nearly 30 times the size of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima. The meteor impact that previously wielded this type of power, was in 1908 in Tunguska, Siberia.
The Voice of Russia has reported that over 1200 people have been injured, and 3724 buildings damaged by the impact. On top of this, a combined 200,000 square meters (2.15 million square feet) of shattered glass is the result from the intense shockwave. Damage is pegged at an estimated $33 million.
Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office has stated that "we would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average." What I don't understand, is that with all of the technology we've got - why we didn't see it coming? Are you telling me that if this asteroid was poised as a direct strike on the White House, that the President and hundreds of people would perish because NASA, or any other space agency for that matter didn't see it coming?
Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory are working on something truly incredible, where they are converting plastic bags into batteries - yes, you read that right. Vilas Pol, a Chemist with the laboratory was interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he cut a plastic bag and eventually turned it into a battery.
Pol did this by cutting plastic bags into bits, puts the pieces of plastic bag into a metal tube, adds a 'catalyst', and heats it to 700C. In three hours, a fine black-colored powder - carbon. This carbon sells for $150 per gram, making it worth more than gold. Within a few minutes, the carbon can be converted into a watch battery. Scientists are now working on making this technology cheaper.
The more energy pushed into the battery, the cheaper the battery can get - which is the main driving force of storing more energy into the battery itself. The US government is set to invest $120 million into the project, to create smaller batteries that would eventually be used in smartphones, right up to electric cars.
For Raspberry Pi prototypers, it's sometimes hard to remember which GPIO pin is which. That's where Dr. Simon Monk's Raspberry Leaf comes in handy. This simple piece of paper that can be printed at home goes over the top of the pins and reminds you which is which. You can see it in action below:
It's these simple ideas that can make people millions. Luckily, Dr Monk is part of the DIY community and is releasing the idea and template for everyone to use. You can download the image file and print it out at home from Dr. Monk's website.
While the awesome animated GIF images I posted earlier are fresh in your mind, I would like to bring something else I consider awesome to everyone's attention. My friends at the Melton Memorial Observatory of the University of South Carolina will be hosting a live video feed of their public observing session tonight.
If you tune in to their USTREAM page tonight between 8pm and 10pm US EST, you will be able to see live images of the moon as well as the planet Jupiter as seen from one of the telescopes on campus. They generally hold a live streaming session every Monday with the activities beginning shortly after dark.
It's no secret - I am a huge astronomy buff. So much so that I even endeavor into the complex realm that is astrophotography. I say "complex" because taking a clear, crisp and vibrant image of the cosmos is quite challenging, and requites many hours to produce a single 2D image.
Finnish astrophotographer J-P Mestävainio has taken these complexities and mastered them, but he did not stop there. Mestävainio wondered what the Nebula he was photographing looked like in the third dimension and set out to create what can only be described as breathtaking. Seen below is IC 1396 or the Elephants Trunk Nebula.
These animated GIF images are in all actuality an artist interpretation of how he thinks the nebula would appear if passing by. The GIFs are created by adding interpretations and educated guesses based on the formation of the nebula and a rule-of-thumb that brighter stars are closer than darker ones to known data about the nebula, like distance and the location of certain stars around it to create a 3D model of the nebula.
SpaceX is set to send their unmanned Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on March 1, where it will launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Dragon will launch at 10:10am EST (1510 GMT) on March 1, docking with the ISS a day later. SpaceX's Dragon will be toting 1200 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments to the ISS, and will return to Earth just over three weeks later on March 25, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Baja California, bringing with it 2300 pounds of experimental samples and equipment.
This will be SpaceX's second contracted cargo mission to the ISS for NASA, and overall, their third visit. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to make 12 similar flights with their Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets.
We all love our consumer technology, but scientific breakthroughs like this are just extraordinary. Later this year, we'll see the first bionic hand that will give an amputee the ability to feel their hand again.
This will be quite the moment for artificial limbs with sensory perception, where the first man to get the new touch-sensitive bionic hand will be a man in his 20s living in Rome, who lost the lower part of his arm in an accident. The wiring of this bionic hand will be connected to his nervous system, where they hope he'll be able to control the movements of the hand as well as receive touch signals from the bionic hand's skin sensors.
This is coming from Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, where he's also added that the hand will be attached directly to the patient's nervous system through electrodes clipped onto two of the arm's main nerves - the median and ulnar nerves.
After multiple space agencies have been tracking the asteroid that fled just past Earth waving hello and goodbye, Russia was attacked by space rocks late last week. The meteroid broke up in our atmosphere, but still crashed into Earth injuring over 1200 people and causing millions of dollars of damage.
Because of this, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee in Washington are planning to hold a hearing soon "to examine ways to better identify and address asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth."
NASA have said that the rock that smashed into the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, which is around 950 miles east of Moscow, was around 15 meters in diameter, and it was moving at an astonishing 18 kilometres per second. It lasted around 30 seconds in our atmosphere before it broke apart, and wasn't detected by any Earth-based telescopes. NASA scientists have said that it is virtually impossible for telescopes to see a meteorite that size in the daytime sky.
SpaceTT: Asteroid 2012 DA14 to make closest pass to Earth today at 2:24 PM US EST - hope it doesn't screw with us
Asteroid 2012 DA14, a chunk of space rock roughly the size of a football field, will make the closest pass to Earth ever recorded of a previously known object. At around 2:24 PM US EST the asteroid will pass Earth within 17,200 miles of our atmosphere.
This close pass comes hot on the heels of an unrelated massive meteorite exploding over Russia yesterday. The meteorite passed over a remote part of Russia and exploded over the town of Chelyabinsk, and injured 500 people when its shock wave shattered the glass in surrounding buildings. You can hear the massive explosion in the video below.
NASA scientists say that the two events are most likely unrelated, and there is zero chance of Asteroid 2012 DA14 hitting Earth. Those interested will be able to observe tonight's flyby by watching a series of webcasts being held by NASA and broadcast on Space.com (Source #2). Personally I will be outside with my 10" Schmidt Newtonian telescope trying to get a fleeting glimpse of the object.
University of Southern California shows off battery featuring silicon nanowires, holds 3x the energy, charges in 10 minutes
I really can't wait for the day when I can buy a new smartphone with a week-long battery, but it looks like the University of Southern California are working on it, almost like they're reading my thoughts.
This technology uses porous, flexible silicon nanowires for the anodes in a lithium-ion battery that would provide the high capacity, fast recharding and low costs that come with the silicon, but without the weaker previous attempts that relied on simpler silicon plates.
This would, in a best case scenario, provide us with triple the capacity of today's best batteries, a full recharge in 10 minutes and more than 2,000 charging cycles. This is where I say "shut up and take my money", but the money hitting my screen and falling onto my keyboard is doing nothing. To finish, researchers have estimated that there should be products hitting consumers' hands with silicon-sporting lithium-ion packs in two to three years, which isn't too long at all.
For those science junkies that were disappointed when the Large Hadron Collider didn't manage to end the world by creating black holes, you'll be getting another chance in two years. The LHC will be down for the next two years so that it can undergo maintenance and upgrades to bring it back to peak efficiency.
The device will eventually make its way back online sometime in 2014. At that time, it's expected that the particle accelerator will be operating at up to 14 trillion electron-volts, double the energy it was running at in 2011. Part of the reason the LHC hasn't achieved higher energies yet is due to the helium gas explosion which damaged and delayed the project.
This maintenance period will be used to fix that damage, perform maintenance and upgrade the detectors, electronic shielding, and ventilation system.
A London-based design firm, Softkill, has just talked about their entry into the rat race that is 3D-printed houses, with a structure they claim would take just three weeks to build. From the picture above, it looks like a million spiders have crawled in and just spun a house out of their webs, but this is all part of what Softkill call their ProtoHouse, and will reach the prototype stage by the middle of the year.
During an interview with Dezeen, Softkill's Gilles Retsin didn't like the idea of their rival project by Universe Architecture, where he said:
We actually don't even consider that a 3D-printed building, because he is 3D printing formwork and then pouring concrete into the form. So it's not that the actual building is 3D printed.
Recently two more moons were discovered around the former planet Pluto, bringing the total count up to five. Dubbed P4 and P5 for obvious reasons, these two new moons have brought new understanding on how the dwarf planet fits into our solar system.
SETI, the institute that is more so known for its research into discovering alien life, has decided to spice up the bland names given to the newly discovered moons. Beginning today SETI will hold a contest to name the moons. The institute is asking the public to either pick from a list or write in names associated with Hades of Greco-Roman mythology fame.
A list of the pre-selected names can be found on SETI's website, which I have listed below in the Source #2 link below. I decided to go with two common names myself - Heracles and Persephone.
NASA's Curiosity rover, when not checking in on Foursquare, is discovering new things all the time - this time, it is digging into Mars' surface looking for water.
Curiosity whipped its drill out and started chewing into the bedrock of Mars, digging a 0.63- by 2.5-inch hole. We won't find out the results to its discovery for a few days yet as the rover will analyze its findings, hoping to find water. The picture above shows the first ever hole drilled into the red planet, and while it may seem like it was easy, it really wasn't. Louise Jandura, Chief Engineer of the rover's sample system says:
Building a tool to interact forcefully with unpredictable rocks on Mars required an ambitious development and testing program. To get to the point of making this hole in a rock on Mars we made eight drills and bored more than 1,200 holes in 20 types of rock on Earth.