Let's face it; most of our readers would love the chance to talk to an astronaut who is orbiting the earth inside the international space station. In fact, Americans have long been fascinated with communicating with astronauts while in space.
NASA has announced that U.S. astronauts Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn along with Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency will be fielding questions live during a Google+ hangout that will take place on February 22nd at 11AM US Eastern time.
It is becoming pretty common for astronauts to communicate with the public during their extended trips on the International Space Station. Recently Hadfield hosted an AMA on Reddit, and has had a back and forth series of tweets with William Shatner of Star Trek fame. I hope to be one of the lucky people to get a question answered during the hangout. Maybe I will see you there!
If you've been following the progress of the Curiosity rover on Mars, there's a bit of new information to add to your trivia knowledge. NASA has officially used the last tool on Curiosity in a test to make sure it is functioning. Curiosity is equipped with a drill capable of drilling into rocks to retrieve samples from inside.
The ability to drill into rocks is an important one as these stones record the history of the planet millions and billions of years at a time. NASA is currently testing the drill to make sure everything is functioning properly. After positive results come back, NASA will order Curiosity to drill further into this rock to obtain samples.
The samples will then be analyzed in Curiosity's on-board chemistry lab to determine their chemical and mineral composition. The hope is that the results will show that life either existed previously or could have existed.
We have all done it before; you get to work and realize that you forgot to charge your phone the night before. Now you can forget plugging in that USB cable for a battery boost, because the Epiphany One Puck will charge your phone by recycling the heat in your beverage into electricity.
The technology behind the Epiphany One Puck is quite simple actually. A Peltier is used to convert the heat into electric energy by thermo-electric-cooling. Basically as one side of the Peltier gets hot, the other side cools down and electrons are shed, generating electricity.
We have seen this technology before and in fact it is used in custom PC cooling setups all the time. Cooler Master even built an entire CPU cooler based on a TEC. The company behind the Epiphany One Puck is about to wrap up their quite successful Kickstarter, so if you want one you better hurry quick to get in on the savings.
If you are anything closely related to a science geek, space nerd, casual star gazer or hard core astronomer, you have most likely heard of Comet ISON. NASA has just released awesome video of the comet streaking through space. ISON could prove to be the largest comet the Earth has seen in recorded history later this fall.
Later this year, Comet ISON will make a close pass to Earth and as it approaches the sun, its tail will glow as well as grow. Many leading authorities believe that ISON will be the largest comet ever witnessed from Earth's surface. At its peak it could be brighter than the full moon, and its tail could stretch the width of 96 full moons.
Chances are high that ISON might even be bright enough to be visible during the daytime, which is virtually unheard of. I for one have set aside several days in November and December to photograph and observe the great comet, which is believed to have originated in the Oort Cloud and has an orbit of several hundred thousand years.
Scientists develop 3D-printed embryonic stem cells, we could soon see lab-made organ transplants a reality
3D printers are huge right now, where we're not only looking towards the world's first 3D-printed building, but we have the European Space Agency talking about a 3D-printed base... on the Moon. The latest 3D printing news is scientists working with 3D-printed embryonic stem cells that could one day lead us toward lab-made organ transplants.
A team at the Heriot-Watt University of Edinburgh, Scotland are the ones who have developed a method for 3D printing clusters of human embryonic stem cells in various sizes. Researchers have previously, and successfully printed 3D cells before, but this is the first time that embryonic cell cultures have been build in 3D.
With human embryonic stem cells capable of replicating pretty much any type of tissue in the human body, this is huge news. The scientists at the Heriot-Watt believe that lab-made versions could one day found their way into organ transplants, making donors unnecessary.
Want a drone and can't afford the crazy expensive models? Well, Bitcraze has you covered with their new quadrotor drone that measures just 4-inches across. This pint-sized drone is extremely extensible due to the use of open-source code and components. The best way to let you check out the drone is with the following video:
It's small, which allows it to be used indoors. This is something you can't necessarily do with larger drones. Another benefit of the small size is that it makes it safer to use. It's pretty hard to do much damage with something as small and light as the Crazyflie Nano.
Pre-orders for this awesome little drone are up on Seeed and will set you back $149. If you want a more advanced drone with more sensors, you can pick up the $173 version that comes with a magnetometer and altimeter, which could be useful for flying without actually looking at the drone.
When the Raspberry Pi was first announced, there were many skeptics that thought a $35 fully functional Linux computer was just a pipedream. Then the launch of the Raspberry Pi model B took the world by storm, selling out in mere hours globally.
This morning the long awaited and much anticipated Raspberry Pi Model A was released in Europe for $25. For less than the cost of dinner for two, you can get a fully functional Raspberry Pi, that is missing the Ethernet jack, one USB port, and only contains 256MB RAM. On the Model A network connectivity is achieved by a USB WiFi adapter that is supplied by the end-user.
For now the Raspberry Pi Model A is only available in Europe at the moment. I do have it on good authority from my sources within Element14, that we will be seeing the Model A state side very shortly. For now US customers can purchase the Model A from UK distributors, but the Raspberry Pi Foundation warns of a slight delay.
Until now, shifting around data in 3D has been but a pipe dream, but the University of Cambridge have broken outside of that dream and began experimenting with a chip that is capable of much, much more.
The team at Cambridge have put a layer of ruthenium atoms between cobalt and platinum, where the researchers have found they can move data bo th up and down, in an otherwise silicon-based design through spintronics. This method uses the magnetic field manipulation to send information across the ruthenium to its destination.
This layering is perfect enough to create a "staircase" that has the data take one step at a time, incredible stuff! Unfortunately there's no ETA on whether this would take the step (pun intended) to real-world circuitry, but with all steps - it will eventually happen.
Sunjammer, NASA's codename for the largest solar sail ever constructed, should leave the launch pad in 2014 and head into space to demonstrate "propellant-less propulsion."
The giant solar sail measures about 124 feet per side and boast a whopping total surface area of nearly 13,000 square feet. The project is being contracted by L'Garde Inc., and is being supervised under NASA's Space Technology Program within the agency's Office of the Chief Technologist.
Sunjammer will launch into space on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will be testing several of the technologies features in the following months. These include successful deployment of the sails, vector control of the sail-tipped vanes, navigational accuracy, and ease of maintenance at a gravitationally stable orbit location of Earth-Sun Lagrange Point 1, which lies about 200,000 miles from the Earth's surface.
Nokia receives $1.35 billion grant, will use the funds to develop the "strongest material ever tested"
Finnish smartphone maker Nokia have received a tidy $1.35 billion grant which will see them attempt to develop the strongest material ever constructed - how incredibly exciting! Currently, graphene is a class 2D structure measuring just a single atom thick.
This is an incredible feat, and it is currently the strongest material ever produced. Graphene is 300 times tougher than steel and is also one of the lightest conductors available. Nokia is leading the pack of the Graphene Flagship Consortium, which includes 73 other companies and academic institutions from a number of mediums.
Nokia's grant will see them research and develop graphene for practical applications, where the European Union for the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) the ones behind the $1.35 billion grant. Research Leader at Nokia Research Center, Jani Kivioja, says:
Not only does creating a graphene research consortium open up new research possibilities, it will also create work and jobs across all of Europe. This kind of research is also an investment to the people that live within the EU, from an economy perspective. When we talk about graphene, we've reached a tipping point. We're now looking at the beginning of a graphene revolution. Before this point in time, we figured out a way to manufacture cheap iron that led to the Industrial Revolution. Then there was silicon. Now, it's time for graphene.
We've previous reported about entire 3D-printed buildings, but now we're looking at taking one small step for man, one giant leap for 3D printing with the idea of 3D-printed moon bases. Yes, that's not an error - 3D-printed moon bases.
The European Space Agency and partners from London-based architecture firm Foster + Partners are currently scribbling down some ideas on how they would get 3D-printed moon bases onto the surface of our moon. Lunar dust creates a difficult a problem in terms of building materials, which has forced those involved to think outside of the box, big time.
Simulated moon dust has been combined with magnesium oxide and a "binding salt", which helps to mixture stick together, with the entire process capable of working within the vacuum of space thanks to a new approach to extruding liquids on the moon. The first concept designs from Foster + Partners used a large weight-bearing dome with a "cellular structured wall" in order to keep the people who would be inside of these structures safe from ambient radiation and micrometeroid strikes.
South Korea have just become the 11th country in the world to successfully build their own rocket and satellite and wave goodbye as it flies into space. South Korea have launched their self-developed, two-stage Naro rocket, as well as putting the vehicle's Science and Technology Satellite-2C into orbit.
South Korea's great achievement arrives after two unfortunate failures in 2009 and 2010, but the fun stops here as there's no short-term plans to send anything else into space. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute is working with contractors to build their own in-house rocket stages in 2016, where they hope to reach 300 tons of thrust by 2018.
DARPA have some interesting projects they're working on, with probably only a few percent of them known to the public but this latest one is just so amazing, you have to know about it.
DARPA have been working on dissolvable, biodegradable electronics for a while now, where they showed them off last September - where their main focus was for medical applications. We all know DARPA wouldn't just be playing around with this technology for the medical community, and this is where the technology ramps up to be put into the military.
The defense research group are thinking of how this technology can help out in the military, where they hope to develop "transient electronics" and systems that are "capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner" that work similar to how "commercial-off-the-shelf" systems work.
Iranian media outlets are reporting that Iran has successfully sent a monkey into space. Reports from the AFP state that the monkey made it to an altitude of 75 miles before returning back home safely inside a space capsule.
"Iran successfully launched a capsule, codenamed Pishgam (Pioneer), containing a monkey and recovered the shipment on the ground intact," the defense ministry's aerospace department said in a statement. This is a major leap forward for Iran's space program and paves the way for its plans to send a manned mission to the moon.
This is not the first time Iran has sent living creatures into space; the country has previously launched a ten-foot research rocket carrying a mouse, two turtles and some worms. Today's news adds credence to its ongoing mission to send a human to space by 2020, and to have an astronaut on the moon by 2025.
NASA scientists are reporting that they've discovered the first clear evidence of energy transfer from our Sun's magnetic field to the solar atmosphere, or corona, a scientific theory that now has substantial backing.
The new findings come courtesy of NASA's suborbital telescope, the High Resolution Coronal Imager, which has captured the highest ever resolution images of the solar corona to date, sporting five times the amount of detail than previous tools used to study our closest star. The telecope launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico back in July of last year, and has already put smiles on scientists' faces.
The telescope's 10-minute flight had it take 165 images of a large, active region of the Sun's corona. These images showed the evolution of the magnetic field, as well as the releases of energy at temperatures of between a mind-boggling two million and four million degrees. Hi-C principal investigator, Jonathan Cirtain, a heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, says:
Scientists have tried for decades to understand how the sun's dynamic atmosphere is heated to millions of degrees. Because of the level of solar activity, we were able to clearly focus on an active sunspot, and obtain some remarkable images. Seeing this for the first time is a major advance in understanding how our sun continuously generates the vast amount of energy needed to heat its atmosphere.
Scientists have created a real-life 'tractor beam' which uses light to attract objects according to research published by Nature Photonics and led by the University of St Andrews. The researchers' hopes are it could eventually lead to medical applications where it would target and attract individual cells.
To us mere mortals, a tractor beam is usually thought of along side Star Trek, where the beam was used to move much bigger objects. Back in 2011, researchers out of China and Hong Kong showed how it could've been done with laser beams of a specific shape, and we've also had NASA funding a study which looked into how the technique might be used to manipulate samples in space.
The new study lead researcher, Dr Tomas Cizmar, research fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, said while the technique is new, it has huge potential. He continues:
The practical applications could be very great, very exciting. The tractor beam is very selective in the properties of the particles it acts on, so you could pick up specific particles in a mixture. Eventually this could be used to separate white blood cells, for example.
Researchers out of the European Bioinformatics Institute are claiming to have successfully encoded 154 Shakespeare sonnets, as well as an MP3 of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and crammed it all into a single DNA strand. This information costs of around 739KB of data.
Better yet, researchers were able to read those files again with 100% accuracy leading to the possibilities of eventually storing data within the strands of our DNA. With DNA being just chemical-based instruction manuals for developing highly complex organisms with a seemingly never ending variety of permutations. A researcher involved with the testing said:
We realized that DNA itself is a really efficient way of storing information. Over a second beer, we started to write on napkins and sketch out some details of how that might be made to work.
A single gram of DNA can is capable of storing an incredible 2.2 petabytes of information, with the paper claiming "We recovered 757,051 bytes of information from 337 pg of DNA (above), giving an information storage density of ~2.2 PB/g (= 757,051/337 x 10-12)".
We'd like to extend our warmest wishes to Opportunity for it's ninth birthday today. Opportunity originally landed on the Red Planet late January 24, 2004, three weeks after a twin rover named Spirit landed. Unfortunately, Opportunity is likely lonely as the twin rover stopped functioning in 2010.
Curiosity can keep Opportunity company. Opportunity was originally only supposed to have a 90-day mission, so it has far exceeded that in the past nine years.
"No one could've imagined how good the exploration and scientific discovery would be for this vehicle, looking from the perspective of nine years ago," said John Callas, Opportunity's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's been a phenomenal accomplishment."
Thanks to Opportunity's long life, it's odometer is getting close to the record for most ground covered on the surface of another world. Currently, the Soviet's Lunokhod 2 holds the record with 23 miles traversed on the moon. Opportunity sits at 22.03 miles on its odometer. Here's to another nine years of life!
Ever wonder what the sun sounds like? Well, you can now find out for sure thanks to Robert Alexander. He is a data sonification specialist, which basically means he turns numbers into sounds and music. "I think of myself as an explorer," Alexander says in the video below. "I live in the space between art and science and technology."
Alexander relied on data collected by SOHO, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory, to generate the music. Motherboard's Michael Byrne says, "He's rendered solar flares as a human choir, and turned the sun's rotation into a a tribal beat." He managed to detect a hum from the data, which cycled every 27 days, the same rotational period as the sun.
Take a look at the video and let us know what you think of it. It really does the best job of explaining it.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence that the 57 mile wide, 1.4 mile deep McLaughlin Crator once was filled with water that flowed from an underground source.
The evidence lies in the bottom of the crator where there are layered, flat rocks which contain carbonate and other minerals that form only in the presence of water. Small channels in the crator wall also resemble something you might find in a dried up lake bed here on Earth.
The findings were published in the latest edition of Nature Geoscience, and lend even more evidence that Mars could have once been a habitable planet. "This new report and others are continuing to reveal a more complex Mars than previously appreciated, with at least some areas more likely to reveal signs of ancient life than others," said Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
A successful test of laser communication has just been complete by researchers at NASA according to Space.com. The agency tested laser transmission of data into space by beaming the Mona Lisa from earth to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter some 240,000 miles away.
The LRO, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009, was chosen over other space craft because it was already fitted with laser communication gear. The image of the Mona Lisa was subdivided into 150 x 200 pixel segments and then beamed to the LRO from the Goddard Flight Center at a rate of about 300 bits per second.
"This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," said David Smith, a researcher working with the LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. "In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use."