Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 386
NASA requests $100 million, wants to find an asteroid in space, drag it toward the Moon and send astronauts to study it
NASA has an interesting plan that would see them find an asteroid in space, drag it toward the Moon and send astronauts to study it. NASA are requesting $100 million for the mission, which is coming in the middle of their fight over the 2014 budget continues in Washington.
The idea comes from the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology back in 2011. Scientists have said that the plan is capable of being played out within the next decade, and would be a very good move for future endeavours by US engineers to plunder asteroids with robotic mining for water and metals. NASA has requested $100 million, with Keck researchers admitting that the actual operation would cost as much as $2.6 billion and it would take at least six years to grab an asteroid close to Earth.
The researchers have said that there could be as many as 20,000 pieces of space debris within a decent distance from the Earth, but it could take astronauts up to six months to travel to the asteroid in order to pull it back toward the Moon.
NASA have said that if politicians don't get in their way, a major announcement for this plan could be in their future.
For the last 50 years or so, it has been widely accepted that an impact from an asteroid was the direct cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs, but it appears that that theory has now been turned upside down. A recent report that was given at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference suggests that it was not an asteroid that caused the demise of the dinosaurs, but was actually a comet.
This theory is based on the fact that 180km wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico is simply too large to have been caused by a meteor, which is supported by the lack of an abundance of iridium. An element which would have been kicked up in vast quantities if such a large asteroid were the source of the crater.
Dr. Jason Moore, of Dartmouth College said: "You'd need an asteroid of about 5km diameter to contribute that much iridium and osmium. But an asteroid that size would not make a 200km-diameter crater," He theorized that the crater was created by something moving much faster than an asteroid, something with less rock and more ice.
From the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, significant pieces of Saturn V's rocket engines have been recovered. What makes this a big announcement is the fact they've been there for over 40 years, and recovered thanks to a privately-funded expedition by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos explained the site of the discovery three miles below the surface, more than 400 miles from Florida's east cost as "an underwater wonderland, an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo programme." The Amazon founder announced over a year ago that they had located the engine pieces that took man to the moon in 1969.
After three weeks abord a recovery vessel named 'Seabed Worker', Bezos and his team are on their way back to Cape Canaveral with their pieces of the Saturn V rocket engines. Bezos said in a statement on the expedition website: "We're bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous."
More details on Raspberry Pi's camera module surface, still aiming for $25 and up to 2592x1944 stills
Since its release, the Raspberry Pi has been changing the DIY landscape much like the Arduino did in 2009-2011. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been hard at work developing the most anticipated add-on module it has developed to date, the camera module.
Today Raspberry Pi released a blog post detailing how the upcoming $25 camera module was created, and in that document we learn some interesting information about the camera. A fixed focus 5MP sensor capable of 2592x1944 stills, but also 1080p30, 720p60 and 640x480p60/90 video is featured. The lens is fixes so that means no auto focus will be present.
The camera will connect to the Raspberry Pi via two connections. I2C will handle the basic functions like start, stop, change resolution, and adjust exposure time. The much higher bandwidth CSI bus will handle the pixel data from the sensor back to the processor.
Each pixel produced are 10 bits wide compared to the 8-bit pixels you are used to seeing with standard JPGs. Raspberry Pi configured things this way so that they can adjust parts of the dynamic range, which will reduce "gaps" that cause banding in images. In the blog post, the foundation said that they are very close to releasing the camera module now and that the $25 price point is still there.
3D-printed guns are on their way, Defense Distributed receives federal firearms license to manufacture them
Defense Distributed has received a federal firearms license, with company head Cody Wilson announcing this would allow his company to manufacture and sell the group's guns. The news comes from Defense Distributed's Facebook page, where they uploaded a photo of the license with a note saying "The work begins!"
Wilson has said that the Type 7 license he received will allow him the same rights as other manufacturers, where he adds: "I can sell some of the pieces that we've been making. I can do firearms transactions and transport." Wilson will be required to, of course, keep records on what his company makes and sells, but he doesn't have plans to sell anything until he receives a supplemental license to make a broader range of firearms.
Defense Distributed seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to 3D-printed gun companies, successfully testing 3D-printed rifle lowers and high-capacity magazines.
Last week I reported on a comet that was set to make an appearance in our twilight skies and even though it has dimmed past naked eye visibility, those with binoculars, telescopes and DSLR's can still view the spectacular Comet Pan-STARRS. Astronomers, astrophotographers and photographers across the US have captured some stunning images during it's week long visit and I want to share them with you.
First up is an image taken from Sumter, South Carolina by my good friend and fellow astrophotographer Hap Griffin (source #1). He captured the image which includes Pan-STARRS and the crescent moon in a single frame as they set behind a tree line near his home.
Up next is a breath-taking shot of Pan-STARRS that was taken by photographer Chris Cook (source #2) at First Encounter Beach, Massachusetts. The shot features Cook and his son standing on a hill gazing in wonderment at such a beautiful scene.
Whether you like Arduino or not, you have to admit that the small Italian company founded my Massimo Banzi has truly revolutionized the way the DIY world does things. Today Arduino released its next official product, the GSM Shield.
Arduino has paved the way for things such as cheap, easy to use development boards, all the way to DIY gaming controllers, and now they are looking to truly connect the internet of things wherever you may be. The GSM Shield partnered up with Telefonica Digital to "design a tool that is greatly simplifying the process of building Internet of Things applications based on the GSM mobile phone network".
The GSM Shield also includes a Telefonica SIM card that includes a worldwide data tariff which can be used anywhere there is a cellular signal. Features include the ability to have the Arduino send an SMS message when a sensor or data set reaches a specific threshold, or even send and receive voice calls directly to your Arduino based project.
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.