NASA has a plan to put robot bees on Mars

April 3, 2018 by  
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NASA has announced the funding of a new research effort that will explore the possibility of using robot bees to study the Martian surface. NASA has appropriately called the concept the Marsbee, and the team hopes to develop a model that is capable of navigating the thin atmosphere of Mars in swarms, gathering information with various sensors. “The objective of the proposed work is to increase the set of possible exploration and science missions on Mars by investigating the feasibility of flapping wing aerospace architectures in a Martian environment,” explains University of Alabama researcher Chang-kwon Kang in a statement . A research team at the University of Alabama will work in collaboration with an as-of-yet unannounced team in Japan to create what may be a more efficient means to explore Mars. While the Mars rover has proven to be a reliable exploration machine, it does suffer from slow speeds. A swarm of robotic bees would not have this problem as it scours the surface of the Red Planet. The body of the Marsbee would be similar to that of an actual bumblebee, while its larger wings will be about the size of a cicada. Researchers are currently exploring the most effective mode of flight, whether flapping through flapping, fixed-wing or rotor. The collaborating group of Japanese scientists has already created their own wing-flapping robot, the hummingbird micro-air vehicle (MAV). Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year The Marsbees would be bound to a mobile “hive,” in the form of a traditional rover. The rover would serve as a home base at which the Marsbees would recharge and store data. The Marsbees would also be capable of sending information whilst in-flight through Wi-Fi technology. The Marsbee is still very early in development. NASA expects feasibility studies to last a decade before the project moves onto Phase II. The challenges that must be overcome before the Marsbee takes flight include designing a potentially autonomous navigation system, determining flight style, and inventing a means to keep dust out of the Marsbee. Via Phys.org Images via NASA

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NASA has a plan to put robot bees on Mars

SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

April 3, 2018 by  
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Human trash now litters space in the form of broken hardware and spacecrafts circling Earth. But the Surrey Space Center is working on tackling the issue – and they just got a boost from SpaceX . Their RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator is hitching a ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will hunt space debris using a harpoon and net. Scientists could obtain information on which space junk cleanup strategy works with the RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator, which consists of “a main satellite platform that once in orbit will deploy two CubeSats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate some of the technologies,” according to the project page. The platform is packed in specialist boxes ISS astronauts will unpack. The technology will be released outside of the space station via a robotic arm. Harpoon capture, net capture, dragsail, and vision-based navigation are the technologies to be tested on the mission. Related: Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth Principal investigator Guglielmo Aglietti told the BBC experts aren’t yet decided on the best way to clean up space debris , noting the technologies each have their disadvantages and advantages. The project costs around $18 million — the Surrey Space Center described RemoveDEBRIS as low-cost. Aglietti told the BBC, “In my opinion, whether or not there are going to be real missions to remove debris will depend on cost. And I worry that if they are extremely expensive, people will think about other priorities.” The European Commission is providing half of the funding; the partners, including Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited , will provide the other half. SpaceX said the Dragon spacecraft, which is carrying RemoveDEBRIS among other supplies and payloads on Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14, separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage around 10 minutes following liftoff, and will attach to ISS on Wednesday. + RemoveDEBRIS + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 Press Kit Via the BBC Images via Official SpaceX Photos on Flickr and copyright ESA

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SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

Astronomer maps massive hydrogen clouds zipping through space

December 6, 2017 by  
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In the halo of the Milky Way , there are mysterious gigantic clouds that zoom around at high speeds through space, and we may have finally unlocked a key that will help us understand them. Using telescopes, a scientist has created a detailed map of the clouds, revealing clumps, branches and filaments that have never been seen before. Astronomer Dr. Tobais Westmeier at the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research created a map that helps us understand these space phenomena. It revealed massive clouds of hydrogen: some are 80,000 light-years in diameter and have millions of times the mass of the sun. They move incredibly fast, between 43 and 56 miles per second. And they cover up to 13 percent of the sky. Related: Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way Scientists don’t know where these clouds originated, but some suggest that they could be leftover material from the formation of the galaxy, material falling into or out of our galaxy, or from interaction with nearby Large and Small Magellanic clouds. Dr. Westmeier has made the map available to anyone so that we can continue to learn more about these incredible formations. Via Science Alert

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Astronomer maps massive hydrogen clouds zipping through space

This wild Brussels restaurant is topped with a tank of slithering eels

December 6, 2017 by  
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This tiny restaurant in Brussels is topped with an aquaponic farm that grows eels! Leopold Banchini Architects designed the unique space where clients literally eat under the fish tank. The Aquaponic Eel bar, located at the Recyclart Gallery in Brussels, is an experimental fishery that produces both the meet and the herbs necessary to cook the famous Belgium dish Paling in ‘t groen. The Aquaponic Eel bar was inspired by the mysterious reproductive cycle of the European Eel, which transforms several times during its lifetime. Although the eel has become the primary ingredient in a famous Belgian dish, this animal has been notoriously hard to breed in captivity. Related: IKEA’s Space10 is working on on-site hydroponic farms for restaurants The eels above produce excretions that serve as nutrients for the plants, while the plants filter the water for the fish. The entire food production cycle happens in and around the metal structure, providing visitors with an unforgettable dining experience. + Leopold Banchini Architects + Café Recylart Photos by Dylan Perrenoud

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This wild Brussels restaurant is topped with a tank of slithering eels

Ice Home materials for future Mars dwellings are heading to space

October 25, 2017 by  
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Before astronauts ever venture to Mars , materials for a red planet habitat will undergo space testing. The inflatable Mars Ice Home , designed by Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO), Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch), and NASA’s Langley Research Center , could protect explorers from radiation in the extreme environment of Mars – and the materials that could comprise the dome will soon be assessed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Mars Ice Home materials are to be blasted to space in November 2018, as part of the MISSE-11 mission. On the ISS, materials for the habitat’s wall assembly will be flight tested for an entire year, and material samples will even be mounted on the station’s exterior to see how they respond after a long period of time in space’s harsh environment. They’ll then return to Earth, so scientists can scrutinize how the materials performed. Related: NASA envisions ice dome home for future Mars dwellers Clouds AO said they are working with NASA’s Langley Research Center engineers on Mars Ice Home’s design , which they recently updated for a thicker ice wall. So far it appears the ice home could do a better job of shielding astronauts from radiation than aluminum ; Clouds AO said in a statement, “Using raytrace analysis based on the Badhwar-O’Neill 2014 model, an effective dose of 89 millisieverts per year was measured near the core of the latest Ice Home design. This represents a 48 to 50 percent reduction in radiation from Galactic Cosmic Rays, and a significant improvement of shielding over typical aluminum pressure vessels.” Ice can effectively protect humans from radiation, per Clouds AO’s design statement, and would also allow astronauts on Mars to live in a space with natural light , which would keep them connected to diurnal cycles. Water for Mars Ice Home would be sourced locally from the red planet, and could be repurposed as rocket fuel when it comes time to return to Earth. + Clouds AO + SEArch Images via NASA and NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch

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Ice Home materials for future Mars dwellings are heading to space

Tesla rapidly installs solar power at a children’s hospital in Puerto Rico

October 25, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk is a man who follows up his words with swift action. As part of its contribution to rebuilding Puerto Rico’s devastated electrical grid with more resilient and sustainable micro-grid technology and on-site solar generation and storage, Tesla has already begun constructing a solar field near Hospital del Niño, a children’s hospital in San Juan. And its Powerpack energy storage systems are on the way. The revival of Hospital del Niño is expected to be the first of many projects that Tesla leads as Puerto Rico, 85 percent of which remains without power, rebuilds after Hurricane Maria . It is estimated that it will take six months before power is restored on the island. While 98 percent of hospitals in Puerto Rico are now open and serving those in need, only a small number have electricity. Even as traditional electrical infrastructure is restored, policymakers are pursuing new systems that will endure for the long-term. One such system is the microgrid, a system which combines power generation, often through solar panels, and energy storage technology and allows an individual building or group of buildings to remain with power even as the larger grid fails. Related: Tesla earns contract for world’s first solar, wind and storage project Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello originally reached out to Musk in early October regarding plans to bring Tesla’s micro-grid technology and goodwill to the recovering island of 3.5 million people. Although Tesla has not yet clarified how large the project will be or where funding is coming from, it has made clear that it intends to establish a strong presence in Puerto Rico and continue to develop microgrid sites across the island. Via Business Insider Images via Tesla

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Tesla rapidly installs solar power at a children’s hospital in Puerto Rico

NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer and the job pays six figures

August 3, 2017 by  
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If you grew up loving Men in Black and Independence Day , we may have found the gig for you. NASA is hiring a “planetary protection officer” to defend Earth from alien contamination, and the job comes with a six-figure salary. The individual chosen for the position will be tasked with ensuring humans in space do not contaminate planets and moons, as well as making sure “alien matter” does not infect Earth. All in all, the ideal candidate can expect to make $187,000 (£141,000) annually with benefits. The NASA job post reads: “Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic  space exploration .” It continues, “Nasa maintains policies for planetary protection, applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft , which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration.” Related: NASA video of the aurora borealis from space will make you catch your breath The Independent reports that the three-year-position was created after the United States signed the Outer Space treaty of 1967. The document vowed to “pursue studies of outer space … and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.” Some speculate that the new hire will be part of the upcoming NASA expedition to Europa , a moon of Jupiter. The $2.7bn (slightly over £2bn) mission seeks to map the moon’s surface and analyze whether or not it is habitable. The probe will probably crash-land, but the planetary protection officer will likely be prepared for such an arrival. Though the gig might be a dream job for many, only select individuals may apply. Candidates must have at least one year’s experience as a top-level civilian government employee, as well as an advanced degree in physical science, engineering or mathematics. They must also have “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection, which we assume NASA will supply. Furthermore, the position requires “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.” Finally, only US citizens or US nationals may apply. + NASA Job Post Via The Independent Images via Pixabay,  USA Jobs

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NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer and the job pays six figures

Colorful tent cathedral in French village billows peacefully in the wind

August 3, 2017 by  
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British studio Neon has created a beautiful cathedral out of multi-colored windsocks that gently sway with the wind. The Tilted Wind Cathedral was built for an open-air art event in the French town of Massif du Sancy. The vibrant, billowy structure is located on a grassy hilltop overlooking the town, and it was built around the village’s beloved Perdue Cross, which marks the death of a local woman who passed away around 200 years ago. Neon installed the cathedral for Horizons – an open-air event that brings large art installations to the town during the summer months. The design studio created the structure with reverence for the site’s origins as well as its serene green-covered mountainous landscape. Related: 700 colorful mirrors bathe a 19th-century cathedral in gorgeous rainbow light Thirty colorful inflatable windsocks mimic the stained glass windows typically found in most cathedrals. The site’s blustery weather also served as an inspiration, prompting the designers to use inflatable panels that are constantly in motion, giving the impression that the cathedral is breathing. + Neon Via Dezeen

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Colorful tent cathedral in French village billows peacefully in the wind

Trump plans to strip NASAs earth science division, promote mission to Mars

March 22, 2017 by  
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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed into law a new plan for NASA’s future . The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 calls for a $19.5 billion annual budget for the agency – not a major change from the agency’s $19.3 billion budget in 2016 – but the document seems to leave out the agency’s earth science division entirely. Trump claims this is simply a way of reaffirming the agency’s “core mission” of human space exploration, space science, and technology, but given how aggressively the new administration has gone after any agencies involved in atmospheric research, climate change denial is likely the underlying motive for the shift. Under the new act, Congressional Republicans have outlined a new roadmap for the agency’s future. The law calls on NASA to create a plan for humans to reach the surface of Mars by the 2030s, and to continue developing its Orion space capsule and its Space Launch System. The administration has also expressed a desire for NASA to return to the moon in the 2020s. Related: NASA releases startling new images showing 30 years of change on Earth What’s unclear is exactly how the new law will affect NASA’s earth science research. Trump’s proposed budget , however, may offer some clues. He hopes to cut the earth science budget by $102 million, potentially terminating a number of programs, including the   Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem  (PACE),  Orbital Carbon Observatory-3  (OCO-3),  Deep Space Climate Observatory  (DISCOVR), and  CLARREO Pathfinder missions. These four satellites help scientists monitor the Earth’s climate, weather, and oceans. While Trump may claim climate change is outside of the scope of NASA’s original research mission, that’s simply untrue. When NASA was formed in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act explicitly called on the new agency to contribute to the “expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere.” The loss of these resources would be devastating to the larger scientific world, which often relies on NASA data for research. Related: Gov. Jerry Brown pledges to launch California’s “own damn satellite” if Trump blocks climate research It’s still far too early to know what might happen: the funding requested would be for the 2018 fiscal year, so any cuts wouldn’t be felt immediately. The proposed budget also has to be reviewed and approved by Congress before anything is set in stone. Hopefully, lawmakers will see the value in maintaining some of these programs, even if Trump doesn’t. Via Business Insider Images via   NASA

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Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure

February 7, 2017 by  
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An experimental effort to remove five decades worth of space junk orbiting Earth has met with failure due to technical problems. A Japanese team planned to use a 700-meter-long tether to coax floating debris to a lower orbit, where it would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. But something went amiss and the tether couldn’t be extended – despite the best efforts of technicians who tried to fix it. According to the Guardian , more than 100 million pieces waste of various sizes, including cast-off equipment from old satellites and bits of rockets, are currently floating around the Earth. Experts say this garbage could pose risks for future space exploration, or even provoke armed conflict one day. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) developed a giant electrodynamic “tether” which they hoped could slow space refuse and bring it into a lower orbit – where they hoped it could later enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. The plan was to extend the 700-meter-long tether, made from steel and aluminum wires, from a cargo ship launched in December to bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. However all did not go according to plan – “We believe the tether did not get released,” leading researcher Koichi Inoue told The Guardian. “It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives.” Related: Japan successfully orbits giant space junk collector The Guardian notes that JAXA has had some other disappointing results lately, including aborting a mission to use a mini-rocket to send a satellite into orbit a few weeks ago, and last year’s abandoned launch of a satellite designed to search for X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters. Via The Guardian Images via Jaxa and Wikimedia Commons

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Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure

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