NASA’s next mission to the Red Planet will be a special one, and not just for the space agency, as they announced today that boarding passes will display names submitted by internet users etched onto microchips and carried aboard the Mars 2020 rover. It’s scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021. This 1,000-kg rover is designed to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate as well as geology, collect samples, and pave the way for human exploration. Read more for another video and additional information.
Opening a jar of honey is nothing new or special, especially here on Earth where a small tilt would mean a big cleanup, but in space, it’s an entirely different story. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques decided to conduct a honey experiment on the International Space Station, and as you’re about to see, honey clings from the jar to the lid and tries to curl back on itself in micro-gravity. Read more to watch the video and for additional information.
NASA has just released a new video showing a fly-over of Mount Sharp, where Curiosity rover is currently exploring and the path that it will take over the next few years as it wends its way up the mountain to learn more about the planet’s geology as well as history. This 3D model was made using data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which carries a host of instruments, like the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), and the Context Camera (CTX). Read more to watch the video and for additional information.
NASA has just completed its first hardware test for Bumble, one of three Astrobee robots designed to research automated caretaking aboard the International Space Station. It arrived on April 17th, and will perform automated tasks in the spring, including recharging at its docking station, Kibo. Read more for a video and additional information.
The Trump administration has requested an additional $1.6 billion for NASA’s $21 billion 2020 budget request to kick start plans to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned. The space agency is developing plans for the lunar “Gateway” space station that will be assembled in orbit around the moon to serve as a staging base for eventual piloted flights down to the surface using commercially landers and ascent vehicles. “Our charge is to go quickly and to stay, to press our collective efforts forward with a fervor that will see us return to the Moon in a manner that is wholly different than 50 years ago. We turn towards the Moon now not as a conclusion but as preparation, as a check point toward all that lies beyond,” he adds. “Our greatest adventures remain ahead of us. We are going,” said William Shatner in the newly released video. Read more for a selection of fascinating images from around the web.
How about a wearable armband that can keep your body at the ideal temperature inside the house? That’s exactly what scientists at UC San Diego have created. It works inside for more than eight hours and can lower skin temperature by up to 10°C (50°F), making it a more viable solution when central heating and / or air conditioning is not available. How does it work? Well, is relies on thermoelectric alloys, which use electricity to create a temperature difference, placed between heat-conducting stretchy sheets and connected to a small battery pack. Read more for additional pictures and information.
USC researchers unveil Bee+, a tiny four-winged robot capable of flying with the agility and poise of its real-life counterpart, weighing slightly over 0.003oz. This was made possible with bimorph actuators, cantilevers consisting of two layers of piezoelectric material with a passive layer in between. Four actuators combined weigh only half as much as bimorphs, thus reducing the wing loading and significantly improving control. Read more for another video and additional information.
If you ever come across a body of water with mysterious black balls, there actually shade balls, or small plastic spheres floated on top of a reservoir for environmental protection and to slow evaporation. Initially, they were developed to prevent birds from landing on toxic tailing ponds produced by mining operations. In 2014 – 2015, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power deployed 96 million shade balls on its largest reservoir in response to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s surface water treatment rule, a nd claims that in addition to reducing evaporation, they also reduce UV radiation by-products and algae growth. Read more for an up-close look video and additional information.
Purdue University researchers have built a bio-inspired hummingbird robot that was trained by artificial intelligence and weighs in at just 12 grams, while utilizing unsteady aerodynamics to hover, just like its real-life counterpart. Called the “Purdue Hummingbird,” this tiny flapping-wing robot has a pair of 30-40Hz flapping wings driven by only two actuators. By interpreting the wing loading feedback and its variations, it can detect the presence of environmental obstacles (walls, wind, stairs, etc.). For added flight stability, a robust controller was custom-designed for handling unforeseen disturbances during the flight. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA researchers are currently experimenting with soft robotics that could one day help explore other worlds. These have a large advantage over their metal counterparts because they’re very flexible and much better in adapting to new environments, all the while offering a range of motion similar to living organisms, thus making it easier to manipulate in tight spots. “When you actuate the soft robot, it changes how you use the material properties. A piece of rubber going from flat to the shape of a finger, it changes the material into something else,” said NASA intern Jack Fitzpatrick. Read more for another video and additional information.