Monthly Archives December 2014

Earth from Space: NASA 15 Amazing Things in 15 Years. Enjoy this journey.

NASA and other space agencies had launched satellites to study Earth before. But the past 15 years have produced a more comprehensive look at Earth from space than any other period in history. At a time when our planet is undergoing critically important changes, this global view offers not only stunning imagery but also vitally important information about how Earth is changing.

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To celebrate 15 successful years of the Earth Observing System, we’ve collected 15 impressive, awe-inducing or simply just plain interesting images gathered by NASA’s three flagship Earth orbiters since the Terra launch.

Enjoy. And here’s to the next 15.

1. Blue Marble 2002

Taking a full photograph of Earth from space takes some doing...

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During his six-month “Blue Dot” mission on the International Space Station, German astronaut Alexander Gerst would often leave his camera running while he worked and did experiments.

He shared many of the resulting images during his journey, which turned him into something of a social media celebrity – Twitter’s introduction to the awe-inspiring views of space travel.

Now back on Earth, Gerst has released a six-minute timelapse made up of some of the best shots from his ISS tenure. The video includes auroras, clouds, stars, oceans, lit-up cities, lightning and glimpses of both the ISS and other spacecraft.

This image shows the boot of Italy with Sicily at its toe, spread across this panorama taken on October 21 by astronaut Alexander Gerst aboard the International Space Station. Photo: N...

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NuStar, NASA’s newest x-ray telescope, has returned its first startling image of the sun. image

NuStar, NASA’s newest x-ray telescope, has returned its first startling image of the sun.

The telescope was built to spot black holes and other distant and dark stellar objects. This is the first time the spacecraft has trained its eyes on our own sun. It’s a kind of out-there idea hatched in the early days of the mission, when scientists realized NuStar’s powerful instruments might be able to see new details in our star. Because NuStar senses x-rays, they could turn it toward the sun without hurting the instruments.

NuStar already has given insights into temperature fluctuations above sunspots. It may also be able to capture theorized nanoflares in action...

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NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a modest $892,292 earlier this month to study the feasibility of developing an unmanned hypersonic spy plane called the SR-72. This superfast recon drone, first teased in November 2013, would fly at speeds of Mach 6.0, or 4,500 mph. That’s almost double the speed of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which made its first flight 50 years ago.

Image: Artist's rendering shows Lockheed Martin's planned SR-72 twin-engine jet aircraft

Neither Lockheed Martin Skunk Works nor NASA Glenn Research Center officials are talking about the recent award. But a Lockheed Martin website notes that the company has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne to find a way to integrate a turbine engine, which would get the plane up to Mach 3, with a supersonic ramjet engine, or scramjet, to push it to Mach 6.


Scramjets are, structurally at least, pretty simple...

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Robot ‘Athena’ flies to Germany as airline passenger from Los Angeles

Herzog, a doctoral student at Max Planck Society, pushes 'Athena', the first 'humanoid' robot to fly as a passenger, as  they arrive at Los Angeles International Airport

(Reuters) – A humanoid robot with a head, hands and feet and wearing stylish red sneakers boarded a flight for Germany at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, becoming what was billed as the first robot traveling as a paid passenger on an airline.

The robot, named Athena, created a scene at the Tom Bradley International Terminal as she was pushed in a wheelchair up to the Lufthansa counter to pick up her ticket to Frankfurt. Television crews swarmed, camera flashes went off and people aimed their cell-phone cameras at her, exclaiming: “It’s a robot!”


Built by the Salt Lake City engineering and robotics company Sarcos, Athena was purchased by Germany’s Max Planck Society, which along with researchers at the University of Southern California are trying to make her perform ...

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Chicken-deboning robot prototype developed by GTRI

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Chickens have another reason to lose sleep thanks to roboticists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). Using 3D imaging technology, the Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System developed at GTRI can debone an entire chicken with the skill of a human butcher and has the potential of saving the poultry industry millions of dollars by reducing costs and waste.

Chickens are big business. In the United States alone 8.7 billion chickens are processed every year. That’s 36 billion pounds (16 billion kg) of poultry of which the average American consumes 50 pounds (23 kg). On such a scale, costs due to inefficient processing and the need for skilled labor adds up very quickly...

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USA Navy tests Ghost Swimmer “roboshark” in this video

ghostswimmer ROBO SHARK IMAGE www.spy-drones (1)

Should you be swimming in the ocean sometime soon and spot a shark-like dorsal fin cutting through the water towards you, just relax – it might simply be a military robot, that’s made to look like a shark. A US Navy team has recently been testing just such a device at its Joint Expeditionary Base East, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Known as the GhostSwimmer, the robot was developed by Boston Engineering as part of the Navy’s Silent NEMO project, which is aimed at creating nature-inspired unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

The GhostSwimmer is about five feet (1.5 m) long, weighs almost 100 lb (45 kg), and is described as mimicking the body shape and swinging-tail-driven swimming style of “a large fish.” It can operate in depths ranging from just 10 inches down to 300 feet (0...

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Are we moving toward pilotless airliners?

This week’s Question: NASA has worked with industry to help create the Synthetic Vision System (SVS), a virtual reality display system for cockpits. The SVS uses 3D to provide pilots with intuitive means of understanding their flying environment, including graphical displays of terrain and hazards. In coming months, Universal Avionics, an avionics manufacturer, will release a product called InSight, which blends larger displays, higher-resolution 3-D synthetic vision, and new icon-based command-and-control architecture. Some say that synthetic vision developments, along with other emerging aviation technologies like touch-screen steering and voice recognition, could lead to a day when airliners fly themselves...

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Star Wars’ New Rolling Droid Is a Real Robot

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The over-reliance on computer generated effects was just one of the sorry aspects of the Star Wars prequels left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. But here’s just cause for a new hope: BB-8, the cute little soccer ball droid featured in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, was a practical effect.

This news comes from the mouth of Luke Skywalker himself: In a recent interview, Mark Hamill said he even got a chance to play with the busy little droid. It appears that J.J. Abrams was serious about his promise to use practical effects in the new movie, even when his team has to build frenetic, high-speed droids buzzing across desert terrain.

Henry Sapiecha

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The US Army’s drone airport with $33 m contract signed to commence construction

With the ink drying on a new $33 million contract, Texas is about to get a brand new, dedicated droneport. Yes, like a spaceship houses spaceships, a droneport—a term we may or may not have made up just now—gives unmanned aerial vehicles a place to call home.

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Evaluating the Orion spacecraft’s heatshield
Lockheed martin engineers were eager to get their hands on samples of the heat shield used on the Orion Space craft after the 20,000 pound capsule returned to earth after a four and a half hour trip on December 5th. The capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station via a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 heavy booster. It went on a two-orbit trajectory and ended up about 3,600 miles from earth before returning to the planet at a leisurely 20,000 miles per hour...

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University research will help robots know their limits

University of Sheffield-logo

A team of UK researchers is embarking on a collaborative project to ensure that the autonomous robots we build in the future will be safer, making decisions that are ethical and follow legislation on robotics.

Robots that can think and act without human intervention are moving from fiction to reality. The nuclear, aerospace, manufacturing and agricultural industries are starting to develop autonomous systems that can carry out tasks that are either too difficult or too dangerous for humans, while driverless cars are already with us.

Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and the West of England, Bristol have set up a new project to address concerns that might arise around these new technologies and link new developments to existing industrial standards and responsible inn...

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Flying drones indoors can end up like this

Flying drones indoors is rarely a wise decision. Flying large drones indoors near innocent bystanders is asking for trouble. So when TGI Friday’s mistletoe-toting drones injured someone in a cramped restaurant in Brooklyn, well, we should’ve seen this coming.

Last month, the Texas-based restaurant chain announced a promotion whereby DJI Phantom drones armed with mistletoe would troll a UK location looking for “cozy couples” to ambush with, well, what we traditionally associate with the parasitic plant — an obligation to smooch.

The idea was cute, if entirely self-serving, not to mention potentially dangerous. Gizmodo dismissed it as a marketing stunt. Back in 2013, a couple of festive DIYers launched a quadcopter toting mistletoe in San Francisco’s Union Square, having some nic...

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