David Kirkpatrick

August 21, 2010

Viking I Mars mission 35 years later

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:23 pm

Well, thirty years and a day since I didn’t post this yesterday.

From the link:

Thrust from a Titan 3/Centaur rocket launched NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft on a 505-million-mile journey to Mars on Aug. 20, 1975. Viking 2 followed three weeks later.

This is the first photograph ever taken on the surface of the planet Mars. It was obtained by Viking 1 just minutes after the spacecraft landed successfully.
Here’s another cool image from the link:
This color image of the Martian surface in the Chryse area was taken by Viking Lander 1, looking southwest, about 15 minutes before sunset on the evening of August 21. The sun is at an elevation angle of 3 or 4 degrees above the horizon and about 50 degrees clockwise from the right edge of the frame. Local topographic features are accentuated by the low lighting angle. A depression is seen near the center of the picture, just above the Lander’s leg support structure, which was not evident in previous pictures taken at higher sun angles. Just beyond the depression are large rocks about 30 centimeters (1 foot) across. The diffuse shadows are due to the sunlight that has been scattered by the dusty Martian atmosphere as a result of the long path length from the setting sun. Toward the horizon, several bright patches of bare bedrock are revealed. Image: NASA/JPL

January 27, 2010

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit now a stationary science lab

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 am

Both the Spirit and  Opportunity have provided an amazing amount of science from Mars. Even though Spirit is no longer mobile, it still has missions to accomplish.

From the link:

NASA has spent several months trying to free the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit from a sand trap. Now, engineers are calling it quits. After six years of exploration, and significant scientific discoveries, the rover will remain a stationary science platform.

“Spirit is not dead; it has just entered another phase of its long life,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in a press release.

Assuming it survives the upcoming Martian winter, the rover will continue its scientific endeavors for several months to years.

This view from the front hazard-avoidance camera on
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the position
of its front wheels following a backward drive on Jan. 23, 2010.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

December 5, 2008

Jollbot — a hopping, rolling robot

The release:

Press Release – 04 December 2008

Researcher designs robot that jumps like a grasshopper

The first robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball could play a key role in future space exploration.

The ‘Jollbot’ has been created by Rhodri Armour, a PhD student from the University of Bath. It’s hoped his creation, which can jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain, could be used for space exploration or land survey work in the future.

One of the major challenges that face robots designed for space exploration is being able to move over rough terrain. Robots with legs are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and encounter problems if they fall over. Wheels are a simpler solution to this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome.

To solve the problem, Rhodri and colleagues in the University’s Centre for Biomimetic & Natural Technologies have been looking to nature for inspiration – designing a robot that jumps obstacles in its path like an insect.

The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogramme, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots.

Mr Armour explained:”Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.

“In nature there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and ‘pause and leap’, such as in a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.

“We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.

“Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre.”

Mr Armour, who has just submitted his PhD thesis, took measurements using a high speed camera to analyse how the robot jumped and to predict how it might behave in a low-gravity environment, such as in space.

He added: “Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment.”

The components of the robot were made by rapid prototyping technology, similar to that used by the RepRap machine pioneered by the University, which builds parts by “printing” layers of plastic on top of each other to produce a 3D object.

 

The University of Bath is one of the UK’s leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University’s press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/releases

Rhodri Armour
Rhodri Armour designed Jollbot as part of his PhD thesis. Click here to view a movie.

November 6, 2008

National Geographic takes on space

Filed under: Media, Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:53 pm

Sounds like a cool special issue.

The release:

Newsstand-Only Special Issue of National Geographic Looks at History and Future of Space Exploration

‘SPACE: The Once and Future Frontier’ on Newsstands Now

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Fifty years of space exploration are spotlighted in a special collector’s edition of National Geographic magazine. “Space: The Once and Future Frontier” ($10.99), available only on newsstands until Jan. 26, 2009, spans a half-century of space discoveries, from the 1957 Russian Sputnik satellite launch to the New Horizons mission to Pluto currently under way.

Punctuated by stunning images of space and the people who probe its mysteries, the issue offers an in-depth look at topics ranging from the danger of landing on the moon and returning to Earth to future space experiments that explore lingering questions about the universe.

  Highlights include:

  —  Writer Ray Bradbury’s foreword, in which he looks at fiction’s
      romantic expectations of Mars compared with actual scientific findings
      from the planet.
  —  Joel Achenbach’s remembrance of international heroes who ventured into
      space, including Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
  —  Michael Lemonick’s timeline of the flybys, landings and probes of
      Earth’s surrounding planets, including their moons, and some
      asteroids.
  —  Robert Irion’s look at the next wave of scientific discovery, which
      will explore how planets and solar systems form, what materials hold
      the planets in their cosmic web and how the universe expands.

Also included in the special edition is a chart of space missions, from 1961 to future planned missions, with descriptions of the spacecraft involved; an illustrated graph with facts about the planets, their orbits and unique characteristics; a pull-out poster on space exploration, showing each country’s space initiative and the flight path of each spacecraft; and a graphic showing which extrasolar planets have the greatest chance of sustaining life, depending on their distance from a star.

National Geographic magazine has a long tradition of combining on-the-ground reporting with award-winning photography to inform people about life on our planet. It has become an increasingly relevant “must read” magazine for those interested in climate change, environmental coverage, world cultures, natural history and exploration. In 2008 it won three National Magazine Awards, for General Excellence, Photojournalism and Reporting. In 2007 it won two National Magazine Awards, for General Excellence and Photography. Its Web site won a 2008 Webby Award for best magazine Web site.

The magazine is the official journal of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest nonprofit educational and scientific organizations. Published in English and 31 local-language editions, the magazine has a global circulation of around 8 million. It is sent each month to National Geographic members and is available on newsstands for $4.95 a copy. Single copies can be ordered by calling (800) NGS-LINE, also the number to call to apply for membership in the Society. The magazine’s Web site is at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/.

Source: National Geographic Society
   
Web Site:  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/

October 30, 2008

News from NASA — the 11/14 launch is a go

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:00 pm

A release from this late afternoon:

NASA Gives ‘Go’ for Space Shuttle Launch on Nov. 14

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA managers completed a review Thursday of space shuttle Endeavour’s readiness for flight and selected the official launch date for the STS-126 mission. Commander Chris Ferguson and his six crewmates are scheduled to lift off to the International Space Station at 7:55 p.m. EST on Nov. 14.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

Endeavour’s STS-126 flight will feature important repair work to the station and prepare it for housing six crew members during long-duration missions. The primary focus of the 15-day flight and its four planned spacewalks is to service the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the sun. Endeavour will carry about 32,000 pounds to orbit, including supplies and equipment necessary to double the crew size from three to six members in spring 2009. The new station cargo includes additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet and a resistance exercise device.

Endeavour’s launch date was announced after the conclusion of Thursday’s Flight Readiness Review. During the meeting, top NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle’s equipment, support systems and procedures are ready for flight.

Ferguson will be joined on STS-126 by Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Donald Pettit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Sandra Magnus. Magnus will replace space station crew member Greg Chamitoff, who has been aboard the station for more than five months. She will return to Earth during the next shuttle mission, STS-119, targeted to launch in February 2009.

For more information about the upcoming shuttle flights, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

Update 11/14 — The shuttle is off. Godspeed.

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