July 14, 2018 - July 20, 2018
SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream,
mice to space station
robot Cimon, pronounced Simon, slightly bigger than a basketball, is
meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science
experiments. (File photo: Jan. 29, 2018/T. Bourry/ESA/DLR via AP)
Fla. (AP) - The International Space Station
got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, July 2, along
with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.
reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral,
Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to
grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.
6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon,
pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from
the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander
Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated
by IBM so its intelligence - and role - keep growing.
There are also
genetically identical mice for a study of gut bacteria, and
super-caffeinated coffee aboard the Dragon to go with the fresh
blueberries and ice cream.
“Looking forward to
some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get
started on some great experiments,” Arnold told Mission Control minutes
after snaring the Dragon.
When informed it
was the 30th cargo ship to be captured by the station’s robot arm,
Arnold said, “It’s hard to believe ... how far we’ve come. It’s quite an
Most of those
visiting vessels have been provided by private U.S. companies hired by
NASA to keep the space station well stocked.
said it was fitting that the latest capture occurred over Quebec; the
station’s robot arm is Canada’s contribution.
Besides Gerst, the
250-mile-high (400-kilometer-high) lab is home to three Americans and
Chicago airport plan is 1 of many Musk dream projects
undated artist’s rendering provided by The Boring Company, shows an
electric public transportation vehicle that is part of a proposed
high-speed underground transportation system that will transport
passengers from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport. A
spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed Wednesday, June 13,
2018, that The Boring Company, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been
selected to build the transportation system. (The Boring Company via AP)
Chicago (AP) -
A newly announced project by billionaire innovator Elon Musk for a
tunnel transit system that would carry travelers to and from Chicago
O’Hare International Airport at up to 150 mph (241 kph) is just another
project on a growing list of Musk dream projects.
A look at some of
the SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s most ambitious projects, where they stand now
and some hurdles to their completion:
boldest or most far-fetched project, depending on who you ask, is one to
send manned missions to Mars. He’s even spoken about colonizing the red
planet. According to the SpaceX website, the “aspirational goal is to
send our first cargo mission to Mars in 2022.” The first unmanned Mars
mission would seek to confirm the presence of water and identify other
resources that could help sustain human life. And the manned Mars
mission? Musk’s goal is for that to happen just two years later, in
2024. By contrast, NASA has spoken about the mid-2030s as a realistic
goal for sending humans to Mars.
A powerful new
rocket capable of making it to Mars is already being developed. The Los
Angeles harbor commissioners in April approved a permit for SpaceX to
build a facility on port land to manufacture it.
unresolved challenges: How to protect humans from radiation on Mars,
which lacks the atmosphere of Earth. There are psychological challenges,
too. Humans on Mars, especially before a full human colony is
established, would have to grapple with a sense of extreme isolation -
Chicago is one of
several cities where Musk has spoken about using tunnel-boring
technology developed by his Boring Co. for transportation projects.
Among the furthest along is one that would scoot commuters underground
on electric sleds called skates to the Los Angeles International
Airport. Weeks after tweeting last year that snarling traffic was
“driving me nuts,” Musk said work on a tunnel was about to start. Last
month, he said a portion of a tunnel was almost finished under an LA
suburb and would soon be ready for testing. Among the challenges for any
such project is to secure the necessary approval from state and
municipal governments. Last year, a suburban city council approved an
approximately 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) test tunnel from Musk’s SpaceX
rocket plant to a point east of LAX.
Musk also wants to
overhaul the entire U.S. transportation system. He envisions an
ultra-high-speed hyperloop system that involves nearly airless tubes
that speed special capsules over long distances at up to 750 mph (1,200
kph), using magnetism and solar power. It would carry both people and
It’s an idea many
states are taking seriously. Several have said they are conducting
feasibility studies, including Colorado, Texas and Missouri. Missouri
was looking at whether such a system could be installed to move people
between St. Louis and Kansas City in a half-hour’s time.
Musk in 2017
announced a new venture called Neuralink, which is developing
“ultra-high bandwidth implantable brain-computer interfaces to connect
humans and computers,” its website says. Implants could treat neural
disorders. Musk has also raised the possibility of artificially
intelligent computers posing a threat to humanity in the future, and he
says linking brains to computers could put humans’ abilities to process
data on par with supercomputers. Linking technology directly to the
human body is already happening, including to help deaf people hear. At
least some neuroscientists say putting the timetable for actually
hooking up brains to computers in terms of several years is overly
July 7, 2018 - July 13, 2018
NASA’s record-breaking spacewoman retires as astronaut
Jan. 30, 2008 photo made available by NASA, Expedition 16 commander
Peggy Whitson, the first female commander of the International Space
Station, participates in a spacewalk. On Friday, June 15, 2018, NASA
announced Whitson, who has spent more time off the planet than any other
American, has retired. (NASA via AP)
Fla. (AP) - NASA’s record-breaking astronaut,
Peggy Whitson, retired June 15 less than a year after returning from her
last and longest spaceflight.
She’s spent more
time off the planet than any other American: 665 days over three space
station missions. She’s also the world’s most experienced female
spacewalker, with 10 under her spacesuit belt.
Whitson was the
first woman to command the International Space Station, holding the
position twice, and the oldest woman ever to fly in space. She was also
the only woman to have served as chief of NASA’s male-dominated
called her a “space ninja.”
“It’s been the
greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream of being a @NASA
Astronaut,” Whitson said via Twitter, thanking “all who have supported
me along the way.”
“As I reminisce on
my many treasured memories, it’s safe to say my journey at NASA has been
out of this world!”
biochemist, who grew up on an Iowa hog farm, joined NASA as a researcher
in 1986 and became an astronaut in 1996. Her last spaceflight, spanning
2016 and 2017, lasted close to 10 months.
Only Russian men
have spent more time in space: Gennady Padalka holds the record with 879
days over five missions.
Jim Bridenstine called Whitson an inspiration, citing her determination
and dedication to science, exploration and discovery.
“She set the
highest standards for human spaceflight operations,” Brian Kelly,
director of flight operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said
in a statement, “as well as being an outstanding role model for women
and men in America and across the globe.”
Before leaving the
space station last September, Whitson said she would miss the orbiting
outpost - an “awe-inspiring creation” - and the views from 250 miles up.
“I will miss seeing
the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth from this vantage point.
Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that
curve,” she said.
Stephen Hawking’s ashes buried in Westminster Abbey
Lucy Hawking lays flowers as the ashes of
her father, Professor Stephen Hawking, are laid to rest during his
memorial service at Westminster Abbey in London, Friday June 15, 2018.
Hawking has taken his place among Britain’s greatest scientists with his
ashes buried in Westminster Abbey, between the graves of Charles Darwin
and Isaac Newton. (Ben Stansall/PA via AP)
London (AP) -
The ashes of Stephen Hawking were buried last month in a corner of
Westminster Abbey that honors some of Britain’s greatest scientists,
between the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.
More than 1,000
people attended a service of thanksgiving June 15 in the ancient abbey
for the physicist, who died in March at age 76 after decades of living
with motor neuron disease. When he was diagnosed, aged 22, he was given
only a few years to live.
groundbreaking research into black holes and the origins of the
universe, and gained global fame as a popularizer and communicator of
science. His book “A Brief History of Time” sold 9 million copies - even
if many readers didn’t finish it - and he appeared on “Star Trek: The
Next Generation,” ‘’The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons.”
“His name will live
in the annals of science,” Astronomer Royal Martin Rees told the
memorial service. “Nobody else since Einstein has done more to deepen
our understanding of space and time.
“Millions have had
their horizons widened by his books and lectures, and even more
worldwide have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against
all the odds,” Rees said.
wife Jane and daughter Lucy were among an eclectic crowd that included
scientists and schoolchildren; politicians including U.K. Culture
Secretary Matt Hancock and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; Chic
guitarist Nile Rogers; actress Lily Cole; comedian David Walliams; and
talk-show host Piers Morgan.
included 1,000 members of the public selected by ballot from 25,000
applicants. A private funeral service was held in March in Cambridge,
where Hawking lived and worked for decades.
included biblical readings by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played
Hawking in a BBC drama, and Hawking’s daughter Lucy. Astronaut Tim Peake
read from “Queen Mab” by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which evokes the
wonders of the universe.
Kip Thorne, a Nobel
prize-winning American physicist, paid tribute to “by far the most
stubborn friend I ever had.
refused to let his physical disability get in the way of doing great
science or get in the way of having great fun,” Thorne said.
abbey is the resting place of a pantheon of British historical figures,
including kings and queens, political leaders and writers including
Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens.
interred in the abbey’s Scientists’ Corner, beneath a stone inscribed:
“Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking” - an English translation
of the Latin words on the nearby grave of Newton, the 17th-century
scientist who discovered the laws of gravity. The stone is also
inscribed with one of Hawking’s equations describing the entropy of a
After the service,
Hawking’s words, set to music by Greek composer Vangelis, were being
beamed into space from a European Space Agency satellite dish in Spain.
Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said the music would be aimed at “the nearest
black hole, 1A 0620-00,” more than 3,000 light years from Earth.
June 30, 2018 - July 6, 2018
Rare sightings of big bug draw fans from around the world
Coin/The Post-Standard via AP)
(AP) - Students from Japan and a researcher
from New Zealand are among the scientists and hobbyists flocking to
central New York for rare sightings of a big bug.
The area’s cicada (sih-KAY’-duh)
brood emerges once every 17 years.
The Post-Standard says the eastern
U.S. is one of three places in the world with periodical cicadas. The
others are the Pacific Ocean island of Fiji, where cicadas emerge every
eight years; and northern India, where they emerge every four years.
In New York, some of the cicada
fans have congregated at a farm and brewery in Onondaga
(ah-nahn-DAH’-gah), just south of Syracuse. Several researchers recorded
audio and video as the cicadas’ call vibrated in the background.
A student from Shizuoka University
in Japan, Hiroki Hayashi, calls the scene “wonderful and exciting.”
NASA rover knocked out
as gigantic dust storm envelops Mars
combination of images made by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the rim of the
Gale Crater on June 7 and 10, 2018 during a major dust storm. The
Opportunity rover, which is inside the crater, has fallen silent as the
storm blots out the sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) -
NASA’s seemingly unstoppable Mars rover Opportunity has been knocked out by
a gigantic dust storm that is enveloping the red planet and blotting out the
Officials said Wednesday they’re
hopeful the rover will survive the storm, which already covers one-quarter
of Mars and is expected to encircle the planet. It could be weeks or even
months, though, until the sky clears enough for sunlight to reach the
Martian surface and recharge Opportunity’s batteries through its solar
For now, Mars’ oldest working rover is
stuck in the middle of the raging storm, in round-the-clock darkness.
“By no means are we out of the woods
here,” said John Callas, the Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This storm is threatening,
and we don’t know how long it will last, and we don’t know what the
environment will be like once it clears.”
Flight controllers tried late Tuesday
night to contact Opportunity, but the rover did not respond. The storm has
been growing since the end of May with unprecedented speed.
NASA launched the twin rovers
Opportunity and Spirit in 2003 to study Martian rocks and soil. They landed
in 2004. Spirit hasn’t worked for several years. Opportunity, however, has
kept exploring well past its expected mission lifetime.
Scientists aren’t nearly as concerned
about the newer, nuclear-powered Curiosity rover on the other side of Mars,
which is already seeing darkening skies.
Dust storms crop up every so often at
Mars, sending dust tens of miles into the atmosphere and turning day into
night. Spacecraft orbiting Mars are too high to be affected.
There’s no chance of Opportunity being
buried or getting a wheel stuck in dust. Even in the worst of storms, only a
layer of fine dust is left behind. Managers said the main concern is that
dust could temporarily cover its optical instruments.
The rover’s batteries are likely so low
that only a clock is still working, to wake the spacecraft for periodic
power-level checks, according to officials. If the clock also goes offline,
then the rover won’t know what time it is when it comes back on and could
send back signals at any time.
This isn’t Opportunity’s first major
brush with dust.
In 2007, a massive dust storm kept
Opportunity silent for a few days. It jumped back into action after
awakening from its deep self-protecting slumber.
This time, the rover’s energy level is
believed to be much lower. On the plus side, Martian summertime is
approaching and that should keep temperatures up at night and prevent the
batteries and other parts from freezing. Besides electrical heaters,
Opportunity is equipped with eight tiny plutonium-powered heaters.
Scientists are eager to learn as much
as they can about the dust storm to hone their weather forecasting skills.
Astronauts living on Mars, for instance, wouldn’t want to get caught outside
in a fierce dust storm, where winds can reach 70 mph (113 kilometers per
hour) - almost hurricane force. The Martian atmosphere is so thin that while
the wind can lift dust off the surface, it doesn’t topple a spacecraft.
Opportunity was in remarkably good
health going into the storm, Callas said, with only an arthritic joint in
its robotic arm.
“Keep in mind, we’re talking about a
rover that’s been working at Mars, hanging in there, for 15 years and
designed just for 90 days,” said Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars
exploration program. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”