Month: February, 2018

The Evolution of the SpaceX Falcon 9

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SpaceX is on a roll lately with the launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket, but the real workhorse of the SpaceX lineup is the Falcon 9. So let’s look at the development of the Falcon 9 and how it got this way.

SpaceX is the most successful private rocket launch company in the world, and it’s due in large part to the Falcon 9 rocket.

And the journey to the Falcon 9 began with the Falcon 1 in 2006. The first three launches of the Falcon 1 failed, and with only one more shot before the company went bankrupt, they finally got into orbit on the 4th launch.

Plans for a larger Falcon 1e were scrapped, as well as a Falcon 5, so that they could move forward with the Falcon 9 v1.0.

With this first version of the Falcon 9, SpaceX was able to win a contract to service the ISS through NASA’s COTS program by proving that the Dragon capsule was capable of carrying out resupply missions.

SpaceX then focused on reusability and developed the Falcon 9 v1.1, which they used to test landings over open water, at the same time testing vertical take off and landing with their grasshopper vehicle.

But it was the next version, the Falcon 9 Full Thrust, that was the first to land, first on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral, and then on a drone ship.

Incremental improvements lead to the Falcon 9 Block 4 and Block 5 that will launch for the first time this April.

Earlier this year, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy, which is 90% reusable, making spaceflight even more sustainable, but the ultimate reusable rocket is the upcoming BFR, which is completely reusable.

This is the ultimate implementation of the SpaceX vision.

5 Smaller Science YouTubers Worth Following

For this Random Thursday video, I thought I’d share with you some great science YouTube channels that deserve some attention.

Check these guys out!

Curious Elephant – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZUl…

Neoscribe – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvPB…

Undefined Behavior https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ4o…

John Michael Godier https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEsz…

Up and Atom https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSIv…

Shoutout to JTheory https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS-u…

 

Support me on Patreon! http://www.patreon.com/answerswithjoe

The Mars 2020 Rover (collab with Fraser Cain)

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The Mars Curiosity Rover is one of the most successful planetary missions of all time. Here’s how NASA plans to follow that up – the Mars 2020 Rover

 

Science Objective A: Explore once potentially-habitable areas

Science Objective B: Seek bio signatures

Science Objective C: Sample Caching

Science Objective D: Demonstrate in-situ resource utilization.

And here are the instruments that will make that possible. It contains 2 cameras on the probe’s mast, one called Mastcam-Z, which is the main “eye” for the rover.

It can take 360 degree panoramic 3D views with an advanced zoom that can see something the size of a housefly from the distance of a soccer field. And the second camera is called SuperCam.

This can actually do a spectrographic analysis of a rock’s chemical makeup from over 20 feet away by burning a hole in the rock as small as the point of a pencil.

This was developed in conjunction with a team from France. PIXL, or Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry will examine rock and soil samples for signs of ancient microbial life and can take extremely close up images of soil samples down to the size of a grain of salt. MEDA, the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer is a contribution from a team in Spain, it’s a tiny weather lab that measures wind speed, temperature and humidity and also gathers data about dust particles in the Martian atmosphere.

RIMFAX, the Radar Imager for Mars Subsurface Experiment from Norway is basically like a sonogram that see tens of meters below the ground and detect elements down to the centimeter. This will help find underground water and ice on Mars. The aptly named SHERLOC, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals is a big sciency way of saying it looks for signs of ancient life with UV light, much like forensic investigators at crime scenes.

Hence, Sherlock. But SHERLOC will carry a couple of interesting things with it, one is a Mars meteorite for calibration purposes.

There’s a handful of meteorites found here on Earth that we know were once a part of Mars that were blasted away in an asteroid impact, then travelled through the solar system and eventually landed on Earth.

SHERLOC is going to carry a piece of one of those meteorites to use to calibrate its laser on the Martian surface, which means this will be the first time a piece of martian rock will be returned to Mars. The other thing is it will be carrying samples of materials that may be used to make Martian spacesuits, to see how well they fare in the Martian environment. And last but definitely not least is MOXIE, the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment.

This is the module that will be testing in situ resource utilization techniques in the hopes of turning the CO2 in the martian atmosphere into oxygen, just like a tree. The rover will also contain a special microphone, giving us the first sound recordings from the surface of Mars.

How To Stop That Annoying Autoplaying Video On Your Browsers

 

Are you sick and tired of opening a new web page and being greeted by a loud, obnoxious advertisement? I sure am.

Pop-up and pop-under ads were bad enough, but now it seems like I can hardly go to a site without having a video start up with a blaring voice braying about a great diet, deal, or the like. We’re looking at you, Facebook.

Enough already!




We can live with ads. We can make a living from websites with ads. Even ad-blocking software, like the great open-source Ad-Block Plus, allow Acceptable Ads that don’t shove their way into my face. But, this new wave of yakety-yak ads is driving us crazy.

Fortunately, Chrome, its relatives, and Firefox enable you to stop the noise. Here’s how you do it.

Google Chrome

The Chrome extension MuteTab gives you control over audio in all your browser tabs. While Chrome includes the built-in ability control the sound from your tabs, it can still be a pain to track down which tab is being noisy.

MuteTab makes it easy to see what tabs are talking and lets you mute all of them or just the tabs in the background. You can also set the extension to mute all tabs, background tabs, or incognito tabs by default.

I like this extension a lot.

Firefox

Firefox makes blocking autoplay audio and video easy.

1) Enter “about:config” into the URL bar.

2) If you get a warning message about “This might void your warranty!” continue on.

3) Now, type “autoplay” into the search box.

4) This will bring up a preference named “media.autoplay.enabled.” Double-click it so that the preference changes to False.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) used to make blocking unwanted audio and video easy. All you had to do was run Tools/Safety from the menubar and switch on ActiveX Filtering.

No fuss, no muss. Unfortunately, almost all autoplay displays are now using HTML5, and IE 11 doesn’t need ActiveX to run them.

That means, if you’re using IE 11 or Edge or Apple Safari, you’re out of luck.

There is one radical method that works. Go to a noisy site, then use IE 11 menu bar, and go into Tools/Internet Options/Security. Once there, move to the Restricted site entry and then press the Sites radio button.

From here, add the website to the Restricted list. The next time you visit it, you’ll find that there’s no longer any autoplay content.

You’ll also be missing some other content, but for most sites, the main images and text will still display.

Ideal? No, but it does work.

Hopefully, web browser developers will get on the same page soon and make it easy to turn off all autoplay audio and video content. The advertisers may love it, but the rest of us hate it.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Video Captures Moment When Kid Is Nearly Hit By Lightning

An Argentine mom filming her 12-year-old son fooling around with an umbrella ended up capturing his brush with death as a lightning bolt struck just feet away.

The video shows the unidentified pre-teen standing under a roof drainpipe, with water pouring out onto the umbrella.

Seconds later, he walks out into a garden in the city of Posadas, in the northeastern Argentine province of Misiones.

Then out of nowhere, a powerful bolt of lightning strikes down just steps in front of the boy — causing a nearby fence to erupt in flames.




The boy’s frightened mom, Carolina Kotur, shrieked and quickly dropped her phone.

It was morning, I was with my daughter in the room calming her, because she is scared of lightning,” Kotur told local media.

Then the lady who works in my house told me that my son was walking in the rain and I started filming because I was making a joke, and right next to him the lightning struck. Thank God nothing happened to him.”

Others in the region were not so fortunate during the fierce storm, Central European News reported.

 

Brothers Sinforiano Venialgo Vazquez, 43, and Simon Venialgo Vazquez, 41, were killed when lightning struck near their home in the Paraguayan town of San Pedro del Parana — 68 miles from where the young boy was nearly hit by the bolt.

The cause of death in both cases was electrocution, though no further details were available, according to the report.

Lightning strikes reportedly killed animals in the Santa Rosa area, on the Argentine side of the Parana River, the outlet reported.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Chinese Military’s Next Generation: Exoskeletons

 

When looking at advances in technology, the hope is it will be used in non-violent or destructive ways; in other words, not for military use.

Unfortunately, thinking along these lines are unrealistic and with the current climate we are living in, the military will gladly accept anything with technology that can protect soldiers from harm, cause ultimate damage on the enemy and protect civilians from any kind of a missile attack.

Recently, an article described such an advance in military technology as China is working right now on a new generation of military exoskeletons.

Reportedly, they are moving closer to having Iron Man-like capabilities.




Writers Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer posted an article that looks at how China is working on advancing their technology when it comes to military exoskeleton’s.

Their latest powered exoskeleton is able to transport roughly one-hundred pounds of supplies, gear and ammunition. This would increase the self-sufficiency and combat capability of the infantry for the Chinese.

What Is an Exoskeleton?

Before moving on, it is important to understand first what an exoskeleton is and why the military would want to develop one.

Known as an exosuit, powered armor, hardsuit, power armor and an exoframe; a powered exoskeleton is a wearable machine that is mobile and powered using a system of hydraulics, electric motors, pneumatic’s, levers or a combo of technologies that enable movement of limbs with added endurance and strength.

Obviously, this would allow a soldier to perform important tasks on a mission that would not have been accomplished without using one.

Norinco Manufacturer’s Second-Generation Exoskeleton

Norinco is a manufacturer that is owned by China that produces heavy ground munitions and armored vehicles. They also have created its second-generation military exoskeleton.

The debut of this new exoskeleton boasts a designed body brace that will assist members of the infantry to carry roughly one-hundred pounds of ammunition, weapons and supplies.

Norinco had previously debuted its first-generation exoskeleton back in 2015 and comparing it to their new one, it has a streamlined harness, the battery is considered better, and a more robust pneumatic and hydraulic actuator.

This new generation is said to be lighter and most likely will lower the strain felt by the wearer of the exoskeleton; this would be more beneficial for soldiers finding themselves in a mountainous terrain.

The Implications for Combat Operations

The push by China to develop powerful exoskeletons will impact almost every area involving combat operations.  Their special operators and infantry would be able to transport heavy equipment over long distances as well as individuals being able to utilize body armor.

That is, if their plans become successful.  Also, the exoskeletons would look like the Americans concepts that include the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit – none of these can yet fly like Iron Man.

While the exoskeletons would not be able to accomplish the amazing feats as seen in Iron Man comics and movies, the more practical uses for soldiers would be to help completing many support tasks, which include repairing ships, loading supplies and getting missiles onto airplanes.

Meanwhile, China’s next generation of military Exoskeletons are one step closer to executing feats that were once considered to be science fiction; son, they will become science fact.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Snaps Image From 3.8 Billion Miles Away From Earth

At first glance it might not look like much – but, with a fuzzy purple and green photo, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made history.

On December 5, New Horizons captured an image said to be the farthest from Earth ever taken, at a staggering 3.79 billion miles away.

And, just hours later, it beat its own record.

According to NASA, the remarkable false-color images sent back by New Horizons are also the closest-ever images captured of objects in the Kuiper Belt.

When New Horizon’s snapped a photo with its telescopic camera for a routine calibration frame of the Wishing Well star cluster, it was farther into space than even NASA’s Voyager 1 had been when it captured its famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of Earth, the space agency says.

At the time, New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth.


Voyager, by comparison, was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) from Earth when it captured its famous photo in 1990.

According to NASA, New Horizons is now the fifth spacecraft to fly beyond the outer planets of our solar system.

Hours after its first record-breaking image on Dec 5, it captured another. The latter shows a look at Kuiper Belt objects HZ84 and 2012 HE85.

The images were captured using the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). And, NASA says they’re the closest images yet of objects in this region.

New Horizons has long been a mission of firsts – first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“And now, we’ve been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history.”

New Horizons is now on its way to a KBO named 2014 MU69, with which it’s expected to make a close encounter on Jan 1, 2019.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Breakthrough As Human Eggs Developed In The Lab For First Time

Women at risk of premature fertility loss might have cause for new hope as researchers reveal that human eggs can be developed in the lab from their earliest stages to maturity.

While the feat has previously been achieved for mouse eggs, and has given rise to live young after fertilization, the process has proved tricky in humans.

Experts say the latest development could not only aid the understanding of how human eggs develop, but open the door to a new approach to fertility preservation for women at risk of premature fertility loss – such as those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The research could be particularly relevant for girls who have not gone through puberty. Currently, to preserve their fertility ovarian tissue is taken before treatment and frozen for later implantation.




[For young girls] that is the only option they have to preserve their fertility, said Prof Evelyn Telfer, co-author of the research from the University of Edinburgh.

But the approach has drawbacks. In the case of re-implanted tissue, “the big worry, and the big risk, is can you put cancer cells back,” said Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, who was not involved in the study.

The new research offers a way for eggs to be extracted, grown and used, without the need to re-implant the tissue.

When you have got the eggs, of course you would have no contaminating cells – hopefully it would be an embryo that you would be implanting back in,” said Telfer.

But, she warned, it would be several years before the technique could be used in clinics, with further tests needed to make sure the mature eggs are normal and the process safe.

Writing in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, researchers from Edinburgh and New York describe how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity.

Of the 48 eggs that reached the penultimate step of the process, nine reached full maturity.

Although various teams have achieved different stages of the process before, the new work is the first time researchers have taken the same human eggs all the way from their earliest stages to the point at which they would be released from the ovaries.

Before reaching this level of maturity, eggs cannot be fertilised.

Lavery added the new technique could also prove useful for women who have passed through puberty. While these women can have mature eggs collected before treatment, that approach also has problems.

Telfer adds that the new approach could also be useful for women whose eggs fail to fully develop in the body and, more fundamentally, will help boost our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the development of human eggs.

However, it will be many years before the research leads to new fertility preservation treatments.

Among other issues, the authors note that the eggs developed faster than they would in the body, while a small cell known as a polar body – ejected in the final stages of the egg’s development when the number of chromosomes is halved – was unusually large, which might suggest abnormal development.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, was also cautious, noting it was possible that not all of the eggs were at the earliest stage of development to start with.

Telfer admits far more research is necessary, and hopes to get regulatory approval for future research.

The next step would be to try and fertilise these eggs and then to test the embryos that were produced, and then to go back and improve each of the steps.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist