KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The Discovery astronauts bid their station counterparts farewell early Saturday, sharing a final round of hugs and handshakes before moving back aboard the shuttle and undocking from the lab complex. Separation occurred at 8:52 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft sailed 220 miles above Papua New Guinea.
"Houston and station, Discovery, physical separation," shuttle commander Alan Poindexter radioed as the docking systems disengaged.
"Discovery, departing," Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi called out, ringing the ship's bell in the lab's Harmony module.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--President Barack Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center Thursday to sell his new space policy, a radical change of course for NASA that would cancel the Constellation moon program and shift manned launches to private industry while NASA studies options for future deep space exploration.
For the first time, the president laid out a rough timeline for expeditions beyond low-Earth orbit and even the moon, calling for manned missions to nearby asteroids by the mid-2020s, flights to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s, and manned landings shortly after.
The Pentagon is looking for a few good flying machines.
The U.S. Department of Defense, in the form of its DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) division, is calling on the research community to create a flying vehicle that can travel both by land and air, lift off without a runway, carry up to four personnel, and handle itself in the battlefield.
With land vehicles vulnerable to ambushes, attacks, and explosives, the objective of the program known as Transformer is to provide soldiers with a vehicle that can travel freely in the air to avoid problems on the ground. Such a vehicle would be used in combat for raids, reconnaissance, insurgency/counterinsurgency, and other types of missions. It would also be deployed to evacuate the wounded and deliver supplies, according to DARPA's solicitation.
Additionally, DARPA is looking for something with VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing), meaning it can lift off like a helicopter requiring no runaway, and reach altitudes as high as 10,000 feet. But to traverse rough road conditions when on the ground, the agency wants the vehicle to handle like an SUV with at least four wheels for stability and heavy-duty suspension. And like the rest of us, it wants a car that's fuel-efficient--able to run for 250 miles on a single tank of gas.… Read more
Robonaut 2, the humanoid working robot that's been under development with NASA and General Motors, is finally ready to show its stuff in outer space, GM announced Wednesday.
The Robonaut 2, aka R2, will take up residence at the International Space Station, with a voyage to its new home planned for this September as part of the STS-133 mission on the space shuttle Discovery.
The Canadian Space Agency already has a humanoid robot residing at the International Space Station for spacewalk. Like the R2, it also has two long arms for completing tasks otherwise done by astronauts. Its primary … Read more
Just when you were starting to get the hang of all those crazy multitouch gestures designed for your fingers, a group of researchers at Germany's Hasso Plattner Institute wants to put your other extremities to work. Multitoe (really) takes touch-based computing down a level.
The Multitoe floor identifies users based on their footprint, and a short hop brings up a context menu that lets you engage in various toe-tapping activities. For now, that mostly looks like outlining various geometric shapes with your tippy toes, but once this thing catches on and you're able to load up the Teach … Read more
Sure, it's great when that hot avatar gives you a hug in Second Life, but wouldn't it be even better if you could actually feel the embrace? Researchers from Japan are demonstrating a motorized haptic device that lets you experience real-time virtual hugs by physically reproducing the pressure felt on the chest and back when someone gives you a squeeze.
Getting a hug that moves beyond the basic emoticon requires donning a kind of harness adorned with soft fabric hands that envelop the wearer in a warm faux embrace. But the HaptiHug is only one of the affective garments included in the I_FeelIM ("I feel therefore I am") system, which uses software to extract emotional meaning from written text and pass it on to one of a number of haptic devices that react accordingly.
The speaker-enabled HaptiHeart, for example, emits palpable heartbeat-like patterns to evoke sadness, anger, and fear. The vibrating HaptiButterfly and HaptiTickler, worn around the abdomen, are supposed to create feelings akin to nervous, joyous belly flutters. And the HaptiShiver and HaptiTemper are aimed at boosting fear emotions by, respectively, sending shivers up and down the wearer's spine by way of vibrating motors and producing spine chills via a fan blowing cool air. … Read more
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Houston--Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the International Space Station Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's launch on the first manned space flight, suggesting an international space summit to discuss future cooperative ventures on the high frontier.
"Space is our highest priority, regardless of how hard the economic situation is in the country," Medvedev said in translated remarks. "Space will always remain our priority. This is not just somebody's interpretation, it's our official state position."
"We want to thank you again for today's holiday," station … Read more
Surround sound? That's old technology. How about surround vision?
The folks at the MIT Media Lab have developed a new system called surround vision that can let you follow objects outside of your regular TV screen by viewing them on smartphones and handheld Internet devices. Imagine you're watching a movie on your regular TV, and a car drives off the screen. You could follow and view that car as it drives away by looking at and pointing your smartphone or tablet in its direction.
The person leading this promising new project is Santiago Alfaro, a graduate student at the lab. To kick-start his testing, Alfaro attached a magnetometer to an existing handheld device. A type of digital compass, magnetometers are already used in smartphones like the iPhone to detect the direction the device is pointing. He then created the necessary software to sync the magnetometer with other sensors on the device.
After outfitting the handheld with motion sensors, Alfaro shot video on campus from three different angles--center, left, and right. Watching the TV screen straight on played video from the center. But by pointing the handheld to the left or right, Alfaro was able to view the footage shot from both side angles.
As a further test of the technology, Alfaro took advantage of the alternate takes found on many DVDs. He created a demo that let him switch between the final footage and the alternate takes and angles by changing the direction of the handheld device.… Read more