Asteroid pulling to lunar orbit
Researchers from the Keck Institute for Space Studies say that NASA is considering plans to send a robotic spacecraft to a small seven-meter asteroid, catch it in a bag, and pull it into orbit around the moon. Asteroids could one day be mined for minerals, or for rocket fuels for other space missions. Such a project would make a manned mission to the asteroid much safer and easier, especially if NASA follows through with the previous idea of putting a manned space station at Lagrange point 2 on the other side of the moon. The spacecraft would be launched on an Atlas V rocket, but once in space, it would be slow-moving, and propelled by solar-heated ions. The $2.6 billion mission would fly for six to ten years, and could be completed by 2030.
Spiked space rovers
Researchers from Stanford, collaborating with MIT and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have proposed a mission to the Martian moon of Phobos, where an orbiter would deploy several spiked ball-like rovers to the moon’s surface. With gravity roughly a thousand times weaker than Mars, Phobos is unsuitable for wheeled rovers like Curiosity that rely on friction for movement. The rolling rovers, called “Hedgehogs”, would contain three spinning flywheels, one for each axis, capable of precise movement in the Phobos microgravity, and spikes for rolling across rough terrain. Man, I hope there are aliens, because nothing says, “We come in peace” like “Here, catch this huge spikey ball we threw at you with our rockets.”
Dandelion-inspired anti-mine device
The Afghan countryside is still littered with anti-personnel mines, mostly from the Soviet invasion of the 80’s. Now, Afghan inventor Massoud Hassani has created the “mine kafon”, a wind-driven device that triggers mines and tracks where it’s safe to walk. The device has a central metal ball with one hundred and fifty legs, each with a round plastic shoe, and it looks strikingly like a dandelion puff ball. When the ball rolls over a mine, the mine blows off the shoe, which can be replaced. The steel ball at the center of the giant dandelion puff contains a GPS tracker for plotting where it is safe to walk. Ironic, because every spring, I kill dandelions using land mines, but only if they’re in my neighbor’s yard. We don’t get along.
Robots sterilize hospital rooms
One major concern at hospitals is breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now, Johns Hopkins Hospital is testing a new method to prevent superbugs using a pair of robots -- one to spray the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide into the air to apply a thin layer over the entire room, and another vaporizer to then break down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. The robots can sanitize a hospital room in about an hour and a half. The process has proven effective against bacteria like Staphylococcus and MRSA, and is being used in rooms that are at high risk of containing drug-resistant bacteria. Testing is planned for future use in decontaminating unused but possibly exposed hospital equipment.
Graves with QR codes
Historypoints.org has installed QR codes in a cemetery in Bodelwyddan, Wales, which contains the graves of over 80 Canadian soldiers from World War I. The codes, which can be scanned by smart phones, point visitors to an historical account of the Canadian presence at nearby Kinmel Park camp. Most of the soldiers in the graves are believed to have died in the flu pandemic of the winter of 1918 to 1919, though some are believed to have died in riots that March. I think grave QR codes are great, especially to remember my Uncle Carl, known to his friends as “Error 404 Page Not Found”. He was a web developer; he made a lot of mistakes.
Printable record albums
Amanda Ghassaei, assistant tech editor from Instructables.com, has developed a way to use a 3D printer to print out playable record albums from mp3 files. Audio data from the mp3 files is converted into the geometry of a 12-inch record and exported into a file format which is used by a resin printer to create the record. The process could use some refinement, as the resulting music is not quite pristine, but it is recognizable. Wait, you can print anything, and you make a record that’s round? Have fun with it -- make it a triangle -- that plays the Dark Side of the Moon. Mind: blown. With dark forebodings too.