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Saturday, December 2, 2006

Blood protein to split water

Teruyuki Komatsu et al combined serum albumin and a zinc complex to create a photoactive (in the visible part of the spectrum) complex that can reduce water. This may be a safer, less energy intensive way to collect Hydrogen (and potentially Oxygen) from waste water.

[Abstract (free)| HTML Article (ACS or Institution account required)]

- posted by Jim @ 11:09 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

40% Efficient Solar Cells

Boeing-Spectrolab have designed a new solar cell that is 40.7% efficient. The new design is a multi-junction solar cell that works by using more of the solar spectrum than traditional solar cells. This change allows the same amount of electricity to be produced by smaller cells, or more power to be produced from the same sized cells, which can reduce the weight of the cargo and/or ship to Mars.


- posted by Jim @ 15:24 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Liquid Water

A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region.
A new gully deposit in a crater in the Centauri Montes Region.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Similar to the report in March 2003, NASA claims that there is liquid water on the surface of Mars. While not flowing rivers and oceans, it seems that little "waterfalls" can occur. They have come to this conclution based on changes in pictures from 1999 and 2001 to pictures taken this and last year. New deposits and craters have appeared in this time span. "The shapes of these deposits are what you would expect to see if the material were carried by flowing water," said Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "They have finger-like branches at the downhill end and easily diverted around small obstacles." Malin is principal investigator for the Mars Orbiter Camera and lead author of a report about the findings published in the journal Science. While the atmosphere isn't dense enough to have liquid water on the surface for long, it could remain liquid long enough to create these short flows. "These fresh deposits suggest that at some places and times on present-day Mars, liquid water is emerging from beneath the ground and briefly flowing down the slopes. This possibility raises questions about how the water would stay melted below ground, how widespread it might be, and whether there's a below-ground wet habitat conducive to life. Future missions may provide the answers," said Malin. The deposits could be ice in the surface or ice dams bursting and letting water flow. The article notes that had it been dry dust, the deposits would be dark, not light, based on experience with the rovers and meteors. This is exciting news and might provide enough public interest to get there to explore this more.

This was mentioned by scienceguy yesterday on the forum

UPDATE 9-Dec-6: Here is the Science link

(More info: NASA)

- posted by Jim @ 12:59 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

STS-116 Launch

Launch of STS-116.
Launch of STS-116.
Credit: NY Times
Discovery launched at 8:47 p.m. EST 8-Dec-6, carrying 7 crew aboard. They plan to dock with the ISS around 5 a.m. Monday. The crew will add new truss and rewire some of the station. The crew includes: Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot William Oefelein ,Mission Specialist Robert Curbeam, Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham, Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick, Mission Specialist Christer Fuglesang, Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, and Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter (ESA).

For more info on the mission and crew bios, see the NASA page.

- posted by Jim @ 8:43 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Drinking Water on Mars

Slate Magazine has an article reporting that the water recently found on Mars isn't drinkable. To quickly summarize: the water is probably too acidic and more than likely too salty to drink. The article also notes that since we don't know the fine composition of the surface, heavy metals could contaminate the water. While this problem can be remedied by filtration and distillation, the article shows that the public still has interest in Mars. That interest just needs to be fostered. The story was also reported in the AP (from PPG).

- posted by Jim @ 13:28 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Submitting Articles

Due to recent problems, I have put back the old article submitter, now found here. This version is tried and true, so feel free to send me articles!

- posted by Jim @ 9:52 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Older and Wiser

As a 3rd birthday present to the rovers, NASA is upgrading their software. This upgrade makes the rovers smarter and more capable. For instance, one of the upgrades looks for dust devils by analyzing changes in images taken few seconds apart. This saves the ground scientists from countless hours of looking at pictures to find them. Another upgrade, "visual target tracking," allows the rovers to follow a specific feature as it rovers. Khaled Ali of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., flight software team leader for Spirit and Opportunity, said, "The rover keeps updating its template of what the feature looks like. It may be a rock that looks bigger as the rover approaches it, or maybe the shape looks different from a different angle, but the rover still knows it's the same rock." The last feature allows the rovers to figure out where it can reach its arm. The last two upgrades gives the rovers more autonomy. "Before this, the rovers could only think one step ahead about getting around an obstacle," said JPL's Dr. John Callas, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers. "If they encountered an obstacle or hazard, they'd back off one step and try a different direction, and if that direction didn't work they'd try another, then another. And sometimes the rover could not find a solution. With this new capability, the rover will be smarter about navigating in complex terrain, thinking several steps ahead. It could back out of a dead-end cul-de-sac. It could even find its way through a maze." The software was written by Carnegie-Mellon University and JPL.

(More info: RedOrbit)

- posted by Jim @ 13:50 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, December 31, 2006

I dream of Mars

Nathan has submitted to us an article about why we should dream and his personal allegory. This is a great read to start the new year with!

Merry (belated) Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all!

- posted by Jim @ 15:04 EST

(permanent link)

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