Space Agency

NASA Finds AI-Powered Drones May Be Safer Than Human-Flown Ones

International Business Times

Drones controlled by humans may soon give in to ones flown completely using artificial intelligence, a new experiment by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has demonstrated. In the demonstration, NASA researchers pitted a human-controlled drone against one controlled by AI. The findings were published on NASA's website and a video of the race was uploaded on its YouTube website Tuesday. "We pitted our algorithms against a human, who flies a lot more by feel. You can actually see that the A.I. flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier," Rob Reid, the project's task manager, said in a press release.

Blow for Mars life as NASA says 'water streaks' are SAND

Daily Mail

They were hailed as evidence of water on the red planet, but strange'streaks' on the red planet's surface could actually be sand, a NASA study has found. The find was originally hailed as a'major scientific discovery' in 2011 as results seemed to confirm that'dark fingers' spotted in Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) images were likely made by liquid moving across, or beneath, the planet's surface. However, now NASA believes they could be'granular flows', where grains of sand and dust slip downhill to make dark streaks, rather than the ground being darkened by seeping water. This inner slope of a Martian crater has several of the seasonal dark streaks called'recurrent slope lineae,' or RSL, that a November 2017 report interprets as granular flows, rather than darkening due to flowing water. The image is from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Satellite on the fritz? Aerospace companies are building a geek squad of space robots

Los Angeles Times

Hundreds of millions of dollars can go into the school bus-sized satellites that blast into orbit above Earth and provide services including broadband internet, broadcasting or military surveillance. But if a part breaks or a satellite runs out of fuel, there's no way to send help. Commercial industry and government agencies believe they're getting to close having an answer: robot repairs. The idea is to extend the lives of satellites through on-orbit satellite servicing, in which robotic spacecraft essentially act as the AAA roadside service trucks of space, traveling from satellite to satellite to refuel them and fix problems. On a spring day earlier this year in Greenbelt, Md., 30 companies gathered at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to learn about the technology and view hardware for on-orbit satellite servicing.

Women in AI


Way back in 1992, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin described the organization as "pale, male and stale", a derisive commentary on the lack of race, gender and age/tenure diversity within the United States' premier science agency. Fast forward to 2018 and most tech industries still suffer from at least two of these symptoms. In fact, the problem may even be worsening over time. The number of women going into computer science--an obvious key ingredient in AI and ML--has decreased by half since 1985 reported Jaxenter earlier this year, and this survey found that the presence of females in top AI/ML positions is a mere 18%.

The 'R2D2' bot set to mine the moon to win $20M X-Prize

Daily Mail

At first glance, it looks like R2D2 haas finally been blasted in space. But in fact, the MX-1E from Moon Express could revolutionise space exploration - and pave the way to mine the moon. The privately owned, Cape Canaveral based Moon Express hopes to take America back to the moon 45 years after NASA's last lunar landing, and this week the rocket that could take it there began its final testing. The initial spacecraft, known as MX-1E,is a similar size and shape to the R2D2 droid from Star Wars, and is slated to fly before next year aboard a Rocket Lab Electron booster, which launches from New Zealand. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon, mining material and returning it to Earth to sell.

Listen To Whistler Waves NASA Recorded From Space

International Business Times

Researches have made a breakthrough discovery about the impulsive electron loss that happens in the Earth's upper atmosphere. A paper on the research was published in the Geophysical Review Letters on Wednesday and details the scientific discoveries two spacecraft made about the loss and its cause, according to NASA. The Cubesat FIREBIRD II was one of those craft that recorded the electron microburst when it happened. The craft observed the microbursts from its place orbiting 310 miles above Earth while one of the Van Allen Probes that orbits a bit higher up was able to capture a rising-tone lower band chorus. That chorus of waves had the duration and cadence highly similar to those of the microburst that the FIREBIRD had captured.

'Flawless' Orbital launch sends spacecraft to ISS on supply, trash-retrieval mission

Japan Times >> News

WASHINGTON – An unmanned cargo ship packed with 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of food and supplies for the astronauts living at the International Space Station blasted off Sunday from Wallops Island, Virginia. Orbital ATK's barrel-shaped Cygnus cargo ship launched atop an Antares rocket at 7:19 a.m. "Five, four, three, two, one and we have ignition," said Orbital ATK's mission control operator, as the rocket's engines lit up the chilly, gray morning and cheers erupted from spectators near the launch site. The spacecraft reached orbit about nine minutes later. NASA commentator Rob Navias described the launch as "flawless."

NASA Is Working On Making Drones A Part Of Every City

International Business Times

When you think of NASA you probably think of the missions to the moon or the International Space Station but the agency has plans to start conducting some work closer to the Earth's surface soon. The agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is working on research and implementation of Urban Air Mobility or UAM for the coming years. NASA defines UAM as "a safe and efficient system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area," said a release from NASA. These include small package delivery, like drone or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) deliveries, and other services that could be controlled from onboard, on the ground or could potentially be autonomous. NASA is helping companies looking to add urban air mobility to cities. Photo: NASA Not only is NASA working on developing these technologies as it has for the past six or so years, but it's also working to create more successful management of those technologies.

The Farms of the Future Will Be Automated From Seed to Harvest


Swarms of drones buzz overhead, while robotic vehicles crawl across the landscape. Orbiting satellites snap high-resolution images of the scene far below. Not one human being can be seen in the pre-dawn glow spreading across the land. This isn't some post-apocalyptic vision of the future à la The Terminator. This is a snapshot of the farm of the future.

NASA's future Mars robot will take the fastest pictures yet of the red planet

Popular Science

Currently, to plan out a day's worth of work on Curiosity, it takes scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) about eight hours to first process information gathered by the rover the day before, plan out the next day's tasks, engineer those projects, bundle them up in digital instructions, and send more instructions back to Mars. Engineers spend about a half hour to an hour alone processing the images that Curiosity sends back, stitching together wide angle photos, or lining up stereo images that let humans--or rovers--deduce information about depth from two-dimensional pictures. "For things like driving or operating the arm, we take a picture with the left camera and a picture with the right camera" Justin Maki, the imaging scientist for Mars 2020, says. "Then we match up pixels between the two images to create a 3D image of the terrain. Because we have these wider field of view lenses, we end up with better quality stereo terrain maps."