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space agency

Swarms May Offer Next Level Artificial Intelligence


Swarms of drones have gotten a lot of time in the spotlight lately, mostly for their use in potential military operations. The U.S. military is testing out swarm operations in simulations, while the British Army is using live drones operating in swarms during actual training operations. Other militaries are also interested in deploying swarms. One of the biggest advantages a swarm of drones has when performing military operations is its resiliency. If a swarm enters combat and several individual drones get shot down or otherwise incapacitated, it really doesn't reduce the combat effectiveness of the swarm, nor the tactics that it uses.

The Morning After: NASA gets its first sample of Mars


Singapore is well known for its tough laws (and penalties for flouting them). Now it has a new ally in the fight against chewing gum, littering and bigger misdemeanors. The country has started testing a robot named Xavier. Over the next three weeks, Xavier robots will monitor the crowds of Singapore's Toa Payoh Central to look for what the nation's authorities describe as "undesirable social behaviors" -- including any group of people. The country's current COVID-19 safety measure forbids congregations of more than five people. To gauge the crowds, Xavier models have cameras that create 360-degree views.

Marchand: No need to send humans on pricey space trips

Boston Herald

It looks like mankind won't be going back to the moon … on schedule, at least. According to a recent report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's inspector general, astronaut suits have been delayed by two years due to an array of technical, funding and COVID-related challenges. But, the unavoidable conclusion, "a lunar landing in late 2024 as NASA currently plans is not feasible," is hardly surprising given NASA's string of failures in trying to take humanity back to the lunar surface. The failures also speak to a larger strategic mistake that places inordinate importance on planting flags on alien worlds despite the practical and scientific disadvantages of that approach. Humanity can venture to infinity and beyond while avoiding the black hole of wasteful spending.

Second Try's a Charm: NASA's Perseverance Drills a Mars Rock


As the Perseverance rover drilled into a rock on Wednesday to collect a sample from Jezero Crater on Mars, Justin Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, felt both nervous and excited. He has the honor of serving as the "sample shepherd," leading the effort from millions of miles away, but the pressure's on. "These samples not only will allow us to understand the geology of the crater, but also minerals likely related to the history of water there," he said yesterday. But first, the rover had to actually capture a chunk of rock in a test tube-sized container. An initial attempt in early August had come up empty.

Nasa to drill into Mars again in search of life – after Perseverance rover's first rock sample strangely disappeared

The Independent - Tech

Nasa's Perseverance rover has drilled into its second rock with a view to collecting samples, after the first one strangely went missing. The space agency has chosen the rock "Rochette", located on a ridge called "Citadelle" near the Jezero Crater on the Red Planet, for examination. A drilling tool on the rover's two metre-long robotic arm will sink into the rock and transfer material into a capture tube that is only slightly thicker than a pencil. The Citadelle ridge is capped with a layer of rock that seems to be resistant to wind erosion, which means it's likely the rock will endure the pressure of drilling. This is a vital quality as Nasa's previous attempt to retrieve a sample resulted in an empty tube.

Artificial intelligence just located new craters on Mars in 5 seconds


One way researchers discover "new" craters on Mars is to analyze images taken from NASA satellites that are pointed at the surface of the Red Planet. Researchers will look at a collection of images spanning over various time frames, then compare images of the surface to each other. If a new crater appears between an image taken on A date and an image taken B date, then researchers can estimate that an impact must have occurred sometime between the dates of the images taken. To analyze one image, a researcher will spend about 40 minutes. As humans tend to do, we have offloaded the process to technology that can complete the task much more efficiently, freeing up time for researchers to work on other tasks.

NASA taps Kyoto startup to make maps of the wind for drones

The Japan Times

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is turning to a Japanese startup for help in creating maps of the wind that will make it safer for drones and air taxis to take to the skies around the world. MetroWeather Co. makes compact, low-cost lidar sensors that can be used to detect hazards like wind shear, allowing unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in urban environments, Chief Executive Officer Junichi Furumoto said in an interview. The Kyoto-based company will work with TruWeather Solutions Inc. in the U.S. as part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research grant program. Autonomous drones and flying cars, long a science fiction staple, are slowly edging toward reality. The four-rotor machines known as quadcopters are already being used for photography, inspections and mapping.

Robots are making progress on space exploration, along with billionaires


High profile trips by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have more people thinking about the future of space tourism. There's a long way to go before that's common, but one destination for would-be space explorers is Mars. And right now, NASA scientists are working on robots to help explore more of the planet first. Ali Agha, a principal investigator and research technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is testing a fleet of robots, including the Boston Dynamics one known as Spot, by sending them into caves in Northern California. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

NASA's Perseverance is trying again to collect Mars samples after the first rocks crumbled to pieces

Daily Mail - Science & tech

After NASA's Perseverance rover came up empty in its attempt to collect rock samples from Mars earlier this month, it's ready for another go-round. The US space agency said on Thursday that the rover will abrade, or scrape, a rock nicknamed'Rochelle' with a tool on its robotic arm. By scraping the rock, it will let researchers see inside to see if it's worth taking a sample, which would'slightly thicker than a pencil,' NASA wrote in a statement. After NASA's Perseverance rover came up empty in its attempt to collect rock samples from Mars earlier this month, it's ready for another go-round. The US space agency said on Thursday that the rover will abrade, or scrape, a rock nicknamed'Rochelle' (pictured) with a tool on its robotic arm If the team decides the rock is good to go, the sampling process would start next week.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin will launch 11 NASA payloads - despite suing the space agency

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital rocket will be sent to the edge of space with 11 NASA payloads on board, despite the firm suing the US space agency. The mission will be uncrewed, unlike the last flight that saw Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos head to the edge of space with his brother Mark, flight pioneer Wally Funk and teenager Oliver Daemen, who was the first official customer of the firm. It is scheduled to lift off from Blue Origin's West Texas launch site at 14:34 BST (09:35 EDT) On Wednesday, August 25 and will be broadcast live by the space firm. The payload deal with NASA was stuck before Blue Origin launched its latest lawsuit against NASA over not being awarded the lunar lander contract. SpaceX won the $2.9 billion (£2.1 billion) project to put the first woman and next man on the moon, but Blue Origin lodged a complaint which was rejected and has now opted to take legal action in a bid to have NASA award the contract to both firms.