In this week’s ScienceSaturday, reduce, reuse, and recycle an entire rocket; see Mercury as it’s never been seen before; witness the launch of China’s first ever space laboratory; and uncover an entire fleet of 2,500 year old chariots in China. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: AlphaDog robot!
SpaceX Unveils Plans for World’s First Fully Reusable Rocket
Private space company SpaceX has unveiled their plans to build the first ever fully reusable rocket, a move that would significantly cut down on launch costs and help pave the way for sending humans to the moon, Mars, and beyond. We’re talking fully reusalbe. The first stage rocket, second stage, and even the manned capsule. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press conference this Thursday that the “exploration and colonization of other worlds” will be made more feasable with the new rocket design.
New Observations of Mercury Reveal Unprecidented Detail
After only half a year in orbit around Mercury, the NASA MESSENGER spacecraft has sent back data that has completely changed what we know about the innermost planet. New observations, including imagery of one lava flow that would cover much of the continental US, suggests that flood volcanism has been widespread on Mercury in the planet’s past. MESSENGER has also sent back high resolution images of Mercury’s “hollows”, the first direct measurements of the planets chemical makeup, and the first global inventory of Mercury’s plasma ions.
“These revelations emphasize that Mercury is a fascinating world that is unmatched in the solar system,” says David Blewett, a staff scientist working with MESSENGER data. “We have barely begun to understand what Mercury is really like and are eager to discover what Mercury can tell us about the processes that led to formation of the planets as we see them today.”
A 3.5 billion year old lava flow, which would cover nearly 60% of the continental US
A crater floor partially covered in “hollows”
China Launches 1st Module of Chinese Space Station
A rocket carrying the first piece of China’s first space laboratory, Tiangong-1, launched from the Gobi desert this week. Tiangong means “heavenly place” in Chinese. The module is unmanned for now, but astronauts (aka yuhangyuans) should visit within the next year. In a few weeks, China will launch Shenzhou 8, the second link to the space lab. The rendezvous and docking of the two modules is essential for future construction of the lab. China has promised to finish the station by the end of the decade.
Ancient Chariot Fleet, Complete with Horses, Unearthed in China
An extremely well preserved fleet on 2,500 year old chariots complete with horses were discovered in the city of Luoyan in central China. A total of 5 chariots and 12 horse skeletons were found in a tomb pit, which archaeologists believe was dug as part of the funeral rites of a minister or nobleman during the Eastern Zhou dynasty. Horse-drawn chariots were important vehicles of war during this period and were driven by aristocrats and commoners alike.
2,500 year old chariots and horses unearthed in China
Gadget of the Week: AlphaDog is the Robot We Should Be Sending to Explore Mars
You may remember the amazing BigDog robot, which trots around on all fours and is tough to tip over. Well, it’s gotten an upgrade. Now called the AlphaDog, this robot can haul up to 400 lbs for 20 miles! And, it’s motor skills are skill extremely impressive. Not only can this thing walk, trot, and run on all kinds of rough terrain, it can even flip itself back onto its feet if it falls over. Watch both videos below for some amazing demos.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- Space telescopes reveal secrets of a turbulent black hole
- Heavy metal stars produce Earth-like planets
- Scientists discover a ‘master key’ to unlock new treatments for autoimmune disorders