Welcome to another Science
Friday Saturday! This week, run from a toxic red sludge in Hungary, celebrate the Year of the Solar System, explore the depths of the Earth in a volcano, and do a 450 MPH fly-over of Mars. All this and much more including our gadget of the week: Back to the Future-style auto-tying shoes and a gadget poll with some Star Trek tech!
NASA Planning Mars-Exploring Robotic Plane
In a new spin on Martian exploration, NASA engineers have proposed sending a mission all the way to the Red Planet that would last only two hours once deployed: a rocket-powered, robotic airplane that screams over the martian landscape at over 450 miles per hour. ARES (Aerial Regional-Scale Environmental Surveyor) has been stuck in the planning stages for a while now, and it’s not the first plane to mars thought up by NASA, but it seems to be one that we might actually see happen. Flying at about a mile above the surface, it would sample the environment over a large swath of area and collect measurements over rough, mountainous parts of the Martian landscape that are inaccessible by ground-based rovers and also hard to observe from orbiters. The NASA team already has a half-scale prototype of ARES that has successfully performed deployment drills and wind tunnel tests that prove it will fly through the Martian atmosphere. The team is now preparing the tech for the next NASA Mars mission solicitation and expects to see it tearing through Martian skies by the end of the decade.
ARES: possible future Martian mission
State of Emergency in Hungary After Toxic Sludge Spill
At least 4 people are dead and at least 120 were injured in what is being called the greatest environmental disaster to ever hit Hungary. An aluminum plant near Ajka, about 100 km southwest of Budapest, suffered breakage in a dam that was designed to hold back harmful bi products of the aluminum production process. The red sludge is extremely toxic, and once the dam burst it was sent spilling out into the streets and into residential areas. Many have been displaced from their homes. The torrent is currently heading toward the river Danube, where environmentalists fear it could lead to an even bigger disaster, affecting many more people in other areas.
2010-2012: The Year of the Solar System
An unprecedented amount of exploration is about to begin. Or so says NASA, who announced Thursday that the coming year will be known as the Year of the Solar System (YSS). “During YSS, we’ll see triple the [usual] number of launches, flybys and orbital insertions,” says Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA headquarters. “There hasn’t been anything quite like it in the history of the Space Age.” Naturally, the YSS will take place over a Martian year, which lasts 23 months, instead of an Earth year. The action begins October 20th, when Comet Hartley 2 will be only 11 million miles from Earth (it will be fairly visible to the naked eye). The Year of the Solar System concludes in August 2012 when the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity lands on Mars. Read more about the entire list of YSS events at Science@NASA.
The YSS begins October 20th!
Most Incredible Volcano Footage
“You will never see anyone closer to a volcano than this” reads the description of the YouTube video below. And, it’s right! The footage was taken in Marum Volcano in Ambrym, Vanatu. This is no ordinary volcano, it’s home to a lava lake, a place where the molten lava ascending from the deep earth is directly visible to the surface. Only SIX active lava lakes exist in the world: Mount Erebus, Antarctica; Erta Ale, Ethiopia; Kilauea, Hawaii; Nyiragongo, Congo; Villarrica, Chile; and Ambrym. Check out the video below to see the full power and amazing spectacle that the earth’s interior brings to the surface through volcanoes. For more awesome videos and pictures of lava lakes, check out Environmental Graffiti’s 5 Most Incredible Lava Lakes!
Gadget of the Week: Nike’s Back to the Future-style Auto-tying Shoes
Ever wanted to don a pair of Marty McFly’s auto-tying shoes as seen in Back to the Future II? Well, you may be able to do that soon! Nike has patented a new shoe design with an “automatic lacing system”. If the company has its way, the shoes would be powered by an internal battery pack and, at the touch of a button, would tighten around the feet of the wearer. No word yet on when we can expect these. Don’t want to wait? That’s cool, because the ORIGINAL shoes from Back to the Future II, as worn by Marty himself, are going on sale. They’re expected to sell at auction for between $12,000 and $15,000.
Get yourself some auto-tying shoes!
UK Film Fans name Star Trek transporter as top gadget
Speaking of Back to the Future gadgets, Universal Pictures UK have just done a special 25th anniversary re-released the classic time-travel movie Back to the Future, and as part of the promotion they conducted a survey of film fans asking to name their favorite movie gadget. However, it wasn’t a gadget from BTTF that came out on top, but instead a piece of Star Trek tech was the most desired gadget. Here is the full list:
- Transporter – Star Trek
- The DeLorean – Back To The Future
- KITT – Knight Rider 2000
- Handbag – Mary Poppins
- Invisible Aston Martin – Die Another Day
- The Neuralizer – Men In Black
- Hoverboard – Back To The Future Parts II & III
- Lotus Esprit Submersible – The Spy Who Loved Me
- Universal Remote – Click
- Jetpack – Thunderball
Brits want to beam up
If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists, techies, and trekkies to follow on Twitter. This week…
- @NASAKennedy: Official PAO Tweets from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
- @NASA_Hubble: Your official Twitter source about all things relating to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
- @NASAhistory: All things history from your friends at NASA http://history.nasa.gov
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
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