This week, witness the Navy’s newest laser weapon, visit the retiring space shuttles (and the Enterprise), prep for spacecraft Juno’s upcoming launch, and hear the first ever Earth-Space flute duet in honor of Yuri Gagarin, first man in space. All this and more plus your gadget of the week: NAVI (Navigational Aid for the Visually Impaired).
Navy Demos Powerful New Laser Weapon
Yes, you read that right. The US Navy has developed and is now testing a powerful new weaponized laser designed to blast enemy ships. In a test earlier this month, a futuristic laser mounted onto the deck of the Navy’s self defense test ship shot a small boat, causing it to catch fire. Some details of the event were classified, including the exact range of the shot, but Rear Adm. Nevin Carr told FoxNews.com, “We’re talking miles, not yards.” The Navy and Army are currently working to incorporate so called directed energy weapons into their standard arsenal. See the demo video below:
NASA Announces New Homes for Retiring Space Shuttles, Enterprise
NASA has announced where the four remaining space shuttles — three orbiters and one test vehicle, The Enterprise — will be stored upon retirement. The space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; the Endeavor, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; the Discovery, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and the test shuttle, Enterprise, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. A sort of bidding war had been going on between 20 different sites, all seeking to house a space shuttle as a tourist draw. Only two shuttle flights remain: Endeavor on April 29 and Atlantis on June 28. After 30 years of launching satellites, building a space station, and launching and repairing an orbiting telescope, the shuttles become museum pieces.
Now you, too, can visit the Enterprise in New York
NASA’s Jupiter-bound Spacecraft Arrives in Florida
Juno, the soon-to-be Jupiter orbiter, set to launch this August, has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for launch. The solar powered craft is designed to orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to study the gas giant’s origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Juno, conceived in 2003, is set to launch sometime between Aug. 5th, 2011 through Aug. 26th, 2011 and would arrive at Jupiter in July 2016 after a five year cruise.
Big box housing Juno unloaded in Fla.
Juno Mission Simulation
In other up-and-coming spacecraft news: parts of NASA’s James Webb Telescope, the next generation space telescope, began cryogenic testing.
First Ever Earth-Space Flute Duet
To honor the historic first human spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin, ISS astronaut performed the first ever Earth-Space flute duet. Coleman, an amateur flutist, and Anderson played a portion of the song “Bourree,” an arrangement of which Anderson and Jethro Tull performed during their 1969 U.S. tour as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon. Coleman played her part from 220 miles above Earth late last week. Anderson played his part while on tour in Perm, Russia, during the weekend. The two parts were then joined.
Video of the Week: Possibly the most beautiful thing you’ll ever watch
The following video was created by Terje Sorgjerd at El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain (3715m). According to Sorgjerd, Teide is one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars. It’s also the location of Teide Observatories, one of the world’s best observatories. Watch and be in awe:
This is Funny, You Should Watch it of the Week: 31 Jokes for NERDS!
Hank of the vlogbrothers brings you 31 rapid-fire jokes for nerds. Why 31? Hank explains, “I chose 31 because I knew I wasn’t going to hit 50 and I wanted to do a prime number.”
Gadget of the Week: NAVI Navigational Aid for the Visually Impaired
NAVI, short for Navigational Aid for the Visually Impaired, is a student project to design and build a system that will augment the visually impaired person’s impression of a room. The device uses a Microsoft Kinect camera, a vibrotactile waist belt, a blutooth headset, and a specially designed lap-top carrying backpack to run special software. See the thing in action below.
This day in Science history
Replacing my previous #FollowFriday section, which is no longer timely after our permanent move to Science Saturday, is a list of fun facts for you about the famous scientists and science events linked with this day in history. On April 16th, these things happened:
- Born today:
- In 1976, deep-space probe Helios B made what was then the closest controlled approach to the sun at 27 million miles (43 million km, or 0.3 AU).
- In 1943, the hallucinogenic effects of LSD were first observed accidentally by Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- Hitchhiking into space on Russian Soyuz gets pricier
- Quantum leap: scientists teleport bits of light
- Researchers unlock key to keeping beer fresh longer