Lovable Japanese Camera Drone Joins ISS Crew

first_img Review: ‘Daemon X Machina’ Has Big Robots, Small Fun on Nintendo SwitchThis Robot Is Equal Parts Lawnmower and Snow Blower Meet Int-Ball, the newest, and most adorable, member of the International Space Station.The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday published early photos and videos captured by the JEM International Ball Camera (or Int-Ball, as it is affectionately known).The 3D-printed drone—first of its galactic kind—navigates autonomously in zero gravity, and records still and moving images under remote control by folks at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center.Delivered to the ISS last month by the US Dragon spacecraft, Int-Ball’s recordings are monitored in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, then fed back to the onboard crew.The flying camera is currently undergoing “initial verification,” according to the agency.Int-Ball, equipped with miniaturized attitude control sensors and actuators in an all-in-one module, is more than an interstellar pet: It (He? She?) is on a mission.First and foremost, the soaring sphere must be able to move anywhere, at any time, via autonomous flight, and record images from any angle. (Judging by JAXA’s video (above), Int-Ball seems to have that down pat.)Int-Ball (top center) with astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer (via JAXA/NASA)Still in its infancy, the drone will eventually take over on-board photography duties, freeing up about 10 percent of the crew’s time to work on other tasks—like experimenting on artificial organs.Five projects using organs-on-chips research tackle five different issues, all of which should shine some light on the effects of microgravity on the human body, and hopefully lead to a medical breakthrough.JAXA, meanwhile, is “striving to further improve Int-Ball’s performance, enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments,” Friday’s announcement said, “while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions.”Keep up with all the exciting newfangled science aboard NASA’s orbiting laboratory on Twitter via @ISS_Research.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetlast_img read more

Mars Dust Storm Ideal For Scientific Study

first_img As Storm Hector’s 70 mph winds leave a trail of destruction across Scotland, NASA’s Opportunity rover was forced to suspend operations during “one of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars.”Unlike many Brits, though, agency engineers are rejoicing over the celestial squall.“This is the ideal storm for Mars science,” according to Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program in Washington.The agency has three orbiters circling the globe, each equipped with special cameras and atmospheric instruments.“We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet,” Watzin said in a statement. “Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave—knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”This set of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a fierce, giant dust storm kicking up on Mars (via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)Martian dust storms are commonplace. They can quickly balloon into regional storms, and sometimes expand to engulf the entire planet. These full-scale events are estimated to occur about once every three to four Mars years (six to eight Earth years), and can last up to weeks or even months. The most recently recorded storm was in 2007.The one currently swirling above Opportunity now blankets 14 million square miles of the Martian surface—about a quarter of the planet, as reported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).Scary as that sounds, this is a perfect chance for scientists to study the physics of these storms, which is critical to understanding the planet’s ancient and modern climate“Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events—and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them,” Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at JPL in California, said. “That would be like forecasting El Niño events on Earth, or the severity of upcoming hurricane seasons.”Among NASA’s eyes in the sky is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which acts as an early warning system for situations like this. It was the capsule’s wide-angle camera, called the Mars Color Imager, that provided the Opportunity team a heads up about the coming storm.The 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiters, meanwhile, provide additional-yet-unique views for the folks back home.Keep an eye on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program website for more updated about the Martian dust storm.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target NASA Captures ‘Red-Handed’ Avalanche on Mars in Mesmerizing PhotoBest Skywatching Events in September 2019 last_img read more