вторник, 7 мая 2019 г.

Beyond the Metal: Investigating Soft Robots at NASA Langley

NASA Langley Research Center logo.

May 7, 2019

Beyond the Metal- NASA Investigating Soft Robots for Space Exploration

Video above: In Langley’s Makerspace Lab, interns Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick are developing a series of soft robot actuators by 3D printing flexible silicone molds. While in the early stages of their research, the pair is looking at a series of properties to understand how actuators can be built and used in space. Video Credits: NASA/Gary Banzinger.

Into the Spiderverse’s newest crew of villains include a brilliant scientist named Doctor Octopus who uses flexible robotic arms to commit her dastardly deeds. Her bionic arms can throw objects, aid her in moving quickly in fight scenes, and a host of other functions. While we can leave the evil geniuses to the movies, two genius interns are investigating soft robotics like the supervillain’s incredible arms for viability beyond our planet at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

In Langley’s makerspace lab, Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick are developing a series of soft robot actuators. “What we’re investigating is the viability of soft robotics in space exploration and assembly,” said Sullivan.

While the word ‘robot’ conjures images of metal arms and gears, soft robotic actuators are bioinspired, looking at the way nature works to create new robot movements. By being constructed from highly flexible materials, soft robots are able to move similarly to living organisms, allowing new ranges of motion that traditional robots simple can’t have. Space applications of these actuators can expand the role of robots in exploration and assembly.

“When you actuate the soft robot, it changes how you use the material properties,” said Fitzpatrick. “A piece of rubber going from flat to the shape of a finger, it changes the material into something else.”

While in the early stages of their research, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are looking at a series of properties to understand how actuators can be built and used in space. Their current process is to 3D print a mold and then pour in a flexible substance like silicone. By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them.

Image above: Intern Jack Fitzpatrick pours silicone into a 3D printed mold to create a soft robotic actuator. Image Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman.

Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.

Soft robotics is a relatively novel concept. In fact, both Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are new to the field.  Computer Engineer and Principal Investigator James Neillan, along with Co-Principal Investigator Matt Mahlin, developed the intern project to investigate the viability of soft robots in space.

Sullivan was introduced in 2015 through working with in-space assembly groups. “James Neillan and Matt Mahlin invited me to come work on it, knowing what I’ve done with in-space assembly before,” said Sullivan.

Fitzpatrick, on his third internship at Langley, had also never heard of soft robotics prior to this opportunity. “It sounded like an interesting project and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Fitzpatrick.

Creating an actuator is only the first step. Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are starting at ground zero, investigating how this technology can be used in space for both assembly and exploration. From their investigations, they hope to help see what other applications soft robotics could have in the future. To do that, they need to create actuator designs and test them in a series of experiments.

Image above: Sullivan and Fitzpatrick operate a soft robotic actuator. Together, they created the controller and actuator with 3D printed parts made at NASA Langley. Image Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman.

Scientific method dictates that when creating an experiment, a researcher will, first construct a hypothesis, second, test the experiment, and then analyze the data gathered. From there, troubleshooting the new information discovered allows new questions: What worked? What didn’t? What should be changed next?

From there the researcher makes changes to the experiment and tries again, collecting new data and analyzing the information. The process can be repeated until the experiments have accumulated enough data to reach a conclusion to answer the original hypothesis. That’s what Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are doing.

As researchers, the pair of interns has determined four lines of inquiry about the properties of actuators: mobility, joining, leveling, and shaping. Based on these properties, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick plan on establishing what the potential uses and limitations of soft robotics in space exploration and assembly.

“We are trying to see the basic capabilities of soft robots through these four properties. That way when someone down the road says maybe soft robotics is useful in a different application they can look at our work as a baseline,” says Sullivan.

The first is mobility, looking into how the actuator is able to move.  For example, moving across the lunar surface. Joining, as the second key property, is vital to understanding exploring how the robots would interlock and link together. Two soft robots could connect together to produce a large temporary shelter.

Soft robotic actuator. Animation Credit: NASA

The third property is leveling, how the actuators can successfully create or adjust a desired surface, like to temporarily fill in the space under a lunar habitat module. “It doesn’t have to be a flat level plain. It can be some other surface shape,” says Fitzpatrick.

Lastly, the fourth property is strengthening, which looks at adding strength to a material by pressurizing it using the air bladders. “We use the actuator to get the soft robot into a position and we lock it into place, using a jamming technique,” said Sullivan. This technique can be used to passively strengthen another structure, like a dust shield.

“We see these four things as the crux of the problem. Once we can accomplish those in individual unit tests, we would like to figure out ways to combine them, so maybe we combine mobility and joining.” Sullivan explained.

The hope is to use soft robots in situations that are “dangerous, dirty, or dull,” according to Fitzpatrick, to help keep astronauts safe and productive while conducting their lives in space and other planetary bodies.

In early May, experts from a variety of disciplines and fields will come to Langley to provide feedback on Fitzpatrick’s and Sullivan’s designs and research so far. With this feedback, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick can learn about additional applications and questions for further inquiry as the project continues through the summer.

NASA Langley Research Center: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/

Space Tech: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/index.html

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Natalie Joseph/Langley Research Center/Andrea Lloyd.

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The execution

Around 2,800 BCE, in what is now southern Poland, a family group of fifteen individuals associated with the Globular Amphora culture (GAC) were massacred. They were probably captured and executed, because each victim was killed with a blow to the head from the same type of weapon, possibly a stone axe, and lacked defensive wounds. The dead were mostly women and children. They were buried in a mass grave, but with great care and very likely by someone who knew them well.
This Late Neolithic mass grave is the focus of a new ancient DNA and archeological research paper at PNAS by Schroeder et al. (see here). The authors tentatively attribute the massacre to the Corded Ware culture (CWC) people, who were expanding rapidly at the time across much of Europe from their homeland on the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

The CWC people may or may not have been responsible; we’ll never know for sure. The perpetrators could just as easily have been a competing GAC family group.
In any case, it’s interesting to see that the GAC males belong to Y-chromosome haplogroup I2a-L801. This is today a rather uncommon subclade of I2, and almost exclusively found in Germanic-speaking populations, especially from Scandinavia. To me this suggests that some Polish GAC males were incorporated into Indo-European-speaking CWC populations that ended up in Scandinavia, and their paternal lineages eventually became a part of the Proto-Germanic gene pool. Admittedly, though, that’s just one of many possible scenarios.
See also…
Late PIE ground zero now obvious; location of PIE homeland still uncertain, but…
Corded Ware people =/= Proto-Uralics (Tambets et al. 2018)
Inferring the linguistic affinity of long dead and non-literate peoples: a multidisciplinary approach


The fossilization process of the dinosaur remains

The site or bone bed at La Cantalera-1 is located in Teruel (Spain) and regarded as hugely important by the scientific community as it is one of the sites on the Iberian Peninsula with the greatest diversity of vertebrates of the Lower Cretaceous. Remains of dinosaurs, mammals, crocodiles, pterosaurs, lizards, tortoises, amphibians and fish dating back to approximately 130 million years ago have been discovered.

The fossilization process of the dinosaur remains

The fossilization process of the dinosaur remains
Two palaeohistological sections among those studied in ornithopod dinosaurs at La Cantalera-1. Above, the
 actual structure of adult individuals. Below, structures relating to immature or young individuals
[Credit: Leire Perales-Gogenola/UPV/EHU/University of Zaragoza]

A multidisciplinary piece of research carried out by researchers in the Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology and the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology at the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, together with the University of Zaragoza (Aragosaurus-IUCA Group), has explored not only the fossilization process (taphonomy) which took place in some of these remains, but also the internal structure displayed by the bones (palaeohistology).
Although given its importance, the site has undergone thorough investigation, «no previous investigation had tackled it from these perspectives or with the depth that we have conducted in this study», pointed out Leire Perales-Gogenola, a member of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology and lead author of the paper.

For their work they selected two groups of dinosaurs: ornithopods (of which there are abundant remains at the site), and ankylosaurs (known as armoured dinosaurs as they had armour consisting of bony plates). Although large fossil items exist, this research group resorted to «fragmentary remains, small pieces of bone and the dermal bones. The methodology we had to follow involved making sections in the samples and we did not want to damage the more important items,» stressed the researcher.

Wetland ecosystem with a wealth of young individuals

The part of the study of the internal structures of the fossil bones (palaeohistology) «revealed that most of the ornithopod dinosaurs were young individuals. On inspecting the fossilized bones under the microscope, they were found to display the same structure as unfossilized bones as they retain all their characteristics. This enables us to identify the signs that tell us whether they belonged to adult or immature individuals; it is possible to know, for example, whether the individual in question was a large but young dinosaur or whether it was a small but adult dinosaur», explained the UPV/EHU biologist and palaeontologist.

In the study of the internal part of the dermal bones they observed «various traces that other researchers had associated with a specific group of ankylosaurs, so in some cases we were able to determine more accurately what kind of dinosaurs they were».

For the taphonomic study the researcher stresses the usefulness in having analysed fragmentary remains, «as they are bones that have undergone fractures owing to the pressure of the subsequent burial itself, among other things, and this has allowed various sedimentary materials to filter through these fractures, which have been fossilized beside the bone remains; this provides hugely valuable information about the environment in which they were found».

In this part of the study they were able to deduce that these bones were subjected to rapid burial and soon reached the phreatic level in which the fossilization processes had already taken place. Microbial activity in the bones, the presence of bacterial forming microbial carpets, has also been detected, and this may have encouraged the fossilization process.

The results obtained have helped to increase the available knowledge about the site and basically «the features of the ecosystem and degree of maturity of the individuals present, which had already been described in previous studies, have been confirmed. The data indicate that it was a wetland ecosystem and was used as a feeding zone for the fauna in the area. Due to the wealth of young individuals and eggshell remains, which are also very abundant at the site, it has been suggested that it could have been a breeding or feeding area», said Perales-Gogenola.

Forthcoming studies at the site anticipated by the University of Zaragoza are due to tackle the palaeohistology of the dinosaurs present at La Cantalera-1 and also to go further into the age of death of the herbivore dinosaurs, to certify whether it was a natural population or whether there is an excessive number of youngsters owing to predation issues by theropod dinosaurs (carnivorous dinosaurs that could attack young individuals more frequently than adult individuals).

The findings are published in Cretaceous Research.

Source: University of the Basque Country [May 06, 2019]



Oxygen linked with the boom and bust of early animal evolution

Extreme fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen levels corresponded with evolutionary surges and extinctions in animal biodiversity during the Cambrian explosion, finds new study led by UCL and the University of Leeds.

Oxygen linked with the boom and bust of early animal evolution
Fossilized trilobite Aldonaia from the Cambrian Period [Credit: Andrey Zhuravlev/
Lomonosov Moscow State University]

The Cambrian explosion was a crucial period of rapid evolution in complex animals that began roughly 540 million years ago. The trigger for this fundamental phase in the early history of animal life is a subject of ongoing biological debate.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience by scientists from the UK, China and Russia, gives strong support to the theory that oxygen content in the atmosphere was a major controlling factor in animal evolution.

The study is the first to show that during the Cambrian explosion there was significant correlation between surges in oxygen levels and bursts in animal evolution and biodiversity, as well as extinction events during periods of low oxygen.

Dr Tianchen He, study lead author and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, began this research while at UCL. He said: «The complex creatures that came about during the Cambrian explosion were the precursors to many of the modern animals we see today. But because there is no direct record of atmospheric oxygen during this time period it has been difficult to determine what factors might have kick started this crucial point in evolution.

«By analysing the carbon and sulphur isotopes found in ancient rocks, we are able to trace oxygen variations in Earth’s atmosphere and shallow oceans during the Cambrian Explosion. When compared to fossilised animals from the same time we can clearly see that evolutionary radiations follow a pattern of ‘boom and bust’ in tandem with the oxygen levels. This strongly suggests oxygen played a vital role in the emergence of early animal life.»

Oxygen linked with the boom and bust of early animal evolution
Fossilized giant arthropod Phytophilaspis from the Cambrian Period [Credit: Andrey Zhuravlev/
Lomonosov Moscow State University]

Study co-author Professor Graham Shields from UCL Earth Sciences, said: «This is the first study to show clearly that our earliest animal ancestors experienced a series of evolutionary radiations and bottlenecks caused by extreme changes in atmospheric oxygen levels.

«The result was a veritable explosion of new animal forms during more than 13 million years of the Cambrian Period. In that time, Earth went from being populated by simple, single-celled and immobile organisms to hosting the wonderful variety of intricate, energetic life forms we see today.»

The team analysed the carbon and sulphur isotopes from marine carbonate samples collected from sections along the Aldan and Lena rivers in Siberia. During the time of the Cambrian explosion this area would have been a shallow sea and the home for the majority of animal life on Earth.

The lower Cambrian strata in Siberia are composed of continuous limestone with rich fossil records and reliable age constraints, providing suitable samples for the geochemical analyses. The isotope signatures in the rocks relate to the global production of oxygen, allowing the team to determine oxygen levels present in the shallow ocean and atmosphere during the Cambrian Period.

Study co-author Dr Benjamin Mills, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, said: «The Siberian Platform gives us a unique window into early marine ecosystems. This area contains over half of all currently known fossilised diversity from the Cambrian explosion.

«Combining our isotope measurements with a mathematical model lets us track the pulses of carbon and sulphur entering the sediments in this critical evolutionary cradle. Our model uses this information to estimate the global balance of oxygen production and destruction, giving us new insight into how oxygen shaped the life we have on the planet today.»

Oxygen linked with the boom and bust of early animal evolution
The Lena River in Sakha (Yakutia), Siberia [Credit: Andrey Zhuravlev/
Lomonosov Moscow State University]

Study co-author Maoyan Zhu from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: «Understanding what triggered the Cambrian explosion requires multidisciplinary study. That’s why with Graham Shields we organized together such a multidisciplinary team funded by NERC and NSFC in past years. I am so excited about the results through this collaborative project.»
«On the other hand, it took a long time to get this result. We already got samples from Siberia in 2008. The sections in Siberia are difficult to access. It took time for us to organize the expedition and collect the samples there. Without support from Russian colleagues, we could not do the project.»

Study co-author Andrey Yu Zhuravlev from Lomonosov Moscow State University said: «This has been an incredibly successful and exciting joint study. The question of the Cambrian Explosion trigger has puzzled scientists for years. Now, the results give us convincing evidence to link the rapid appearance of animals as well as mass extinction during the early Cambrian with oxygen.»

Source: University of Leeds [May 06, 2019]



Origin of Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by new research

The Sino-Tibetan language family includes early literary languages, such as Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, and is represented by more than 400 modern languages spoken in China, India, Burma, and Nepal. It is one of the most diverse language families in the world, spoken by 1.4 billion speakers. Although the language family has been studied since the beginning of the 19th century, scholars’ knowledge of the origin of these languages is still severely limited.

Origin of Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by new research
Harvesting foxtail millet (Setaria italica) in Taiwan
[Credit: © Chih-hung Yang]

An interdisciplinary study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by scientists of the Centre des Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale (Paris), the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Jena), and the Centre de Recherches en Mathématiques de la Décision (Paris), now sheds new light on the place and date of the origin of these languages. Based on a phylogenetic study of 50 ancient and modern Sino-Tibetan languages, the scholars conclude that the Sino-Tibetan languages originated among millet farmers, located in North China, around 7,200 years ago.
During the past 10,000 years, two of the world’s largest language families emerged, one in the west and one in the east of Eurasia. Together, these families account for nearly 60% of the world’s population: Indo-European (3.2 billion speakers), and Sino-Tibetan (1.4 billion).

Origin of Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by new research
Presumed pathways of the expansion of non-Sinitic Sino-Tibetan languages, contrasted
with findings of early domesticates and early Neolithic cultures in China
[Credit: J.-M. List and H. Sell]

The Sino-Tibetan family comprises about 500 languages spoken across a wide geographic range, from the west coast of the Pacific to Nepal, India, and Pakistan. Speakers of these languages have played a major role in human prehistory, giving rise to early high cultures China, Tibet, Burma, and Nepal. However, while archaeogeneticists, phylogeneticists, and linguists have energetically discussed the origins of the Indo-European language family, the formation of Sino-Tibetan languages has previously received little attention.
One of the world’s most diverse language families

«The Sino-Tibetan language family is one of the most diverse families in the world. It includes all of the different types of morphological systems, ranging from isolating languages, such as Chinese, Burmese, and Tujia, to polysynthetic languages, such as Gyalrongic and Kiranti languages,» explains Guillaume Jacques of the Centre des Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale, co-first author of the study. «While our knowledge of how to compare these languages linguistically is improving, important aspects of the development of their sound systems and their grammar remain poorly understood.»

A database of core words from 50 Sino-Tibetan languages

In order to shed light on the complex history of these languages, the scholars assembled a lexical database containing core vocabulary from 50 Sino-Tibetan languages. This database, published here for the first time, includes ancient languages spoken 1000 and more years ago, such as Old Chinese, Old Burmese, and Old Tibetan, as well as modern languages documented by field work.

Origin of Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by new research
Linguistic comparison of words meaning “cloud” across different Sino-Tibetan languages in the lexical database
[Credit: © Johann-Mattis List]

«In order to compare these languages in a transparent way, we developed a specific annotation framework that allows us not only to mark which words we identify as sharing a common origin, but also which sounds in the words we think are related,» says Johann-Mattis List of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, who led the study.
«A particular problem in identifying the truly related words were the numerous cases where languages borrowed words from each other,» mentions Jacques. «Luckily, we know the history of particular languages rather well and could rely on techniques that we developed before to reveal the true history concealed by these borrowings.»

Evolutionary trees suggest that the language family originated about 7200 years ago

Using powerful computational phylogenetic methods, the team inferred the most probable relationships between these languages and then estimated when these languages might have originated in the past.

Origin of Sino-Tibetan language family revealed by new research
A basketful of harvested ears of foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
[Credit: © Chih-hung Yang]

«We find clear evidence for seven major subgroups with a complex pattern of overlapping signals beyond that level,» says Simon J. Greenhill of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. «Our estimates suggest that the ancestral language has arisen around 7,200 years ago.»
An agricultural analysis reveals the most likely origin and expansion scenario of the language family

To further resolve the complex pathways of the evolution of the Sino-Tibetan languages, the authors looked at related words describing domesticates, because they may reveal how agricultural knowledge spread through the region. This agricultural analysis suggests an origin of the Sino-Tibetan family in Northern Chinese communities of millet farmers of the Neolithic cultures of late Cishan and early Yangshao.

«The most likely expansion scenario of the languages involves an initial separation between an Eastern group, from which the Chinese dialects evolved, and a Western group, which is ancestral to the rest of the Sino-Tibetan languages,» summarizes Laurent Sagart of the Centre des Recherches Linguistiques sur l’Asie Orientale, co-first author of the study, who carried out the agricultural analysis.

«We are very excited about our findings,» says List. «Our approach combines robust, traditional scholarship with cutting-edge computational methods within a computer-assisted framework that allows us to use our knowledge of today’s languages as a key to their past.»

Source: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History [May 06, 2019]



Ancient ritual bundle found in Bolivia contained multiple psychotropic plants

A thousand years ago, Native Americans in South America used multiple psychotropic plants — possibly simultaneously — to induce hallucinations and altered consciousness, according to an international team of anthropologists.

Ancient ritual bundle found in Bolivia contained multiple psychotropic plants
The team found psychoactive compounds in an animal-skin pouch constructed of
three fox snouts stitched together [Credit: Jose Capriles, Penn State]

«We already knew that psychotropics were important in the spiritual and religious activities of the societies of the south-central Andes, but we did not know that these people were using so many different compounds and possibly combining them together,» said Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. «This is the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America.»
The researchers were searching for ancient occupations in the dry rock shelters of the now-dry Sora River valley in southwestern Bolivia when they found a ritual bundle as part of a human burial. The bundle — bound in a leather bag — contained, among other things, two snuffing tablets (used to pulverize psychotropic plants into snuff), a snuffing tube (for smoking hallucinogenic plants), and a pouch constructed of three fox snouts.

The team used accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the outer leather bag and found that it was about 1,000 years old.

«This period in this location is associated with the disintegration of the Tiwanaku state and the emergence of regional polities,» said Capriles.

Ancient ritual bundle found in Bolivia contained multiple psychotropic plants
Ritual bundle with leather bag, carved wooden snuff tablets and snuff tube with human hair braids, pouch made
 of three fox snouts, camelid bone spatulas, colorful textile headband and wool and fiber strings
[Credit: Juan Albarracín-Jordán & José Capriles]

In addition, the team used a scalpel to obtain a tiny scraping from the interior of the fox-snout pouch and analyzed the material using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.

«This method is highly sensitive and very effective for detecting the presence of minute amounts of specific compounds from very small samples,» said Melanie Miller, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and research affiliate at the University of California, Berkeley, who was responsible for analyzing the samples.

The researchers identified the presence of multiple psychoactive compounds — cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine), harmine, bufotenin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and possibly psilocin (a compound found in some mushrooms) — from at least three different plant species (likely Erythroxylum coca, a species of Anadenanthera and Banistesteriopsis caani).

According to Capriles, the fox-snout pouch likely belonged to a shaman: «Shamans were ritual specialists who had knowledge of plants and how to use them as mechanisms to engage with supernatural beings, including venerated ancestors who were thought to exist in other realms,» said Capriles. «It is possible that the shaman who owned this pouch consumed multiple different plants simultaneously to produce different effects or extend his or her hallucinations.'»

Ancient ritual bundle found in Bolivia contained multiple psychotropic plants
The ritual bundle included two carved and decorated wooden snuffing tablets that
would have been used as a platform on which to pulverize psychotropic plants
[Credit: Jose Capriles, Penn State]

Capriles noted that the co-occurrence of harmine and DMT, which are the primary ingredients of ayahuasca — a beverage that is reported to induce hallucinations and altered consciousness — in the pouch suggests the use of this beverage as one of the drugs in the shaman’s kit.
«Some scholars believe that ayahuasca has relatively recent origins, while others argue that it may have been used for centuries, or even millennia,» said Capriles. «Given the presence of harmine and DMT together in the pouch we found, it is likely that this shaman ingested these simultaneously to achieve a hallucinogenic state, either through a beverage, such as ayahuasca, or through a composite snuff that contained these plants in a single mixture. This finding suggests that ayahuasca may have been used up to 1,000 years ago.»

Not only does the presence of numerous compounds suggest simultaneous use of drugs and earlier use of ayahuasca, in particular, but it also indicates intricate botanical knowledge by the owner of the pouch and an effort to acquire hallucinogenic plants, as the plants came from different regions of mostly tropical South America.

Ancient ritual bundle found in Bolivia contained multiple psychotropic plants
The researchers found a ritual bundle in the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter located
in southwestern Bolivia [Credit: Jose Capriles, Penn State]

«The presence of these compounds indicates the owner of this kit had access to at least three plants with psychoactive compounds, but potentially even four or five,» said Miller. «None of the psychoactive compounds we found come from plants that grow in this area of the Andes, indicating either the presence of elaborate exchange networks or the movement of this individual across diverse environments to procure these special plants. This discovery reminds us that people in the past had extensive knowledge of these powerful plants and their potential uses, and they sought them out for their medicinal and psychoactive properties.»

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Pennsylvania State University [May 06, 2019]



Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’

In the depots of the Faculty of Archaeology, many artifacts, accumulated after decades of fieldwork across Europe and the Middle East, are stored. A new project, the Leiden Inventory Depot (LID), aims to unlock this wealth of information to the outside world.

Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’
Credit: Leiden University

The 3-D scanning of objects takes a central role in this endeavor. Our master’s student Vasiliki Lagari is contributing to the creation of the first 3-D scanning, documentation and visualization of fragments and vessels from the Leiden pottery collection.

Diving into the technology

As a student in Digital Archaeology supervised by Dr. Karsten Lambers and Dr. Chiara Piccoli, Vasiliki will focus her master’s thesis on the methodology of 3-D scanning applied to archaeological ceramics.

In order for her to start on this, however, she first had to dive into the technology herself. For this, she is now following an internship supervised by Drs. Martina Revello Lami and Professor Joanita Vroom.

Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’
Vasiliki preparing to scan a large amphora [Credit: Leiden University]

«Professor Vroom bought the scanning device within the framework of her NWO VIDI-project Material Culture, Consumption and Social Change,» Vasiliki explains, «and she proposed to practice with the equipment scanning some of the glazed and unglazed objects from the depot. For me it was the perfect way to gain experience before starting the actual work with the thesis.»

Starting from scratch

«Every person that approaches 3-D scanning technologies will start from scratch and customize their method,» Martina adds. «It all depends on the scanner and the software, and you will need to take the time to learn the method.»

Especially regarding small objects,3-D techniques have been underused and there is a lot of potentialities to explore in terms of analysis, interpretation , reconstruction, knowledge transfer among researchers and public output.

«The technology is more frequently employed for scanning buildings and large objects. If it is used for small objects, it is often in the context of documentation. But using 3-D for documentation purposes only is very narrow.»

Acquiring point clouds

The opportunities for documentation are obvious. «Just for archiving purposes alone it is easy to use the scanner and have a nice image and 3-D model,» Vasiliki says. «Instead of taking hours drawing an object, you can make a scan and create a 2-D image of that.» But this is only the start of the technology’s potential.

Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’
The unprocessed 3-D scan [Credit: Leiden University]

«When scanning an object, you acquire not just a picture,» Martina points out, «not just a drawing. You acquire a point cloud.» Every single point is a number, and every number can be queried, studied, and interpreted.
The topography of an object

Emphatically gesturing, Martina continues: «You can ask questions that go from the automatic recognition of certain features, such as the surface traces left by the hands of a potter while shaping a vessel, to the automatic refitting of fragments belonging to the same object but not stored in the same place.»

Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’
The topography of the amphora [Credit: Leiden University]

A 3-D scan catches the topography of an object far more deeply and precisely than our eyes. «You gain more data. And by integrating the expertise of digital specialists and ceramic analysts those data provide new information, fueling new lines of research.»

Both women point at the wide range of applications, also for heritage management. Martina: «Not in the last place this technology is important for public outreach.» «One of the purposes of the internship is for Professor Vroom take some samples of 3-D models and upload these to online exhibitions for Byzantine and Islamic pottery,» Vasiliki adds.

Exploring 3D technology in pottery studies: ‘It is the future’
A snapshot of the 3D image [Credit: Leiden University]

«And,» Martina concludes, «if you have a perfect 3-D scan of an object, it is perhaps easier to return the object to the community where it came from. In several pioneering projects, 3-D scanners are used to document artefacts directly during fieldwork. It is not yet a common practice, but 3-D will soon become integral part of the archaeologists’ tool kit.» Vasiliki grins. «It is a perfect instrument, it is the future.»

Building a 3-D archive

But first things first. «At the moment we are still archiving and getting hold of the reference collection,» Martina returns to the present. «We will start building a 3-D archive. And we have to plan internships for the students. We hope we can become a school of excellence here in Leiden thanks to the collaboration between the Digital Archaeology, World Archaeology and Material Culture Studies research groups.»

Laughing, Vasiliki adds a bit daunted: «We have work to do!»

Source: Leiden University [May 06, 2019]



Freshwater mussel shells were material of choice for prehistoric craftsmen

A new study suggests that 6000-years-ago people across Europe shared a cultural tradition of using freshwater mussel shells to craft ornaments.

Freshwater mussel shells were material of choice for prehistoric craftsmen
Prehistoric shell ornaments made with freshwater mother-of-pearl [Credit: Jérôme Thomas (UMR CNRS
6282 Biogeosciences, University of Burgundy-Franche-Comté]

An international team of researchers, including academics from the University of York, extracted ancient proteins from prehistoric shell ornaments — which look remarkably similar despite being found at distant locations in Denmark, Romania and Germany — and discovered they were all made using the mother-of-pearl of freshwater mussels.

The ornaments were made between 4200 and 3800 BC and were even found in areas on the coast where plenty of other shells would have been available.

Archaeological evidence suggests the ornaments, known as «double-buttons», may have been pressed into leather to decorate armbands or belts.

Senior author of the study, Dr Beatrice Demarchi, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and the University of Turin (Italy), said: «We were surprised to discover that the ornaments were all made from freshwater mussels because it implies that this material was highly regarded by prehistoric craftsmen, wherever they were in Europe and whatever cultural group they belonged to. Our study suggests the existence of a European-wide cross-cultural tradition for the manufacture of these double-buttons».

Freshwater molluscs have often been overlooked as a source of raw material in prehistory (despite the strength and resilience of mother-of-pearl) because many archaeologists believed that their local origin made them less «prestigious» than exotic marine shells.

Co-author of the paper, Dr André Colonese, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: «The ornaments are associated with the Late Mesolithic, Late Neolithic and Copper Age cultures. Some of these groups were still living as hunter gatherers, but in the south they were farmers with switching to a more settled lifestyle.»

«The fact that these ornaments look consistently similar and are made from the same material suggests there may have been some kind of interaction between these distinct groups of people at this time. They may have had a shared knowledge or tradition for how to manufacture these ornaments and clearly had a sophisticated understanding of the natural environment and which resources to use.»

Mollusc shells contain a very small proportion of proteins compared to other bio-mineralised tissues, such as bone, making them difficult to analyse.

The researchers are now working on extracting proteins from fossilised molluscs, a method which they have dubbed «palaeoshellomics». These new techniques could offer fresh insights into some of the earliest forms of life on earth, enhancing our knowledge of evolution.

Dr Demarchi added: «This is the first time researchers have been able to retrieve ancient protein sequences from prehistoric shell ornaments in order to identify the type of mollusc they are made from.»

«This research is an important step towards understanding how molluscs and other invertebrates evolved. We hope that using these techniques we will eventually be able to track an evolutionary process which began at least 550 million years ago.»

The study is published in the journal eLife.

Source: University of York [May 07, 2019]



Liddicoatite on Albite | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Liddicoatite on Albite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Antsira Mine, Sahatany Valley, Vakinankaratra Region, Antananarivo Province, Madagascar

Size: 3.3 x 2.4 x 2.3 cm

Photo Copyright © Saphira Minerals

Geology Page



Gold | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Eagle`s Nest…

Gold | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Eagle`s Nest Mine, Placer Co., California, USA

Size: 2.2 x 1.1 x 0.5 cm

Photo Copyright © Saphira Minerals

Geology Page



Fluorite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Valzergues,…

Fluorite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Valzergues, Aveyron, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Size: 6 × 4.3 × 4 cm

Photo Copyright © Piatek Minerals /e-rocks. com

Geology Page



Amber | #Geology #GeologyPage Locality: Cordillera…

Amber | #Geology #GeologyPage

Locality: Cordillera Septentriona, Santiago Province, Dominican Republic

Size: 8 × 4.5 × 2 cm

Weight: 45.00gr

Photo Copyright © Piatek Minerals /e-rocks. com

Geology Page



2019 May 7 The Great Nebula in Carina Image Credit &…

2019 May 7

The Great Nebula in Carina
Image Credit & Copyright: Dieter Willasch (Astro-Cabinet)

Explanation: What’s happening in the center of the Carina Nebula? Stars are forming, dying, and leaving an impressive tapestry of dark dusty filaments. The entire Carina Nebula, cataloged as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light years and lies about 8,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina. The nebula is composed predominantly of hydrogen gas, which emits the pervasive red glow seen in this highly detailed featured image. The blue glow in the center is created by a trace amount of glowing oxygen. Young and massive stars located in the nebula’s center expel dust when they explode in supernovae. Eta Carinae, the most energetic star in the nebula’s center, was one of the brightest stars in the sky in the 1830s, but then faded dramatically.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190507.html

Recognising sustainable behaviour

ESA — Clean Space logo.

6 May 2019

Solving the growing problem of space debris will require everyone who flies rockets and satellites to adhere to sustainable practices, which doesn’t always happen. Now there will be a way to recognise those who do.

Distribution of space debris in orbit around Earth

We increasingly rely on satellites for every-day activities like navigation, weather forecasting and telecommunications, and any loss of these space-based services could have a serious effect on our modern economies.

Yet vital orbital pathways around Earth are becoming more congested with trash, such as abandoned satellites and rocket upper stages or debris fragments from old satellites that have exploded.

“There are numerous debris reduction and mitigation guidelines that can be applied at the design, manufacturing, launching, operating or disposal stage of any mission, but the challenge has been getting the global community to apply these in a consistent way,” says Holger Krag, Head of ESA’s Space Debris Office.

“Applying these guidelines generally adds cost or reduces the useful life of a satellite, even if only slightly, so it’s always been a tough sell,” says Holger.

Clean Space: how to build a satellite that won’t end up as dangerous debris

In a bid to address this issue, and to foster global standards in debris mitigation, the World Economic Forum will work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and ESA to launch a new ‘Space Sustainability Rating’ (SSR), a concept initiated by the Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies.

“The global economy depends on our ability to operate satellites safely in order to fly in planes, prepare for severe weather, broadcast television and study our changing climate,” says Danielle Wood, founder and director MIT Media Lab’s Space Enabled research group.

“In order to continue using satellites in orbit around Earth for years to come, we need to ensure that the environment around Earth is as free as possible from trash leftover from previous missions.”

International Collaboration

The new rating system will also be supported by Bryce Space and Technology, a firm providing services in strategy, market analytics and policy for the space industry with offices in the US and UK, and a team from the University of Texas at Austin, USA with expertise in orbital dynamics and space law.

Similar to rating systems such as the LEED certification used by the construction industry, the Space Sustainability Rating aims to ensure long-term sustainability by encouraging and rewarding responsible behaviour amongst all space actors, including designers, manufacturers, launch providers, spacecraft operators and even government agencies.

Debris analysts at work

“Together with our collaborators, we aim to put in place a system that has the flexibility to stimulate and drive innovative sustainable design solutions,” says Stijn Lemmens, a senior space debris mitigation analyst at ESA.

“We also aim to put in the spotlight those missions that contribute positively to the space environment.”

Today, there are more than 22 000 debris objects regularly tracked in orbit using radars and other methods, and any one of these could damage or destroy a functioning satellite if a collision were to occur.

In 2018, ESA-operated satellites had to conduct 27 debris avoidance manoeuvres, a number that is growing year by year.

Sentinel-1A fragment impact in space

Later this year, ESA Member States will consider a range of new proposals related to space debris at the Space19+ council meeting. These include developing and demonstrating an automated collision avoidance system, an urgent need in view of the enormous constellations of small satellites that will be deployed by commercial companies in the next few years, and developing a European industrial capacity to conduct in-orbit servicing by flying a first-of-its-kind debris-removal mission.

The new SSR initiative is to be announced today at the Satellite 2019 conference in Washington, D.C., an international forum for companies, academia and agencies working in space.

Editor’s note: ESA’s 2019 Space Debris Environment report is available here: https://www.sdo.esoc.esa.int/environment_report/

Related links:

Satellite 2019 conference: https://satellite19.mapyourshow.com/8_0/sessions/session-details.cfm?scheduleid=93

LEED certification: http://leed.usgbc.org/leed.html

Bryce Space and Technology: https://www.brycetech.com/services.html

Space Enabled research group: https://www.media.mit.edu/groups/space-enabled/overview/

Global Future Council on Space Technologies: https://www.weforum.org/communities/the-future-of-space-technologies

Media Lab: https://www.media.mit.edu/

ESA Clean Space: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Safety/Clean_Space

Videos, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Genevieve Porter/R. Palmari/Ecole Estienne Paris/Marianne Tricot.

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For InSight, Dust Cleanings Will Yield New Science

NASA — InSight Mission patch.

May 6, 2019

Image above: This is NASA InSight’s second full selfie on Mars. Since taking its first selfie, the lander has removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, placing them on the Martian surface; a thin coating of dust now covers the spacecraft as well. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The same winds that blanket Mars with dust can also blow that dust away. Catastrophic dust storms have the potential to end a mission, as with NASA’s Opportunity rover. But far more often, passing winds cleared off the rover’s solar panels and gave it an energy boost. Those dust clearings allowed Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, to survive for years beyond their 90-day expiration dates.

Dust clearings are also expected for Mars’ newest inhabitant, the InSight lander. Because of the spacecraft’s weather sensors, each clearing can provide crucial science data on these events, as well — and the mission already has a glimpse at that.

On Feb. 1, the 65th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, InSight detected a passing wind vortex (also known as a dust devil if it picks up dust and becomes visible; InSight’s cameras didn’t catch the vortex in this case). At the same time, the lander’s two large solar panels experienced very small bumps in power — about 0.7% on one panel and 2.7% on the other — suggesting a tiny amount of dust was lifted.

Images above: Two images to compare the before and after of NASA InSight’s selfie on Mars. Images Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Those are whispers compared to cleanings observed by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, where dust-clearing wind gusts occasionally boosted power by as much as 10% and left solar panels visibly cleaner. But the recent event has given scientists their first measurements of wind and dust interacting «live» on the Martian surface; none of NASA’s solar-powered rovers have included meteorological sensors that record so much round-the-clock data. In time, data from dust cleanings could inform the design of solar-powered missions as well as research on how wind sculpts the landscape.

«It didn’t make a significant difference to our power output, but this first event is fascinating science,» said InSight science team member Ralph Lorenz of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. «It gives us a starting point for understanding how the wind is driving changes on the surface. We still don’t really know how much wind it takes to lift dust on Mars.»

Engineers regularly calculate a «dust factor,» a measure of how much dust is covering the panels, when analyzing InSight’s solar power. While they saw no change in dust factor around the time of this passing dust devil, they saw a clear increase in electrical current, suggesting it did lift a little bit of dust.

Key to measuring these cleanings are InSight’s weather sensors, collectively known as the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite, or APSS. During this first dust event, APSS saw a steady increase in wind speed and a sharp drop in air pressure — the signature of a passing dust devil.

The wind direction changed by about 180 degrees, which would be expected if a dust devil had passed directly over the lander. APSS measured a peak wind speed of 45 miles per hour (20 meters per second). But it also detected the biggest air pressure drop ever recorded by a Mars surface mission: 9 pascals, or 13% of ambient pressure. That pressure drop suggests there may have been even stronger winds that were too turbulent for sensors to record.

«The absolute fastest wind we’ve directly measured so far from InSight was 63 miles per hour (28 meters per second), so the vortex that lifted dust off our solar panels was among the strongest winds we’ve seen,» said InSight participating scientist Aymeric Spiga of the Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory at Sorbonne University in Paris. «Without a passing vortex, the winds are more typically between about 4-20 miles per hour (2-10 meters per second), depending on time of day.»

This dust lifting happened at 1:33 p.m. local Mars time, which is also consistent with the detection of a dust devil. On both Mars and Earth, the highest levels of dust devil activity are usually seen between about noon and 3 p.m., when the intensity of sunlight is strongest and the ground is hot compared with the air above it.

InSight landed on Nov. 26, 2018, in Elysium Planitia, a windy region on the Martian equator. The lander has already detected many passing dust devils, and Lorenz said it’s likely the spacecraft will see a number of large dust cleanings over the course of its two-year prime mission.

Each of InSight’s dinner-table-size solar panels has gathered a thin dust layer since landing. Their power output has fallen about 30% since then, due both to dust as well as Mars to moving farther from the Sun. Today the panels produce about 2,700 watt-hours per sol — plenty of energy for daily operations, which require roughly 1,500 watt-hours per sol.

The mission’s power engineers are still waiting for the kind of dust cleaning Spirit and Opportunity experienced. But even if they don’t see one for a while, they have ample power.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package ((HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Related links:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS): https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/mission/instruments/seis/

Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3): https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/mission/instruments/hp3/

For more information about InSight, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

For more information about Mars, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov

Images (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

UFO landed in Odessa Ukraine

Many plasma fireballs are spotted on the shore of a salt lake called Kuyalnik, Odessa, Ukraine. Evening May 6, 2019.

UFOs were seen after sunset on May 6, 2019 northwest of Odessa, flashes of light and plasma sphere’s were located 6 km from the observation point.

In the beginning, strange flashes of light were observed, the bright ball crumbled into a multitude of lights, in a second they split up and flew away, while the opposing sides flew off for 100 meters.

Then the lights went off, the video recording was stopped, then a new bright fireball appeared at the same place and the video recording was resumed. It lasted over 10 minutes.

The most important point that confirms that this is a UFO, a fragment where many objects appeared from one and became moving away from each other, the video started with this and the fragment was put three times to repeat.

NASA’s First Planetary Defense Technology Demonstration to Collide with Asteroid in...

NASA logo.

May 6, 2019

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – NASA’s first mission to demonstrate a planetary defense technique – will get one chance to hit its target, the small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth and is an ideal test target: measuring the change in how the smaller asteroid orbits about the larger asteroid in a binary system is much easier than observing the change in a single asteroid’s orbit around the Sun. Work is ramping up at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and other locations across the country, as the mission heads toward its summer 2021 launch – and attempts to pull off a feat so far seen only in science fiction films.

Image Credits: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Observing Didymos

To navigate the DART spacecraft to its intended target – a binary asteroid that consists of a small moon (Didymos B) orbiting a larger body (Didymos A) – scientists need to understand how the system behaves. Scientists have been making efforts to observe Didymos from Earth since 2015, and now, an international campaign coordinated by Northern Arizona University’s Cristina Thomas, DART’s Observing Working Group Lead, is making critical observations using powerful telescopes worldwide to understand the state of the asteroid system before DART reaches it. Current observations will help researchers to better understand the extent of the impact made when DART slams into its target – Didymos B – in September 2022.  

The most recent observation campaign took place on Cerro Paranal in northern Chile, where scientists viewed Didymos using the Very Large Telescope, which is run by the European Southern Observatory. The “VLT” comprises four telescopes, each with 8.2-meter mirrors; two of them were used in the recent observations. 

“The Didymos system is too small and too far to be seen as anything more than a point of light, but we can get the data we need by measuring the brightness of that point of light, which changes as Didymos A rotates and Didymos B orbits,” said APL’s Andy Rivkin, DART investigation team co-lead, who participated in the observations. The brightness changes indicate when the smaller moon, Didymos B, passes in front of or is hidden behind Didymos A from our point of view. These observations will help scientists determine the location of Didymos B about Didymos A and inform the exact timing of DART’s impact to maximize the deflection.

The investigation team will observe Didymos again from late 2020 into the spring of 2021.  Final ground-based observations will occur as the spacecraft travels toward the asteroid, as well as after impact occurs.

Research with Impact

The telescope observations are key to understanding Didymos, but they’re not quite enough to fully understand Didymos B, DART’s target. 

“Even though we are performing ground-based observations, we don’t know much about Didymos B in terms of composition and structure,” said Angela Stickle, DART’s Impact Simulation Working Group Lead from APL.  “We need to anticipate a wide range of possibilities and predict their outcomes, so that after DART slams into Didymos B we’ll know what our measurements are telling us.”

Structure is essential to the equation; in Didymos, researchers aren’t sure whether DART will impact an asteroid composed of solid rock, loose rubble or something “softer,” more akin to sand.  A softer surface would absorb more of DART’s force and may not be pushed as drastically as if DART hit a harder surface.

Extensive modeling and simulation, part of a large international campaign that started in 2014, is being done in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other members of the investigation team to help researchers predict what will happen to DART’s target after impact.  They’ve considered these various factors—along with the added momentum from DART’s impact and the resulting debris ejected from the crater it creates – as they’ve run various simulations. These simulations help the team shape its expectations for impact.

Eyes on DART and Didymos

Researchers will have the ability to eventually see the Didymos asteroid system close-up – albeit briefly – thanks to DART’s onboard DRACO imager and a planned ride-along CubeSat, the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube.

Released just before impact, the shoebox-sized LICIACube would document DART’s impact and its aftermath. The CubeSat recently passed its preliminary design review and has moved into the next phase of development. 

DRACO – the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Op-nav – is DART’s only onboard instrument. It will serve primarily as DART’s optical navigation system, capturing images that help the spacecraft reach its target.

DRACO will feed its images into the APL-developed Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real-Time Navigation (SMART Nav) algorithm – the system that, in the spacecraft’s final hours, will precisely and automatically guide DART into Didymos B. SMART Nav is preparing to undergo a series of tests on simulated spacecraft avionics, which will boost engineers’ confidence that the system will be ready to operate successfully when the mission will be relying on it.

Wired for Success

While much of the work on DART so far has been modeling and simulation, many parts of the spacecraft have started to take shape.  A full-scale mock-up of DART now serves as a placeholder for the assembly of cables and connectors that will eventually make up the wiring harness. The mission has signed off on the manufacturing of several flight hardware components, specifically the spacecraft’s solar arrays—which passed the critical design review stage—as well as the radio and power system electronics.

In a recent design change, DART will now be able to complete its mission by relying on small hydrazine thrusters in addition to having the ability to utilize the electric propulsion system, NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster Commercial (NEXT-C) ion engine, which will also push the start of the primary launch window to July of 2021, shortening the mission flight time.  “For a mission that relies on one chance, it’s a move that will provide DART with more options to ensure it hits its mark,” said Ed Reynolds, DART project manager at APL.

NASA recently selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 to send DART on its mission. Read more about it here: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-launch-services-contract-for-asteroid-redirect-test-mission

Asteroids: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/main/index.html

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Justyna Surowiec.

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SpaceX Cargo Craft Attached to Station

ISS — Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 6, 2019

Two days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivers more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Image above: May 6, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Here’s some of the science arriving at station:

Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.

The Hermes facility allows scientists to study the dusty, fragmented debris covering asteroids and moons, called regolith. Once installed by astronauts on the space station, scientists will be able to take over the experiment from Earth to study how regolith particles behave in response to long-duration exposure to microgravity, including changes to pressure, temperate and shocks from impacts and other forces. The investigations will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics and planetary evolution.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations that will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about XX pounds of cargo and research.

Busy Monday as Astronauts Grapple Dragon and Store Critical Experiments

This morning, just two days following its nighttime launch from the Florida coast, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft was captured and installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA successfully employed the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon at 7:01 a.m., which brings the number of spaceships docked at the space station to six. Other vehicles visiting include Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter.

Image above: At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credits: NASA/Josh Valcarcel.

Dragon’s arrival heralds a busy week for the crew. Today, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch unpacked and activated time-critical experiments after completing checkout of the spacecraft. Fresh biological samples, such as kidney cells, were stowed in science freezers and incubators for later analysis. New lab mice were also quickly transferred and housed in specialized habitats to enhance research for an immune system study that aims to keep astronauts healthy for long-duration missions in space, which will become even more commonplace as our destinations extend to the Moon and beyond.

SpaceX’s 17th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract supports dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.

Related articles:

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Dragon Cargo Craft

SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station After Successful Launch

Drone Ship Power Issue Forces Scrub of CRS-17 Launch

Hermes to Bring Asteroid Research to the ISS

Dragon’s 17th Flight Carries Science to the Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Kidney cells: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7819

Immune system study: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7868

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Moon and Mars: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Norah Moran.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link


https://t.co/hvL60wwELQ — XissUFOtoday Space (@xufospace) August 3, 2021 Жаждущий ежик наслаждается пресной водой после нескольких дней в о...