Special Coverage

Home

Inertial Motion-Tracking Technology for Virtual 3-D

In the 1990s, NASA pioneered virtual reality research. The concept was present long before, but, prior to this, the technology did not exist to make a viable virtual reality system. Scientists had theories and ideas they knew that the concept had potential but the computers of the 1970s and 1980s were not fast enough, sensors were heavy and cumbersome, and people had difficulty blending fluidly with the machines. Scientists at Ames Research Center built upon the research of previous decades and put the necessary technology behind them, making the theories of virtual reality a reality.

Posted in:

Read More >>

Crystal-Clear Communication a Sweet-Sounding Success

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. On July 20, 1969, millions were glued to their television sets when NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong offered these famous words via live broadcast, upon becoming the first man to ever step foot on the Moon.

Posted in:

Read More >>

NASA, the Fisherman's Friend

Every angler has his secrets, whether it be an old family recipe for stink bait, a midnight worm-hunting ritual, or the most coveted of all, the no-fail fishing hole. Most of these secrets are lore and legend, passed through generations, and coveted more than the family's best tableware. Each of these kernels of wisdom promises the fisherman a bite at the end of the line, but very few are rooted in fact and science.

Posted in:

Read More >>

Experiments With Small Animals Rarely Go This Well

In the mid-1950s, a young U.S. Air Force engineer named Clark Beck began work with what is now one of NASA's most prolific spinoffs, the radiant barrier technology. Beck's work involved creating materials that could withstand the immense heat created by passage through the Earth's atmosphere. He was working on structures and resources that could withstand the fluctuations in temperature created by a skip reentry, where a craft would skip along the surface of the atmosphere, gradually making inroads sufficient for reentry, a process that took the craft from extreme heat to frigid cold every few seconds. The material also needed to withstand millions of pounds of pressure per inch of bending without twisting, the simulated force of reentry. Without reflective material, the craft would get what Beck refers to as red hot wings, and without the required flexibility, the craft would break apart.

Posted in:

Read More >>

Hybrid Automotive Engine Using Ethanol-Burning Miller Cycle

This engine would operate with high fuel efficiency and generate little pollution. A proposed hybrid (internal-combustion/ electric) automotive engine system would include as its internal-combustion subsystem, a modified Miller-cycle engine with regenerative air preheating and with autoignition like that of a Diesel engine. The fuel would be ethanol and would be burned lean to ensure complete combustion. Although the proposed engine would have a relatively low power-to-weight ratio compared to most present engines, this would not be the problem encountered if this engine were used in a non-hybrid system since hybrid systems require significantly lower power and thus smaller engines than purely internal-combustion-engine-driven vehicles. The disadvantage would be offset by the advantages of high fuel efficiency, low emission of nitrogen oxides and particulate pollutants, and the fact that ethanol is a renewable fuel.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Miniature Blimps for Surveillance and Collection of Samples

These robots could follow complex three-dimensional trajectories through buildings. Miniature blimps are under development as robots for use in exploring the thick, cold, nitrogen atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan. Similar blimps can also be used for surveillance and collection of biochemical samples in buildings, caves, subways, and other, similar structures on Earth. The widely perceived need for means to thwart attacks on buildings and to mitigate the effects of such attacks has prompted consideration of the use of robots. Relative to "rover"-type (wheeled) robots that have been considered for such uses, miniature blimps offer the advantage of ability to move through the air in any direction and, hence, to perform tasks that are difficult or impossible for wheeled robots, including climbing stairs and looking through windows. In addition, miniature blimps are expected to have greater range and to cost less, relative to wheeled robots.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Forty-Year-Old Foam Springs Back With New Benefits

The most recognized and widely used NASA spinoff is at it again. Temper foam, whose origins date back to 1966 when it was developed to absorb shock and, thus, offer improved protection and comfort in NASA's airplane seats, has paid its dividends to Earth repeatedly, and in many different ways. It has padded the helmets of the Dallas Cowboys throughout the 1970s and 1980s, protected bedridden patients from bedsores, and comforted the feet of thousands wearing stylish shoes that incorporate the cushioning material in their insoles.

Posted in:

Read More >>