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Will we colonize Mars by 2039?

This week's Question: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a "master plan" to colonize Mars within 25 years. Aldrin envisions using Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, as preliminary stepping stones for astronauts. The program would culminate with a landing at a Mars base that had been prepared with robots tele-operated by astronauts on Phobos. A spacecraft would travel between Earth and Mars on a continuous basis using “cycling orbits,” with astronauts boarding them from space shuttles and riding across interplanetary space and then leaving the spacecraft behind at the destination. Aldrin hopes that the plan will lead to the first Mars settlement by 2039, the 70th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. What do you think? Will we colonize Mars by 2039?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Self-Healing Spacecraft Material Plugs Holes in Seconds

Although shields and sophisticated maneuvers could help protect space structures, scientists have to prepare for the possibility that debris could pierce a vessel. NASA and a team from the University of Michigan developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.

Posted in: News, Coatings & Adhesives

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Development of Free Molecule Flow Equations from a Transient, Asymmetric Source

Molecular flow model is explored as a tool to describe an unusual variety of plume interaction issues. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland The analysis and simulation of gases expanding from sources such as rocket nozzles into vacuum, or the effects plumes from these sources create when they interact with solid surfaces, present a considerable challenge to the scientific and engineering communities. As a plume expands into vacuum, density levels, and hence collision rates, decrease rapidly by many orders of magnitude. The main difficulty lies in accurately describing a flow field extending from continuum flow at the nozzle exit, through the transition regime, and reaching free molecule behavior within a relatively short distance downstream. For thrusters, flow at the nozzle exit is usually characterized by high exit velocities and relatively high Mach numbers. Even in regions where significant intermolecular collision rates occur, relative velocity levels are low, and little thermal scattering occurs normal to the mainly radial streamlines. Such observations lead one to consider describing the expansion under certain circumstances using free molecule theory.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Formal Validation of Model-Based Fault Management Design Solutions

A number of advantages of modeling fault protection logical design, executing the model, and running a model checker are identified. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Model-Based System Engineering is becoming widely adopted at JPL and in industry because model-centric systems introduce improved methods of system engineering. As systems with ever-increasing complexity are developed at JPL, model-centric engineering be comes essential for design, test, and validation. Validation of FP designs is historically problematic, with many examples of inadequate resources (people, time, and budget) and/or unexpected problems. Many factors contribute to these issues, but the problem can be traced to a lack of appreciation of system complexity. When considering a system, there are significantly more ways the system can fail (contingency paths) than ways it can succeed (nominal paths). As NASA continues to develop more complex and capable spacecraft, the behavior state space will increase, stressing the ability of teams to properly understand system behavior.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Fast Block Transforms on Large Binary Datasets in the Cloud Using Hadoop Streaming

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A software framework on top of Hadoop Streaming enables both the processing of binary data in the cloud, and the freedom for the developer to implement his or her mapper and reducer programs in any language, rather than re-implementing existing solutions in Java, or repackaging existing binary data into a text format. Binary data is partitioned into chunks that are kept in a persistent data storage medium. A textual list of filenames for these chunks is piped into a Hadoop Streaming mapper program, which then reads the corresponding files, computes block transforms locally, and writes the results back to persistent data storage. The mapper program is stored on all compute nodes, and the filenames are distributed in parallel across the cluster, so that the workload is evenly distributed and the end-to-end block transform speedup is roughly given by the number of nodes in the cluster.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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'Snap' Design Mimics Venus Flytrap

A team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst uses curved creases to give thin shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The technique – inspired by the natural "snapping systems" like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks – avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

Posted in: News, Joining & Assembly

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Will elevators take us to the edge of space?

This week's Question: Last month, the Canada-based company Thoth Technology received a US patent for its 12-mile space elevator design. The elevator, enclosed in a tunnel, includes a landing pad on its roof. Spacecraft would refuel and take on passengers and cargo from the pad. Some of the elements of the elevator, however, have yet to be invented, including a tether cable that is lightweight and can withstand the tension of the lift technology. There is also concern about high winds and the possibility of the tower buckling under its own weight. What do you think? Will elevators take us to the edge of space?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

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