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Plant Pillows Keep Veggies Growing on Space Station

A plant growth chamber on the International Space Station could help expand in-orbit food production capabilities, and offer astronauts something they don’t take for granted: fresh food.

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Inspection Robots Keep Buildings Safe

Buildings, industrial plants, and bridges have to bear heavy loads and are exposed to wind and weather. Many buildings in Germany were built in the postwar years and now show damage due to aging. To inspect their condition and prevent hazards to people, much effort still has to be devoted to buildings that are difficult to access.

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May the Force (Shoes) Be With You

Maintaining astronaut bone and muscle health in microgravity is an ongoing concern for NASA. Last month, the ForceShoe, designed by XSENS, was flown to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will help NASA collect data for studying the force placed on crewmembers’ bodies during exercise on the ISS Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED).

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Bioplastic Made from Shrimp Shells Breaks Down in Compost

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have introduced a new bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. It’s made from chitosan, a form of chitin — the second-most abundant organic material on Earth. Chitin, a tough polysaccharide, is the main ingredient in the hardy shells of crustaceans, the armorlike cuticles of insects, and even the flexible wings of butterflies.

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A Step Up for R2

The lower limbs for the humanoid Robonaut 2 (R2) are aboard the International Space Station (ISS) awaiting attachment by a station crewmember to R2’s torso, which arrived on the ISS in February 2011 during the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery. That event signaled the first human-like robot to arrive in space to become a permanent resident of the laboratory. Jointly developed by NASA and General Motors, R2 showcases how a robotic assistant can work alongside humans, whether tasks are done in space or on Earth in a manufacturing facility.

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Jet Fuel from Sunlight

The European Union-funded Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel (SOLAR-JET) project has successfully demonstrated the production chain for renewable kerosene obtained directly from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, potentially revolutionizing the future of aviation.

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Tackling Sonic Boom

While aerospace engineers have made significant progress in their understanding of supersonic flight, one significant challenge remains: the loud sonic boom. NASA and its aviation partners have been researching ways to identify a loudness level that is acceptable to both the FAA and the public, and to reduce the noise created by supersonic aircraft. NASA has been exploring “low-boom” aircraft designs and other strategies that show promise for reducing sonic boom levels.

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