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Will astronauts reach Mars by 2030?

This week's Question: Last week, NASA's 30,000-pound Orion capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean after going further than any spacecraft built for humans had reached in more than 40 years. Without astronauts aboard, Orion circled Earth for two orbits, eventually reaching an altitude of 3,600 miles so it could achieve a high re-entry speed, one similar to a beyond-Earth-orbit flight. The mission is a step toward eventually bringing astronauts to deep space. NASA says astronauts could reach Mars sometime in the 2030s. What do you think? Will astronauts reach Mars by 2030?

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Researchers Fabricate Rewritable Paper

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have fabricated novel rewritable paper, one that is based on the color-switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes.  The dye forms the imaging layer of the paper. Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the portions that constitute the text on the paper. The new rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times, with no significant loss in contrast or resolution.“This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” said Yadong Yin, a professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research. “It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation.”SourceAlso: Learn about Biodegradable MEMS Based on Cellulose Paper.

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Air Traffic Lab Answers Questions About Future Flying

The holiday season is upon us and that means crowded airports and delayed flights. Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center are working to change that. They are conducting studies to help reshape the future of American air travel in a brand-new Air Traffic Operations Laboratory (ATOL). They are studying the Next Generation Air Transportation System, a new national airspace technology being implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Wireless Devices Used by Pilots are Vulnerable to Hacking

A new class of apps and wireless devices used by private pilots are vulnerable to a wide range of security attacks, which in some scenarios could lead to catastrophic outcomes, according to computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego and Johns Hopkins University. They examined three combinations of devices and apps most commonly used by private pilots to access the same information available to the pilot of a private jet at a fraction of the cost. All have to be paired with tablet computers to display information.

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Foldable Material Can Support Many Times its Weight

Researchers at Drexel University and Dalian University of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight. They believe it can be used to improve electrical energy storage, water filtration, and radio frequency shielding in technology from portable electronics to coaxial cables.

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NASA Advances Next-Generation 3D-Imaging Lidar

Building, fixing, and refueling space-based assets or rendezvousing with a comet or asteroid will require a robotic vehicle and a super-precise, high-resolution 3D imaging lidar that will generate real-time images needed to guide the vehicle to a target traveling at thousands of miles per hour. A team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is developing a next-generation 3D scanning lidar — dubbed the Goddard Reconfiguable Solid-state Scanning Lidar (GRSSLi) — that could provide the imagery needed to execute these orbital dances. GRSSLi is a small, low-cost, low-weight platform capable of centimeter-level resolution over a range of distances, from meters to kilometers. Equipped with a low-power, eye-safe laser; a MEMS scanner; and a single photodetector, GRSSLi will "paint" a scene with the scanning laser, and its detector will sense the reflected light to create a high-resolution 3D image at kilometer distances. A non-scanning version of GRSSLi would be ideal for close approaches to asteroids. It would employ a flash lidar, which doesn’t paint a scene with a mechanical scanner, but rather illuminates the target with a single pulse of laser light — much like a camera flash. Source:

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Moving Cameras “Talk” to Identify and Track Pedestrians

University of Washington electrical engineers have developed a way to automatically track people across moving and still cameras by using an algorithm that trains the networked cameras to learn one another’s differences. The cameras first identify a person in a video frame then follow that same person across multiple camera views. With the new technology, a car with a mounted camera could take video of a scene, then identify and track humans and overlay them into the virtual 3D map on a GPS screen. The researchers are developing this to work in real time, which could help track a specific person who is dodging the police. The team also installed the tracking system on cameras placed inside a robot and a flying drone, allowing the robot and drone to follow a person, even when the instruments came across obstacles that blocked the person from view. Source:

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