UpFront

This Month in NASA History

As NASA celebrates its 50th anniversary, we continue our highlights of technology innovations and important moments in NASA history, leading to our special 50th Anniversary Issue in October.

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Energy-Efficient Microchip for Long-Lasting Cell Phones and Medical Devices

Researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments have developed a new chip for portable electronics that can be up to 10 times more energy-efficient than present microchips. The chip could lead to cell phones, implantable medical devices, and sensors that last much longer when running from a battery.

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Correction of Retardation and Autism in Mice Points to Human Treatment

Mark Bear (right), director of thePicower Institute and PicowerProfessor of Neuroscience), andGu¨l Do¨ len, a graduate student atBrown University, report the correctionof fragile X syndrome inmice. (Donna Coveney)Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have corrected key symptoms of mental retardation and autism in mice. Their findings indicate that a certain class of drugs could have the same effect in humans.

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This Month in NASA History

This year, as NASA celebrates its 50th anniversary, we’ll be highlighting technology innovations and important moments in NASA history, leading to our special 50th Anniversary Issue in October. This Month in NASA History: On February 20, 1962, John H. Glenn became the first American to circle the Earth, making three orbits in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. The flight lasted a total of 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds before the Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down in the ocean.

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Gel That Changes Color on Demand Could Lead to New Sensors

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli, including temperature, pressure, salt concentration, and humidity. The gel could be used as a fast and inexpensive chemical sensor. These environmental sensors could be used in food processing plants, where it would indicate if food that must remain dry has been exposed to high levels of humidity.

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Simulation Reveals How the Body Repairs Balance

When your brain’s neural pathways are impaired through injury, age, or illness, muscles are deprived of the sensory information they need to perform the constant balancing act required for normal movement and standing. In a project designed to build robots that can balance like humans, researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University have created a computer simulation that sheds new light on how the nervous system reinvents its communication with muscles after sensory loss. The project could help better diagnose and rehabilitate patients with balance problems by retraining their muscles.

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Last Chance to Design and Win!

If you haven’t entered your unique design idea that you feel should be out on the market, you only have until October 15 to enter your invention in the sixth annual “Create the Future” Design Contest, presented by SolidWorks Corp. Visit for complete rules and to submit your idea.

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