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This Robo-Snake Learned How to Climb Sand Dunes From Real Snakes

This Robo-Snake Learned How to Climb Sand Dunes From Real Snakes | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Ever tried to run up a sandy slope? It's not easy— for us, or for robots. But for desert-dwelling snakes, it's a piece of cake (let's hope you've never tried to run up a sandy slope while being chased by a snake). The sidewinding action of rattlesnakes was the biological inspiration for the first snake robot that can climb sand, which you see above.

 

But, perhaps most interestingly, the research ended up being a breakthrough not just in robotics, but in zoology, too.

Daniel Goldman, of Georgia Tech, says that, as his team (he was the zoologist and physicist, Howie Choset was the roboticist) was able to better recreate the movements necessary to get a snake robot to climb sand, they learned about how snakes originally evolved their sidewinding abilities and learned more about the body mechanics that makes snakes such good sand dwellers.

 

"The goal of this study was to learn about the biology of a snake," Goldman, author a new study in Science, told me. "We thought, if we get lucky and find something while studying the snakes that's implementable to make the robot better, well, then we'll do it."

 

But moving like that also expends a lot of energy. Instead, snakes stay lower to the ground, elongating themselves and pushing less of their bodies off the ground. "As the slope became steeper, the snake laid down more body, increasing its purchase on the sand until nearly half the body was in contact," Socha wrote.

 

Armed with that knowledge, Choset and his team were able to modify their own robot, which had previously just been able to sidewind along flat sand, until it was able to make its way up 20-degree slopes.

 

You can imagine some military or rover applications coming out of this in the future: "The Mars rover goes up hills very slowly and very deliberately," Goldman said. "It has no where near the performance of something like this that sidewinds."

 

Watch the video here: http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/this-snake-robot-learned-how-to-climb-sand-dunes-from-real-snakes

 

Read the associated research article from Science here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6206/224

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Would this technology be implemented in NASA's 2020 Mars Rover mission? http://sco.lt/55r0qn

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Rover celebrates one Martian year on Mars

Rover celebrates one Martian year on Mars | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Happy Marsiversary! NASA's most famous rover celebrates the first Martian anniversary of its touchdown by taking a picture of itself

 

Curiosity touched down on Mars on 5 August 2012, and we celebrated its Earth anniversary last year. But because Mars orbits farther away from the sun than Earth, a year on the Red Planet lasts 687 days, making today the rover's Marsiversary.

 

Since arriving on Mars, Curiosity has made many discoveries, including anancient river bed, evidence for a past habitable environment and a lingering mystery over methane in the planet's atmosphere.

 

As well as its scientific achievements, Curiosity is something of a celebrity:

 

1.6 million Twitter followers 

https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity

 

Viral video

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2012/08/crane-lower-that-rover.html

 

Lego toy

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23712-mars-fans-vote-to-immortalise-curiosity-rover-in-lego.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Everyone loves a celebration! Read more Mars and space exploration scoops here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Mars

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Space+Exploration

 

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How to put a human on Mars

How to put a human on Mars | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

BBC Science News' "How to put a human on Mars" has been nominated for a Webby award.


One of Earth's closest neighbours, Mars is still some 56 million km away at its closest alignment, a journey of at least nine months. Rovers have landed on the Red Planet, probes have scanned its surface but what would it take to put a human on Mars? The BBC asked scientists from Imperial College London to design a mission which could take astronauts to the planet - and back. 


Check out BBC's interactive Mars website here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23349496


Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Former astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz developed Vasimr, a plasma engine which could shuttle humans to Mars in just 39 days http://sco.lt/5LzScr

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NASA's next Mars rover will study oxygen production for manned missions

NASA's next Mars rover will study oxygen production for manned missions | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

For 17 years, NASA rovers have laid down tire tracks on Mars. But details the space agency divulged this week about its next Martian exploration vehicle underscored NASA's ultimate goal. Footprints are to follow someday.

 

The last three rovers -- Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity -- confirmed the Red Planet's ability to support life and searched for signs of past life. The Mars rover of the next decade will hone in on ways to sustain future life there, human life.

 

"The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet," said NASA's William Gerstenmaier who works on human missions. 

 

This will include experiments that convert carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen for human respiration and making rocket fuel. Other additions include super cameras that will send back 3D panoramic images and spectrometers that will analyze the chemical makeup of minerals with an apparent eye to farming.

 

"An ability to live off the Martian land would transform future exploration of the planet," NASA said in a statement. The 2020 rover will also create a job for a future mission to complete, once the technology emerges to return to Earth from Mars. It will collect soil samples to be sent back for lab analysis at NASA.

 

Read more here:

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/01/tech/innovation/mars-2020-rover/


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Oxygen production and minerals for farming would pave the way for manned missions and perhaps even a small colony.  The next step would be Mars sample return mission: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_sample_return_mission

 

Read more scoops on Mars here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Mars

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The Revolutionary Rocket That Could Shuttle Humans to Mars

The Revolutionary Rocket That Could Shuttle Humans to Mars | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
A novel plasma engine could slash travel time to Mars — now approximately three years — to just 39 days.

 

Traveling to Mars is not easy, which may be why no one has ever tried. It would take a good six to nine months to get there with today’s chemical-fueled rockets. Along the way, according to a 2013 study, you’d get dosed with the radiation equivalent of a whole-body CT scan every five to six days, increasing your lifetime cancer risk above the limits set by NASA. Upon reaching the Red Planet, you’d wait up to two years for Earth and Mars to be at their closest before your return trip, which would last another six to nine months. If the cosmic rays didn’t get you, the long layover might.


But what if there were a better way — a new kind of rocket that could transport you to Mars in less than six weeks? It would drastically cut both travel time and radiation exposure, and instead of three years, the entire round-trip flight could theoretically last just three months. This isn’t mere sci-fi speculation: In a nondescript warehouse in Webster, Texas, a forward-thinking scientist is developing a prototype rocket engine that could make space travel faster than ever before.


Franklin Chang Díaz, an MIT-trained physicist and former NASA astronaut, has spent more than 30 years tinkering with the rocket engine he invented, which he believes can transform interplanetary flight. In 2005, he founded a company, Ad Astra (Latin for “to the stars”), to pursue that goal, and he remains an unabashed advocate of space exploration. “The first person that is going to walk on Mars has already been born,” he says. And he hopes they’ll use his rocket to get there...


Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Technology such as this is important for flying humans to Mars. BBC featured a really interesting slides show on the necessary requirements for putting humans on Mars http://sco.lt/5QX0Vd.

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