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JPL

Space

Earth picks up asteroid traveling companion

An asteroid dubbed 2016 HO3 has recently been discovered that, whilst technically in orbit around the sun, is also spinning in its own merry dance around the Earth. Somewhere between 120 ft (40 m) and 300 ft (100 m) in size, our little travelling partner is estimated to have been in step with our orbit for about a hundred years now, and will continue to do so for at least many hundreds more. Too far away to be identified as a satellite to our planet, it is stable enough at the moment to be seen as a near-Earth companion body. Read More

Space

Mars drone tech sniffs out methane leaks on Earth

Natural gas pipelines stretch for thousands of miles across entire continents and inspecting them for potentially dangerous leaks is a full-time, never-ending job. To take some of the pressure off, NASA is testing a quadcopter equipped with a miniature methane gas sensor originally designed for testing the Martian atmosphere. The space agency says that the exceptional sensitivity of the equipment makes it possible to monitor many miles of pipeline at a time from the air.Read More

Science

Ultrathin metasurface lenses do things conventional optics can't

Once, the only way to manipulate light was with the use of a transparent glass or plastic lens whose shape and makeup determined such things as focus, magnification, and polarity. However, to incorporate all of these properties in the one optical system required a large and complex collection of multiple lenses to achieve. Now researchers working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a flat silicon metamaterial lens that manages all of these thing in a microminiaure device that electromagnetically controls the properties of any light passing it.Read More

Space

Spiky Hedgehog robots to hop around asteroids and comets

As demonstrated by the bumpy landing of ESA's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, exploring comets, asteroids, and small moons can be difficult due to their low gravity. Not only can landing on one be like trying to alight on a trampoline, but roving around their surfaces is next to impossible because the negligible gravity offers practically no traction. To overcome this, a team of engineers is developing Hedgehog, a completely symmetrical robot rover for low-gravity exploration that moves by hopping.Read More

Space

NASA scientists develop gecko-inspired astronaut anchors

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are honing the applications of a gecko-like gripping mechanism in the hope of making life a little less chaotic for those working aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The ever-inventive JPL workers have come up with a series of "astronaut anchors" for use both inside and outside the station, and have even equipped a robot with the tech, opening up the possibility of allowing it to safely operate on the exterior of the space station.Read More

Space

Precision planetary lander technology tested by NASA

In anticipation of more ambitious planetary missions, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, in collaboration with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California, has recently been testing new landing technologies using an Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT). Aimed at developing new systems for landing on Mars and other planets with much greater precision, a new imaging landing system and algorithm were tested using the demonstration vehicle on two successful flights.Read More

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