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While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting. Read More
It’s fairly safe to say that almost no one reading this article has ever or will ever operate a Mars rover. If a project being spearheaded by two Polish space enthusiasts gets the funding it needs, however, a lot of people may get to do the next-best thing ... they could remotely operate an actual physical replica rover – via the internet – located in a large room that’s been made up to look like the surface of Mars. That’s the idea behind the Remote Mars Yard project, or ReMY. Read More
We've had our sights on NASA's Curiosity Rover (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL) for quite some time now. Well, it's finally ready and in a few short weeks, this amazingly advanced one-ton (900 kg) explorer will find itself atop a massive Atlas V rocket for the eight-month, 354 million-mile (570 million-km) trip to our red neighbor – the culmination of over seven years of development and US$2.5 billion in funding. Read More
Some day in the future, it's possible that an unmanned rover may go trundling across the Martian landscape not on wheels, but on three rotating steel coils. While able to traverse rugged terrain without getting stuck, it could also move sideways to get around obstacles, would be unlikely to malfunction as it would have very few moving parts, and could perhaps even remain mobile if it were to take a tumble and flip over. Although such a vehicle might not be exploring Mars any time particularly soon, a fully-functioning prototype does already exist here on Earth, and its design could find terrestrial applications. Read More
On November 17, 1970, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 17 delivered the lunar rover Lunokhod 1 onto the surface of the moon. For 11 months after, controlled in real-time by a human team in Moscow, it explored seven miles of the lunar surface. Sending back reams of data, it was considered to be one of the biggest successes of the little-known Soviet lunar exploration program. And then, it disappeared. It wasn’t abducted or anything, it just ceased transmitting, as space probes have a tendency to do. This spring, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spied it on the moon’s surface. The really neat thing: it can still reflect laser beams back to Earth as if it were brand new. Read More
For over ten years, NASA engineers have been kicking around the idea of a tumbleweed-inspired Mars rover. This “tumbleweed rover” would be a rugged but lightweight ball, with sensors and other electronics securely suspended inside. It would move about simply at the mercy of the Martian wind, much like its botanical namesake. Until now, the only way of testing such rovers has been to build a prototype, then set it loose here on Earth and watch the fun. That could be about to change, however. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a computer model that can test tumbleweed rover designs before they’re ever built. Read More
Williams F1 has increased its existing 40% shareholding in Williams Hybrid Power (WHP) to 78% on the back of some very favorable results on the racetrack in conjunction with Porsche and ever growing confidence that the company's magnetically loaded composite flywheel (MLC) technology will find wide application in hybrid passenger vehicles, hybrid buses, electric trains, diesel-electric ships and wind power generation. Read More
NASA’s Opportunity is a Mars Rover that just won’t die. In fact, Opportunity is just getting better – and smarter – with age. Originally slated for a 90-sol (that’s 90 Mars days) mission when it landed at Meridiani Planum on Mars on January 25, 2004, Opportunity is still turning up for work and functioning effectively in its seventh year on the red planet. And unlike some of us who are losing our faculties as we age, Opportunity has been given a new capability to make its own choices about whether to conduct additional observations of rocks that it spots on arrival at a new location. Read More
It looks like seventies science fiction television is (finally) going to meet reality with NASA planning to set up a real Moonbase Alpha by 2020. In order to meet the heavy load/long range transport requirements of life on the moon, NASA recently teamed up with Goodyear to review and redesign some 40-year-old technology in the shape of the airless tires first seen on the Lunar Rover Vehicles of Apollo missions. Read More
Fed up with your Ferrari? Lamborghini a bit lame? Rarely get a reason to take your dinghy out of the shed? Haven’t scared the neighbors for a while? If you've answered yes to at least three of these questions, then the Scamander RRV could be just what you’re looking for. Before his death in June this year, former-TVR owner Peter Wheeler built the Scamander RRV (rapid response vehicle), a car that could drive on track, off-road or even on the water, all while carrying four people. Read More