It may sound far-fetched, but the day is coming when lasers will beam power to spacecraft, lunar/Martian rovers, and sherpalike robots that carry payloads up a thin tether into the upper atmosphere and beyond. Although researchers worldwide concur that power-beaming capabilities are decades away, a range of experimental efforts give promise that lasers may, in the not too distant future, provide cheap, safe, and reliable access to space.
To infinity … and beyond! Machine Design
Machining with dry ice, on Mars Machine Design
Engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a method of machining metals that uses ice-cold carbon dioxide to remove cuttings while cooling and lubricating the workpiece. Dubbed Snow-Machining, it could eliminate the need for oil-based and synthetic fluids currently used in the cutting and metal-parts cleaning industries. Experts at the University of Michigan estimate over 200 million gallons of metalworking oils are used annually in the U.S., and the amount of cutting fluid is at least several times that figure.
Using gravity to get off the ground Machine Design
Here’s a good trick: The gravityplane, brainchild of inventor Robert Hunter, will be able to change its density from lighter-than-air to heavier-than-air. The aircraft, still in development, will be similar to a submarine that changes its buoyancy, a form of gravity, to float on the surface of the sea or cruise 300 ft below it. If the design pans out, the plane won’t need any fossil fuel and will have a virtually unlimited range.
Motors bring Mars mission to life Machine Design
This January two new NASA rovers — Spirit and Opportunity — will reach Mars and examine rocks for signs of water and ancient life. Many rover functions depend on one of 78 motors aboard that come from Maxon Precision Motors, Burlingame, Calif. The rovers are bigger than previous Martian explorers such as the Sojourner which was about 2 ft long and weighed about 22 lb. The two new rovers are 4.9-ft high X 7.5-ft wide X 5.2-ft long, and each weighs 384 lb.
So you want to be an astronaut Machine Design
To experience the thrill of space travel, you can pursue a university technical degree, be accepted into the U.S. astronaut program, train for years, and possibly get a seat on a shuttle mission. Or, you can do the next best thing and plunk down $52 at Walt Disney World Resort to ride its newest Epcot attraction: Mission: SPACE. Mission: SPACE – conceived, designed, and developed by Walt Disney Imagineering – is set several decades into the future at the International Space Training Center. “Astronauts in training” board capsules that hang from the arms of four independent centrifuges. Sophisticated hardware and software, high-fidelity visuals and audio, and special lighting, perfectly synchronized with capsule motions, simulate what it feels like to launch into deep space. “It’s an amazing experience,” says Senior Show Producer Bob Zalk, Walt Disney Imagineering. “In fact, it’s out of this world. Guests will certainly say this ride is unlike any other experience they have had before.”
Candidates for exploring Mars Machine Design
NASA plans on launching its first Mars Scout mission in 2007 at a cost capped at $325 million. But what that mission will actually be is still unknown. It’s up to a jury of experts to choose from among four mission concepts: Phoenix, Marvel, Ares, and Scim. May the best concept win.