March 18th, 2009

Mars Researchers Take an Arctic Road Trip Popular Mechanics

Mars researchers plan to take a Humvee for a 1200-mile off-road trip on thinning sea ice in the Arctic. Their pursuit? To answer questions about bacterial contamination, to help design a rover for Martian travel and to experience extreme isolation firsthand.

June 4th, 2008

Could NASA’s Astronaut Suits for Mars Be Designed by MIT and the Motorcycle Fashionistas at Dainese? Popular Mechanics

Dainese may be known for its luxe motorcycle helmets and leathers, but the Italian company recently displayed two pieces of decidedly futuristic apparel at the 2008 Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance.
In anticipation of NASA’s down-the-road Mars landing missions, Dainese has teamed up with MIT for an ambitious project that intends to pressurize an astronaut’s body without the usual bubble of air that creates bulky spacesuits. We’ve seen the suit concept before, but bringing on these bike gurus is just cool—and smart.
Ditching the old-school “Moon Man” image, Dainese’s futuristic space duds feature a fitted design strung with intertwining black-and-gold filaments. It may look like a sleek bodysuit by Armani, but the filaments actually serve a crucial purpose: They run along Lines of Non Extension (LoNEs) on the human body, which according to chairman Lino Dainese “remain stationary even when we move. If these points are united,” he explains, “the same pressure is established throughout the body.”

November 10th, 2007

Robot Surgeons From Baghdad to Mars Are Closer Than You Think Popular Mechanics

If a robot surgeon is treating you, your life is in danger. That’s not due to any machine-borne malice, but because current research into autonomous surgery is focused on battlefield casualties barely clinging to life and astronauts injured on distant planets. To demonstrate how that research is progressing, Silicon Valley-based SRI International and the University of Cincinnati held a series of tests this past September that sound like a cross between a PR stunt and a B-movie: human doctors squaring off against a robotic surgeon aboard a nose-diving DC-9 aircraft.
During periods of zero gravity and sustained acceleration of 1.8 g’s, a robot made incisions and applied sutures on simulated tissue, while a human surgeon did the same.

October 28th, 2007

Skintight, Lightweight Spacesuit a Perfect Fit for Mars? Popular Mechanics

Until recently, astronauts rarely worried about what to wear—a standard gas-pressurized spacesuit was the only choice. But navigating Mars in a bulky 300-pound setup would be like doing gymnastics in a suit of armor. “They’re not going there to sit in the habitat,” says Dava Newman, a professor of astronautics at MIT. “They’ll have to work five to seven days a week.”
Newman has designed an alternative with enough flexibility to get the job done. Partially inspired by giraffe anatomy—the tall beasts use tight leg skin to help regulate blood pressure—the BioSuit relies on mechanical counterpressure instead of gas pressure. Every suit must be tailored to squeeze its owner.
Newman estimates the BioSuit is 10 years from completion, but already the multiple layers can offer 25 to 30 kilopascals of pressure in the legs, enough to counter the thin atmospheres of other planets. And they’re safer than the old “gasbag” suits—a small hole can be patched on the fly. While we wait for a Mars mission, MIT hopes to put the BioSuit to work on Earth, helping physical therapy patients exercise.

May 3rd, 2005

The Future of Flight? Popular Mechanics

When NASA requested designs for a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), two major teams–one headed by Lockheed Martin and one by Northrop Grumman and Boeing–took on the challenge. The winning concept will be chosen in 2008, and the manned vehicle flown in 2014.

May 28th, 2004

Atomic Wings Popular Mechanics

After more than six decades of research, the first atom-powered airplane is cleared for takeoff. Although details of the project remain classified, a description of this remarkable aircraft has begun to emerge from technical conferences and declassified engineering studies. The plane will be both familiar and unique. Familiar in that it will resemble a Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, the bulbous-nosed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that the U.S. Air Force has used to track enemy movements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unique because its nuclear reactor is unlike any other. Rather than split heavy elements or fuse light atoms–as in fission and fusion reactors–it will use what is known as a triggered isomer reaction. If this new powerplant, called a quantum nucleonic reactor, performs as scientists expect, its effect on the aircraft industry may prove as revolutionary as the introduction of the jet engine.

February 16th, 2001

Inching Back to Mars Popular Mechanics

The great Martian mystery isn

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