Science

Rosetta lander sends comet postcard (but there’s a problem)

Rosetta lander sends comet postcard (but there’s a problem)

As unusual views of space go, the surface of a comet rushing more than 80,000 mph through the universe from a tiny lander perched on its surface ranks pretty high on the list. That's just what the European Space Agency's Philae lander has beamed back to Earth - via the Rosetta spaceship it hitched a ride to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkohas on - after successfully landing on the rocky surface yesterday. It's the incredible culmination of a decade-long journey and a seven hour descent; problem is, while the view might be dramatic, it's also threatening Philae's long-term survival.

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Biodegradable drone is designed to melt away if it crashes

Biodegradable drone is designed to melt away if it crashes

The drone you see in the picture here is unique in that it is designed to dissolve over time if it crashes or is abandoned in the environment. It’s made from a material called mycelium, which is a root-like fungus. The fungus material is coated in a plant-based cellulose to make it sturdy enough for flight. Inside the biodegradable enclosure, the circuitry is also designed to melt away over time.

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Rosetta’s comet-harpooning lander is on its way down

Rosetta’s comet-harpooning lander is on its way down

A spacecraft harpooning a comet: it should be something out of a science fiction movie, but it's actually a mission underway right now, with the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe set to grapple with a chunk of hurtling space rock. The mission officially began back in 2004 when Rosetta and the Philae lander started their journey to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenk, but cranked up the excitement in the early hours of this morning as spacecraft and rock came together. Philae shared a last-minute photo on Twitter - which you can see after the cut, as well as live video of the action itself - and then began its careful journey down fourteen miles to the surface.

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Rosetta/Philae to land on orbiting comet tomorrow

Rosetta/Philae to land on orbiting comet tomorrow

A full decade in the making, tomorrow will likely be the first time we land on a comet. At around 4:30pm Central European time (about 10:30 EST stateside), the Philae lander is set to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Should it be successful, the robotic Philae is the first craft built by humans to ever land on a moving comet. Philae is set to detach from its Rosetta spaceship about six hours ahead of landing on Comet 67P.

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Micro-scallop robot can swim through blood, eyeballs

Micro-scallop robot can swim through blood, eyeballs

Some of us might imagine robots to be big hulking contraptions of mass destruction, but one of the applications of robotics and science goes in the opposite direction, scaling down these objects so that they could be used for medical purposes. But alas, the laws of physics, as often is the case, hinder instead of help, preventing microscopic robots from swimming inside our bodies for whatever purposes. Prof. Peer Fischer and his research team at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany, however, might have found a way around that limitation.

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Cyborg cockroach experiment locates disaster survivors through sound

Cyborg cockroach experiment locates disaster survivors through sound

They may be one of the most disgusting insects you've ever seen, and laying eyes on one in your kitchen probably makes you want to scream, but one day cyborg cockroaches could save your life if you're trapped in a disaster. A pair of researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a way to control the bugs through a circuit board connected to their brain, and having them find the sources of sounds, including human voices.

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Dinosaur skull’s 3D digital restoration brings wide access to researchers

Dinosaur skull’s 3D digital restoration brings wide access to researchers

Fossils are an important part of palaeontological research, but their fragile and precious nature makes access difficult for many. To solve this problem, researchers from the University of Bristol and more have restored a damaged dinosaur skull digitally, turning it into a complete 3D model with the damaged and missing portions corrected. With these 3D models, scientists are able to study fossils without physically accessing them, something that simultaneously helps preserve fossils and increase access to them. The work was recently detailed in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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Scientists find young star with small planets orbiting

Scientists find young star with small planets orbiting

How did we come to encircle the sun? Why do we orbit as we do, and why are other planets circling the big orange globe with us? Those are questions we may understand to some degree, but a new finding may shed light on how it all really began. A young star has been discovered with some very small planets beginning to form around it, with their orbit already being decided. It may not be the birth of our universe, but it’s very similar.

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Astronauts trap GoPro in floating water orb on ISS

Astronauts trap GoPro in floating water orb on ISS

This week NASA posted a video on its YouTube page of astronauts playing with a GoPro and an orb of water they had floating around. Like magic, they trapped the action camera in the sphere of water while it was recording, showing what the world looks like from inside of a water bubble, as well as what a GoPro looks like when encased and floating. As you'd expect, this took place on the International Space Station, and was part of a look at water surface tension as experienced in a microgravity environment.

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Orbital to rent rockets to keep ISS resupply going

Orbital to rent rockets to keep ISS resupply going

Astronauts on the International Space Station won't go hungry, despite the Antares resupply rocket exploding last week, with Orbital Sciences planning to outsource launches while it brings forward its next-gen rocket plans. The incident shortly after takeoff on Monday last week, which saw Orbital's third resupply mission to the ISS unexpectedly curtailed though thankfully with no loss of life, has forced the company to "accelerate" its upgrade of the medium-class launcher's main production system, it announced today. Still, there should be no extra cost or delay to NASA, Orbital insists.

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