Science

NASA plans lobotomy for forgetful Mars rover

NASA plans lobotomy for forgetful Mars rover

One of NASA's Martian rovers is facing the indignities of old age, with the hard-working explorer suffering robot amnesia that has led to data loss and even persistent system crashes. The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has put in more than a decade of overtime on the red planet, well-exceeding the initial project goals. However, vital components like the flash memory used to store mission data are feeling their age, forcing NASA to think creatively to stop the rover from forgetting entirely why it's on Mars and blacking out completely.

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as Ceres nears

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as Ceres nears

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has emerged safely from the opposite side of the sun and is just months away from reaching Ceres, the distant and mysterious dwarf planet next on the list for its multi-year space survey. Dawn - which checks off on several factors more commonly associated with science fiction tropes, like ion drives and distant space exploration - launched back in 2007, and Ceres is in fact its second stop since then. Previously, the probe spent more than a year orbiting a protoplanet named Vesta, but scientists manning the project are if anything even more eager to see what it makes of Ceres.

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Underwater cave sediment shows Mayans suffered massive droughts

Underwater cave sediment shows Mayans suffered massive droughts

Long ago, the Mayan civilization collapsed, unceremoniously leaving behind a lot of mysteries as to what happened. One of those mysteries has to do with the reason they suddenly “disappeared” from the Earth. We know they migrated north around A.D. 800, and one prevailing theory has been that their migration was due to drought. New findings bolster that theory, with scientists taking minerals from an underwater cave to better discover what really happened to the Mayans. The drought may have actually been worse than imagined.

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MAVEN nears solving mystery of Mars’ disappearing atmosphere

MAVEN nears solving mystery of Mars’ disappearing atmosphere

Even while the Mars rover Curiosity continues to discover the secrets of Martian water billions of years ago, a somewhat unsung hero silently orbits the planet searching for clues on why that water disappeared over time. The MAVEN orbiter, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, continues to sample and analyze the tenuous atmosphere of the red planet in order to solve the mystery of its thinning atmosphere, that will eventually lead to more clues as to what befell this planet that could have very well supported organic life in the past.

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NASA’s NuSTAR takes single massive photo of our sun

NASA’s NuSTAR takes single massive photo of our sun

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR for short, has taken its first photo of our solar system's Sun. This image is the "most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays" according to NASA, and you'll be able to view it in full glory right this minute. This first image - of many, hopefully - covers "the west limb of the sun" and it's been caught by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) - and it's primed and ready to be a wallpaper on your device, of course.

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Yellowstone’s striking springs explained

Yellowstone’s striking springs explained

Yellowstone National Park may be notorious for its brightly colored geothermal springs, but it's human meddling not Mother Nature that's responsible for the tourist attraction. Researchers at Montana University's Optical Technology Center and the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences were able to turn back the clock - virtually, at least - to show what the natural pools would have been like decades ago, before trash, coins, and rocks tossed in by park visitors messed up the geothermal balance. Turns out, they really should be a whole lot more blue, something we can see today with a little juggling of digital cameras and temperature probing.

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Zero-G espresso cups heading to ISS in February

Zero-G espresso cups heading to ISS in February

Even astronauts, perhaps most especially astronauts, need their daily coffee fix. But what is usually a relaxing and pleasant experience here on earth turns into a chore out there in space. Coffee lovers would rather die than drink coffee with a straw yet that is how it's done up there. Well, not anymore. Or rather, hopefully not anymore soon, with these specially designed "espresso cups" from Portland State University that injects some scientific thinking into a modern age problem: how to drink coffee from a cup in space.

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Meet Hector, a giant insect-like robot to study terrain movement

Meet Hector, a giant insect-like robot to study terrain movement

Researchers at Germany's Bielefeld University did something crazy, and a little funny too. They have built a giant robot insect with six independently moving legs in order to study movement over various terrain. But that's not the crazy/funny part. It's that in order to design the robot, they actually motion captured a real stick insect walking and climbing, using a bunch of those little balls you always see attached to actors when they make CG movies. Oh, and they named the robot Hector.

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NASA emailed new socket wrench to ISS astronauts

NASA emailed new socket wrench to ISS astronauts

We have a winner for the most interesting email attachment of 2014! NASA recently provided the astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with a new tool via little more than a standard email. The attachment was actually instructions for a special 3D printer the astronauts have thanks to a delivery from a SpaceX Dragon capsule back in September. The printer is specially made to work in low gravity, and the emailed instructions included the design for a socket wrench that was specifically needed.

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A huge ice reservoir could be hiding inside Mars

A huge ice reservoir could be hiding inside Mars

A vast cache of water or ice could be lurking just beneath the surface of Mars, scientists claims, using meteorite research to figure out where the "missing Martian water" might have actually ended up. While signs of the historic effects of subsurface and ground ice have been observed in previous orbital surveys, evidence for a lingering supply of water has proved troublesome to pin down, even though the red planet's history is believed to have seen it wet and warm. By looking at the make-up of Martian meteorites found on Earth, however, connections have been spotted between them and a possible surface reservoir.

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