Sounds from Mars? Why Curiosity has no microphone

There was a video coming up yesterday, promising Curiosity’s audio recordings from the surface of Mars. I instinctively clicked the link which took me to some seconds of pretty unrealistic groaning and howling and then – ok, I’ve been nicely rickrolled.

But what about real sounds from the surface of Mars? Why haven’t we heard any of these yet? The answer is simple: there’s no recording. To my knowledge, not a single Mars sound recording exists today. After getting used to seeing high definition images from Mars I was quite surprised to learn that.

There have been at least two attempts to capture Mars sounds, but unfortunately both failed. NASA’s Mars Polar Lander carried a microphone but lost contact to Earth during it’s descent to Mars in 1999. 1

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MIT-developed ‘microthrusters’ could propel small satellites

A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space.

The device, designed by Paulo Lozano, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, bears little resemblance to today’s bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, Lozano’s design is a flat, compact square — much like a computer chip — covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions. Together, the array of spiky tips creates a small puff of charged particles that can help propel a shoebox-sized satellite forward.

“They’re so small that you can put several [thrusters] on a vehicle,” Lozano says. He adds that a small satellite outfitted with several microthrusters could “not only move to change its orbit, but do other interesting things — like turn and roll.”

Mini ion thrusters are manufactured using micro-manufacturing techniques. This image shows an example of the different parts comprising a thruster. The finalized device is at the bottom right, measuring 1 cm by 1 cm and 2 mm in thickness.
Photo: M. Scott Brauer

Lozano and his group in MIT’s Space Propulsion Laboratory and Microsystems Technology Laboratory presented their new thruster array at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ recent Joint Propulsion Conference.

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Nikola Tesla museum campaign earns $500,000 online in two days


Tesla is credited with the development of alternating current electricity supply systems, among other pioneering projects. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The development of a museum dedicated to the life and works Nikola Tesla has moved one step closer after an online campaign raised more than $500,000 in 48 hours.

The fundraising effort, called “Let’s build a goddamn Tesla museum”, was devised by web comic The Oatmeal on behalf of the Tesla Science Center.

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9 Terrifyingly Awesome Facts About Asteroids

Phil Plait, also known as the “Bad Astronomer,” is a Discover columnist known for making really complicated space stuff (Black holes! White dwarves! Spacetime!) not only totally understandable, but completely fascinating.

Plait made a stop in Portland, Ore. on tour with his latest book, Death from the Skies, to speak at Science Pub, a monthly summit of beer and geeks hosted by Portland’s excellent science museum, OMSI.

Plait’s talk was packed to the gills with both avid Bad Astronomy fans and science-minded folks curious about an astronomer’s take on the end of the world. Here are our favorite asteroid factoids.

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Are Sound Waves the Future of Mobile Marketing?

Your Starbucks runs and concert visits will soon be more interactive.

Imagine the luxury of walking into a coffee shop and receiving a personalized drink deal on your smartphone or tablet upon entry. Or, receiving an automated mobile thank-you note for watching a film, exactly an hour after leaving the theater.

Thanks to Sonic Notify technology, activated by audio, our smartphones are getting smarter. So smart, in fact, they’re interacting with elements in your surroundings to bring you relevant media. By installing Sonic technology into apps, companies can trigger mobile notifications at precise times or specific locations.

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MIT researchers develop highly agile autonomous plane (video)

If you’re flying a robot indoors, chances are it’s a quadrocopter. The ability hover and maneuver on a dime is essential to whipping around the confined spaces of a lab. Researchers have figured out a way to overcome such obstacles with a fixed-wing aircraft, using laser range finders, sensors and an Intel Atomprocessor to churn through all the data. To demonstrate just how accurate the on-board navigation systems are, the team of scientists took the autonomous plane to a parking garage with ceilings just 2.5 meters high. Why is that important? The vehicle has a wingspan of two meters — leaving little room for error. To see the plane in action, check out this video: Continue reading