NASA squeezed oxygen from mock moon dust. It could help astronauts breathe easy one day.

A recent test from researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) has successfully produced oxygen using simulated lunar soil in a vacuum. 

The test involved melting down moon dust in a special reactor that can reach very high temperatures. When the simulated moon soil was heated, the team detected carbon monoxide being released from it, from which oxygen can then be separated. 

The capability to produce oxygen directly on the moon would be crucial to support the space agency’s plans for a long-term lunar outpost as part of the Artemis program. As part of these moon plans, NASA aims to harvest and use on-location resources, called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), to sustain missions indefinitely on the moon’s surface.

JSC senior engineer Aaron Paz praised the success in a recent NASA statement (opens in new tab). “This technology has the potential to produce several times its own weight in oxygen per year on the lunar surface, which will enable a sustained human presence and lunar economy,” Paz said.

Related: What is the Moon Made Of?

The test was conducted by NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) team, using JSC’s Dirty Thermal Vacuum Chamber to simulate lunar conditions — “dirty” because moon dust gets everywhere. Within the 15-foot-wide (4.6-meter) spherical vacuum chamber, a high-powered laser was used to simulate concentrated sunlight to melt the simulated regolith, or powdery moon dust, in a process known as carbothermal reduction.

This has been done before, but not in a vacuum. Thanks to a new carbothermal reactor developed for NASA by Sierra Space, researchers were able to maintain a constant pressure within the reactor to prevent gases from escaping, while simultaneously allowing spent regolith material to pass in and out of the reaction area during the vacuum chamber test. Using the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) during the melting process, the CaRD team was able to detect carbon monoxide emitted from the laser-blasted regolith.

A high-powered laser and carbothermal reactor located inside the testing chamber of NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. (Image credit: NASA/Brian Sacco)

“Our team proved the CaRD reactor would survive the lunar surface and successfully extract oxygen,” said Anastasia Ford, NASA engineer and CaRD test director at JSC. The successful test certifies the technology at a level six on NASA’s technical readiness standards (opens in new tab) scale, which means the technology is ready for an actual in space and is on track for use during NASA’s Artemis missions. 

Artemis 3 will send the astronauts in over 50 years to the surface of the moon, and for missions beyond that, the space agency is planning to use long-term lunar habitation as a stepping stone to sending humans to Mars. The successful extraction of oxygen from lunar regolith has many applications, including the production of breathable oxygen and even rocket fuel.

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May 3, 2023 at 07:08AM

Europe wants to build a nuclear rocket for deep space exploration

The European Space Agency (ESA) is funding several studies that will explore the use of nuclear propulsion for deep space exploration.

Propulsion in space currently is conducted using a storage chemical propellant or using electric or solar power. The issue facing space agencies is these propulsion methods are reaching their respective physical limits. A nuclear-based electric propulsion (NEP) could potentially overcome these limitations and launch space missions into a new age, enabling humanity to reach farther into space than ever before.

One of studies ESA is funding, pReliminary eurOpean reCKon on nuclEar elecTric pROpuLsion for space appLications (RocketRoll) is being led by scientists from the University of Prague, the University of Stuttgart and engineers from OHB Czechspace and OHB System in Bremen.

“Nuclear propulsion can be more efficient than the most efficient chemical propulsion or overcome solar-limited electric propulsion, enabling exploration of places no other technology can reach,” said Jan Frýbort, principal nuclear technology investigator at Czech Technical University in Prague, in a statement. (opens in new tab) “This is a big challenge for future space missions beyond our solar system, for example.”

Related: NASA and DARPA will build a nuclear rocket by 2027

New methods of power and propulsion are particularly important as humanity works its way toward more sustainable space missions and even habitats and bases on the moon and beyond. This will require the delivery of equipment and supplies to the lunar surface and to Mars.

“The main advantage over chemical reaction is the efficiency of the engines,” OHB Czechspace wrote in the statement. “The advantage over solar electric power input is the larger power output and independence of exposure to direct sunlight, especially enabler for transporting heavy cargo with long time constraints and for exploration beyond Mars orbit.”

Scientists and engineers funded under this program will have the next 11 months to develop feasibility studies as part of the ESA Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLIPP) and determine the advantages of using a NEP tug over classical propulsion systems for demanding missions.

“The aim of the study is to explore the possibilities of using nuclear fuel for demanding space logistics and exploration missions,” OHB Czechspace’s head of Project Management, Jakub Sevecek, said in the statement. 

Sevecek added that RocketRoll will deliver an overview of existing European experience, technology, and industrial capabilities for the development of a nuclear-propelled spacecraft. Additionally, the study will provide a conceptual design of a nuclear electric propulsion engine. The team says it will consider the safety constraints of a NEP system from the early stages of the design.

“The use of nuclear-based electric propulsion for demanding space missions has been addressed in a number of studies in the past,” Frýbort, said. “Thanks to the current technologies, this topic is once again relevant within Europe.”

When the results of RocketRoll are delivered next year, they could form the basis of further ESA programs that look at the feasibility of NEP spacecraft that could be operational by 2035, if all goes according to plan.

NASA has opened its own program to study the use of nuclear rockets. The agency is partnering with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a nuclear thermal engine and fly in an in-space demonstration as early as 2027. 

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May 3, 2023 at 08:09AM

Will SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation make Earth more detectable to aliens?

Aliens might be able to eavesdrop on Earth from nearby stars, especially as SpaceX sends more satellites into space, a new study suggests.

The study determined that radio “leakage” from mobile towers here on Earth is likely detectable from nearby systems such as Barnard’s Star (roughly six light-years away), provided extraterrestrials have the right equipment. Such signals are faint now but will likely increase as SpaceX continues to launch Starlink internet satellites into orbit.

The study used crowdsourced data of simulated radio signals seen from afar, with data analysis led by Ramiro Saide, an intern at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory north of San Francisco.

Saide, also a master’s student at the University of Mauritius (an island nation in the Indian Ocean), “generated models displaying the radio power that these civilizations would receive as the Earth rotates and towers rise and set,” the SETI Institute wrote in a release (opens in new tab) on (May 2).

Related: Ready, SETI, go: Is there a race to contact ET?

The detectability of Earth’s radio signals from afar may be faint, the researchers caution, unless E.T. has more sensitive receiving systems than ours. But there are subtleties to the data.

While traditional radio broadcasting traffic is down, more powerful radio beacons are coming online for another purpose: mobile communications. Also, countries in the Global South are making a larger contribution to radio traffic than previous decades, suggesting large economic gains in that area relative to the rest of the world.

“I’ve heard many colleagues suggest that the Earth has become increasingly radio quiet in recent years, a claim that I always contested,” team leader Mike Garrett, a professor at the University of Manchester in England and director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, said in the same statement.

“Although it’s true we have fewer powerful TV and radio transmitters today, the proliferation of mobile communication systems around the world is profound,” he added. “While each system represents relatively low radio powers individually, the integrated spectrum of billions of these devices is substantial.”

One extension to the research could be examining exoplanets already found by space telescopes, such as NASA’s now-retired Kepler or the agency’s still-active Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the team suggests.

Another direction could be parsing the sources of Earth’s radio leakage, which will likely include Wi-Fi networks, radars for the military and civilian agencies, mobile handsets, and even satellite constellations such as SpaceX’s Starlink.

SpaceX recently surpassed 4,000 individual active Starlinks in orbit and hopes to grow that number to at least 40,000. If SpaceX and other companies send up tens of thousands of satellites, Earth’s artificial radio signal will be much easier to spot.

“Current estimates suggest we will have more than 100,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and beyond before the end of the decade. The Earth is already anomalously bright in the radio part of the spectrum,” Garrett said. “If the trend continues, we could become readily detectable by any advanced civilization with the right technology.”

A study based on the research (opens in new tab) was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in February.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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May 8, 2023 at 05:07AM

The Psychology of Cancel Culture

Cancel culture is largely a product of social media because it allows huge numbers of people to come together to voice their dislike or disapproval of certain people.

By “canceling” people, you’re taking away their voice, business and platform. In a sense, “you’re putting out the fuel of their fire,” especially in the public eye, says psychologist Audrey Tang.

Cancel Culture

It’s not that cancel culture didn’t exist before social media — series and sitcoms could be canceled as viewership went down. But in the era of social media, it can be propagated much quicker if we decide we no longer want to hear from certain public figures, says Tang, author of the book The Leader’s Guide to Resilience. “It’s much more immediate than it would have been before,” she says.

Is Cancel Culture Effective?

Yes, it works really well. Too well, according to Tang.

When people decide they no longer want to hear from a celebrity or public figure because of something they said or did, there’s enough steam behind it as a result of social media to impact media executives. While in the past, television shows were primarily driven by ratings; now social media is much more impactful.

Tang points to recent cancel culture examples like Amber Heard. After the public turned against her and “canceled” her, it became unlikely that media executives would hire her because they were nervous about public opinion. “It just becomes too big of a risk,” she says. 

Read More: Social Media Is Not to Blame for Dwindling Face-to-Face Communication

The Negative Effects of Cancel Culture

Tang says that, especially at universities, cancel culture can be a challenge to free speech. For example, when universities invite certain public figures to speak and then students walk out of their talks, it allows less room for debate. If you don’t listen to opposing views, she says, it takes away from our learning and our ability to question. “We don’t learn how to challenge and stand up to them,” says Tang.

We also run the risk of living in an echo chamber because if we’re never challenged, we never grow. As a result, cancel culture cuts out the middle road, and it’s in the middle where we’re best at solving problems.

“I’m not saying that we have to condone objectionable views at all, but if we’re unwilling to think deeply about critical arguments, then we’re cutting ourselves off from a great amount of knowledge,” Tang says. 

Read More: Collective Behavior and Why Some Crowds Get Out of Control

What Does Cancel Culture Mean for Your Brain?

Cancel culture also teaches children and teens the easy way out. It’s easier to push mute or turn off those whom you disagree with, but the easy way out isn’t always the most effective because we’re not engaging in complex thinking. 

It’s also worth remembering, says Tang, that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain engaged in complex thinking, doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25. “I would be loath to judge a teen for engaging in this sort of behavior because their brains aren’t yet fully formed,” she says.

Tang also contends that humans are “cognitive misers,” which means that when given the chance, our brains would rather solve problems using less effort because we can’t manage too much information at once. It’s a problem that becomes much worse in the age of social media when overwhelming amounts of information are flying at us from all directions.

“It’s not a great way of dealing with problems, but cancel culture may be a filter that people use as a survival mechanism,” says Tang.

Read More: Why Are Emotions Contagious?

Why We Are Drawn To Cancel Culture

It makes sense that our brains are drawn to cancel culture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to live in a society in which we all need to at least attempt to get along.

Tang says that it’s worth putting in the time and energy to learn broadly about opposing views. She also contends that you should gently call people out if they discriminate. Simply saying, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that please?” allows people to rethink what they’ve said. If they repeat it, ask them why they think the way they do.

Ultimately, it’s about broadening our horizons even when it’s uncomfortable. “Listen, learn, read widely and travel,” says Tang. That’s how to be a responsible member of society, rather than just canceling out those with whom you disagree.

Read More: Shame and the Rise of the Social Media Outrage Machine

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May 3, 2023 at 01:36PM

Entire Super Mario Bros. Movie Leaked On Twitter

The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which recently crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office, has become the latest target of online piracy. According to Forbes, a Twitter account with 1.1 million followers uploaded the movie in two parts, in high quality, via the platform’s Blue subscription service, which allows hour-long video uploads.

The video was viewed 9 million times before Twitter removed it, at least seven hours after it was uploaded. The incident has raised concerns about Twitter’s staff reductions and the potential for the misuse of tools available to Blue subscribers. It is uncertain whether the "vids that go hard" account responsible for the leak will be suspended or banned.

Despite the illegal posting, the movie’s box office revenue has continued to grow, and it is now one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, with double the revenue of any other video game movie. With the $1 billion worldwide, The Super Mario Bros. Movie became one of only 10 animated films to reach this milestone. In an interview with the Japanese press, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto said, "You need some luck to achieve this level of success for a film. While many foreign critics have given the movie relatively low ratings, I think that also contributed to the movie’s notoriety and buzz."

Continue Reading at GameSpot

via GameSpot’s PC Reviews

May 1, 2023 at 03:03PM

Ukraine Army Using Steam Decks To Shoot Real Turrets In War With Russia

New footage shows Ukrainian military personnel piloting a remote-control turret with nothing other than a Steam Deck. As reported by PC Gamer, footage of the Steam Deck being used by the Ukrainian military first emerged via TRO Media on Instagram. Later footage, likely from the same event, appeared showing the turret explicitly being controlled by the portable PC.

The turret shown in the footage is a Shablya model, developed by Ukrainian firm Global Dynamics. A crowdfunding campaign via People’s Project raised 445,000 uah (12,000 USD) to supply 10 of the remote weapon stations to the Ukraine armed forces.

Why use a video game device to control a remote turret? According to Bellingcat research Aric Toler, as quoted by PC Gamer, the device is perfect for this kind of usage. Toler said, “Totally native OS client, great controller you can use, touch screen, etc. It makes perfect sense for Steam Deck to be used, assuming the software is Linux-compatible (unless they went through the godawful process of dual-booting Windows on a Steam Deck).”

The relationship between video games and military technology goes back to the medium’s origins. The first flight simulators were developed for training military pilots. This is not the first time gaming controllers have been used for military purposes. Xbox controller have been used to control submarines, photonics masts, and even giant laser cannons. On the more absurd side of these connections, War Thunder players leaked classified military documents in an effort to correct perceived inaccuracies in the combat-vehicle-themed game.

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via GameSpot’s PC Reviews

May 2, 2023 at 11:42AM

Daimler Trucks launches Rizon electric medium-duty truck in U.S.

Daimler Trucks, which already owns Freightliner and Western Star, is putting a new brand on the U.S. market later this year. Dubbed Rizon, the medium-duty Class 4 and Class 5 haulers are battery-electric vehicles ranging from 15,995 to 17,995 pounds in gross vehicle weight. These are the kinds of city workhorses usually put to work as box trucks and refrigerated trucks for delivery and minicipal fleets, dump trucks, and flatbeds. Daimler hasn’t addressed the source of Rizon’s line yet, but Freightwaves suspects these are rebadged versions of Japanese truckmaker Mitsubishi Fuso’s eCanter. Daimler Trucks owns 89.3% of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, which launched the latest version of the eCanter for Europe last September. The additions expand Daimler Trucks’ commercial e-footprint, along with the Class 6 Freightliner eM2 106 and the Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia.

Three Rizon models will go on sale through a network of U.S. dealers in Q4, the e16M, e16L and e18L. The M model runs with two 83-kWh battery packs providing a range from 75 to 100 miles. The L models boast three larger 124-kWh packs extending range to anywhere from 110 to 160 miles on a charge. Daimler chose lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries for their extended durability and reliability compared to other chemistries. The company will warranty the high-voltage packs for 5 years or 120,000 miles, and the rest of the truck and powertrain for 5 years or 75,000 miles. The company says charging using a Level 2 AC system refills the battery in “five to six hours,” whereas using the DC fast charge system “will result in a full charge in 45 to 90 minutes.”

To help the fleet customers that Rizon is targeting first, Daimler Truck and distribution partner Velocity will offer consultation on charging and telematics access, plus a sales force and technicians trained on the ins and outs of commercial electric vehicles.

Sales start in Southern California, New York and Texas. These are also the states where Daimler just announced the launch of its charging infrastructure joint venture Greenlane. Developed with NextEra Energy Resources and private equity firm BlackRock, the $650 million initiative will build out a charging network along popular freight routes for medium- and heavy-duty battery-electric trucks that has refilling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell trucks. When up and running, dedicated software will include a commercial vehicle reservation platform to make charging more efficient even before plugging in. Eventually, the project wants to make space for light-duty vehicles after opening the way for electric trucks and then hydrogen trucks.

The Rizon makes its debut here at next week’s Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, running May 1-4 in Anaheim, California.

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via Autoblog

April 28, 2023 at 04:12PM