By next fall, NASA plans to launch its biggest Red Planet rover yet, the $1.8-billion, SUV-size Mars Research Laboratory. Even though the MRL will be able to haul five times as much equipment as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are already on Mars, a group of Swedish researchers say that they could accomplish far more if accompanied by a squad of helper ’bots. Fredrik Bruhn, the CEO of Ångström Aerospace Corporation, and his colleagues have designed the small inflatable scouts to assist bigger, less mobile rovers in their hunt for signs of microbial life on Mars.
Big problem, small budget? Tap the affordable talents of brainy undergrads
By Patrick DiJustoPosted 09.15.2008 at 4:23 pm 3 Comments
Big-money competitions—like the $25-million Virgin Earth Challenge to suck carbon from the atmosphere and the $10-million Progressive Automotive X Prize to build a 100mpg car—are a great way to inspire life-changing technologies. Winning strokes the ego, of course, and eight-figure prize money is also a good lure. But what if you need some innovative ideas, only you don’t have a lot of prize money to throw around? Hand out course credit instead.
GPS devices are cheap, reliable and easy-to-use, but they’ve long been missing a dead-obvious feature: the ability to import a route or list of stops created on a computer. It’s far easier to plan a drive on Google Maps or MapQuest, where you can visualize the whole route and browse for cool pitstops, than it is to do so on a device’s small screen.
In 2003, a program funded by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) known as MONTAGE asked universities to find ways to squeeze unprecedented levels of magnification and resolution from small, super-thin lenses—technology that could be used in future imaging devices for finding, tracking, and identifying military targets. With some advice from his adviser Joseph Ford, UCSD graduate student Eric Tremblay decided to use an old idea—"folding" light, or reflecting it over and over—to solve the problem.
American soldiers have a bevy of hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicles to choose from these days, but nothing quite as nimble, lightweight and cheap as the Stevens Institute of Technology’s unmanned helicopter. The chopper would allow soldiers to check tall buildings for enemies by flying the camera-equipped, remote-controlled helicopter up staircases and into hidden corners before they go in. The four-pound prototype is made of a doughnut-shaped fiberglass shell 18 inches in diameter; inside, two counter-rotating 14-inch rotors create lift.
Agriculture is broken. Traditional techniques use too much energy and produce too little food for our growing planet. One fix: skyscrapers filled with robotically tended hydroponic crops and lab-grown meat