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Landing on a Comet - The Rosetta Mission

The Week In Numbers: Secret Robot Space Planes, Elephant Weathermen, And Suspended Animation

10: Percent of people who are frightened of needles. They could benefit from a new technology which may make injections pain-free.
6: Episodes in the first season of a new show called How We Got to Now, which tells the story of simple inventions that shaped the modern world.
200,000: Number of applicants who applied to the Mars One mission, which MIT students recently predicted will end in starvation.
1 atom: Thickness of the thinnest possible electrical generator, as demonstrated by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Columbia Engineering.
Squeezing Charges From Material 
This is a cartoon showing positive and negative polarized charges are squeezed from a single layer of atoms of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), as it is being stretched. 
Lei Wang/Columbia Engineering
7 weeks: Amount of time the Ebola virus can reside in a patient's semen even after full recovery.
180 days: The length of a trip to Mars. Putting astronauts in suspended animation could make that journey a lot easier, according to a NASA-commissioned study on human stasis.
Human stasis, as portrayed in the movie Prometheus. 
NASA wants to know whether it's really possible to put astronauts into 'suspended animation' for long-distance space travel. 
Prometheus/Twentieth Century Fox
100,000,000: Number of colors that tetrachromatic artist, Concetta Antico, can perceive thanks to an extra type of cone cell in her eyes. That's 100 times more than the average person. 
Concetta Antico
220 pounds: Weight of Philae, Rosetta spacecraft's lander, which is scheduled for a historic landing on Comet 47P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12.
An artist's rendering of Philae touching down on 67P 
ESA/ATG medialab
150 miles: Distance from which elephants can detect approaching rainstorms.
African Elephants 
22 months: Length of time that X-37B, the secret robot space plane, spent on its last mission before touching down on Earth earlier this week.
X-37B On Runway 
U.S. Air Force
Correction (10/17/2014, 5:11pm ET): The original story stated 0.1 percent of people are afraid of needles. In fact, it's 10 percent of people, and it has been corrected. We regret the error.

DARPA - XS-1 Unmanned Reusable Hypersonic Spaceplane Concept [480p]

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The Jade Rabbit Moon Rover May Still Be Alive

The Jade Rabbit Moon Rover May Still Be Alive

China's lunar mission is shaping up to be a riveting soap opera. You might recall that two weeks ago, the Jade Rabbit rover live blogged its own death using its Weibo account, which is operated by space enthusiasts who have been closely following its journey.
The multi-post swan song was a genuine emotional roller-coaster. The rover, the first mobile explorer to soft-land on the moon since 1976, assured its fans that it wasn't sad or fearful. It then asked them to console its mother, the Chang'e-3 lander, which had successfully entered hibernation to endure the 14-day lunar night. “If I can't be fixed, everyone please comfort her,” said the Jade Rabbit, in a particularly heartbreaking post.
The Chang'e-3's photo of its baby taking its first steps. Image: Stuart Rankin.

Yesterday, the news that the Jade Rabbit had not survived to see its third lunar day rest flooded the Internet. The China News Service reported that “China's first lunar rover could not be restored to full function on Monday as expected, and netizens mourned it on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service.” It was a sad confirmation that as the rabbit had feared, it would never see another Earthrise.
Then, yesterday evening, there was an epic plot twist. “Hi, anyone there?” posted the rover. The floodgates were opened, with thousands of people responding to the update. Jade Rabbit, you better quit playing games with our hearts.
It turns out, the bell tolled a little prematurely. UHF-Satcom, a website that monitors radio signals from deep space, picked up an unexpected signal from the Jade Rabbit. They immediately tweeted the news, calling it “the signal we've all been waiting for, direct downlink from the Yutu rover!… a pretty good signal!”
Soon after, the Xinhua state-run news agency confirmed with Pei Zhaoyu, the spokesman for the Chinese lunar program, that the Jade Rabbit had successfully rebooted its communications equipment. “It came back to life! At least it is alive and so it is possible we could save it,” said Zhaoyu. Rejoice! Artificial life finds a way. 
While nobody can deny the exciting high drama of this whole debacle, its not clear if the rover will make a full rebound. No details on the “mechanical control abnormality,” as it was dubbed by the Xinhua state news, have been released. The only reason the Chinese media gave for the malfunction was that the “complicated lunar surface environment” led to the malfunction. It truly does not get more vague that that.
The location of the lander and rover in the Sinus Iridium. Image: NASA

Overseas experts suggested that, based on the available information, the solar panel that powers the rover in the lunar day may have had trouble powering down in preparation for the second lunar night. The sensitive instruments protected by the panel would be exposed to the frigid temperatures, which can plunge to minus 170 degrees. Clearly, the Jade Rabbit's radio is up and running again, but there's no news on whether its payload of equipment, which includes soil-sampling and photographic instruments, have survived with it.
But for the moment: who cares? The Jade Rabbit is the world's sweetheart right now, and we're just glad it has lived to see another lunar day. 
TOPICS: spaceChinajade rabbitRoversmoon roversmachines

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