Tag Archives: engineering

Electric car company shuts down

For once, the taxpayer doesn’t get screwed: The electric car company Aptera has shut down due to lack of interest from investors and the lack of a loan from the government.

The California company was counting on a federal loan – and private investments to match the loan – so that it could start producing its very first electric vehicle. Aptera said it was close to securing a $150 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, but it couldn’t line up the private dollars necessary to complete the loan application process.

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Uganda’s suborbital spaceplane, under construction in the backyard of the designer’s mother

Uganda’s space program: the construction of its first aircraft — in the backyard of the designer’s mother’s home — to be followed by a space shuttle! With pictures and video.

At first glance this looks absurd and a pipe dream. However, stranger things have happened. I wish them all the success in the world.

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More budget battles in Europe over $16 billion fusion reactor project

The budget battles continue in Europe over funding a $16 billion fusion reactor project.

Now the three statutory bodies of the European Union have agreed to cobble together €360 million from anticipated unspent funds in the still-to-be-decided 2013 budget. Another €840 million will be found by shifting money from 2012 and 2013 budget lines for farm and fishing subsidies, rural development, and environment, into the ones covering research. The remaining €100 million had already been allocated to ITER in the 2012 budget.

Sounds to me as if this whole thing has feet of clay, and is going to fall apart long before completion.

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Over-the-counter osteoporosis drug appears to keep astronauts from losing bone density on long space flights

Big news: New research on ISS now shows that the standard over-the-counter osteoporosis drugs used by millions on Earth appears to keep astronauts from losing bone density during long space flights.

Beginning in 2009, the group administered the drug to five long-stay astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), including Koichi Wakata, 48, and Soichi Noguchi, 46. The five took the drug — an over-the-counter bisphosphonate used to treat osteoporosis — once a week starting three weeks before they lifted off until they returned to Earth. The researchers then monitored the astronauts’ bone mass over time and compared the results to those for 14 astronauts that had never taken the drug.

The results showed that the 14 who had never taken the drug had average bone density loss of 7 percent in the femur, and 5 percent in the hip bone. The five astronauts on bisphosphonate, however, only had average bone density loss in the femur of 1 percent, and even a 3 percent increase in the hip bone. Calcium levels in their urine, which rise the more bone mass is lost, were also very low.

If these results hold up, they might very well solve one of the biggest challenges faced by any interplanetary traveler. Up until now, bone loss during long weightless missions never seemed to average less than 0.5 percent per month. After spending three years going to and from Mars, an astronaut could thus lose about almost 20 percent of their bone mass in their weight-bearing bones, and would probably be unable to return to Earth.

Thus, a mission to Mars seemed impossible, unless we could build a ship with some form of artificial gravity, an engineering challenge we don’t yet have the capability to achieve.

If these already tested drugs can eliminate this problem, then the solar system is finally open to us all. All that has to happen now is to do some one to two year manned missions on ISS to test the drugs effectiveness for these long periods of weightlessness.

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Uncovering China’s vast network of nuclear weapon tunnels

Students at Georgetown University have uncovered details about China’s vast network of nuclear weapon tunnels.

According to a report by state-run CCTV, China had more than 3,000 miles of tunnels — roughly the distance between Boston and San Francisco — including deep underground bases that could withstand multiple nuclear attacks.

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Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17

The solar sail Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

The concept being tested appears to use a solar sail as a navigating tool for guiding defunct satellites back into the atmosphere.

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The 1960s space race: The US orbits its first living animal, Enos the chimpanzee

An evening pause: Fifty years ago today the United States succeeded for the first time in placing a living animal in orbit, four years after the Soviet’s launched the dog Laika into space. On November 29, 1961 NASA orbited a chimpanzee named Enos as a dress rehearsal for John Glenn’s orbital flight, then scheduled for early in 1962. See this article for some details about Enos difficult flight.

Since the flights of Gagarin, Titov, Shepard, and Grissom earlier in 1961, the 1960s space race had seemed in abeyance as NASA geared up for its first orbital manned mission, while the Soviets were typically silent about their plans. Yet, for those like myself who were alive at that time, the suspense never abated. What would happen next? Could the U.S. beat the Russians to the Moon? Only time would tell.

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