Step one of the ExoMars mission to find life on Mars launch today

ExoMars 2016 Fairing Release ©ESA–David Ducros
ExoMars 2016 Fairing Release ©ESA–David Ducros

The ExoMars program, a joint endeavor between ESA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is planned to launch it’s first phase later today at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET). The primary goal of the ExoMars program is to address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars.

The program comprises of two missions, and if everything goes as planned, the first mission will be launched later today. It consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter, and Schiaparelli, an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module. The second mission is planned for launch in 2018 and comprises a rover and surface science platform.

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Scientist wants to use CO2 to generate clean electricity


Today solar and wind power becomes more and more commonplace, but there is still a basic problem that comes with these solutions, how do you store the energy produced to be used at a later time? Scientists at GE Global Research have decided to try and solve this problem by storing some of the heat generated by thermal solar power plants in carbon dioxide.

These power plants concentrate solar rays with vast fields of mirrors and use the heat to generate steam that spins a turbine. The carbon dioxide stored under ground is cooled to a solid dry ice state using excess grid power, and when extra electricity is needed, for instance during night, the heated salt then can be used to warm up the solid CO2 to a “supercritical” state between a gas and solid.

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Darkest material so far, gets even darker

Vantablack - Surrey Nanosystems
Vantablack – Surrey Nanosystems

Back in 2014, Surrey NanoSystems introduced a material called Vantablack, that until now was the the darkest, most blackest material ever invented. The company claimed the material was capable of absorbing 99.96 percent of light, but apparently this was not dark enough. This week Surrey NanoSystems announced that they’ve made Vantablack even darker, so dark in fact that spectrometers can’t even measure it.

Vantablack is composed of a forest of vertical carbon nanotubes that absorbs radiation in the visible spectrum. When light strikes the material, instead of bouncing off, it becomes trapped and is continually deflected between the tubes before eventually becoming heat. The heat, that is largely undetectable in most applications, is conducted to the substrate and dissipated

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Stretchable Circuits made possible by Liquid Metal


Scientists at EPFL in Switzerland have found a way to turn liquid metal, an alloy of gold and gallium, into a circuit that is flexible and can be stretched up to four times its original size.

Generally electronic circuits are very sensitive to bending and twisting because they are made from brittle metals, this can therefore lead to problems in several applications in the industry. The possibility of flexible electronic circuits could potentially solve a lot of these woes, and hopefully make for more reliable electronic products in the future.

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Time for ESA’s comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta to wake up

Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander
Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credits: ESA–J. Huart, 2013

Later today, 20 January, it’s time for ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta to wake up from a 31 months long deep space sleep. The on-board computer on the Rosetta spacecraft is programmed to re-establish contact with Earth on 20 January, starting with an ‘alarm clock’ set at 10:00 GMT.

As soon as the alarm goes off Rosetta´s  startrackers will begin to warm up, a process that will take approximately six hours. Rosetta will then send a signal to Earth to announce that it is awake. The first window of opportunity to receive a signal is between 17:30-18:30 GMT. ESA will stream the event live from ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany, with full coverage of the day’s historic events as they unfold, starting at 09:15 GMT (10:15 CET)

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Vertex connectivity could maximize network bandwidth

Representation of Vertex connectivity (Image: MIT)

The demand for more bandwidth on existing connections has been increasing rapidly the past few years and an explosion of new services depend, more then ever before, on a constant connection and higher amounts of data. Existing connection methods is becoming bottlenecks, and the cost of replacing them is starting to hold back development.

Now a new approach to understanding a basic concept in graph theory, known as “vertex connectivity,” could lead to future communications protocols that pushes as much bandwidth as possible from existing networks solutions.

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NASA Curiosity rover successfully land on Mars

The Curiosity Rover
The Curiosity Rover 3D render (Image © NASA)

After traveling for 36 weeks from earth, and approximately 567 million kilometers (352 million miles), it was all down to the last 7 minutes to determine if the long travel was worth the wait.

By some called “7-minutes of terror”, the NASA Curiosity rover had to survive a complicated and intricate procedure to finally touch down on the surface of Mars. After months of waiting, now finally the scientists and engineers can breath a sigh of relief as the rover is securely seated on the surface of Mars.

The intense period called the entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of the mission began when the spacecraft reached the top of the Martian atmosphere. At this time the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, carrying the Curiosity rover was traveling at about 5,900 meters per second (13,200 miles per hour). EDL ended about seven minutes later,  with the rover placed stationary on the surface.

The NASA controllers, and the rest of the world, relied on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter to provide confirmation of a successful landing. Odyssey was turned to the right direction before the landing procedure started so it could listen to Curiosity during the landing. The rover touched down on Mars at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

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Research give breakthrough images of ferroelectric materials

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven physicists Yimei Zhu (back) and Myung-geun Han examine the breakthrough nanoscale images of ferroelectric polarizations. (Image: © BNL)

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory, have developed a technique called electron holography to capture images of the electric fields created by ferroelectric materials atomic displacement. The new method give picometer precision that is crucial for learning more about these promising nanoparticles. If we can learn how to manipulate these nanoscale materials there is potential to lay a foundation for future more compact, efficient, and innovative electronic devices.

In research published online July 8 in the journal Nature Materials, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and other collaborating institutions, describe one such advance, a technique to store digital information. The scientist have revealed unprecedented details about the atomic structure and the behaviour of exotic ferroelectric materials, and how they are uniquely equipped to store information.

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New satellite launched to improve Europe’s weather service

MSG-3 set to ensure quality of Europe’s weather service from geostationary orbit (Image © ESA)

At the end of last week, the latest weather satellite in Europe’s successful Meteosat second-generation project was launched with an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch was made from Europe’s Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:36 GMT (23:36 CEST) on Thursday, 5 July.

The satellite is currently being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany, and on the 15 July, ten days after launch, the MSG-3 will be handed over to the satellite’s owner, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, EUMETSAT, to commission the payload, once all initial operations are completed.

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NEC and Tohoku improve Spintronics Logic Integrated Circuits

Spintronics Logic Integrated Circuits
Improved reliability of Spintronics Logic Integrated Circuits (Image Credit: NEC)

Researchers at NEC Corporation and Tohoku University have developed the worlds first technology for improving the reliability of spintronics logic integrated circuits. The intention is to reduce the standby power of electronic devices to zero.

Spintronics logic integrated circuits use two of the properties of electrons, namely negative charge and spin, one of the properties of electrons that makes them behave like tiny magnets. By flipping the polarity of these tiny magnets between “north” and “south” according to the direction of an electric current, it is possible to remember the results of a calculation. The behavior of this technology has been verified and proven by using a prototype chip.

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