Space

Forests disappearing since 2000? Google cloud maps global changes

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 14, 2013   View Article

In this era of big data, anyone can now see how and where the world’s forests are changing thanks to a new mapping project made possible, in part, by the computing resources of the tech giant Google.

The map compiles 100-foot-resolution satellite images of Earth’s land area taken each season, every year between 2000 and 2012, to paint a picture of where trees were lost or gained. Globally, the map shows that 888,000 square miles of forest were lost between 2000 and 2012. In the same period, 309,000 square miles were gained.

‘Runaway greenhouse’ easier to trigger on Earth than thought, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 28, 2013   View Article

It’s plausible that conditions on Earth could get so hot and steamy that the oceans entirely evaporate and render the planet inhospitable to life, according to new calculations that suggest this so-called runaway greenhouse is easier to initiate than previously believed.

“We could go into the runaway greenhouse today if we could get the planet hot enough to get enough water vapor into the atmosphere,” Colin Goldblatt, a professor of Earth system evolution at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and lead author of the study, told NBC News.

The reality, though, he said, is that burning all the planet’s fossil fuels such as oil and coal is “very unlikely” to trigger the uncontrollable warming.

Satellite’s failure on eve of hurricane season ruffles meteorologist

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 23, 2013   View Article

For the second time in less than a year, the main satellite that keeps an eye on severe weather systems in the eastern half of the United States has malfunctioned, according to government officials. The failure is indicative of the overall aging of the nation’s weather satellite network that could lead to gaps in coverage as the fleet is replaced, an expert said.

Although a backup satellite began operating Thursday, the failure of GOES-East, also known as GOES-13, is “really bad timing because of the upcoming hurricane season, and also we are smack dab in the middle of severe weather season,” Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, told NBC News.

Meet the 6-legged robot lizards that may one day roam Mars

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 21, 2013   View Article

Wheels are great for traversing flat, paved surfaces, but when the terrain is covered with loose sand and large rocks, it’s time to grow feet. Scientists built a six-legged robot after studying the movements of lizards, and the breakthrough may mean a fast walking rover we send to Mars that’ll leave its predecessors in the dust.

“Having appendages like legs or limbs can be useful and beneficial” when the ground gets less even and solid, Daniel Goldman, a physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told NBC News.

Spikey robot ‘hedgehogs’ to explore Martian moon

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 2, 2013   View Article

A spike-covered robotic hedgehog is being developed to precisely hop, bounce and tumble across the Martian moon Phobos on a scouting trip for a human mission to Mars, according to a space scientist working on the project.

The Martian moon Phobos is one of the red planet’s two satellites, each just a few kilometers wide. Many scientists consider the moon a must-visit destination to learn more about Mars, the evolution of the solar system, and, perhaps, use as a base camp for future robotic explorations of Mars.

3-D printer and moon rocks join up to make repairs in space

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2012   View Article

When lunar colonists need a new tool or replacement part to fix a broken spacecraft leg, all they’ll need to do is scoop up some moon rocks and feed them into a 3-D printer, suggests a new proof-of-concept study.

The ability to use material already on the moon to build things and fix equipment could save earthlings a bundle of money in fuel costs since they won’t have to haul everything they need to their lunar outposts.

Students help NASA control robots from space

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 16, 2012   View Article

Astronauts on missions to Mars and other worlds will almost certainly bring along a few robot helpers. A team of industrial design students is helping NASA make sure those robots are easy to control from the comfort of a spaceship.

Astronauts aren’t lazy, they are “extremely busy,” Maria Bualat with the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, told me.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach