Nasa needs you: space agency to crowdsource origami designs for shield | Science

If you know your crane from your bishop’s mitre, Nasa needs you. The space agency is launching a challenge to crowdsource origami-inspired ideas for a foldable radiation shield to protect spacecraft and astronauts on voyages to deep space, such as missions to Mars.

“Origami is a natural fit to many problems involving deployability in space,” says Robert J. Lang, origami artist and former Nasa physicist.

“Origami is a natural fit to many problems involving deployability in space,” says Robert J. Lang, origami artist and former Nasa physicist. Photograph: Mark Bolitho

With the challenge open for entries from 26 July, innovative designs can be submitted through the website, Freelancer.

“The theory is that there will be a lot of people who have expertise in folding techniques or origami and [Nasa] want to find a very efficient way to pack a radiation shield,” said Matt Barrie, founder and CEO of Freelancer.

Helen O’Brien, a space engineer from Imperial College London who is not involved in the project, said that radiation shields – typically made of aluminium – are a crucial component of both manned and unmanned spacecraft.

“Essentially cosmic rays and other solar radiation can be very damaging to both people and electronics,” she said, pointing out that it can cause cancer, as well as triggering faults in circuits.

But, she noted, mass means money when it comes to space missions, and bulky items take up space that could be used for instruments – or people.

“Nasa want something that is sufficiently packed and compact so that when you actually land on a planet you can expand it and it will provide maximum efficiency and protection from radiation,” said Barrie.

As well as the radiation shield challenge, two other projects have been announced, one of which is asking for animation storyboards to help the space agency explain its experimental system for keeping track of objects inside the International Space Station (ISS). The other is to create a badge, known as a mission patch, for the space agency’s 3D printer-cum-recycling project, the “In Space Manufacturing Refabricator”.

The challenges are the latest in a series of conundrums posed to the public by the Nasa Tournament Lab and Freelancer. Previous challenges have ranged from suggestions for an app interface for astronauts’ smartwatches, to designing an arm for the Astrobee robot, that will help with tasks on the ISS.

“The whole premise is that by tapping into the minds of millions of people we will hopefully find unexpected solutions to problems that Nasa internally couldn’t come up with,” said Barrie.

It is not the first time space engineers have turned to the Japanese art for inspiration.

Among previous projects, earlier this year Nasa announced it had joined forces with researchers at Brigham Young University to create an origami-inspired folding radiator that allows the rate of heat loss to be controlled by changing its shape.

Origami designer Mark Bolitho points out that from heart stents to folding at a molecular level, origami has many scientific applications beyond space.

Origami designer Mark Bolitho points out that from heart stents to folding at a molecular level, origami has many scientific applications beyond space. Photograph: Mark Bolitho

Robert J. Lang – an origami artist, world expert on the mathematics of origami and a former Nasa physicist – said that he was not surprised that Nasa was looking to the art for inspiration.

“Origami is a natural fit to many problems involving deployability in space, and Nasa has worked with origami artists – myself and others – over the years,” he said.

Mark Bolitho, a professional origami designer and an organiser of the international meeting on Origami in Science, Mathematics and Education to be held at the University of Oxford next year, added that applications extend beyond space.

“There have been many advances in the application of folding in science,” he said, citing innovations such as heart stents, car air bags, “and even experiments to fold at a molecular level.”

O’Brien, too, welcomed the use of origami in space engineering. “Origami is fantastic – the way that the intricate structures can be produced in such a small volume, but then also can be deployed to something that is really huge,” she said. “There is no reason why that kind of [approach] cannot be used to provide innovative and low mass shielding for space missions in the future.”

Aust’n government announces review of space policy, hints at new space agency – Xinhua

CANBERRA, July 13 (Xinhua) — The Australian government on Thursday announced a major review of its space policy, in an effort to gain a “greater understanding of the industry’s capabilities” to participate in the global market.

Announcing the review in a media release, Australia’s Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinis said the government had not closed the door of potentially creating its own space agency similar to the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“The Australian government wants to ensure the right framework and mix of incentives are in place to assist Australia’s growing space industry sector to participate successfully in this global market,” Sinodinis said.

“The review will consult widely and examine Australia’s current capability and areas of comparative advantage, as well as our regional and international collaboration within the sector. Importantly, it will also consider how the space industry sector aligns with other sectors and government priorities.”

Sinodinis said the space industry grew at a rate of 9.52 percent from 1998 to 2015, while revenue from overall space-related activities was valued at about 323 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.

“I believe that Australia can participate in the global space sector and through development of the technical capability and knowledge required for this demanding sector, we will develop skills to grow other advanced manufacturing industries in Australia,” the minister said.

“This review is timely, given the current pace of change in the international space sector and advances in technologies that provide an environment that encourages commercial investment in space activities.

“It will provide a strategic framework for the Australian space sector that supports leadership, innovation, opportunity and entrepreneurship, along with our broader national interest.”

The review will be chaired by the former head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Dr Megan Clark, and will formally begin on July 20 and is expected to conclude “by the end of March 2018”, Sinodinis said.

NASA is worried about a huge asteroid hitting Earth, and the space agency has a ‘planetary defense’ plan

Asteroids reach Earth “almost daily,” NASA reports. You shouldn’t worry: they’re typically small and break up when they enter the planet’s atmosphere.

But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration gets paid to worry. The space agency tracks asteroids, and it’s identified plenty of asteroids out there “large enough to cause global effects” if they crash into Earth.

That’s why NASA created the Planetary Defense Coordination Office last year. And the group is developing a plan to stop large asteroids from smashing into us.

The planet’s savior could be an unmanned spacecraft that would zero in on a massive asteroid headed our way and, basically, ram it, thus altering its trajectory away from Earth.

In the first step toward producing such a spacecraft, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland is designing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Last month NASA approved a preliminary design for DART, with a test tentatively scheduled for 2024.

The test will involve sending a “refrigerator-sized” craft to a binary asteroid system called Didymos that is expected to pass by Earth in 2022 and 2024. The plan is for the test spacecraft to impact one of the Didymos asteroids “nine times faster than a bullet.” Because the asteroid system has two bodies — “didymos” is Greek for “twin” or “double” — NASA will be able to compare any orbital shift in the struck asteroid to the other one.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said in a statement. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

Of course, a successful test won’t necessarily mean we can all let out a sigh of relief. Acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking recently said humans eventually will have to leave Earth to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change, overpopulation and nuclear war.

In the meantime, you can watch a NASA animation of DART in action:

Pokemon GO in Trouble with Korea Consumer Agency Over Refund Policy

Pokemon GO is in trouble in South Korea for unfavorable refund terms. The Korea Consumer Agency, a government agency centered around consumer protection efforts, is unhappy with Niantic over the inability to get partial refunds for unused PokeCoins.

Right now, Pokemon GO players in South Korea who buy a pack of coins cannot get a refund for coins they do not use. The Korea Times reports that users can only get refunded for coin purchases within seven days, and only if the coins are unused. There are no partial refunds available, even if users can no longer play the game for any reason.

The English terms of service say “You agree that all sales by us to you of Virtual Money and Virtual Goods are final and that we will not permit exchanges or refunds for any unused Virtual Money or Virtual Goods once the transaction has been made.”

It’s worth noting that Niantic may not be able to easily offer these partial refunds to users. Google specifically says that developers cannot offer partial refunds. iOS developers cannot initiate refunds themselves, unlike Google Play; Apple handles all iTunes refund decisions. Other developers, when doing customer support, offer refunds via PayPal to keep users happy.

Niantic could be stuck between a rock and a hard place with Pokemon GO in South Korea. The release in South Korea was delayed due to government regulations over mapping data. An alternative to get the game working in South Korea caused a further six month delay. If Niantic runs afoul of the South Korean government, they could lose access to one of the most lucrative mobile gaming markets.

The trouble could spread from South Korea to the United States. The KCA signed a deal with the Better Business Bureau in the United States (which is a non-governmental organization) for cooperation regarding purchase disputes in each other’s countries. The KCA says of the Pokemon GO refunds issue that “We also plan to discuss the issue with our U.S. counterpart, the Better Business Bureau, if necessary.”

If these issues wind up being with Apple and Google’s marketplaces and their inflexible refund policies, then Pokemon GO‘s regulatory issues may be a strong enough catalyst for these stores to change these policies to allow for partial refunds.

French Police Raid Havas’ Headquarters | Agency News

French police raided Havas’ headquarters this week as investigators probe how it was awarded a contract to organize a party promoting French tech startups during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year, news reports said.

Havas CEO Yannick Bollore.
Havas CEO Yannick Bollore.

A government agency that promotes French companies overseas tapped Havas to put on the January 2016 party. About 500 people reportedly attended the event, which took place on the sidelines of CES, including then-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. Macron was elected president this May.

Le Monde and other French newspapers reported that authorities are looking into whether the government agency, called Business France, selected Havas without asking for bids from other companies, as is required by law for contracts of that size. The party cost around $425,600, according to Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical French newspaper also known for its investigations.

In March, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an inquiry into whether there was favoritism, complicity or benefitting from favoritism in the case, local media said at the time.

Anti-corruption police searched Havas, which is headquartered outside Paris in the suburb of Puteaux, as well as Business France’s office, in simultaneous operations Tuesday, Le Monde said.

At the Havas Cafe in Cannes on Thursday, Havas CEO Yannick Bollore said he had no comment and referred questions to Havas’s legal department in Paris.

Business France said in a statement several months ago that it faced a tight deadline for the party. It acknowledged hiring Havas to organize and promote the event because it was familiar with the agency and had used it in the past for similar events. It also said Macron had no involvement in the decision.

NASA Cancels Wallops Rocket Launch Due To Cloudy Skies, Space Agency To Commence Mission Next Week

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) canceled the launch of a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket due to the cloudiness of the skies. The much-awaited take-off was supposed to occur at the Wallops Flight Facility last Monday night, June 12.

It can be recalled that the space agency had attempted numerous times to initiate the project. However, due to unavoidable circumstances, NASA scrubbed the previously planned attempts.

The aim of the said launch is to create colorful clouds which will depict artificial auroras in the skies. Once the sounding rocket takes off, it will create red and blue-green clouds which will be visible on the East Coast. With that said, scientists will be able to study the ionosphere and the auroras.

According to reports, the rocket will carry 10 canisters containing chemicals, approximately the size of a soda can, which will be deployed between four to five and a half minutes after the launch. Apparently, the reaction of the chemical with the atmosphere will create the artificial auroras, which many enthusiasts have been anticipating.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that scientists would be able to study the movement of the air in the skies through color tracers. The color tracers are formed by mixing non-hazardous chemicals such as cupric oxide, barium, and strontium.

Although there were chemicals involved, the agency has assured the public that it will not impose danger to the residents near the site of the study.

NASA is reportedly planning to create an artificial Aurora Borealis. [Image by MTI,Balazs Mohai/AP Images]

The success of NASA’s impending Wallops rocket launch depends on the clarity of the skies. Apparently, the artificially colored clouds would be more visible to the scientists conducting the study from their observation sites if the skies are clear. Thus, having cloudy skies forced the team to cancel the launch once again. Monday’s launch marks the seventh time that NASA canceled the takeoff.

“The launch of a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket scheduled for June 12 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has been postponed due to clouds impacting the ability to test a new ampoule ejection system designed to support studies of the ionosphere and aurora.”

NASA’s Wallops rocket launch has been canceled for the seventh time. [Image by Steve Helber/AP Images]

Despite the sudden cancellation, NASA already expressed that they will try to pick up where they left off and attempt to launch the Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket no earlier than Thursday night (June 15). The liftoff from Wallops Flight Facility is scheduled between 9:05 p.m. EDT.

Full details of the much-anticipated mission will be posted on Wallops Flight Facility’s official Facebook page and Twitter account.

[Featured Image by Steve Helber/AP Images]