Archive for November 2018

Pentagon looks to exoskeletons to build ‘super-soldiers’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army is investing millions of dollars in experimental exoskeleton technology to make soldiers stronger and more resilient, in what experts say is part of a broader push into advanced gear to equip a new generation of “super-soldiers.”

The technology is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) with a license from Canada-based B-TEMIA, which first developed the exoskeletons to help people with mobility difficulties stemming from medical ailments like multiple sclerosis and severe osteoarthritis.

Worn over a pair of pants, the battery-operated exoskeleton uses a suite of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technology to aid natural movements.

For the U.S. military, the appeal of such technology is clear: Soldiers now deploy into war zones bogged down by heavy but critical gear like body armor, night-vision goggles and advanced radios. Altogether, that can weigh anywhere from 90 to 140 pounds (40-64 kg), when the recommended limit is just 50 pounds (23 kg).

“That means when people do show up to the fight, they’re fatigued,” said Paul Scharre at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), who helped lead a series of studies on exoskeletons and other advanced gear.

“The fundamental challenge we’re facing with infantry troops is they’re carrying too much weight.”

Lockheed Martin said on Thursday it won a $6.9 million award from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to research and develop the exoskeleton, called ONYX, under a two-year, sole-source agreement.

Keith Maxwell, the exoskeleton technologies manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said people in his company’s trials who wore the exoskeletons showed far more endurance.

“You get to the fight fresh. You’re not worn out,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell, who demonstrated a prototype, said each exoskeleton was expected to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Full article: https://www.reuters.tv/v/Prqw/2018/11/30/pentagon-invests-in-super-soldier-exoskeletons

How NASA beams Pluto images 3 billion miles to Earth

Spanning three continents, the Deep Space Network hears all. And thank goodness, or you wouldn’t be seeing any photos of Pluto.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is delivering amazing images of Pluto, but receiving them from 3 billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers) away is no easy feat.

The strength of the radio signals, the time it takes the signal to travel back and forth and the speed of the data flow all present challenges, but it’s all in a day’s work for NASA’s Deep Space Network. Think of it as the long-distance phone company for the solar system and beyond.

The DSN consists of a network of huge satellite dishes spread across three sites—near Barstow in California; near Madrid in Spain; and near Canberra in Australia. Those locations are about 120 degrees in longitude apart to give wide coverage of the skies, so before a spacecraft is lost by one antenna, another one can pick it up.

The sensitive antennas work alone or in groups and communicate with about 30 space probes each month, said Jeff Osman, contact technical manager for the Deep Space Network, in an interview.

For New Horizons, the first images of its closest Pluto fly-by will be received by 70-meter antennas at the Madrid and Barstow sites, he said.

Data is coming down at a speed of approximately 1,200 bits per second—about as fast as a dial-up Internet modem in the early Nineties—and it takes 4.5 hours for the signal to travel the distance from New Horizons to Earth.

The Deep Space Network isn’t confined to NASA craft. Because of its sensitivity, it also plays a supporting role to international missions, such as those launched by the European Space Agency and Japan’s space agency.

At any one time, the DSN is talking to between 12 and 15 craft. A real-time view of this setup can be found on the Web at DSN Now. The page details which antenna is talking to which space probe, and even the data rate and frequency in use.

Most spacecraft use a portion of the X-band at 8.4-8.5GHz, which is set aside globally for deep space communications. Because the signals coming back to Earth are so weak, agencies like NASA need a dedicated frequency band to avoid interference from terrestrial sources. Noise is also part of the reason space agencies are now eyeing even higher frequencies, around 32GHz, for future generations of craft.

Full article: https://www.pcworld.com/article/2948432/consumer-tech-science/how-nasa-beams-pluto-images-3-billion-miles-to-earth.html

DSN: https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html

Scientists Have Found Rare Giant Viruses Lurking in The Soil of a US Forest

There’s a forest in Massachusetts that for nearly 30 years has hosted the world’s longest running soil-warming experiment, measuring how hotter temperatures impact the tiny life-forms that live in the dirt.

With the way climate change is going, you could say the future itself is buried in that heated dirt. But our unknown tomorrows aren’t all that’s hiding there.

In this oversized outdoor research laboratory, scientists have made an unexpected discovery, finding 16 rare ‘giant’ viruses that are completely new to science.

“We were not looking for giant viruses,” says biologist Jeff Blanchard from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass).

“Our goal was to isolate bacteria directly from the environment to understand how microbial communities are changing in response to soil warming.”

Full article: https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-discovered-rare-giant-viruses-lurking-in-harvard-forest-soil-under-massachusetts