Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Last week saw the opening of the world’s first spaceport in New Mexico, and while it may be ushering in a new era of adventure, some scientists believe that space tourism flights could increase changes to the Earth’s climate. The report, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, stated that commercial space flights would emit large amonts of black carbon (soot) as well as altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone in the stratosphere. Martin Ross, one of the authors of the paper, said that simulations predicted that over 1,000 space flights a year could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 °C, and reduce polar sea ice by 5–15%. “There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact,” Ross said, who is also an atmospheric scientist at the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California. Currently, commercial rockets burn a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen that release large amounts of carbon. Several companies are attempting to change this however by developing a more economical ‘hybrid’ rocket engine that ignites synthetic hydrocarbon with nitrous oxide. However the authors of the paper say that these new hybrid engines emit even more black carbon than a kerosene and oxygen engine.“Rain and weather wash out these particles from the atmosphere near Earth’s surface, but in the stratosphere there isn’t any rain and they can remain for 3 to 10 years,” says Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, who co-wrote the paper. Private space flights or ’space tourism’ is a rapidly growing industry, headed by Virgin’s Richard Branson. The new space port in New Mexico was funded by Virgin and is expected to be the home base for the Virgin Galactic flagship – SpaceShip Two. Over the next three years, private space companies such as Virgin Galactic, are expected to make up to two launches per day for space tourists. Meanwhile Congress has passed the NASA Authorization Act seeing more than US$1.6 billion invested in new private spacecraft, that will take cargo and passengers into orbit.
Via Geophysical Research Papers
Image © Virgin Galactic
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452, and became one of the most well known inventors, sculptors, painters, musicians, architects, engineer and mathematicians of the time. His thoughts and ideas that are protected and conserved by museums seemed only possible in his mind, although some were the original blueprints for magnificent modern inventions. One of his drawings depicts a craft that could fly through the air with flapping wings on either side. If Da Vinci were alive today, he would proudly look upon the very first functional human-powered ornithopter with amazement and enthusiasm.
Da Vinci first thought of the ornithopter in the year 1485, and for centuries after, scientists and engineers worked towards achieving flight through fixed wing aircrafts and balloons. Even though many tried to create a craft that was human powered, the technology to create lift was not available.
Todd Reichert, from the University of Toronto, led the development of the first ornithoper, which has been named Snowbird. The Snowbird was put to the test on 2 August 2010, and proved that it was able to fly by maintaining both air speed and altitude for just over twenty-nine seconds. Reichert explained his enthusiasm in regard to project by saying: “Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.”
Engineering the human-powered ornithopter was a great challenge for Reichter and his team, as the lightweight aircraft had to combine perfectly with its wingspan, which is thirty-five meters. To create a lightweight craft, Reichter used carbon fiber tubes, basswood, balsa wood and foam. To power the Snowbird, Reichter explained that he made use of his legs, “which have the strongest muscles in your body. I just pushed both legs down together simultaneously, as if in a gym doing a leg press, and every time I pushed, a wire connected to the wings pulled them down.” The snowbird has proven that all dreams and ideas are obtainable, although some just take five hundred and twenty-five years to reach completion.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Actor John Trovolta along with his wife Kelly Presto visited Haiti days after the massive earthquake that shook the Haitian nation. Trovolta carried relief supplies into the Haitian capital, along with doctors and ministers from the Church of Scientology.
The 55-year-old actor piloted his own Boeing 707 from Florida with six tons of ready-to-eat military rations and medical supplies for survivors of Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.Travolta and Preston returned to Florida as soon as their supplies and passengers were unloaded in order to help accommodate space for other aircraft.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
A new technology inspired by the self-healing powers of plants and animals may allow damaged planes to fix themselves on the fly and point out even minuscule holes to maintenance personnel upon landing. Imagine if airplanes could miraculously heal cracks or holes in the skin during flight. Interestingly enough, researchers in Britain are attempting to make this dream a reality using a technique that utilizes composite materials that "bleed" when damaged—creating a "scab" of sorts that mimics our own natural healing process. This composite material is made of hollow fibers that are filled with an epoxy resin that will leak out if damaged. The researchers claim that this resin can return the structure to 80-90% of its original strength when dried. It is also colored so that ground crews have an easy visual on areas where repair is needed. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this technology is confined to minor damage, so any major cracks could still send you plummeting towards the Earth. Still, it would be a tremendous improvement that could result in lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft down the road. Airlines won't have to wait forever to see it implemented. Researchers believe that the self-healing technology could go commercial in as little as four years.