NASA’s Messenger spacecraft snapped the new Mercury photo today (March 29) at 5:20 a.m. EDT (0920 GMT). The photo shows the stark gray landscape of southern Mercury, a view that is dominated by a huge impact crater. [See the first photo of Mercury from orbit]
“This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the solar system’s innermost planet,” Messenger mission scientists explained in a statement.
The new Mercury photo shows a region around the south pole of Mercury. A 53-mile (85-kilometer) wide crater called Debussy clearly stands out in the upper right of the image, with bright rays emanating from its center. [More photos of Mercury from Messenger]
A smaller crater called Matabei, which is 15 miles (24 km) wide and is known for its “unusual dark rays,” is also visible in the image to the west of the Debussy crater, mission managers explained.
UPDATE: entirely coincidentally, LM just signed a contract to build several production versions of these things for Canadian company Aviation Capital:
Alberta-based private company Aviation Capital Enterprises says it has inked a deal with US aerospace colossus Lockheed, builder of the P-791, to “design, develop, build, flight test and Federal Aviation Administration certify a family of hybrid aircraft”. The first ship, dubbed “SkyTug” and able to lift 20 tons, is to be delivered in 2012. Further versions are to scale up to “several hundred tons”, apparently.
While in other articles they reference humanitarian and disaster-relief applications, the focus appears to be on unspecified commercial applications.
Ahh, it seems like just yesterday when this idea was just a glimmer in some Skunk Works’ engineer’s eye, and now it’s all growed up…
Back in 1998 when some of my coworkers at Michoud were loaned out to work on this, it seemed like a clever but uneconomical idea — I mean, how much use would there be for an airship that could carry a dozen cargo containers anywhere in the world and land in places with no infrastructure beyond a parking lot or football/soccer field?
Clearly, events in the intervening decade have answered that question. Imagine how useful a fleet of full-sized airships like this could have been after Katrina, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and other natural disasters in remote areas or areas where the usual infrastructure (roads, airports) is temporarily inoperable.
It’s worth noting that there was a competitor of sorts for Aerocraft back in the day: CargoLifter. They didn’t have the same land-anywhere features, but the various CargoLifter vehicles were intended to carry large and bulky items too difficult or disruptive to transport by land.
The design of the Fukushima reactors (currently experiencing some…er…problems due to the combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami) is detailed in this helpful backgrounder from the NRC: Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Systems [pdf]
I knew a good bit of the science of what went on inside the different types of nuclear reactors, but this document provides a good bit of hardware insight (to an engineer at least) of how the containment and emergency systems are designed.
Crops of lettuce, kale, cucumber, peppers, herbs, tomatoes, cantaloupes and edible flowers comprise many of the plants grown in the climate-controlled chamber. Because the importation of soil is restricted by the Antarctic Treaty , dirt is not used to grow the plants. In fact, the closest local dirt is nearly two miles beneath the ice on which the station sits. The plants are grown in a hydroponic nutrient solution instead — no dirt needed.
For that matter, no sunlight is needed either. The growth chamber, which was built in the winter of 2004, makes its own light via 13 water-cooled, high-pressure sodium lamps. In this bright environment, it is not uncommon to find people, like the plants, dwelling happily under the intense light produced in the chamber during the dark polar winter.
Carl and I put a lot of thought into extraterrestrial agriculture while writing In the Shadow of Ares, not least because the primary setting for the book is a very large agricultural settlement. Interestingly (or perhaps not surprisingly), we came to some of the same conclusions as these researchers. Of particular note, the morale benefit to settlers in an inescapably indoor environment of having an open green space (or Greenspace, if you’ve read the book).
A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.
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