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UberAir: Flying Taxi Takes Off

Don’t get too excited yet about evading city traffic by flying in Uber taxi’s space-age like drones. Though Uber premiered its “flying car’ concept at the recent Elevate conference in L.A., the actual target launch of the aerial taxi service is still in 2023, a good five years from this sneak preview. Looking like an extremely light plane but functioning more like a helicopter, it has four rotors for lift and one at the rear for propulsion. Why so many rotors? It means that should one rotor fail, there are others that can operate and enable a safe landing for the four passengers and driver on board. Uber said that the rotor design where one is on top the other and rotating in the same direction results in quiet and better performance.

Flying at 1,000 – 2,000 feet at a speed of 150-200 miles per hour, it will land on sky ports and other landing sites that can accommodate passengers at the rate of 200 landings and take-offs per hour. Electric-powered with a single charge sufficient for a 60-mile radius, it will be piloted by humans initially. Eventually, Uber sees a future where the aerial taxis can fly on auto-pilot but this would depend on the public’s acceptance of the concept.

Uber’s flying taxi was broached in 2016 but it faces not just design issues but also engineering and regulatory concerns. It’s true that an autonomous, electric air taxi that can conveniently take off and land vertically, land from rooftop-rooftop is a Utopian shuttling goal, but it does face a very uncertain future. However, the mood of Uber’s manufacturing partners, Bell Helicopters, Embraer, and Pipistrel remains upbeat. In fact, way ahead of its competitors, Uber is already in talks with real estate firms to firm up its idea of skyports for its air taxi service. More significantly, Uber has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA for a new traffic control system that will enable Uber’s low-flying to be a commercial possibility.

The idea is not unique to Uber – although it has the upper hand at the moment. Already, Kitty Hawk owned by Google’s Larry Page, and the venerable Airbus and Boeing are testing the waters. It looks like, despite its woes in its Asian operations, Uber may yet rule the urban skies in the future.

Uber unveiled its flying taxi prototype, which looks like a giant drone from CNBC.








Robot and astronaut does the handshake in space

This is one small step for robotics, one giant leap for mankind.

International Space Station Commander Daniel Burbank was able to shake hands with a humanoid robot in space.

The robot, though devoid of being able to fully control himself, was able to do this seemingly impossible task beyond this place we call earth. Called Robonaut, this development gives us a glimpse of what the future brings us. The latter even has a Twitter account to converse with amused individuals. One person even raised a question asking why he doesn’t have any legs. Robonaut replied: “@luckydog99 No legs yet. They’re in development on the ground.”

Commander Burbank, who had a stint in a recent American Idol episode (Not as a contestant), revealed that, “For the record, it was a firm handshake.” He also added, “Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot.”

Robonaut is being controlled by scientists on the ground.

Adjustments have to be made since Robonaut was off target when he tried to shake hands with Commander Burbank. Robonaut’s hand was directed to the latter’s kneecap rather than his outstretched arm.

Will we be seeing a droid invasion any time soon?

Image credit: NASA

Google to save Hangar One?

Hangar One, an imposing structure that stands at Moffett Field, California, was once a popular airship hangar back in its glory days. Now, this huge structure stand firmly, still erect but with no airship to service. Some say save the landmark hangar. Others just seem turn its back on that idea.

Now, Google principals have turned their sites on saving this wonderful historical structure.

Ken Ambrose, the director of H211 LLC, told a subcommittee of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board that Google’s top honchos are willing to pay 100 percent of the cost to restore the famous hangar and be the base of the honchos of Google’s plane fleet, that being two jumbo jets and other Gulfstream jets.

The crusaders at the meeting were happy of Google’s proposal and appeared interested in teaming up with the community for the restoration of this magnificent structure. Ambrose said that the Google’s leaders are not interested in placing a huge Google symbol at the sides of the hangar. Instead Google proposed use is subleasing the hangar for other uses such as what the preservationists proposed, a major air and space museum.

Lenny Siegel, one of the individuals who has placed a lot of effort in saving the hanger said that “it appears to be the only thing going, to save the hangar.” NASA’s request of budget to help preserve the hangar has had little support coming from the U.S. Congress.

Welcome home Discovery shuttle

“Houston, Discovery, wheels stopped.”

Marine Col. Frederick W. Sturckow, commander of the Discovery shuttle, radioed as they landed on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base at 8:53 p.m E.D.T.

The shuttle was set to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida but bad weather that promised to continue on Saturday, stopped them from doing so.

The Discovery crew plus Army Col. Timothy L. Kopra plans to fly back to Houston tomorrow.

Kopra, who stayed at the International Space Station for two months, traveled back to Earth on this his back in a recumbent seat to ease his return to gravity.

“This experience has completely exceeded anything that I thought it would be like, just the sights, the sounds, the experiences with a great crew,” said Colonel Kopra last week. “The main thing …I’m looking forward to is seeing my family again, my wife and two kids. And maybe have a sip of a beer.”

Ahhh, nothing like a sip of beer can cure homesickness. 😉


Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/science/space/12shuttle.html?_r=1

Discovery shuttle’s landing might be delayed

The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land in Florida Thursday evening. The weather, however, might prevent them from doing so.

According to Mission Control, “the weather will pose a challenge” for the shuttle’s landing. Weather forecast also called a possibility of thunderstorms with the poor weather condition expected to get worse on Friday until Saturday.

“The weather in Florida this time of year is always a little iffy,” Discovery commander Rick Sturckow, said from orbit. “If things aren’t good, the worst that can come out of it is that we have another day in space, which is a great deal.”

Supplies for the crew isn’t a problem though as the Discovery still has enough supplies which will last until Sunday.

The Discovery Space Shuttle, which blasted off on August 29, successfully delivered supplies to the International Space Station and is taking home Astronaut Tim Kopra, some 5,000 pounds of items not needed at the ISS and a portable cargo module.

A Japanese vessel due to blast off on Thursday (before Discovery is scheduled to land) will be bringing more supplies the ISS.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g8gpZRl3t8mV2RxsVjIuPU75dJeAD9AK3KO80

Discovery space shuttle crew prepares to come home

Here’s  an update on the Discovery space shuttle.

The astronauts and cosmonauts have already said their goodbyes in preparation for their return trip to Earth. They closed the hatches between the International Space Station and the shuttle at 11:41 pm EDT Monday.

The astronauts aboard Discovery are taking home with them a portable cargo module and 5,000 pounds of items not needed at the ISS. As reported earlier, astronaut Tim Kopra will also be coming with them while a Discovery crew will take his place at the space station.

They are scheduled to undock from the station at 3:26 pm Tuesday and expected to land in Florida on Thursday.

Credit: NASA TV

Source: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7016328238?Discovery%20Astronauts%20Prepare%20For%20Return%20To%20Earth

Mouse hotel at the ISS

Yup, a team of six mice are living in style at the International Space station as part of an Italian study investigating the effects of bone loss in space.

Julie Robinson, NASA’s space station program scientist says this is the first time that rodents will be actually staying at the space station and for a period of three months nonetheless. Because although a good number mice have already taken joyrides into space (lucky them), they’ve all stayed aboard the shuttles and returning back to Earth with it. The longest time that a mouse stayed in space was about 30 days, cruising in space in an unmanned satellite.

The special experiment drawer where the mice will be checking in was delivered to the station by the astronauts aboard Discovery which docked late Sunday.

Referring to the cage, Joe Delai, Discovery’s payload manager says, “Basically, it’s a little hotel. They have a room and place to eat and sleep.”

What are the amenities the little space guests are enjoying?

“Each mouse is in its own little compartment,” Robinson told SPACE.com. “The compartments have screens around them so the mice can hold on with their feet so that they’re in control of their environment…so they’re not stressed out.”

The astronauts will be making sure that the mice experience a normal environment with a system that turns on lights to simulate day and night. The little critters will be getting room service too! They will be getting their food through automated systems which can be refilled when needed.

So why exactly are they up there? Three of the six mice have a special gene that combat osteoporosis, a condition that leads to bone loss.

If the mice with the special gene suffer less bone loss than those without, then compared to the control group (a similar group of six mice are being studied on Earth as control group), the results may lead to better treatment for osteoporosis on Earth. It can also help protect astronauts who routinely lose bone and muscle mass because of prolonged exposure to microgravity.

The space mice, along with Astronaut Nicole Stott who arrived at the space station on board the Discovery, will all be hitching a ride back to Earth aboard a different shuttle in November.

Source: http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/090831-sts128-mouse-hotel.html

Discovery space shuttle finally lifts off

Credit: Marta Lavandier/Associated Press Source: The New York Times

After three launch delays, the Discovery space shuttle finally blasted off to space late Friday for a 13-day installation and delivery mission.

The space shuttle was originally scheduled for launch early Tuesday but bad weather and a fuel valve which failed to close caused a four-day delay.

To catch up with the International Space Station, the shuttle’s commander Col. Frederick W. Sturckow of the Marines and the shuttle’s pilot, Kevin A. Ford, a retired Air Force colonel, plan to carry out a series of rocket firings. Discovery is expected to dock at the space station at around 9 p.m. Sunday.

The shuttle’s mission includes installing a new 1,800-pound ammonia coolant system tank and delivering two research rackes, a freezer for experiment samples, a new carbon dioxide removal system, crew sleep station and uhm, a new treadmill. 😉

Three spacewalks are also scheduled during Discovery’s stay in the station.

A Discovery crew, Nicole P. Stott, will be replacing Col. Timothy L. Kopra who came to the station aboard Endeavour. She will be joining the space station crew as a flight engineer.

The shuttle is scheduled to undock on September 8 and is expected to land at the Kennedy Space Center two days later.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/science/space/29shuttle.html?_r=3&hpw

Troubleshooting test for shuttle valve a success

There’s still a very good chance that Discovery will be launched tomorrow at 12:22 am following five launch pad tests Wednesday.

The fuel valve, which signaled a failure to close while the external fuel tank was being filled for launch late Tuesday, led to a 48-hour postponement to give engineers time to diagnose the problem.

The first launch attempt – scheduled early Tuesday – was postponed because of bad weather, the valve worked fine that time.

According to an online status report from NASA released Wednesday, the valve “opened and closed when commanded five different times with no issues.”

“Teams are now performing a pressure test of the propulsion system, and recording the leak rate of small amounts of liquid hydrogen,” the status report said.

The decision whether to continue with the launching on Friday will be done later today.

Keep those fingers crossed guys! 🙂

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32575867/ns/technology_and_science-space/

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