Bloglikes - Space https://www.bloglikes.com/c/space en-US Thu, 15 Apr 2021 16:46:15 +0000 Sat, 06 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000 FeedWriter NASA's InSight Mars lander is going into emergency hibernation. If it can't save its batteries, it could die. http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/3A1I9nT4jvU/nasa-insight-mars-lander-hibernating-so-batteries-dont-die-2021-4 An illustration shows InSight with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's $800 million Mars lander is in an energy crisis.

InSight, which landed in a Martian plain called Elysium Planitia in 2018, has detected more than 500 Mars quakes, felt more than 10,000 dust devils pass by, and started to measure the planet's core.

But over the past few months, InSight has been fighting for its life as the red planet's unpredictable weather threatens to snuff out the robot.

Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers - including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter - powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called "cleaning events," are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA's robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it's struggling to absorb sunlight.

insight mars lander red dust solar panels The InSight lander's camera captured an image of one of its solar panels covered in dust on February 14.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight's solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into "hibernation mode," shutting down all functions that aren't necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather," Chuck Scott, InSight's project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition - it's even using its robotic arm - but the risk of a potentially fatal power failure is ever-present. If the lander's batteries die, it might never recover.

"We would be hopeful that we'd be able to bring it back to life, especially if it's not asleep or dead for a long period of time," Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator, told Insider. "But that would be a dicey situation."

The agency expects to restart InSight's full operations after Mars swings back toward the sun in July. If it can survive this Martian winter, the lander could keep listening for quakes and tracking weather into 2022.

InSight could go 'zombie' after dying mars dust storm blotting sun A series of images shows simulated views of a darkening Martian sky blotting out the sun from the point of view of NASA's Opportunity rover, as a dust storm arose in June 2018.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

InSight's power shortage contributed to NASA's decision to abandon the lander's "mole" in January. That burrowing probe was supposed to measure the temperature deep in the Martian crust - crucial data in the study of the planet's history and internal structure.

Now scientists will miss out on even more data as the lander shuts down its instruments. Its Mars weather measurements have become scarce, and in the next month or so, it will stop listening for quakes.

Banerdt said he fears the lander could miss some big quakes, but it's worth it to keep the robot alive. If InSight's batteries die, he added, "it's a good zombie spacecraft" - meaning it's programmed to recharge and start up again once the sun comes out.

"The problem with that scenario is that in the meantime, the spacecraft is very, very cold. And this is happening during the coldest part of the year for the spacecraft," Banerdt said. "A lot of the electronics is pretty delicate. And it's, unfortunately, pretty likely that something would be damaged by the cold."

Banerdt suspects that's what happened to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Both ran out of energy on the Martian surface and were unable to power up again. He's hopeful that InSight won't have to die, though.

"Right now, our predictions, our projections are that we should be able to make it through the lowest-power point and come out the other side," Banerdt said.

Still, an odd dust storm in the next four or five months could tip the scales by piling more dirt onto InSight's solar panels. That's what happened to Opportunity. But luckily, it's not dust-storm season.

"We think we're pretty well off, but Mars is unpredictable. We never know exactly what's going to happen," Banerdt said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that InSight is already hibernating. The lander will not be in full hibernation mode until all its scientific instruments shut down.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mmcfalljohnsen@insider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)]

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Thu, 15 Apr 2021 11:49:10 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Tech Insider NASA Mars Insight Solar energy Dust Dust Storm Space Exploration
California, NASA Partner to Launch Methane-Tracking Satellite https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2021-04-15/california-nasa-partner-to-launch-methane-tracking-satellite Thu, 15 Apr 2021 08:12:55 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs 10 things in tech you need to know today http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/9FFwTTR88yw/10-things-in-tech-facebook-investigated-uk-data-leak-2021-4 mark zuckerberg facebook

Andrew Harnik/AP

Good morning and welcome to 10 Things in Tech. If this was forwarded to you, sign up here.

Let's get started.

1. Facebook could face a fine in the billions for its leak of 533 million people's data. The social-media company is under investigation in the EU for its massive data leak, and is being threatened with a fine of up to 4% of its $86 billion global revenue. ICYMI: Here's how to check if your information was breached.

2. Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison is tearing down the $80 million Palm Beach mansion he literally just bought. He told employees he has no plans to leave Hawaii, despite buying the 15,000-square-foot ocean-front house. Here's what else he told employees.

3. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has a stake worth $13 billion after the company's IPO. Coinbase's shares closed up 31.3% after making their anticipated public market debut on Wednesday. These are the other investors and execs who just got rich.

4. Instagram is testing letting users decide whether to keep "likes." The app has toyed with the idea of removing likes from posts, and accidentally removed them in March, resulting in mixed reviews. Now, users can decide if they want to see or hide likes.

5. NASA's $800 million Mars lander is fighting for its life. InSight is in emergency hibernation against Mars' unpredictable weather - and if it can't save its batteries, it could die. More on that here.

6. Tesla is hiking the prices of its solar roof tiles for existing customers by as much as 70%. People waiting on installations of Tesla's Solar Roof were told the price was rising, even though many of them had signed contracts over a year ago. Get the full rundown.

7. Toshiba's CEO stepped down while board members planned to oust him. Amid a controversy over a $20 billion buyout bid, the company's board members planned to replace Nobuaki Kurumatani. Why trust in Kurumatani eroded.

8. Ford revealed BlueCruise, its hands-free driving tech to rival Tesla Autopilot. BlueCruise will be available for certain F-150 trucks and Mustang Mach-E crossovers later this year. See a map of the highways BlueCruise can drive on.

9. Leaked documents show Amazon's new wireless headsets target low-income shoppers with less tech know-how. The Echo Buds - which were announced Wednesday - are being targeted at people with a household income of less than $50,000, or people who are aware of AirPods but are less tech savvy than other customers.

10. After 13 months of chaos, HR officers are leaving startups - and companies can't replace them. The tech world's HR employees are experiencing burnout, and some have decided to move to bigger companies or even retire, causing a "dearth of great people" to replace them. Inside our exclusive report.


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Compiled by Jordan Erb. Tips/comments? Email jerb@insider.com or tweet @JordanParkerErb.

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[Author: jerb@insider.com (Jordan Parker Erb)]

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Thu, 15 Apr 2021 03:10:27 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Tech Insider Newsletter Newsletters Tech 10 Things In Tech
Watch highlights of Blue Origin’s space tourism rehearsal http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/digitaltrends/~3/96I1nfWCtxU/ ]]> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 01:15:55 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs News Blue Origin New Shepard Rockets Space Space Tourism NASA's InSight lander has detected more than 500 Mars quakes, but the big ones are mysteriously missing http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/VyVPfNDJKYA/nasa-insight-lander-missing-big-mars-quakes-2021-4 An artist's illustration of the InSight lander on Mars, with its "mole" burrowed deep in the soil.

​​NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's InSight lander has observed more than 500 Mars quakes since it landed on the red planet in 2018. But there's a glaring hole in its catalogue: The lander has yet to detect any big rumblings.

"We would have expected a few magnitude 4 events, and maybe even a magnitude 5 at this point, given the number of smaller quakes," Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator for InSight, told Insider.

Instead, most of the quakes have been so quiet that the average Californian wouldn't even notice them. The four biggest Mars quakes InSight's seismometer has felt ranged in magnitude from 3.1 to 3.6.

So Mars seismologists are beginning to scratch their heads. Either the InSight team has just gotten unlucky, or Mars can't produce big quakes at all. If it's the latter, Banerdt said, "we don't really know what that means yet."

The reason scientists are so interested in Mars' movement is that measuring quakes can reveal what the interior of the planet looks like. So far, Insight's readings have indicated that Mars may have Earth-like layers deep below its crust, which are wrapped in a moon-like outer shell that's been battered by asteroids.

insight lander seismometer mars The InSight lander's seismometer, as photographed by its camera on September 23, 2020.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

But really big quakes would help scientists see deep into the Martian core, which could yield clues about how the planet was born and how it has evolved over time. A better understanding of Mars' insides could be crucial in our efforts to find other worlds that might host life.

"By looking at Mars' core and looking at Mars' crust, and understanding that these haven't changed very much in the last 4.5 billion years, we can get a glimpse into what the Earth might have looked like very early on," Banerdt said. "Mars is helping us to understand just how rocky planets form and how they evolve in general."

Banerdt and his team hope to figure out why they're not seeing big quakes on Mars - either so they'll know how to better look for them in a future mission, or so they can pinpoint what about the Martian interior makes major quakes so scarce.

Mars quakes hint at an Earth-like planet with a moon-like crust marsquake artist's concept A 2019 artist's concept of how seismic waves from a Mars quake might move through different layers of the Martian interior.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich/ Van Driel

Listening for a planet's quakes is like doing a CAT scan. When doctors do that kind of scan, a machine sends X-rays through your body, then analyzes how the waves come back at different times and in different directions. That enables them to "piece together the 3D geometry of what's going on inside your body," Banerdt said.

With InSight, he continued, "we're doing the same thing with a planet, using Mars quakes as our 'radiation waves,' and the seismometer is the detector."

Scientists used to think that Mars must have a crust like Earth's, which has been smoothed out by geologic activity like the movement of tectonic plates and the bubbling of molten magma from below. But InSight's seismometer has painted a more nuanced picture.

"It's somewhere between the moon and the Earth in the way it transmits seismic waves," Banerdt said.

On the moon, the crust has been broken up because of asteroid impacts, which gives seismic waves more cracks and surfaces to bounce off. It's as if they're doing a "drunken walk," Banerdt said, and that leads moon quakes to last for hours.

moon astronauts apollo lunar roving vehicle Apollo astronauts installed seismometers on the moon.

NASA/Eugene Cernan

On Earth, seismic waves don't reverberate that much, so they weaken quickly. Moisture in our planet's crust also allows it to absorb some of their energy. As a result, earthquakes usually last just a few seconds, though really big ones can last minutes.

Mars quakes, meanwhile, generally seem to last about 10 to 40 minutes.

The first few hundred tremblings InSight picked up on Mars behaved similarly to those on the moon. But because they were so small, they only enabled scientists to analyze the makeup of the upper layer of the crust. The handful of larger quakes - which gave the InSight team a peek at deeper layers - have acted more like earthquakes.

"I think maybe Mars has an outer layer which is rather lunar-like," Banerdt said. "It's quite broken up by impacts. But deeper into the planet, into the mantle, it appears like it might be more Earth-like."

The mystery of the missing Big One mars crater A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on November 19, 2013.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

InSight's Mars quakes follow a similar pattern to earthquakes: The higher the magnitude, the rarer the quake.

"You get fewer and fewer quakes as as you get larger and larger numbers, and it follows a sort of an exponential law," Banerdt said.

So far, the tail end of that exponential graph is missing. It could just be a quiet period on Mars - planets can have spells with lots of seismic activity and dry periods with no big quakes. But Banerdt suspects that InSight's data points to a larger trend.

"It looks like there are fewer large quakes on Mars, relative to the number of small quakes, than we would expect. It's a little bit puzzling," he said. "We're still trying to figure out what explanations for that could be."

It's possible that NASA just didn't pick a good spot to hunt for big quakes. On Earth, there are plenty of areas that never see major earthquakes. Or maybe Mars just never shakes that much.

"It could be also related to the gravity, it could be related to the thickness of the brittle layer, it could be related to a lot of things. But right now, we really don't have a handle on that," Banerdt said. "It's an ongoing area of research."

InSight is about to hibernate through 'optimum' quake time insight mars lander red dust solar panels The InSight lander's camera captured an image of one of its solar panels covered in dust on February 14, 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The longer InSight waits and listens, the more likely it is to catch a big quake. Unfortunately, the lander is about to take a weeks-long break during peak quake-listening time.

That's because the Elysium Planitia, where InSight landed, has surprised NASA with its lack of wind. There is some wind - enough to drown out the seismic noise of some faraway quakes. But it's not enough to keep red Martian dust off of InSight's solar panels.

Now, the Martian winter is setting in and a thick layer of dust is taxing the robot's energy production. So NASA has decided to put InSight into hibernation. In February, the lander began incrementally shutting off its scientific instruments, conserving power to keep itself warm.

In June, NASA expects to shut down InSight's scientific operations entirely until Mars swings back toward the sun in July.

The seismometer is still running, but Banerdt expects to shut it down in a month or so. That will be in the middle of the "optimum" time for detecting Mars quakes, he said, since winds die down in the depths of winter. Reduced windiness allows the seismometer to pick up distant quakes with less interference.

"We're hoping to keep the seismometer going as long as we can, then start it up again - you know, after we pass this low-power time - turn it on as quickly as we can," Banerdt said. "But we will probably be missing some things in between."

If InSight survives its power shortage, the seismometer could keep listening for quakes into 2022.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mmcfalljohnsen@insider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)]

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Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:57:38 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Tech Insider NASA Mars Insight Marsquakes Earthquakes Seismology Space Exploration
Remnants of an ancient planet buried inside the Earth may be the cause of a weak spot in the magnetic field http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/vyhVzq_1ysU/magnetic-field-weak-spot-linked-pieces-planet-inside-earth-2021-4 An artist's depiction of Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from solar radiation.

NASA

Earth's suit of geomagnetic armor has a chink, and it's growing.

A weak spot in our planet's magnetic field, located above the southern Atlantic Ocean, has been increasing in size over the last two centuries, and it's starting to split in two.

For those of us on the ground, this isn't cause for concern: The protective field continues to shield the planet from deadly solar radiation. But the South Atlantic Anomaly, as it's appropriately named, does affect satellites and other spacecraft that pass through an area between South America and southern Africa. That's because higher quantities of charged solar particles seep through the field there, which can cause malfunctions in computers and circuitry.

The source of this growing "dent," as NASA calls it, is a bit of a mystery. But scientists expect it to keep expanding.

"This thing is set to increase in size in the future," Julien Aubert, a geomagnetism expert from the Paris Institute of Earth Physics, told Insider.

Aubert thinks that the dent may have a connection to two gigantic blobs of dense rock buried 1,800 miles inside the Earth. Because of their makeup, the blobs disturb the liquid metal in the outer core that generates the magnetic field.

Both blobs are "millions of times larger than Mount Everest in terms of volume," according to Qian Yuan, a researcher studying geodynamics at Arizona State University.

Yuan's team thinks the blobs are otherworldly in origin: After an ancient, Mars-sized planet careened into Earth, it might have left these pieces behind.

Chunks of a 4.5 billion-old-year planet inside Earth

Nearly 2,000 miles below Earth's surface, swirling iron in the planet's outer core generates a magnetic field that stretches all the way from there to the space surrounding our planet.

That swirl is generated, in part, by a process in which hotter, lighter material from the core rises into the semi-solid mantle above. There, it swaps places with cooler, denser mantle material, which sinks into the core below. This is known as convection.

The problem is that something at the boundary between the core and mantle underneath southern Africa is wreaking havoc on that convection, thereby weakening the strength of the magnetic field above it.

It's plausible, Aubert said, that one of the blobs Yuan's team is investigating is to blame.

theia An artist's depiction of a possible collision between a proto-planet like Theia and the Earth.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wikimedia Commons

Yuan's research posits that the blobs are remnants of an ancient planet called Theia, which struck Earth in its infancy 4.5 billion years ago. The collision helped create the moon.

Following that crash, the thinking goes, two parts of Theia may have sunk and gotten preserved in the deepest part of Earth's mantle.

The animation below, based on a 2016 analysis, shows the location of these planetary fragments.

, via Wikimedia Commonsommons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LLSVP.gif">

Yuan said these blobs - their technical name is large low-shear-velocity provinces - are between 1.5 and 3.5% denser than the rest of Earth's mantle, and also hotter.

So when these chunks get involved in convection, they could screw with the regular flow. That, in turn, may lead the iron in the core under southern Africa to swirl in the opposite direction from iron in other parts of the core.

The orientation of Earth's magnetic field depends on the direction the iron inside is moving. To have a strong magnetic field, the entire thing has to be oriented the same way. So any areas that deviate from the usual pattern weaken the field's overall integrity.

magnetic field A visualization of the Earth's magnetic field.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Still, it's possible these low-shear-velocity provinces aren't to blame for the field's weak spot at all.

"Why doesn't the same weakness occur in the magnetic field above the Pacific, where the other province is?" Christopher Finlay, a geophysicist at the Technical University of Denmark, told Insider.

A 'hostile region'

A weaker field enables more charged particles from solar wind to reach satellites and other spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. That can cause problems with electronic systems, interrupt data collection, and lead expensive computer components to age prematurely.

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, satellite failures were frequent in the South Atlantic Anomaly, Aubert said.

Even today, the European Space Agency has found that satellites flying through the region are "more likely to experience technical malfunctions," like brief glitches that can disrupt communications. That's why it's common for satellite operators to shut down non-essential components as the objects pass through the area.

The Hubble Space Telescope, too, passes through the anomaly in 10 of its 15 orbits around Earth each day, spending nearly 15% of its time in this "hostile region," according to NASA.

hubble telescope NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in orbit.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The weak spot is getting weaker

Researchers use a set of three satellites, collectively nicknamed Swarm, to keep tabs on the South Atlantic Anomaly.

Some studies suggest the region's total area has in the last 200 years, and that it continues to expand year over year. The anomaly has also weakened by 8% since 1970.

In the last decade, Swarm also observed that the anomaly has split in half: One area of magnetic weakness has developed over the ocean southwest of Africa, while another sits east of South America.

SAA_2020 The strength of Earth's magnetic field in 2020, as measured by the European Space Agency's SWARM satellites. In blue is the weaker area of the field.

Wikimedia Commons/Christopher Finlay et. al/2020

This is bad news, according to Finlay, because it means the hostile region for spacecraft is going to get bigger.

"Satellites will have problems not only over South America but be impacted when they're coming over southern Africa as well," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: awoodward@insider.com (Aylin Woodward)]

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Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:03:47 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Space Magnetic Field Earth Geology
Blue Origin launches and lands New Shepard rocket in key prep flight for human passengers http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/saEHlKRA_Vc/ Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard rocket for the second time this year, and the 15th time overall. The mission profile saw the reusable spacecraft fly to suborbital space, and then return for a parachute-assisted landing at Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas.

This flight was a little different than its usual missions, because it included a rehearsal component with people standing in for what will eventually be Blue Origin’s paying private astronaut customers. What that means is that they actually went through the process of flight preparations, including transporting to the pad, and even climbing in to the New Shepard vehicle and getting seated as if they were going along for the ride.

The crucial difference between this and an actual passenger flight is that Blue Origin then paused the countdown, and the mock crew disembarked, before the countdown was resumed and the flight proceeded as planned — without any passengers, save for Mannequin Skywalker, the Blue Origin test dummy who flies on these preparation missions to take crucial readings during the launch and return.

New Shepard returned and touched down without any issue, and in fact showed off one of its smoothest landings yet. This was the second launch and landing for this particular booster stage. The capsule also touched down as planned, with a soft landing facilitated by the spacecraft’s parachute descent system.

Image Credits: Blue Origin

Next up, Blue Origin is going to do a dry run of what would be the ending stage of the mission for an actual human crew, by bringing out those rehearsal astronauts and putting them back into the capsule, then rehearsing in full the astronaut recovery and departure process that would occur during a live tourist flight.

All of today’s activities showed off what Blue Origin hopes to accomplish sometime this year with people on board. It’s yet another way paying private astronauts can get to space, in a growing roster of options that now includes SpaceX Dragon flights, and hopefully soon, Virgin Galactic launches.

As launch market matures, space opportunities on the ground take off

]]> Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:02:41 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Aerospace Space TC Astronaut Blue Moon Blue Origin New Shepard Outer Space Space Tourism Spaceflight SpaceX Virgin Galactic Astranis raises $250M at a $1.4B valuation for smaller, cheaper geostationary communications satellites http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/__h03smtQOY/ Space startup Astranis has raised a $250 million Series C round to provide it with a capital injection to help scale manufacturing of its unique MicroGEO satellites — geostationary communications satellites that are much smaller than the typical massive, expensive spacecraft used in that orbital band to provide communications and connectivity to specific points on Earth.

The Astranis Series C was led by BlackRock-managed funds, and includes participation from a host of new investors including Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, Koch Strategic Platforms and more. Existing investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Venrock, and more also chipped in, with the raise valuing the company at $1.4 billion post-money.

This brings the total funding raised by Astranis to over $350 million, including both equity and debt financing. Astranis got started only in 2016, and was part of the YC Winter 2016 cohort. While a lot of other companies are looking to build satellite constellations in low-Earth orbit to provide low-cost broadband on Earth, Astranis, led by co-founder and CEO John Gedmark, is focused on the GEO band, where the large legacy communications satellites currently operate, orbiting the Earth at a fixed position and providing connectivity to a set area on Earth.

Astranis reaches key milestone with MicroGEO communication satellite, aims for service to begin next summer

Gedmark has told me previously that the company’s offering is very different from the LEO constellations being put up and operated by companies including SpaceX, because they’re essentially a much more targeted, nimble solution that works with existing ground infrastructure. Customers who have a specific regional need for connectivity can get Astranis to put one one up at a greatly reduced cost compared to a traditional GEO communications satellite, and do so to replace or upgrade aging existing satellite network infrastructure, for example.

It’s worth noting that BlackRock, which led this round, has also been a key participant in the PIPE components of high-profile space startup SPACs like launcher company Astra’s. Not saying that’s the exit plan this round is setting up, but definitely something to think about.

9 top space tech VCs on the market’s opportunities and challenges

]]> Wed, 14 Apr 2021 11:03:50 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Aerospace Space TC Andreessen Horowitz Astranis BlackRock Funding Outer Space Satellite Satellite Constellation Satellite Constellations Spaceflight SpaceX Startup Funding Venrock NASA's InSight Mars lander is in emergency hibernation. If it can't save its batteries, it could die. http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/3A1I9nT4jvU/nasa-insight-mars-lander-hibernating-so-batteries-dont-die-2021-4 An illustration shows NASA's InSight spacecraft with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's $800 million Mars lander is in an energy crisis.

InSight, which landed in a Martian plain called Elysium Planitia in 2018, has detected more than 500 Mars quakes, felt more than 10,000 dust devils pass by, and started to measure the planet's core.

But over the last few months, InSight has been fighting for its life as the red planet's unpredictable weather threatens to snuff out the robot.

Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers - including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter - powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called "cleaning events," are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA's robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, ans it's struggling to absorb sunlight.

insight mars lander red dust solar panels The InSight lander's camera captured an image of one of its solar panels covered in dust on February 14, 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight's solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to put the lander in "hibernation mode," switching off different instruments each day. Soon, the robot will shut down all functions that aren't necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather," Chuck Scott, InSight's project manager, said in a statement.

Now almost halfway through its expected hibernation period, InSight is still in good condition, but the risk of a potentially fatal power failure is ever-present. If the lander's batteries die, it may never recover.

"We would be hopeful that we'd be able to bring it back back to life, especially if it's not asleep or dead for a long period of time," Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator, told Insider. "But that would be a dicey situation."

The agency expects to restart InSight's full operations after Mars swings back towards the sun in July. If it can survive this Martian winter, the lander could keep listening for quakes and tracking weather into 2022.

InSight could go 'zombie' after dying mars dust storm blotting sun A series of images shows simulated views of a darkening Martian sky blotting out the sun from the point of view of NASA's Opportunity rover, as a dust storm arose in June 2018.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

InSight's power shortage contributed to NASA's decision to abandon the lander's "mole" in January. That burrowing probe was supposed to measure the temperature deep in the Martian crust - crucial data in the study of the planet's history and internal structure.

Now scientists are missing out on even more data as the lander shuts down its instruments. Its Mars-weather measurements have become scarce, and in the next month or so, it will stop listening for Mars quakes.

Banerdt fears that the lander may miss some big quakes, but it's worth it to keep the robot alive. If InSight's batteries die, he added, "it's a good zombie spacecraft" - meaning it's programmed to recharge and start up again once the sun comes out.

"The problem with that scenario is that in the meantime, the spacecraft is very, very cold. And this is happening during the coldest part of the year for the spacecraft," Banerdt said. "A lot of the electronics is pretty delicate. And it's, unfortunately, pretty likely that something would be damaged by the cold."

Banerdt suspects that's what happened to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Both ran out of energy on the Martian surface and were unable to power up again. He's hopeful that InSight won't have to die, though.

"Right now, our predictions, our projections are that we should be able to make it through the lowest-power point and come out the other side," Banerdt said.

Still, an odd dust storm in the next four or five months could tip the scales by piling more dirt onto InSight's solar panels. That's what happened to Opportunity. But luckily, it's not dust-storm season.

"We think we're pretty well off, but Mars is unpredictable. We never know exactly what's going to happen," Banerdt said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mmcfalljohnsen@insider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)]

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Wed, 14 Apr 2021 08:31:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Tech Insider NASA Mars Insight Solar energy Dust Dust Storm Space Exploration
Sitting in a tin can: why sci-fi films are finally telling astronaut life like it is https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/apr/14/sci-fi-space-travel-stowaway-netflix New Netflix drama Stowaway is the latest in a crop of movies that suggests space travel is more random death and boredom than warp speed nine

Anybody who fancies watching a new science fiction film this month can count their lucky stars. A Netflix drama, Stowaway, features Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim as a trio of astronauts who are on their way to Mars when they discover that an unfortunate launch-plan engineer, Shamier Anderson, is still onboard. The trouble is, there is only enough oxygen for three of them. American viewers can also see Voyagers (due for release in Britain in July), in which 30 hormonal starship passengers are preparing to colonise another world. The trouble is, something goes wrong on their mission, too, and the trip turns into an interplanetary Lord of the Flies. The moral of both stories is that you should probably push “astronaut” a few slots down your list of dream jobs. But if you’ve caught any other science fiction films recently, it’s bound to be quite far down the list, anyway.

Again and again over the past decade, cinema has warned us that venturing beyond the Earth’s atmosphere is uncomfortable, dangerous, exhaustingly difficult, frequently tedious, and almost certain to involve interplanetary angst and asphyxiation. George Clooney’s morose The Midnight Sky rounded off 2020 with a fatal spacewalk. Aniara and Passengers posited that existence on a colony ship was a lot grimmer than Wall-E had led us to believe. The “sad dads in space” sub-genre coalesced with Brad Pitt’s Freudian moping in Ad Astra, and Robert Pattinson’s in High Life. No wonder today’s youngsters would rather be YouTubers or influencers than astronauts. The overriding thesis of current science fiction films is this: space travel is rubbish.

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Wed, 14 Apr 2021 07:54:52 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Film Science fiction and fantasy films Space Culture Science The Martian George Clooney Brad Pitt
How to watch NASA astronaut Kate Rubins return to Earth this week http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/digitaltrends/~3/2Y9k83n6VDo/ ]]> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 22:15:16 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs News International Space Station ISS Kate Rubins NASA Soyuz Space Space Station NASA is looking for people for a spaceflight simulation study http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/digitaltrends/~3/jK_c1CKlJlM/ ]]> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 21:20:29 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs News NASA SIRIUS Space Spaceflight Simulation NASA Funds Interstellar Probe and Space Habitats Made From Fungi https://gizmodo.com/nasa-funds-interstellar-probe-and-space-habitats-made-f-1846676870

The latest round of NASA funding to boost the development of advanced concepts includes a space-based neutrino detector, an interstellar probe powered by solar sails, and a radio telescope built inside a crater on the far side of the Moon.

Read more...

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 17:13:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science Nasa The Sun Spaceflight Solar Sail Spacecraft Matter National Aeronautics and Space Administration NIAC Program Lynn Rothschild Space Probes Emerging Technologies Space Telescopes NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Jason Derleth Neutrino Technology Internet Interstellar Probe Nikolas Solomey Trans Astronautica Corporation Lunar Crater Radio Telescope Kerry Nock Artur Davoyan Jeffrey Balcerski Peter Gural Roboticist Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay Global Aerospace Corporation
Tesla stock surges 8% as it reclaims key technical price level for first time since February http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/9ibfaQrrnWw/tesla-stock-price-techincal-analysis-reclaims-50-day-moving-average-2021-4 Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020.

REUTERS/Steve Nesius

  • Tesla surged as much as 8% on Tuesday as the stock reclaimed a key technical price level.
  • Shares of Tesla soared above its 50-day moving average for the first time since mid-February.
  • Improving momentum indicators, coupled with fresh record highs in the Nasdaq 100, suggest more gains ahead for Tesla.
  • Watch Tesla trade live here.

Tesla traders are likely breathing a sigh of relief on Tuesday after the stock surged as much as 8% and reclaimed a key technical price level that has represented overhead resistance since mid-February.

Shares of Tesla opened up just above its 50-day moving average in Tuesday's trading session, and decisively moved higher throughout the afternoon as buying pressure overpowered sellers.

Moving averages are a lagging trend-following indicator that technical analysts use to smooth out price movements and help identify the direction of the current trend in place.

Traders view the the 50-day moving average, which is the average daily closing price of a stock over its previous 50 trading sessions, as a short-term moving average that often represents areas of support or resistance for a stock. If the stock is trading below the moving average, the average serves as a likely area of resistance.

But now that shares of Tesla are back above its 50-day moving average, it will serve as a likely area of support for the stock.

Tuesday's rally in shares of Tesla coincides with near record highs in the Nasdaq 100, and improving momentum indicators suggests that the rally may continue. Tesla's relative strength indicator is on the rise and has plenty of headroom before it enters what traders consider to be overbought levels at 70.

If Tesla stock continues to hold the 50-day moving average as support, then traders will look to its January record high of $900 as the next price objective for the stock, representing potential upside of 18% from current levels.

The EV manufacturer was the best performing stock in the S&P 500, and Tuesday's rally also helped spark a 4% jump higher in Cathie Wood's flagship ARKK fund, which counts Tesla as its largest position.

tesla stock priceeee.JPG

Markets Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mfox@businessinsider.com (Matthew Fox)]

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 16:15:47 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Elon Musk Trends Markets Tesla Nasa International Space Station Trading Stock Market Technical Analysis Movers SpaceX Falcon Kennedy Space Center Matthew Fox Tesla Stock Cathie Wood Tesla Watch Tesla Tesla stock price Tesla Stock Analysis Steve Nesius Tesla Stock Market 2021 MI Exclusive
The first flight of NASA's Ingenuity helicopter on Mars is delayed at least a week because its software needs a tweak http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/WyWhHaDNPgM/nasa-to-update-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-software-2021-4 The Perseverance rover captured images of the Ingenuity helicopter before (left) and after (right) spinning its rotor blades.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA is trying to fix a glitch in its Mars helicopter.

The $85 million drone, called Ingenuity, was originally scheduled to make the first controlled, powered flight ever conducted on another planet on Monday. But an issue arose during a crucial ground test on Friday, throwing a wrench in that plan.

Now, NASA says the helicopter won't fly before April 21. The agency intends to pick a new flight date next week.

In the unsuccessful ground test, Ingenuity was supposed to spin its blades at full speed without lifting off. For the 4-pound drone to fly in the thin Martian atmosphere, its two pairs of blades must spin in opposite directions at more than 2,500 rotations per minute - about eight times faster than a helicopter on Earth. So the test was a final checkout to ensure Ingenuity's rotors would do just that.

But a "watchdog" timer built into the helicopter cut the test-spin short after it identified an issue with the command sequence that instructs Ingenuity to carry out the steps of the test. The timer intervened as the command sequence was trying to transition the helicopter's flight computer from "pre-flight" to "flight" mode.

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa gif

NASA/JPL-Caltech

After discovering the issue, engineers figured out a software patch that should fix the problem. In the meantime, Ingenuity is still "healthy," NASA said in a statement on Monday.

Still, the NASA team behind Ingenuity have long known that the helicopter could run into problems, and consider it a "high-risk, high-reward" mission. It's an experiment, after all, meant to prove that a rotorcraft flight could work on Mars.

"We are aware that failure is more likely in this kind of scenario, and we're comfortable with it because of the upside potential that success has," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator, told Insider last week, before the spin test. "If something doesn't go exactly like it's planned, what we like to do is learn the most about it then go forward."

Ingenuity's software fix is 'straightforward,' but it takes time ingenuity helicopter mars NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover on April 4, 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Over the weekend, Ingenuity's engineers reviewed the data from its failed rotor-spin test and determined that the best fix is a "minor" and "straightforward" tweak to the flight software, according to NASA.

"This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state," the agency said in a statement.

It will take several days to run the software change through a validation process, then uplink it to the helicopter on Mars. Once that's done, Ingenuity can re-do its high-speed spin test and NASA can set a date for its first flight.

If the patch works and Ingenuity flies successfully, it could open the door for a new era of helicopter exploration on other planets. Space drones could do all kinds of things that rovers can't - flying through canyons or up mountains, hopping in and out of craters, or even doing reconnaissance for future astronauts.

"Suppose that it does, in fact, work. What we will have proven is that we can add an aerial dimension to discovery and exploration on Mars," Zurbuchen said. "That aerial dimension, of course, opens up aspects of science and overall exploration that, frankly, at this moment in time, are only our dreams."

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mmcfalljohnsen@insider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)]

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 13:18:20 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Trends Nasa Software Mars Helicopter NASA JPL Caltech Ingenuity Tech Insider Thomas Zurbuchen Morgan McFall Johnsen Perseverance Mars Rover NASA JPL Caltech ASU NASA Mars Zurbuchen
A new warning sign to predict volcanic eruptions? http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/EndlessInnovation/~3/Xc-6pQlmMzQ/predicting-volcanic-eruptions
  • A recent study used data collected by NASA satellites to conduct a statistical analysis of surface temperatures near volcanoes that erupted from 2002 to 2019.
  • The results showed that surface temperatures near volcanoes gradually increased in the months and years prior to eruptions.
  • The method was able to detect potential eruptions that were not anticipated by other volcano monitoring methods, such as eruptions in Japan in 2014 and Chile in 2015.

How can modern technology help warn us of impending volcanic eruptions?

One promising answer may lie in satellite imagery. In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers used infrared data collected by NASA satellites to study the conditions near volcanoes in the months and years before they erupted.

The results revealed a pattern: Prior to eruptions, an unusually large amount of heat had been escaping through soil near volcanoes. This diffusion of subterranean heat — which is a byproduct of "large-scale thermal unrest" — could potentially represent a warning sign of future eruptions.


large-scale thermal unrest Conceptual model of large-scale thermal unrestCredit: Girona et al.

For the study, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of changes in surface temperature near volcanoes, using data collected over 16.5 years by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The results showed that eruptions tended to occur around the time when surface temperatures near the volcanoes peaked.

Eruptions were preceded by "subtle but significant long-term (years), large-scale (tens of square kilometres) increases in their radiant heat flux (up to ~1 °C in median radiant temperature)," the researchers wrote. After eruptions, surface temperatures reliably decreased, though the cool-down period took longer for bigger eruptions.

"Volcanoes can experience thermal unrest for several years before eruption," the researchers wrote. "This thermal unrest is dominated by a large-scale phenomenon operating over extensive areas of volcanic edifices, can be an early indicator of volcanic reactivation, can increase prior to different types of eruption and can be tracked through a statistical analysis of little-processed (that is, radiance or radiant temperature) satellite-based remote sensing data with high temporal resolution."

Temporal variations of target volcanoes Temporal variations of target volcanoesCredit: Girona et al.

Although using satellites to monitor thermal unrest wouldn't enable scientists to make hyper-specific eruption predictions (like predicting the exact day), it could significantly improve prediction efforts. Seismologists and volcanologists currently use a range of techniques to forecast eruptions, including monitoring for gas emissions, ground deformation, and changes to nearby water channels, to name a few.

Still, none of these techniques have proven completely reliable, both because of the science and the practical barriers (e.g. funding) standing in the way of large-scale monitoring. In 2014, for example, Japan's Mount Ontake suddenly erupted, killing 63 people. It was the nation's deadliest eruption in nearly a century.

In the study, the researchers found that surface temperatures near Mount Ontake had been increasing in the two years prior to the eruption. To date, no other monitoring method has detected "well-defined" warning signs for the 2014 disaster, the researchers noted.

The researchers hope satellite-based infrared monitoring techniques, combined with existing methods, can improve prediction efforts for volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions have killed about 2,000 people since 2000.

"Our findings can open new horizons to better constrain magma–hydrothermal interaction processes, especially when integrated with other datasets, allowing us to explore the thermal budget of volcanoes and anticipate eruptions that are very difficult to forecast through other geophysical/geochemical methods."

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 13:00:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Geology Nature Science Natural disaster
Hundreds capture spectacular fireball pass uncomfortably close to Earth https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/apr/13/fireball-object-passes-close-to-earth More than 200 people submitted reports and videos of a fiery trail and apparent space-rock explosion

To the American Meteor Society it was simply Event 2281-2021, an unremarkable name for a spectacular fireball that made an uncomfortably close pass to Earth on Monday.

A fiery trail and apparent space-rock explosion was captured on doorbell cameras and dashcams and was visible to stargazers from Florida to the Bahamas as it passed an estimated 9,300 miles above the planet at about 10.19pm ET.

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 12:28:03 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Space Florida Science Americas World news US news Earth Bahamas American Meteor Society
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to deliver an Astrobotic lander and NASA water-hunting rover to the Moon in 2023 http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/vuH_XwDjyuo/ SpaceX is set to send a payload to the Moon in 2023, using its larger (and infrequently used) Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. The mission will fly a lander built by space startup Astrobotic, which itself will be carrying NASA’s VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (this is the agency that loves torturing language to come up with fun acronyms, after all).

The launch is currently set for later in the year, and this would be Falcon Heavy’s first Moon mission if all goes to plan. It would not, however, be SpaceX’s first lunar outing, since the company has booked missions to launch lunar landers as early as 2022 on behalf of both Masten and Intuitive Machines. Those would both employ Falcon 9 rockets, however, at least according to current mission specs. Also, all of the above timelines so far exist only on paper, and in the business of space, delays and schedule shifts are far from unusual.

This mission is an important one for all involved, however, so they’re likely to prioritize its execution. For NASA, it’s a key mission in its longer-term goals for Artemis, the program through which it seeks to return humans to the Moon, and eventually establish a more permanent scientific presence there both in orbit and on the surface. Part of establishing a surface station will rely on using in-situ resources, of which water would be a hugely important one.

Image Credits: Astrobotic

Astrobotic won the contract to deliver VIPER on behalf of NASA last year. The mission profile includes landing the payload on the lunar South Pole, which is the intended target landing area for NASA’s Artemis missions involving human astronauts. The lander Astrobotic is sending for this task is its Griffin model, which is a larger craft vs. its Peregrine lander, giving it the extra space required to carry the VIPER, and making it necessary to use SpaceX’s heavier lift Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

NASA’s ambitious target of landing astronauts back on the Moon by 2024 is in flux as the new administration looks at timelines and budgets, but it still seems committed to making use of public-private partnerships to pave the way, whenever it does attain that goal. This first Griffin mission, along with an earlier planned Peregrine landing, are part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which sought private sector partners to build and deliver lunar landers with NASA as one customer.

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:43:46 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs TC Space Spacex Tech Nasa Moon Spaceflight Aerospace Griffin Artemis Falcon Heavy Falcon Viper Outer Space Peregrine Masten Astrobotic Technology Astrobotic Intuitive Machines Private Spaceflight Moon Mission Lunar Lander Commercial Lunar Payload Services CLPS Commercial Lunar Payload Services Intuitive Machines Those Astrobotic Astrobotic
How to watch NASA mission control live as the Ingenuity helicopter attempts to fly on Mars http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/cXf9YymEtz0/watch-live-nasa-fly-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-first-time-2021-4 An artist's concept of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter flying.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is about to fly its Mars helicopter for the first time. The feat could revolutionize spaceflight.

The helicopter, called Ingenuity, traveled nearly 300 million miles to the red planet tucked inside the belly of the Perseverance rover. Now it's sitting in an airfield in Mars' Jezero Crater, where it's set to take the first controlled powered flight ever conducted on another planet.

You can watch NASA attempt this feat via a livestream from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California (it's embedded below).

NASA Perseverance Perseverance took a selfie with Ingenuity on April 6.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Seán Doran

Ingenuity doesn't have a new flight date yet. The attempt was originally scheduled for early Monday, but NASA delayed it after a crucial blade-spin test ended abruptly on Friday.

For the test, Ingenuity was supposed to spin its carbon-fiber blades at full speed while on the ground. The two pairs of blades must spin in opposite directions at about 2,500 revolutions per minute - about eight times as fast as a passenger helicopter on Earth - in order to lift the 4-pound drone. That's necessary because Martian air has just 1% the density of Earth's atmosphere.

The spin-test ended when the helicopter couldn't transition its flight computer from "pre-flight" to "flight" mode. Ingenuity's engineers have determined that they can fix the problem by tweaking the helicopter's flight-control software. That will take a few days, and then Ingenuity will need to redo the full-speed spin. NASA said it would announce a new schedule for that - and a new flight date - sometime next week.

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa gif

NASA/JPL-Caltech

On flight day, the rapid rotor spinning should lift Ingenuity about 10 feet off the ground, hover there, then gently lower it back down. The helicopter must conduct the entire flight autonomously. If all goes well, Ingenuity will attempt up to four more airborne escapades over the course of 30 days. Each of those flights would be increasingly difficult, with the drone venturing higher and farther each time.

Because it takes at least eight minutes for a signal from Mars to travel to Earth, and vice versa, the engineers and technicians who run Ingenuity can only bite their nails and wait for the signal that the helicopter has flown and landed.

"I'm sure we're all going to be pretty on edge," Josh Ravich, the mechanical lead for the Ingenuity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Insider. "Definitely nervous. I mean, it's after years and years of work, you know, kind of waiting for that little one moment to come back."

Watch NASA fly its Mars helicopter live

Ingenuity is a demonstration meant to test NASA's rotorcraft technology on another planet. So beyond flying and capturing photos and video from the air, it won't conduct any science. But Ingenuity could pave the way for future extraterrestrial helicopters that would do reconnaissance for rovers and astronauts, study the surface of Mars or other planets from the air, and fly through canyons and cliffs that may be inaccessible to rovers.

The NASA TV livestream below will show the agency's Space Flight Operations Facility throughout the flight attempt. That's where engineers like Ravich will be waiting anxiously to hear from the helicopter.

"By its nature, it's going to have a little bit more risk than a normal mission," Ravich said. "There's a lot of things that could go wrong."

You won't be able to watch the flight in real time - NASA can't livestream from another planet - but video of and from the flight will likely become available soon afterward. The helicopter is set to record the ground below it using two cameras on its belly (one in black and white for navigation and one in color). Perseverance, meanwhile, is expected to record the flight from a nearby overlook.

It's not yet known how long it will take to get that video back to Earth and for NASA to publish it. Perseverance beamed back complete video footage of its landing within three days.

This could be the first of 5 flights ingenuity helicopter mars NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover on April 4.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

If everything goes as NASA hopes, Ingenuity's fifth and final flight will carry the helicopter over 980 feet (300 meters) of Martian ground.

"Each one of those is probably going to be, you know, a pretty tense and exciting experience," Ravich said.

But even if Ingenuity only completes this first 10-foot hover, that will be a major achievement.

"It will be truly a Wright brothers moment but on another planet," MiMi Aung, the project manager for the helicopter team, said in a briefing before the rover landed. "Every step going forward will be first of a kind."

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published on Friday, April 9, 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: mmcfalljohnsen@insider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)]

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:01:32 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Science News Trends Nasa Earth Mars Spaceflight Helicopter Jet Propulsion Laboratory Wright Pasadena California NASA JPL Caltech Ingenuity Tech Insider Ravich Mimi Aung Morgan McFall Johnsen Caltech NASA Perseverance Mars Rover Mars Jezero Crater Josh Ravich
Tech talent can thrive in the public sector but government must invest in it http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/u5tm6A01wXo/ Share on Twitter Josh Mendelsohn is the founder and managing partner of Hangar, a public sector investment firm focused on building and scaling innovative startups.

Building, scaling and launching new tools and products is the lifeblood of the technology sector. When we consider these concepts today, many think of Big Tech and flashy startups, known for their industry dominance or new technologies that impact our everyday lives. But long before garages and dorm rooms became decentralized hubs for these innovations, local and state governments, along with many agencies within the federal government, pioneered tech products with the goal of improving the lives of millions.

Long before garages and dorm rooms became decentralized hubs for innovation, local and state governments, along with many agencies within the federal government, pioneered tech products with the goal of improving the lives of millions.

As an industry, we’ve developed a notion that working in government, the place where the groundwork was laid for the digital assistants we use every day, is now far less appealing than working in the private sector. The immense salary differential is often cited as the overwhelming reason workers prefer to work in the private sphere.

But the hard truth is the private sector brings far more value than just higher compensation to employees. Look no further than the boom in the tech sector during the pandemic to understand why it’s so attractive. A company like Zoom, already established and successful in its own right for years, found itself in a situation where it had to serve an exponentially growing and diverse user base in a short period of time. It quickly confronted a slew of infrastructure and user experience pivots on its way to becoming a staple of work-from-home culture — and succeeded.

That innate ability to work fast to deliver for consumers and innovate at what feels like a moment’s notice is what really draws talent. Compare that to the government’s tech environment, where decreased funding and partisan oversight slow the pace of work, or, worse, can get in the way of exploring or implementing new ideas entirely.

One look (literally, see our graph below) at the trends around R&D spending in the private and government sectors also paints a clear picture of where future innovations will come from if we don’t change the equation.

Chart of Facebook R&D spending vs. DARPA annual budget

Image Credits: Josh Mendelsohn/Hangar

Look no further than the U.S. government’s own (now defunct) Office of Technology Assessment. The agency aimed to provide a thorough analysis of burgeoning issues in science and technology, exposing many public services to a new age of innovation and implementation. Amid a period of downsizing by a newly Republican-led Congress, the OTA was defunded in 1995 with a peak annual budget of just $35.1 million (adjusted for 2019 dollars). The authoritative body on the importance of technology to the government was deemed duplicative and unnecessary. Despite numerous calls for its reinstatement, it has since remained shuttered.

Despite dwindling public sector investment and lackluster political action, the problems that technology is poised to help solve haven’t gone away or even eased up.

From the COVID pandemic to worsening natural disasters and growing societal inequities, public leaders have a responsibility to solve the pressing issues we face today. That responsibility should breed a desire to continuously iterate for the sake of constituents and quality of life, much in the same way private tech caters to the product, user and bottom line.

My own experiences in government have shaped my career and approach to building new technologies more than my time in Silicon Valley. There are plenty of tangible parallels to the private sector that can attract driven and passionate tech workers, but the responsibility of giving government work realistic consideration doesn’t just fall at the feet of talent. The governments that we depend on must invest more capital and pay closer attention to the tech community.

Tech workers want an environment where they can thrive and get to see their work in action, whoever the end user may be. They don’t want to feel hamstrung by the threat of decreased funding or the red tape that comes as a result of government partisanship. Replicating the unimpeded focus of Silicon Valley’s brightest examples is a must if we’re serious about drawing talented individuals into government or public-sector-focused work.

A great example of these ideas in action is one of the most beloved government agencies, NASA. Its continued funding has produced technologies developed for space exploration that are now commonplace in our lives, such as scratch-resistant lenses, memory foam and water filters. These use cases came much later on, only after millions of dollars were invested without knowing what would result.

NASA has continued to bolster its ability to stay nimble and evolve at a rapid pace by partnering with private companies. For talent in the tech sphere, the ability to leverage outside resources in this way, without compromising the product or work, is a boon for ideation and iteration.

One can also point to the agency when considering the importance of keeping technology research and innovation as apolitical as possible. It’s one of the few widely known public entities to prosper on the back of bipartisan support. Unfortunately, politicians typically do all of us a disservice, particularly tech workers in government, when they too closely connect themselves or their parties to a particular program or platform. It hinders innovation — and the ensuing mudslinging can detract from talented individuals jumping into government service.

There is no shortage of extremely capable tech workers who want to help solve the biggest issues facing society. Will we give them the legitimate space and opportunity to conquer those problems? There’s been some indication that we can. These ambitious and forward-looking efforts matter today more than ever and show all of us in the tech ecosystem that there’s a place in government for tech talent to grow and flourish.

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 09:04:21 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs TC Column Congress Opinion Tech Nasa United States Innovation Silicon Valley Federal Government Hangar U S government Office of Technology Assessment COVID-19 Josh Mendelsohn Congress the OTA
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin lands a Pentagon contract to design nuclear-powered spacecraft http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/0BfFsEda1Ow/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-award-pentagon-nuclear-space-contract-darpa-2021-4 Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

  • The Pentagon has awarded Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' aerospace company, a $2.5 million contract.
  • Blue Origin will design concepts for a nuclear-powered spacecraft.
  • It won a contract for the craft alongside Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Pentagon on Monday awarded Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, a $2.5 million contract to design a nuclear-powered spacecraft.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) agency also chose Lockheed Martin and General Atomics for the first phase of a program to design and build the spacecraft, it said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin got a $2.9 million contract to design a craft for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, and General Atomics a $22.2 million one to design a small nuclear reactor to power a rocket, CNBC reported.

DARPA wants to test nuclear thermal propulsion technology, which uses a nuclear reactor in a rocket to heat up the fuel and propel the craft beyond low Earth orbit.

Rockets are usually powered by chemical or electrical-based systems. The agency said both have "drawbacks" and that nuclear propulsion tech could have benefits of both: the power of chemical-based and the efficiency of electrical-based.

The agency said in the statement it wanted to try a nuclear-powered spacecraft in orbit in 2025.

Read more: Real-estate investors are already circling homes in the Texas border town where Elon Musk said there would be 'several thousand' jobs

Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics "have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems," said Maj Nathan Greiner, DRACO program manager.

The first phase of DRACO will last 18 months.

Insider contacted Blue Origin for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

This is one of many contracts Blue Origin has landed since being founded by Amazon CEO Bezos in 2000. The space venture, which wants to revolutionize space travel and colonize the solar system, was awarded three NASA contracts in 2020, including one to carry out missions and satellite launches with its New Glenn rocket.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: kduffy@insider.com (Kate Duffy)]

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 06:00:22 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Amazon Elon Musk Texas Trends Nasa Darpa Pentagon Lockheed Martin Jeff Bezos Cnbc Blue Origin Bezos Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Darpa General Atomics Draco Kate Duffy Getty Images The Pentagon Jeff Bezos SAUL LOEB Maj Nathan Greiner
Nasa scientists find unlikely tool as rising temperatures bleach corals: a phone app https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/13/nasa-coral-reefs-nemo-net-tool-noaa Without the app, mapping reefs usually involves high amounts of data and low-quality photos, which leads to slow analysis

Less than 1% of the ocean floor consists of coral reefs. But more than one-quarter of marine animals live in them. With rising temperatures bleaching corals across oceans, Nasa scientists turn to an unlikely tool: a smartphone app.

A team of Nasa scientists in Silicon Valley has developed NeMO-Net, a game to classify corals, into a tool for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

Continue reading...]]>
Tue, 13 Apr 2021 06:00:08 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Environment Nasa Silicon Valley Guam
NASA writing software update for Ingenuity helicopter to enable first Mars flight https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/04/13/ingenuity_mars_software_upgrade_needed/ NASA will upload a ‘minor modification’ of flight control software to the Ingenuity helicopter ahead of its first attempt at powered flight on Mars, and says the process of doing so means it can’t say when attempts to send craft into Red skies will take place…

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 00:59:44 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Nasa Software Mars
NASA writes software update for Ingenuity helicopter to enable first Mars flight https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/04/13/ingenuity_mars_software_upgrade_needed/ NASA will upload a "minor modification" of flight control software to the Ingenuity helicopter ahead of its first attempt at powered flight on Mars, and says the process of doing so means it can’t say when attempts to send craft into Red skies will take place.…

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Tue, 13 Apr 2021 00:59:44 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Nasa Software Mars
Blue Origin’s next rocket test will put humans on board, sort of http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/digitaltrends/~3/x3-vk6x0Xzg/ ]]> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 00:30:18 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Space News Trends Space Tourism Rockets Jeff Bezos Blue Origin Mars helicopter can’t fly until it gets a software update, NASA says http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/digitaltrends/~3/I21sdDf2xeQ/ ]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 20:34:59 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Space News Trends Nasa Mars Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Another milestone for in-space servicing as Northrop Grumman gives aging satellite new life http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/XcIw3ebJyV0/ Northrop Grumman hit a new milestone in extending the life of active spacecraft as a purpose-built spacecraft, MEV-2, docking with Intelsat’s IS-10-02 satellite to give it another 5 years of life. It’s a strong demonstration of the possibilities in a growing field of orbital servicing operations.

MEV-2 launched in August and matched the orbit of Intelsat’s 18-year-old satellite, which would have soon be due for decommissioning, having exceeded its original mission by some 5 years. But it’s precisely this type of situation that the new “on-orbit service, assembly and manufacturing,” or OSAM, industry intends to target, allowing such satellites to live longer — likely saving their operators millions.

In last night’s operation, the MEV-2 spacecraft slowly approached IS-10-02 and docked with it, essentially adding itself as a spare engine with a full tank. It will stay attached this way for five years, after which it will move on to its next mission — another end-of-life satellite, probably. “You can think of MEV-2 as a jetpack for the 10-02 satellite,” said a Northrop Grumman representative.

The docking process is really more of a clamping-on than a docking, since while there’s a mechanical fit between the MEV-2’s probe and the IS-10-02’s engine cone, it’s not like they’re making a seal and exchanging fluids or power. The representative explained:

The MEV-2 docking system consists of a probe that we insert into the liquid apogee engine on the aft end of a satellite. Nearly 80% of satellites in orbit have this featuring, allowing the MEV service a variety of customers. The liquid apogee engine acts as a “cone to capture” to help guide the probe which once it passes through the throat of the engine, expands to capture the client satellite. The probe is then retracted pulling three stanchions, or feet, up against the launch adaptor ring, securely clamping the two vehicles together.

Last year the MEV-1 mission performed a similar operation, docking with Intelsat’s IS-901 and changing its orbit.

In-space satellite servicing proves successful in record-breaking orbital spacecraft operation

But in that case, the satellite was inactive and not in the correct orbit to return to service. MEV-1 therefore had a bit more latitude in how it approached the first part of the mission.

In the case of MEV-2, the IS-10-02 satellite was in active use in its accustomed orbit, meaning the servicing spacecraft had to coordinate an approach that ran no risk of disrupting the target craft’s operations. Being able to service working satellites, of course, is a major step up from only working with dead ones.

And naturally the goal is to have spacecraft that could dock and refuel another satellite without hanging onto it for a few years, or service a malfunctioning part so that a craft that’s 99% functional can stay in orbit rather than be allowed to burn up. Startups like Orbit Fab aim to build and standardize the parts and ports needed to make this a reality, and Northrop Grumman is planning a robotic servicing mission for its next trick, expected to launch in 2024.

Maxar and NASA will demonstrate orbital spacecraft assembly with a new robotic arm

]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 17:21:00 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Space Tech Nasa Satellites Aerospace Northrop Grumman Intelsat Blue Origin will run an ‘astronaut rehearsal’ during a launch this week to prep for human spaceflight http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/VYgVLn6KnVY/ Blue Origin is making progress toward its goal of flying human astronauts aboard its spacecraft, with a plan to run an “astronaut rehearsal” during a launch it has planned for Wednesday, April 14. The launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital, reusable rocket will be a key step in verifying the vehicle for paying human passengers.

What does the rehearsal entail? Basically everything except for the actual spaceflight, including boarding and going through preflight operations, the returning to the capsule once it has landed and going through a staged version of an actual capsule exit post-mission. It’s what would happen during a Blue Origin launch with private astronauts on board, with the exception that the Blue Origin personnel standing in for those customers will get out of the capsule before actual engine ignition and launch, and then be transported to the capsule landing site where they’ll get back in and behave as though they’ve been there all along.

There will be one passenger on board the spacecraft during its actual flight: Mannequin Skywalker, a test dummy used by Blue Origin to measure data about what the launch would be like for people. Mannequin has flown previously, but this is the first time it’s playing a sort of human spaceflight relay with the simulation crew doing the ground operations rehearsal portions of the mission.

Blue Origin launched its first New Shepard rocket of 2021 back in January, and that mission included a test of improved capsule cabin crew features, like better acoustics and temperature management system, and new display and communications equipment for the eventual crew. The company expects to begin flying people on board the rocket at some point this year, as of the most recently disclosed timelines.

This week’s launch is set for a take-off time of 8 a.m. CDT (9 a.m. EDT/6 a.m. PDT), and will take place from the company’s launch site in West Texas. A live feed will kick off an hour ahead of the opening of the launch window, and Blue Origin also plans to include footage of the astronaut rehearsal activities, which will be the best look we’ve gotten yet at what its tourist flights might look like.

As launch market matures, space opportunities on the ground take off

Blue Origin successfully launches and lands key crew capsule test in first mission of 2021

]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 16:37:02 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs TC Space Tech Space Tourism Aerospace Blue Origin West Texas Commercial Space 8 secret airplane safety features that could save your life http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinsider/silicon_alley_insider/~3/HPpT4Prus0Q/secret-hidden-airplane-safety-features-2019-12

  • Planes are designed with many safety features - from flame-resistant seat cushions to hidden bathroom locks.
  • Other safety features include black triangles and yellow hooks.
  • Airplanes also don't have oxygen tanks, but they have ashtrays.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
  • Following is a transcript of the video.

    Narrator: This is the bathroom door on an airplane and it can save your life. Not because it's the only thing standing between you and the guy that ate an airport burrito before he got on board. It actually has a hidden safety feature. Can you figure it out?

    1. Yellow hooks

    In case of an emergency that requires the pilot to land on the water, you'll be grateful for these little yellow hooks. The number and placement of hooks on each wing vary from plane to plane, but they all do the same thing: help passengers to safety. They're an anchor for ropes, which passengers use to steady and pull themselves across the wing especially during a water landing. The ropes and hooks can also be used to tether rafts to the plane so they don't float away as passengers board.

    2. No oxygen tanks

    Let's say your plane does depressurize. You know the drill - pull down on the mask to extend the tube, cover your nose and mouth with the yellow cup, and always put your own mask on first. But wait, why do you have to pull down on the mask? It's not to reach your face. It's actually to start a chemical reaction. T

    here are no oxygen tanks on airplanes. They're just too heavy and bulky to be practical. Instead, the panel above your head contains a chemical oxygen generator. It's a small canister that holds sodium chlorate, barium peroxide, and a pinch of potassium perchlorate. And when all three mix together, the extremely hot chemical reaction lets off oxygen.

    3. Fire-resistant cushion

    Your seat cushion functions as a flotation device, but did you know it's also fireproof? Let's take this back a few decades. During a 1967 test for the first Apollo moon mission, three astronauts were killed when the interior of the capsule caught on fire. An investigation showed that the craft was filled with highly flammable materials including the foam in the seat cushions.

    This led NASA to conduct a whole slew of research for a way to cover flammable things with a fire-resistant material. So in 1984, the Federal Aviation Administration issued new regulations regarding the flammability of airplane seats. And in fact, it's estimated that 20 to 25 lives are saved each year because their seats don't catch on fire.

    4. Black triangle

    Above some of those flame-resistant seats, you might see a little black or red triangle. Those triangles actually signify what's nicknamed "William Shatner's seat." It's a reference to a 1963 episode of "The Twilight Zone," in which Shatner's character sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane. The triangles signal to the crew which windows have the best view of the wings in case a flap malfunctions or to check to see if they've been deiced.

    5. Little window hole

    While you're staring at the gremlin on the wing, you might notice a small hole in the window. Usually not a good feature for a window, but necessary in this case. It's called a bleed hole. And it prevents your airplane window from blowing out. That's because the air pressure inside the plane is so much greater than outside, which would cause any normal window to explode.

    But the windows on an airplane are made up of three panes: inner, middle, and outer. The outer pane takes the pressure, the middle acts as a fail-safe, and the inner is just there so passengers don't mess with the other two. The hole also lets moisture escape from the gaps so the windows don't fog up or freeze.

    6. Dimming lights

    If the idea of your window popping out mid-flight causes you stress, just try to keep the shade up anyways. That simple action could give you peace of mind and potentially save your life. Before taking off and landing at night, crews will often dim the cabin lights and ask passengers to open their shades. This is to give their eyes time to adjust to the darkness. In case of evacuation, passengers' eyes will already be acclimated to the blackness outside. If the lights stayed on, their eyes would need time to adjust and they'd end up wasting precious seconds stumbling blindly instead of quickly evacuating.

    7. Hidden bathroom lock

    While joining the mile-high club might seem like a fun idea, you won't get the kind of privacy you might expect. In fact, a crew member could open the bathroom door at any moment no matter if you locked it or not. On the outside of most airplane bathroom doors is a little plate that says "LAVATORY." And under that little plate is a latch that unlocks the door from the outside. This allows the crew to access the bathroom in case of an emergency.

    8. Ashtray

    While you're in the bathroom, you might notice an ashtray. "But wait," you think to yourself, "I thought it was illegal to smoke on planes!" You're right! Smoking on an airplane has been banned on US airlines since the late 1980s and could saddle you with a fine of up to $25,000. Even with the threat of a fine, the Federal Aviation Administration isn't taking chances. It lists ashtrays in bathrooms as legally required to meet the minimum equipment needed for a plane. Trash cans on a plane are mostly filled with flammable materials, like cocktail napkins. So tossing a cigarette butt into one of those would not be good.

    After all, there are still plenty of things in a plane that aren't covered in flame-resistant material.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was originally published in December 2019.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

    [Author: atang@businessinsider.com (Abby Tang,Michelle Yan Huang)]

    ]]>
    Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:49:05 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs US Trends Nasa William Shatner Federal Aviation Administration Shatner Abby Tang Michelle Yan Huang
    Docugami’s new model for understanding documents cuts its teeth on NASA archives http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/jJ2jlImvz4E/ You hear so much about data these days that you might forget that a huge amount of the world runs on documents: a veritable menagerie of heterogeneous files and formats holding enormous value yet incompatible with the new era of clean, structured databases. Docugami plans to change that with a system that intuitively understands any set of documents and intelligently indexes their contents — and NASA is already on board.

    If Docugami’s product works as planned, anyone will be able to take piles of documents accumulated over the years and near-instantly convert them to the kind of data that’s actually useful to people.

    Because it turns out that running just about any business ends up producing a ton of documents. Contracts and briefs in legal work, leases and agreements in real estate, proposals and releases in marketing, medical charts, etc, etc. Not to mention the various formats: Word docs, PDFs, scans of paper printouts of PDFs exported from Word docs, and so on.

    Over the last decade there’s been an effort to corral this problem, but movement has largely been on the organizational side: put all your documents in one place, share and edit them collaboratively. Understanding the document itself has pretty much been left to the people who handle them, and for good reason — understanding documents is hard!

    Hugging Face raises $40 million for its natural language processing library

    Think of a rental contract. We humans understand when the renter is named as Jill Jackson, that later on, “the renter” also refers to that person. Furthermore, in any of a hundred other contracts, we understand that the renters in those documents are the same type of person or concept in the context of the document, but not the same actual person. These are surprisingly difficult concepts for machine learning and natural language understanding systems to grasp and apply. Yet if they could be mastered, an enormous amount of useful information could be extracted from the millions of documents squirreled away around the world.

    What’s up, .docx?

    Docugami founder Jean Paoli says they’ve cracked the problem wide open, and while it’s a major claim, he’s one of few people who could credibly make it. Paoli was a major figure at Microsoft for decades, and among other things helped create the XML format — you know all those files that end in x, like .docx and .xlsx? Paoli is at least partly to thank for them.

    “Data and documents aren’t the same thing,” he told me. “There’s a thing you understand, called documents, and there’s something that computers understand, called data. Why are they not the same thing? So my first job [at Microsoft] was to create a format that can represent documents as data. I created XML with friends in the industry, and Bill accepted it.” (Yes, that Bill.)

    The formats became ubiquitous, yet 20 years later the same problem persists, having grown in scale with the digitization of industry after industry. But for Paoli the solution is the same. At the core of XML was the idea that a document should be structured almost like a webpage: boxes within boxes, each clearly defined by metadata — a hierarchical model more easily understood by computers.

    Image Credits: Docugami

    “A few years ago I drank the AI kool-aid, got the idea to transform documents into data. I needed an algorithm that navigates the hierarchical model, and they told me that the algorithm you want does not exist,” he explained. “The XML model, where every piece is inside another, and each has a different name to represent the data it contains — that has not been married to the AI model we have today. That’s just a fact. I hoped the AI people would go and jump on it, but it didn’t happen.” (“I was busy doing something else,” he added, to excuse himself.)

    The lack of compatibility with this new model of computing shouldn’t come as a surprise — every emerging technology carries with it certain assumptions and limitations, and AI has focused on a few other, equally crucial areas like speech understanding and computer vision. The approach taken there doesn’t match the needs of systematically understanding a document.

    “Many people think that documents are like cats. You train the AI to look for their eyes, for their tails… documents are not like cats,” he said.

    It sounds obvious, but it’s a real limitation: advanced AI methods like segmentation, scene understanding, multimodal context, and such are all a sort of hyper-advanced cat detection that has moved beyond cats to detect dogs, car types, facial expressions, locations, etc. Documents are too different from one another, or in other ways too similar, for these approaches to do much more than roughly categorize them.

    And as for language understanding, it’s good in some ways but not in the ways Paoli needed. “They’re working sort of at the English language level,” he said. “They look at the text but they disconnect it from the document where they found it. I love NLP people, half my team is NLP people — but NLP people don’t think about business processes. You need to mix them with XML people, people who understand computer vision, then you start looking at the document at a different level.”

    Docugami in action

    Image Credits: Docugami

    Paoli’s goal couldn’t be reached by adapting existing tools (beyond mature primitives like optical character recognition), so he assembled his own private AI lab, where a multi-disciplinary team has been tinkering away for about two years.

    “We did core science, self-funded, in stealth mode, and we sent a bunch of patents to the patent office,” he said. “Then we went to see the VCs, and Signalfire basically volunteered to lead the seed round at $10 million.”

    Coverage of the round didn’t really get into the actual experience of using Docugami, but Paoli walked me through the platform with some live documents. I wasn’t given access myself and the company wouldn’t provide screenshots or video, saying it is still working on the integrations and UI, so you’ll have to use your imagination… but if you picture pretty much any enterprise SaaS service, you’re 90 percent of the way there.

    As the user, you upload any number of documents to Docugami, from a couple dozen to hundreds or thousands. These enter a machine understanding workflow that parses the documents, whether they’re scanned PDFs, Word files, or something else, into an XML-esque hierarchical organization unique to the contents.

    “Say you’ve got 500 documents, we try to categorize it in document sets, these 30 look the same, those 20 look the same, those 5 together. We group them with a mix of hints coming from how the document looked, what it’s talking about, what we think people are using it for, etc,” said Paoli. Other services might be able to tell the difference between a lease and an NDA, but documents are too diverse to slot into pre-trained ideas of categories and expect it to work out. Every set of documents is potentially unique, and so Docugami trains itself anew every time, even for a set of one. “Once we group them, we understand the overall structure and hierarchy of that particular set of documents, because that’s how documents become useful: together.”

    Image Credits: Docugami

    That doesn’t just mean it picks up on header text and creates an index, or lets you search for words. The data that is in the document, for example who is paying whom, how much and when, and under what conditions, all that becomes structured and editable within the context of similar documents. (It asks for a little input to double check what it has deduced.)

    It can be a little hard to picture, but now just imagine that you want to put together a report on your company’s active loans. All you need to do is highlight the information that’s important to you in an example document — literally, you just click “Jane Roe” and “$20,000” and “5 years” anywhere they occur — and then select the other documents you want to pull corresponding information from. A few seconds later you have an ordered spreadsheet with names, amounts, dates, anything you wanted out of that set of documents.

    All this data is meant to be portable too, of course — there are integrations planned with various other common pipes and services in business, allowing for automatic reports, alerts if certain conditions are reached, automated creation of templates and standard documents (no more keeping an old one around with underscores where the principals go).

    No code, workflow and RPA line up for their automation moment

    Remember, this is all half an hour after you uploaded them in the first place, no labeling or pre-processing or cleaning required. And the AI isn’t working from some preconceived notion or format of what a lease document looks like. It’s learned all it needs to know from the actual docs you uploaded — how they’re structured, where things like names and dates figure relative to one another, and so on. And it works across verticals and uses an interface anyone can figure out a few minutes. Whether you’re in healthcare data entry or construction contract management, the tool should make sense.

    The web interface where you ingest and create new documents is one of the main tools, while the other lives inside Word. There Docugami acts as a sort of assistant that’s fully aware of every other document of whatever type you’re in, so you can create new ones, fill in standard information, comply with regulations, and so on.

    Okay, so processing legal documents isn’t exactly the most exciting application of machine learning in the world. But I wouldn’t be writing this (at all, let alone at this length) if I didn’t think this was a big deal. This sort of deep understanding of document types can be found here and there among established industries with standard document types (such as police or medical reports), but have fun waiting until someone trains a bespoke model for your kayak rental service. But small businesses have just as much value locked up in documents as large enterprises — and they can’t afford to hire a team of data scientists. And even the big organizations can’t do it all manually.

    NASA’s treasure trove

    Image Credits: NASA

    The problem is extremely difficult, yet to humans seems almost trivial. You or I could glance through 20 similar documents and a list of names and amounts easily, perhaps even in less time than it takes for Docugami to crawl them and train itself.

    But AI, after all, is meant to imitate and excel human capacity, and it’s one thing for an account manager to do monthly reports on 20 contracts — quite another to do a daily report on a thousand. Yet Docugami accomplishes the latter and former equally easily — which is where it fits into both the enterprise system, where scaling this kind of operation is crucial, and to NASA, which is buried under a backlog of documentation from which it hopes to glean clean data and insights.

    If there’s one thing NASA’s got a lot of, it’s documents. Its reasonably well maintained archives go back to its founding, and many important ones are available by various means — I’ve spent many a pleasant hour perusing its cache of historical documents.

    But NASA isn’t looking for new insights into Apollo 11. Through its many past and present programs, solicitations, grant programs, budgets, and of course engineering projects, it generates a huge amount of documents — being, after all, very much a part of the federal bureaucracy. And as with any large organization with its paperwork spread over decades, NASA’s document stash represents untapped potential.

    Expert opinions, research precursors, engineering solutions, and a dozen more categories of important information are sitting in files searchable perhaps by basic word matching but otherwise unstructured. Wouldn’t it be nice for someone at JPL to get it in their head to look at the evolution of nozzle design, and within a few minutes have a complete and current list of documents on that topic, organized by type, date, author, and status? What about the patent advisor who needs to provide a NIAC grant recipient information on prior art — shouldn’t they be able to pull those old patents and applications up with more specificity than any with a given keyword?

    How to access ‘America’s Seed Fund,’ the $3 billion SBIR program

    The NASA SBIR grant, awarded last summer, isn’t for any specific work, like collecting all the documents of such and such a type from Johnson Space Center or something. It’s an exploratory or investigative agreement, as many of these grants are, and Docugami is working with NASA scientists on the best ways to apply the technology to their archives. (One of the best applications may be to the SBIR and other small business funding programs themselves.)

    Another SBIR grant with the NSF differs in that, while at NASA the team is looking into better organizing tons of disparate types of documents with some overlapping information, at NSF they’re aiming to better identify “small data.” “We are looking at the tiny things, the tiny details,” said Paoli. “For instance, if you have a name, is it the lender or the borrower? The doctor or the patient name? When you read a patient record, penicillin is mentioned, is it prescribed or prohibited? If there’s a section called allergies and another called prescriptions, we can make that connection.”

    “Maybe it’s because I’m French”

    When I pointed out the rather small budgets involved with SBIR grants and how his company couldn’t possibly survive on these, he laughed.

    “Oh, we’re not running on grants! This isn’t our business. For me, this is a way to work with scientists, with the best labs in the world,” he said, while noting many more grant projects were in the offing. “Science for me is a fuel. The business model is very simple – a service that you subscribe to, like Docusign or Dropbox.”

    The company is only just now beginning its real business operations, having made a few connections with integration partners and testers. But over the next year it will expand its private beta and eventually open it up — though there’s no timeline on that just yet.

    “We’re very young. A year ago we were like five, six people, now we went and got this $10M seed round and boom,” said Paoli. But he’s certain that this is a business that will be not just lucrative but will represent an important change in how companies work.

    “People love documents. Maybe it’s because I’m French,” he said, “but I think text and books and writing are critical — that’s just how humans work. We really think people can help machines think better, and machines can help people think better.”

    How artificial intelligence will be used in 2021

    Noogata raises $12M seed round for its no-code enterprise AI platform

    ]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:32:41 +0000 BlogLikes - Find Most Popular Blogs Microsoft America Tech Nasa Bill Jpl NSF NDA NIAC NLP SBIR SignalFire RPA Paoli Jean Paoli Jane Roe Docugami Jill Jackson Docugami Paoli