Successful Launch Of Orion Spacecraft First Step Towards Mars Mission (Pictures / Video)

‘Day One Of The Mars Era': Orion Test Flight That Heralds New Age Of Space Exploration Launches After Yesterday’s Technical Glitches – Daily Mail

For the first time in nearly half a century, Nasa has launched a spaceship designed to carry astronauts far beyond Earth.

Riding atop a fountain of fire, the 24-story-tall Orion spacecraft soared above the Atlantic Ocean at 12.05 GMT (07.05 ET), punching through partly cloudy skies.

The unmanned craft is now being catapulted around the Earth twice in a 4.5 hour journey, which will end 16:30 GMT (11:30 ET) when it re-enters the atmosphere at 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h).

In the future, Nasa hopes to use the spacecraft to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s and ultimately take them to Mars in the 2030s.


‘The star of the day is Orion,’ said Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden, back for the second morning in a row. He called it ‘Day one of the Mars era.’

The maiden launch of the Orion spacecraft was postponed yesterday, after a technical fault, a stray boat and poor weather conditions hampered efforts to blast into space.

However, today’s launch was described by Nasa as ‘picture perfect’ – and so far all of the separation stages have gone to plan.

As the rocket roared into orbit, cameras streamed video showing dramatic pictures of the two side boosters falling away and the curved edge of the Earth.

Nasa is aiming for a peak altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 km) on Orion’s second lap around the planet, in order to give the capsule the necessary momentum for a scorchingly high-speed re-entry over the Pacific.

The spacecraft has travelled through Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts that protect the planet from charged particles. Scientists say this will show how well equipment tolerates radiation like that experienced on the long journey to Mars.

Just three minutes into the launch, the spacecraft was already travelling at five times the speed of sound.


Engineers want to see how the heat shield – the largest of its kind ever built – holds up when Orion comes back through the atmosphere traveling 20,000 mph (32,200 kph)and enduring 4,000 degrees (2,200 Celsius).



The atmosphere at Kennedy Space Center was reminiscent of the shuttle-flying days. After more than three years since the last shuttle flight, Nasa reveled in all the attention.

Launch commentator Mike Curie fed the enthusiasm in the gathered crowds, calling it ‘the dawn of Orion in a new era of American space exploration’

Mark Geyer, Orion programme manager at Nasa, said: ‘It was very good to see how well the rocket did its job and very exciting to see it go up into space.

‘Now it is actually doing the job it was designed to do. We still have a long way to go with this mission but everything is going great.

‘All the systems were on already, we have linked up to the satellites.

‘We had a few key tests to run in the first six minutes of the flight that were very important for us.

‘We jettisoned service module fairing which are there to reduce mass on the rest of Orion. This is a critical event these pyrotechnic systems and it went perfectly.




Orion is being developed alongside the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is due to make its maiden launch in 2018 or 2019.

Together, SLS and Orion will allow Nasa to send humans into deep space to destinations such as Mars.

For this launch, Orion was strapped to a Delta IV-Heavy rocket – currently the largest launch system in the world. Three RS-68 engines produced about two million pounds of thrust at lift-off.

Five and a half minutes after launch, at an altitude of around 200 miles (320km), fuel ran out on both the Delta IV’s main and booster engines.

A couple of seconds later, the entire bottom end – or the ‘first stage’ of the rocket – detached, while the second stage engine will ignited to take Orion to a higher orbit.

The upper stage’s protective fairings were then jettisoned, along with the launch abort system, which is designed to protect the astronauts in the case of an emergency during launch by carrying the capsule to safety.




After two hours, and one orbit of Earth, the second-stage rocket will be ignited again, moving Orion up to an altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 km).

This is 15 times the distance to the ISS and will cause Orion to travel through the high-radiation Van Allen Belts.

At three hours after lift-off, Orion will hit its peak altitude and then slowly start its descent back to Earth

The flight program has been loaded into Orion’s computers well in advance, allowing the spacecraft to fly essentially on autopilot.

It should give engineers the opportunity to check the performance of Orion’s critical heat shield, which is likely to experience temperatures in excess of 2,000ºC (4,000°F).

Its re-entry speed into the atmosphere will be close to 20,000mph (32,000km/h) – similar to the speed of the Apollo capsules that returned from the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.

The dry run, if all goes well, will end with a Pacific splashdown off Mexico’s Baja coast and Navy ships will recover the capsule for future use.




The spacecraft is rigged with 1,200 sensors to gauge everything from heat to vibration to radiation.

Geyer said: ‘We’re going to test the riskiest parts of the mission. Ascent, entry and things like fairing separations, Launch Abort System jettison, the parachute, plus the navigation and guidance – all those things are going to be tested.

‘Plus, we’ll fly into deep space and test the radiation effects on those systems.’

A crucial test came when Orion flies flew through the Van Allen belts, which are two layers of charged particles orbiting around Earth.

‘The ISS would not have to deal with radiation but we will, and so will every vehicle that goes to the moon,’ Geyer told the BBC.

‘That’s a big issue for the computers. These processors that are now so small – they’re great for speed but they’re more susceptible to radiation.

‘That’s something we have to design for and see how it all behaves.’

Another key test was on the heat shield on Orion’s base, designed to protect the craft from the searing temperatures of atmospheric re-entry.

It is 16.5ft (five metres) across and is the biggest, most advanced of its kind ever made.




On this flight, Orion will reach close to 2,000ºC (4,000°F), not quite the 2,800ºC (5,000ºF) that was generated from the moon missions, but close enough for a good test of the technology.

That’s why Orion will aim for a 3,600 miles (5,800 km) peak altitude to pick up enough speed to come back fast and hot with this mission, officially called Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1).

Even though bears a strong resemblance to the Apollo command module that carried astronauts to the moon in the 1960s, it is bristling with the latest technology that makes it markedly different.

‘There’s an obvious comparison to draw between this first Orion launch and the first unmanned flight of the Apollo spacecraft on Apollo 4 [in 1967], but there are more differences than similarities,’ space historian Amy Teitel told MailOnline.

‘Apollo 4 flew a nearly lunar-ready command and service module, was the first flight of the Saturn V rocket, and demonstrated that both the S-IVB rocket stage and the spacecraft’s own engine could ignite in a vacuum.

‘The EFT-1 flight is only testing a spacecraft; it doesn’t even have its service module!

‘With Apollo 4, we knew we were going to the moon and it was clear this mission was putting us firmly back on that path after the major setback of the Apollo 1 fire. With Orion, we don’t have a clear goal and a firm timeline for this new spacecraft.’



But at 11ft (3.6 metres) tall with a 16.5ft (5 metres) base, Orion is much larger than the old-time Apollo capsules, and is designed to carry four astronauts rather than three.

The earliest Orion might carry passengers is 2021; a mission to an asteroid is on the space agency’s radar sometime in the 2020s and Mars, the grand prize, in the 2030s.

‘We’re approaching this as pioneers,’ said William Hill of Nasa’s exploration systems development office.

‘We’re going out to stay eventually… It’s many, many decades away, but that’s our intent.’

However, Nasa has yet to develop the technology to carry out manned surface operations on Mars.


By comparison, it took eight years from the time President John Kennedy announced his intentions of landing a man on the moon – before John Glenn even became the first American to orbit Earth – to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s lunar bootprints in 1969.

Given the present budget situation, ‘it is what it is,’ said Kennedy Space Center’s director Robert Cabana, a former astronaut. And the presidential election ahead could bring further delays and uncertainties.

Lockheed Martin is handling the £236 million ($370 million) test flight, and Nasa will be overseeing its operation.

Nasa’s last trip beyond low-Earth orbit in a vessel built for people was Apollo 17 in December 1972.

‘This is just the first of what will be a long line of exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit,’ said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development.

‘In a few years we will be sending our astronauts to destinations humans have never experienced. It’s thrilling to be a part of the journey now, at the beginning.’




Scientists At Salk Institute Discover On/Off Switch For Aging Cells

Scientists Discover An On/Off Switch For Aging Cells – Salk News

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.

In our bodies, newly divided cells constantly replenish lungs, skin, liver and other organs. However, most human cells cannot divide indefinitely – with each division, a cellular timekeeper at the ends of chromosomes shortens. When this timekeeper, called a telomere, becomes too short, cells can no longer divide, causing organs and tissues to degenerate, as often happens in old age. But there is a way around this countdown: some cells produce an enzyme called telomerase, which rebuilds telomeres and allows cells to divide indefinitely.

In a new study published September 19th in the journal Genes and Development, scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered that telomerase, even when present, can be turned off.


……………………….Victoria Lundblad and Timothy Tucey

“Previous studies had suggested that once assembled, telomerase is available whenever it is needed,” says senior author Vicki Lundblad, professor and holder of Salk’s Ralph S. and Becky O’Connor Chair. “We were surprised to discover instead that telomerase has what is in essence an ‘off’ switch, whereby it disassembles.”

Understanding how this “off” switch can be manipulated – thereby slowing down the telomere shortening process – could lead to treatments for diseases of aging (for example, regenerating vital organs later in life).

Lundblad and first author and graduate student Timothy Tucey conducted their studies in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same yeast used to make wine and bread. Previously, Lundblad’s group used this simple single-celled organism to reveal numerous insights about telomerase and lay the groundwork for guiding similar findings in human cells.

“We wanted to be able to study each component of the telomerase complex but that turned out to not be a simple task,” Tucey said. Tucey developed a strategy that allowed him to observe each component during cell growth and division at very high resolution, leading to an unanticipated set of discoveries into how–and when–this telomere-dedicated machine puts itself together.

Every time a cell divides, its entire genome must be duplicated. While this duplication is going on, Tucey discovered that telomerase sits poised as a “preassembly” complex, missing a critical molecular subunit. But when the genome has been fully duplicated, the missing subunit joins its companions to form a complete, fully active telomerase complex, at which point telomerase can replenish the ends of eroding chromosomes and ensure robust cell division.

Surprisingly, however, Tucey and Lundblad showed that immediately after the full telomerase complex has been assembled, it rapidly disassembles to form an inactive “disassembly” complex – essentially flipping the switch into the “off” position. They speculate that this disassembly pathway may provide a means of keeping telomerase at exceptionally low levels inside the cell. Although eroding telomeres in normal cells can contribute to the aging process, cancer cells, in contrast, rely on elevated telomerase levels to ensure unregulated cell growth. The “off” switch discovered by Tucey and Lundblad may help keep telomerase activity below this threshold.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation and a Rose Hills Foundation Fellowship.



Japanese Company To Sell Humanoid Robots In U.S. Within 12 Months (Video)

SoftBank To Sell Robot In U.S. Stores Within 12 Months – Bloomberg


Billionaire Masayoshi Son will start selling his humanoid robots named “Pepper” at Sprint Corp. (S) stores in the U.S. by next summer, part of SoftBank Corp.‘s push to take the technology beyond factory floors.

SoftBank also has received between 300 and 400 inquiries about Pepper from companies in finance, food service and education, Fumihide Tomizawa, chief executive officer of SoftBank Robotics, said yesterday. The 1.2 meter (4 foot) robot dances, makes jokes and estimates human emotions based on expressions. Pepper will go in sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900) while the company hasn’t set a U.S. price.

SoftBank, which paid $22 billion for control of Sprint last year, is investing in robotics as Japan seeks to double the value of domestic production to 2.41 trillion yen by 2020. SoftBank has developed an operating system that controls robots in the same way Google Inc.’s Android software runs smartphones, with the platform open to customization for use in construction, health care and entertainment industries.

“We will sell Pepper in the United States within a year after gathering information in Japan,” Tomizawa said. “I won’t be surprised if Pepper sales will be half to business and half to consumers.”

SoftBank Robotics was established as a subsidiary in July to direct the company’s business and sell Pepper, which is equipped with a laser sensor and 12 hours of battery life.

Shares (9984) of SoftBank rose 1.3 percent to 7,541 yen at the close of trade in Tokyo. The stock has declined 18 percent this year while the benchmark Topix index is little changed.

The robot was initially targeted at families and the elderly before getting attention for business use since its June unveiling.

Tomizawa declined to specify the company’s sales targets for robotics. SoftBank expects to generate revenue through applications and original content as customers personalize their robots.

“The basic premise is to produce profit,” Tomizawa said. “Son is aggressively involved in the project and we report to him one or two times a month.”

Son said in 2010 his vision was to create a society that coexists with intelligent robots. The SoftBank chairman has said Pepper is a result of his time spent watching the TV show “Astro Boy,” an animated 1960s series based on a character who couldn’t experience emotions.

In July, Son said he expects to improve labor productivity by replacing 90 million jobs with 30 million robots.

“We could enter the robot business for industrial use in the mid or long term,” Tomizawa said.

Pepper was initially developed by SoftBank subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics SA. The robot operating system, which isn’t currently used by Pepper, was developed by its Asratec Corp. division. The businesses continue to operate as separate units of SoftBank.

SoftBank’s development of robots comes as Google acquired robotics companies, including Schaft Inc., a Tokyo-based maker of two-legged humanoid robots. Other robot makers include Honda Motor Co. (7267), which has the soccer-playing Asimo, and Panasonic Corp. (6752), which created Hospi-R machines to deliver medicines to patients in hospitals.




Scientists In The Netherlands Report Finding Reliable Way To Teleport Data

Scientists Report Finding Reliable Way To Teleport Data – New York Times

Scientists in the Netherlands have moved a step closer to overriding one of Albert Einstein’s most famous objections to the implications of quantum mechanics, which he described as “spooky action at a distance.”

In a paper published on Thursday in the journal Science, physicists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology reported that they were able to reliably teleport information between two quantum bits separated by three meters, or about 10 feet.

Quantum teleportation is not the “Star Trek”-style movement of people or things; rather, it involves transferring so-called quantum information – in this case what is known as the spin state of an electron – from one place to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached.

Classical bits, the basic units of information in computing, can have only one of two values – either 0 or 1. But quantum bits, or qubits, can simultaneously describe many values. They hold out both the possibility of a new generation of faster computing systems and the ability to create completely secure communication networks.


A forest of optical elements that was part of the quantum teleportation device used by the team of physicists in the Netherlands. Credit Hanson lab@TUDelft

Moreover, the scientists are now closer to definitively proving Einstein wrong in his early disbelief in the notion of entanglement, in which particles separated by light-years can still appear to remain connected, with the state of one particle instantaneously affecting the state of another.

They report that they have achieved perfectly accurate teleportation of quantum information over short distances. They are now seeking to repeat their experiment over the distance of more than a kilometer. If they are able to repeatedly show that entanglement works at this distance, it will be a definitive demonstration of the entanglement phenomenon and quantum mechanical theory.

Succeeding at greater distances will offer an affirmative solution to a thought experiment known as Bell’s theorem, proposed in 1964 by the Irish physicist John Stewart Bell as a method for determining whether particles connected via quantum entanglement communicate information faster than the speed of light.

“There is a big race going on between five or six groups to prove Einstein wrong,” said Ronald Hanson, a physicist who leads the group at Delft. “There is one very big fish.”

In the past, scientists have made halting gains in teleporting quantum information, a feat that is achieved by forcing physically separated quantum bits into an entangled state.

Interactive Graphic
Researchers teleported quantum information between two distant atoms for the first time in 2009.
Click on image below to open interactive graphic

But reliability of quantum teleportation has been elusive. For example, in 2009, University of Maryland physicists demonstrated the transfer of quantum information, but only one of every 100 million attempts succeeded, meaning that transferring a single bit of quantum information required roughly 10 minutes.

In contrast, the scientists at Delft have achieved the ability “deterministically,” meaning they can now teleport the quantum state of two entangled electrons accurately 100 percent of the time.

They did so by producing qubits using electrons trapped in diamonds at extremely low temperatures. According to Dr. Hanson, the diamonds effectively create “miniprisons” in which the electrons were held. The researchers were able to establish a spin, or value, for electrons, and then read the value reliably.

In addition to the possibility of an impregnable quantum Internet, the research holds out the possibility of networks of quantum computers.

To date, practical quantum computers, which could solve certain classes of problems far more quickly than even the most powerful computers now in use, remain a distant goal. A functional quantum computer would need to entangle a large number of qubits and maintain that entangled state for relatively long periods, something that has so far not been achieved.

A distributed quantum network might also offer new forms of privacy, Dr. Hanson suggested. Such a network would make it possible for a remote user to perform a quantum calculation on a server, while at the same time making it impossible for the operator of the server to determine the nature of the calculation.

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