‘Soccer-ball’ robots to patrol space for deadly junk


Alvar Saenz-Otero and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have built several self-guided robots. Each is a little smaller than a soccer ball and designed to investigate potentially damaging objects from a safe distance with a 3D stereo camera. The images are relayed to the crew aboard the ISS, who can decide how to proceed.

The risks a space object poses need to be assessed without putting people in danger, but even robots must give unknown objects a wide berth. “Inspection is not a low-risk activity,” says Saenz-Otero. “An autonomous inspector could collide with the object and make problems worse. So very good sensors must be used to allow the vehicle to move safely around the object it is inspecting.”

In a test aboard the ISS, the robots successfully manoeuvred around an “unknown” object floating in microgravity. Using their cameras and internal gyroscopes to navigate, they maintained a safe distance from the object as they filmed it. The robots streamed the 3D footage to a crew elsewhere on the ISS, who could evaluate what they were seeing. The work is due to appear in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets (doi.org/vfm).

The experiments proved the robots could avoid an object without any prior knowledge of its shape or size – a crucial safety measure when approaching an object that could vary from a few centimetres in diameter to the size of a truck.

“Aboard the ISS we are now working on cooperative debris inspection, where more than one of the robots has cameras,” says Saenz-Otero. The work is also feeding into the Phoenix programme, funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The plan is to build robots that will travel to geosynchronous Earth orbit – much further away than most satellites. Once there they will repair and maintain old or broken satellites – tasks that would be not be feasible for a human crew.

Now look, just because these bots would be perfect for assessing the arrival of an extra-terrestrial visitor, does not mean the ISS is a multi-billion dollar embassy being funded for the sole purpose of welcoming the Neighbours. Nor were the elaborate celebrations in Dubai a few years ago with their ‘fireworks visible from space’ some sort of occult signalling… No. There is no deep black, Secret Space Program with a vast agenda revolving around a war in the heavens, no… just a regular [CLASSIFIED] one with perfectly.. rational… war & intelligence requirements.

‘Soccer-ball’ robots to patrol space for deadly junk

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In Kubrick’s own words:

[Extraterrestrials] may have progressed from biological species, which are fragile shells for the mind at best, into immortal machine entities and then, over innumerable eons, they could emerge from the chrysalis of matter transformed into beings of pure energy and spirit. Their potentialities would be limitless and their intelligence ungraspable by humans. These beings would be gods to the billions of less advanced races in the universe, just as man would appear a god to an ant.

They would be incomprehensible to us except as gods; and if the tendrils of their consciousness ever brushed men’s minds, it is only the hand of god we could grasp as an explanation. Mere speculation on the possibility of their existence is sufficiently overwhelming, without trying to decipher their motives. The important point is that all the standard attributes assigned to god in our history could equally well be the characteristics of biological entities who, billions of years ago, were at a stage of development similar to man’s own and evolved into something as remote from man as man is remote from the primordial ooze from which he first emerged.

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Transmission #1 of the Cosmic Anthropology Broadcast System: The Neanderthal Pride Ep

The Neanderthal Pride ep Taking a look at the nature and complexity of human evolution: past, present and future. WORKS MENTIONED: X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2 Crux by Ramez Naam [sequel to Nexus] newuniversal Brookings Report The Tomorrow People American Horror Story: Coven LINKS: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/magazine/should-you-fear-the-pizzly-bear.html [HYBRIDIZATION] http://www.livescience.com/46636-how-tibetans-survive-high-altitude.html [DENISOVAN DNA] http://www.nature.com/news/neanderthals-bone-technique-redrafts-prehistory-1.15739 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_genome_project http://io9.com/google-wants-to-create-a-map-of-the-perfectly-healthy-h-1610873338  Interview with George […]

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Water clouds tentatively detected just 7 light-years from Earth

“It’s tentative,” he says, but “it’s the first evidence for water clouds” outside our solar system. Even within the solar system, observers can see water clouds on only Earth and Mars; the giant planets are so cold that ammonia ice clouds cover the water clouds on Jupiter and Saturn while the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune block the view there.

Observers have previously discerned water vapor in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets, but Fortney says water clouds are a new phenomenon. “One of the things we don’t really know is how common partly cloudiness is,” he says. Venus, whose clouds consist of sulfuric acid, is totally cloudy, whereas Earth is partly cloudy. Faherty says the brown dwarf is also partly cloudy: About half is obscured by clouds.

Verifying the discovery will require spectra. Because the object is so dim, this will likely await the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched later this decade.

Water clouds tentatively detected just 7 light-years from Earth

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In terms of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), it may no longer be a matter of answering the “are we alone” question, some scientists say. Rather, just how crowded is the universe?

And if ET is out there, it may be possible to reach out with direct “radio waving” to potentially habitable exoplanets. This form of cosmic cryptography, called “Active SETI,” involves no longer merely listening for a signal but purposefully broadcasting to, and perhaps establishing contact with, other starfolk.

“It’s a subject of discussion, I’ll put it that way,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. There have been many workshops and symposia over the years to discuss Active SETI, he said, and because it has a highly emotional component, “it’s like a third rail in a way,” he said.

Shostak told Space.com that he feels the topic is not something to worry too much about.

“But there may not be that perception in the broader public … that we have discussed this to death. They haven’t seen these discussions nor participated in them,” he said.

But exoplanet detections are making news around the world, Shostak said. “That’s putting the whole question of life in space in front of the public in a way that perhaps wasn’t true 20 years ago.”

Still, trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do, in terms of Active SETI, is a work in progress, Shostak said. “What is the best way to communicate? What do you do…just ping them with a carrier wave and you encode Wikipedia? If you are going to do it, what’s the best way to communicate?”

“[Hawking]’s right about our immaturity as a species,” Impey told Space.com, “but I think the argument is moot since intelligent civilizations are likely to be so sparsely distributed that communication in either direction is difficult or unlikely.”

Active SETI, Impey said, “makes us feel a little more proactive, but I think it’s a long shot worse than buying a lottery ticket.”

For Impey, the “promising approach” is not conventional SETI or broadcasting, but detection of civilizations by their energy or technology imprints, “and that avoids all the issues of intention and communication and the anthropocentric tangle people get into with that.”

“I am for passive SETI programs, and in fact would advocate for renewed government funding after a 20-year lapse,” Dick told Space.com. “That’s because the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science.”

Dick said that the current NASA astrobiology hunt is centered on microbes, but surely there should be an effort to go beyond micro-organisms and search for complex life with whatever means are available.

“On the other hand, I would not propose government funding for messaging extraterrestrial intelligence. I think we need to find ET first, and then have a period where a team consisting of scientists, social scientists and humanities people consider what the message should be,” Dick said.

“Having said that, it would be very difficult to regulate individual or institutional projects that wish to attempt messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, and I would not advocate attempting to regulate,” Dick said. In his opinion, there is an equal chance that ET will be good or bad.

“We do not yet know enough about the evolution of altruism on Earth, much less among other possible intelligent life forms, to say ETs will all be good,” Dick said. “That is a hope rather than a fact.”

But haven’t we already revealed ourselves with TV signals, military radar and other outputs into the cosmos? Even music is wafting across the universe, purposely directed toward a specific star.

That is true, Dick said, but it’s not the same as sending a directed beam to a habitable exoplanet target.

“Still, the idea of planet Earth cowering and afraid to engage the universe is not a planet I would want to live on. SETI attempts are part of our rising cosmic consciousness, and as such cannot be stifled,” Dick said. “That this is the subject of such controversy…it’s an indication of how seriously the subject of intelligent life in the universe is now taken!”

“But Active SETI is not science,” said Michaud. “It is an attempt to provoke a response from an alien society whose capabilities and intentions are not known to us.”

Those most eager to send high-powered messages want their efforts to have consequences, Michaud said, not just for themselves, but for the entire human species. “There is no scientific or historical evidence telling us that the consequences of contact will be those they prefer." 

Michaud says that an alien society able to detect our signals almost certainly would be more technologically advanced than our own, and might be capable enough and patient enough to send  probes across light-years of space. Scientists and engineers have shown that robotic spacecraft able to reach nearby stars would be feasible for a civilization only slightly in advance of our own.

Michaud takes issue with the old claim that we already have been detected or that detection is inevitable. Experts have shown that the normal signals emitted by Earth are too weak to be heard at interstellar distances without colossal antennas, he said.

"Sending deliberate, unusually powerful signals is a decision that belongs properly with all Humankind,” Michaud said. “We should have an open debate about whether or not to call attention to ourselves by making our civilization more detectable than it already is.”

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Since humans made their first FM radio and television transmissions, signals from Earth have been spilling out into space, announcing the presence of intelligent life to any group that might be searching for it. According to Werthimer, signals from the 1950s television show “I Love Lucy” have reached thousands of stars, while the nearest suns have already enjoyed the “The Simpsons.”

If Earth has unintentionally leaked signs of its presence, other alien civilizations may have done the same thing. SETI’s new Panchromatic project will utilize a variety of telescopes covering a range of frequencies to scour the nearest stars.
“We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at it,” Werthimer added.

The panchromatic project will examine a sample of the 30 stars that lie within 5 parsecs (16 light-years) from the sun. The list includes 13 single stars, seven binary systems and one triple system. Most of the stars are smaller than the sun, but the project will also examine two white dwarfs and one moderately evolved F star. No confirmed exoplanets have been found around any of the stars.

By setting distance as the criteria, the SETI team hopes to alleviate any bias that might otherwise result from focusing on systems similar to that of Earth. The team selected stars for study based only on how far they lie from the sun.

The second SETI project will make use of the observations of multi-planet systems gathered by NASA’s Kepler mission as it attempts to eavesdrop on signals broadcast from one planet to another.

The Kepler telescope detects planets as they pass in front of their stars, causing a dip in the stars’ brightness. If two planets lie in the same orbital plane, pointed toward Earth, they will occasionally line up. If an intelligent species originated on one planet in a system, then went on to explore or inhabit a second planet, signals sent from one planet to the other should be detectable when the two are lined up facing the Earth.

So far, the team has observed about 75 of these events in multi-planet systems using the Green Bank Telescope. The range of radio frequencies include those used on Earth to communicate with craft sent to other planets.

“Our detection algorithms are sensitive to communications like those used by NASA’s Deep Space Network to communicate with spacecraft, so if E.T. broadcasts something similar at sufficient power, we could hear it,” Siemion said.

Detecting such signals doesn’t necessarily mean researchers will be able to translate them. Scientists may not be able to determine if the communication is to an outpost or a rover. However, that won’t make the discovery any less exciting.

Though a signal between planets should be detectable, Siemion said that it is more likely that a broad signal would be intercepted. Although terrestrial television broadcasts in large beams, these would be too weak to detect under the current experiments. Instead, scientists would be looking for something like the U.S. Air Force’s “sky fence,” a high-frequency radar used in an attempt to track space junk in orbit.

Distance poses one of the biggest problems in eavesdropping on extraterrestrials. The required power for a transmitter to be detected increases with the square of the distance. A transmitter 150 light-years away would need to be 100 times as powerful as one 15 light-years away, if everything else remains the same.  
Most of the Kepler planets and planetary candidates lie at significant distances from Earth, making it difficult for scientists to detect weaker signals like those emitted by spacecraft communication. However, if alien civilizations used something akin to Arecibo, Siemion said, scientists would stand a far better chance of detecting it.

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Kepler 186f: Is It Inhabited?

The SETI Institute has examined this star system using its Allen Telescope Array, searching for transmissions over a wide range of the radio dial, from 1 to 10 GHz. So far no dice, although we will surely keep trying.

But the fact that we’ve not yet picked up radio noise from this sibling world is hardly discouraging. To begin with, Kepler 186f is nearly 500 light-years away, which is a fair piece, even for astronomers. To detect radio signals with the Allen Array would require aliens wielding a transmitter of at least 100 million watts, mounted on an antenna the size of a football field. They’d also have to train the antenna in our direction.

But of course, they don’t know about Homo sapiens, so their incentive to beam signals our way is probably small.

Kepler 186f: Is It Inhabited?

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Galactic Space Pirates and Cosmic Anthropologists: An Origin Tale.

It occurs to this humble guerilla ontologist, waking once more with a raspy upper respiratory tract consequent of smoke particulates invading the air as fire services mount a rearguard action to hold off the actions of a lengthening apocalyptic summer… that space must seem down right paradisical to every single citizen of China.

A week of being kept inside but to walk the dog being nothing to residents of Morwell evacuated from the effects of a month long coal fire.

Compared to a generation raised inside vertical towns, importing German air filters to hold off endemic asthma. One nation united by fear of the sky. How luxurious an idea it must be to escape that, to transcend it? And the atmosphere on Titan comparatively welcoming.

To a person raised in a one room family home, life aboard a cramped extra terran outpost will be undreamed of space. The expanse of the Moon rich in potential to such eyes. The stars calling.

Much as the metaphorical waking dragon cum leviathan has spread its tentacles around the world, pulling in resources, leaving newly minted millionaires in its wake to disrupt the local economies, housing markets… the appeal of such places pales in comparison to the heavens.

Especially when the edges of such cities that once were second only to London in the glory days of Rule, Britannia! are now seemingly home only to feral children and flocks of escaped parrots. Flooded with refugees from states marked further down the Scale of Fail.

And like that last great thalassocracy, this new space born empire can be easily seeded with raw criminal stock to provide the brute force and run the risks, overseen by those who’ve lost the local Game of Thrones, and chosen door#2 and a slim chance at redemption, over their family being billed the cost of a bullet and their organs farmed out to the succeeding members of the technocratic elite.

If they’re smart, they’ll bide their time and embrace the outlaw life; forgoing any notion of buying back in to their previous life narratives.

Declare their independence, turn their back on the first and last state of Earth, now hopelessly dependant upon them for their raw materials and helium-3 and easy life. Scattering coded invitations in spam emails and Weibo posts.

And run deeper into the darkness; space pirates with asteroid junks storming the void.

Making port on island moons in the rings of Saturn and Uranus.

Setting solar sail for Kuiper Belt, towing their spoils back in the tails of comets.

Gathering their forces in bases high in the Oort Cloud. Readying to raid the universe.

Such is the legacy of a doomed planet.

Dark Matter
Dark Matter

[LIGHTLY UPDATED MIRROR FROM fuckyeahdarkextropian]

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