Greetings everyone and welcome to the wonderful wide world of technology. Today we’ll take a look at the first deep space Internet, new safety monitors that would be great for Guam, and everybody’s childhood dream.
E-MAILING THE FUTURE?
Working as part of a NASA-wide team, engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have used a software package called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located more than 20 million miles from Earth.
NASA and Vint Cerf, a vice president at Google, Inc, partnered 10 years ago to develop this software protocol. DTN sends information using a method that differs from the normal Internet’s Transmission-Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP communication suite, which Cerf co-designed.
If you want to surf the Net in space, your connection has to be robust enough to handle delays, disruptions and disconnections in space. Glitches can happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms and long communication delays occur. The delay in sending or receiving data from Mars, for instance, takes between three-and-a-half to 20 minutes at the speed of light, depending on where Earth & Mars are in their orbits.
Unlike current Internet protocols, DTN doesn’t assume a continuous end-to-end connection. If the destination path can’t be found, the data packets aren’t discarded. Instead, each network node keeps custody of the information until it can safely communicate with another node. This store-and-forward method means that information won’t get lost even when no immediate path to the destination exists. Eventually, the information is delivered to the end user.
Data were transmitted using NASA’s Deep Space Network in demonstrations occurring twice a week. Engineers use NASA’s Epoxi spacecraft as a Mars data-relay orbiter. Epoxi is on a mission to encounter Comet Hartley 2 in two years.
There are 10 nodes on this early interplanetary network. One is the Epoxi spacecraft itself and the other nine, which are on the ground at JPL, simulate Mars landers, orbiters and ground mission-operations centers.
The month-long experiment was the first in a series of planned demonstrations to showcase the technology for use on a variety of upcoming space missions. In the next round of testing, a NASA-wide demonstration will use the new DTN software loaded on board the International Space Station.
In the next few years, the Interplanetary Internet could enable many new types of space missions. Complex missions involving multiple landed, mobile and orbiting spacecraft will be far easier to support through the use of the Interplanetary Internet. It could also ensure reliable communications for astronauts on the surface of the Moon.
E-mail from the Moon! I can’t wait!
Artist concept of Interplanetary Internet. (Credit: NASA/JPL)
I live in the lovely village of Yona, just south of Ylig River Bridge. This may not mean a whole lot to you folks who live up north and don’t have to deal with bridges, but when there was a serious problem with the Ylig River Bridge a couple of years ago, it disrupted my whole life.
I work in Mangilao and had to drive to Santa Rita to get to work. Not only was it MUCH longer, I had to contend with Cross-Island Road and its murderous potholes. (That’s not poetic license. A large pothole not far from my house caused the death of a motorcyclist who, unaware of its presence, hit it at speed. As of this writing, it’s still there and not filled in.)
So anything that could make our bridges safer certainly attracts my attention. Also be aware that the following article comes from mainland US sources. Are ours inspected every two years? I know at least two of our bridges down south were built in the ‘80’s and the ‘90’s (the Talofofo Bay bridge and the Pago Bay bridge). Do they have monitoring devices built in? Maybe someone who knows will read this and enlighten us!
MONITORING THE BRIDGE
Today, humans perform visual inspections every two years of most of the nation’s older bridges. But a scarcity of inspectors and tens of thousands of bridges has put the whole monitoring system in jeopardy. While newer bridges have monitoring devices already incorporated into their design, there are thousands of bridges erected during the 1960s and ’70s that must be visually monitored.
To address the issue, a team of University of Miami College of Engineering researchers have designed a self-powered monitoring system for bridges that can continuously check their condition using wireless sensors that "harvest" power from structural vibration and wind energy.
The researchers plan to place these newly developed wireless sensors—some as small as a postage stamp, others no longer than a ballpoint pen—along strategic points inside the 27-year-old Long Key Bridge, in the Florida Keys and on a Northwest 103rd Street quarter-mile steel overpass that leads into Hialeah, in Florida.
The sensors record all sorts of data, from vibrations and stretching to acoustic waves and echoes emitted by flaws such as cracks. Even the alkaline levels in the concrete of the bridge supports can be measured.
The data can also be shared with other transportation departments via the Internet. They can also see the data being transmitted in real time. Once the information is analyzed, the team can form a prognosis of the bridges’ health, and should any defects be found, the decision on how to repair the structures will be made by the Florida Department of Transportation
The project is the second bridge health-monitoring study undertaken by the Florida scientists. They have also placed sensors along Miami’s Grove Isle Bridge as part of a smaller, one-year study funded by the National Science Foundation RB2C.
With the Federal Highway Administration estimating that more than 70,000 of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient (and we thought we had trouble here on Guam!), the system the researchers have developed could be used as a national model for monitoring the structural integrity of bridges nationwide and alerting bridge owners to potential dangers.
Researchers monitor sensors along Miami’s Grove Isle Bridge. (Credit: Photographer: Richard Patterson)
And now for our last little tidbit. Dreams of flight are deep-seated in the human psyche. I talked last week about being able to fly on the Moon. But wouldn’t you like to personally fly here on Earth? Just get in the car and instead of having to go down that long hill out of Yona and then back up, just fly over Pago Bay and presto, I’m at work! They’ve been promising flying cars for years but hang on to your hat!
UP UP AND AWAY!
A prototype of what is being touted as the world’s first practical flying car took to the air for the first time earlier this year, a milestone in a project started four years ago by students in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Last March, the winged car taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway –
a maneuver it would repeat about a half dozen times over the next two days. In the coming months the company, called Terrafugia, will test the plane in a series of ever-longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.
Aviation enthusiasts have spent nearly a century pursuing the dream of a flying car, but the broader public has tended to view the idea as something of a novelty. But the Federal Aviation Administration has created a new class of plane — Light Sport Aircraft — and a new license category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia’s two-seater Transition ‘car/plane’. The "sport pilot" license required to fly the Transition takes only about 20 hours of training time, about half that required to earn a regular pilot’s license.
The street-legal Transition is powered on land and in the air by a recently developed 100 hp engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline. As a plane, its 20-gallon tank gives it a 450-mile range with a 115 mph cruising speed. The pilot can switch from one mode to the other from the driver’s seat, simultaneously folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels in about 30 seconds.
The vehicle may also lead to improved safety. One of the largest causes of aircraft accidents is a pilot flying into bad weather. With the Transition, a pilot who spotted bad weather ahead could simply land at the nearest airport, fold up the wings, drive through the weather on local roads, and take off from another airport once past the storm.
The full-sized version will be followed later this year by a production prototype. The company is taking deposits now and hopes to start delivering its first Transitions — or "roadable planes," as the company calls them — in late 2011.
The Terrafugia Transition flying in formation with the chase aircraft. (Credit: Photo courtesy / Terrafugia)