An Army of Tiny Robots Could Assemble Huge Structures in Space

We live in a world where multiple technological revolutions are taking place at the same time. While the leaps that are taking place in the fields of computing, robotics, and biotechnology are gaining a great deal of attention, less attention is being given to a field that is just as promising. This would be the field of manufacturing, where technologies like 3D printing and autonomous robots are proving to be a huge game-changer.

For example, there is the work being pursued by MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA). It is here that graduate student Benjamin Jenett and Professor Neil Gershenfeld (as part of Jenett’s doctoral thesis work) are working on tiny robots that are capable of assembling entire structures. This work could have implications for everything from aircraft and buildings to settlements in space.

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This is What Moondust Looks Like When You Remove All the Oxygen. A Pile of Metal

The Moon has abundant oxygen and minerals, things that are indispensable to any space-faring civilization. The problem is they’re locked up together in the regolith. Separating the two will provide a wealth of critical resources, but separating them is a knotty problem.

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NASA is Going to Test 25 New Technologies in Upcoming Aircraft, Balloon and Sub-Orbital Rocket Flights

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 25 space technologies for further testing. They’re testing the technologies on aircraft, balloons, and sub-orbital rocket flights. NASA hopes to learn a lot about each of the technologies with this rigorous testing, without the expense of sending them all into orbital space.

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Shape-shifting Robots Like These Could Be Just What We Need to Explore Titan

When it comes to space exploration, it’s robots that do most of the work. That trend will continue as we send missions onto the surfaces of worlds further and further into the Solar System. But for robots to be effective in the challenging environments we need to explore—like Saturn’s moon Titan—we need more capable robots.

A new robot NASA is developing could be the next step in robotic exploration.

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Just How Feasible is a Warp Drive?

It’s hard living in a relativistic Universe, where even the nearest stars are so far away and the speed of light is absolute. It is little wonder then why science fiction franchises routinely employ FTL (Faster-than-Light) as a plot device. Push a button, press a pedal, and that fancy drive system – whose workings no one can explain – will send us to another location in space-time.

However, in recent years, the scientific community has become understandably excited and skeptical about claims that a particular concept – the Alcubierre Warp Drive – might actually be feasible. This was the subject of a presentation made at this year’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion and Energy Forum, which took place from August 19th to 22nd in Indianapolis.

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NASA Tests Autonomous Lunar Landing Technology

In anticipation of many Moon landings to come, NASA is testing an autonomous lunar landing system in the Mojave Desert in California. The system is called a “terrain relative navigation system.” It’s being tested on a launch and landing of a Zodiac rocket, built by Masten Space Systems. The test will happen on Wednesday, September 11th.

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The Spaceline: an Elevator From the Earth to the Moon

Humanity’s future may lie in space, but getting out there is a very big challenge. In short, launching payloads into space from the bottom of Earth’s gravity well is quite expensive, regardless of whether or not reusable rockets are involved. And while some have suggested that building a Space Elevator would be a long-term solution to this problem, this concept is also very expensive and presents all kinds of engineering hurdles.

As an alternative, a pair of astronomy graduate students from the US and UK recommend an inspired alternative known as the Spaceline. This concept would consist of anchoring a high-tensile strength caple to the Moon that would extend deep within Earth’s gravity well. This would allow the free movement of people and materials between the Earth and Moon at a fraction of the cost.

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NASA Tests Water Powered Spacecraft in Orbit

Picture two tissue box-sized spacecraft orbiting Earth.

Then picture them communicating, and using a water-powered thruster to approach each other. If you can do that, then you’re up to speed on one of the activities of NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP.) It’s all part of NASA’s effort to develop small spacecraft to serve their space exploration, science, space operations, and aeronautics endeavors.

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