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3D printed Mars simulant
22-03-2017 01:22 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

3D printed Mars simulant

Technology image of the week:

These small-scale structures have been 3D printed out of simulated Mars dust, to investigate the feasibility of one day using local materials for building on the Red Planet and other planets.

A miniature igloo and a corner wall were manufactured as examples of designs that might be required by colonists, produced from ‘JSC-Mars-1A‚ – volcanic soil that has undergone careful processing to match the known composition and characteristics of martian soil.

“The material was mixed with phosphoric acid serving as a binding ‘ink’, then extruded through a nozzle and deposited in successive layers,” explains Christoph Buchner of Fotec, the research arm of the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, which performed the test project for ESA.

“The hardened results demonstrate the technique has potential for hardware and structural manufacturing on a variety of planetary bodies – it does not depend on the destination.

“So this is a promising step towards ‘in-situ resource utilisation’ – the concept of using as much local materials as possible during a planetary mission, to cut down on the launch mass and cost.”

“These samples were produced as part of a larger ESA project into ‘imited resources manufacturing technologies’, supported through our Technology Research Programme involving promising new technologies for space,” comments ESA materials engineer Advenit Makaya, overseeing the project.

Credit: Fotec

Spider senses
22-03-2017 01:20 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Spider senses

Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration image of the week:

Living in space requires more than just the astronauts’ bodies to adapt. The absence of a traditional up or down causes their brains to think in new ways and cope with the 3D world of weightlessness. Even trivial tasks on Earth like grasping an object can be difficult.

Understanding how astronaut brains cope is an important part of human spaceflight research. The sensations of floating for months on end is something our brains never had to deal with until last century and seeing how they adapt offers interesting clues to their workings.

Virtual reality headsets offer a way to present specific scenarios for testing to understand how an astronaut brain adapts to its new environment – so France’s CNES space agency has sent one to the International Space Station.

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will be the first to use the new-generation virtual reality gear, for the Grasp first experiment. Grasp will see Thomas reaching for virtual objects so researchers can understand how important gravity is compared to the other senses.

The focus is on how a brain combines the perception of its body with visual information to coordinate hand movement. Researchers suspect that, on Earth, the brain uses the sensations caused by gravity as a reference. When reaching for an object, for example, the brain will calculate how far your hand is by using visual clues as well as how much your shoulder muscles need to counteract the downward force of gravity and keep your arm straight.

Running tasks in space on a Perspectives headset allows researchers to fine-tune the parameters and eliminate other factors that would influence the results. Grasp will see astronauts repeat three tasks using a remote and their hands to compare results in a simplified world without distraction.

To stop the astronauts from floating away and bumping into things, they are strapped down. This picture shows the straps extending behind the operator while he holds the trackball in his right hand. Thomas will set the equipment up on the International Space Station and confirm it works but he will not be a test subject – up to 10 other astronauts will take part in the study at a later date.

The research will help us understand the workings of the vestibular system that helps us keep our balance, and how it connects to the other sensory organs. In other words, Grasp is researching the physiology behind eye–hand coordination as well as shedding light on how to treat patients showing a loss of vestibular function on Earth.

For astronauts, the research will be useful during spacewalks where coordination in weightlessness with few visual clues is of utmost importance.

Credit: CNES-E. Grimault

Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay
22-03-2017 01:18 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay

The Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over Luzon in the Philippines, with part of the city of Manila in the upper left.

We can clearly see a difference in colour between the two water bodies: the dark Manila Bay on the left, and lighter Laguna de Bay dominating the centre. This is due to differences in depth, with the Laguna reaching a maximum of 4 m during the rainy season.

One of the most striking features of this image are the black plumes of water pollution visible at the outlets of the Taguig and Pasig rivers, as well as the manmade Manggahan Floodway entering the Laguna de Bay at its northern point.

Meanwhile, the nearby Manila Bay has been called a ‘pollution hotspot’. Runoff into the water body carry sewage, pesticides, fertilisers and industrial discharges, and other pollutants contribute to the low water quality, as well as sea-based sources of pollution like oil spills.

Celebrated on 22 March each year, World Water 2017 focuses on the theme of wastewater.

Satellites like Sentinel-2 can help to measure water quality and detect changes in both inland water bodies and coastal zones, supporting the sustainable management of water resources.

This image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite on 8 May 2016.

Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by ESA

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