NASA
NASA

This Cube-Shaped Robot Is Designed to Tumble Across Asteroids

NASA
NASA

After sending a rover millions of miles away to explore an extraterrestrial body, it would be a shame to have the mission derailed because it lands on its back. This has become a growing concern for NASA as they look into investigating asteroids and comets that have low-gravity conditions and uneven surfaces. Traditional rovers that travel on wheels can’t function upside down, but the Hedgehog robot is designed to operate at full capacity no matter which side it lands on. 

The new robot would navigate small bodies by hopping and tumbling across their terrain, rather than rolling on a set of wheels. Fly wheels in the cube’s interior spin then abruptly brake, using the leftover momentum they create to send the Hedgehog toppling forward. This technology could be adjusted to make calculated movements or long-distance leaps. It’s even able to maneuver out of sinkholes by spinning like a tornado and launching itself into the air. 

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have teamed up with Stanford University and MIT to develop the concept. Two prototypes have been tested on Earth and in a zero-g aircraft, where it was proven to stand up to the conditions of a low-gravity small body. 

NASA’s Hedgehog prototype is outfitted with eight spikes that act as “feet” and protect its body from rugged terrain. They can also be used to hold instruments such as thermal probes. With all its cameras and devices attached, the robot could weigh up to 20 pounds, which is barely anything under the micro-gravity of an asteroid. The Hedgehog is currently in Phase II of its development, and NASA looks forward to the day when it may be capable of assessing conditions and navigating on its own. 

[h/t: Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA]

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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
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Space
Stephen Hawking’s Memorial Will Beam His Words Toward the Nearest Black Hole
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

An upcoming memorial for Stephen Hawking is going to be out of this world. The late physicist’s words, set to music, will be broadcast by satellite toward the nearest black hole during a June 15 service in the UK, the BBC reports.

During his lifetime, Hawking signed up to travel to space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceship, but he died before he ever got the chance. (He passed away in March.) Hawking’s daughter Lucy told the BBC that the memorial's musical tribute is a “beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father's presence on this planet, his wish to go into space, and his explorations of the universe in his mind.” She described it as "a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet."

Titled “The Stephen Hawking Tribute,” the music was written by Greek composer Vangelis, who created the scores for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire. It will play while Hawking’s ashes are interred at Westminster Abbey, near where Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are buried, according to Cambridge News. After the service, the piece will be beamed into space from the European Space Agency’s Cebreros Station in Spain. The target is a black hole called 1A 0620-00, “which lives in a binary system with a fairly ordinary orange dwarf star,” according to Lucy Hawking.

Hawking wasn't the first person to predict the existence of black holes (Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity accounted for them back in the early 1900s), but he spoke at length about them throughout his career and devised mathematical theorems that gave credence to their existence in the universe.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a friend of the Hawking family who portrayed the late scientist in the BBC film Hawking, will speak at the service. In addition to Hawking's close friends and family, British astronaut Tim Peake and several local students with disabilities have also been invited to attend.

[h/t BBC]

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IKEA
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Design
IKEA's New Collection for Tiny Apartments Is Inspired by Life on Mars
IKEA
IKEA

Living in a city apartment can feel claustrophobic at times. As Co.Design reports, the Swedish furniture brand IKEA took this experience to the extreme when designers visited a simulated Mars habitat as research for their latest line of housewares aimed at urbanites.

The new collection, called Rumtid, is tailored to fit the cramped spaces that many people are forced to settle for when apartment-hunting in dense, expensive cities. The designers knew they wanted to prioritize efficiency and functionality with their new project, and Mars research provided the perfect inspiration.

At the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, scientists are figuring out how to meet the needs of potential Mars astronauts with very limited resources. Materials have to be light, so that they require as little rocket fuel as possible to ferry them to the red planet, and should ideally run on renewable energy.

IKEA's designers aren't facing quite as many challenges, but spending a few days at the simulated Martian habitat in Utah got them thinking on the right track. The team also conducted additional research at the famously snug capsule hotels in Tokyo. The Rumtid products they came up with include an indoor terrarium shaped like a space-age rocket, a set of colorful, compact air purifiers, and light-weight joints and bars that can be snapped into modular furniture.

The collection isn't ready to hit IKEA shelves just yet—the chain plans to make Rumtid available for customers by 2020. In the meantime, the designers hope to experiment with additional science fiction-worthy ideas, including curtains that clean the air around them.

Air purifiers designed for urban living.

Furniture joints on bubble wrap on black table.

Modular furniture holding water bag.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of IKEA.

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