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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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Watch Astronauts Assemble Pizza in Space
iStock
iStock

Most everyone enjoys a good pizza party: Even astronauts living aboard the International Space Station.

As this video from NASA shows, assembling pizza in zero gravity is not only possible, it also has delicious results. The inspiration for the pizza feast came from Paolo Nespoli, an Italian astronaut who was craving one of his home country’s national dishes while working on the ISS. NASA’s program manager for the space station, Kirk Shireman, sympathized with his colleague and ordered pizzas to be delivered to the station.

NASA took a little longer responding to the request than your typical corner pizzeria might. The pizzas were delivered via the Orbital ATK capsule, and once they arrived, the ingredients had to be assembled by hand. The components didn’t differ too much from regular pizzas on Earth: Flatbread, tomato sauce, and cheese served as the base, and pepperoni, pesto, olives, and anchovy paste made up the toppings. Before heating them up, the astronauts had some fun with their creations, twirling them around like "flying saucers of the edible kind,” according to astronaut Randy Bresnik.

In case the pizza party wasn’t already a success, it also coincided with movie night on the International Space Station.

[h/t KHQ Q6]

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Liberty Science Center
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New Jersey Is Now Home to the Western Hemisphere's Largest Planetarium
Liberty Science Center
Liberty Science Center

Space-loving tourists often travel to Manhattan to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. But starting December 9, they’ll be able to get their fill of stars and planets in nearby Jersey City. As Astronomy reports, New Jersey’s second-most-populous city is now home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the fourth largest in the world.

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, an interactive science museum in Liberty State Park, opened in 1993. It’s home to 12 museum exhibition halls, aquariums, a live animal collection, and an IMAX dome theater. On July 31, 2017, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, thanks to a $5 million gift from an altruistic former high school teacher-turned-philanthropist, Jennifer Chalsty, who’s served as a science center trustee since 2004.

Renamed the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the IMAX theater received a digital upgrade and a brand-new screen, and was provided with the requisite technology to serve as a planetarium. The theater’s dome is 60 feet high, with a diameter of 89 feet, and its 10-projector system broadcasts onto a 12,345-square-foot domed screen.

There are only three planetariums in the world that are larger than the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, and they’re all located in China and Japan. “You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, the science center's president and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies."

[h/t Astronomy]

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