The Mars Phoenix Lander has now gone where two predecessors failed to go. The Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet in 1999 because of a navigation error when “English” and metric units were confused. The Mars Polar Lander (MPL), was lost near the planet’s South Pole not long after that. As we reported here, the Mars. Phoenix Lander uses technology from the MPL, cutting its cost dramatically. The Phoenix landed Sunday night, with solar panels and a camera deploying just as planned. The first photos show a landscape that looks like a red paved parking lot.
We’re learning already. There is a close-up view of polygon-shaped formations (previously seen from space). Expansion and contraction of ice are believed to cause the shapes, something like the cracks that form in asphalt driveways over the winter. And that’s a great sign because it means the Lander may be close to ice crystals that may hold the clues to previous life. Next step: The specially developed shovel begins digging—chopping soil that can be tested in the on-board labs.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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