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.
A lightweight electric urban concept car designed by several European companies weighs only 992 lb without its battery. It would have weighed 26.7 lb more if its windows were made of glass instead of the specially coated LEXAN polycarbonate resin from SABIC Innovative Plastics.
Skylar Tibbits' team in MIT's Self-Assembly Lab is now 4D printing self-assembling shapes made of programmable carbon composites and custom wood grain. The composites are being used in a sport car airfoil, and the wood grain is beautiful.
The NanoSteel Company has produced high-hardness ferrous metal matrix composite (MMC) parts using a new nanosteel powder in a one-step 3D-printing process. Parts are 99.9% dense, crack-free, and with wear resistance comparable to M2 tool steels.
The company that brought you 3D-printed eyeglasses has launched both an improved clear polymer material for 3D printing optical components and a high-speed, precision, 3D-printing process for making small- and medium-sized batches in a few days.
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