Tech Universe: Friday 29 July

By Miraz Jordan

The International Space Station (ISS).
The International Space Station (ISS).

OLD SPACE STATION: The ISS has been around since 1998, being built up laboriously piece by piece. But the space agency plan to deorbit it into the ocean around 2020 so it doesn't float around as space junk at the end of its lifecycle. Its predecessor Mir was also deorbited into the ocean after 15 years. What a waste. Discovery News shares more of the bad news.

NEW SPACE STATION: The Tiangong-1 module is the first of a set of connecting rooms that will create a space station for China's space programme. It will liftoff on a Long March II-F carrier booster later this year. Apparently the docking mechanisms differ from those on the ISS, but at least one Chinese astronaut has stated they should be made to operate together. Really? They don't use common standards? Haven't we learned that lesson yet? Read more at

MOON GRAIL: Coming up soon is NASA's GRAIL mission to study the Moon.
The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory will map the Moon's gravity field to discover what's hidden below the surface. Its objective is to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core. The twin spacecraft will orbit in tandem for several months to carry out their mission. Each craft will carry up to 5 MoonKams recording still and video images to allow the public to participate in the mission. Videos of gravity, eh? About GRAIL.

MINE MUNCHIES: Everyone knows you stay well clear of landmines - you certainly don't go digging them up en masse. Unless the digger is a mine-clearing robot called the Digger D-3. It doesn't use a tentative approach checking carefully for mines. Instead it just chews through a swathe of ground in front of it. A giant spinning metal pulverizer pushes hammers 30 cm into the ground, shredding everything, even landmines at a rate of 1,000 square metres per hour.
When the mines blow up they have no effect on the robot's hardened steel plates. Boom boom. Discovery News tells the rest. Check out the video here.

HOT DATA: Here's the problem: huge data centres have to dispose of waste heat, while households and businesses are trying to keep warm.
Microsoft researchers have come up with an interesting suggestion:
Data Furnaces. Household and businesses would be equipped with a secure box containing 40 to 400 CPUs handling encrypted data. The surplus heat would warm the buildings and save having to create standalone data centres. Cloud heating: nice. Gizmag tells the rest of the story.

Miraz Jordan,

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