Tech Universe: Tuesday 20 March

By Miraz Jordan

LIGHTS ONLINE: Disappointed that you're too far from the South Pole to see an aurora. Would seeing one on a live cam be any consolation? The Canadian Space Agency have a live aurora cam where you can watch auroras as they happen. The camera's in the city of Yellowknife, near the Arctic Circle and operates until late May. Don't worry if you miss out though, as the site has a replay page and feature videos of the
best auroras. All the light show, not too much of the cold. More at Wired, and find Auroracam here.

SHORT-TERM VIEW: DARPA has a new programme called Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements, or SeeMe. It aims to give US warfighters access to on-demand, space-based tactical information by using a constellation of small satellites. The programme could launch a couple of dozen satellites from an aircraft into a very low-earth orbit. Each satellite, costing around $500,000, would last 2 to 3 months before burning up in the atmosphere. Warfighters could call up imagery from a satellite as and when they needed it. Burning money. Again. Details at DARPA.

CLENCHED HANDS: Astronauts have many problems. One is that the air inside their pressurised suits makes the fingers of their gloves stiff and hard to close.

The Robo-Glove General Motors are developing will help by reducing the amount of force required to grip an object. Actuators and pressure sensors in the gloves determine when the wearer is grasping an object. Then synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released. No more dropped screwdrivers then. More at General Motors.

FLAT EYES: Tests on 27 astronauts who flew long-duration space missions with NASA showed that micro-gravity deforms their eyeballs. The results suggest that longer missions have more severe effects. Astronauts already suffer bone loss and muscle wastage, so now there's one more thing to worry about. It seems like mimicking gravity on spacecraft is something that really needs thinking about. More details here.

MOON PEOPLE: Russia's Federal Space Agency aims to land cosmonauts on the Moon by 2030. The Russians are already building a new spaceport in eastern Russia called Vostochny, which will be the launch site for rockets from 2018. The agency has many other ambitious plans too, especially for Mars, Venus and Jupiter, but first they need to sort out the problems that have plagued their recent launches. Space.com has more.

- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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