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NASA fixed a Mars probe by hitting it with a shovel

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The Mars InSight Lander has a ton of tools for exploring the Red Planet next door, including a 15-inch digging probe (also known as "the mole") meant to burrow into the Martian soil and take measurements.

Unfortunately, the mole got stuck. From Popular Science:

A rock could be in the way, but the more likely culprit appears to be the Martian soil. Previous observations had led the German Aerospace Center engineers who designed the probe to expect that it would be digging through loose sand. They built the mole to bounce up and down like a jackhammer, sinking with each stroke and threading its way around any modestly sized rocks it encountered. But the probe has found soil that seems more dirt-like than sand-like; It sticks together and doesn’t collapse around the mole to give it enough friction to dig. What the mole needs is a little nudge.

So what did they do to get the mole unstuck? They used the shovel-like scoop at the end of one of the InSight Lander's robot arms to pin down the mole. "The move is risky," Popular Science explained, "because a delicate tether that provides power and communications from the lander attaches to the back part of the mole, and a hard whack could damage it."

Fortunately, it worked.

Public Domain via NASA/JPL-Caltech

Who knew that the "Why are you hitting yourself?" game would be such a useful tool for space exploration?

At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars [Charlie Wood / Popular Science]

NASA fixes Mars lander by telling it to hit itself with a shovel [Dan Robitzski / Futurism]

Mars InSight Lander to push on top of mole [NASA]

Image: Public Domain via NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Spoyl
4 days ago
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Quarantine survival advice from Buzz Aldrin and other astronauts

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I had the privilege of interviewing Buzz Aldrin a few years ago. The second man to step foot on the moon (and first to pee on it) had just released a new book, and won his first ever March Madness bracket, and the first thing he told me over the phone was how he'd spent his 80th birthday scuba diving in the Galapagos with his son, but got in trouble when he broke away from the group and grabbed a whale shark by the dorsal fin just so he could ride it.

Buzz Aldrin is a god damn national treasure and a real American badass. (I'd also love to see the look on that scuba instructor's face if/when they realized that the old man they were scolding was in fact Buzz Aldrin.)

Now, Aldrin is 90 years old, which puts him at particularly high risk for infection by the novel coronavirus. But this national treasure has a solid plan to stay safe, as detailed to Eric Berger at Ars Technica: "Lying on my ass and locking the door."

Aldrin is a survivor — of outer space, of shitty jobs, and of alcoholism and depression — so I tend to trust his advice. But if you're looking for something more substantial, Forbes spoke with several other astronauts about their time in isolation, including NASA’s Human Research Program Director Bill Paloski, Ph.D.; John Grunsfeld PhD, a retired NASA astronaut and Hubble Space Telescope repairman who spent over 59 days in space; and Dr. Leroy Chiao, former commander of Expedition 10 who also spent 6 months on the International Space Station. A few of my favorite takeaways:

Start a new project or challenge that you’ve wanted to do but didn’t have the time. Trade your commute time for learning a new skill.

On the ISS one thing we’ve learned is to make sure each crew member has their personal space that they can decorate with family photos and be alone when they want to. For folks confined to their homes or apartments with other people, my recommendation is to try to spend some ‘away’ time each day to give your brain a ‘socialization’ rest.

In your own home, make sure that as much as possible things, you're in a state of good repair, and you're making your surroundings as comfortable as possible. Make sure the systems are working. Keep on top of malfunctions.

More at the link.

Buzz Aldrin has some advice for Americans in quarantine [Eric Berger / Ars Technica]

Former Astronauts Share Ways To Cope With Social Distancing & Isolation [Valerie Stimac / Forbes]

Image: Public Domain via NASA

 

 

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Spoyl
5 days ago
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RT @jules_su: [CORONAVIRUS: huge threat to old people, little threat to young people]: We must transform our ENTIRE society and global wo…

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[CORONAVIRUS: huge threat to old people, little threat to young people]:

We must transform our ENTIRE society and global workforce to prevent this.

[CLIMATE CHANGE: huge threat to young people, little threat to old people]:

You want us to do what? Take the bus? Shut up.


Retweeted by JunJunisKing on Monday, March 9th, 2020 6:27pm


8335 likes, 2068 retweets
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Spoyl
16 days ago
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1 public comment
fxer
20 days ago
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Shut up
Bend, Oregon

Joystick Control

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Follow @lamebook on instagram for more content!

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Spoyl
19 days ago
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death2america:

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death2america:

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Spoyl
20 days ago
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Making your own hand sanitizer is a cinch

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Since the latest coronavirus broke cover and started scaring the bejaysus out of everyone, you may have noticed that the supplies that folks think they’ll need in the event of a pandemic are becoming hard to find.

I'm paranoid about potential pandemics, but I come by it honestly enough.

In my old life, I worked in law enforcement while SARS was scaring the shit out of everyone in Toronto. Years later, I was charged with coming up with a Swine Flu action plan for the company I worked for in Vancouver. This time around, at the first sign of things going sideways in China, I stocked up on hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and, in case anyone in my household gets sick, N95 masks.

Not everyone's as uptight about hygiene in a time of plague as I am though. If you can’t lay hands on a bottle of hand sanitizer to save your life (hopefully not literally), you'll be happy to know that making your own at home is crazy easy.

The fine folks from ThoughtCo have an easy-to-follow recipe that’ll have you sanitizing your meat-hooks without soap or water, in no time. They explain, at length, how to make the gooey magic happen, but here’s the short version:

  • Take 2/3 of a cup of 99% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol and mix it with 1/3 of a cup of aloe vera gel.
  • Mix them together.
  • Dump the resulting goo into a dispenser of one sort or another.
  • That’s it.

Like all good recipes, this one should be shared with your friends, family and community: being able to create an unobtainable safety product on your own can go a long way towards reliving stress.

Image via NeedPix

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Spoyl
26 days ago
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