Tag: curiosity (page 1 of 2)

The Angels – October-29-2016

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Science: Plants Have Senses and Can Hear, Feel and Identify Attackers

Alisa Opar, GuestThe plant world is a violent place. When munching caterpillars or grazing cattle set their sights on a luscious leaf, a plant can’t hightail it out of harm’s way. Instead, flora fight back with noxious chemicals. But what repels one critter may not work on the next hungry mouth, explains Heidi Appel, a senior research scientist in the Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri. She’s found that some plants can actual [...]

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The Secret To A Meaningful Life In Just 7 ‘Magic’ Words

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com Sometimes, it's the most fantastical, fictional characters that do the best job of teaching us about reality.New York Times bestselling author T.A. Barron spent decades creating the magical image of Merlin the wiza...

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Mars Had an Ocean, Scientists Say, Pointing to a Treasure Trove of New Data





Excerpt from nytimes.com

After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean.

It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet’s northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said.

If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists’ understanding of the planet’s history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge.
“The existence of a northern ocean has been debated for decades, but this is the first time we have such a strong collection of data from around the globe,” said Michael Mumma, principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology and an author of the report, published in the journal Science. “Our results tell us there had to be a northern ocean.”
But other experts said the question was hardly resolved. The ocean remains “a hypothesis,” said Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist of the Curiosity rover mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Dr. Mumma and Geronimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at NASA, measured two slightly different forms of water in Mars’ atmosphere. One is the familiar H2O, which consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

The other is a slightly “heavier” version of water, HDO, in which the nucleus of one hydrogen atom contains a neutron. The atom is called deuterium.

The two forms exist in predictable ratios on Earth, and both have been found in meteorites from Mars. A high level of heavier water today would indicate that there was once a lot more of the “lighter” water, somehow lost as the planet changed.

The scientists found eight times as much deuterium in the Martian atmosphere than is found in water on Earth. Dr. Villanueva said the findings “provide a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had by determining how much water was lost to space.”

He said the measurements pointed to an ancient Mars that had enough water to cover the planet to a depth of at least 137 meters, or about 450 feet. Except for assessments based on the size of the northern basin, this is the highest estimate of the amount of water on early Mars that scientists have ever made.

The water on Mars mostly would have pooled in the northern hemisphere, which lies one to three kilometers — 0.6 to 1.8 miles — below the bedrock surface of the south, the scientists said.
At one time, the researchers estimated, a northern ocean would have covered about 19 percent of the Martian surface. In comparison, the Atlantic Ocean covers about 17 percent of Earth’s surface.

The new findings come at a time when the possibility of a northern ocean on Mars has gained renewed attention.

The Curiosity rover measured lighter and heavier water molecules in the Gale Crater, and the data also indicated that Mars once had substantial amounts of water, although not as much as Dr. Mumma and Dr. Villanueva suggest.

“The more water was present — and especially if it was a large body of water that lasted for a longer period of time — the better the chances are for life to emerge and to be sustained,” said Paul Mahaffy, chief of the atmospheric experiments laboratory at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Just last month, the science team running the Curiosity rover held its first formal discussion about the possibility of such an ocean and what it would have meant for the rest of Mars.

Scientists generally agree that lakes must have existed for millions of years in Gale Crater and elsewhere. But it is not clear how they were sustained and replenished.

“For open lakes to remain relatively stable for millions of years — it’s hard to figure how to do that without an ocean,” Dr. Vasavada said. “Unless there was a large body of water supplying humidity to the planet, the water in an open lake would quickly evaporate and be carried to the polar caps or frozen out.”

Yet climate modelers have had difficulty understanding how Mars could have been warm enough in its early days to keep water from freezing. Greenhouse gases could have made the planet much warmer at some point, but byproducts of those gases have yet to be found on the surface.

James Head, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University, said in an email that the new paper had “profound implications for the total volume of water” on ancient Mars.

But, he added, “climate models have great difficulty in reconstructing an early Mars with temperatures high enough to permit surface melting and liquid water.”

Also missing are clear signs of the topographic and geological features associated with large bodies of water on Earth, such as sea cliffs and shorelines.

Based on low-resolution images sent back by the Viking landers, the geologist Timothy Parker and his colleagues at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab reported in 1989 the discovery of ancient shorelines. But later high-resolution images undermined their conclusions.

Still, Dr. Parker and his colleagues have kept looking for — and finding, they say — some visible signs of a northern ocean. The new data “certainly encourages me to do more,” he said in an interview.

Other researchers have also been looking for signs of an ancient ocean.

In 2013, Roman DiBiase, then a postdoctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, and Michael Lamb, an assistant professor of geology there, identified what might have been a system of channels on Mars that originated in the southern hemisphere and emptied steeply into the northern basin — perhaps, they said, water flowing through a delta to an ocean.

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NASA Wants to Send a Submarine to Titan’s Seas ~ Video



Titan


Excerpt from news.discovery.com

In a sneak peek of a possible future mission to Saturn’s moon Titan, NASA has showcased their vision of a robotic submersible that could explore the moon’s vast lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

Studying Titan is thought to be looking back in time at an embryonic Earth, only a lot colder. Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have a significant atmosphere and this atmosphere is known to possess its own methane cycle, like Earth’s water cycle. Methane exists in a liquid state, raining down on a landscape laced with hydrocarbons, forming rivers, valleys and seas.

Several seas have been extensively studied by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during multiple flybys, some of which average a few meters deep, whereas others have depths of over 200 meters (660 feet) — the maximum depth at which Cassini’s radar instrument can penetrate.


So, if scientists are to properly explore Titan, they must find a way to dive into these seas to reveal their secrets.

At this year’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium, a Titan submarine concept was showcased by NASA Glenn’s COMPASS Team and researchers from Applied Research Lab.

Envisaged as a possible mission to Titan’s largest sea, Kracken Mare, the autonomous submersible would be designed to make a 90 day, 2,000 kilometer (1,250 mile) voyage exploring the depths of this vast and very alien marine environment. As it would spend long periods under the methane sea’s surface, it would have to be powered by a radioisotope generator; a source that converts the heat produced by radioactive pellets into electricity, much like missions that are currently exploring space, like Cassini and Mars rover Curiosity.

Communicating with Earth would not be possible when the vehicle is submerged, so it would need to make regular ascents to the surface to transmit science data.

But Kracken Mare is not a tranquil lake fit for gentle sailing — it is known to have choppy waves and there is evidence of tides, all contributing to the challenge. Many of the engineering challenges have already been encountered when designing terrestrial submarines — robotic and crewed — but as these seas will be extremely cold (estimated to be close to the freezing point of methane, 90 Kelvin or -298 degrees Fahrenheit), a special piston-driven propulsion system will need to be developed and a nitrogen will be needed as ballast, for example.

This study is just that, a study, but the possibility of sending a submersible robot to another world would be as unprecedented as it is awesome.

Although it’s not clear at this early stage what the mission science would focus on, it would be interesting to sample the chemicals at different depths of Kracken Mare.

“Measurement of the trace organic components of the sea, which perhaps may exhibit prebiotic chemical evolution, will be an important objective, and a benthic sampler (a robotic grabber to sample sediment) would acquire and analyze sediment from the seabed,” the authors write (PDF). “These measurements, and seafloor morphology via sidescan sonar, may shed light on the historical cycles of filling and drying of Titan’s seas. Models suggest Titan’s active hydrological cycle may cause the north part of Kraken to be ‘fresher’ (more methane-rich) than the south, and the submarine’s long traverse will explore these composition variations.”

A decade after the European Huygens probe landed on the surface of Titan imaging the moon’s eerily foggy atmosphere, there have been few plans to go back to this tantalizing world. It would be incredible if, in the next few decades, we could send a mission back to Titan to directly sample what is at the bottom of its seas, exploring a region where the molecules for life’s chemistry may be found in abundance.



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With innovators from around the globe digging in, public moon travel may be only 20 years away



moon
Image Credit: hkeita/Shutterstock


Excerpt from  venturebeat.com
By Vivek Wadhwa

Five teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE have just been awarded a combined $5.25 million for meeting significant milestones in developing a robot that can safely land on the surface of the moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send mooncasts back to the Earth. A tiny startup from India, Team Indus, with no experience in robotics or space flight just won $1 million of this prize. It stood head to head with companies that had been funded by billionaires, had received the assistance of NASA, and had the support of leading universities.
The good news is that governments no longer have a monopoly on space exploration. In two or three decades, we will have entrepreneurs taking us on private spaceflights to the moon. That is what has become possible.

What has changed since the days of the Apollo moon landings is that the cost of building technologies has dropped exponentially. What cost billions of dollars then costs millions now, and sometimes even less. Our smartphones have computers that are more powerful than the Cray supercomputers of yesteryear — which had strict export controls and cost tens of millions of dollars. We carry high-definition cameras in our pockets that are more powerful than those on NASA spacecraft. The cameras in the Mars Curiosity Rover, for example, have a resolution of 2 megapixels with 8GB of flash memory, the same as our clunky first-generation iPhones. The Apollo Guidance Computer, which took humans to the moon in 1966, had a 2.048 MHz processor — slower than those you find in calculators and musical greeting cards.

The same technologies as are available in the United States and Europe are available worldwide. Innovation has globalized.
I met Team Indus while I was in Mumbai to speak at INK last November. When they told me they were competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. I didn’t take them seriously because I had seen their counterpart in Silicon Valley, Moon Express, which has the support of tech moguls such as Naveen Jain. How could a scrawny little startup in Bangalore take on Naveen Jain, former NASA engineer Bob Richards, and NASA itself, I thought. The Moon Express team is a force of nature, has the advantage of being on the NASA Ames Research campus, and has been given R&D worth billions of dollars by NASA.

Team Indus was also up against Astrobotic, which is a spinoff from the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, and Israel-based SpaceIL, which has the backing of the country’s top research institutes.

The company’s win blew my mind. Even though the subject of my INK talk was how Indian entrepreneurs could help change the world, I didn’t think it was already happening.

(See my Jan. 1 story on the Indian tech scene and watch this talk to learn more: Why India shouldn’t be succeeding but is.)

The Bangalore-based startup was founded by former I.T. executive Rahul Narayan and four of his friends: an Air Force pilot, a marketing executive, an investment banker, and an aerospace engineer. None of the team had experience in building spacecraft or robots, yet they were able to build technology that could navigate to the moon.

Narayan says he expects completion of his space mission to cost around $30 million. Moon Express chief executive Bob Richards estimates $50 million. These numbers are higher than the $20 million prize that they hope to win. But both see far greater opportunities: They hope to be pioneers in what could be a trillion-dollar industry. Richards is looking to mine the moon for minerals and bring them back to Earth. Each payload could be worth billions.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE has 26 teams competing from around the world. Collectively, they will spend in the hundreds of millions of dollars on their efforts. For them, it is not all about winning the contest; many of the losers will still commercialize their space technologies or put their knowledge to use in other fields. This is the power of such competitions. They lead entrants to spend multiples of the offered purse on innovative solutions. And they motivate people outside the industry, such as Narayan, to enter it with out-of-the-box thinking.

Innovation prizes are not new. In fact, a number of celebrated historical feats were made possible, in part, by the desire to win these prizes. In the 1920s, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize to the first person to fly non-stop between New York and Paris. Several unsuccessful attempts were made before an American airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh won the competition in 1927 with his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis
Lindbergh’s achievement made him a national hero and a global celebrity. And it sparked the interest and investment that led to the modern aviation industry.

That is what I expect will come of the Lunar XPRIZE. And that is why I am looking forward to booking my round-trip ticket to the moon one summer in the 2030s.

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Microsoft to help NASA scientists virtually explore Mars with HoloLens





Excerpt from tech.firstpost.com


The US space agency has teamed up with Microsoft to develop a new software that will enable scientists to work on Mars virtually using a wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens.

Developed by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, the software called OnSight will give researchers a means to plan and, along with the Mars Curiosity rover, conduct science operations on the Red Planet, the US space agency said in a statement.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, DC.

OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission’s existing planning tools by creating a 3D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet. Program scientists will be able to examine the rover’s worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand.

“We believe OnSight will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world,” added Jeff Norris, JPL’s OnSight project manager.

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130,000 Air Force UFO Files Land on Internet

130,000 Air Force UFO Files Land on Internet

Excerpt from cnn.com It's enough to make Mulder and Scully seethe with envy.Nearly 130,000 pages of declassified Air Force files on UFO investigations and sightings are now available in one place online.Declassified government records about UFOs ...

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Banned TED Talk: The Science Delusion ~ Is science way off about the nature of our reality?



The following statement has been posted by Tedstaff at blog.ted.com: "After due diligence, including a survey of published scientific research and recommendations from our Science Board and our community, we have decided that Graham Hancock’s and Rupert Sheldrake’s talks from TEDxWhitechapel should be removed from distribution on the TEDx YouTube channel... All talks on the TEDxTalks channel represent the opinion of the speaker, not of TED or TEDx, but we feel a responsibility not to provide a platform for talks which appear to have crossed the line into pseudoscience.

Response to the TED Scientific Board’s Statement
Rupert Sheldrake
March 18, 2013

I would like to respond to TED’s claims that my TEDx talk “crossed the line into pseudoscience”, contains ”serious factual errors” and makes “many misleading statements.”
This discussion is taking place because the militant atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers denounced me, and attacked TED for giving my talk a platform. I was invited to give my talk as part of a TEDx event in Whitechapel, London, called “Challenging Existing Paradigms.” That’s where the problem lies: my talk explicitly challenges the materialist belief system. It summarized some of the main themes of my recent book Science Set Free (in the UK called The Science Delusion). Unfortunately, the TED administrators have publically aligned themselves with the old paradigm of materialism, which has dominated science since the late nineteenth century.
TED say they removed my talk from their website on the advice of their Scientific Board, who also condemned Graham Hancock’s talk. Hancock and I are now facing anonymous accusations made by a body on whose authority TED relies, on whose advice they act, and behind whom they shelter, but whose names they have not revealed.
TED’s anonymous Scientific Board made three specific accusations:
Accusation 1:“he suggests that scientists reject the notion that animals have consciousness, despite the fact that it’s generally accepted that animals have some form of consciousness, and there’s much research and literature exploring the idea.”
I characterized the materialist dogma as follows: “Matter is unconscious: the whole universe is made up of unconscious matter. There’s no consciousness in stars in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants and there ought not to be any in us either, if this theory’s true. So a lot of the philosophy of mind over the last 100 years has been trying to prove that we are not really conscious at all.” Certainly some biologists, including myself, accept that animals are conscious. In August, 2012, a group of scientists came out with an endorsement of animal consciousness in “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness”. As Discovery News reported, “While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it’s the open acknowledgement that’s the big news here.” (http://news.discovery.com/human/genetics/animals-consciousness-mammals-birds-octopus-120824.htm)
But materialist philosophers and scientists are still in the majority, and they argue that consciousness does nothing – it is either an illusion or an ”epiphenomenon” of brain activity. It might as well not exist in animals – or even in humans. That is why in the philosophy of mind, the very existence of consciousness is often called “the hard problem”.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness
Accusation 2:“He also argues that scientists have ignored variations in the measurements of natural constants, using as his primary example the dogmatic assumption that a constant must be constant and uses the speed of light as example.… Physicist Sean Carroll wrote a careful rebuttal of this point.”
TED’s Scientific Board refers to a Scientific American article that makes my point very clearly: “Physicists routinely assume that quantities such as the speed of light are constant.”
In my talk I said that the published values of the speed of light dropped by about 20 km/sec between 1928 and 1945. Carroll’s “careful rebuttal” consisted of a table copied from Wikipedia showing the speed of light at different dates, with a gap between 1926 and 1950, omitting the very period I referred to. His other reference (http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/speedoflight.html) does indeed give two values for the speed of light in this period, in 1928 and 1932-35, and sure enough, they were 20 and 24km/sec lower than the previous value, and 14 and 18 km/sec lower than the value from 1947 onwards.
1926: 299,798
1928: 299,778
1932-5: 299,774
1947: 299,792

In my talk I suggest how a re-examination of existing data could resolve whether large continuing variations in the Universal Gravitational Constant, G, are merely errors, as usually assumed, or whether they show correlations between different labs that might have important scientific implications hitherto ignored. Jerry Coyne and TED’s Scientific Board regard this as an exercise in pseudoscience. I think their attitude reveals a remarkable lack of curiosity.
Accusation 3:“Sheldrake claims to have “evidence” of morphic resonance in crystal formation and rat behavior. The research has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, despite attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work.”
I said, “There is in fact good evidence that new compounds get easier to crystallize all around the world.” For example, turanose, a kind of sugar, was considered to be a liquid for decades, until it first crystallized in the 1920s. Thereafter it formed crystals everyehere. (Woodard and McCrone Journal of Applied Crystallography (1975). 8, 342). The American chemist C. P. Saylor, remarked it was as though “the seeds of crystallization, as dust, were carried upon the winds from end to end of the earth” (quoted by Woodard and McCrone).
The research on rat behavior I referred to was carried out at Harvard and the Universities of Melbourne and Edinburgh and was published in peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Biology. For a fuller account and detailed references see Chapter 11 of my book Morphic Resonance (in the US) / A New Science of Life (in the UK). The relevant passage is online here: http://sciencesetfree.tumblr.com/
The TED Scientific Board refers to ”attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work” on morphic resonance. I would be happy to work with these eager scientists if the Scientific Board can reveal who they are.
This is a good opportunity to correct an oversimplification in my talk. In relation to the dogma that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works, I said, “that’s why governments only fund mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.” This is true of most governments, but the US is a notable exception. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine receives about $130 million a year, about 0.4% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total annual budget of $31 billion.
Obviously I could not spell out all the details of my arguments in an 18-minute talk, but TED’s claims that it contains “serious factual errors,” “many misleading statements” and that it crosses the line into “pseudoscience” are defamatory and false.

Click to zoom

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NASA Fuel Shortage: Will Plutonium Scarcity End Deep-Space Exploration By 2020?

 Excerpt from isciencetimes.com By Philip Ross A plutonium pellet, the fuel that keeps NASA space exploration going. (Photo: Creative Commons)  NAS...

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Discovery Sparks Interest – NASA’s Mission to Mars Gets Its Own New Show

Excerpt from sciencetimes.comOften in the media, it's what's new and fresh that brings in the ratings. But what about looking for something potentially millions of years old? What if it wasn't on this planet even? Peak your interest yet? Well, if so...

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Asteroid Mining: Not as Crazy as it Sounds


http://www.geologyforinvestors.com/wp-content/uploads/DSI-Firefly-concept_BV-21-01-13.jpg
Concept model of the FireFly Design (Image credit: Deep Space Industries / Bryan Versteeg.


Excerpt from geologyforinvestors.com

At first glance it sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone consider mining in space when even the largest Earth-based mining operations seem to have trouble managing costs? After all, mid-grade and marginal deposits seem to have trouble finding any money and the process of moving a project from prospect to mine can take decades and cost hundreds of million of dollars. I’ll be the first to admit that the whole idea of asteroid mining was initially right up there with Star Trek-style transporters and desktop cold fusion, but a few recent events have piqued my curiosity on the subject. Allow me to elaborate.

First, one of the many items that was lost back in October, 2014 when the Antares rocket was destroyed was the Arkyd 3 satellite. Arkyd 3 is a testing platform designed by Planetary Resources, otherwise known as “the asteroid mining company”. Apparently these guys aren’t just doing interviews: There is actual work going on here. A re-built Arkyd 3 is scheduled for launch in about 9 months.
Second, the recent landing of the Philae spacecraft on comet 67P stirred all of our imaginations in a way that was reminiscent of the moon landing, first shuttle launch or first Mars rover. If we can effectively land a bullet on a bullet 500 million miles away from Earth, then the idea of grabbing a near-earth asteroid doesn’t sound nearly as crazy. The economics might still seem crazy, but the technology – not so much.

As it turns out, there are three groups currently working on a long term strategy to gather resources from space. Two are private companies and the third is NASA. All have different approaches, but their end games are largely the same.

What Asteroids? What Resources?

Asteroid miners are seeking out near-earth asteroids. There are over 11,000 known near-earth asteroids which are considered to be left-overs from the formation of the solar system. These bodies can be composed of ice, silicate minerals, carbonaceous minerals and metals.

Ice or water on these bodies is one of the most significant potential resources. Solar panels on spacecraft can provide the power to simply convert water to hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. Considering that it costs from $5,000-25,000+ per kg to ferry items into space, the idea of harvesting resources needed in space doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. In fact, the groups involved are primarily focused on gathering the resources needed for space exploration and development. Gathering resources to send back to earth is a much longer term goal and arguably may never be economic.

Groups Involved

Currently there are two private companies pursuing asteroid mining; Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. NASA is also involved on several levels and has awarded contracts to several companies including both Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries for studies relating to relating to asteroid redirection.


Deep Space Industries – Fire Fly/DragonFly/Harvestor

Deep Space Industries’ approach includes a series of compact spacecraft known as FireFlies (not to be confused with NASA’s FireFly Cubesat). The company plans to send them on one-way missions to gather information such as size, shape, density and composition of asteroids of interest. Their longer term plan includes the development of a spacecraft known as the “Dragonfly” which will capture asteroids to return for analysis and to test processing methods and the “Harvestors” which will collect material for return to Earth’s orbit. The Harvestor class is meant for full-scale production for initial customers in space from collecting propellant for future space missions, manufacturing materials using extracted metals and radiation shielding. If costs begin to decrease over time they hope to be able to return these extracted commodities back to earth. DSI recently made the news when it partnered with another firm to build Bitcoin satellites as part of a proposed Bitcoin orbital satellite network.

NASA

NASA has commissioned a number of studies on the potential for asteroid mining and interactions as part of it’s Early Stage Innovation and Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) directives. The Robotic Asteroid Prospector study determined that water and possibly Platinum Group Metals had the most economic potential for asteroid mining operations and presented some preliminary designed for water extraction.

NASA’s OSIRIS REx spacecraft is designed study the the near-Earth “Bennu” asteroid for more than a year with the primary goal of landing on the asteroid and retrieving a sample for return to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in September 2016.
NASA has been also been studying robotic mining for several years and holds annual competition where university students can build a mining robot.

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New Study Provides Insight into How Piquing Curiosity Changes Our Brains



Curiosity helps learning and memory, scientists say. Anonymous painter, 15th century - Cahiers de Science et Vie no. 114.
Anonymous painter, 15th century – Cahiers de Science et Vie no. 114.



Excerpt from
sci-news.com


The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. A new study carried out by California University scientists provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued.


Curiosity helps learning and memory, scientists say.
Participants in the study first rated their curiosity about the answers to a series of trivia questions. Later, they had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging while they learned the answers to these questions.

The participants were presented with a selected trivia question and while they waited for the answer to pop up on the screen, they were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face.

Afterwards, they performed a surprise recognition memory test for the presented faces, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions.

As expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information.
More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about.

The participants were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay...

In addition, they found that when learning was motivated by curiosity, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the dopamine reward circuit...

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