Connect with us

Science & Technology

Could Avatars help build a new Moon Base?

Humankind has been long curious about the mysteries of the universe. Since the first satellite was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, we have continually gained a better understanding of space by supporting exploration and technological innovation of advanced tools. And still, our knowledge is limited. We only know about 4 percent of our universe. So how do we go about uncovering the rest?

At ANA, we’re striving to solve this problem by teaming up with the best innovators in the world – which is why we are so thrilled to work alongside JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) on the formation of Avatar X.

By joining forces with technology pioneers like JAXA, we can break through the inherent barriers of space exploration. In 2016, JAXA began collaborating with construction company Kajima Corporation and three Japanese universities — Shibaura Institute of Technology, the University of Electro-Communications and Kyoto University — to develop a remote construction system that utilizes remote-controlled avatars to build a moon base, with little to no human supervision. After three years of research and development, we are beginning to see a bright future, one where avatars are the construction workers of space.

Advancing the future of humanity

Using avatars to build a moon base demands considerable resources of time, money, people, research and, of course, robot capabilities. So why are JAXA and its partners so keen on setting up a base at the moon? While space tourism would allow us to view the Northern Lights from outer space, building a moon base using autonomous avatars would have enormous implications on the future of space exploration.

For example, a permanent moon base would help drastically ease travel to Mars, giving humanity more time to research the feasibility of life on our neighboring planet. More immediately, the base could enable JAXA to conduct more research missions in space, such as the successful touchdown on the Itokawa asteroid made by the Hayabusa spacecraft several years ago. Despite numerous complications, the craft eventually returned with a sample from the asteroid’s surface for scientists to study, a mission that one NASA official described as “beyond remarkable.”

In addition to changing the limits of space exploration, the base will also create an influx of corporate innovation that can help change society for the better. One concept that has originated in Japan is known as the LUNA RING —a solar panel concept involving the use of avatars to help power the Earth with clean energy. Developed by the Shimizu Corporation, the LUNA RING  project envisions a small army of robotic workers, teleoperated from Earth, that would construct a huge ring of solar panels along the 11,000-kilometer equator. A team of astronauts would support the robots on-site, according to the plan.

Building the moon base

Building a moon base that can act as a livable habitat for humans inherently has its complexities. That’s why the collaborators have divided the project into four phases. Phase one involves preparing the site for human habitation. Next, the site will need to be excavated to ensure the base is built at the required depth.

After the moon’s surface has been dug up, avatars can begin installing the module and making it safe against the dangers the universe presents. For instance, meteoroids — or space rocks —fly through space at such high speeds that striking the moon base could allow oxygen to escape. The final phase involves shielding the base with regolith, commonly known as moon dust. This shield will not only protect the structure from being damaged but also protect humans from severe levels of radiation from the sun, according to JAXA officials.

Testing the feasibility

Testing is a foundational element for any technological development. After three years of comprehensive research, the group recently performed an experiment where a seven-ton autonomous backhoe conducted its tasks on the testing grounds. The experiment took place at the Kajima Seisho Experiment Site in Odawara and involved procedures such as driving a specified distance and repeating routine operations.

In addition, to testing full automation capability, the experiment also set out to establish remote construction functionality, in the event certain tasks are too complex to rely solely on autonomous robots. The result: we can build a lunar base using avatars. “The operational process has shown the feasibility of the unmanned technologies to build a lunar base,” JAXA officials said.

Despite the team’s optimism, the project is an enormous undertaking of manpower and cost. To make these meteoric investments pay off, Japanese innovators are going to need to develop some breakthrough innovations that can have a long-lasting societal impact. At ANA, we believe efforts like this are the only way to advance humankind – and we can’t wait to see an avatar in a construction hat.



Science & Technology

NTP nuclear rocket engine will take humans to Mars in just three months

Although the romance of the peaceful atom has subsided since the mid-1960s, the idea of ​​using nuclear reactors for “civilian” purposes is still regularly returned. The new nuclear rocket engine (NRM) will deliver a man to Mars much faster than is possible now.

The danger of cosmic radiation is much more serious than the risk of infection from an accident with such an engine. The most dangerous of all the constraining vectors for projects of sending people to other bodies in the solar system is cosmic radiation. Radiation from our star and galactic rays can seriously damage the health of the mission crew. Therefore, when planning flights to Mars, engineers and scientists try to reduce travel time as much as possible.

One promising way to get to the Red Planet in just three months could be a new NTP engine. Its concept was developed and submitted to NASA by Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies ( USNC-Tech ) from Seattle, USA. The name of the unit is simply deciphered – Nuclear Thermal Propulsion ( NTP ), that is, “thermal nuclear power plant”. The novelty differs from its previously created or invented counterparts in the most secure design.

A key component of USNC’s development is mid – grade uranium fuel “pellets”. They contain 5% to 20% of the highly reactive isotope U- 235 coated with zirconium carbide ceramics. This degree of enrichment lies roughly halfway between the “civilian” nuclear power plants and the military. The proprietary ceramic coating technology makes the tablets incredibly resistant to mechanical damage and extreme temperatures.

Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia |  Tokono
Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia | Tokono

The company promises that their fuel elements are significantly superior in these parameters to those currently used at nuclear power plants. As a result, the engine will have a higher specific impulse with a lower degree of uranium enrichment than in earlier versions of NRE. In addition to the flight to Mars, among the goals of the ambitious project are other missions within the solar system. The perspectives of the concept will soon be considered by specialists from NASA and the US Department of Defense ( DoD ). Perhaps departments will even allow its commercial use by private companies.

Theoretically, NRE based on modern technologies can have a specific impulse (SR) seven times higher than that of chemical jet engines. And this is one of the key performance parameters. At the same time, unlike electric and plasma ones, the ID of a nuclear rocket engine is combined with high thrust. One of the limiting factors in the use of NRE, in addition to safety issues, are extremely high temperatures in the reactor core.

The higher the temperature of the gases flowing out of the engine, the more energy they have. And accordingly, they create traction. However, mankind has not yet come up with relatively inexpensive and safe materials that can withstand more than three thousand degrees Celsius without destruction. The solution created by USNC will operate at the limit of modern materials science (3000 ° C) and have a specific impulse twice that of the best liquid-propellant engines.

Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA
Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA

The official press release does not specify which working body will be used in NTP . Usually, in all NRE projects, the reactor core heats hydrogen, less often ammonia. But, since we are talking about a long-term mission, the creators could have chosen some other gas. Keeping liquid hydrogen on board for three months is no easy task. But you still need to invent something for the way back.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Scientist Peter Scott-Morgan is set to become “the world’s first complete cyborg”

Scientist and roboticist Peter Scott Morgan, who is using an advanced version of Stephen Hawking's communication system, built by Intel. INTEL

Two years ago scientist Peter Scott-Morgan was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and today he is still fighting for a new life, not just for survival.

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan is on track to become the world’s first full-fledged cyborg, potentially giving him more years of life.

The world’s first complete cyborg

It was in 2017 that Dr. Peter Scott-Morgan (a brilliant robotics writer, scientific writer, and talented speaker) was diagnosed with degenerative motor neuron disease that ultimately paralyzed his entire body except his eyes.

The diagnosis is understandably grim, especially considering that he has only two years to live, but he has not given up the fight.

Teaming up with world-class organizations with expertise in artificial intelligence, Dr. Scott-Morgan is transforming himself into what he calls “the world’s first fully fledged cyborg.”

“And when I say ‘Cyborg’, I mean not just that some kind of payment will be implanted in me, I mean that I will become the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created on Earth for 13.8 billion years. My body and brain will be irreversibly changed, ”says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

What does it mean to be human

According to Dr. Scott-Morgan, he will become part robot and part living organism. Moreover, the change will not be one-time, but with subsequent updates.

“I have more updates in the process than Microsoft ,” says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

AI-powered creative expression

The cyborg artist is a great example of the power of human-AI collaboration. AI uses the data that make up Peter’s digital portrait ( articles, videos, images, and social media ) and is trained to recognize key ideas, experiences, and images.

Peter will introduce a theme, AI will suggest composition, and Peter will apply images to suggest style and mood. Peter will direct the AI ​​to render a new digital image that none of them could create alone.

A unique blend of AI and human, reflects Peter’s creative and emotional self – a critical aspect of what it means to be human.

Peter 2.0

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan will undergo what he calls the latest procedure that will transform him into “Complete Cyborg”.

October 9 he tweeted a photo of himself, writing the following:

“This is my last post as Peter 1.0. Tomorrow I will trade my vote for potentially decades of life as we complete the last medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, in the month that I was told statistically I would be dead. I am not dying, I am transforming. ! Oh, how I LOVE science !!! “.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

Continue Reading