National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has “launched” a public challenge with the aim of innovating technologies vital for the establishment of a colony on Mars. The agency is focused on a mission to the Red Planet, and has already taken the first vital steps. However, while simply reaching Mars with a cargo of healthy astronauts would be a monumental triumph, maintaining a permanent presence on so inhospitable a planet could prove to be a much greater technological challenge.
Maintaining a colony on the Red Planet will prove to be a leviathan challenge, compounded by the knowledge that should a catastrophe occur, the nearest aid sits roughly 140 million miles (225.3 million km) away. At best estimates, the shortest periods between resupply missions from Earth would be around 500 days. It is inevitable that much of the technology at the outpost will be reliant on resources from the homeworld, making any delays in the launch of a supply run a potentially life-endangering event.
The three most promising candidates will be granted a $5,000 USD minimum award.
So here’s the challenge to you: submit an idea for one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities necessary to achieve a continuous human presence on the Red Planet.
Click on the red planet to submit your idea(s):
When you are ascending inside a tall building, you wait impatiently for the ‘bing’ that signals you are about to take a ride. Anyone who has ever stared into an open elevator car with someone already in it has likely asked this somewhat inane question: “Going up?” There’s really only two choices for where the elevator is headed – up or down… And if the elevator car isn’t heading in the direction you wish to go, you have several options:
- if there’s more than one elevator shaft, wait for the next car to arrive and ask the same question of that occupant (hopefully they are going up!) and continue on your journey skyward
- if there’s only one elevator shaft, ride down with the occupant, then reverse course (gives you a false sense of accomplishment as you are still moving, albeit in the opposite direction of where you wish to end up…)
- allow the car to go down without you, punch the up button on the wall panel again & wait in the hallway whistling tunelessly, all the while being painfully aware of the time you are wasting
- find the nearest staircase and plod your way up by foot (a great cardio workout if you have more than 6 flights to climb!!)
Having addressed the somewhat silly aspects of this desire for a ‘lift’, let’s get on to the more serious, as discussed in this article from The Washington Post…
Otis Elevator Company, the legendary manufacturer that invented the first safety brake, has been at the forefront of developing efficient, sustainable, people-moving technology for more than 160 years. Otis re-examined every aspect of the elevator to create an evolved, environmentally-responsible and highly efficient Gen2® elevator system. By pairing innovative belt technology with the ReGen™ drive – which can harness electricity previously lost as heat – Otis elevators are 75 percent more efficient than conventional systems.
(If you’re not too tired from all that stair climbing, maybe this article will inspire you to create designs of your own to improve efficiency and environmentally friendly product technology… And maybe you’ll be ‘going up’ – headed for a great new job?)
Sailing is a recreational pastime long enjoyed by young and old. Sailing vessels have been used for centuries for transportation of passengers and goods on a commercial level. And there are ghostly tales of unmanned ships seen drifting in the mists of oceans and other large bodies of water, bearing witness to tragedies at sea, and captained and crewed by ghosts. But, there’s at least one unmanned vessel that might be less frightening and more appealing…
As reported on CBS radio’s The Osgood File: “Engineering students in Canada have created a robotic sailboat – or “Sailbot.” It is 18 feet long – and this summer, they will try to sail it across the Atlantic Ocean without anyone on board.
Kristoffer Vik Hansen is the co-captain of the Sailbot team at the University of British Columbia. He says their ship brings together sailing and robotics as never before… “We don’t give it any instructions. We don’t give it any way-points of where to go next. It actually has to pretty much think for itself. Taking in things like weather information, downloaded over satellites. It takes in wind information gathered over wind sensors…”
The Sailbot is covered with solar panels that generate power for all sorts of navigation technology on board… The ship is packed with GPS indicators and software that will allow it to get information on the whereabouts of other ships, ocean drift and even icebergs. It then takes this information, processes it and steers around any problems in the water.
Check out more of the details here: UBC Sailbot
In August, the team will launch Sailbot off the coast of Newfoundland – destination, Ireland. Kristoffer Vik Hansen says
“We’re hoping to complete the travel in about three weeks.”
And if all goes well, they say Sailbot will be the first sea vessel to successfully cross the Atlantic without anybody aboard. Vik Hansen and the rest of the team plan to be in Ireland – champagne in hand, waiting for Sailbot’s arrival. And they hope that the ship launches a thousand imaginations… And according to Vik Hansen, “It might not end up seeing thousands of robotic sailboats around the world. But, the whole drive towards more energy-efficient shipping systems and stuff like that – this could have a big impact.”