NASA engineers have a new plan for pushing down on the heat probe of the InSight Lander, which has been stuck at the Martian surface for a year, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) published on Friday.
The mission team plans to command the scoop on InSight's robotic arm to press down on the "mole," a mini pile driver designed to hammer itself as much as 5 meters down.
They hope that pushing down on the mole's top will keep it from backing out of its hole on Mars, as it did twice in recent months after nearly burying itself.
As part of the heat probe, the mole is a 40-centimeter-long spike equipped with an internal hammering mechanism. While burrowing into the soil, it is designed to drag with it a ribbon-like tether that extends from the spacecraft.
Temperature sensors are embedded along the tether to measure heat coming deep from within the planet's interior to reveal important scientific details about the formation of Mars and all rocky planets, including Earth.
The mole found itself stuck on Feb. 28, 2019, the first day of hammering. The InSight team has since determined that the soil here is different from what has been encountered on other parts of Mars. InSight landed in an area with an unusually thick duricrust, or a layer of cemented soil.
The mole needs friction from soil in order to travel downward; without it, recoil from its self-hammering action causes it to simply bounce in place, according to JPL.
Throughout late February and early March, InSight's arm will be maneuvered into position so that the team can test what happens as the mole briefly hammers.
Meanwhile, the team is also considering using the scoop to move more soil into the hole that has formed around the mole. This could add more pressure and friction, allowing it to finally dig down, according to JPL.
The InSight landed safely on Mars on Nov. 26 of 2018 for a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet.
Delta-X, a new NASA airborne investigation, is preparing to embark on its first field campaign in U.S. Mississippi River Delta in coastal Louisiana state, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Wednesday.
Beginning in April, the Delta-X science team, led by Principal Investigator Marc Simard of JPL, will be collecting data by air and by boat to better understand why some parts of the delta are disappearing due to sea-level rise while other parts are not.
"Millions of people live on, and live from services provided by, coastal deltas like the Mississippi River Delta. But sea-level rise is causing many major deltas to lose land or disappear altogether, taking those services with them," Simard said.
"We hope to be able to predict where and why some parts of the region will disappear and some are likely to survive," he said.
Deltas protect inland areas from wind and flooding during storms. They serve as a first line of defense against sea-level rise, and they are home to many species of plants and wildlife.
The Mississippi River Delta, one of the world's largest, also helps to drive local and national economies via the shipping, fishing and tourism industries. But it is quickly losing land area, according to the release.
Over the course of two field campaigns, one in April and another in the fall, the Delta-X science team will investigate how and why sediment accumulates in some areas and not in others. They will also determine what areas are most susceptible to disappearing beneath rising seas.
The team will fly four times for each campaign, collecting data at both high and low tides to better understand how the tides impact the exchange of water and sediment between river channels and wetlands.
After processing the data, which is expected to take about nine months, the science team will use it to provide detailed models of the delta region and how it works.
"These models will empower local communities and resource managers with the information and prediction capabilities they need to make the necessary decisions to save and restore the delta," Simard said.
Larry Tesler, an icon of early computing, has died at the age of 74, reports the BBC.
Mr Tesler started working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s, at a time when computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people.
It was thanks to his innovations - which included the "cut", "copy" and "paste" commands - that the personal computer became simple to learn and use.
Xerox, where Mr Tesler spent part of his career, paid tribute to him.
"The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more, was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler," the company tweeted. "Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas."
Mr Tesler was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1945, and studied at Stanford University in California.
Larry Tesler: The Silicon Valley history man
After graduating, he specialised in user interface design - that is, making computer systems more user-friendly.
He worked for a number of major tech firms during his long career. He started at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc), before Steve Jobs poached him for Apple, where he spent 17 years and rose to chief scientist.
After leaving Apple he set up an education start-up, and worked for brief periods at Amazon and Yahoo.
In 2012, he told the BBC of Silicon Valley: "There's almost a rite of passage - after you've made some money, you don't just retire, you spend your time funding other companies.
"There's a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you've learned with the next generation."
'A counterculture vision'
Possibly Mr Tesler's most famous innovation, the cut and paste command, was reportedly based on the old method of editing in which people would physically cut portions of printed text and glue them elsewhere.
The command was incorporated in Apple's software on the Lisa computer in 1983, and the original Macintosh that was released the following year.
One of Mr Tesler's firmest beliefs was that computer systems should stop using "modes", which were common in software design at the time.
"Modes" allow users to switch between functions on software and apps but make computers both time-consuming and complicated.
So strong was this belief that Mr Tesler's website was called "nomodes.com", his Twitter handle was "@nomodes", and even his car's license plate was "No Modes".
Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum said Mr Tesler "combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone".
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have found that a person's ability to feel empathy can be assessed by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than engaged in specific tasks, according to a release on Tuesday.
Traditionally, empathy is assessed through the use of questionnaires and psychological assessments. The new findings offer an alternative to people who may have difficulty in filling out questionnaires or expressing their feelings, such as people with severe mental illness or autism, said Marco Iacoboni, senior author of the study and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA.
For the study, published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, researchers recruited 58 male and female participants aged 18-35.
They were told to let their minds wander while keeping their eyes still by looking at a fixation cross on a black screen. Afterward, the participants completed questionnaires designed to measure empathy.
Using a form of artificial intelligence, also known as machine learning, to collect the resting brain activity data of the participants, the researchers can pick up subtle patterns in data, which more traditional data analyses can not do.
In the study, the researchers also applied a noninvasive technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures and maps brain activity through small changes in blood flow, to assess the participants' empathy ability.
"We found that even when not engaged directly in a task that involves empathy, brain activity within these networks can reveal people's empathic disposition," Iacoboni said.
"Empathy is a cornerstone of mental health and well-being. It promotes social and cooperative behavior through our concern for others. It also helps us to infer and predict the internal feelings, behavior and intentions of others," Iacoboni said.
The maiden flight of the Long March-5B rocket carrying a trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship is expected to take place in April, indicating the imminent start of construction of China' space station.
The rocket, the prototype core capsule of the space station and the experimental manned spaceship are undergoing tests at the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the coast of south China's island province of Hainan.
During the flight in mid to late April, the experimental manned spaceship will be sent into space with no crew. The prototype of the core capsule of the space station will not be launched.
The Long March-5B is a modified version of the Long March-5, currently China's largest carrier rocket, and will be mainly used for sending capsules of China's space station and large spacecraft to the low-Earth orbit, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
Space engineers developed a new large fairing, which is 20.5 meters long and 5.2 meters in diameter, for the Long March-5B. The whole rocket is about 53.7 meters long, with a 5-meter diameter core stage and four 3.35-meter diameter boosters.
The rocket uses environment-friendly fuel, including kerosene, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It has a takeoff weight of about 849 tonnes and a payload capacity of 22 tonnes to low-Earth orbit, said Wang Jue, chief director of the Long March-5 development team at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
After the maiden flight of the Long March-5B, the Long March-5 carrier rocket will launch China's first Mars probe and the Chang'e-5 lunar probe later this year.
China aims to complete construction of the space station around 2022. According to the CMSA, more than 10 missions are planned in the next three years to complete the construction and master technologies for in-orbit assembly and construction of large complex spacecraft, long-term manned spaceflight in near-Earth space and large-scale space science experiments.
China still faces many challenges, so joint drills at the space launch center and the maiden flight of the Long March-5B are very important, said experts.
The space station will be a T shape with the Tianhe core module at the center and a lab capsule on each side. The core module -- at 16.6 meters long and 4.2 meters in diameter, with a takeoff weight of 22.5 tonnes -- will be the management and control center.
China's current largest spacecraft, the Tianhe core module will be able to support a long-term stay of three astronauts in space.
The living space in the core module is about 50 cubic meters. With the two lab capsules, the living space could be up to 110 cubic meters, which would provide the astronauts a confortable environment, said experts from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the main developer of the space station capsules.
The longest stay in space so far by Chinese astronauts is 33 days. The necessary water and oxygen were taken into space. To enable astronauts to stay longer in orbit, the space station will be equipped with a renewable life support system, said experts.
The water vapor exhaled by astronauts will be recovered by condensation, and urine will be recycled and purified as drinking water and domestic water. The hydrogen produced in electrolytic oxygen production and the carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts can generate oxygen through chemical reaction, which can supplement oxygen for the space station.
Science facilities on the space station could support hundreds of research projects in fields such as astronomy, space life science, biotechnology, microgravity, basic physics and space materials.
More than a dozen advanced experiment racks will be installed, and an extra-vehicular experiment platform will be built. In addition, a capsule holding a large optical telescope will fly in the same orbit.