Hackers age 14-18 can compete to put their project into space

If you’re between the ages of 14 and 18, or have a child who is, here’s a chance to put a project into space. NASA is partnering with YouTube, Lenovo, and a few other entities for a contest that challenges participants to dream up low-gravity experiments. You can enter as an individual or in teams of up to three people, and may put forth up to three experiment ideas for judging. Getting in on the first round is as easy as recording and uploading a video. You’ll need to state a scientific question or principle you want to test, a hypothesis of what can be learned, and a method for testing it.

As with most of the projects we encounter, the seminal idea is always the toughest part. And since the folks here at Hackaday are too old to enter, we thought we’d propose throwing around some ideas in the comments to get the ball rolling (the contest FAQ says it’s okay to get help from others so we’re not ruining it for everyone). We’ll go first.

It looks like experiments can be Biology or Physics related, and can’t use hazardous chemicals, weapons, or anything sharp. We’d love to see some tests that measure how well electronic sensors work in the microgravity. For instance, can you use a gyroscope sensor reliably in micro-gravity? What about an electronic compass; does it always point toward earth? What about robotic propulsion? We’d love to see a minature ROV swimming through the air like a water-bourne vessel would on earth.

Your turn. Leave a comment to let us know what you’d do if you could enter. Oh, and we’ve also embedded the contest promo video after the break.

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Arduino Space Program

With the recently proposed cuts to NASA, our friends across the pond (in Northampton UK) decided to take action with a space program of their own… at least at a miniature scale. NortHACKton, a hackerspace in Northampton decided to host a rocketry day consisting of rockets powered by chemical reactions, pressurized water bottles, and even one that employed an Arduino controlled launch system, akin to a few we have seen in the past. It essentially consists of a countdown and automated ignition system. Schematics and source code are available for those adventurous enough to embark on missions of their own.

Hackaday Links: December 7 2009

Ah the beauty of watching molten solder pull SMD components into place. Yeah, we’ve seen it before, but for some reason it never gets old.

The glory days of wardriving are certainly behind us but if you’re still hunting in certain areas for access points you can leave the laptop at home. A homebrew program called Road Dog can turn your PSP into a WiFi search device. You must be able to run custom code to use this app.

Ferrofluid is our friend. But having grown up watching the Terminator and Hellraiser movies we can’t help being a little creeped out by the effects seen in this movie.

Follow along with the NASA astronauts in this 20 minute HD tour of the international space station. It’s a cramped place to live but we can’t help thinking that it looks incredibly clean. After all, where would the dirt come from?

How are your woodworking skills?  Can you take a wooden block and turn it on a lathe until you have a lampshade 1/32″ thick? We’d love to see how these are made, but imagine the artist’s reaction when hours of labor are ruined by a minuscule amount of misplaced pressure on a carving tool. Patience, we’ll learn it some day!

This video from the past that is about the future of  travel does leave us wondering why our cars don’t have built-in radar for poor visibility? We’ve already realized the rear-view-mirror-tv-picture, but we’re going to need your help before the flying police/fire/ambulance-mobile is a common sight. Oh, the fun of seeing a high-tech push-button selector 3:30 into the video. Perhaps the touch-screen was a bit beyond the vision of the time.

Sometimes you have so many servants you need to find creative things for them to do. Only the most discriminating of the super-rich employ a person whose sole responsibility is to erase and redraw the hands of a clock each minute. This video is obviously a result of the global recession as the live time-keeper has been let go; a looping recording took his job!

Last time we checked in with [Marco Tempest] he was syncing video over multiple iPhones. Now he’s at it again with an augmented reality setup. A camera picks up some IR LEDs in a canvas and translates that into information for a video projector. We’d call this a trick, but it’s certainly not magic.

Lunar auto repair depends on the sticky stuff

lunar-rover-fender-uses-duct-tape

When you’ve got problems with your lunar rover you can’t just “trust the Midas touch”. Every unexpected repair that happens outside of the Earth’s atmosphere is a hack and it seems the common ingredient in each one is Duct tape. If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13 you know it was used in making a square carbon dioxide filter fit into a round filter socket. [XD] let us know about another hack where NASA used Duct tape to replace a fender on the lunar rover during the Apollo 17 mission.

The rover kicks up a lot of moon dust as it cruises around on its wire tires. When a rear fender started to come loose it was secured with duct tape. We delighted in watching a moon-man tear off chunks of tape for the fix, shown in the video after the break. When the fender finally flew off of the vehicle, the engineers on the ground came up with a way to replace it using laminated maps and more duct tape.

We’ve been critical of the use of duct tape in the past. But when you’re in a bind, accept no substitutes.

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“Interplanetary internet” passes first test

NASA just completed the first deep-space test of what could one day become the interplanetary internet. Images of Mars and its moon Phobos were sent back and forth between computers on Earth and NASA’s Epoxi spacecraft. Instead of TCP/IP a new protocol, named “Disruption/Delay Tolerant Networking” (DTN) was used. Information is only sent once with DTN, and stored at each node until another node is available to receive the information.  To prevent hackers from interfering with the network, information that is transmitted over DTN is encrypted. The team at NASA is hoping to get the protocol accepted by the international community and setup a permanent node at the International Space Station next year.

[via Warren Ellis]

Apollo Guidance Computer clone


[Cliff Miller] pointed out this incredible project from 2004. [John Pultorak]‘s journey began in late 2000 when he decided to build a 60′s or 70′s era minicomputer. While gathering technical documentation, he found some interesting information on the Apollo Guidance Computer and felt that was the way to go. The AGC was the first integrated circuit computer ever built. Designed by MIT in 1964 it was constructed from ~5000 ICs, almost all 3-input NOR gates. [John]‘s version uses late 1960′s 74LS TTL logic which gains him a 10 to 1 reduction in the number of ICs. A good thing when you have to do ~15K wirewrap connections. He also used flipflops and register chips instead of building everything from NOR gates. [John] essentially built the AGC three times: First, he coded a simulator in C++. Then, he imported the logic design into CircuitMaker to verify that it would actually work. Finally, he built the 3 by 5foot machine. He’s provided an amazing amount of documentation for anyone that wants to explore this device and the overview alone is well worth a look.

Magnetic Movie


Magnetic field lines may be invisible to the naked eye, but they behave in ways that would amaze us if only we could see them. [Ruth Jarman] and [Joe Gerhardt] from Semiconductor wanted to make them visible for everyone, so they produced Magnetic Movie, a film that combines animations, theoretical models, and actual VLF recordings of the entire Earth’s magetic forces to create a film that shows magnetic fields moving and jumping through the air in living color.

The film is part art project and part scientific experiment, but we can enjoy it on both levels, as watching the path and motion of magnetic field lines is both beautiful and informative. Get a glimpse for yourself after the break.

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