If Batman had a speedboat, it’d probably look like this. And if Bruce Wayne were a thirty-something billionaire today, he’d probably insist that it run on renewable fuel. Well, in lieu of Bruce Wayne, we have Pete Bethune, New Zealand machine-vision entrepreneur and skipper of the Earthrace. Beginning in March, the Earthrace will attempt to circle the globe at the equator in just 65 days—10 fewer than the current record. And it will do the whole 44 500-kilometer trip running on biodiesel. A major sponsor of the trip, Better Biodiesel, will keep the Earthrace fueled with diesel made using a new low-waste production process. The boat’s designers, Auckland-based Craig Loomes Design Group, built the hull to pierce through waves rather than ride over them, letting the Earthrace’s crew go fast even in rough waters. You can track the ship’s progress at http://www.earthrace.net.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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