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For the First Time in 40 Years, a Robot Is Wandering the Moon

China's Jade Rabbit rover is alive and well on the surface of the Moon

2 min read
For the First Time in 40 Years, a Robot Is Wandering the Moon

The last rover to be operational on the Moon was the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2, in January of 1973. Since then, we humans have focused most of our robotic exploration efforts on more, well, exotic locations, like Venus and Mars. This should by no means be taken to imply that we know everything there is to know about the Moon, or that it's all boring and no fun up there. Realistically, it could be the closest spot for long-term habitation, but we still have a lot more to learn, so it's about time that we went back there to do some exploring. And the "we," in this case, is China.

At 8:11 a.m. EST on Dec. 14, China's "Jade Rabbit" or ("Yutu") rover made a soft touchdown on the Moon, aboard the Chang'e 3 lander. The rover deployed about seven hours later, and the lander snapped this picture of it on the surface.

We don't know a whole heck of a lot about China's rover, because China hasn't made all that much public. It's slightly smaller than Opportunity (which is still driving around on Mars, incidentally), and has a mass of about 120 kilos, with 20 kilos of payload. That payload consists of stereo panoramic cameras, spectrometers, and ground-penetrating radar. It has some autonomous navigation capability, and may be able to send live video back to Earth, which would be pretty cool.

We're hoping to get a lot more information (and data) back from Jade Rabbit over the next few weeks, and the mission itself is scheduled to last a minimum of three months. In 2015, China plans to send a second rover to the Moon, and after that, they'll try and get a robotic drilling rig to dig up a sample and send it back to Earth.

Via [ LA Times ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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