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Lunar Pioneers Will Use Lasers to Phone Home

NASA’s Orion and Gateway will try out optical communications gear for a high-speed connection to Earth

8 min read
Infrared lasers will allow Orion to beam ultrahigh-definition video back to Earth, as shown in this artist’s rendering.
Laser Focus: Infrared lasers will allow Orion to beam ultrahigh-definition video back to Earth, as shown in this artist’s rendering.
Illustration: John MacNeill

With NASA making serious moves toward a permanent return to the moon, it’s natural to wonder whether human settlers—accustomed to high-speed, ubiquitous Internet access—will have to deal with mind-numbingly slow connections once they arrive on the lunar surface. The vast majority of today’s satellites and spacecraft have data rates measured in kilobits per second. But long-term lunar residents might not be as satisfied with the skinny bandwidth that, say, the Apollo astronauts contended with.

To meet the demands of high-definition video and data-intensive scientific research, NASA and other space agencies are pushing the radio bands traditionally allocated for space research to their limits. For example, the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts around the moon during NASA’s Artemis 2 mission in 2022, will transmit mission-critical information to Earth via an S-band radio at 2 megabits per second. “It’s the most complex flight-management system ever flown on a spacecraft,” says Jim Schier, the chief architect for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program. Still, barely 1 Mb/s will be allocated for streaming video from the mission. That’s about one-fifth the speed needed to stream a high-definition movie from Netflix.

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Home Heating With Hydrogen: Ill-Advised as it Sounds

Several studies reveal serious drawbacks

3 min read
Two white boilers mounted on a wood wall, with pipes and tubes.

An old central heating boiler (L) and a hydrogen boiler inside the Hydrogen Experience Center in the Netherlands.

Sem van der Wal/ANP/Getty Images

Hydrogen, if it comes from splitting water with renewable electricity, has its role as a climate-friendly energy source. It could help decarbonize challenging sectors like heavy industry, shipping, and aviation.

But hydrogen makes absolutely no sense for heating homes and buildings, according to a new review of several international studies. It is simply much too expensive and inefficient for that purpose, says Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy think tank in Brussels, who authored the commentary published in the journal Joule.

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What Robotics Experts Think of Tesla’s Optimus Robot

Roboticists from industry and academia share their perspectives on Tesla’s new humanoid

11 min read
Tesla's Optimus robot waves at audience from the stage.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Optimus humanoid robot at AI Day on 30 September. In a brief demo, the robot walked, waved, and danced on stage. While robotics experts praised the Tesla team for putting the prototype together so quickly, most were unimpressed by its design.

Tesla

Last Friday, 30 September, Tesla introduced several prototypes of its new humanoid robot, Optimus. After a year of speculation based on little more than a person in a robot suit combined with some optimistic assertions made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, many roboticists tuned in to the event livestream (or attended in person) to see what Tesla’s approach to humanoid robotics would turn out to be.

Reactions across the robotics community were diverse. Because robotics requires expertise in many different aspects of both software and hardware, getting a good sense of the present context of Tesla’s robot as well as its future potential means finding perspectives from a multitude of robotics experts, including people working in industry and academia and everywhere in between. And by scouring the Internet over the weekend, we found as many expert commenters as we could. Together, they offer the most detailed and nuanced understanding of Optimus we’re likely to get outside of Tesla itself.

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Government’s Role in Further Developing 5G Technologies and Future Networks

Learn about the impact of federally funded research on national security and the overall economy

1 min read
Anritsu

Similar to 5G, many key technology developments have been supported by government funding and institutions for years. Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) and University Affiliated Research Centers (UARC) have been foundational elements of this government support.

This webinar will examine the impact this research has had on national security and the overall economy. It will also discuss how these institutions have made use of testing to attain these security and economic goals. Finally, it will look at how these resources can continue to be leveraged in the further development of 5G technologies and beyond for future networks.

Register now for this webinar!

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