How NASA Built Its Mars Rovers

Planetary rovers are one of the most amazing exploration tools humanity has ever seen

8 min read
Illustration by Frank Chimero
Illustration: Frank Chimero

Pete Theisinger stands at the back of the mission control room, his round, mustachioed face frozen in a nervous grin. Hunkered down at long rows of computer consoles, his engineers sit on the edges of their chairs. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is hanging on the brink of a jubilant victory—or a devastating failure.

Then the black-and-white images appear on a big projection screen, and the room explodes in cheers. Some 200 million kilometers from Earth, a little robotic rover called Spirit, built here in Pasadena, Calif., has awakened and called home, sending images of what it is seeing. And what it is seeing is the rocky plain of Gusev Crater, in the southern highlands of Mars.

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IEEE Spectrum Wins Six Neal Awards

The publication was recognized for its editorial excellence, website, and art direction

1 min read
A group of smiling people holding two award placards in front of a backdrop for the Jess H. Neal Awards

The IEEE editorial and art team show off two of their five awards.

Bruce Byers/SIIA

IEEE Spectrum garnered top honors at this year’s annual Jesse H. Neal Awards ceremony, held on 26 April. Known as the “Pulitzer Prizes” of business-to-business journalism, the Neal Awards recognize editorial excellence. The awards are given by the SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association).

For the fifth year in a row, IEEE Spectrum was awarded the Best Media Brand. The award is given for overall editorial excellence.

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Hydrogen Helps Make Topological Insulators Practical

This trick could open a path toward practical quantum computing and dissipationless electronics

2 min read
Rendering shows a clear beaker with rendering suspended in liquid of atomic-scale model featuring red and white connected dots floating in liquid. Two  connect above them.

In this image, a beaker of hydrochloric acid (HCl) contains an enlarged model of a submerged sample of a topological insulator. Hydrogen atoms from the HCl [blue dots] bind to the insulator [red and white circles], in the process retaining the insulator’s useful electronic properties while also becoming stable at room temperature.

Lukas Zhao

Future microchips that require far less energy than present-day devices may rely on exotic materials known as topological insulators, in which electricity flows across only surfaces and edges, with virtually no dissipation of energy. However, it can prove tricky developing such materials for real-world applications. Now a new study reveals that simply incorporating hydrogen into topological insulators may control their electronic properties to help make them useful.

Topology is the branch of mathematics that investigates what features of shapes may survive deformation. Material science has emerged in recent decades as an unexpected but compelling application of topology. The insights from topological models, scientists have discovered, help to understand and predict some materials’ unusual properties. These include electromagnetic effects beyond those explained by Maxwell’s Equations as well as quantum particles that could yield new kinds of electronic and optical devices.

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Take the Lead on Satellite Design Using Digital Engineering

Learn how to accelerate your satellite design process and reduce risk and costs with model-based engineering methods

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

Win the race to design and deploy satellite technologies and systems. Learn how new digital engineering techniques can accelerate development and reduce your risk and costs. Download this free whitepaper now!

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