Science News, May 28th, 2019

A binary asteroid flies by, humans could mutate on Mars, Astrobees, a Starlink launch, the arrest of a SpaceX contractor employee, ARM breaks with Huawei, and Ford’s robot. Here are this week’s headlines:

Asteroid Flyby

A binary asteroid, an asteroid with its own orbiting moon, will be flying by the Earth this weekend. Dubbed 1999 KW4, the asteroid is definitely big enough to do some major damage if it hit our world. Luckily, it will be flying harmlessly by at a distance of around 3 million miles. The primary of the two asteroids is 0.8 miles across and it has a smaller asteroid orbiting it 1.6 miles away. It will be too faint to be seen with the naked eye. But astronomers are watching it closely since it’s one of the closest binary flybys in recent history.

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Martian Mutations

Land of mutation?

Rice University professor Scott Solomon, an evolutionary biologist, has speculated on what would become of humans if we successfully colonize Mars. He believes that adapting to such an environment would likely result in so many mutations that humans on Mars would quickly become an entirely new species. Solomon believes that many of these changes could occur within just a couple of generations of humans living on the Red Planet. And many of those changed could make certain interactions between Martians and Earthlings potentially dangerous to Martians.

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Astrobee Testing Begins

Initial testing has begun for the new Astrobee robots aboard the International Space Station. The two robots, named Bumble and Honey, are designed to be free flying robots that can assist astronauts with tasks aboard the station and autonomously return to their docking stations for recharging when necessary. The Astrobees are intended to test in what capacities such robots will be able to assist on missions to the moon and into deep space.

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Starlink Launch Successful

After a couple of delays, SpaceX has successfully launched the first sixty Starlink satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. When the entire Starlink satellite constellation network is launched an in place, it will provide high speed broadband Internet access to areas that are not otherwise served by broadband access. Eventually, they hope to have more than 12,000 orbiting nodes to provide sufficient coverage. At 500 lbs. per node, that’s no easy task. But Elon Musk has said that he hopes to have 2,000 up by the end of the year.

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SpaceX Inspection Report Arrest

Speaking of SpaceX, a quality control engineer working for a SpaceX contractor has been arrested for falsifying reports. James Smalley, who worked for PMI Industries, LLC, reportedly falsified inspection reports for components to be used on Falcon 9 rockets. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Luckily, some of the components failed in testing and the others were never never utilized, and none of them made their way into actual rockets.

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ARM Breaks Ties with Huawei

U.K.-based chip designer ARM has instructed staff by way of a memo to suspend all current contracts and pending engagements with Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Huawei. Since much of its technology is based on the RISC architecture, which is of U.S. origin, ARM believes these measures are necessary to comply with a ban put in place by the Trump administration. ARM is only a designer of chip technology. The manufacture is licensed out to other companies, such as Broadcom and Qualcomm. The license restriction would prevent Huawei from manufacturing their own compatible chips. This comes on the heels of Google suspending Android support for Huawei devices.

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Ford’s Robotic Delivery

And finally, the Ford Motor Company looks to be getting into the automated package delivery business. They have teamed up with Agility Robotics to create a robot that folds up into a self-driving vehicle. The vehicle goes to the destination, then the robot, called Digit, folds out and carries the package up to the front door. It’s unknown if this is yet another stunt to make a major corporation look cutting edge or if it is a legitimate research project. But so far, it looks pretty legit.

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Watch the science report during Good Morning Multiverse Saturdays at 10am on SciFi4Me TV.

Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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