Curiosity rover is going through a “brain transplant”

Mars Science Laboratory

Curiosity is currently updating her smarts with a new version of its software optimized for its surface mission. The software will be installed on her redundant computers which started last August 10 and will complete on August 13. One key capability in the update is image processing to detect obstacles in her path. NASA dubs it a “brain transplant” which seems appropriate. I can’t wait for the next set of information and images from Mars but until the update is complete I should wait patiently.

Read more about the update at NASA’s press release.

Update: Oops! Forgot the title! My bad!


Kinect-controlled trashcan ensures consecutive three-point shots of your garbage!

Well. Well. What do we have here? A trashcan that catches your airborne trash for you? A trashcan that saves you from missing on your paper-ball three-point shot? Yes! Awesomeness!

Japanese modder FRP created the Smart Trashbox (links to 日本語 site) that tracks flying debris with an apparently ceiling-mounted Kinect that controls a robot trashcan. He’s still working on the accuracy but he’s already got it working fine! I definitely want one and I’m hoping he makes a laundry hamper next time! Seriously! Haha!

Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

Water on Mars

Yes, there is water on Mars!

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory or Curiosity mission is heading towards the red planet. It is scheduled to arrive on Mars in August 6, 2012. It would be looking for past and/or present signs of life, study the Martian climate and geology, and collect data for future manned missions to Mars.

The Curiosity rover is larger than the previous Spirit and Opportunity Mars exploration rovers – about 5 times larger – and carries a plethora of scientific instruments. Given its size and mass, past landing systems will not work therefore it will attempt a terrifying and very precise landing maneuver that has never been used before which is best described in the video below:

Curiosity will land on the Aeolis Palus region of the Gale Crater and is designed to explore the region for around one Martian year (687 Earth days). I hope it keeps ticking even after its actual mission ends so that it can perform extra tasks much like Spirit (which got stuck in 2009 and ceased communication on March 22, 2010) and Opportunity (which is still ticking!).

Curiosity, may you reach Mars without a hitch! Have a successful landing and beam some spectacular new information that only you can provide to us soon!

Is that a bird?

Festo SmartBird

Yes it is! Well, somehow. It’s actually the Festo SmartBird. It can start, fly and land autonomously and best of all it doesn’t poop. Festo’s SmartBird is a beautiful flying machine (an ornithopter per se). It can be controlled remotely using ZigBee radio.

Measuring 1.07 meters long at the torso and with a wingspan of 2 meters, it’s amazing how it only weighs 485 grams. It was created using a lightweight carbon fiber structure and extruded polyurethane foam. Its body twists and flaps very much like a real bird so from afar you might really mistake it as one. I doubt it lands like a real bird though.

This graceful herring gull inspired flying robot is best viewed than described in words. Videos after the break.
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